Remember Ed Sullivan? He booked Elvis for three shows, paying him $50,000 for the appearances, an unheard of amount in those days. The first was September 9, 1956. There is a legend that Sullivan was so offended by the movement of Elvis’s hips that he was photographed only from the waist up for these telecasts. That is not entirely true. Sullivan had watched tapes of Elvis performing and concluded that Elvis put a Coke bottle in his pants to accentuate the sexual movements. We can’t have that, Sullivan said and so was ready for Elvis when he appeared on stage. Unfortunately, Ed Sullivan was involved in a bad car accident just prior to the show and wasn’t even there for Elvis’s first performance. Actor Charles Laughton was hosting that night and introduced Elvis to a record 60 million audience watching on TV.
During the first and second appearances on the show, the camera alternates between showing his entire body and just from his waist up. The director would switch back and forth depending on what Elvis was doing. If they deemed it tame enough to show, they would switch to his entire body, if not, only the top half was shown. During the first show, Elvis sang “Don’t Be Cruel” and his new song “Love Me Tender”. The latter was sung to promote not just the song but the movie by the same name which was due to be released soon. Singing “Love Me Tender” on Ed Sullivan resulted in a record breaking one million pre-orders for the record, insuring it a place at number one on the charts.