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Ed Sullivan emceed a one-of-a-kind entertainment program

Kenly News of Kenly, North Carolina

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How I See It

"Folks, we've got a really big shew (show) for you tonight," said Ed Sullivan. "And now, right here on our stage......"

With those words, Sullivan opened another segment of "The Ed Sullivan Show" every Sunday night at 8 p.m. from June 20, 1948 until June 6, 1971 on CBS TV, a period of 23 years.

TV ads have recently plugged CDs of highlights from "The Ed Sullivan Show" and this might be one I'll be purchasing.

The show was a favorite of many when I was growing up and what a show it was.

Sullivan was a former New York newspaper entertainment columnist who got into television in its infancy and hosted his variety show that was to become the longest running of its kind in TV history.

"The Ed Sullivan Show" was a rare offering that could be watched and enjoyed by all family members.

The show was probably known best for the appearances by Elvis Presley and The Beatles, but there were many others.

More than 10, 000 performers graced the Sullivan stage during its lifetime. That included almost every kind of entertainer, performer or celebrity you can imagine.

More than 60 million viewers-82.6 percent of the national audience-watched Presley when he appeared on the Sept. 9, 1956 and 73 million watched The Beatles on Feb 9, 1964.

Musical acts appearing on the show were a Who's Who of the entertainment industry and included, among others; Ray Charles, The Supremes, Roy Orbison, The Dave Clark Five, Sammy Davis Jr., The Beach Boys, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson Five, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas & The Papas, Judy Garland, Herman's Hermits, Buddy Holly and Stevie Wonder.

Also, James Brown, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Four Seasons, Jackie Wilson, The Four Tops, Johnny Cash, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, Connie Francis, Lena Home and Kate Smith.

Plus, Sonny and Cher, Neil Diamond, Paul Anka, Petula Clark, Ricky Nelson, Righteous Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Dinah Shore, The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, Tom Jones, Fred Astaire, Patti Page, The Mc-Guire Sisters and Louis Armstrong.

Sullivan also had many famous athletes on, including Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Arthur Ashe.

Whenever well-known celebrities were in the audience, Sullivan would have them stand as the crowd applauded.

There were puppet appearances by the little Italian mouse named Topo Gigio, the Muppets, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop and Spanish ventriloquist Senor Wences and his imaginary puppet in the box named Pedro with chants of "s'awright," "s'awright."

I can't recall any names for the circus or tumbling acts on the show but they were always fun to watch, especially the plate-spinners and acrobats tuming somersaults.

Among the many Broadway performers singing were Carol Lawrence, Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli, Pearl Bailey and Gordon Mac-Rae.

Comedians, some established and some making first-ever TV appearances, were George Carlin, Alan King, Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, Phyllis Diller, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berie, Flip Wilson, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Andy Griffith, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Henny Young-man, Joan Rivers and Rodney Danger-field.

Sullivan was not a handsome man, actually "dog-faced" may be a better description.

He had mannerisms that made it easy for comedians to imitate him. When introducing acts he often mispronounced the names or got them wrong entirely.

That may be true but one fact remains: no one else has produced a show containing the quality or star power that Sullivan was able to bring to the stage.

Keith Barnes can be reached at 919-284-2295 or

Copyright 2015 Kenly News, Kenly, North Carolina. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 1, 2015

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