In the early days, Elvis made quite a few television appearances on various shows. His first was on the The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in January of 1956 in New York. The first show didn’t have a large turnout. It was raining, and Elvis, at that time, was not all that well known. He appeared on the Dorsey Brothers show a total of five times.
On April 3, exactly 58 years ago today, Elvis made his first appearance on the Milton Berle show in San Diego, from the deck of the USS Hancock aircraft carrier. He also performed concerts the following two nights. The San Diego Chief of Police announced that if Elvis ever returned to his city and performed in that manner, he would be arrested for disorderly conduct. LOL. I bet the chief later came to regret his words.
The second time Elvis appeared on the Milton Berle show a few months later, he stirred up a ton of controversy. He received the famous nickname, Elvis the Pelvis, from the press, and his act was called a ‘striptease.’ Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote, ‘Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability’. John Crosby of the New York Herald Tribune called Elvis ‘unspeakably untalented and vulgar’.
Ha! Little did they know…
On July 1, 1956 (my birthday, although I wasn’t born yet…that would happen 5 years later), Elvis appeared on The Steve Allen Show. In order to avoid controversy, Steve had Elvis wear a tux and sing Hound Dog to a basset hound. Fans were incensed, claiming Steve did it to embarrass Elvis and to insult rock and roll. After the show, Elvis was interviewed on Hy Gardner’s live TV interview show. Elvis said: ‘I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong. I don’t see how any type of music would have any bad influence on people. How would rock ‘n’ roll music make anyone rebel against their parents?’
Ed Sullivan claimed he would never want Elvis on his show, but he changed his mind after learning that the night Elvis appeared on The Steve Allen Show, which was opposite his in the same time slot, Allen’s show brought in twice as many viewers. Elvis would appear on Sullivan’s show three times, September 9, 1956, October 28, 1956, and January 6, 1957. His first show brought in 60 million viewers and gained the respect of many of his former critics.
Elvis, with the Jordanaires, sang ‘Peace in the Valley.’ I heard Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires being interviewed on Elvis radio recently. He said that Elvis had promised his mother he would sing Peace in the Valley on the show. Sullivan’s producer wouldn’t allow it, he told Elvis there had never been a religious song sang on the show, and there never would be. Elvis went to Ed and told him he’d promised his mother he would sing the song, but that ‘fella’ said he couldn’t. Ed told his producer to ‘let the boy sing whatever he wants.’ 🙂
On Elvis’ final appearance, the censors would only allow him to be seen from the waist up. At the end of the show, Ed Sullivan said, ‘This is a read decent, fine boy. We’ve never had a pleasanter experience with a big name’.
One of my favorites of Elvis’ early TV appearances was his spot on the Frank Sinatra Special after he returned from the Army.
Here is an adorable clip of Elvis and Frank singing a duet. The clip also includes some commentary from Nancy Sinatra: PLEASE, do yourself a favor and watch this.
Sigh…can you imagine being a teen in the 50’s and never having seen rock and roll of any kind, and then, being exposed to Elvis??? Wow…
Although, some of you WERE teens in the 50’s. I’d love to hear from you about what it was like. What did you think of Elvis? What did your parents think? Any memorable experiences you’d like to share?
Elvis was known for his giving heart and charitable work during his lifetime. Lisa Marie and Elvis Presley Enterprises have continued that tradition with their involvement in various charities. In 1984, The Elvis Charitable Foundation was formed. The EPCF created a scholarship fund for students majoring in the arts. The charity also contributes to one of Elvis’ favorite charities, Goodwill Homes, a Memphis facility that provides counseling and services for abused children and their families. The EPCF also assists numerous other charities, especially focusing on arts, education and children’s programs.
Learn more here, including how to donate:
On Elvis’ birthday this year, I released a Vintage Romance short story set in 1957, and of course, my heroine is an Elvis fan. 🙂 As a tribute to Elvis’ generosity, and in order to assist with this worthy cause, 10% of my proceeds for End of Lonely Street will go to the EPCF.
All Toby Lawson wants is to go to college to become a teacher and to be free of her alcoholic mother and some painful memories. But when her mother nearly burns the house down, Toby must put her dreams on hold and return home to care for her. The only time she isn’t lonely and miserable is when she’s listening to her heartthrob, Elvis Presley. His music takes her away and helps her escape from everything wrong in her life.
Noah Rivers has always loved Toby, but no matter what he says, she can‘t get past the fact that her drunken mother once kissed him. He soon realizes the true problem lies in Toby’s belief she’s not good enough for him and in her fear she will be just like her mother.
What will it take to prove to her that she deserves to be happy, and that he would give anything to be the man to make her dreams come true?
One response to “Ramblings of a Lifelong Elvis Fan – Part 39 – Elvis’ TV Appearances – The Early Years”
I remember seeing Elvis on Ed Sullivan when I was six or so, but I’m not sure which show. Do recall my aunt spelling the word S-E-X-Y so I wouldn’t understand what she meant about Elvis. Grin. Of course I committed the letters to memory! Love the duet with Frank. Wonder what he thought when the girls screamed for Elvis and not him – I think Frank was the first entertainer to have females rush the stage when he performed.