‘Ed Sullivan Show’: Some Legendary Music Clips – Watch

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Ed Sullivan (Photo: SOFA Entertainment/UMe; used with permission)

It was appointment viewing decades before the phrase existed. Families would gather around the TV set on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. to watch the newest recording artists, Broadway stars, comedians and even acrobats. Nearly 50 years after The Ed Sullivan Show wrapped its final episode and charmed TV viewers for the final time on June 6, 1971, it officially joined the streaming universe.

In 2020, UMe announced an agreement with SOFA Entertainment Inc. for the global digital rights to the influential television program’s historic 23-year primetime run on CBS. This marks the first time that Sullivan Show performance and guest segments became officially available in their entirety across streaming services worldwide. The content launched with seven performances from the Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations” from 1968), the Jackson 5 (their cover of “Stand!” from 1969), the Supremes (“You Can’t Hurry Love” from 1966), and more, on The Ed Sullivan Show’s official YouTube channel, with new clips rolled out daily.

Watch the Jackson 5’s Sullivan debut on Dec. 14, 1969

The host was so taken with their performance that he reportedly said, “The little fella in front is incredible.”

Iconic clips from the vast catalog have primarily only been available in excerpted versions on EdSullivan.com or as low-resolution digital “bootlegs.” Scores of rarities will also be available digitally for the first time. Many segments will be upgraded to high-resolution clips as part of UMe’s curation efforts.

Watch the Beach Boys perform “Good Vibrations” on Oct. 13, 1968

A new video will premiere every day, with thousands more clips from the catalog arriving over the years.

Watch the Supremes and the Temptations perform a medley of each other’s hits on Nov. 19, 1967

“The Supremes were [Ed Sullivan’s] favorite act,” says Vince Calandra, who as a 23-year-old got the coveted job as the “cue card guy,” beginning in 1957. “We didn’t just put a performer in front of a camera, we produced [their segment].”

Michael Jackson performing “I Want You Back” with The Jackson 5, Dec. 14, 1969 (Photo: SOFA Entertainment/UMe; used with permission)

From the June 12 announcement: The Ed Sullivan Show brought the hottest performances from around the world and introduced emerging talent to America’s living room every Sunday night. The program featured some of the earliest or first televised performances of music superstars including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, the Mamas and the Papas, and The Band.

Watch the Mamas and the Papas perform “California Dreamin'” on Sept. 24, 1967

Watch Bobby Darin perform “Mack the Knife” on May 31, 1959

Sullivan interviewed such acting legends as Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Sellers, Sophia Loren and Steve McQueen.

Calandra recalls how he got his start on the show, fresh from his service with the Army. “They were looking for somebody to hold cue cards. Some of the secretaries thought I was a cute guy… blonde hair, crew cut, the whole bit. I went down to the theater and met Mr. Sullivan. He took an instant liking to me. I was a street guy, brought up in New York. Never went to college. He felt a bond with me. I knew all the movies and I was a sports fanatic so I could talk to him.”

Was it always “Mr. Sullivan?” he’s asked. “Yeah. I had a respect for elders. And he was such a humble guy. He’d come to the studio on Sunday, no chauffeur, no limousine.”

The Temptations performing “I Can’t Get Next to You” on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sept. 28, 1969 (Photo: SOFA Entertainment/UMe; used with permission)

Sullivan was personally involved in his show’s bookings. And over the course of two decades, he cast aside racial, political and cultural boundaries to ensure that audiences witnessed the best and the brightest.

In a time of segregation, Sullivan, an influential Civil Rights advocate, invited African-American actors (Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll), athletes (Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson), comedians (Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson) and musicians (Harry Belafonte, James Brown, the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Supremes), to appear on the show.

Watch James Brown perform a medley on May 1, 1966

For many Motown recording artists, a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show represented a pivotal career milestone bringing their talents to mainstream America and delivering breakout success.

Watch Smokey Robinson & the Miracles perform a medley of their hits on March 31, 1968

Mainstream America’s introduction to Broadway, classical, opera and ballet was often through exposure on The Ed Sullivan Show. Broadway productions were frequently encapsulated into extended segments along with the great songwriters, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Lerner and Loewe, who often brought the original casts of their musicals, including My Fair Lady (Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison), Bye Bye Birdie (Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde), Oliver! (Davy Jones), and more.

Watch Neil Diamond perform “Sweet Caroline” on Nov. 30, 1969

The Ed Sullivan Show prided itself on celebrating the superstars as much as the up-and-coming and the offbeat, including acrobatic teams, dance teams, drill teams, college sport teams, rifle teams, marching bands, novelty acts, plate spinners and jugglers.

As for Calandra, the “cue card guy,” he was ultimately promoted to the show’s talent department. He famously stood in for an ill George Harrison at a Beatles’ dress rehearsal, wig and all. “I had an instant rapport with them,” he says.

“John had asked me how long I had been with the show. And he wanted to know about some of the groups that had been here. He said, ‘What about Buddy Holly and the Crickets?’ And I said, ‘John, if you walk two steps to your right, that’s where he stood on the show. I held cards for them.’”

Calandra has many more anecdotes about the program. He was the one who had to deliver the news to the Rolling Stones that the CBS censors required the group to change a key word in the song, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which precipitated the infamous Mick Jagger eye roll. “Mick wasn’t too thrilled,” he laughs.

The Doors performing “Light My Fire” on The Ed Sullivan Show, September 17, 1967 (Photo: SOFA Entertainment; used with permission)

Not every rock act acquiesced. On September 17, 1967, The Doors defied Sullivan and the CBS censors by refusing to change the word “higher” while performing their #1 hit, “Light My Fire.”

Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger’s reaction was, “We thought they were joking. Who were they kidding? Wanting us to change the lyrics on the number one song in America? We decided to just do the song as-is and maybe they would forget all about it. What could they do? After all, it was live television! So, yeah, we never played The Ed Sullivan Show again.”

Watch the infamous clip of The Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show

Related: When the Doors defied Ed Sullivan

Watch the Byrds’ electrified performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on Dec. 12, 1965

The Sullivan library of 1,000 hours includes over 10,000 performances. Much more to come…

Related: A Sullivan comedy showcase featuring George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. Thomas Rednour
    #1 Thomas Rednour 12 June, 2020, 11:27

    This is so much better than the latest TV version, as they chopped the top and bottom off for “wide screen.” Not nice looking up someone’s nose as they sing!
    For a list of rockers who appeared on Ed’s Sunday shows, check out this section on my website:

    Reply this comment
  2. Yazmatazz
    #2 Yazmatazz 15 December, 2020, 07:54

    Watching Michelle Phillips eat a banana while “singing” California Dreaming was quite entertaining. But seriously folks, it really is great to have all these old clips back. A total nostalgia trip. Cheers.

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