Whitney Houston’s First TV Appearance Will Give You Chills

whitney houston's net worth
Whitney Houston's Net Worth. Whitney Houston talking to the audience before proceeding to perform "Saving All My Love for You" during the HBO-televised concert "Welcome Home Heroes with Whitney Houston" honoring the troops, who took part in Operation Desert Storm, their families, and military and government dignitaries. Photo by Lady Whistler on Wikimedia Commons.

When the name Whitney Houston is mentioned, powerhouse vocals of her hit songs such as “You Give Good Love” and “That’s What Friends Are For” most likely come to mind. For many, it may also be her famous cover of Dolly Parton’s hit song, “I Will Always Love You.” It’s no wonder she was deemed “The Voice.”

It’s a title that’s been well-earned, and when you watch footage of Whitney Houston’s first TV appearance, you’ll know it was all written in the stars.

Check out Whitney Houston’s legendary performance, and first TV appearance from June 23, 1983.

When Was Whitney’s First TV Appearance?

Whitney Houston’s first TV appearance was in 1983 on The Merv Griffin Show at the Lincoln Center in New York40 years ago this year. Many have deemed it “the night a star was born.”  

What was the First Song Whitney Houston Sang on TV?

When Whitney Houston made her television debut on The Merv Griffin Show, she stunned with her performance of “Home” from the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, as well as the 1978 film of the same name starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Even today it’s widely considered Whitney Houston’s best performance, perhaps only rivaled by her early nineties appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman when she sang seven notes in less than a second.

Famed record producer and Houston’s friend Clive Davis talked about how she sang the same song when she first auditioned for him a few weeks prior during an interview on CNN in December 2022.

“This beautiful, 19-year-old girl gets to the microphone, and as soon as she started singing that song, I was stunned. I knew at that audition that this was a once-in-a-lifetime singer.”

The two appeared together two weeks after that initial audition on Merv Griffin, and when it aired in June 1983, the world was officially introduced to Whitney Houston. 

Before Houston’s performance, Davis told Griffin: “You look for originality. … When you see them, when they have that spark of originality … you just know. I feel that little tingle up and down your spine, and you just know you’re in the presence of somebody special.”

To which Griffin responded: “That’s what I felt the other night when you took me to see Whitney Houston. My, my, my.”

Davis also noted during the interview that if the mantle has to pass from the likes of Lena Horn or Celine Dion to “somebody who is 19, who is elegant, who is sensuous, who is innocent, who has got an incredible range of talent, but guts and soul at the same time, it’ll be Whitney Houston. It’s her natural charm. You either got it, or you don’t have it. She’s got it.”

Related: Clive Davis Biography: The Story of a Powerful Star Maker

How Old Was Whitney Houston When She Sang “Home”?

Whitney Houston was a mere baby when she made her television debut. She was only 19 but meant business in a purple off-the-shoulder top and that three-octave vocal range to back it up.

She may have started meek and quiet, but within a few phrases, that voice we’d all grow to know and love shined bright and bold.

whitney houston

What Did Merv Griffin Say About Whitney Houston’s Performance?

Of all the accolades and comments that have come from that epic performance by Whitney Houston, the star of The Merv Griffin Show said it best. “Simply breathtaking. … You won’t forget that name – Whitney Houston.” Four decades later, we never have.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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