No one quite knew what to make of television when it first came out. The best ideas for programming were usually rehashes of the stage-variety vaudeville shows. There was even a term for that type of programming: “vaudio.” Ed Sullivan had been a fixture in Broadway and vaudeville circles for two decades by that time, and CBS producer Worthington Miner thought Sullivan would be perfect in bringing that much-needed cache to his network’s variety show The Toast of the Town.
On this day, June 20, in 1948 The Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan in the host spot, premiered on CBS.
The name only changed to the Ed Sullivan Show seven years later, but Sullivan was always in control, picking out guests with his inimitable eye for emerging talent (he brought in the up-and-coming Barbra Streisand, and young Elvis Presley, and was the very first to grant a completely unknown in the U.S. band, The Beatles, airtime). Over the show’s 23-year run, Sullivan introduced more than 10,000 performers.