Home / Entertainment / Rock and Roll TV Shows of the 1960s

Rock and Roll TV Shows of the 1960s

Shindig was the first and a first- a prime-time rock music show that live performances (the music and vocal tracks were actually recorded a day (or two) before the “live taping” and then a live “walk-through” during the afternoon taping; the actual show was performed before a live audience early that evening) by the top acts of the day.

The show premiered on ABC and ran from September 16
(Weds.), 1964 to Jan. 8, 1966.(The first episode featured Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, and The Righteous Brothers. Hosted by Los Angeles DJ Jimmy O’ Neill, Shindig was initially a half-hour; in Jan. 1965, it was expanded to a full hour, then by Fall ’65, split into two half-hour shows (Thursday and Saturday nights).

Most of the shows were in black and white. The house band was The Shin-diggers, later and better known as The Shindogs. And there was a dance troupe (the Shindig or Shindigger dancers; accounts vary.) of 10 (or so) girls that accompanied the musical acts (Actress Teri Garr was one of the dancers! Probably the best-known one was Carol Shelyne, with the large glasses (She didn’t actually need them.)

The assistant choreographer, Antonia Basilotta, later and better known as Toni Basil, went on to become a top dance/choreographer (Besides other shows and films, she was also in the dance group, The Lockers with Fred Berry-Rerun from ”What’s Happening” and a one-hit wonder with ”Mickey” (Yes, the cheerleader video!)

Program regulars also included future ”Here Comes The Brides” star and teen idol Bobby Sherman, The Blossoms ( female back-up trio featuring Darlene Love), The Wellingtons (male back-up; also The Elgibles, who often appeared in place of the Wellingtons), and Billy Preston. Semi-regulars were The Righteous Brothers, Glen Campbell, and Donna Loren.

Shindig was created and produced by Jack Good, who had previously produced rock ‘n’ roll TV shows in his native England. In 1962, a Good-produced pilot for U.S. television called ”Young America Swings The World” eventually became the nucleus of Shindig.

Just about every major British band was on the show (Many were transmissions from London), including The Beatles.

Most episodes began with an opening song or medley performed by the Shindig guests and regulars. The medley consisted of short excerpts from current hits, classic rock ‘n’ roll songs, some gospel, country, and folk songs. For the finale, a different song was performed each week.

The last episode produced by Jack Good aired on June 30, 1965; beginning with the July 7, 1965 show, former Shindig director Dean Whitmore took over as producer.

And the show went through many changes in its second season, including the split into two half-hours over two days. Guest hosts were used in an effort to boost ratings (including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mickey Rooney, Carolyn Jones, Boris Karloff, Hedy Lamarr, and Ed Wynn!, among others.) from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, 1965. But to no avail; ratings continued to decline and in late Oct., Shindig’s cancellation was announced (and that’s the key word, for the show continued to air, the final segment on Jan. 8, 1966.)

Whitmore has often been blamed for the show’s decline; many said Shindig lost its pacing and style when he took over. But Whitmore didn’t stray too far from the original format (even the guest hosts usually sang one song and introduced a few of the other acts.)

Two factors that may have hurt Shindig was time-shifting by local affiliates; many moved the show to non-prime time hours. This was already being done during the first season, and became even more wide-spread during the second season.

And there was the “copy cat” factor; as a result of its initial success, a flood of rock and roll shows with go-go dancers followed.

In Sept. 1964, ”The Lloyd Thaxton Show” became nationally syndicated. In January 1965, ”Hullabaloo” debuted on NBC. A few months later, the syndicated ”Hollywood A Go-Go” and ”Shivaree” also debuted. In July 1965, ”Where The Action Is” made its bow. And there were countless local variations.

Upon Shindig’s cancellation announcement, the show’s format began to change. Some of the shows resembled the original series, others didn’t at all; there were programs that featured Louis Armstrong and George Maharis!

Shindig’s final show had sketches and songs saluting the new ABC shows, such as a tribute to ”Batman”, the series that replaced it. Featured performers were The Knickerbockers and Jackie DeShannon. (Accounts vary here, but The Gentrys were supposedly the last act to appear on the show.)

“My mother and I watched Shindig, Hullabaloo, and the other dance shows, for for some reason, I recall Hullabaloo and the others more clearly”, Pamela Foster recalled. “Mom thought Shindig had better music and dancers; I always thought Hullabaloo was more visually striking. I particularly remember the closing numbers, which was at ‘Hullabaloo A Go-Go’ and the David Winters Dancers. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a racially integrated dance troupe. There was Lada Edmund Jr., the lead dancer with the long flying hair, the cute Asian-looking or Filipino male dancer, Mabel Robinson, the pretty black dancer, the female dancer with the dark long hair, and the female dancer with the bouncy, swinging bob (Donna McKechnie, who went on to greater fame in ”A Chorus Line”.) Michael Bennett, also of ”A Chorus Line” was one of the dancers.

“There was a different host every week, like Sammy Davis Jr., Soupy Sales, Gary Lewis, and Michael Landon, among others. I also remember the ‘record wall’, one of the background settings. And there was the Top Pop Medley, in which the host and guest stars would sing snippets of the current hits of the time.”

Like Shindig, Hullabaloo only lasted a year and a half, debuting in January, 1965 to April 11, 1966.

The show started as a half-hour series, than as an hour show in the spring, than back again to a half-hour by the fall of ’65. On a few of the first hour shows, there was a British segment (in black and white), where Brian Epstein introduced new acts.

”Where The Action Is” was created and produced by Dick Clark and aired on ABC, debuting on June 28, 1965 through March 31, 1967. From June 28 through September 24, “Action” aired Monday-Friday from 2 pm.-2:30 pm. From Sept. 27, 1965 through Mar. 31, 1967, the show aired from Mon.-Fri. from 4:30 pm.-5:00 pm.

This show literally took viewers to the “action”, to various locations across the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Japan.

Frequent locales included Malibu Beach (site of many summer shows) and Bear Mountain Ski Resort, Bear Mountain, CA (site of many winter and holiday shows). “Action” was filmed in black and qhite. Program regulars included Steve Alaimo, Linda Scott, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Keith Allison, Tina Mason, and The Action Kids, the show’s dance troupe.

Pamela Foster remembered that “all the kids would rush home from school to catch it. It was and still is one of my all-time favorite programs.”

Jan and Dean and Dee Dee Sharp were featured on the first program. The last program was hosted by Dick Clark himself, who interviewed the cast. The regulars closed the program with ”The Secret Of My Success’.

There were many local versions of these three programs: ”Hollywood A Go-Go”, “Shivaree”-hosted by Clay Cole from New York, ”Shebang”-Casey Kasem was the host, ”Upbeat”-from Cleveland, Ohio, featuring Jeff Kutash and The Upbeat Dancers, among countless others.

“And there was ‘The Lloyd Thaxton Show’, recalled Foster. “I remember also watching this after school in Chicago; I thought it was a Chicago-based production (The show was based in Los Angeles and eventually went into national syndication. It became the highest rated musical program for the next 8 years!) I know there was comedy on it asd well as music, and the top pop, rock, and country acts of the day. Sometimes Thaxton would do a comedy lip-synch of Ian Whitcomb’s ‘You Turn Me On’.

My family later relocated, and we couldn’t get Thaxton in our new city. But we were able to pick up “Upbeat” and a local dance show, ‘Boots Bell’s Dance Party’, hosted by the area’s best-known and most flamboyant DJ. Bell was a hoot!”

“I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but it always looked like everyone was having fun. There was even a TIME magazine cover story, I believe, on ’65 rock ‘n’ roll called, ”The Big Beat”. The Supremes and Petula Clark were among the artists featured on the cover (I forgot the others!) I think that for anyone age 10 and up (and for the grown-ups who really liked the music), this was an enjoyable and integral part of your life then.”