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Your Favorites From ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ Still Touring

Ed Sullivan went off the air in 1971, but the bands play on

spinner image a black and white photo of the rolling stones on the ed sullivan show
The Rolling Stones perform on an episode of 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' in New York City on September 11, 1966. Pictured are, from left, singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Brian Jones (1942 - 1969), and bassist Bill Wyman.
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Image

It is hard to believe, but this year is the 75th anniversary of The Ed Sullivan Show. Even more surprising is the legacy that lives on with acts made famous on the show.

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The groundbreaking variety series premiered on June 20, 1948. Originally called Toast of the Town (the name changed in 1955), the show aired for 23 years.  

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Ed Sullivan was a newspaper columnist and hosted two radio shows before entering the television spotlight. Though he wasn’t a musical performer, he had a knack for recognizing talent. His show introduced U.S. audiences to a wide range of then-relatively unknown entertainers such as Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Dick Van Dyke and the Beatles.

Even more who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show are still popular with fans today. You may even see some of them, including these listed here, live on tour or making headlines.  

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American singer Barbra Streisand holds her arms out and smiles she performs on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in New York City on December 12, 1962.
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Barbra Streisand

Legend says that Sullivan claimed to have discovered Barbra Streisand performing in a New York City nightclub. In reality, Streisand had been on Broadway and received a Tony nomination before her first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in December 1962.  

Streisand continued to be a welcome guest, performing several times, and in 1970, she was awarded the Best Female Singer of the Year Award on a special Sullivan awards show.

Her fantastic career includes being one of a few entertainers to earn an EGOT (five Emmys, 10 Grammys, two Oscars and a Tony.) Now 81, Streisand took a long hiatus from performing live but is said to be considering a return to the stage. In the meantime, her autobiography, My Name is Barbra, is set to be released in November.  

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Stevie Wonder during rehearsals for 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in New York City on May 13, 1964.
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Stevie Wonder

Stevland Hardaway Judkins was a premature baby and became blind shortly after his birth. By age 9, he could play the harmonica, piano and drums,

The young prodigy who became known professionally as Little Stevie Wonder was 13 years old when he first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in May 1964. Four years later, a more mature Wonder appeared on the show, performing several songs, including his latest hit, “For Once in My Life.”

Wonder went on to win 25 Grammys and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Now 73, Wonder continues to write and perform. He is also a political activist, campaigning in 1980 to have Martin Luther King Jr. Day declared a federal U.S. holiday.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones began in 1960 when childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards reconnected while in college. In 1963, they signed a recording deal with Decca Records.

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After releasing their third album, the Rolling Stones first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in October 1964. Their performance brought the band national attention in the U.S. and increased ticket sales for their world tour.

Although their appearance was great exposure for the band and equally beneficial for CBS’s ratings, Sullivan was reluctant to have them on again. The story goes that Sullivan was upset with how unruly the studio audience became from charismatic Jagger’s presence. Sullivan also thought all the band members needed to wash their hair. Ultimately, he relented, and the Stones appeared five more times.

The Rolling Stones remain one of the best-selling bands of all time. They won three Grammy awards and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. The band's new album, Hackney Diamonds, is due out tomorrow and they are expected to schedule North American tour dates in 2024.

Tom Jones

In 1963, Thomas John Woodward changed his name to Tom Jones and moved from Wales to London. In 1964, Jones signed with Decca Records. He only recorded one other song before his mega-hit single, “It’s Not Unusual.” The song broke into the top 10 U.S. singles chart, and Jones performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in May 1965.

Although Jones was known for his sexy dance moves, Sullivan wasn’t too concerned after having already had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on his show (The Stones played on that same show, right before Jones made his debut.)  

Jones appeared on the show six more times. After his 1970 performance, Sullivan awarded him Most Popular Male Singer of the Year.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton invited Grammy winner Jones to perform at the millennium celebrations in Washington. Now 83, Jones continues to tour, singing for audiences worldwide.

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The band Santana began in San Francisco in 1966. In August 1969, they performed at Woodstock, then two months later, they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. The band sang two songs, “Jingo” and “Persuasion,” from its self-titled debut album, Santana.

Over the years, the band has undergone many changes in members and musical direction. But lead guitarist Carlos Santana has remained at the helm throughout, winning 10 Grammys throughout his career. Santana was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and is one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, having sold an estimated 100 million albums worldwide. The band continues to tour and release new music.

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond’s first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was in November 1969. In an interview with Steve Baltin for Forbes, Diamond recalled that his parents came and sat in the audience.

He said, “They were very excited because they were in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show.” Diamond sang “Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy.” Both songs ended up becoming his two biggest hits that year.

After the show, Sullivan was kind enough to allow Diamond to bring his parents backstage to meet the legendary host.

Although Diamond wowed the at-home and studio audiences, that was his only performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Still, it was just the beginning of his successful career. Diamond went on to sell more than 130 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Diamond continued to tour until 2018 when he announced his retirement from touring due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis. A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical, based on his life, premiered on Broadway in September 2022 and plays to sold-out audiences.  

Share your experience: Who was your favorite act on The Ed Sullivan Show? Did you ever see it in person?

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