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|ELVIS ON TV: 10 UNFORGETTABLE PERFORMANCES
January 29, 2016 Rolling Stone / Elvis Express Radio
From 'Ed Sullivan' to his troubling 1977 farewell, Rolling Stone magazine looks back at the King's history on the tube.
Although it's hard to believe in the context of today's media-saturated culture, Elvis Presley made only 17 major television appearances during the course of his lifetime. Together,
they tell the King's story from his meteoric rise to his tragic downfall.
After making his national television debut 60 years ago, on January 28th, 1956, Presley shattered viewership records, challenged social mores and helped bring the rock & roll
revolution into American living rooms. Even on the small screen, Elvis Presley was larger than life.
These are his 10 most important broadcast moments.
01. January 28th, 1956: Stage Show
Elvis' spot on Stage Show was Elvis Presley's first national television appearance. Hosted by sibling big-band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, the show was broadcast live from
CBS Studio 50 in New York - which also housed The Ed Sullivan Show.
The special aired just a day after his first major-label release, "Heartbreak Hotel," and Presley was virtually unknown. He would return to the Stage Show five more times before
02. June 5th, 1956: The Milton Berle Show
Presley's popularity was on the rise by the time he completed his final Stage Show set on March 24th, earning him a slot on the top-rated Milton Berle Show.
But before Presley unveiled his cover of Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" to TV audiences, Berle advised him to perform without the guitar. "Let 'em see you, son," he reportedly
Indeed, 40 million American viewers saw him, and they were not prepared for Presley's unobscured pelvic thrusts. The episode horrified parents and press, delighted the youth,
and made Elvis a star.
03. June 16th, 1956: Wink Martindale's Teenage Dance Party.
Though Elvis doesn't sing, the appearance is a unique chance to see Presley react to his first few months of stardom.
04. July 1st, 1956: The Steve Allen Show
A tuxedo-clad Presley croon the tune to an actual basset hound. It's bizarre, it's awkward, and it has to be seen to be believed.
05. July 1st, 1956: Hy Gardner Calling
Immediately after his performance on The Steve Allen Show, Presley made his first and only live television talk-show appearance.
06. September 9th, 1956: The Ed Sullivan Show
Ed Sullivan initially deemed "Elvis the Pelvis" too hot for family viewing and refused to book him. But when Presley's July 1st spot on Steve Allen scored top ratings, Sullivan
reconsidered his position. Presley's first appearance that September drew a record 60 million viewers, 82.6 percent of the national TV audience, making it the most-watched
broadcast of the decade.
07. May 12th, 1960: The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis
Presley's two-year stint overseas with the Army left his American fans ravenous for their idol. He was paid $125,000, a fortune for eight minutes of screen time, but producers
couldn't pass up a chance to bring Presley to television for the first time since 1957,
08. December 3rd, 1968: ELVIS
Though he hadn't performed live in more than seven years, Presley was in top form both vocally and physically. His leather getup harkened back to the young twentysomething
who drove kids wild on Ed Sullivan a decade earlier. Now he ruled the stage with the supreme confidence of a grown man in total control. The King had returned for his crown. The
show was the highest-rated television special of the year.
09. January 14th, 1973: Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite
It would be the first time a solo act ever attempted a live global transmission of this scale, the show crystalized what we now envision as latter-era Elvis Presley, complete with
dramatic "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" intro and bold studded jumpsuits.
10. October 3rd, 1977: Elvis in Concert
Released two months after Presley's death, Elvis in Concert is arguably his most controversial television appearance - because it's just so damn sad. The special shows a man who
is clearly not well, bloated, glassy-eyed and fumbling through the lyrics of his hits. It also contains the last known footage of Presley ever filmed, receiving a gold record from RCA
executives on June 26th, the day of his final concert.