Watch Elvis shake his hips in his first ever TV appearance

MeTV Music Listen Now MeTV Music Listen Now
Elvis on 'Stage Show,' January 28, 1956.
Elvis Presley's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show

is a landmark of 20th-century pop culture, the moon landing of modern music. Like many stories of the King, it is shrouded in myth. There is the common belief that the prudes at CBS refused to shoot Elvis from the waist down — but his full body indeed shimmies and shakes in his first appearance. (It was in his third appearance that the stuffy Ed Sullivan folks finally opted to show him from the waist up.) 


In any case, The Ed Sullivan Show gets too much credit for breaking the rock & roll icon. In September 1956, Ed was eight months late to the party. Besides, that evening's host, Charles Laughton, introduced him as "Elvin Presley." 

Elvis had already appeared on Your Hit Parade, The Steve Allen Show and Jack Benny's program earlier that year. But his first appearance came in the winter, January 28, on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey's Stage Show. Oddly, that performance it not as widely remembered. Nearing the 60 year anniversary, it's time to fix that.

The big band brothers hosted Presley on their Saturday night showcase six times in those first three months of '56. According to Tommy Dorsey biographer Peter J. Levinson, the horn player immediately saw the appeal of the Mississippi rocker. “During our rehearsal with him, some guys fell off the bandstand laughing at Elvis,” one of the members of the Dorsey band said. “We thought he never bathed.” The boss of the swing group felt otherwise. Dorsey noted, "He’s going to be one of the biggest names in show business in a short time.”

On the broadcast, Elvis is introduced by Cleveland DJ Bill Randle. If you still require proof of just how revolutionary Elvis truly was, listen to Randle's show at that time for context. It was riddled with romantic balladry.

After Elvis and his boys rip up the stage on that first Stage Show appearance, the crowd goes wild, and the Dorsey brothers come out and comment on the performance.

"Wasn't he wonderful," Tommy says.

"He's great!" Jimmy remarks.

"I hope we can get him over to Roseland later tonight," Tommy quips.

"Ooh, he'd kill 'em over at Roseland," Jimmy says. "Why don't we get him back on the show next week?" Tommy replies that it's already been taken care of. The brother's show was slipping in the ratings and they were going to ride the wave. They milked it while they could.

But Elvis quickly blew up and moved onward. Stage Show was canceled and aired its final episode on September 18 — nine days after Elvis first appeared on Sullivan.


Sunday marks the 38th anniversary of Elvis' death. Long live the King.
Enjoy even more classic shows on-air! Find where to watch MeTV in Washington, DC