It was the first “really big show” — The Ed Sullivan Show
If you grew up in the '60s, chances are every Sunday night you were in front of the TV on CBS from 8 – 9pm for the Ed Sullivan Show.
I was, religiously, as was my mom, my grandfather, my grandmother and sometimes my sister. It was truly great television at the time. Ed Sullivan was as straight and nerdy as a host could be which made for good fodder for the many comedians and world class rock and roll bands that appeared on his show.
The great thing about his show is that it was a variety show, he’d have the guy who could spin 20 plates on big sticks all at the same time, to the music of the “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” My grandfather loved that guy.
He could be on the same show as Elvis or the guys who rode a bicycle on the tightrope wire would be on the show with The Rolling Stones and comedian George Carlin. Ballet dancers, belly dancers, Broadway stage acts, jugglers even dancing Russian bears!
The Ed Sullivan Show even had a house rodent, the little Italian mouse Topo Gigio who for some reason I never understood always asked Ed Sullivan to kiss him goodnight.
The Ed Sullivan Show was the main door for big rock and roll acts like The Beatles, Elvis who appeared three times, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Pappas, The Supremes, Barbra Streisand and the Hall of Fame list goes on and on.
Bob Dylan was supposed to be on the show and at rehearsal CBS censors said that Dylan’s song was too risqué and he needed to change a couple of words. Dylan said “If I can’t play my song the way I wrote it, I prefer not to do the show.” He walked out.
The anniversary of the first Ed Sullivan show is this week; it was June 20th 1948 when the Ed Sullivan show debuted. It ran until 1971. It had such a big influence on me that I formatted my TV show The Big Joe Henry Variety Show after the Ed Sullivan show and late night TV. As a matter of fact my production company is Really Big Shows, my way of paying homage to some great entertainment.