Gear Breakdown: The Rolling Stones’ First Ed Sullivan Appearance

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Though it wasn’t always this way, The Rolling Stones are synonymous with American culture. Despite being from the UK, this iconic group’s music, dance moves, and logo are all instantly recognizable in the United States and around the globe. The Stones entered the US music scene in 1964, an era now commonly referred to as the “British Invasion”, alongside groups like The Beatles and Hermans’ Hermits. 

At that time, The Ed Sullivan Show was the go-to program for up-and-coming artists performing their latest releases. For many, it was their first exposure to true fame and success. The Stones first appeared on Sullivan’s show on October 25, 1964, just a few months after gaining momentum in the United Kingdom. Knowing just how impactful this international exposure could be for their careers, when the show’s production team invited them to perform on October 7, 1964, it was a no-brainer. The Stones performed two songs that evening, both Chuck Berry covers, of “Around and Around” and “Time Is On My Side”. The group fought to be heard over the audience’s screams. In fact, the crowd was so enthusiastic that after the final performance of the evening, the conversation between Mick Jagger and Ed Sullivan was barely audible! It was a smashing success, and though some viewers had found their relaxed and casual style unsettling, the numbers spoke for themselves. Their following Fall tour sold over $1M in tickets. 

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Aside from their talent, The Rolling Stones have played some of the most legendary instruments. In this particular Ed Sullivan performance, Brian Jones can be seen playing his prototype Vox MK III “Teardrop” guitar in White. This guitar is known for having a Stratocaster bridge and tremolo block that was cut specifically to fit the thickness of the body. The “Teardrop” was his go-to throughout 1964 and 1965, along with his shaggy haircut!

Bill Wyman’s German-made Framus Star Bass can be seen regularly in the group’s early days of performing, so much so that it is often lovingly referred to as a “Stone-Bass”.

And last, but certainly not least, Keith Richards is seen playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with a Bigsby. Perhaps one of the most desired collectible instruments, the Les Paul had not yet become the holy grail it is today. Richards’ use of the “Burst” during this performance helped push these guitars into the forefront of desirability, where it has stayed for decades.

Though this is not Keith Richards’s 1959 “Burst”, this one is available at Well Strung Guitars!

This trio, along with drummer Charlie Watts, created the perfect background for frontman Mick Jagger. This perfect lineup catapulted them into American music royalty. In total, the group performed on The Ed Sullivan Show a total of six times, each appearance playing another massive hit with some of our favorite guitars and basses…but we’ll talk more about that later 😉