Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Ed Sullivan Show - 75th Anniversary (Part 2)

As promised, here is a piece prepared by Harvey Kubernik, touting the importance of The Ed Sullivan Show ... and how it affected ALL of our lives growing up at the time ...

'The Ed Sullivan Show' Turns 75! 

Looking Back on the …

“The relationship between Berry Gordy’s Motown label and The Ed Sullivan Show made music and television history,” reinforced Andrew Solt in our 2011 interview.   

“Soon after the Supremes’ debut on Sullivan (December, 1964), it was clear that showcasing the latest Motown releases on CBS on Sunday nights (35 million viewers was average) until 1971 was a way to expose the record company’s newest hits and boost the show’s ratings. Sullivan introduced nearly all the Motown acts, including the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Jackson 5.” 

Andrew Solt’s other credits include the 1979 TV special Heroes Of Rock And Roll and 1988 feature documentary Imagine: John Lennon as well as the 1991 Warner Brothers theatrical feature film This is Elvis to the 1995 TV documentary series The History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll and 2006 home video Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Shows. SOFA Entertainment has produced approximately 400 programs for television and home video.    

Filmmaker Solt and SOFA Entertainment has been very generous over the years to me providing photos and artifacts from his Sullivan library for my books and articles published in and Record Collector News magazine. I’ve viewed countless clips from Andrew’s archive aiding research which the whole world can now watch in digital platforms.

One afternoon in 2011 Andrew and I discussed the influence and impact Ed Sullivan had on the African-American world entertainment. 

“Currently, there is a Prof. Maurice Berger now based at the University of Maryland, an American cultural historian, curator, and visual design art critic. We gave him some materials for his touring show of the importance of fifties television and specific shows that reflected and reached the Afro-American culture. He chose some Ed Sullivan performances. Ed had a fascination with African-American culture. He loved talent. He stood up for Harry Belafonte and Marian Anderson. Mahalia Jackson sang on the show and one of the very first shows W.C. Handy sang was on Ed Sullivan. He is considered the father of the blues.  

“For one, a Harlem DJ, Dr. Jive, introduced R&B artists to America in late 1955. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was blasting out of every transistor radio and the main titles of Blackboard Jungle. Ed loved introducing African Americans on his stage, and most of all he enjoyed giving people big breaks and the most desired gift, national TV airtime. Ed liked his role as showbiz kingpin, and he knew he was very fortunate to be such a powerful arbiter of American taste. He took pleasure in influencing our culture and acts that would make us gasp and swoon. He was an unlikely hero.” 

“For us, being on The Ed Sullivan Show was so much more than record sales,” underlined    Mary Wilson of the Supremes during my 2003 and 2016 interviews with her.  

“It wasn’t about promoting us. It was about that we had grown up watching The Ed Sullivan Show. We had grown up watching shows where you didn’t see a lot of black people starring on those shows. For us, we were like every other family in America who spent hours watching Ed Sullivan. So for us, being on the show was such a great honor, because we were there to see the world changing. To see America changing. We were excited! We’re on The Ed Sullivan Show. 

“We came from a time when a whole family of all different colors didn’t sit around watching black people on television. The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours where before us and there were segregated hotels.    

“For us, that is what it was all about. We were part of that change. We were part of helping America to see black people, black women, being proud, beautiful and successful. It wasn’t just us, many people before us. But they didn’t have the television to expose them to that wide range of people as we did at the time when we came. We were lucky. And we stood on a lot of shoulders. But we were there when the doors opened. 

“The other thing was that we were seen in color after our initial appearances were in black and white. Recently, my granddaughter was watching a DVD collection of the Supremes. And she said to me.  ‘Grandma! What happened to the color?’ ‘Cause she has never seen a black and white TV!”     

In February of 1976, I interviewed David Ruffin of the Temptations in Hollywood for Melody Maker.  

“The Temptations were individuals who happened to sing together. I never regretted any of the songs we did and even the choreography on stage has been widely copied. I liked the dancin’ part of that group. Then you couldn’t just stand there and sing. The audience was moving and you just reflected what was goin’ on. If anything, I’d like my association with the Temptations to be remembered as that we gave something. We helped young artists get in a position.”

Barney Ales was Berry Gordy’s indispensable right-hand man and Motown’s ultimate insider, whose job was to get the records played and the company paid. He rose to become executive VP and general manager, but remained in Detroit in 1972 when Gordy moved Motown to California. Ales became its president in Los Angeles during his return to the firm from 1975 to 1978.

Andrew Loog Oldham discovered, managed and produced the Rolling Stones from 1963 to 1967. He worked as a producer for Motown’s Rare Earth label during the very early 1970s.

“And let’s not forget that great American soundtrack-The Sound of Young America, Jobete Music,” Andrew reminded me in a 2004 conversation. “You can still hear it every day…in Motown music and the U2 single ‘Vertigo,’ sure sounds like ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ to me.                                               

“Barney Ales - the jewel in the crown,” reinforced Loog Oldham in a 2016 interview. “His efforts  on behalf of Mr. Gordy and the artists were the primary reason the sound of young America graduated all over the world.”

It was really a battle in those days to get black artists on network television in prime time,” Ales emailed me in 2016.

“Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat Cole were about the only ones—anyone else, they just weren’t accepted. But when the Supremes broke through, we knew we had an opportunity. They looked so great, as well as sounding great. And Harvey Fuqua and Maxine Powell did a wonderful job, grooming the girls, getting them ready for prime time.

The Ed Sullivan Show was the real breakthrough. Sunday nights, millions of people watching. Once Sullivan took to the Supremes, we knew we were on the right track. And album sales picked up like crazy whenever they were on, so we always made sure to tell the distributors they needed to check their inventory.

“After the Supremes, we got everyone on Sullivan’s show: Stevie, Gladys, the Temptations. We had a good relationship with the producer, Bob Precht. He liked Motown, and Esther, Berry’s sister, used to take the dressing room keys afterwards as souvenirs. They’re probably somewhere in the Motown Museum to this day.”

The Rolling Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 1964-1969. 

"Pre-production on The Ed Sullivan Show” explained Andrew Loog Oldham, “was where you let Sullivan, or Robert Precht know to start with. One of the things I was trying to get over with was letting them know that you don't film the bass string and guitar solo. It was the rhythm, so one wouldn't look stupid. Because if you're being filmed stupid, you feel stupid, so one doesn't need the Rolling Stones feeling stupid. They worked good on color. They were getting loaded, they would go shopping, and it worked. Keith's army jacket, Brian's red cords, and his shoes. There you have the happy times of drugs. The songs selected were usually the singles that were just being released. 'Let's Spend the Night Together' for me is still one of the best tracks they ever cut, 'cause it doesn't do anything-it just sits there.


“Ed Sullivan was a true American phenomenon. Every country has one: a seemingly untalented nebbish with strictly local/national appeal. But say what you will, and we did, his musical booking decisions opened the eyes and ears of America and created a legacy/library for all future generations. And he’s the only dude I know who made the Rolling Stones change their lyrics.

“When the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show. That moment when American youth, feeling the subtext, feeling the great unspoken hurt of a nation still traumatized by the assassination of its president just a few months before. It’s an incredible moment, suddenly American youth had its own music, a reason to be alive.” 


"Of course, Canada has always enjoyed extremely close-knit ties with Britain,” underscored Toronto-based writer and musician Gary Pig Gold.

“Canucks already blessed with their own drum kits and guitars were busy learning and adding the latest Pacemakers and Billy J. B-sides to their sets, thrilling local audiences with this strange new sound and style which, when it finally hit Stateside big-time on the 2/9/64 Ed Sullivan Show already seemed somewhat old-hat to with-it kids in Winnipeg. 

"Meanwhile," Gold continues, "in the fab fervor which engulfed all of America immediately post-Sullivision, it was none other than good ol' Capitol Canada who came to the rescue of Yankee pressing plants already swamped with 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' and Meet The Beatles back-orders, by exporting down to key New York retailers tens of thousands of Canadian 'Roll Over Beethoven,' 'All My Loving’' and 'Twist and Shout' 45's.”

In June of 2020, UMe announced an agreement with SOFA Entertainment, Inc. for the global digital rights to The Ed Sullivan Show library, which encompasses the influential television program’s historic 23-year primetime run on CBS. 


This marks the first time that Ed Sullivan Show performance and guest segments will be officially available in their entirety across streaming services worldwide on The Ed Sullivan Show’s official YouTube channel, the first segments showcase landmark live musical performances.


A UMe media release further described the collaboration and the voluminous gems in this vast catalog of iconic clips that have primarily only been available in excerpted versions on or as low-resolution digital “bootlegs.” 


“Scores of rarities will also be available digitally for the first time. Icons and up-and-comers appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, which welcomed entertainers and influential figures from just about every category of cultural relevance, including music, comedy, sports, film, dance and opera. Many segments will be upgraded to high-resolution clips as part of UMe’s strategic curation of a national treasure that has achieved international acclaim.


“Available now, the first seven segments to stream under this new arrangement celebrate music artists, with a new video premiering every day and thousands more clips from the catalog to stream over the next three years. 


“Bruce Resnikoff, UMe President & CEO, said, ‘UMe is proud to continue its successful relationship with SOFA Entertainment. Together we will transform an incredible treasure trove from The Ed Sullivan Show to the streaming era and to new audiences. Ed Sullivan was a pioneer of his time and is responsible for many pivotal TV performances and significant moments in entertainment history.’


“SOFA Entertainment is thrilled to continue its decade-long relationship with UMe,” said Andrew Solt, CEO of SOFA Entertainment. 


“The UMe team has the passion and expertise to honor Ed Sullivan’s legacy and create new ways for people around the world to enjoy it. I’m overjoyed that the SOFA Entertainment stewardship is now in the hands of my son, Josh, who has experience with digital content including five years at Google.”

Ed Sullivan has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


We heard from both Andrew and Josh Solt yesterday, who thanked us for our ongoing support of The Ed Sullivan archives ... and our constant battle to see Sullivan justly recognized for his contribution to the landscape of rock and roll and the entire entertainment industry. It's more than just a campaign ... it's a matter of finally making things right.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should make THIS year ... the 75th Anniversary of The Ed Sullivan Show ... the time to do so.  (kk)