Tuesday, June 20th, 2023

Ed Sullivan’s History Making TV Moments Now Reaching New Audiences Through Streaming

It’s a television show that made history over and over again, on multiple levels. No one could have realized the impact The Ed Sullivan Show would have not only on TV, but on American culture when it debuted 75 years ago, on June 20th, 1948.

For the next 23 years, the show featured live performances by those who would go on to become the biggest names in music: Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and more. Now, thanks to digital technology, hundreds of clips of entertainment history are being introduced to younger audiences on YouTube, Pluto, and other streaming platforms.

“Ed’s work is now out there in a way people can enjoy it in bite-size moments,” says Andrew Solt, founder of SOFA Entertainment Inc. which owns the rights to the Ed Sullivan archives. “They don’t have to watch half hour shows or two-hour specials or whatever.”

It was first called Toast of the Town,then renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955, in honor of the man who hosted it and curated the talent he introduced to America every Sunday night. Entire families would gather around the TV to watch.

One of the first most memorable and iconic moments of The Ed Sullivan Show was Elvis Presley’s legendary “from the waist up” appearance. At the time, it was considered too risqué to show a full-bodied Elvis due to his “gyrations” and body movements.

As Sullivan’s granddaughter explains today, the decision to “censor” what viewers saw on The Ed Sullivan Show wasn’t Ed’s.

“One thing people don’t realize is that the censorship originated with the CBS network executives, not my grandfather,” Margo Precht Speciale explains. “So, that call was not his. But it was a different time back then, and the network had their standards and practices and lawyers. They had to come to rehearsals and observe what Ed was going to put on the air before it aired live.”

There were other news making censorship moments, as well. The Doors were asked to change the line in “Light My Fire” from the original version that says, “girl you couldn’t get much higher” for their live performance. When Jim Morrison sang the line just as he had written it, The Doors were banned from ever appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show again.

One of the show’s most notable history making moments was the February 9th, 1964, American television debut of The Beatles. Their appearance changed the course of popular music.