Evolution of the Halftime Show:
Published: On this date
Super Bowl I Halftime Show
First Super Bowl Halftime Show during Super Bowl I

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of the most-watched television events of the year, garnering hundreds of millions of viewers in recent years. The production of the spectacles can cost around $13 million and exhibits some of today's most popular stars who give career-defining performances. However, the show did not start out like that, and has changed dramatically since its inauguration in Super Bowl I.

What was the first Halftime Show?
Mountain Painting

The first Super Bowl Halftime Show occurred during Super Bowl I, also known as the AFL–NFL World Championship Game, and occurred on January 15, 1967, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The show included performances by the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band and the Grambling State University Marching Band, along with the Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls. Additionally, the show featured jetpacks and an appearance by the Three Stooges. The following is an excerpt from Larry Fine's autobiography, Stroke of Luck, describing the experience.

"The knuckleheads in the audience went wild as The Stooges took to the field. We killed! After our classic 'Niagara Falls' and 'Ah-Ha! Ma-Ha!' routines we broke into a toe-tapping rendition of 'We're Coming to Your House.' During the third chorus, I noticed some thick-necked Bronco Nagurski talking to my [wife] Mabel in the stands. I shook my fist and shouted, 'I'm warning you! Stop trying to steal my wife, you horse thief.' The crowd thought it was part of the act, but I wasn't joking. Blinded by jealousy, I didn't realize the camera was on me when I flipped the pigskin-palooka the 'Italian salute.'"

Larry Fine later commented that the outburst cost The Stooges a $42.50 fine by CBS.

The Three Stooges When did the Halftime Show transition to using celebrity singers?

Marching bands were commonplace for NFL and AFL teams during the early years of professional football. The first five Super Bowl Halftime Shows showcased little more than an assortment of local collegiate and high school marching bands, including the Florida A&M University, Southeast Missouri State, Southern University, and Miami area High School marching bands. However, this first changed during the Halftime Show in Super Bowl IV, in 1972, which starred Carol Channing and Ella Fitzgerald, and was the first halftime show to premiere celebrity vocalists.

Carol Channing Ella Fitzgerald
Pictures of Carol Channing (left) and Ella Fitzgerald (right)

Around this same time, the halftime show slowely began to evolve into more of a production, rather than simply a fun transition into the final half of the game. Similarly, the shows also started to use titles as seen in Super Bowl X which showcased a halftime show titled "200 Years and Just a Baby: A Tribute to America's Bicentennial" by Up with People.

Up with People

Even so, it was not until the later 1990s that the halftime show transitioned into its modern incarnation. It would take stars like Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and New Kids on the Block to propel the halftime show into its modern day prominence.

What were the most-watched Halftime Shows?

The most tuned-in for Halftime Shows include Madonna in 2012 (114 million), Bruno Mars in 2014 (115.3 million), Coldplay in 2016 (115.5 million), and Lady Gaga in 2017 (117.5 million).

However, the Halftime Show reached preeminence during Super Bowl XLIX with Katy Perry's scintillating performance, which also featured Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot, and attracted 120.5 million viewers.

Katy Perry Halftime performance
Credit: Huntley Paton
List of all Halftime Show performances
Super Bowl Performance
I University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band & Grambling State University Marching Band, Al Hirt, Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls and The Three Stooges
II Grambling State University Marching Band
III "America Thanks" with the Florida A&M University band and Miami Area High School Bands
IV "Tribute to Mardi Gras" with Marguerite Piazza, Doc Severinsen, Al Hirt, Lionel Hampton and the Southern University Marching Band
V Southeast Missouri State Marching Band
VI "Salute to Louis Armstrong" with Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt and U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team
VII "Happiness Is" with the University of Michigan Marching Band, Woody Herman and Andy Williams
VIII "A Musical America" with the University of Texas Band
IX "Tribute to Duke Ellington" with Mercer Ellington and the Grambling State University Band
X "200 Years and Just a Baby: A Tribute to America's Bicentennial" with Up with People
XI "It's a Small World" with the Los Angeles Unified All-City Band
XII "From Paris to the Paris of America" with Tyler Apache Belles and Apache Band Pete Fountain and Al Hirt
XIII "Salute to the Caribbean" with Ken Hamilton and various Caribbean Bands
XIV "A Salute to the Big Band Era" with Up with People and the Grambling State University Marching Band
XV "A Mardi Gras Festival" with Helen O'Connell and the Southern University Marching Band
XVI "A Salute to the 60s and Motown" with Up with People
XVII "KaleidoSUPERscope" with the Los Angeles Super Drill Team
XVIII "Salute to the Superstars of the Silver Screen" with the University of Florida and Florida State Marching Bands
XIX "A World of Children's Dreams" with Tops In Blue
XX "Beat of the Future" with Up with People
XXI "Salute to Hollywood's 100th Anniversary" with George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Grambling State University and USC Marching Bands
XXII "Something Grand" with 88 grand pianos, the Rockettes, Chubby Checker and the combined San Diego State and USC Marching Bands
XXIII "Be Bop Bamboozled" with Elvis Presto
XXIV "Salute to New Orleans and 40th Anniversary of Peanuts," with trumpeter Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas and the Nicholls State University and Southern University Marching Bands
XXV "A Small World Tribute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl" performed by New Kids on the Block
XXVI "Winter Magic" with Gloria Estefan, the University of Minnesota Marching Band
XXVII "Heal the World" performed by Michael Jackson
XXVIII "Rockin' Country Sunday" with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, Wynonna and Naomi Judd
XXIX "Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye" with Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, Arturo Sandoval, the Miami Sound Machine
XXX "Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 Years of the Super Bowl" performed by Diana Ross
XXXI "Blues Brothers Bash" with the Blues Brothers (Dan Akroyd, John Goodman and James Belushi), James Brown and ZZ Top
XXXII "A Salute to Motown's 40th Anniversary" with Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Queen Latifah, Martha Reeves and the Grambling State University Marching Band
XXXIII "Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing" performed by Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
XXXIV "A Tapestry of Nations" with Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton
XXXV "The Kings of Rock and Pop" performed by Aerosmith, 'N'Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly
XXXVI "Tribute to Sept. 11" performed by U2
XXXVII Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting
XXXVIII Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, P. Diddy, Jessica Simpson, Nelly and Justin Timberlake along with the University of Houston and Texas Southern University Marching Bands
XIX Paul McCartney
XL The Rolling Stones
XLI Prince and the Florida A&M Marching Band
XLII Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
XLIII Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
XLIV The Who
XLV The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash
XLVI Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and Cee Lo Green
XLVII Beyonce and Destiny's Child
XLVIII Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers
XLIX Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott and the Arizona State University Marching Band
50 Coldplay, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson and the University of California Marching Band
LI Lady Gaga
LII Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids along with the University of Minnesota Marching Band
LIII Maroon 5 with Big Boi and Travis Scott
LIV Jennifer Lopez and Shakira
Work Cited
  1. Fine, L., & Carone, J. (1973). Stroke of luck. Hollywood, CA: Siena.
  2. List of Super Bowl halftime shows. (2020, March 24). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_halftime_shows
All images used are part of the Public Domain. No images were altered.