Andy Griffith and Elvis Presley did a cowboy comedy skit together in 1956

But first, Elvis had to sing to a dog.

Image: The Everett Collection

When Elvis Presley shook his hips and shimmied his knees on The Ed Sullivan Show, the whole of pop culture quaked. The King appeared on Sullivan three times between September 1956 and January 1957. The image of Elvis strumming his guitar and standing on the points of his white shoes is burned into our memories.

And it's a good thing, too. Because that was not his first time on television. No, in the summer of '56, Elvis appeared on The Steve Allen Show. Host and comedian Steve Allen was a jazz head, and didn't think much of these new-fangled rock 'n' roll sounds. So he dressed Elvis in a tux and made him sing "Hound Dog" to a Basset hound. It was rather humiliating. Fortunately, the Sullivan performances overshadowed if not erased that kooky performance in the public's consciousness.

Elvis took part in another skit and performance in that episode, one that would pair him with a television legend. Well, he wasn't a legend quite yet.

At the time, Andy Griffith was best known as a comedian of the stage.  The North Carolina native was starring in the Broadway show No Time for Sergeants, which would earn him a Tony nomination. Griffith had also scored an unlikely pop hit with "What It Was, Was Football," a spoken-word record that reached No. 9 on the charts in 1954.

So, it was a monologuist and Broadway star that Griffith appeared on The Steve Allen Show. Allen, in an attempt to poke fun at country and western music, another genre he did not think much of, cast Andy and Elvis in a skit called "Range Roundup." Imogene Coca and Allen himself completed the ensemble. The sketch poked fun at country shows such as Ozark Jubilee

In the bit, Allen introduces his pals "Rattlesnake Griffith" and "Tumbleweed Presley." Griffith proudly declares himself, "The dumbest cowboy you ever seen!" Elvis reveals the secrets to his trick riding: "I don't use no horse."

Andy and Elvis proceed to promote the sponsor of "Range Roundup," Tonto Bars, a candy bar that "comes out of the Old West and right into your old mouth." Elvis boats, "Dentists recommend Tonto Bars, because tests prove that Tonto Bars cause more cavities than any other candy bar."

That's the funniest moment of the skit, for sure. But what really tickles us is the idea that Andy and Elvis performed comedy together on television. Now that's a classic.

Watch it on YouTube.

Save with
Enjoy even more classic shows on-air! Find where to watch MeTV in Washington D.C.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

5 Comments

Post a comment
Click here to learn about MeTV's new commenting system!
stevepem 4 months ago
Shortly after Elvis was booked for his July 1st appearance on the Steve Allen Show, he made his controversial hip-shaking appearing on Milton Berle's TV show on June 5th. There have always been stories that Allen and/or NBC then tried to cancel the upcoming Elvis appearance on the Allen show, or used the live hound dog as a way to keep Elvis from doing anything controversial. In later interviews Steve Allen said none of that was true, that actually both he and the network were thrilled with all of the controversy and media attention that was going on. He also said in no way did they try and "tone him down". No explanation for where the hound dog idea came from, presumably it was just something funny that one of the writers thought of. Allen did admit that he was not very familiar with Elvis or his music at the time, but that he recognized that he had talent and that's why he booked him.
daDoctah 4 months ago
Unlike Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen walked the razor's edge between totally hip and completely out of touch. He may not have understood Elvis in '56, but later he had Frank Zappa on the show playing a bicycle as a musical instrument. And while there was a little silly banter, Steve seemed aware that something creatively interesting was happening there.
Rick daDoctah 4 months ago
Agreed. I don't think the article was quite fair. Both Griffith and Presley seem to be having genuine fun in the sketch, and it holds up. Maybe Allen didn't like country/western or rock n' roll, but he wasn't really judging it.
cperrynaples 4 months ago
Elvis actually was on TV several times before Steve Allen. He had his first national broadcast on Stage Show, a variety show hosted by bandleader brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey! The reason Elvis sang to a basset hound was because when he was on Milton Berle he swiveled his body in a manner that was considered obscene. Allen wanted to make fun of that incident, hence the real hound dog!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?