Elvis Presleys National TV Appearances In The 1950s

By: David Troedson
Source: Elvis Australia
April 16, 2011

Elvis Presley first appeared on national television in the USA on January 28, 1956, on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in New York. On Monday, January 23, 1956, Elvis, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana rehearsed in Memphis for their television debut. Elvis and Colonel Parker flew to New York on Wednesday the 25th. They stayed at the Warwick Hotel on 52nd Street. Elvis ate dinner in the Hickory House restaurant the night they arrived and did some sightseeing on the 26th. Perhaps as an indicator of things to come, Scotty, Bill and D.J. were not afforded a plane trip and drove from Memphis to New York and arrived on January 27th.

The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show

On Saturday, Jan. 28, he and the guys went to the Nola Studio, between 51st and 52nd St., to rehearse for that night's 'Stage Show', which aired live at 8 o'clock from the CBS studio on W. 54th St. 'Stage Show' was produced by Jackie Gleason largely as a cheap warmup act for his own 8:30 p.m. program. It wasn't a blockbuster, but it got respectable ratings. That night the show aired from CBS Studio 50.

Elvis performed two songs, 'Shake Rattle & Roll / Flip Flop & Fly' and 'I Got A Woman'. It was raining and the then-unknown Elvis Presley did not draw a large studio audience, however one serviceman stationed in New Jersey in attendance that evening said, 'I often went on Saturday nights to the Dorsey brothers show and I was there when Elvis Presley made his national television debut on that show. I had never heard of him and was startled when he appeared on stage and hundreds of girls began screaming'.

New York Sessions

Elvis Presley LPM-1254
Elvis Presley LPM-1254

Elvis stayed in town after the show and at around 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 30, he and the band headed for the RCA Studio, 155 E. 24th St. They recorded for seven hours that day, then three hours on Jan. 31 and another several hours on February 3. More about Elvis' New York Sessions.

Those sessions yielded 'Blue Suede Shoes' and seven other tunes: 'My Baby Left Me', 'One-Sided Love Affair', 'So Glad You're Mine', 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You', 'Tutti Fruitti', 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll'. 'Blue Suede Shoes' was the only hit single in the bunch, but the sessions were crucial in Elvis history because they marked the point at which he started moving away from his raw, pure Sun sound to the more commercial and mainstream sound RCA envisioned for him.

Elvis appeared four more times on Elvis Presley Photos The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. About halfway through this engagement, RCA realized they had nothing in their photo file on Elvis. They needed to get a few publicity shots. RCA offered the job to Alfred Wertheimer who 'jumped at the chance'.

It was just a one-day assignment at the rehearsal and telecast of Elvis' fifth Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in New York. RCA wanted photos for release to newspapers: head shots; Elvis at the microphone; Elvis with fans; or, best of all, Elvis with celebrities. Al Wertheimer took the required photographs, but he didn't stop there. By the time he parted company with Elvis that night, Wertheimer had snapped over 400 photos of Elvis, nearly all of which caught casual off-stage moments. Wertheimer was able to shoot before, during and after the Dorsey show rehearsal, as well as back stage before the live telecast. 

Milton Berle and Elvis Presley
Milton Berle and Elvis Presley : July 5

The Milton Berle Show

Elvis' next television appearance was on the Elvis Presley Photos Milton Berle Show on April 3 (from the deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Hancock) in San Diego California. Elvis performed 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Still in in San Diego, Elvis performs concerts on April 4 and 5. Latter (September) the San Diego Police Chief announces that if Elvis Ever returns to his city and performs in the way that he did ... he will be jailed for disorderly conduct.

Elvis' second appearance on the Elvis Presley Photos Milton Berle Show was on June 5 at the NBC Studio's in Hollywood, California. Elvis' performance of Hound Dog (02:17) on this show drove the audience wild, and had the press and some of the viewers appalled. It is one of his most controversial performances. It was also Elvis at his best. Elvis also sang 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'. The next day, the press nicknamed him 'Elvis the Pelvis'. Many described his act by comparing it to a striptease. Jack Gould of The New York Times declared, 'Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability', while John Crosby of the New York Herald Tribune called Elvis 'unspeakably untalented and vulgar'.

The criticism prompted parents, religious groups from the North and South, and the Parent-Teacher Association to condemn Elvis and rock 'n' roll music by associating both with juvenile delinquency.

About 10 days later, Berle called Colonel Parker to tell him that based on the 'hundreds of thousands of 'pan' letters' he had received following the show that 'you have a star on your hands'.

The Steve Allen Show

After 'The Milton Berle Show', Elvis next returned to New York on June 29, 1956, when he took a chartered plane to start rehearsals for 'The Steve Allen Show'. Due to the controversy over Elvis' performance of 'Hound Dog' and to tone down Elvis' sexy performance, the early order of business was fitting him for the tuxedo he would wear while singing 'Hound Dog' to a basset hound named Sherman. Many Elvis fans never forgave Steve Allen for this bit, saying it was a deliberate attempt to humiliate Elvis and ridicule the rock 'n' roll music Allen made no secret of disliking. Allen disputed this. Almost 40 years later he insisted he meant no disrespect, that Elvis was in on the gag from the beginning and that Elvis thought it was hilarious.

Elvis Presley Photos View a double-sided poster that was used by the Colonel to publicly thank Milton Berle for having Elvis perform on his national TV program while advertising Elvis' upcoming concerts in San Diego California.

Elvis Leaving Hudson Theatre July 1
Elvis Leaving Hudson Theatre : July 1

The Steve Allen Show aired July 1, 1956, and besides 'Hound Dog', Elvis sang 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'. Later on the same night Elvis stopped by Hy Gardner's live TV interview show, looking a lot like one of the performers he most admired, the late James Dean.

I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong', he told Gardner. 'I don't see how any type of music would have any bad influence on people. How would rock 'n' roll music make anyone rebel against their parents?'

On Monday, July 2, 1956, Elvis left the Hilton Hotel for a 2 p.m. date at the RCA studio on E. 24th and over the next seven hours recorded 'Hound Dog' and 'Don't Be Cruel', which would be released five weeks later and become his most successful single, racking up 11 weeks at No. 1. He also recorded a nice ballad, 'Any Way You Want Me'. Colonel Parker tell RCA vice president Larry Kananga during the day that 'Hound Dog' may become such a big hit that RCA may have to change it's corporate symbol from the 'Victor Dog' to the 'Hound Dog'. Elvis would never enter a New York studio again.

This was the first session where Elvis made it clear he was the real producer of his records. He pounded everyone through 31 takes of 'Hound Dog' before he felt he had it the way he wanted it.

Elvis on the Train to Memphis : July 3

On the morning on July 3, 1956, he repaired to Penn Station to start a 27-hour train ride home to Memphis. At Penn Station he ran into fellow singer Gene Vincent, congratulating Vincent on the success of his Elvis-style hit 'Be-Bop-A-Lula'. Arriving home on July 4, Elvis played a holiday show at Elvis Presley Photos Memphis' Russwood Park, where he told the crowd, 'You know those people in New York are not going to change me none. I'm gonna show you what the real Elvis like tonight'. Ed Sullivan's automobile accident is discussed and that Ed will not be available for Elvis' first appearance.

And the recent single release of 'Hound Dog' / 'Don't Be Cruel' has sold over a million copies in two weeks, and he now has four Gold records including his debut album Elvis Presley.

Above, Bob Hoffer interviews Elvis in St Petersburg Florida on August 7.

The Ed Sullivan Show

Although at first Elvis Presley Photos Ed Sullivan said he would never want Elvis on his show, Sullivan changed his mind when The Steve Allen Show with Elvis as a guest had about twice as many viewers as Sullivan's show that night (they were competing for the same audience since they were in the same time slot).

After negotiating with Elvis' manager, Ed Sullivan paid Elvis the huge sum of $50,000 for appearing on three of his shows: September 9, 1956, October 28, 1956, and then on January 6, 1957.

Elvis' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a major success. Over 60 million people, both young and old, watched the show and many people believe it helped bridge the generation gap for Elvis' acceptance into the mainstream. Elvis performed, 'Don't Be Cruel', 'Love Me Tender', Ready Teddy and 'Hound Dog'.

ElvisTupelo September 26
Elvis Tupelo September 1956

On September 26, Elvis returned to Tupelo for a concert at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He returned to New York on October 25 in preparation for his second appearance on the Ed Sullivan's show on Oct. 28 (The first was in Hollywood, California) a date that coincided with the opening of his first movie, Love Me Tender. On this show Elvis performed, 'Don't Be Cruel', 'Love Me Tender', 'Love Me' and 'Hound Dog'. Elvis also did a short press conference on the day of the actual show.

On Tuesday the 30th, Elvis took a train back to Memphis. This time he wasn't heading for a one-nighter at a high school, but joining actor Nick Adams to show Elvis Presley Photos Natalie Wood a night on the town. Elvis Presley Photos Elvis Presley 1956

On December 4, 1956, at Sun Studios in Memphis, Elvis joined Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for an impromptu ham session that became known as The Million Dollar Quartet.

Elvis' third and final appearance on Sullivan's show on January 6, 1957, contains the legendary moments when the CBS censors would not allow his entire body to be shown. Seen only from the waist up, Elvis still put on an exciting show, singing seven songs in three segments. In one segment, Elvis and the Jordanaires sang 'Peace in the Valley', which Elvis dedicated to the earthquake victims of Eastern Europe.

Sullivan closed the show with a seal of approval for this new family-friendly version of Elvis, saying, 'This is a read decent, fine boy. We've never had a pleasanter experience with a big name'. This was Elvis last television appearance until the Elvis Presley Photos Frank Sinatra Special on his return from the Army. When the show was over, Elvis boarded the midnight train to Memphis, where on Tuesday, Jan. 8, he celebrated his 22nd birthday.

Following is an edited interview with Larry Auerbach who talks about booking Elvis on his first TV show and taking him to buy his 'first' 'Jockstap' - and why he needed too. Then we have Milton Berle talking about Elvis.

Performer and host Milton Berle talks about his first meeting with Elvis that occurred when his manager wanted Berle to audition him, and the public reaction to Elvis' performance on June 5.

Elvis Presley Photos Elvis Presley 1956

Heartbreak Hotel

'Heartbreak Hotel' was written by Thomas Durden and Mae Boren Axton, the mother of singer/songwriter/actor Hoyt Axton. Her connection to Elvis Presley was that she was a publicist for Hank Snow, who was managed by Colonel Tom Parker, who also managed Elvis Presley. Tommy Durden said that he did not recognize the song after Elvis had made the changes to the song in the studio, including changes to the tempo, phrasing, lyrics, and overall sound. Durden read about a suicide in the Miami Herald in 1955. A well-dressed man had removed all labels from his clothing, destroyed his identity papers and left a note saying: 'I walk a lonely street'.

This was the first song recorded by Elvis at RCA Victor. Elvis selected the song. He had earlier promised Mae Boren Axton that he would record it. He arrived at the studio with the song ready to record without input from RCA. Although producer Steve Sholes was worried, he recorded the song taking it on faith that Elvis knew what he was doing. Most others at RCA Victor believed that it was a mistake, especially after hearing that the finished recording sounded nothing like the prior Elvis recordings at Sun Records.

'Heartbreak Hotel' was no. 1 for 8 weeks on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart when released in 1956 on RCA Records. The record was no. 1 for 17 weeks on the Billboard Country Chart and reached no. 3 on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart. In 2006, more than 50 years after its initial release, 'Heartbreak Hotel' returned to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot Singles Sales Chart when re-released.

Elvis' Television Appearances 1956-1957

The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show

CBS Studio New York : 28.01.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Shake Rattle & Roll / Flip Flop & Fly
Elvis Presley Lyrics I Got A Woman

CBS Studio New York : 04.02.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Baby Let's Play House
Elvis Presley Lyrics Tutti Frutti

CBS Studio New York : 11.02.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Blue Suede Shoes
Elvis Presley Lyrics Heartbreak Hotel

CBS Studio New York : 18.02.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Tutti Frutti
Elvis Presley Lyrics I Was The One

CBS Studio New York : 17.03.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Blue Suede Shoes
Elvis Presley Lyrics Heartbreak Hotel

CBS Studio New York : 24.03.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Money Honey
Elvis Presley Lyrics Heartbreak Hotel

The Milton Berle Show

San Diego, California - 03.04.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Shake Rattle & Roll (13 seconds)
Elvis Presley Lyrics Heartbreak Hotel
Elvis Presley Lyrics Blue Suede Shoes
Dialogue - Comedy Sketch
Elvis Presley Lyrics Blue Suede Shoes (56 seconds)

Hollywood, California - 05.06.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Hound Dog
Elvis Presley Lyrics I Want You, I Need You, I Love You

The Steve Allen Show

New York - 01.07.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
Elvis Presley Lyrics Hound Dog

The Ed Sullivan Show

Hollywood, California - 09.09.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Don't Be Cruel
Elvis Presley Lyrics Love Me Tender
Elvis Presley Lyrics Ready Teddy
Elvis Presley Lyrics Hound Dog

New York - 28.10.1956
Elvis Presley Lyrics Don't Be Cruel
Elvis Presley Lyrics Love Me Tender
Elvis Presley Lyrics Love Me
Elvis Presley Lyrics Hound Dog

New York - 06.01.1957
Elvis Presley Lyrics Hound Dog
Elvis Presley Lyrics Love Me Tender
Elvis Presley Lyrics Heartbreak Hotel
Elvis Presley Lyrics Don't Be Cruel
Elvis Presley Lyrics Too Much
Elvis Presley Lyrics When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
Elvis Presley Lyrics Peace In The Valley

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