For those new to the world of Eurovision, it may be surprising to know that the contest began back in 1956. The contest has clearly come a long way since then, with visible changes throughout the decades. The first ever Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland at the Teatro Kursaal and was presented by Lohengrin Filipello.
The contest was based on the concept of the Sanremo Music Festival which had begun in Italy 5 years prior to the debut year of Eurovision, however unlike Sanremo, the competitors were from a range of nations. The first year saw 7 nations participate:
In its debut year, only soloists were allowed to enter which of course is no longer the case in the contemporary editions of the contest. Also for the first and only time, each of the competing nations sent two entries to the competition which could be performed by the same artist, or otherwise two separate soloists.
Another element of the contest which has been lost in more recent year is the use of the orchestra. In the debut year of the contest, a 24-musician orchestra was used, led by Fernando Paggi. Guest conductors were also present from Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Italy.
Considering it was the debut year of the contest, it would be naïve to think that it would be a seamless show. The controversy of the debut year came from the voting sequence, with two jury members from each competing nation travelling to the host city to cast their votes. Luxembourg was unable to send the jury, and as such the Swiss jury voted on behalf of Luxembourg. The problem was, the juries were allowed to vote for their own entries so with the Swiss jury voting on behalf of themselves and another nation, it could be concluded that the nation would have an advantage. With that said, it was unsurprising that Switzerland did in fact win the contest with Lys Assia and her song Refrain.
As for the full results, there is no official listing. It has been said that the second place finisher would have likely been Walter Andreas Schwarz who represented Germany. Unfortunately the video footage of the full contest no longer exists, with the only performance still in circulation being Lys Assia’s repeat performance.
Regardless, here are the competitors:
- Jetty Paerl – De vogels van Holland (Netherlands) 🇳🇱
- Lys Assia – Das Alte Karussell (Switzerland) 🇨🇭
- Fud Leclerc – Messieurs les noyés de la Seine (Belgium) 🇧🇪
- Walter Andreas Schwarz – Im Wartesaal zum Großen Glück (Germany) 🇩🇪
- Mathé Altéry – Le Temps Perdu (France) 🇫🇷
- Michèle Arnaud – Ne Crois Pas (Luxembourg) 🇱🇺
- Franca Raimondi – Aprite le finestre (Italy) 🇮🇹
- Corry Brokken – Voorgoed voorbij (Netherlands) 🇳🇱
- Lys Assia – Refrain (Switzerland) 🇨🇭
- Mony Marc – Le plus beau jour de ma vie (Belgium) 🇧🇪
- Freddy Quinn – So geht das jede Nacht (Germany) 🇩🇪
- Dany Dauberson – Il est là (France) 🇫🇷
- Michèle Arnaud – Les amants de minuit (Luxembourg) 🇱🇺
- Tonina Torrielli – Amami se vuoi (Italy) 🇮🇹
Watch the winning performance below: