Blue Suede Connection

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Elvis:The Early TV Years

In the winter of January, 1956, CBS Studio 50 in New York City, hosted many of the hottest TV variety shows; two of the top being Ed Sullivan and The Stage Show.

The stage show with big band hosts and brothers, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, raced for viewers in a war where Sullivan was KING.

That was until the Dorsey's stumbled, not completely by chance, onto a new talent burning up the radio airwaves on the Louisiana Hayride. His name was Elvis A. Presley. Talent scout Tino Barzie, the Dorsey brothers band manager, felt he was just what The Stage Show needed to bump Sullivan into the back seat.  

The Dorsey brothers, especially Tommy Dorsey, was known for having a good nose for new talent. However The Stage Show producer, and TV sitcom legend, Jackie Gleason, wasn't convinced.

"I don't like him," huffed Gleason. "I like his Kisser," answered Tommy Dorsey, "and he's going to be the biggest name in a short time."
The timing was right, and so was Mr. Dorsey! Not only did Elvis appear six times from Jan 28th, 1956 to March 24th of 1956, but Elvis was what The Stage Show needed to take over the number one spot, knocking Ed Sullivan right off his high horse.

Sure the Dorsey brothers received both fan and pan mail; America's teens loved what they witness, however, their parents were not so sure.  "My family will never watch your show again, if you keep airing this disgraceful music."

When the studio questions the need to have Elvis on 6 times in a season, Tommy Dorsey had this to say; "Only time will tell if he (Elvis) has any lasting qualities, but the kids want Elvis now and they should be able to have him!"

Lucky for us the Dorsey's had a clearer vision than most adults of their generations. And though music buffs tend to proclaim Ed Sullivan as the host that helped Elvis reach the teenagers of the world, it's arguably Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey that we Elvis fans have to thank.

Without Elvis' success on the Dorsey Show, Ed would have never came knocking. Why? Because Ed disliked Rock N Roll, and did not  want anything to do with that "juvenile music," turning Col Parker down flat when he called for an Elvis appearance for a mere 5,000.00.

However, Ed was not an idiot, and he did not like to loose, he just needed a little push to the table. 

A feast was being had by all the top shows in the New York City arena; the Dorsey's, Uncle Milton Burrell, and even Steve Allen were enjoying the rewards. And when Sullivan finally came around, Parker's price had gone up! A cool 50,000.00 was now the asking price and Sullivan gladly paid. Elvis went on to become, not just an American talent, but a worldwide success.

Soon Hollywood came knocking, and well, the rest is music history as they say. So the next time you hear a replay from one of those Dorsey Brother's performances, send up a quiet thank you to the two brothers that made it all happen!

In fact, here on Blue Suede Connection, we know exactly where you can hear all these Early Tv appearances! Thanks right, starting this week, February 6th and well into next week, all our fine affiliates will be airing our latest "Elvis The Early TV Years.: You will hear The Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen, Milton Burrell, and right on to Ed Sullivan. Get insights and tips as we share the music that changed the world and created a Legend.

Dan and I thank you all for the support and love you give each week; helping us to spread the word and keep Elvis' music FREE on the radio dial.
God Bless

Patricia Garber