You can make a strong argument that more than any other TV personality, Sullivan satisfied the Baby Boomers love of rock n' roll. Ironically, Sullivan wasn't a fan of rock, but he was a fan of the huge ratings rock artists created for the show, which was mandatory Sunday night viewing in a majority of American homes with TV sets.
Here is some background on 4 of the most historic rock appearances in the show's long-running history.
Elvis Presley Debuts on TV
Much of America tuned in for Elvis that February 1957 night, and presumably among those watching on TV was Sullivan himself. The host was still recovering from a car accident and so had to defer to a fill-in that night, actor Charles Laughton.
The Beatles Invasion of America Begins
Reportedly 73 million people tuned in to watch the American February 1964 debut of the Fab Four which represented over a third of the country. So many people were busy watching the show that an interesting rumor grew out of it that seemed relatively plausible. The rumor: Crime in the United States actually dropped by a significant margin during that appearance. The rumor is believed to stem from a Washington Post article in which the reporter said that in the entire time The Beatles were on the air, not a single hubcap was stolen across America. It gained more legs when that line was reprinted by Newsweek. Apparently Newsweek didn't realize the line was a joke meant to insinuate that Beatles fans were all hubcap-swiping hooligans. The Washington Post ended up having to print a retraction, sighting a set of hubcaps that were indeed stolen that night.
The band agreed to omit the word, but when they went on air did no such thing. Jim Morrison left the line in and when the show was over, a producer told The Doors they were never coming on The Ed Sullivan Show again. Replied Morrison, "We just did the Sullivan show."