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When Elvis Presley appeared on The Steve Allen Show, July 1, 1956, he didn't perform with his usual gyrations and pelvic moves, which often stirred up a storm of controversy. But the young country rock 'n' roller from Memphis still managed to cause a fuss.
It started when host Steve Allen came up with a novel way of presenting Elvis to the TV audience. "We worked him into the comedy fabric of the program," Allen recalled in his book Hi-Ho, Steverino!
Allen asked Elvis to sing the new song "Hound Dog," which Elvis would record the next day, in upscale, formal attire, providing a comical contrast to the raucous, rockabilly number. "For added laughs," Allen continued, "I had him sing it to a sad-faced basset hound that sat on a low column and wore a little top hat."
Elvis would later say that the entire skit was done entirely against his wishes. Friends and fellow musicians remembered that Elvis was still fuming when he went into the studio the next day, inspiring the extra edge in his voice when he recorded "Hound Dog." Allen insisted, however, that "Elvis had a terrific time with us" and willingly participated in the wacky sketch.
But Elvis' fans were not amused by the Allen performance. The following week, several teens lined up outside the NBC studio in New York to protest the show, shouting that they had wanted to see the "real" Elvis.
One thing was for certain, though: Elvis' guest spot boosted Allen to the top of the night's ratings, beating out his rival, The Ed Sullivan Show. Elvis would go on to make several more famous appearances with Sullivan during the early part of his career.