“The Ed Sullivan Show” airs for the very last time

“The Ed Sullivan Show” airs for the very last time

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Sunday nights, 8:00 pm, CBS. Ask almost any American born in the 1950s or earlier what television program ran in that timeslot on that network, and they’ll probably know the answer: The Ed Sullivan Show. For more than two decades, Sullivan’s variety show was the premiere television showcase for entertainers of all stripes, including borscht-belt comedians, plate-spinning vaudeville throwbacks and, most significantly, some of the biggest and most current names in rock and roll. Twenty-three years after its 1948 premiere, The Ed Sullivan Show had its final broadcast on June 6, 1971.

In its first eight years of existence, there was no such thing as rock and roll to be featured on the program originally called Toast of the Town, yet even its first broadcast made music history when Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II gave the world its first taste of the score from their upcoming musical, South Pacific. Over the years, live performances of new and current Broadway shows were featured regularly on Ed Sullivan, including Julie Andrews singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” from My Fair Lady and Richard Burton singing “What Do The Simple Folk Do?” from Camelot. Classical and opera performers also made frequent appearances, but of course The Ed Sullivan Show is now remembered most for providing so many iconic moments in the history of televised rock and roll.

Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in September 1956,was actually one of his most restrained and least thrilling. It was notable, however, given Ed Sullivan’s assertion earlier that year that he’d never allow “The King” on his show. By the time the Beatles rolled around, Sullivan was far more comfortable with the hysteria young Elvis had caused. In fact, it was Ed Sullivan personally witnessing Beatlemania up close at London’s Heathrow airport in 1963 that led the Beatles being booked for their historic February 1964 American television debut. Through the rest of the 60s, The Ed Sullivan Show continued to host the day’s biggest rock acts: The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin and more.

Gladys Knight and the Pips were the musical guests on the final episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, which was cancelled shortly after its rerun broadcast on this day in 1971.

Elvis Presley’s first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ remembered 64 years later

The historic performance originally wasn’t supposed to happen.

According to author Greil Marcus’ “Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows,” the beloved TV host felt the singer was “unfit for family viewing” and even said publicly that Presley “was not my cup of tea,” U.K.’s Express reported on Wednesday.

Presley’s dancing, especially when he rotated his pelvis, was considered too sexual for the time, the outlet noted.

But Sullivan, who ruled TV’s reigning variety show, ultimately realized it was a bad move for business. The star learned Presley earned big ratings on “The Steve Allen Show,” “Stage Show” and “The Milton Berle Show,” which were considered his rivals. It was then that Sullivan decided to extend an invitation to Presley.

Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker negotiated “an unprecedented $50,000 for the trio of shows.”

Sullivan didn’t make it for Presley’s debut--he was recuperating from a car accident. British actor Charles Laughton took over hosting duties from New York, while the then-21-year-old performed remotely from Hollywood, where he was shooting his first movie, “Love Me Tender.”

For his debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Presley performed “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog” and “Ready Teddy.”

The outlet noted that cameras attempted to censor Presley when he started his controversial dancing. However, that didn’t stop the screaming audience from going wild for the future King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

The appearance catapulted Presley to stardom, garnering 60 million viewers -- or 82.6 percent of TV viewers at the time -- History.com said. “The Ed Sullivan Show” earned its best ratings in two years and became the most-watched TV broadcast of the 1950s. Presley’s performance of “Love Me Tender” also increased the hype for the upcoming film.

Presley returned to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” this time with Sullivan himself hosting, on Oct. 28, 1956. His last performance took place two days before his 22nd birthday on Jan. 6, 1957.

Despite his initial hesitation, Sullivan didn’t regret having Presley appear on his show. He later told the audience that Presley was “a real decent, fine boy,” Graceland.com reported.

“We want to say that we’ve never had a pleasanter experience with a big name than we’ve had with you,” Sullivan added.

“The Ed Sullivan Show” came to an end in 1971. CBS dropped the series in favor of movies, which brought in more money for a smaller investment, the New York Times reported.

Sullivan died in 1974 at age 73 of cancer. Presley passed away in 1977 at age 42. Doctors said Presley died of a heart attack that was likely brought on by his addiction to prescription barbiturates.


Edward Vincent Sullivan was born on September 28, 1901 in Harlem, New York City, the son of Elizabeth F. (née Smith) and Peter Arthur Sullivan, a customs house employee. He grew up in Port Chester, New York where the family lived in a small red brick home at 53 Washington Street. [7] He was of Irish descent. [8] [9] The entire family loved music, and someone was always playing the piano or singing. A phonograph was a prized possession the family loved playing all types of records on it. Sullivan was a gifted athlete in high school, earning 12 athletic letters at Port Chester High School. He played halfback in football he was a guard in basketball in track he was a sprinter. With the baseball team, Sullivan was catcher and team captain, and he led the team to several championships. Baseball made an impression on him that would affect his career as well as the culture of America. Sullivan noted that in the state of New York, integration was taken for granted in high school sports: "When we went up into Connecticut, we ran into clubs that had Negro players. In those days this was accepted as commonplace and so, my instinctive antagonism years later to any theory that a Negro wasn't a worthy opponent or was an inferior person. It was just as simple as that." [10]

Sullivan landed his first job at The Port Chester Daily Item, a local newspaper for which he had written sports news while in high school and then joined the paper full-time after graduation. In 1919, he joined The Hartford Post. The newspaper folded in his first week there, but he landed another job on The New York Evening Mail as a sports reporter. After The Evening Mail closed in 1923, he bounced through a series of news jobs with The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Bulletin, The Morning World, The Morning Telegraph, The New York Bulletin and The Leader. Finally, in 1927, Sullivan joined The Evening Graphic, first as a sports writer, and then as a sports editor. In 1929, when Walter Winchell moved to The Daily Mirror, Sullivan was made Broadway columnist. He left the Graphic for the city's largest tabloid, the New York Daily News. His column, "Little Old New York", concentrated on Broadway shows and gossip, as Winchell's had and, like Winchell, he did show-business news broadcasts on radio. Again echoing Winchell, Sullivan took on yet another medium in 1933 by writing and starring in the film Mr. Broadway, which has him guiding the audience around New York nightspots to meet entertainers and celebrities. Sullivan soon became a powerful starmaker in the entertainment world himself, becoming one of Winchell's main rivals, setting the El Morocco nightclub in New York as his unofficial headquarters against Winchell's seat of power at the nearby Stork Club. Sullivan continued writing for The News throughout his broadcasting career, and his popularity long outlived Winchell's. In the late 60's, however, Sullivan praised Winchell's legacy in a magazine interview, leading to a major reconciliation between the longtime adversaries.

Throughout his career as a columnist, Sullivan had dabbled in entertainment—producing vaudeville shows with which he appeared as master of ceremonies in the 1920s and 1930s, directing a radio program over the original WABC (now WCBS) and organizing benefit reviews for various causes.

Radio Edit

In 1941, Sullivan was host of the Summer Silver Theater, a variety program on CBS, with Will Bradley as bandleader and a guest star featured each week. [11]

In 1948, Marlo Lewis, a producer, got the CBS network to hire Sullivan to do a weekly Sunday-night TV variety show, Toast of the Town, which later became The Ed Sullivan Show. Debuting in June 1948, the show was originally broadcast from the Maxine Elliott Theatre on West 39th Street in New York City. In January 1953, it moved to CBS-TV Studio 50, at 1697 Broadway (at 53rd Street) in New York City, which in 1967 was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater (and was later the home of the Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). Studio 50 was formerly a CBS Radio studio, from 1936 to 1953, and before that was the legitimate Hammerstein Theatre, built in 1927. [12]

Television critics gave the new show and its host poor reviews. [13] Harriet Van Horne alleged that "he got where he is not by having a personality, but by having no personality." (The host wrote to the critic, "Dear Miss Van Horne: You bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan.") Sullivan had little acting ability in 1967, 20 years after his show's debut, Time magazine asked, "What exactly is Ed Sullivan's talent?" His mannerisms on camera were so awkward that some viewers believed the host suffered from Bell's palsy. [14] Time in 1955 stated that Sullivan resembled

a cigar-store Indian, the Cardiff Giant and a stone-faced monument just off the boat from Easter Island. He moves like a sleepwalker his smile is that of a man sucking a lemon his speech is frequently lost in a thicket of syntax his eyes pop from their sockets or sink so deep in their bags that they seem to be peering up at the camera from the bottom of twin wells. [13]

"Yet," the magazine concluded, "instead of frightening children, Ed Sullivan charms the whole family." Sullivan appeared to the audience as an average guy who brought the great acts of show business to their home televisions. "Ed Sullivan will last", comedian Fred Allen said, "as long as someone else has talent." [13] Frequent guest Alan King said, "Ed does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else in television." [14] He had a newspaperman's instinct for what the public wanted, and programmed his variety hours with remarkable balance. There was something for everyone. [13] A typical show would feature a vaudeville act (acrobats, jugglers, magicians, etc.), one or two popular comedians, a singing star, a hot jukebox favorite, a figure from the legitimate theater, and for the kids, a visit with puppet "Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse", or a popular athlete. The bill was often international in scope, with many European performers augmenting the American artists. [14]

Sullivan had a healthy sense of humor about himself and permitted—even encouraged—impersonators such as John Byner, Frank Gorshin, Rich Little, and especially Will Jordan to imitate him on his show. Johnny Carson also did a fair impression, and even Joan Rivers imitated Sullivan's unique posture. The impressionists exaggerated his stiffness, raised shoulders, and nasal tenor phrasing, along with some of his commonly used introductions, such as "And now, right here on our stage . ", "For all you youngsters out there . ", and "a really big shew" (his pronunciation of the word "show"). The latter phrase was in fact in the exclusive domain of his impressionists, as Sullivan never actually spoke the phrase "really big show" in the opening introduction of any episode in the entire history of the series. Will Jordan portrayed Sullivan in the films I Wanna Hold Your Hand, The Buddy Holly Story, The Doors, Mr. Saturday Night, Down with Love, and in the 1979 TV movie Elvis.

Sullivan inspired a song in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, [15] and in 1963, appeared as himself in the film.

In 1954, Sullivan was a co-host on a memorable TV musical special, General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein. [16]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sullivan was a respected starmaker because of the number of performers who became household names after appearing on the show. He had a knack for identifying and promoting top talent and paid a great deal of money to secure that talent for his show. Sullivan was quoted as saying "In the conduct of my own show, I've never asked a performer his religion, his race or his politics. Performers are engaged on the basis of their abilities. I believe that this is another quality of our show that has helped win it a wide and loyal audience. [17] "

Although Sullivan was wary of Elvis Presley's "bad boy" image, and initially said that he would never book him, Presley became too big a name to ignore in 1956, Sullivan signed him for three appearances. [15] [18] In August 1956, Sullivan was injured in an automobile accident near his country home in Southbury, Connecticut, and missed Presley's first appearance on September 9. Charles Laughton wound up introducing Presley on the Sullivan hour. [19] When Ed returned to the show, audiences noticed a change in his voice. After Sullivan got to know Presley personally, he made amends by telling his audience, "This is a real decent, fine boy." [20]

Sullivan's failure to scoop the TV industry with Presley made him determined to get the next big sensation first. In November 1963, while in Heathrow Airport, Sullivan witnessed Beatlemania as the band returned from Sweden. At first he was reluctant to book the Beatles because the band did not have a commercially successful single released in the US at the time, but at the behest of a friend, legendary impresario Sid Bernstein, Sullivan signed the group. Their initial Sullivan show appearance on February 9, 1964, was the most-watched program in TV history to that point, and remains one of the most-watched programs of all time. [21] The Beatles appeared three more times in person, and submitted filmed performances afterwards. The Dave Clark Five, who claimed a "cleaner" image than the Beatles, made 13 appearances on the show, more than any other UK group.

Unlike many shows of the time, Sullivan asked that most musical acts perform their music live, rather than lip-synching to their recordings. [22] Examination of performances shows that exceptions were made, as when a microphone could not be placed close enough to a performer for technical reasons. An example was B.J. Thomas' 1969 performance of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", in which actual water was sprinkled on him as a special effect. In 1969, Sullivan presented the Jackson 5 with their first single "I Want You Back", which ousted the B.J. Thomas song from the top spot of Billboard's pop charts.

Sullivan had an appreciation for African American talent. According to biographer Gerald Nachman, "Most TV variety shows welcomed 'acceptable' black superstars like Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey and Sammy Davis Jr. . but in the early 1950s, long before it was fashionable, Sullivan was presenting the much more obscure black entertainers he had enjoyed in Harlem on his uptown rounds— legends like Peg Leg Bates, Pigmeat Markham and Tim Moore . strangers to white America." [23] He hosted pioneering TV appearances by Bo Diddley, the Platters, Brook Benton, Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, and numerous Motown acts, including the Supremes, who appeared 17 times. [24] As the critic John Leonard wrote, "There wasn't an important black artist who didn't appear on Ed's show." [25]

He defied pressure to exclude African American entertainers, and to avoid interacting with them when they did appear. "Sullivan had to fend off his hard-won sponsor, Ford's Lincoln dealers, after kissing Pearl Bailey on the cheek and daring to shake Nat King Cole's hand," Nachman wrote. [26] According to biographer Jerry Bowles, "Sullivan once had a Ford executive thrown out of the theatre when he suggested that Sullivan stop booking so many black acts. And a dealer in Cleveland told him 'We realize that you got to have niggers on your show. But do you have to put your arm around Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson at the end of his dance?' Sullivan had to be physically restrained from beating the man to a pulp." [27] Sullivan later raised money to help pay for Robinson's funeral. [28] "As a Catholic, it was inevitable that I would despise intolerance, because Catholics suffered more than their share of it," he told an interviewer. "As I grew up, the causes of minorities were part and parcel of me. Negroes and Jews were the minority causes closest at hand. I need no urging to take a plunge in and help." [29]

At a time when television had not yet embraced Country and Western music, Sullivan featured Nashville performers on his program. This, in turn, paved the way for shows such as Hee Haw, and variety shows hosted by Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, and other country singers. [30] The Canadian comedy duo Wayne & Shuster made 67 appearances between 1958 and 1969, the most of any act throughout the show's run.

Sullivan appeared as himself on other television programs, including an April 1958 episode of the Howard Duff and Ida Lupino CBS situation comedy Mr. Adams and Eve. On September 14, 1958, Sullivan appeared on What's My Line? as a mystery guest, and showed his comedic side by donning a rubber mask. In 1961, Sullivan was asked by CBS to fill in for an ailing Red Skelton on The Red Skelton Show. Sullivan took Skelton's roles in the various comedy sketches Skelton's hobo character "Freddie the Freeloader" was renamed "Eddie the Freeloader."

Sullivan was quick to take offense if he felt that he had been crossed, and he could hold a grudge for a long time. As he told biographer Gerald Nachman, "I'm a pop-off. I flare up, then I go around apologizing." [31] "Armed with an Irish temper and thin skin," wrote Nachman, "Ed brought to his feuds a hunger for combat fed by his coverage of, and devotion to, boxing." [32] Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Jackie Mason, and Jim Morrison were parties to some of Sullivan's most storied conflicts.

For his second Sullivan appearance in 1955, Bo Diddley planned to sing his namesake hit, "Bo Diddley", but Sullivan told him to perform Tennessee Ernie Ford's song "Sixteen Tons". "That would have been the end of my career right there," Diddley told his biographer, [33] so he sang "Bo Diddley" anyway. Sullivan was enraged: "You're the first black boy that ever double-crossed me on the show," Diddley quoted him as saying. "We didn't have much to do with each other after that." [34] Later, Diddley resented that Elvis Presley, whom he accused of copying his revolutionary style and beat, received the attention and accolades on Sullivan's show that he felt were rightfully his. "I am owed," he said, "and I never got paid." [35] "He might have," wrote Nachman, "had things gone smoother with Sullivan." [36]

Buddy Holly and the Crickets first appeared on the Sullivan show in 1957 to an enthusiastic response. For their second appearance in January 1958, Sullivan considered the lyrics of their chosen number "Oh, Boy!" too suggestive, and ordered Holly to substitute another song. Holly responded that he had already told his hometown friends in Texas that he would be singing "Oh, Boy!" for them. Sullivan, unaccustomed to having his instructions questioned, angrily repeated them, but Holly refused to back down. Later, when the band was slow to respond to a summons to the rehearsal stage, Sullivan commented, "I guess the Crickets are not too excited to be on The Ed Sullivan Show." Holly, still annoyed by Sullivan's attitude, replied, "I hope they're damn more excited than I am." Sullivan retaliated by cutting them from two numbers to one, then mispronounced Holly's name during the introduction. He also saw to it that Holly's guitar amplifier volume was barely audible, except during his guitar solo. Nevertheless, the band was received so well that Sullivan was forced to invite them back Holly responded that Sullivan did not have enough money. Archival photographs taken during the appearance show Holly smirking and ignoring a visibly angry Sullivan. [37]

During Jackie Mason's October 1964 performance on a show that had been shortened by ten minutes due to an address by President Lyndon Johnson, [38] Sullivan—on-stage but off-camera—signaled Mason that he had two minutes left by holding up two fingers. [39] Sullivan's signal distracted the studio audience, and to television viewers unaware of the circumstances, it seemed as though Mason's jokes were falling flat. Mason, in a bid to regain the audience's attention, cried, "I'm getting fingers here!" and made his own frantic hand gesture: "Here's a finger for you!" Videotapes of the incident are inconclusive as to whether Mason's upswept hand (which was just off-camera) was intended to be an indecent gesture, but Sullivan was convinced that it was, and banned Mason from future appearances on the program. Mason later insisted that he did not know what the "middle finger" meant, and that he did not make the gesture anyway. [40] In September 1965, Sullivan—who, according to Mason, was "deeply apologetic" [41] —brought Mason on the show for a "surprise grand reunion". "He said they were old pals," Nachman wrote, "news to Mason, who never got a repeat invitation." [42] Mason added that his earning power ". was cut right in half after that. I never really worked my way back until I opened on Broadway in 1986." [43]

When the Byrds performed on December 12, 1965, David Crosby got into a shouting match with the show's director. They were never asked to return. [44] [45]

Sullivan decided that "Girl, we couldn't get much higher", from the Doors' signature song "Light My Fire", was too overt a reference to drug use, and directed that the lyric be changed to "Girl, we couldn't get much better" for the group's September 1967 appearance. [46] The band members "nodded their assent", according to Doors biographer Ben Fong-Torres, [47] then sang the song as written. After the broadcast, producer Bob Precht told the group, "Mr. Sullivan wanted you for six more shows, but you'll never work the Ed Sullivan Show again." Jim Morrison replied, "Hey, man, we just did the Ed Sullivan Show." [48]

The Rolling Stones famously capitulated during their fifth appearance on the show, in 1967, when Mick Jagger was told to change the titular lyric of "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's spend some time together". "But Jagger prevailed," wrote Nachman, by deliberately calling attention to the censorship, rolling his eyes, mugging, and drawing out the word "t-i-i-i-me" as he sang the revised lyric. Sullivan was angered by the insubordination, but the Stones did make one additional appearance on the show, in 1969. [49] [2]

Moe Howard of the Three Stooges recalled in 1975 that Sullivan had a memory problem of sorts: "Ed was a very nice man, but for a showman, quite forgetful. On our first appearance, he introduced us as the Three Ritz Brothers. He got out of it by adding, 'who look more like the Three Stooges to me'." [50] Joe DeRita, who worked with the Stooges after 1959, had commented that Sullivan had a personality "like the bottom of a bird cage." [51]

Diana Ross, who was very fond of Sullivan, later recalled Sullivan's forgetfulness during the many occasions the Supremes performed on his show. In a 1995 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman (taped in the Ed Sullivan Theater), Ross stated, "he could never remember our names. He called us 'the girls'." [52]

In a 1990 press conference, Paul McCartney recalled meeting Sullivan again in the early 1970s. Sullivan apparently had no idea who McCartney was. McCartney tried to remind Sullivan that he was one of the Beatles, but Sullivan obviously could not remember, and nodding and smiling, simply shook McCartney's hand and left. In an interview with Howard Stern around 2012, Joan Rivers said that Sullivan had been suffering from dementia toward the end of his life. [53]

Sullivan, like many American entertainers, was pulled into the Cold War anticommunism of the late 1940s and 1950s. Tap dancer Paul Draper's scheduled January 1950 appearance on Toast of the Town met with opposition from Hester McCullough, an activist in the hunt for "subversives". Branding Draper a Communist Party "sympathizer", she demanded that Sullivan's lead sponsor, the Ford Motor Company, cancel Draper's appearance. Draper denied the charge, and appeared on the show as scheduled. Ford received over a thousand angry letters and telegrams, and Sullivan was obliged to promise Ford's advertising agency, Kenyon & Eckhardt, that he would avoid controversial guests going forward. Draper was forced to move to Europe to earn a living. [54]

After the Draper incident, Sullivan began to work closely with Theodore Kirkpatrick of the anticommunist Counterattack newsletter. He would consult Kirkpatrick if any questions came up regarding a potential guest's political leanings. Sullivan wrote in his June 21, 1950, Daily News column that "Kirkpatrick has sat in my living room on several occasions and listened attentively to performers eager to secure a certification of loyalty." [54]

Cold War repercussions manifested in a different way when Bob Dylan was booked to appear in May 1963. His chosen song was "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", which poked fun at the ultraconservative John Birch Society and its tendency to see Communist conspiracies in many situations. No concern was voiced by anyone, including Sullivan, during rehearsals but on the day of the broadcast, CBS's Standards and Practices department rejected the song, fearing that lyrics equating the Society's views with those of Adolf Hitler might trigger a defamation lawsuit. Dylan was offered the opportunity to perform a different song, but he responded that if he could not sing the number of his choice, he would rather not appear at all. The story generated widespread media attention in the days that followed Sullivan denounced the network's decision in published interviews. [55]

Sullivan butted heads with Standards and Practices on other occasions, as well. In 1956, Ingrid Bergman—who had been living in "exile" in Europe since 1950 in the wake of her scandalous love affair with director Roberto Rossellini while they were both married—was planning a return to Hollywood as the star of Anastasia. Sullivan, confident that the American public would welcome her back, invited her to appear on his show and flew to Europe to film an interview with Bergman, Yul Brynner, and Helen Hayes on the Anastasia set. When he arrived back in New York, Standards and Practices informed Sullivan that under no circumstances would Bergman be permitted to appear on the show, either live or on film. Sullivan's prediction later proved correct, as Bergman won her second Academy Award for her portrayal, as well as the forgiveness of her fans. [19]

Sullivan was engaged to champion swimmer Sybil Bauer, but she died of cancer in 1927 at the age of 23. [56] In 1926, Sullivan met and began dating Sylvia Weinstein. Weinstein tried to tell her Jewish family she was dating a man named Ed Solomon, but her brother figured out she meant Ed Sullivan. With both families strongly opposed to a Catholic–Jewish marriage, the affair was on-again-off-again for three years. They were finally married on April 28, 1930, in a City Hall ceremony, and 8 months later Sylvia gave birth to Elizabeth ("Betty"), named after Sullivan's mother, who had died that year. The Sullivans rented a suite of rooms at the Hotel Delmonico in 1944 after living at the Hotel Astor on Times Square for many years. Sullivan rented a suite next door to the family suite, which he used as an office until The Ed Sullivan Show was canceled in 1971. Sullivan was in the habit of calling his wife after every program to get her immediate critique. [57]

The Sullivans were always "on the town", eating out five nights a week at some of the trendiest clubs and restaurants, including the Stork Club, Danny's Hide-A-Way and Jimmy Kelly's. Sullivan socialized with the rich and famous, was friends with U.S. Presidents and was given audiences with several Popes. [58] In 1952, Betty Sullivan married the Ed Sullivan Show's producer, Bob Precht. [1] From the Prechts, Ed had five grandchildren—Robert Edward, Carla Elizabeth, Vincent Henry, Andrew Sullivan and Margo Elizabeth. The Sullivan and Precht families were very close Betty died on June 7, 2014, aged 83.

In the fall of 1965, CBS began televising its weekly programs in color. Although the Sullivan show was seen live in the Central and Eastern time zones, it was taped for airing in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Excerpts have been released on home video and posted on the internet on the official Ed Sullivan Show web site.

By 1971, the show's ratings had plummeted. In an effort to refresh its lineup, CBS canceled the program in March 1971, along with some of its other long running shows throughout the 1970–1971 season (later known as the rural purge). Angered, Sullivan refused to host three more months of scheduled shows. They were replaced by reruns and a final program without him aired in June. He remained with the network in various other capacities and hosted a 25th anniversary special in June 1973.

In early September 1974, Sullivan was diagnosed with an advanced stage of esophageal cancer. Doctors gave him very little time to live, and the family chose to keep the diagnosis secret from him. Sullivan, believing his ailment to be yet another complication from a long-standing battle with gastric ulcers, died five weeks later on October 13, 1974, at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, two weeks after his 73rd birthday. [57] His funeral was attended by 3,000 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, on a cold, rainy day. Sullivan is interred in a crypt at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Sullivan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6101 Hollywood Blvd.


From 1948 until its cancellation in 1971, the show ran on CBS every Sunday night from 8–9 p.m. Eastern Time, and is one of the few entertainment shows to have run in the same weekly time slot on the same network for more than two decades (during its first season, it ran from 9 to 10 p.m. ET). Virtually every type of entertainment appeared on the show classical musicians, opera singers, popular recording artists, songwriters, comedians, ballet dancers, dramatic actors performing monologues from plays, and circus acts were regularly featured. The format was essentially the same as vaudeville and, although vaudeville had undergone a slow demise for a generation, Sullivan presented many ex-vaudevillians on his show. [5]

Originally co-created and produced by Marlo Lewis, the show was first titled Toast of the Town, but was widely referred to as The Ed Sullivan Show for years before September 25, 1955, when that became its official name. In the show's June 20, 1948 debut, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed along with singer Monica Lewis and Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II previewing the score to their then-new show South Pacific, which opened on Broadway in 1949.

From 1948 through 1962, the program's primary sponsor was the Lincoln-Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company Sullivan read many commercials for Mercury vehicles live on the air during this period.

The Ed Sullivan Show was originally broadcast via live television from CBS-TV studio 51, the Maxine Elliott Theatre, at Broadway and 39th St. before moving to its permanent home at CBS-TV Studio 50 in New York City (1697 Broadway, at 53rd Street), which was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater [6] on the occasion of the program's 20th anniversary in June 1968. The last original Sullivan show telecast (#1068) was on March 28, 1971, with guests Melanie, Joanna Simon, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass and Sandler and Young. It was one of many older shows with followings in undesirable key demographics that were purged from the network lineups that summer leading into the Prime Time Access Rule taking effect that fall. Repeats were scheduled through June 6, 1971.

Along with the new talent Sullivan booked each week, he also had recurring characters appear many times a season, such as his "Little Italian Mouse" puppet sidekick Topo Gigio, who debuted December 9, 1962, [7] and ventriloquist Señor Wences debuted December 31, 1950. [8] While most of the episodes aired live from New York City, the show also aired live on occasion from other nations, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. For many years, Ed Sullivan was a national event each Sunday evening, and was the first exposure for foreign performers to the American public. On the occasion of the show's tenth anniversary telecast, Sullivan commented on how the show had changed during a June 1958 interview syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA):

The chief difference is mostly one of pace. In those days, we had maybe six acts. Now we have 11 or 12. Then, each of our acts would do a leisurely ten minutes or so. Now they do two or three minutes. And in those early days I talked too much. Watching these kines I cringe. I look up at me talking away and I say "You fool! Keep quiet!" But I just keep on talking. I've learned how to keep my mouth shut.

The show enjoyed phenomenal popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. As had occurred with the annual telecasts of The Wizard of Oz in the 1960s and '70s, the family ritual of gathering around the television set to watch Ed Sullivan became almost a U.S. cultural universal. He was regarded as a kingmaker, and performers considered an appearance on his program as a guarantee of stardom, although this sometimes did not turn out to be the case. The show's iconic status is illustrated by the song "Hymn for a Sunday Evening" from the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie. In the song, a family of viewers expresses their regard for the program in worshipful tones.

In September 1965, CBS started televising the program in compatible color, as all three major networks began to switch to 100 percent color prime time schedules. CBS had once backed its own color system, developed by Peter Goldmark, and resisted using RCA's compatible process until 1954. At that time, it built its first New York City color TV studio, Studio 72, in a former RKO movie theater at 2248 Broadway (81st Street). One Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast on August 22, 1954, from the new studio, but it was mostly used for one-time-only specials such as Rodgers and Hammerstein's March 31, 1957 Cinderella. (The facility was later acquired by TeleTape Productions and became the first studio where the PBS children's program Sesame Street was produced.) CBS Studio 72 was demolished in 1986 and replaced by an apartment house. CBS Studio 50 was finally modernized for color broadcasts in 1965. The 1965–66 season premiere starred the Beatles in an episode airing on September 12, which was the last episode to air in black and white. This occurred because the episode was taped at the Beatles' convenience on August 14, the eve of their Shea Stadium performance and a two-week tour of North America, slightly before the program was ready for color transmission.

In the late 1960s, Sullivan remarked that his program was waning as the decade went on. He realized that to keep viewers, the best and brightest in entertainment had to be seen, or else the viewers were going to keep on changing the channel. Along with declining viewership, Ed Sullivan attracted a higher median age for the average viewer (which most sponsors found undesirable) as the seasons went on. These two factors were the reason the show was cancelled by CBS on March 16, 1971 as part of a mass cancellation of advertiser-averse programming. While Sullivan's landmark program ended without a proper finale, Sullivan would produce one-off specials for CBS until his death in 1974, including an Ed Sullivan Show 25th anniversary special in 1973.

In 1990, television documentary producer Andrew Solt formed SOFA Entertainment, Inc. and purchased the exclusive rights to the complete library of The Ed Sullivan Show from Ed Sullivan's daughter Elizabeth and her husband Bob Precht. [9] [10] The collection consists of 1,087 hours of kinescopes and videotapes broadcast by CBS on Sunday nights from 1948 to 1971.

Since acquiring the rights to The Ed Sullivan Show library, SOFA Entertainment has catalogued, organized and cleared performance rights for the original shows. Starting in 1991, SOFA Entertainment has re-introduced The Ed Sullivan Show to the American public by producing numerous network specials, syndicating a half-hour series (that also aired on TV Land, PBS, VH1 and Decades) and home video compilations. [11] Some of these compilations include The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles, All 6 Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Rolling Stones, Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Shows, Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show, Ed Sullivan's Rock 'n Roll Classics, and 115 half-hour The Best of The Ed Sullivan Show specials, among others. [12] The legendary performances of this show are also available as video and audio downloads and as an app on iTunes." [13] In 2021, MeTV began airing on Sunday nights half hour packages of performances from the show. [14]

The Ed Sullivan Show Orchestra Edit

In the early years of television, both CBS and NBC networks had their own symphony orchestras. NBC's was conducted by Arturo Toscanini and CBS's by Alfredo Antonini. The Ed Sullivan Show (originally presented as: The Toast Of The Town) was basically a musical variety show, and thus members of the CBS orchestra were folded into the Ed Sullivan Show Orchestra, conducted by Ray Bloch. During the early days of television, the demands on studio musicians were many-tiered. They needed to be proficient in all genres of music, from classical, to jazz and to rock and roll. The Ed Sullivan Show would regularly feature singers from the Metropolitan Opera and the staff orchestra would accompany divas such as Eileen Farrell, Maria Callas or Joan Sutherland. The musicians needed to be prepared to switch gears for Ella Fitzgerald, Diahann Carroll or Sammy Davis, Jr. and then onto The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder or Tom Jones or Itzhak Perlman. They also needed to perform with some of the greatest dancers and ballerinas of the time, from Gregory Hines, Juliet Prowse, Maria Tallchief [15] or Margo Fonteyn to the Peter Gennaro dancers. In the process, the musicians collaborated with several internationally recognized ballet troupes including: Ruth Page's Chicago Opera Ballet, the London Festival Ballet, Roland Petit's Ballets de Paris and Russia's Igor Moiseyev Ballet. [16] Few musicians are capable of crossing over from one genre to another. However, each member of the Ed Sullivan Show Orchestra was a specialist and more than capable of covering the complete spectrum of music.

The lead trumpet player is the “concert master” of a studio orchestra. Chris Griffin (formerly with the trumpet section of Harry James, Ziggy Elman and the Benny Goodman Band) was Ray Bloch's lead trumpet player for the many radio and television shows that he conducted, including the Ed Sullivan Show. Chris remained the lead trumpet player with The Ed Sullivan show from the first show in 1948 to the last show in 1971. The Trumpet Section was composed of: Chris Griffin Bernie Privin Jimmy Nottingham and Thad Jones. Chris' son Paul Griffin was a regular substitute trumpeter. Trombones: Roland Dupont Morton Bullman Frank Rehak and Cliff Heather. Saxes: Toots Mondello Hymie Schertzer Ed Zuhlke etc. Piano: Hank Jones. Drums: Specs Powell/Howard Smith. Percussion: Milton Schlesinger who similarly played from the first to last show. John Serry Sr. often augmented the orchestra as the lead accordionist during the 1950s. Unlike NBC's The Tonight Show, which celebrated the notoriety of their musicians in Skitch Henderson's or Doc Severinsen's "Tonight Show Band", the CBS producers of The Ed Sullivan Show decided to hide their famed musicians behind a curtain. Occasionally, CBS would broadcast specials and call upon the orchestra to perform. When Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, music was hastily composed for the orchestra in a special tribute that also featured jazz pianist Bill Evans, who had recently composed an Elegy To His Father.

The Ed Sullivan Show airs for the very last time - Jun 06, 1971 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

Sunday nights, 8:00 pm, CBS. Ask almost any American born in the 1950s or earlier what television program ran in that timeslot on that network, and they’ll probably know the answer: The Ed Sullivan Show. For more than two decades, Sullivan’s variety show was the premiere television showcase for entertainers of all stripes, including borscht-belt comedians, plate-spinning vaudeville throwbacks and, most significantly, some of the biggest and most current names in rock and roll. Twenty-three years after its 1948 premiere, The Ed Sullivan Show had its final broadcast on this day in 1971.

In its first eight years of existence, there was no such thing as rock and roll to be featured on the program originally called Toast of the Town, yet even its first broadcast made music history when Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II gave the world its first taste of the score from their upcoming musical, South Pacific. Over the years, live performances of new and current Broadway shows were featured regularly on Ed Sullivan, including Julie Andrews singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” from My Fair Lady and Richard Burton singing “What Do The Simple Folk Do?” from Camelot. Classical and opera performers also made frequent appearances, but of course The Ed Sullivan Show is now remembered most for providing so many iconic moments in the history of televised rock and roll.

Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in September 1956, was actually one of his most restrained and least thrilling. It was notable, however, given Ed Sullivan’s assertion earlier that year that he’d never allow “The King” on his show. By the time the Beatles rolled around, Sullivan was far more comfortable with the hysteria young Elvis had caused. In fact, it was Ed Sullivan personally witnessing Beatlemania up close at London’s Heathrow airport in 1963 that led the Beatles being booked for their historic February 1964 American television debut. Through the rest of the 60s, The Ed Sullivan Show continued to host the day’s biggest rock acts: The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin and more.

Gladys Knight and the Pips were the musical guests on the final episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, which was cancelled shortly after its rerun broadcast on this day in 1971.

Already owning a Number One hit with “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis had been on television before, but nothing compared to his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show when 60 million viewers tuned in. It was a high profile cultural moment and national event when 82% of the television viewing audience watched Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show.

This young man, whose sound and raw, energetic performances went against everything the conservative Eisenhower era stood for, captivated the youth of America. That night on the Sullivan show, Elvis entered living rooms across the country and created a cultural revolution that changed musical tastes and entertainment forever.

An average student, Elvis found inspiration at The First Assembly of God, the church his family attended, and where he learned to love gospel music. On his eleventh birthday, Elvis was given a guitar by his mother and, inspired by southern gospel singers like Jake Hess and country artists like Hank Snow and Roy Acuff, he taught himself to sing and play the instrument by ear. As he grew older Elvis became more passionate about music and immersed himself in the sounds of his new home — Memphis, Tennessee.

By 1955, at the age of 20, Elvis Presley was emerging as a regional star in the south, touring and playing shows from Tennessee to Texas. Known for his lively performances and on stage gyrations, Elvis played a unique blend of R&B, country, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll. At this early age, Elvis was taken under the wing of well-known music promoter Colonel Tom Parker who heard about Elvis and the audience reaction he was getting whenever he performed. Elvis was recording for producers Sam Phillips and his Sun label. Parker got RCA to buy Elvis’ contract for an outrageous sum at the time — $35,000. Elvis’ first single, “Heartbreak Hotel” was released on January 27, 1956 and his self-titled debut album two months later. “Heartbreak Hotel” became Elvis Presley’s first Number One single and his debut album quickly went gold.

To give his artist a national showcase Colonel Parker booked Elvis’s first televised appearance on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show. To get him on the show, The Colonel sent the show’s producer, Jackie Gleason, a glossy photo of Elvis with a note reading “JG: This is Elvis Presley. About to be Real Big…- Colonel.” The deal was for six appearances, and although Stage Show was not a major variety show it brought Elvis his first national exposure.

Soon after, Elvis’s national popularity was on the rise, and Hollywood wanted in. Elvis signed a movie contract with Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures. The Colonel next booked two appearances for him on The Milton Berle Show. For the first show broadcast, April 3, 1956, Elvis was filmed on the flight deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego. Hundreds of sailors were in attendance. In the second show, June 5, 1956, Elvis’s playful performance of “Hound Dog” drove the teens wild, but the press and some adults were outraged. The controversy over his bumps and grinds and gyrating hips only served to fuel the fire. When Ed Sullivan was asked if he would book Elvis on his show, he said he would not. He didn’t want to be the recipient of scathing criticism from the nation’s media.

Then on July 1st, 1956, Elvis appeared on NBC’s new Steve Allen Show, which aired opposite CBS’s The Ed Sullivan Show. Due to the backlash from Presley’s second and last performance on The Milton Berle Show, Allen decided to dress Elvis in a tuxedo and have him sing “Hound Dog” to a basset hound. While many of Elvis’s teenaged fans may not have appreciated the comedic intent of the song (Elvis personally hated it), The Steve Allen Show crushed Ed Sullivan in that week’s ratings. On Monday, Ed Sullivan sent Steve Allen a telegram reading: “Steven Presley Allen, NBC TV, New York City. Stinker. Love and kisses. Ed Sullivan.”

By Monday morning Ed Sullivan caved and decided to book Elvis on his Sunday night showcase. Sullivan and Colonel Parker agreed to have Elvis appear three times for the then mind boggling sum of $50,000, the highest amount ever paid to a performer to appear on TV. Ironically, before Elvis had appeared nationally on television, Sullivan had turned down the opportunity to book Elvis on his show for $5,000. He passed on the opportunity, because he wasn’t sure that Presley would be a good fit for his show’s family audience. But after getting trounced in the ratings by Steve Allen, Ed had to concede and he paid dearly. It would be a show business marriage made in ratings heaven.

A month before Elvis’s Sullivan debut, Ed was involved in nearly fatal automobile accident that left him hospitalized for weeks. By the time September 9th, 1956 rolled around, Ed was still recovering from his injuries and was unable to host Presley’s historic appearance. British actor Charles Laughton hosted the show from Ed’s New York studio and introduced Elvis to the television audience. “…and now, away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley!” 60 million viewers were transported to CBS Television City in Los Angeles for Elvis Presley’s performance of “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender,” the latter being the title song of his first Hollywood feature film.

Later, it was again back to Hollywood where Elvis returned to perform Little Richard’s hit, “Ready Teddy” after which he thanked “Mr. Sullivan” for the opportunity and wished him a speedy recovery. Continuing his serious tone, Elvis then introduced his next number, “As a great philosopher once said…’You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!’” Elvis held nothing back, snarling and gyrating and stirring up controversy all over again. Contrary to what many believe about CBS insisting that cameras only shoot Elvis from the hips up, the TV audience had a full view of Elvis Presley that evening.

By the time of his next appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, October 28th, 1956, Sullivan had recovered from his injuries and resumed his duties hosting the show. Following an innocent act by an Irish children’s choir called The Little Gaelic Singers, Elvis Presley took the stage and sang, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender.” After Señor Wences’s ventriloquism act, Elvis returned to perform “Love Me.” During this song the camera moved in for a close-up of Elvis’ face, and then, as if on cue, he smiled and snarled his upper lip. The studio audience went wild. Elvis closed with another performance of his hit, “Hound Dog.” Again viewers were shown a head-to-toe Elvis.

Following the broadcast, which again enjoyed huge ratings, Elvis was burned in effigy by angry crowds in Nashville and St. Louis. The popular press was also critical of his style and movements. Rock and roll was increasingly attacked and there was growing opposition to its supposedly negative influence on America’s youth. The more the establishment pushed back, the more Elvis’s support grew from millions of teenagers.

Elvis’s third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show took place on January 6th, 1957. He shared the stage with Sullivan impressionist Will Jordan, ventriloquist Arthur Worsley and a rising comedienne, Carol Burnett.

Elvis’s sexy gyrations had stirred up enough controversy across America that CBS censors demanded he be shot only from the waist up only!

Elvis performed a number of songs that night including “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Too Much,” “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again,” and a gospel favorite, “Peace in the Valley.” At the end of the show Ed Sullivan went out of his way to compliment Presley, “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!” With that endorsement, Elvis Presley bowed, was clearly appreciative and exited the Sullivan stage for the last time. He went on to become one of the most famous and beloved artists in the history of entertainment.

In 2006, The History Channel selected the September 9th, 1956 Elvis Presley appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show as one of the “10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America.” Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show was a key stepping stone on The King’s path to worldwide fame. Today Presley remains a cultural icon and a global legend, the best selling solo artist in the history of popular music, and perhaps thanks in part to Elvis’ three historic appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

There is no doubt that history was made on The Ed Sullivan Show numerous times. From The Beatles legendary American TV debut to Elvis Presley’s first performance on the show. There’s no denying that some of the most important events in television took place on the Sullivan stage, including several controversial performances that will forever remain part of music and television history.

We have compiled a list of the top 5 most controversial performances on The Ed Sullivan Show:

5. Sam Cooke performed on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on November 3 rd , 1957. That night, Sam was the last act scheduled on the show and as he started singing the show was cut off. It was live TV and the show had run too long. The show received many complaints and Ed Sullivan immediately re-booked him. On December 1 st , 1957 Sam Cooke came back to the show, this time giving a complete and memorable performance.

4. Jackie Mason’s contract to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show was cancelled after he allegedly gave Ed Sullivan the finger during his October 18 th , 1964 performance. While doing his stand-up comedy act, Sullivan signaled that Mason had two minutes left to wrap-up his act. Mason then pointed back at Sullivan and to this day there remains controversy on whether Mason used his middle finger to gesture to Sullivan. After the “finger incident,” Mason was banned from the show. However, Sullivan and Mason sorted out their feud and Mason ultimately came back to perform once more on the show two years later.

3. The Rolling Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show a total of 6 times. Their January 15 th 1967 performance is especially memorable, because Mick Jagger was asked to change the lyric of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.” Unlike Jim Morrison, Mick complied and sang the lyrics as he was told, but emphatically rolled his eyes and sarcastically exaggerated the line.

2. Elvis Presley’s final performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was shot only from the waist up, after CBS censors claimed that his sexy gyrations had stirred up enough controversy across America. At the end of his performance Ed went up on the stage and said “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!” Ed’s ringing endorsement carried a tremendous amount of weight in the households of many conservative Americans at the time.

1. The first and only performance by The Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show takes the top spot on our list. The night of September 17 th , 1967, before they went on stage, The Doors were asked by one of the producers of the show to change the lyrics of their hit “Light My Fire.” The producers didn’t want Morrison to sing “Girl we couldn’t get much higher,” and argued that the word “higher” was inappropriate for a family show on national television. However, when the time came to perform, Jim Morrison disobeyed orders and sang the lyrics as they were originally written. A furious Sullivan banned The Doors from ever appearing on his show again.

Ed Sullivan’s grandson recalls growing up with TV icon: ‘He always had time for his fans’

Robert Precht has always known that his grandfather Ed Sullivan was special.

Precht, the eldest of the star’s five grandchildren, recently recalled to Closer Weekly how proud the TV legend was to show up for his sixth-grade production of “The Pirates of Penzance” in Scarsdale, N.Y.

“Kids were racing down the stairs trying to get his autograph, and he was good-natured about it,” Precht told the outlet for the latest’s issue currently on newsstands. “He always had time for his fans."

Ed Sullivan (second left) and his family, (left to right) wife Sylvia, grandson and future defense attorney Robert E. Precht, daughter Betty, and son-in-law naval officer and later television producer Robert Precht Jr., on July 20, 1954. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Precht said that despite his fame, Sullivan was always dedicated to his family and was happily married to his wife Sylvia from 1930 until her death in 1973. The couple only had one child Betty, whose husband, Bob Precht, would ultimately work as a producer for “The Ed Sullivan Show."

“They had a very good marriage, and she was his biggest fan,” granddaughter Margo Elizabeth Speciale also told Closer Weekly about her grandparents. “He was a big deal to America, but to me, he was just grandpa. I remember being on the couch in our living room and him doing little magic tricks and pretending to take his thumb off.”

Sullivan, who entertained millions of Americans as host of his long-running variety show, passed away in 1974 at age 73 from cancer.

Ed Sullivan with The Beatles, before the group's second appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' on Feb.y 16, 1964 at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla. (Photo by Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images)

Americans across the country tuned in to Sullivan’s weekly show, which according to the New York Times cost $8 million a year to produce and for which Sullivan received $164G a year. “The Ed Sullivan Show” aired from 1948 until 1971.

Precht told Closer Weekly Sullivan gave a platform to African-American artists during an era when racial segregation was still common.

“Through his body language and the way he introduced people, he conveyed a real affection for African-American culture,” said Precht. “He created a kind of model integrated society.”

“[He was a] silent force in the civil rights movement,” added Speciale. “By having African-American performers on the show and treating them with dignity and respect, he showed acts white audiences had never heard of before who are household names today and, most importantly, he treated those artists with dignity and respect — during a time when races was the norm, challenging America to do the same.”

Harry Belafonte was one of many stars who appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." (Reuters)

“He had a strong sense of what was just and unjust,” added Precht. “He made his life a big stage and he educated the American public about performers and New York life.”

At the time of Sullivan’s death, the New York Times shared the TV icon “was proud of his Irish origin, of his tightly-knit family, of his Roman Catholic faith. He despised bigotry, fraud and irresponsibility. And he had the greatest respect for the power of words.”

“I enjoy what I’m doing,” Sullivan once shared about his television work. “I would have become a water skier if I could have made money honestly and with integrity.”

Ed Sullivan with The Beatles during a rehearsal on Feb. 9, 1964 for the British group's first American appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." (AP Photo)

According to Closer Weekly, Sullivan’s grandchildren are determined to keep the star’s legacy alive. Precht is currently writing a biography about his grandfather, while Speciale is working on a documentary.

“When people think of him, they think of family togetherness — watching his show together,” said Precht. “It’s a legacy of shared experience that’s a unique, vanished part of America.”

Prince at the Superbowl, 2007

For millions of Americans, the Superbowl is the television event of the year, not just for the sport, but for the overall spectacle, particularly the half-time show that features an eagerly anticipated performance from one of the country’s biggest musical superstars.

After years of turning the opportunity down, Prince finally agreed to take part in 2007, in Miami, and the universe decided to give its blessing. The weather was turning nasty, the first time there had ever been a downpour during a half-time show. It presented a hazard for both Prince and his band, not least because of the electrical equipment onstage, but, realising the potential for something truly special, the great man jokingly asked if the organisers could “make it rain harder”.

After a set taking in electrifying covers of We Will Rock You, Proud Mary, All Along The Watchtower and Foo Fighters’ Best Of You, along with his own songs, the finale came, mid-deluge: Purple Rain. Appearing in silhouette behind a billowing sheet, wielding his guitar in a manner that was entirely, unapologetically sexual (a bold move after Janet Jackson’s “nipplegate” fallout several years earlier) with the storm raging around him, it was a moment of sheer triumph, a masterclass in exactly how majestic rock’n’roll should look, sound and feel.

“The Ed Sullivan Show”

For 24 seasons, “The Ed Sullivan Show” entertained America with its electric line-up of new talent and seasoned entertainers. The show’s brilliance is largely attributed to its unlikely host, Ed Sullivan. A gloomy looking man with hang-dog jowls and the inability to remember people’s names, Sullivan displayed a keen eye for talent and had his hand on all details of the popular show. Audiences forgave Sullivan’s on-air gaffes because the show was so entertaining. Sullivan was especially concerned about promoting good taste. He rewrote jokes, re-arranged talent and adjusted costumes to make sure they were up to his standard.

“[Ed Sullivan] had a particular … genius, because it was a radar type of thing,” says entertainer Pat Boone. “He knew what the audience would like to see and hear, and he brought it to them.”

Long before Rosie O’Donnell became a Broadway booster, Ed Sullivan featured musical-theater numbers. With many important shows and artists of the time, these videos are the only way to get a true idea today of what it was like to experience them live. “West Side Story,” for example, had been running on Broadway for two years when, in September 1958, Ed Sullivan introduced “this magnificent ballet, which is called ‘Cool.’” In December 1967, he invited Pearl Bailey to sing “Before the Parade Passes By,” about a month after she took over the title role in “Hello Dolly!” on Broadway.

The Harlem Globetrotters were regulars on “Ed Sullivan,” but the YouTube channel also lets us discover the rival Harlem Magicians, here performing some serious wizardry in 1957. The show also convinced Jackie Robinson to share batting tips in 1962, the year he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Watch the video: Tim Piper as JOHN LENNON - BeatleBrunch Live - JOHN MEETS PAUL audio