Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Friends, family, good food, and maybe a little football on the TV. Great things never go out of style. Like Thanksgiving, “The Ed Sullivan Show” is a classic American institution. The history of American popular culture can be told through the show’s many iconic performances.
Everyone knows that Elvis Presley made his first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1956. But did you know that this wasn’t Elvis’ first performance on national television? Ed Sullivan himself at one point refused to have him appear on his program. Sullivan feared that Elvis was too vulgar for his family friendly variety show. But after seeing the ratings that Elvis’ appearances on “The Milton Berle Show” and “The Steve Allen Show” generated, Ed relented and agreed to have Elvis play his show for a whopping (at the time) $50,000.
Nearly a decade later, “The Ed Sullivan Show” would play host to another scorching cultural sensation, The Beatles. You would think that The Beatles, whose crazed, teenage fan base Sullivan compared to Elvis’ would command a similar price. However, you might be surprised to learn that The Beatles received a considerably smaller sum of $10,000 for their appearances in February of 1964. The Beatles’ shrewd manager Brian Epstein was much more interested in creating lasting publicity for his clients, who were making huge waves overseas but just beginning to generate attention in the U.S. Epstein and Sullivan agreed that The Beatles would appear on three straight shows, receive top billing, and would open and close each program.
While the boys from Liverpool were making a big splash stateside, The Rolling Stones were plotting their own North American venture. With no hit record or name recognition, the Stones first tour of the U.S. was a disaster, according to bassist Bill Wyman. For their second visit to the States, their manager Andrew Loog Oldham decided to follow The Beatles lead and book a date on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Of course, their appearance on the show was a hit and brought them legions of new fans. However, Mr. Sullivan was not one of them. The Beatles had cleaned up their presentation for a more mainstream audience, but The Rolling Stones were rock and roll’s bad boys. Ed Sullivan was unhappy with their “unkempt” appearance and Mick Jagger’s provocative stage presence. Although he was was apprehensive about rebooking the band, they again took the stage at CBS Studios in May 1965. This time, however, they were wearing proper jackets.
Both bands and more can be seen on our exclusive “Ed Sullivan’s Rock & Roll Classics” DVD collection. If you are a big fan of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, watch their complete performances on “The Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles” and “The Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Rolling Stones.”
For those of you looking for that perfect holiday bargain, check out our specials on both the 7 disc and 12 disc DVD sets of “Ed Sullivan’s Rock & Roll Classics”. For a limited time only, get free bonus DVDs as our Holiday gift to you and your family.