Tag Archives: Ed Sullivan

That’s Entertainment?

Ed Sullivan was something of a phenomenon of the 20th century.

He started his career working at a newspaper in 1919. By 1929 he became a Broadway columnist, which had him then focusing on the entertainment industry. One thing led to another, and in 1948 Sullivan hosted a CBS TV show, “The Toast of the Town,” which was renamed in 1955 “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It ran every Sunday night live from 8 to 9 pm Eastern until 1971.

It was a variety show, the likes of which no longer exist. That is, it featured comedians, jugglers, magicians, torch singers, popular musicians, and even a bizarre talking fist. The show, shot live, was performed in Studio 50*. It was later renamed the “Ed Sullivan Theater,” with the advent of David Letterman’s show. Although the late Letterman show—like Kimmel’s or Fallon’s of current—had something of the variety to it, Sullivan’s was different, in that he simply introduced the performers and they did their acts, whether it was singing a song that was quite fresh on the charts or twirling plates on a stick. He wasn’t the show. The performers who were booked were.

Given its time slot, the show was meant to be family entertainment, not something that wasn’t meant to be viewed until the children were well in bed.

One of the things that “The Ed Sullivan Show” did that no longer occurs was the exposure of new and breaking acts to literally millions of people. Arguably that exposure led to an increase in record sales and bookings for the performers, especially musicians. Certainly a good thing. (Something that would be useful now, as there have been so many acts who could use post-lockdown exposure.)

There was a wide array of people who performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including B.B. King, The Animals, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and many more. Realize that it was an hour-long weekly show so it needed acts.

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