33 Iconic Guests Of The Ed Sullivan Show In Photos
The Ed Sullivan Show occupied the exact same weekly time slot on CBS for more than two decades between the late 1940s and early 1970s, a remarkable feat in any age, and one that looks especially remarkable in our current era of streaming.
Far more famous than Ed Sullivan himself or his variety show's impressive longevity were the string of impossibly iconic acts and figures that appeared on the program year in and year out.
These guests include Diana Ross and the Supremes, who debuted "Love Child" on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1968, despite the song's controversial subject matter:
This love we're contemplating, is worth the pain of waiting. We'll only end up hating the child we may be creating. Love Child, never meant to be, Love Child, by society, Love Child, never meant to be, Love Child, diff'rent from the rest.
Sullivan allowed the uncensored "Love Child" on his program in 1968, despite the fact that he and his producers had tried to censor musical acts (including legends such as Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, The Doors, and The Rolling Stones) in the past over far less suggestive material.
In the case of Elvis, they wouldn't even allow him to be filmed from the waist down, deeming it to be too provocative, during his third appearance on the show in 1957:
Elvis aside, it is The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 that is undoubtedly what most people think of when they think of the show, and for good reason. The U.S. television debut of The Beatles was watched by about 73 million people -- a record at the time. CBS received a staggering 50,000 requests for the 728 available tickets.
At the center of it all was Sullivan himself, an old newspaper columnist, who, as The New York Timesstated in his 1974 obituary, was an unlikely beacon for this ship of fools:
"The basis of his appeal was an ephemeral thing that baffled those who tried to analyze it. He was not witty, he had no formal talents, he could not consciously entertain anyone. He was bashful, clumsy, self-conscious, forgetful and tongue-tied. And there were times he was painfully, excruciatingly sentimental."
But Sullivan, as his obituary also noted, knew when to get out of the way and was an excellent judge of talent. He also had, according to one contemporary account, a "newspaperman’s instinct for staying on top of the news and the latest entertainment trends," which was "a major factor in the unequaled longevity of his show."
The photos above feature not only the show's musicians, comedians, actors, and one Communist Party leader as they graced Sullivan's airwaves and the New York stage that now bears his name.