Saturday, November 5, 2011

More Sullivan Memories

Ed Sullivan's show -- originally titled "Toast of the Town" -- debuted in 1948.  It's long-running announcer (1949 - 1964) was Art Hannes, who became a good friend of mine when we worked together at KIIS in the mid-'70s.   Art was a correspondent for CBS News during World War II (one of Edward R. Murrow's "boys") and later became famous as "the voice of CBS," handling network IDs, station breaks, program announcing and more on such shows as "You Are There" and "Johnny Dollar."  Hannes participated in Orson Welles' famous "War Of The Worlds" broadcast in 1938 and was not only in the 1975 TV movie adaptation ("The Night That Panicked America") but guided the producers in accurately re-creating the studio from which that legendary program originated.   Born in Kentucky in 1922, Art also appeared in the 1953 film "Taxi" and narrated a series of LP biographies of classical composers (with musical excerpts) for Vox.  Some of those have since been reissued on CDs.  I last saw Art in 1982, shortly before I moved from L.A. to New York.  He came over to borrow a typewriter which I never got back -- and always wondered why.  Years later I learned that only a few days after he got the typewriter, Art suffered a debilitating stroke from which he never recovered.  Art Hannes died in a Sherman Oaks, California nursing home in 1992.  
-- Gary Theroux
Here's a picture of Gary Theroux and Art Hannes in October 1976

Hi Kent!
I remember the Ed Sullivan Show, especially when he had the rock groups on.
Everyone remembers the Beatles, but I liked when The Animals and The Doors were on. They were favorites of mine.
I enjoyed seeing Alan Price, the Animals' keyboard player. He was so talented and I believe he wrote House Of The  Rising Sun. I know he passed away but hope his family is collecting allot of residual money!
I have some of the shows that I purchased on DVD too. What memories!
For the record, Alan Price is alive and well ... and still performing.  In fact, we asked him for a comment for our series (but never heard anything back.)
Here is a link to his website: Click here: Alan Price Online
"House Of The Rising Sun" is an old, traditional folk song, most likely dating back to the 1930's ... Alan Price's name DID appear on the label credit as the songwriter when The Animals' single topped the charts here in America ... but even Price himself has said at various times that the song dates back to the 16th Century!!!  (For a more detailed history of this tune, check out this Wikipedia entry):
Suffice to say that with this many KNOWN recordings from the '30's and '40's, Alan Price did NOT write "House Of The Rising Sun" ... but The Animals' version IS considered by most to be the most popular and definitive version today.  (kk)
By the way, you can enjoy several of The Animals' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show thanks to the videos now available thru iTunes ... here's their biggest hit, the aforementioned "The House of the Rising Sun"" 
Click here: iTunes - Music Videos - The House of the Rising Sun (Ed Sullivan Show Live 1964) by The Animals
Other Animals titles available thru iTunes include "Bring It On Home To Me", "Don't Bring Me Down", "I'm Crying" and "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place". 

Hi Kent,
I was too young to watch Ed Sullivan and didn't get to see the Beatles, but I did get to stay up to see the Cowsills. I was so in awe of Susan. She was young ... a mere kid like me and there she was on TV singing! My dream was to be like her.  She was a HUGE inspiration and influence in my musical journey!  
Debe Welch  
Hi Debe!
Ironically, I've also been trying to get Susan to comment for our series but so far no luck.  (With The Cowsills out performing again, I thought it'd be a good chance for her to not only say something about The Ed Sullivan Show but also to plug some of their upcoming events.) Brother  John Cowsill now performs as part of The Beach Boys Band ... had hoped to maybe get something from him, too ... but again ... so far, no luck. (Maybe one of them will see this and drop us a line before the series is over!  Several other artists who appeared on Ed's program HAVE shared their memories with us ... all of these are still coming up as our Tribute To Ed Sullivan continues in Forgotten Hits!)  kk

My family always watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights at 7 PM.  It was a way to catch up on the latest in Entertainment whether it was  Music, Movies, Comedy or Broadway.  I remember  like yesterday the night the cast of Hair danced down the aisles to the stage, singing and dancing to one of the songs  from the play.  Everybody talks about The Beatles and Elvis but it was so much more.  If  Mickey Mantle hit three home runs that afternoon at Yankee stadium in a doubleheader, he would be in the audience and Ed would introduce him and say, "Right here in our audience tonight is Mickey Mantle ... take a bow, take a bow!"  Great memories for sure, but for those of us who grew up in that era let's not forget the Dick Clark Saturday Night show that was also live and featured the top 40 acts of the day like Fats Domino, Connie Francis, Paul Anka, etc, etc.

Kent -
What can I say about ED. He provided a product that was in demand, Rock and Roll.  We were there every Sunday to see the latest hot group for the first song then waiting anxiously thru the comedians, jugglers, pop singers and God KNOWS WHAT to see and heard the group sing the second song.
Yeah, who could forget the Beatles for the first time! Wow, the whole thing was magic! It was a great time to be a teenager.
Now that I look back there will never be a show like Ed's. Just the variety of it, like the top 40 radio stations of the past that had a little something for everyone, it would never exist now. But let me tell you, I gained a certain appreciation of all styles of music thru Ed and the top 40 that my kids will never have. Of course that why I try and expose them to my music and the music of my parents, good and bad.
Mike De Martino
President of the Lovejoy Music Club

Kent -- 
Our family was glued to the TV every Sunday night like most of those in America who had a TV set. I was the oldest of three boys and my Dad had given me his record collection around 1950 so I was listening to the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots on 78 rpm records regularly before we got our first TV in 1954. My father, in retrospect, had amazing taste in music for an Irish tenor. He collected the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots (almost all their Decca 78s), the Ravens, the Charioteers, the Southernaires, the Orioles, the Three Blazes, Nat "King" Cole, Billie Holiday, Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.  
The Mills Brothers seemed to be on the Ed Sullivan Show at least every other month from the time we started watching the show in September of 1954. Another band that I remember from the mid fifties that appeared often were the Treniers, a wild show band. 
Every week there was a different dancing act. I loved the tap dancers like the Will Mastin Trio (with Sammy Davis Jr.), Honey Coles, "Sand Man" Simms, Hines, Hines and Dad, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly and my favorite, "Peg Leg" Bates (who also appeared every other month, it seemed). I even liked the Ballroom type dancers like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, who was amazing, Cyd Charise and Marge and Gower Champion. 
Then there were the comedians. So many different styles, from old timers like Myron Cohen and Henny Youngman to nasty guys like Jack E. Leonard and Don Rickles to the ones who did impressions like Frank Gorshen. Ethnic humor was used as well, such as Pat Cooper (Patsy Caputo) with his Italian stories and many Jewish comedians such as Sam Levinson and Alan King telling family stories. I remember seeing Richard Pryor doing his first stand-up routine and it was CLEAN! Godfrey Cambridge was another very funny black comedian who appeared often. Jack Benny, who I never thought was very funny, had funny people with him to act as foils, such as Dennis Day and the amazing Mel Blanc. I remember seeing Jackie Mason get yanked and he gave the stiff arm to Ed and didn't appear again for many, many years. In the late 50s the satirists arrived such as Shelly Berman and Mort Sahl and later there were guys like Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart with stories that we really could relate to. 
I was front and center for Elvis' appearances and remember my dad making fun of his dancing moves, calling him a spastic, and then having the bottom of the screen blacked out for his next appearance. Are you kidding me? What a joke! Imagine if he had grabbed his crotch like Michael Jackson. Would he have been banned from TV forever?
My father used to love Sid Caesar (as the Three Haircuts) and Stan Freberg,  when they made fun of rock and roll in their parody songs. I suffered as he laughed hysterically. I also suffered when Jimmy Rodgers appeared to do "Honeycomb" in 1957 and he forgot when to come in and spent the next three measures trying to catch up with the big band arrangement of his folk song. I saw Ed kind of flub up when he was talking to Buddy Holly and I actually think he might have forgotten his name as he referred to him as "Tex" one time. 
I was still watching the Sullivan Show, this time with my girlfriend, when on 2/9/64 the Beatles made their first appearance in America. I realized that the audience was even more frenzied than when Elvis first appeared and that a new era was upon America, although my own taste remained stronger with Motown and  Stax records. I was now in my twenties and only checked in on Sunday night every once in awhile when I knew there would be an appearance by a musical act that I didn't want to miss.
When you think of it, it is quite amazing that the Ed Sullivan Show was on the air for 23 straight years as Ed had very little talent on stage. He always seemed awkward and unsure as he did his introductions and quick interviews after some acts, but he remains a legend today. Vaudeville finally died after he went off the air! 
Danny Guilfoyle

Sunday night TV was something special always in the Besch household.  Living in Dodge City meant watching Walt Disney or Lassie or Bonanza or Ed Sullivan, but never all of them because some came on at the same time as others.  Often Ed got left out if they did not have a big music act on and even then, with only ONE TV, the head of the household (Dad) had to be overridden first.  That was always tough. 
Ed was Topo Gigio, plate spinners, animal acts AND great rock / pop groups.  Ed was stiff and boring to hear, but the acts made him worth it.  I taped off the Sullivan show often, even tho sometimes they were lip synchs or live vocals over pre-recorded music beds.  The DC5 certainly were that way.  Yeah, Ed was boring and clumsy with his delivery, but that was all we had!  HE found and booked acts and MADE acts!  His Beatles shows made a huge impact on their careers, even if they were already on the way to the top.  He let us see the head shaking mop tops in prime time.  Looking back on the tapes now, he looks even MORE out of place, but he was genuine too, unlike these phony hosts on American idol and the like.  Slick?  NO.  But genuine?  YES.  Ed was what we now try NOT to have hosting a show.  SO, why do we miss him and know his name and have forgotten the ones that have come and gone since?  He was an original when there were no models to try to be like or not to be like as a host.  AND he had a really big SHOE
Clark Besch

If you have 18 minutes to spare, check out the "Big Break" episode on This American Life:
On the day the Beatles first performed on The Ed Sullivan show, there were six other acts booked as well, including the comedy duo Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall, who suddenly had to rework their act for an audience of teenage girls.
Carl Wiser
Hey Kent ...
I just saw an old Phil Silvers Sgt. Bilco  where he takes over The Ed Sullivan show ... really funny with all the real people and Ed himself. There was no title for the show. The plot is Ed's yearly show done by American soldiers. 
I was a youngster but I do remember Ed Sullivan was the first man I ever heard cuss on national television. After shaking a celebrity's hand in his audience he replied, "He damned near broke my hand" or something very similar. It was scandal for months in my little hometown.
Frannie and I were watching an appearance by Diana Ross and the Supremes on Ed's show the other night (as part of the Rock And Roll Classics DVD Set) ... and were SHOCKED to hear Ed say something to the effect of "It seems like everything these girls record goes straight to #1 ... and damned if they haven't just got another one"!!!  (lol)  Ed is probably one of only a few people who could have EVER gotten away with a remark like that on national television in the late '60's!!!  (kk)

Kent ...
I read this in George Carlin's Book:  "For me, the hardest show to do was the 'Ed Sullivan Show'.   All the late night shows, you did your 10 minute bit and you were out of there.  When you did the 'Sullivan Show' you were there all day. You had to get there early, for rehearsal." I guess the fact that he was heavily into drugs at the time - didn't make it any easier.  
Kent, have they ever put together a collection of Ed Sullivan's Bloopers?  He had a lot of good ones.
Frank B.
Hmmm ... that's something we'll have to ask Andrew Solt ... he owns the COMPLETE collection of EVERY Ed Sullivan Show ever filmed!  (kk)
Kent -
We do have a short BLOOPERS video (around 30 minutes I think.)  Some good moments on it, but in truth there weren't a ton of BLOOPERS on Sullivan. 
The disc is called "Ed's Outrageous Moments" ... and Andrew describes it as featuring many of "Ed's personal favorites, selected from the most hilarious bloopers, acrobatic feats and incredible stunts ever featured on his show. Fascinating, funny and uniquely Ed."
You can order your copy here:
Click here: The Best of The Ed Sullivan Show- Ed's Outrageous Moments | Ed Sullivan Show

I don't know whether your series will explore this, but --- in my view, the main thing that killed the Ed Sullivan Show was prosperity. 
When most families could afford only one television, the Sullivan show was something that actually brought families together ... he very astutely included, as you say, "something for the kids" as well as something for grandma and Mom and Pop, too.  My guess is that hardly anyone liked ALL the segments of a particular show (my friends and I were particularly scornful of Topo Gigio), but there was at least something there, every week, for someone.  You suffered through the Moscow Ballet to be able to see the Dave Clark Five (who, I'm told, were the rock act that performed the most times on the Sullivan show, although the exact count of appearances varies according to the source). 
Then came prosperity, which meant that the kids and the adults could watch separate televisions, and (later) cable, which could devote an entire channel to rock music.  By the 1970s, the "omnibus" aspect of the Sullivan show was outdated.  Lots of shows featured pop and rock performances -- it is no coincidence that Sonny & Cher's first TV show debuted in 1971, the same year that Ed Sullivan bid farewell.  The Partridge Family, which started in 1970, offered teeny-bop girls a full half hour of David Cassidy.  And so it went.  Kids no longer had to endure the lame jokes of Borscht Belt comics to get their weekly dose of the Supremes.
I think the cultural fracturing of America is an interesting phenomenon, abetted in part because there eventually was no need to "all get together" to listen to a radio program or watch a TV show.  The rise of multiple-TV households (and especially the later explosion of channels on cable) gave a boost to the individual freedom to watch what you wanted -- but it came at the expense of a shared cultural understanding.  Our parents may not have liked the Doors, but at least they were familiar with what they didn't like, thanks to Ed Sullivan and other variety shows. 
Henry McNulty

This is turning out to be a wonderful and exciting feature!  Don't know if you have any way of measuring your week-to-week readership, but it will be interesting to see if there's an uptick in DVD sales!
Alan O'Day

Response has been good so far ... and Andrew Solt seems happy ... so I'm guessing all is good!  Thank you for sharing YOUR special memories of The Ed Sullivan Show ... (who knew that Alan O'Day appeared on The Sullivan Stage back in 1965 ... TWELVE YEARS before "Undercover Angel" topped the pop charts!!!) 


We've got LOTS more cool stuff and surprises (just like that one!) coming up as our series continues next week ... be sure to join us again tomorrow when we pick up our interview with Andrew Solt.  And we've got LOTS more great memories coming your way all week long ... so don't miss a posting ... as Forgotten Hits Salutes and Remembers "The Ed Sullivan Show"!!!  (kk)