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June 5: Elvis and Uncle Milty

June 5, 2013
Elvis_Milton_Berle_Show_05Elvis Presley made his second appearance on Milton Berle's Tuesday night television show on this date in 1956. With a three-piece band, he slammed into Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," swiveled all over the stage, set girls in the audience to whooping, and made his national reputation. “Popular music has been sinking in this country for some years,” wrote Ben Gross in the New York Daily News. “Now it has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley. . . . Elvis, who rotates his pelvis, was appalling musically . . . He gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.” NBC received thousands of angry letters and phone calls, but the negative publicity only boosted the singer's popularity. By the end of the year, he had sold 10 million singles and 800,000 albums in only twelve months, and was appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show — which instructed its cameramen not to show him below the waist. To see Berle hamming it up with Elvis, look below. “I wanna ask you something, Elvis. If I did that thing the way you did it, do you think I could get all the girls?” "Well, it might not help you get girls. But at your age, it would keep the blood circulating.” “At my age! You make me feel like a used car.” —Milton Berle