1956 September 9

From the Waist Up: Elvis Censored on Ed Sullivan Show


On Elvis Presley’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, then one of the most popular shows on television, he was shown only from the waist up. His “gyrations” were considered too sexual for a family television audience. Even from the waist up, the New York Times found his performance “filthy.” The gyrations did appear in Elvis’ second appearance, in October 1956. The restriction on Elvis’ appearance was part of a pervasive censorship of anything remotely sexual on television in the 1950s and into the 1960s.

Things changed dramatically regarding sex and television in the 1970s. The book Parental Advisory (below) has a chronology of music censorship covering several decades.

Watch Elvis’s second appearance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGZm7EOamWk

Learn more: Eric Nuzum, Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America (2001)

Read how things changed: Elana Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

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