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Steve Allen Humanized Elvis

Before ELVIS PRESLEY ever went on the Ed Sullivan Show, he first did Steve Allen's TV Show. It was the mid-50's and Conservative America wasn't really ready for the Memphis Boy who Wiggled his Legs and Butt like a Lady Stripper. Elvis also had that Scary Sneer, that a lot of moms and dads felt was a bit threatening and seemed to be exciting the Bobby Soxer on the Sofa. At this time Sullivan had said he'd never have Elvis on his show, because he was....Raw, didn't look Clean and his Hair was Greasy. So Steve rolled the dice, he was ratings-challenged, and he thought, correctly, that Elvis might make him some numbers.


But what about the singer's Scary Image? Steve, a very bright man, had an idea, he'd put Presley in a Tuxedo complete with Top Hat to make him appear less-threatening to the Great Unwashed. But to make it worse, Elvis was going to introduce his new single, HOUND DOG, a cleaned-up cover of a rather Sexually Suggestive Song that had been a raucus R&B Hit by Big Mama Thorton in 1952. We watched the show in 1956, I was in my Roy Rogers Jammies, sitting on the floor in front of the 17" Motorola TV. Of course it was a humiliating experience for The KIng, and he never forgave Steve Allen for mocking him. One of his "Guys" said that The Colonel (His manager was actually a Carney Barker) forced him to do it with the Tux because it would be great National Exposure.

 

This is a beautifully enhanced video of that moment from The Historic Films Archive, complete with time code, and enhanced picture and sound. What I take away from it now is that Elvis realized he'd been put in an embarrassing spot, and the best thing he could do was to Play Along. The Dog looks bored and the future Super Star, keeps reaching over and turning the Hound's Head towards himself, grinning at the funny gag.

 

We talk about the history of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll folks, and this was a defining moment, within a year Elvis Presley would become The King of Rock and Roll, and no TV Host would ever make fun of him again. Oh, the numbers? Steve Allen's ratings that night were astronomical, and Sullivan suddenly made a 3 appearance deal for Mr. Presley to appear on his Sunday Night Show, the most watched program on television. (Notice how the camera doesn't follow Elvis when he makes his moves, and shows him from only the waist up.)   @therealdonrocks

 

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