The Ed Sullivan Show: The Classic Performances (DVD)

Elvis Presley

Image Entertainment, 2009

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


And now, ladies and gentlemen, Mercury and Lincoln automobiles present The Ed Sullivan Show.

The year was 1956, and sixty-million Americans tuned in to each of Elvis Presley’s appearances on the Ed Sullivan show. Those are Super Bowl numbers. These three performances have now been reissued in all their black and white magnificence.

Elvis Presley was a musical phenomenon in 1956, and despite having vowed never to have him appear on his program, Sullivan could smell the ratings. He paid Elvis the unprecedented sum of $50,000. 82% of all televisions in The United States tuned into his program, making Elvis a bargain at any price.

His first appearance on September 9th, 1956 was probably his best and most interesting. First, the performance took place in Hollywood, since Elvis was busy filming my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Love Me Tender. Second, Sullivan had been involved in a serious auto accident and missed five shows in succession. Phil Silvers, Kirk Douglas, Red Skelton, Patti Page – and for this broadcast, Charles Laughton –filled in for him.

Elvis was accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore, bass player Bill Black, drummer D.J. Fontana, and, of course, The Jordanaires (and they all look so young).

The Hollywood performances are tight, and Elvis seems relaxed. “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” and especially “Ready Teddy” are all presented with enthusiasm. If you are going to perform before sixty-million people, this is the way to do it.

The October 28th, 1956 performance is probably the weakest of the three. He repeats “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Hound Dog,” but he has trouble with the lyrics to “Love Me Tender” and makes fun of “Hound Dog.” Both of these issues would continue for years. He is at his best on “Love Me,” which was performed with some passion.

The final appearance occurred January 6th, 1957. His opening medley is sloppy and another repeat of “Don’t Be Cruel” was tiresome. Thankfully, final three songs save the set. “Too Much” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again” are both excellent. He concludes with “Peace In The Valley,” and Elvis is always is at his best when he performs gospel. It is an emotional presentation, and he is serious and reverent throughout.

The special features are only for the Elvis historians. A silent home movie catches him performing August 7th, 1955 in Houston and is the earliest complete performance on record. The home movies of Elvis and Priscilla are interesting, but the interviews with Sam Phillips and Wink Martindale are too short.

The Ed Sullivan Show: The Classic Performances by Elvis Presley should appeal to his vast legion of fans or the curious. These performances are now part of music history as they catch the young and raw Elvis at the beginning of his career.

Rating: B

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© 2009 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Image Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.