On January 6, 1957, the one and only Elvis Presley would perform for the last time on the show that catapulted him to stratospheric heights.
There’s never been a combination quite like Elvis Presley and Ed Sullivan. The two represent the absolute heights of American pop culture. But together? There’s no describing it.
Fans of both know these two icons didn’t start off as friends. Yet more than 60 million people tuned in for Elvis’ first performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” That number would only grow throughout the King’s return appearances. And by the time Elvis would make his final appearance on Ed’s legendary show, he would be the most famous man in the world.
Presley’s last performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” came just two days before his 22nd birthday. The January 6, 1957 telecast. This alone cements this live telecast in history, but there is oh-so-much-more to it.
Elvis From the Waist Up
For his infamous last performance for Ed, Elvis wore one of his iconic velvet shirts – the very same he wore for his homecoming concert in Tupelo the year before. An unbelievable 90% of the television audience of the day tuned in to watch Elvis rock a full gamut of staples: “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” “Too Much,” gospel classic “Peace in the Valley,” and of course – “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Yet viewers were – for his entire final performance – only to ever see Elvis from the waist up. Urban legend has it that Ed Sullivan, and host network CBS, had fielded dozens upon dozens of angry call-ins from those offended by Elvis’ signature dance moves. The two performances he’d made prior were full of his iconic hip-gyrating grooves. To the highly-conservative America at the time – this was beyond controversial. It was downright “sinful.”
As a result, for the last time millions of Americans would witness Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show” – they’d watch him perform on close-up, never seeing the pulsating hips that had every woman in the world screaming ’til their lungs burst.
Regardless, Elvis brought the proverbial house down. He gave it his all, giving an electric performance like no other.
Watch Elvis Presley Perform His Last for “Ed Sullivan” in 1957
While much focus has been given to the controversy between Ed and Elvis, the two got along famously whenever on set together. Indeed, Ed Sullivan himself says within Presley’s final performance that he’s a “real decent, fine boy… We want to say that we’ve never had a pleasanter experience with a big name than we’ve had with you.”
And the rest, as we often say on Outsider, is history. Watch below – from the waist up, of course – as Elvis appears on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for the last time all those years ago on January 6, 1957.
“Hound Dog, Love Me Tender & Heartbreak Hotel” on “The Ed Sullivan Show“
All in all, the waist-up-only showcase for Elvis’ third and final appearance on the show would only serve to cement his status as the legendary bad boy King of Rock & Roll.