Elvis Gyrates on Ed Sullivan's Show (1956): Elvis Presley had already appeared on other national television shows (such as on Stage Show, The Milton Berle Show, and on the popular The Steve Allen Show) when Ed Sullivan booked Elvis for three shows. Elvis' pelvic gyrations during his appearances on these other shows had caused much discussion and concern about the suitability of airing such provocative and sensual movements on television.
Although at first Ed Sullivan said he would never want Elvis on his show, Sullivan changed his mind when The Steve Allen Show with Elvis as a guest had about twice as many viewers as Sullivan's show that night (they were competing for the same audience since they were in the same time slot). After negotiating with Elvis' manager, Ed Sullivan paid Elvis the huge sum of $50,000 for appearing on three of his shows: September 9, 1956, October 28, 1956, and then on January 6, 1957.
For Elvis' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night at 8 p.m. on September 9, 1956, Ed Sullivan himself was not able to host since he had recently been in a very serious car accident that left him in the hospital. In his place, Oscar-winning actor Charles Laughton hosted the show. Elvis was also not on location in New York for the show since he was in Los Angeles for the filming of Love Me Tender. Laughton hosted from New York and then when it came time for Elvis' appearance, Laughton introduced him and then cut to the stage in Hollywood with Elvis.
Elvis appeared on a stage with large, artistic guitars as decoration. Wearing a plaid jacket and holding his guitar, Elvis thanked Mr. Laughton and then said, "This is probably the greatest honor that I've ever had in my life." Elvis then sang, "Don't Be Cruel" with his four back-up singers (the Jordanaires) followed by "Love Me Tender," which was the not-yet-released title track from his new movie.
Although the cameras stayed mostly from the waist up on Elvis' first appearance on the show, the second time he appeared that night, the camera widened out and the TV audience was able to see Elvis' gyrations. During this second set, Elvis sang "Ready Teddy" and then ended with a portion of "Hound Dog."
Elvis' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a major success. Over 60 million people, both young and old, watched the show and many people believe it helped bridge the generation gap for Elvis' acceptance into the mainstream.
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