From Coast to Coast: Elvis Presley’s First National TV AppearancePosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Jan 29, 2016 | 22 comments
Elvis’ 1956 was full of firsts: his first album, his first movie and his first national television appearance.
Elvis made appearances on local and regional TV shows before his first national appearance on the Dorsey Brothers’ “Stage Show.” But for many fans across the United States, “Stage Show” gave them the first look at the young Elvis.
“Stage Show” started in 1954 as a summer replacement for “The Jackie Gleason Show.” Gleason served as the show’s executive producer, and he brought it back in 1955 with bandleaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey as hosts.
Elvis’ first appearance on “Stage Show” was January 28, 1956. He traveled with his bandmates, Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana and Bill Black, from Memphis to New York by car and arrived the day before.
The band rehearsed on the morning of January 28, and show time was 8 p.m.
It was a rainy night, and Elvis was still relatively unknown, so there wasn’t a big crowd there to see the 21-year-old. Other guests on the show were singer Sarah Vaughan and comic Gene Sheldon.
Cleveland DJ Bill Randle introduced Elvis: “We’d like at this time to introduce you to a young fellow who, like many young performers – Johnny Ray among them – came out of nowhere to be an overnight big star. This young fellow we saw for the first time while making a movie short. We think tonight he’s going to make television history for you. We’d like you to meet him now – Elvis Presley.”
On that first performance, Elvis sang “Shake, Rattle and Roll” – and segued into “Flip, Flop and Fly” in the middle of it – and “I Got a Woman.” Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” was just released, but he didn’t perform it.
Elvis appeared on “Stage Show” five more times: February 4, February 11, February 18, March 17 and March 24.
On his second performance, Elvis performed “Tutti Frutti” and “Baby Let’s Play House.” A week later, Elvis finally performed “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as “Blue Suede Shoes.”
For his fourth performance a week later, he again sang “Tutti Frutti” and “I Was the One,” a B-side to his new single.
By the time of his sixth performance on March 17, “Heartbreak Hotel” was becoming a huge hit, so he performed it again, along with “Blue Suede Shoes.”
For his last “Stage Show” performance on March 24, Elvis sang “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Money Honey.”
He continued his television performances in 1956 by making two appearances on the “Milton Berle Show” in April and June, a July performance on the “Steve Allen Show” and September and October appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show” (his final Ed Sullivan appearance was in January 1957).
Elvis’ unique sound had everybody talking, but it was his energetic and magnetic performances on these shows that had everybody screaming. Elvis won over thousands of new fans with each performance, and helped solidify his status as the brand-new King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
1956 was just the start of Elvis’ incredible career. Learn more about the man and his music when you visit Graceland.