genuine humility and charm. Graciously, he thanked the condescending Captain Bligh, saying “This is the biggest honor of my life.”
However, the tension of the moment may have been exasperated by the choice of the first song: “Don’t be Cruel.”
By the standards of post-war America, this Tupelo talent was the most exciting and dangerous spectacle ever witnessed on the new medium. His pelvic gyrations caused so much agitation that the producer Marlo Lewis had to do some visual censorship. Carefully the camera only shot his upper body while Elvis sang. Rumor had it, which is documented in Lewis’ memoir, Prime Time (1979), p.14, that the rock ‘n’ roll singer had been “hanging a small soft-drink bottle from his groin underneath his pants, and when he wiggles his leg it looks as though his pecker reaches down to his knee!”
By the time he was on the Ed Sullivan show, Elvis was no longer a novice to the new medium of television.
He had already become a minor sensation on The Milton Berle Show and The Steve Allen Show, but Sullivan wasn’t sold that he was the right kind of entertainment for his more family-oriented show. Elvis was too blatantly sexual.
However, the ratings on his competitors’ shows forced Sullivan to recalibrate his public morality. Actually, he had it both ways, getting in a shot at Berle, while exonerating himself. He said that when he watched the singer on the Berle show, everything was morally corrupt except for Elvis.
Big money for doing the show
Sullivan made a historic deal with Elvis’ legendary manager, Colonel Tom Parker for three appearances: September 9, 1956, October 28, 1956, with the finale on January 6, 1957. He got fifty grand; enough money to have bought five homes in good neighborhoods. A few years earlier, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, while they were hot, were paid the whopping sum of $250 for their joint appearance.
The Beatles and Elvis
The complaints about the Beatles didn’t end with the Sullivan appearance. Eight years later, when the Beatles played Sullivan, Elvis sent a congratulatory telegram on February 10, 1964.
In addition to the natural rivalry between bands, there was another dimension to the problems that have existed between the Fab Four and Elvis.
Initially, relations between Elvis and the Beatles were good. They had a historic summit on Friday August 27, 1965 during their second USA tour. They met him at his Bel Air home off Mulholland Drive. The visit lasted four hours during which time they told stories, joked and listened to records. The evening was friendly; they jammed a little, spoofing each other’s songs; talked about song writing and arranging. It went well, but was mostly uneventful, even though it had been in the works for a long time.
“We tried many times to meet Elvis,” said Paul. “Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, would just show up with a few souvenirs, and that would have to do us for a while. We didn’t feel