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. Get stories, quizzes and discounts delivered to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter. Elvis on 'Stage Show,' January 28, Elvis Presley's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is a landmark of 20th-century pop culture, the moon landing of modern music.
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Elvis' performance on The Ed Sullivan Show is cemented in the annals of rock music history because of the censors' decision to shoot the volatile young singer only from the waist up. However, contrary to popular belief, this decision was not made until his third appearance. Actor Charles Laughton served as substitute host the night of Elvis' first appearance because Sullivan was recuperating from an auto accident. The famously prickly host had been burned before by rock 'n' roll stars: He vowed to drum Bo Diddley out of television after his act on the show, when he sang his own hit 'Bo Diddley' instead of Sullivan's request, Tennessee Ernie Ford's 'Sixteen Tons'. But Elvis' ratings - his stint on the Allen show had trounced Sullivan - changed his mind.
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