Paul Anka started performing professionally at 11, and began composing songs in high school. On a trip to New York, he met Don Costa, the A & R man at ABC Paramount. Anka presented him with a slew of tracks he had written, including one about his high school crush, “Diana.” Costa immediately called Paul’s father to New York to sign the contract, and a month later “Diana” was recorded.
Sixteen-year-old Paul Anka made his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 8, 1957. The show was taped at Madison Square Garden, and Paul managed to keep his cool while singing “Diana” to hundreds of screaming girls. The record spent 18 weeks at Number One and sold 10 million copies. It was such a sensation, that he returned to The Ed Sullivan Show less than two months later to perform it again. On November 1, 1959, the girls in the audience again screamed as he sang two chart-toppers, “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” (#2) and “It’s Time to Cry” (#4).
Over the years, Anka would make fifteen appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. As he became an adult, his style also matured. In later episodes, he sang a jazzy rendition of “Jingle Bells” and the standard “Night and Day”. In 1962 he dedicated “The Longest Day” to American troops who fought in World War II. In contrast to his first performance, Anka’s last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show captivated a quieter, older audience who appreciated his singing of “It Only Takes a Moment” and “Goodnight My Love.”
Anka’s reign as pop superstar continued on long after The Ed Sullivan Show went off air. He managed to accumulate thirty three Top 40 hits, including three number ones. He appeared in a few movies and notably wrote the theme to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Anka also wrote hits for other artists, including “My Way” for Frank Sinatra and “She’s a Lady” for Ed Sullivan Show guest Tom Jones. It was revealed in 2009 that he had also co-written the song “This is It” with Michael Jackson back in 1983. After Jackson’s death and the song’s release, Anka threatened to sue for his share of the profits, and was eventually granted 50% of the copyright. Paul Anka continues to tour and perform for fans around the world.
Check out our Paul Anka playlist to see full performances from The Ed Sullivan Show!