10/11/1975 “SAT NIGHT LIVE! First show.” | Jim Henson's Red Book

The debut of Saturday Night Live was on October 11, 1975. I am sure at the time NBC would have no idea what they were starting- that 45 years and nearly 900 shows later it would still be going in 2020. The show began in a way because of the King Of Late Night- Johnny Carson. NBC ran re-runs – The Best Of Carson on Saturday and Sunday night and in 1974 Carson asked for that to end. Fearing that continuing to run The Best Of Carson might tick off Johnny and cause him to defect to another network-the network called in Dick Ebersol and told him to develop a 90 minute late-night variety show. Ebersol’s first act was to bring in Lorne Michaels as producer.

The show at first was called NBC’s Saturday Night Live because over at ABC had a show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. The first episode was hosted by the great comedian George Carlin. The cast for Season 1- The Not Ready For Prime Time Players-included Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner. The show would feature musical guests each week and for the debut show Billy Preston performed “Nothing From Nothing”and “Fancy Lady”- and Janis Ian did her hit “At Seventeen” and “In The Winter.” Also on the show the comedic genius Andy Kaufman appeared playing the Mighty Mouse theme on a record player.

Over the years Saturday Night Live has launched a number of careers- in year 1 the cast member that got the most attention was Chevy Chase and he left after the first season and went on to a successful movie career.

The first season of Saturday Night Live had 24 episodes and had a 6.4 rating. The ratings would sky rocket in the late 70’s and early 80’s-peaking at 13.5 in the 5th season 1979-80. The first five seasons have been released on DVD. I didn’t see the first episode as it happened- but caught on to the show a few episodes in and it was one television show that I had to see every week- until the mid-80’s. It’s been years since I’ve watched it. To me it quit being funny.


  1. They took chances with their comedy and with their musical selection. I mean where else would we see Leon Redbone, Kinky Friedman, and The Band on television? Plus Lorne was picky about who he let host the show for the most part.
    Now if you are not in the top 10 you are not a musical guest.

    • Great point they did give exposure to a lot of artists- who needed the exposure. I bet an appearance on SNL in the late 70’s gave a boost in record sales.

    • It had to…Steve Martin has said his popularity soared because of it. He said everytime he was on his audience would double for the next show.

    • I have the DVD’s on the seasons that are out- and especially in season 1- music was featured more. In that first episode 2 artists each doing 2 songs.

    • I have them also…love them. I was shocked when they were released. I guess he was trying to still determine the format of the show….but you are right. It’s a great place to look up music. I was looking through it earlier…I forgot Bill Withers was on there….I believe in the 1st season.

    • It seemed to me that they wanted the show to be one which gave exposure to artists that needed it not just going for big time artists.

    • Including the cast yes. Now only top tier stars get in and there is no risk taking. Even when skits bombed…and they did at times…they were at least reaching for something different.
      Same with the musicians of course. I enjoyed Leon Redbone and other different ones they had.

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