When The Rolling Stones Debuted On The Ed Sullivan Show

‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ was the most important TV show for bands hoping to break America. The Rolling Stones played it for the first time on October 25, 1964.

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Rolling Stones On Ed Sullivan
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On Friday, October 23, 1964, The Rolling Stones were at London’s Heathrow Airport where they boarded a BOAC, Boeing 707, to fly to New York’s JFK Airport to begin what was to be their second US tour, including a coveted performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. When they arrived in America there were around 500 fans at the airport yelling, “We want the Stones.” It was all a bit different from when the band had arrived four months earlier on their first U.S. visit, when it had all been a bit low-key.

The band had, by this time, scored with two singles in the Billboard Top 30 and the week before their arrival “Time Is On My Side” had entered the US Top 100 at No.80. The day after they arrived, it climbed to No.65 and, by the time their tour was over, it had peaked at No.6.

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Following the obligatory interviews and an appearance on Ed Rudy’s radio show on WINS, they went to the Hotel Astor, overlooking Central Park. The band had the entire 7th Floor to themselves; later that evening they rehearsed for their appearance on Ed Sullivan.

On what was Bill Wyman’s 28th birthday, although his band biography said that he was twenty-three – age counted back then – they appeared on Murray The K’s radio show and later still taped six songs for Clay Cole’s TV show. The songs were mimed and, apart from their new singles, The Stones did “It’s All Over Now,” “Confessin’ The Blues,” “Around and Around,” “It’s All Over Now,” and “Tell Me.” (The latter two songs had been their previous two US singles.)

If all this wasn’t enough, the band then headed over to play two shows at the Academy Of Music on East 14th Street. The Stones were originally booked for just one performance at the 4,000 seat former Opera House, but such was the demand that a second was added. The first show was at 2pm with the second in the evening, and both times they opened with “Tell Me” and played six or seven numbers. Interestingly Charlie insisted on taking his own drum kit on this tour and Brian took his Peardrop Vox guitar; bands usually just rented gear, but this was the start of a very different kind of touring.

The following day, October 25 , they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and played “Around and Around,” and 20 minutes later their new single, “Time Is On My Side.” According to Mick, “Ed told us that it was the wildest, most enthusiastic audience he’d seen any artist get in the history of his show. We got a message from him a few days later, saying, ‘Received hundreds of letters from parents complaining about you, but thousands from teenagers saying how much they enjoyed your performance.'”

This was a view that seemed at odds with a reporter from a Canadian newspaper who wrote, “Ed Sullivan wrote to say that he agreed with my description of the Stones as a grubby lot, and to pledge that he won’t have them back. I am bucked up by Ed’s promise that ‘So help me, the untidy Stones will never again darken our portals.'”

Either way, the following day the Stones flew to the West Coast to play the second gig of their 12 city tour. And The Ed Sullivan Show did have them back…

Capturing the Stones at their live best, the On Air box set can be bought here.

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