Elvis first appeared on national TV in January 1956, on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show. Despite popular belief, Ed Sullivan did not have the privilege of introducing Elvis to the nation until his CBS-TV variety show that same year.
With low ratings, especially in the south, the Dorsey brothers knew they had to take action. They wanted to try something different, so they booked Elvis Presley, a 21-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee who was virtually unknown at the time.
There wasn’t a big studio audience on the night of January 28th, 1956, when the future King was relatively unknown across the United States and there was heavy rain outside. Nevertheless, the performance began.
Bill Randle, who was given the honor of introducing Elvis to the nation for the first time, was introduced to the audience by Tommy Dorsey. He went on to say, “We’d like to take this opportunity to introduce to you a young fellow who, like many performers, Johnnie Ray among them, came out of nowhere to become an overnight big star.” For the first time, we came across this young man when we were making a film short. We predict he will create a moment in television history for you tonight. Let me introduce you to Elvis Presley.
Despite Randle’s predictions, the young man did increase interest in Stage Shows and made television history. A lot of people in the audience didn’t know what to make of Elvis’s appearance, and they thought the Dorsey brothers had made a mistake by inviting him to perform. To show them otherwise, Elvis would go on to become a phenomenon unlike any other, proving that the Stage Show was merely a launch pad.
On the other hand, about a year and a half before his first national TV appearance, Elvis made the only commercial endorsement of his life, for Southern Maid Donuts.
In 1937, Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Hargrove opened the first Southern Maid Donuts shop. Due to the business’s rapid success, many more Southern Maid Donuts outlets followed. As it is now, when Southern Maid is sold in more than a hundred locations across the South and Southwest, every member of the family was instrumental in the company’s early stages.
In 1941, Bruce Jones of Shreveport, Louisiana, opened a franchise of Southern Maid Donuts after being introduced to the company by Mr. Hargrove. Things were humming along nicely, and they picked up steam after the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Louisiana aired the first Louisiana Hayride, a country music show, in 1948.