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5 acts that felt the wrath of Ed Sullivan

The Ed Sullivan Show and the man himself is beloved by many. However, he’s also pretty notorious for having a temper. He took pride in his show and expected his guests to abide by the rules when they were on-air. Sometimes he would request song or wardrobe changes and not surprisingly, many guests didn’t take too kindly to these demands. Some obliged, and others didn’t. Here are some of guests who butted heads with Ed Sullivan.


The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones performed on the show six times, but they certainly weren’t Sullivan’s favorite people. Not only was he annoyed with the British bad boys’ appearances – when they didn’t wear jackets during their first performance, he requested that they wear jackets and wash their hair – but vocalist Mick Jagger didn’t even attempt to hide his eye roll on camera when he had to change the words from “let’s spend the night together” to “let’s spend some time together.”


The Doors

When tasked with changing a song lyric, the Doors didn’t oblige Sullivan like the Rolling Stones did. Sullivan asked that Jim Morrison change the line, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” in “Light My Fire,” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better,” but Morrison wasn’t having it. When he  sang the original line anyway, Sullivan told them they weren’t welcome back to the show. Morrison replied, “Hey, man, so what? We just did The Ed Sullivan Show.”


Jackie Mason

When Jackie Mason was set to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, a portion of the show was pre-empted by a broadcast from President Lyndon Johnson, leading Mason’s routine to be cut short. While Mason performed, Sullivan stood sidestage and gestured for him to finish. Mason didn’t stop telling jokes and instead mimicked Sullivan’s hand gestures. Some say Mason gave Sullivan the finger; some say he didn’t. Sullivan didn’t find the routine funny regardless and banned Mason from the show for two years.


Bob Dylan

Rather than being banned from The Ed Sullivan Show, Bob Dylan chose not to perform of his own volition. According to Time, Dylan was to perform on May 12, 1963, and cancelled at the last minute after the dress rehearsal, after Sullivan asked him to perform a different song or change the lyrics to “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” at the request of a CBS executive. The exec didn’t approve of the satirical song about the fear of communism and wanted to change the verse: “Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian sp y/ Lincoln, Jefferson, and that Roosevelt guy / To my knowledge there’s just one man that’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.”

Image: Bob Dylan (1962), Columbia Records


Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley wanted to sing his namesake song, "Bo Diddley," on the air, but Sullivan asked him to play "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford instead. Diddley decided to go along with his original plan once to the cameras started rolling, much to the dismay of Sullivan. He accused Diddley of "double-crossing" him and never invited him back to the show.

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