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Ed Sullivan and the Beatles

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Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan, The Beatles and the legendary Hfner Beatles Bass

Edward Vincent Sullivan (September 28, 1901 - October 13, 1974) was an American television personality, impresario, sportscaster and showrunner, and columnist for the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune. He was the creator and host of the television variety show The Toast of the Town, which was renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. The show, which aired from 1948 to 1971, set a record as the longest-running variety show in American television history: "In almost every way, it was the last great American television show," said television critic David Hinckley. "It's one of our fondest, fondest pop culture memories."

Sullivan was a pioneer in the early years of American television. As critic David Bianculli wrote: "Before MTV, Sullivan introduced rock songs. Before Bravo, he presented jazz, classical music and theater. Before the Comedy Channel, before there was The Tonight Show, Sullivan was discovering and promoting young comedians. Before there were 500 channels, before there was cable, Ed Sullivan was the one to choose from". In 1996, Sullivan was ranked #50 on TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time".

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The Ed Sullivan Show

The Ed Sullivan Show was an American television variety show that ran from June 20, 1948 to March 28, 1971 on the CBS network, hosted by New York journalist, reporter and broadcaster Ed Sullivan. It was replaced in September 1971 by the CBS Sunday Night Movie.

The Ed Sullivan Show ran on CBS every Sunday night from 8-9pm from 1948 until its cancellation in 1971, and was one of the few entertainment shows to run in the same weekly time slot on the same network for over two decades (9-10pm in its first season). The show featured virtually every genre of entertainment: classical music and opera, current pop performers, songwriters, comedians, ballet dancers, dramatic actors performing monologues from plays, and circus acts were regularly featured. The programme was essentially the same as that of the vaudeville theatre, and although vaudeville had been in a slow decline for a generation, Sullivan featured many old vaudeville characters in his show.

Ed Sullivan and the Beatles

In late 1963, Sullivan and his entourage also happened to be passing through Heathrow Airport and witnessed the Beatles fans greeting the band on their return from Stockholm, where they were opening for local stars Suzie and Lill Babs on a television show. Sullivan was delighted and told his entourage that it was the same as Elvis all over again. He originally offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top billing for a single show, but the Beatles' manager had a better idea - he wanted publicity for the Beatles. At the end of the negotiations, the deal was that instead of Ed Sullivan's one-off offer, the Beatles would appear on the show three times for a minimum fee, but each show would have a prime time slot and two slots (opening and closing).

The Beatles appeared on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964 to great anticipation and fanfare, as "I Want to Hold Your Hand" quickly rose to number one in the charts. Their first performance on 9 February is considered a milestone in American pop culture, and the beginning of the British Invasion of music. The broadcast attracted an estimated 73 million viewers, a record for American television at the time. The Beatles followed Ed's opening intro and performed "All My Loving"; "Till There Was You," in which the names of the band members were superimposed over close-ups, including the famous "SORRY GIRLS, HE'S MARRIED" caption about John Lennon; and "She Loves You." The Beatles' on-air performer, magician Fred Kaps, was taped beforehand to allow time for an elaborate set change. The Beatles returned later in the show to perform "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

The following week's show was broadcast from Miami Beach, where Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) was training for his first title fight against Sonny Liston. Both camps used the opportunity to promote the fight. On the night of the telecast (16 February), the crowds almost prevented the Beatles from taking the stage. It took a platoon of policemen, and the Beatles were into "She Loves You" as soon as they got to their instruments. They continued with "This Boy" and "All My Loving," and later closed the Ed Sullivan Show with "I Saw Her Standing There," "From Me to You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

They were introduced on the recording on February 23 (this performance was recorded earlier on February 9, before their first live performance). Ed's intro was followed by "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me", and they closed the show again with "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

The Beatles last performed live on 14 August 1965. The show aired on September 12, 1965, and Ed Sullivan scored a 60 percent audience rating for the evening's show. This time, three sets followed before they came out to perform "I Feel Fine", "I'm Down" and "Act Naturally", followed by "Ticket to Ride", "Yesterday" and "Help!" to close the show. Although this was the Beatles' last live appearance on the show, the band provided filmed promotional clips of the songs, which were broadcast exclusively on the Ed Sullivan show for the next several years, including video clips for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" in 1966, and three clips from 1967, including "Penny Lane", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Hello, Goodbye". At the end of 1967, in addition to the promotional clips, the Beatles also sent a telegram to Sullivan, which was read live by the presenter. The Beatles last appeared on Ed Sullivan's show via pre-recorded promotional clips of their songs "Two of Us" and "Let It Be", which were broadcast on the show on the first day of March 1970. Although both clips were filmed in late January 1969, the delay was due to the Beatles' dissatisfaction with the dull production of the Let It Be album and the band's impending break-up. In all likelihood, the timing of the March 1970 broadcast was to promote the band's upcoming film Let It Be, due to be released in May.

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