Thursday, October 26th, 2023

“The Shot Heard Around the World”: How the Rolling Stones’ debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show launched not only them but also the Gibson Les Paul Standard

The Stones’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show shocked parents, thrilled kids, and gave many people their first glimpse of “the most historically important ‘Burst” – Keith Richards’ 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard. Guitar dealer Richard Henry retraces its history.

On this day, in 1964, the Rolling Stones made their historical debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. The band kicked off their appearance on live national television to rapturous applause with a rendition of Chuck Berry’s Around and Around (originally the flip side to his 1958 Johnny B. Goode single).

Later in the show, the Stones performed their Time Is On My Side single. It was already creeping up the Billboard Hot 100 charts by the time the band appeared. It eventually peaked at number 6 the following month. It was the Stones’ first hit on American soil as the British Invasion got underway following the Beatles’ record-breaking appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show earlier in February that year (when an estimated 73 million Americans tuned in to watch). 

As is obvious from the video, the audience struggles to contain themselves and Sullivan has to ask for quiet several times when trying to introduce them. In fact, CBS got many complaints after the broadcast and Ed Sullivan is said to have declared: “I promise you they’ll never be back on our show. It took me 17 years to build this show and I’m not going to have it destroyed in a matter of weeks.” 

The Stones’ manager tried to change Sullivan’s mind, but Ed wrote back before he would even consider booking them again, “I would like to learn from you, whether your young men have reformed in the matter of dress and shampoo.”