How the Rolling Stones Surprised Everyone on ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ Debut
It might not be considered to be as much of a cultural touchstone as the Beatles' debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but that doesn't mean it was any less historic: The Rolling Stones performed on the popular CBS variety show for the first time on Oct. 25, 1964.
This was actually the Rolling Stones' second visit to America. But their first U.S. tour, which began before they had a proper hit in the country, had been met largely with indifference a few months earlier. (The low point was being booed offstage in San Antonio.) An ill-advised turn on Dean Martin's Hollywood Palace, which found the host taking potshots at his guests, didn't help much either.
By the fall, however, "Tell Me" and "It's All Over Now" had gotten into the U.S. Top 40, and "Time Is on My Side" was making its way up the Billboard Hot 100, where it would peak in November at No. 6. Now, the Rolling Stones felt, was right opportunity to re-introduce the band in America – in the same spot where their friends had made such a powerful showing.
They didn't open with their budding hit. Instead, the Rolling Stones performed a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around," which they had memorably recorded at the legendary Chess Studio in Chicago. They saved "Time Is on My Side" for their second spot that night.
Watch Rolling Stones Highlights From the Ed Sullivan Show
The girls in the audience, as they had been for the Beatles in February (and, for that matter, Elvis Presley eight years before), were practically uncontrollable. Ed Sullivan can barely get through the introductions for all the screaming and at times seems to almost lose his patience. "You promised, my little chickadees," he said, echoing screen legend W.C. Fields.
However, not everybody was as thrilled about seeing England's newest hitmakers as the teenagers in attendance. The Ed Sullivan website features a scan of a telegram from a man named Claude Lopez who said Sullivan “should be ashamed of yourself putting on such trash as the Rolling Stones. [Signed] A Disappointed Viewer.”
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