American Bandstand was the most popular of the live music shows. It started as a local program in Philadelphia where it was formerly called Bob Horn’s Bandstand from 1952 until July 1956. Bob Horn was the host until he was fired after a drunk driving conviction and Dick Clark took over.
The ABC network picked up the show in August 1957, changed the name to American Bandstand, and broadcast it nationally. At first, it was broadcast daily. Then, starting in 1963, it was aired weekly until 1989. During its 32-year run, American Bandstand was Rock music’s showcase of good behavior. The dancers were always clean and well dressed, there was no profanity, and performers were on their best behavior.
Shows typically featured the latest hit music, a performance by a popular musician or group, and ratings of songs from the audience. The biggest attraction was usually the dancers. Each program featured a studio full of teens doing the latest dances. These were all local kids and were unpaid, but they knew all of the latest dances and may have even invented a few on their own. American Bandstand is also noted as being probably the first of it’s kind to show blacks and whites on the same stage, and have mixed seating in the audience.
American Bandstand Introduces New Dances
Dance style was changing quickly during the early days of Bandstand. Chubby Checker’s hit “The Twist” introduced the concept of “dancing apart to the beat”, which led to scores of new dances. American Bandstand is where the teen world learned how to do the new steps.
Depending on time zone, the show aired late afternoon and before the prime time news and family shows began. The audience was mostly teen girls. Some watched for the fashions, gossip, or hairstyles, but it was the dances that made the next day’s gossip. Of course, it wasn’t all girls watching. Despite the semi-formal clothing, the program was as sexy as TV allowed at the time.
American Bandstand made Dick Clark a national star, but his ties to the music publishing business almost got him in trouble with the US Senate subcommittee investigating payola. A play on American Bandstand could give a new song an immediate boost, and it was noticed that songs from local companies which Clark had investments in were played more often than others. In the end, the Senate didn’t find any illegal activity from Dick Clark, but ABC forced him to sell his outside investments in music publishing.
Ed Sullivan and The Beatles all started in October 1963 when Ed Sullivan and his wife were in London where they were delayed at Heathrow Airport by the crowds greeting them on their return from Sweden. As the story goes, Sullivan took note of the interest that they drew, and later, met with Brian Epstein, their manager. The Ed Sullivan show was the top-rated variety show on US television and was known for presenting first looks at up-and-coming acts.
The rest is television history. Fifty thousand ticket requests came in for the 728 available seats, and on February 9, 1964 Nielsen estimated the audience at 73+ million viewers, something like 45% of the country. Everything stood still while America watched the Ed Sullivan and The Beatles.
The impact of the performance on American audiences was immediate and profound. The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked the beginning of the British Invasion, a period of time when British rock bands dominated the American music charts. The performance also served as a cultural touchstone for the baby boomer generation, who were coming of age during a time of great social and political change.
The Music Scene
The state of popular music in the early 1960s was largely dominated by the music of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and other crooners of the time. However, The Beatles and their unique brand of rock and roll quickly began to take the world by storm. The impact of Beatlemania on American culture was significant, with young people all over the country dressing like the band members and imitating their music. The cultural significance of The Ed Sullivan Show cannot be understated, as it was a hugely popular variety show that showcased some of the biggest names in entertainment at the time.
The Beatles’ Rise to Fame
The Beatles’ early years in Liverpool are well-documented, with the band playing countless gigs in local clubs and venues. They released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in 1962 and quickly followed it up with a string of hits, including “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You.” The band’s growing popularity in the UK and Europe eventually caught the attention of American audiences, leading to their eventual arrival in the United States.
The Beatles Arrive in America
The story of The Beatles’ arrival in America is the stuff of legend, with fans lining the streets and screaming at the sight of the band members. Their reception by American fans and the media was equally frenzied, with news outlets reporting on the band’s every move. The cultural significance of The Beatles’ American debut cannot be overstated, as it marked the beginning of their domination of the American music scene.
Booking The Beatles for The Ed Sullivan Show was a monumental task, with the band’s management negotiating a deal that would see them appear on three separate episodes of the show. The logistics of planning the performance were also significant, with the band rehearsing for weeks to ensure that their performance would be flawless. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the event were palpable, with fans and the media eagerly awaiting their appearance.
February 9, 1964
The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a historic moment in television and music history. The band played a set of five songs, including “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The impact of the performance on American audiences was immense, with millions tuning in to watch the show. The significance of The Beatles’ appearance in the context of the civil rights movement and other social issues of the time cannot be ignored, as their music and message resonated with young people all over the country.
Ed Sullivan and The Beatles Song List
The Beatles sang 5 songs: All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. From the very first note, girls in the audience were screaming while a closeup of John Lennon had carried a message “sorry girls, he’s married”.
Although the Beatles appeared on the show 8 more times, this was the only performance that was live in the studio.
The Beatles were on again for the next 2 weeks. For February 16, 1964, they broadcast a live performance from their hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. The Beatles played to a live audience during the afternoon at the hotel, then at 8 p.m., broadcast a live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show by satellite. The Beatles sang six songs; She Loves You, This Boy, All My Loving, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. On the following week, the performance was by a tape that was recorded when they were in the studio on the 9th. They played three songs, Twist and Shout, Please Please Me, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. During the performance, Ed Sullivan thanked The Beatles for “being four of the nicest youngsters”.
On September 9th, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan show with 60 million people watching, an amazing 82.6% of the audience and a record that hasn’t been beat to this day. Elvis performed 4 songs: Don’t be Cruel, Hound Dog, Reddy Teddy, and Love Me Tender, and was shown on the screen with the now famous “waist up” crop. It was a historic TV event and marks the unofficial start of The Golden Age of Rock.
Much has been written about the way Ed Sullivan controlled performers on his show. As a family variety show, his standards were conservative, even for the 50s. The idea of having an act that was already nicknamed “Elvis the Pelvis” led him to initially turn down Elvis’ offer to do the show for $5,000. By this time, though, Elvis had already scored 3 #1 hits, and eventually the deal was signed for $50,000 for 3 shows, an enormous amount for the time.
During the first segment, Elvis was photographed from the waist up only, avoiding shots of his hips and what was labeled as “suggestive movements”. Of course, this form of censorship only increased Elvis’ appeal and the reaction of the studio audience gave the home viewers a hint of what they were missing. It wasn’t until later that we saw Elvis on screen from head to toe.
As luck would have it, neither Ed Sullivan or Elvis were actually in the studio for the famous first appearance. Ed Sullivan was recuperating from an automobile accident and Charles Laughton filled in for him. Elvis was in Hollywood, filming his first movie, and performed from the CBS studio there. Even so, this event was so big, that it was included in the History Channel special “10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America”.
If the Woodstock Concert in August of 69 was the height of the concert scene, then the Altamont Festival in December of 69 was the bottom.
The Altamont Festival was planned as the final stop of the Rolling Stones Tour of America, although only Santana, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and the Flying Buritto Brothers were advertised. The Stones appearance was supposed to be kept secret to prevent unmanageable crowds. Originally scheduled for Golden Gate Park, they were unable to obtain the necessary permits, and the event was moved to Sears Point Raceway. Then, after a breakdown in contract negotiations and just a day before it’s start, the festival was moved to the Altamont Raceway.
In the meantime, Mick Jagger announced at a press conference that the Rolling Stones would make a surprise appearance. It is speculated that this was done to increase attendance for the filming of a documentary, and it did just that. An estimated 300,000 attended the free concert and a bunch of problems arose. There weren’t enough bathrooms or medical help, the sound system wasn’t sufficient, and the stage wasn’t high enough for security or for anyone to see.
Hell’s Angels Security
On top of all, the Rolling Stones manager had hired the Hell’s Angels for security. The result was predictable, fights broke out right from the start. The Angels became more violent as the day went on, probably because they were consuming as much beer and drugs as the rest of the crowd. One of the Angels motorcycles was knocked over, and they became even more belligerent,
The fighting resulted in Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane being knocked unconscious (reportedly by one of the security guard Angels), and The Grateful Dead refused to play and left the area. This resulted in a span of several hours without entertainment until the Rolling Stones could start, which didn’t make the crowd any friendlier.
As the Stones were playing, a concert goer, Meredith Hunter scuffled with the security Hells Angels and reportedly drew a gun. His death was recorded by several film crews as he was stabbed and kicked to death. One person was arrested but was eventually acquitted when a court ruled that it was in self-defense. The Stones, unaware that Hunter’s beating was fatal, and maybe also in fear of what would happen if they left early, kept on playing. Three others also died at the Altamont concert. Two people were run over in their sleeping bags, and one person drowned.
The Altamont Festival turned out to be one of the most violent times in Rock History, The Grateful Dead went on to write half a dozen songs about it, and several documentaries were released.
-[Jeanne Rose] Altamont was a very very– it was very exciting to go to the beginning of, it was very interesting, it was in– at Altamont, it was cold. [sighs] When we drove there, we had this funny car and people recognized me at the time, which is interesting, and we drove to the top of this hill and to get to the stage, we had to drive down through thousands of people to get to where we were parked.
And people, the motorcycle guys, once they knew who I was they moved the crowd aside. To– and we drove this vehicle down this hill through this entire crowd. I had my hand out the window because it was hot, it was afternoon ish, and [laughs] People would drop drugs into my hand. Well, I was not gonna take strange drugs, you know that’s the rule, don’t do that.
And I’d leave the hand out there and the next person would take that and put something else in there, so it was– that was interesting and the concert started out very well. And we were in a flatbed truck sort of behind the stage so we had a high view of what was going on from sort of a high part behind the stage.
So we saw all of the things that happened and I personally know, I personally feel that there would have been no violence or less violence if the Rolling Stones had started their concert on time. But they, but by the time they decided to you know, walk on the stage, people were crazy. They’d been waiting and waiting.
The Jefferson Airplane had played and there was some sort of violence with them. And– Then another hour, a long time, passed very, very long time before the Rolling Stones came on stage. And by the time they came on stage, people were mad with being high and stupid and crazy and cold and– [coughs] excuse me– and crowded [coughs] and– that was it.
So the concert started out on a really nice high note and ended out– ended on a really low note and that was kind of the end of rock and roll, really. The kind of rock and roll where we had access to the musicians and could talk to them and then they became just too fearful and famous or maybe they weren’t fearful, just too famous.
I don’t know, but to me that was the end of it, the end of- end of 1969.
The Monterey Pop Festival, officially known as the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, ran from June 16 to June 18, 1967. It was the first major rock festival in the world and became the model for future festivals.
The Monterey Pop Festival was held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey on June 16 to June 18, 1967. It was the kickoff to the summer season of the Summer of Love. Big pop festivals were new and each was an unpredictable adventure. This one turned out great.
The festival was planned by producer Lou Adler, John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, producer Alan Pariser, and publicist Derek Taylor. The festival board also included members of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
With the exception of Ravi Shankar, the artists all performed for free, and all revenue is donated to charity (live recordings are still generating royalties). Attendance was over 200,000 and Monterey Pop is generally regarded as the model used for planning Woodstock 2 years later.
The Monterey Pop Festival included several groundbreaking performances. It was the first US appearances for Jimi Hendrix who was booked on the insistence of board member Paul McCartney, and The Who, and was the first major public performance for Janis Joplin and Otis Redding.
Monterey Pop Festival Performers
The schedule of performers included most of the top acts of the time, but there were 2 big acts that were noticeably absent. Even though they were among the organizers, The Beach Boys had to cancel because of problems with Brian Wilson’s draft status, and Donovan couldn’t get a visa due to drug problems.
Simon and Garfunkel
Big Brother & The Holding Company
Country Joe and The Fish
The Butterfield Blues Band
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Steve Miller Band
The Electric Flag
Booker T and The MG’s
The Blues Project
Big Brother & The Holding Co
The Group With No Name
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Mamas & The Papas
Monterey Pop: The Documentary
Here’s a great documentary video:
– Just like I’ve heard a lot of them, but all at the same time, it’s just gonna be too much. The vibrations are just gonna be flowing everywhere. (“If You’re Going to San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie) The performances that came out of Monterey that really changed careers, but also were so influential they actually changed kind of popular music culture in the late 1960’s over the course of that weekend, would have to have been Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Jimi Hendrix.
Those are also the sort of three most generously recorded performances in the film itself and in the case of both the Otis Redding set and the Hendrix set, by that point of the weekend, it was later in the weekend, Pennebaker was recording entire sets. So those two sets exist in their entirety. What is amazing about the Janis Joplin performance and if you watch that, watch very closely, the way that Pennebaker is cutting between the performance and the reaction of the audience and there’s one amazing shot of Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, watching Janis Joplin perform and she’s slack-jawed.
She can’t believe what she is watching and the only word and you don’t have to hear it, I can’t remember if we do or not, but you can certainly see it, is she says, “Wow!” over Joplin’s performance. – [Otis] Am I right? – The interesting thing about Otis Redding was, Otis Redding was a, more or less, pretty classical soul belter for the time, an enormously gifted one, but the kind of music he was playing was certainly, would seem to be, inconsistent with a lot of the more kinda psychedelic, or pop, or rock music, largely white, that was being performed over the context of the weekend.
So what he brought to it was a vocal performance that was absolutely astounding. (“You Were Tired” by Otis Redding) ♪ You were tired ♪ – But also, it was an indication of the extent to which there seemed to be, at certain points, an attempt to kind of integrate American popular music and it’s a form of integration that unfortunately, by the time a few years later, was much less obvious and you were much less likely to see it in sort of stadium shows.
(audience applauding) But at this point in time, it’s part of the optimism. It is a great performance and of course, Hendrix. Hendrix, what can you say? I mean, Hendrix at Monterey was already a star in England because he’d given up, not getting much of a response for his work in the United States, he’d gone to England.
In England the country went crazy for Jimi Hendrix, yet he was still a largely unknown quantity in America. When he was brought back and he performed at Monterey, describing the performance will never be up to actually just watching the performance, but I would say those three performances were not just great performances, but they were performances that actually changed the way that popular music was being thought about in the United States in the late 1960’s.
American Bandstand was the most popular of the live music shows. It started as a local program in Philadelphia where it was originally called Bob Horn’s Bandstand. From 1952 until July 1956, Bob Horn was the host until he was fired after a drunk driving conviction and Dick Clark took over.
The ABC network picked up the show in August 1957, changed the name to American Bandstand, and broadcast it nationally. At first, it was bradcast daily, then starting in 1963 it was aired weekly until 1989. During it’s 32 year run, American Bandstand was Rock music’s showcase of good behavior. The dancers were always clean and well dressed, there was no profanity, and performers were on their best behavior.
Shows typically featured the latest hit music, a performance by a popular musician or group, and ratings of songs from the audience, but the biggest attraction was usually the dancers. Each program featured a studio full of teens doing the latest dances. These were all local kids and were unpaid, but they knew all of the latest dances and may have even invented a few on their own. American Bandstand is also noted as being probably the first of it’s kind to show blacks and whites on the same stage, and have mixed seating in the audience.
American Bandstand made Dick Clark a national star but his ties to the music publishing business almost got him in trouble with the US Senate subcommittee investigating payola. A play on American Bandstand could give a new song an immediate boost, and it was noticed that songs from local companies which Clark had investments in were played more often than others. In the end, the Senate didn’t find any illegal activity from Dick Clark, but ABC forced him to sell his outside investments in music publishing.
The Newport Folk Festival started in 1959 as a spinoff of the Newport Jazz Festival, a long running fixture at Newport Rhode Island. There are 4 stages at Fort Adams State Park with the seating area ovelooking the water and Jamestown Bridge. It’s a beautiful place for a concert.
The Festival has a history of introducing new artists and launching careers. Bob Gibson introduced then-unknown Joan Baez in 1959. Baez in turn introduced then-unknown Bob Dylan at the 1963 festival. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash (who later introduced Kris Kristofferson in 1969), and many others also got their first big exposure at Newport.
It was the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that will be remembered as the day of change or maybe the beginning of the end for Folk Music. Bob Dylan was by then the one of the biggest folk stars and a Festival headliner. On July 25th Bob Dylan performed 3 of his hit traditional folk songs with acoustic instruments. Then he strapped on a Fender Stratocaster and ripped through a high energy set of electric amplified rock accompanied by Mike Bloomfield and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Dylan played 3 electric numbers, “Maggie’s Farm”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “Phantom Engineer”. The folk crowd was shocked and the boos may have outnumbered the cheers, but all together they were reported to be louder than the sound of the electric guitars. Dylan left the stage for a while and later came back to perform a few more acoustic numbers.
It was later debated whether the boos were from the shock of electric at the traditional acoustic festival, or that the quality of the electric sound was lousy. Others believe that it was because Dylan was held to a tight time allotment and they wanted more.
Whatever the reason, it was a watershed moment in the evolution of rock. Dylan got a similar reaction at his next concert at at Forest Hills Stadium. The crowd was split, half loved it, half wanted the old Bob Dylan back. They weren’t going to get him back.
As a side note, in 2005 The Pixies, a heavy duty alternative rock band best known for punk rock, played an acoustic set at Newport. Sort of like a reverse Dylan.
The Newport Folk Festival is still running. The format has changed a few times, but every summer, the world’s greatest folk artists meet, play, introduce new artistst and show off new works at Newport.
It’s always tough nailing down exactly when a culture was born, but for Rock and Roll, the date was March 21, 1952. That was the date of the Moondog Coronation Ball, generally regarded as the birthday of Rock and Roll.
This music style wasn’t new, it had been popular in the black community for years where it was known as Rhythm and Blues. The new part was Alan Freed who had recently popularized the term “Rock and Roll” on his radio show. A local promoter named Lew Pratt signed Freed on to publicize the event.
Freed’s radio show was called Moondog’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party, and he brought along his on-air persona “Moondog”. The coronation turned out to be for him as the Moondog Coronation Ball earned him the title “King” of Rock and Roll. It was a great mix, using Freed’s radio station and sponsors for promotion, they soon sold out the first printing of 7,000 tickets. Check out the price…the best tickets sold for $1.75. The concert was booked in the Cleveland arena which was thought to have plenty of room, but after the first batch of 7,000, another 2,000 were printed and sold out immediately. Apparently, a counterfeiter was also printing tickets, and the end result was a lot more people waiting to get in than seats were available.
As the starting time approached, lines formed around the block and the arena was packed. It was a mixed audience, about 2/3 white and 1/3 black, and in the 50s, a mixed audience was highly unusual. Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams took the stage, and almost immediately the first fight broke out…the first Rock and Roll concert was shut down by the Fire Marshals after only one song. The Dominoes, Tiny Grimes, the Rockin’ Highlanders, Danny Cobb and Varietta Dillard were left backstage and never performed.
On the day after the Moondog Coronation Ball, Freed went on the air to apologize to his fans. He expressed concern that he was going to be arrested and emphasized that he was only a hired MC and not the promoter of the show. Listeners were urged to call in with their support, which must have been successful because his station increased his airtime.
I didn’t make it to Woodstock, so when Powder Ridge came along just a short distance from my home, I didn’t want to miss it. The 1970 Powder Ridge Rock Festival was scheduled to be held July 30 through August 2, at the Powder Ridge Ski Resort in Middlefield, Connecticut. 30,000 people showed up, some of them even remember being there, but there was very little entertainment, no food, and no bathrooms. There were, though, plenty of drug dealers.
Tickets were sold by mail for $20 each and the schedule looked great:
Day 1: Eric Burdon & War, Sly and the Family Stone, Delaney & Bonnie, Fleetwood Mac, Melanie, Mountain, J.F. Murphy and Free Flowing Salt, Allan Nichols, James Taylor
Day 2: Joe Cocker, Allman Brothers, Cactus, Little Richard, Van Morrison, Rhinoceros, Ten Wheel Drive, Jethro Tull, Tony Williams Lifetime, Zephyr
Day 3: Janis Joplin, Chuck Berry, Bloodrock, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Grand Funk Railroad, Richie Havens, John B. Sebastian, Spirit, Ten Years After
Local residents were concerned with the impact of the crowd on their small town and obtained an injunction against the festival just days before it began. When the ski resort owner tried to contact the promoters to tell of the injunction, they could not be found, so it looked like the event was never going to happen anyway.
It was a disappointment (I was one who never made it all of the way). Police posted warning signs on every highway leading to Middlefield saying: “Festival Prohibited, turn back”. Somewhere around 30,000 people showed up anyway, although most of the performing acts didn’t, with the exception of Melanie and a few local bands.
Here’s what was written in the Wikipedia about the festival scene:
Drugs were openly sold and commonly consumed at the festival. The famed rock doctor William Abruzzi (also at Woodstock) was there to treat bad LSD trips, and said there were more bad trips at Powder Ridge per capita than at any other music festival he’d ever worked. He attributed some of the problems to the barrels of “electric water” that were available for free public consumption; people were invited to drop donations of drugs into these barrels, creating drug cocktails of unknown strength and composition.
The concert, or non-concert, received extensive coverage from the New York Times. The promoters originally promised to reschedule at a different location, but it never happened.
Shindig, Hootenany, and Hullabaloo were early TV rock music programs. Hootenany was first to air on ABC from April 1963 to September 1964. It was a variety show format and featured mostly folk music type acts. Early 1963 shows were 30 minutes, expanding to 60 minutes when the new season started in the Fall.
Hootenany was a big hit and by 1964 it was ABC’s second most popular program. In the TV industry, that’s a sure sign that there will be spin offs and copycats, and there were. Hootenany magazine and ABC-TV Hootenany were soon on store shelves.
As a side note, Hootenany ran into some controversy when it was rumored that they blacklisted Pete Seager and his group The Weavers. At the time, Seaver Seager had been convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee (which was later overturned). This was the same committee that subpoenaed Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies in 1967 and 68.
Hootenany taped many of their episodes at college and university campuses. Frequent guests included The Journeymen, The Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, The Brothers Four, Ian & Sylvia, The Big 3, Hoyt Axton, Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, The Tarriers, Bud & Travis, and the Smothers Brothers.
Shindig was next. As the folk music scene faded out, Shindig was brought in as a replacement in 1964. Shindig was more rock oriented. Popular repeat performers included Lesley Gore, Bo Diddley, Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys, James Brown and The Ronettes. There were several shows at the beginning of the British Invasion taped in Britain that included The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
House band and performers included many artists that went on to be stars on their own. Shin-digger dance troupe regulars included Teri Garr and Toni Basil. The house band Shindogs included later to be famous Glen Campbell, Billy Preston, James Burton, Delaney Bramlett, Larry Knechtel, Leon Russell , and Glen D. Hardin. Regular vocalists also included some young talent: Donna Loren, Jackie DeShannon and Bobby Sherman. Darlene Love was one of the back up singers.
Next on TV was Hullabaloo, a NBC musical variety on in prime time. It had a bigger budget and more polished look. There was a different host every week, usually a top name artist, singing a couple of their own songs and acting as MC for the show.
Hullabaloo was a broadcast in color for those lucky few that had color TVs in the 60s, but most of the surviving footage is in Black and White. Many of the Hullabaloo and Shindig shows are still available on DVD and some streaming services.