The first Melodifestivalen is held in Stockholm, Sweden.
With seven nations competing, the first Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland in May 1956. Sweden’s first contest was the third, in 1958. Without broadcasting a selection, Sveriges Radio chose to send Alice Babs to the contest in Hilversum. The song selected was “Samma stjärna lyser för oss två”, later renamed “Lilla stjärna”. It finished fourth at Eurovision on 12 March 1958.
The first Melodifestival, incorporated into the Säg det med musik radio series, took place on 29 January 1959 at Cirkus in Stockholm; eight songs participated. Four “expert” juries in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, and Luleå decided the winner. The competition was won by Siw Malmkvist performing “Augustin”, but SR decided that the winning song—regardless of its original performer—would be performed by Brita Borg at Eurovision. This policy, of selecting the artist for Eurovision internally and having other artists perform potential Swedish entries at Melodifestivalen, was stopped in 1961. The competition became a stand-alone television programme in 1960, known as the Eurovisionschlagern, svensk final. In the event’s early years, it was broadcast to Norway and Denmark through the Nordvision network. The competition adopted its current name, Melodifestivalen, in 1967.
The Melodifestival has failed to be staged on three occasions. In 1964, the competition was cancelled due to an artist’s strike; Sweden did not send a song to Eurovision that year. Sweden was absent at Eurovision for a second time in 1970 because of a Nordic boycott of the voting system, which had led to a four-way tie for first place at the 1969 contest. After SR staged the 1975 contest in Stockholm, left-wing groups argued that Sweden should not spend money to win and host Eurovision again. This led to mass demonstrations against commercial music and the organisation of an anti-commercial Alternativfestivalen. Therefore, Sweden decided not to send a song to Eurovision 1976, but returned in 1977.