January 6th 2011 marks the 55th anniversary of the 3rd and final appearance by Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show, which is most notorious for being filmed only from the waist up.
Elvis had generated plenty of controversy across America throughout 1956 with his on-stage gyrations and uninhibited performance style, and some of conservative America considered him to be a negative influence on the youth. In an attempt to avoid any sort of PR backlash, CBS censors decided to shoot Elvis’ performances so his “suggestive” movements would not be visible to the television audience. That evening, filmed from the waist up, Elvis performed a number of hits including “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Too Much,” “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again,” and “Peace in the Valley.”
While the account of Elvis’s hip movements not being filmed that evening is well-known, another story which showcased the compassionate side of Elvis Presley often goes untold.
During his final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6th, 1957, Elvis actually dedicated his last song “Peace in the Valley” to the people of Hungary who were in the wake of the October 1956 anti-Soviet revolution. Elvis, and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, decided the singer should lend his support to the country’s fight against communism. Ed Sullivan even joined Elvis, and asked the TV audience to donate to Hungarian relief efforts. Last year in recognition of this act and his support of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Elvis Presley was declared an honorary citizen of Budapest, Hungary and had a city landmark named after him.
At the end of that final show, Ed Sullivan made a statement that went a long way in public support for Elvis Presley. Upon the conclusion of Elvis’ last performance, Ed genuinely complimented the singer saying, “I wanted to say to Elvis Presley and the country that this is a real decent, fine boy, and wherever you go, Elvis, we want to say we’ve never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we’ve had with you. So now let’s have a tremendous hand for a very nice person!”