There is such an obvious sense of abandon in The Ed Sullivan Theater during these performances, it is electrifying. 1956 was Elvis Presley’s breakout year, yet music snob Ed Sullivan originally wanted nothing to do with him.
When rival Steve Allen booked Elvis and handily beat Sullivan in the ratings, the impresario changed his tune. Suddenly Presley was booked for three appearances, and the show was on.
Ironically, due to a serious auto accident, Sullivan himself missed the first event. Actor Charles Laughton introduced Elvis Presley to America that night, and it was a night to remember.
The King was in all of his element September 9, 1956. And so was his band. Even as a life-long fan of Rock ‘N Roll, I had never seen this footage before. It is everything you would expect a legend to be founded on.
Besides the charisma of Presley himself, the band behind him are unbelievable. Watching Scotty Moore take a solo during “Ready Teddy” is a joy. It is no wonder that musicians such as Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck readily acknowledged him as an influence.
Drummer DJ Fontana is another presence who just shines in his moments. For this reviewer though, it is The Jordanaires who kind of steal the show. Watching them harmonize behind Elvis during “Don’t Be Cruel” is a wonder.
Presley’s second appearance on the show is probably the most famous, because Sullivan was so scandalized by Elvis’ dancing. I was always wondering just how crazily sexual things got, and have to report that this stuff is pretty tame by modern standards.
Still, the third appearance of Presley on Sullivan was shown waist-up only. On this one Ed Sullivan is such a condescending jackass you just want Elvis to pop him one. “I want to tell the country that this is a real decent, fine boy,” says Ed.
Jeez, what a jerk.
The bonus features are pretty minimal. There are some home movies by the “Memphis Mafia,” and some embarrassing moments of Ed mentioning Elvis at various times. Besides that, I would say that John Byner’s comedy bit is the best of the bunch.
Elvis – The Classic Performances is wonderful just for what it is. A legend performing live in his prime. It is probably the best material available to see him in all of his glory.