Friday, June 5, 2009

It Was 53 Years Ago Today : Elvis Presley Shocks The Nation On The Milton Berle Show

It's hard to fathom today, but this performance 53 years ago this evening by Elvis Presley was one of the most historic in all rock history. It was this appearance on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, that triggered the first controversy of his career. Presley sings his latest single, "Hound Dog," with all the pelvis-shaking intensity his fans scream for.

Television critics across the country slammed the performance for its "appalling lack of musicality," for its "vulgarity" and "animalism." The Catholic Church took up the criticism in its weekly organ in a piece headlined "Beware Elvis Presley." Concerns about juvenile delinquency and the changing moral values of the young find a new target in the popular singer.

After Berle's show, Ed Sullivan, whose variety show is one of television's most popular, declares that he will never hire Presley. In August, Sullivan reversed his decision - however when he appeared on the show for an unprecedented $50,000, three-show contract, he was shown from either a far away distance, or in the case of the final show - only from the waist up, as to not offend the morals and sensibilities of 1950's America.

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