The Ed Sullivan Show Celebrates 75th Anniversary
JUNE 20, 2023 [SANTA MONICA, Calif.,] — On June 20, 1948 Toast of the Town (the original name of The Ed Sullivan Show) debuted with a historic performance by the Father of the Blues W.C. Handy, and changed the course of American television and music history. From the time the show originally launched when very few people owned TVs, until the last episode that aired in 1971, The Ed Sullivan Show had presided over many “firsts” on American television. The Ed Sullivan Show holds the record as the longest-running primetime variety show in television history with a 23-year primetime run on CBS. The Ed Sullivan Show was one of the first shows to be shot in front of a live audience introducing musical talent to the world – Dick Clark, Don Kirshner, Don Cornelius, and Johnny Carson were influenced by and used The Ed Sullivan show as their template. Some of the earliest or first televised performances of the world’s music superstars including Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, The Band, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, The Mamas and the Papas, The Supremes, and The Rolling Stones. The first to bring country music (Chet Akins, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Dean, Brenda Lee, and Buck Owens). First to showcase key jazz artists Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole to national television viewers. In a time of segregation, Ed Sullivan, an influential Civil Rights advocate, was the first to invite Black actors (Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll), athletes (Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson), comedians (Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson), and musicians (Harry Belafonte, James Brown), to appear on the show. Sullivan invited Black artists onto his stage despite what network censors and the show’s sponsors demanded. In a segregated era when music heard on the radio was either white pop or “race” music, Ed was never afraid to cross racial lines. If you had talent, you were on his show.
With more than a thousand episodes filled with iconic performances by groundbreaking artists from rock ‘n’ roll, comedy, novelty, pop music, politics, sports, opera and more, the show had something for everyone. The Ed Sullivan Show was special in that it brought people and families together every Sunday evening. This June 20th celebrates the legendary show’s 75th Anniversary.
Photo credit: SOFA Entertainment
After surpassing ONE BILLION total views across all channels (including YouTube, Apple Music and Facebook) late last year, the archives of The Ed Sullivan Show have opened again on the day of the show’s 75th anniversary (June 20) to bring forth a “Happy Anniversary” clip originally airing on the show for their 8th year anniversary in 1956. The video clip consists of a broadcast message from Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Ronald Reagan, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Walt Disney, Marlon Brando, and many other big stars singing a “Happy Anniversary” song to their friend, Ed Sullivan. Watch, HERE. Fans can also tune into the YouTube channel the week of the anniversary to see key performance clips by Tony Bennett “What The World Needs Now Is Love/I’ve Gotta Be Me/People/What The World Needs Now Is Love (Reprise)” on June 18th; The 5th Dimension “Up, Up & Away” on June 19th; and Connie Francis “Second Hand Love” on June 25th.
Also, a new animation series kicks off June 21 focusing on Sullivan’s impact on modern culture. The collaboration with Pixel Park presents pieces of Ed Sullivan’s story in short, compelling visual adventures. The first animation is “Who Was Ed Sullivan?”
On The Ed Sullivan Show’s YouTube Channel, fans can tune into newly released video clips of Hidden Gems featuring Ed Sullivan giving history lessons on the city of Las Vegas (where the show was filmed numerous times); watch Ed interview French actress, singer and model Brigitte Bardot on his “Around The World” series; follow Ed as he tours Rome on a carriage with English actor Rex Harrison; step onstage with actor and filmmaker Kirk Douglas as Col. Marcus in Cast A Giant Shadow; attend the premiere of Trapeze on the show while he interviewed actors and actresses Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, Marie Wilson and June Haver as they arrive on the red carpet; visit actor Clark Gable on the set of The King & Four Queens; converse with actor, dancer and film director James Cagney, actor, director, and producer Robert Montgomery; and actress, singer, and businesswoman Debbie Reynolds on set with Ed talking about The Singing Nun.
Personally involved in his show’s bookings, Ed was known to have said he wanted to “entertain all of the people some of the time,” leading the way for what American television would become. His television career initially began when, unbeknownst to him, the Harvest Moon Ball he hosted for The New York Daily News in 1947, was televised. CBS subsequently hired Sullivan to host their new variety show, Toast of the Town. In 1955 the show was re-named “The Ed Sullivan Show” and in 1967 Ed received one of his greatest honors — the theater from where he broadcast his show was re-named The Ed Sullivan Theater. This is the first theatre in New York to be named after a television personality. Watch the unveiling, HERE.
Among the individuals or groups who made their first television appearances on the show, or who were relatively unknown until they appeared, include Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, The Supremes, Dick Van Dyke, The Jackson 5, Hank Williams, Jr., The Band, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas and The Papas, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and, of course, The Beatles. Still, Ed would be as likely to present unusual acts like plate spinners, The Singing Nun, Señor Wences, and Topo Gigio (a mechanical Italian mouse) as he would be to introduce America to “culture” like ballet, opera, classical music and Broadway show tunes. In short, Ed became the arts and culture educator for America.
Incredibly powerful in making and breaking artists, Sullivan is credited for influencing society by creating a platform for diversity. In the Sixties, he embraced the brand of a (then) small record company from Detroit – Berry Gordy’s Motown! He presented nearly all the Motown acts including The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & The Pips, etc. The Ed Sullivan Show was revolutionary as it was the first-time white people saw Black people on TV AND the first-time Black people saw Black people on TV. He aimed to support talent, regardless of race, with a voracious passion introducing an audience to other timeless legends like Nat “King” Cole, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and dozens more. One time, he was threatened by the network not to touch Coretta Scott King so he embraced and kissed her. He held hands with Pearl Bailey on his show, much to the chagrin of his sponsors (especially in the South). He was very close friends of Louis Armstrong and paid for the Harlem funeral of dancing legend, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as he died penniless. Sullivan also helped break the race barrier in the comedy world by presenting comedians such as Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley, and Flip Wilson. Furthermore, Sullivan’s importance in television history and humanitarianism shows in the fact that he would book outdated vaudeville artists so they would qualify for their medical insurance.
Perhaps the most memorable and iconic moments is U.S. music history, on “The Ed Sullivan Show” is it gave us two moments in television history – the legendary “from the waist-up only” appearance of Elvis Presley and the American television debut of The Beatles.
The Ed Sullivan Show ended in 1971 after over more than a thousand episodes. Ed Sullivan passed away on October 13, 1974 at the age of 73.
Sullivan’s show and its timeless 10,000 performances by so many of the world’s greatest artists (1,045 hours of “The Ed Sullivan Show” are archived) live on and to this day his name and all he accomplished still reverberates in both television and rock ‘n’ roll history. Taking a page from Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Fallon, and Stephen Colbert today still highlight artists from music, TV, and film, giving them a platform to directly connect with a global audience.
In June 2020, UMe announced a global deal with SOFA Entertainment for ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ Catalog. Currently, The Ed Sullivan Show has since surpassed 1.8 Billion total views across all online channels (including YouTube, Apple Music and Facebook) in tandem with reaching the 587K+ YouTube subscribers’ milestone and more than 385 Million YouTube views. Ed Sullivan continues its run on TV with The Ed Sullivan Show YouTube Channel, airing on TV daily, on MeTV weekly, and streaming on Paramount’s Pluto TV in America, Europe, and South America.
Focusing on digital, The Ed Sullivan archive continues to target with new platforms and audiences with social media collaborations with artists who appeared on the show or artists who were influenced by them.
New videos are updated to The Ed Sullivan Show’s official YouTube channel and EdSullivan.com. Across YouTube/Apple Music/Facebook, the most-viewed clips include The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” (72.6M streams), Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” (61M streams) and “Don’t Be Cruel” (58M streams), Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” (47.7M streams), The Temptations’ “Get Ready/Stop! In The Name of Love/My Guy” (37.5M streams), Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” (31M streams), Janis Joplin’s “Maybe” (27.6M streams), Tom Jones’ “Delilah” (23M streams), and The Mamas & The Papas’ “Words Of Love” (22M streams), and “Creeque Alley” (20M streams).
The Ed Sullivan Show is the most popular primetime variety show in American history. For nearly a quarter century, Ed Sullivan hosted the greatest array of talent on television, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Motown artists such as The Supremes, The Temptations and The Jackson 5. Every Sunday night at 8pm on CBS from 1948-1971, The Ed Sullivan Show showcased a wide variety of pop culture from the worlds of music, comedy, novelty and much more. The library of 1,000 hours includes over 10,000 performances.
About SOFA Entertainment
In 1990, Andrew Solt founded SOFA Entertainment Inc. and acquired The Ed Sullivan Show from the Sullivan family. In 2020 Josh Solt left Google to lead SOFA as CEO of the company. The Ed Sullivan Show is the most revered variety show in American television history. SOFA Entertainment is the copyright holder of the original Ed Sullivan programs and over 150 hours of newly created programming.
Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) is the global catalog and special markets division of Universal Music Group (UMG). Working closely in concert with UMG’s record labels, territories and operating companies, UMe provides a frontline approach to catalog management, an emphasis on strategic marketing initiatives and creating opportunities in new technologies.