Television – the Boob Tube

1960 Philco TV Ad
1960 Philco TV Ad

The Golden Age of Rock, coincidentally, approximates the Golden Age of Television. Both grew out of the postwar boom, Rock grew with the baby boomers and TV grew from wartime electronics technology.

By the 1960s, most homes had a TV set that operated from a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears. Electronics were tube operated, and even though the sets were big, the picture tubes were small. My kids don’t believe any of this, but in the early 60s, color sets (and color programming) were rare, the remote control hadn’t been invented yet, cable and VCRs were still many years away. To top it off, there were only 13 channels on the dial and TV owners considered themselves lucky if they received at least 3 networks with no more than a bit of snow (visual static).

Even so, we fell in love with our TVs and affectionately called them “Boob Tubes”. For the first time, a viewer could take in some of the top music acts without leaving their living rooms. Ed Sullivan brought us the blockbusters, including our first looks at Elvis and the Beatles. American Bandstand brought us a different act with every show, and variety shows such as The Smothers Brothers, Andy Williams, Hootenany, and Hullabaloo mixed music in with comedy.

Surprisingly, one of the earliest musical variety shows was Nat King Cole. His show, broadcast in the late 50s was the first time that a black man hosted a nationally televised show in the US. This was at the same time that Alan Freed was playing Rhythm and Blues music and calling it Rock and Roll to make it more acceptable to whites. Nat King Cole was a trail blazer for the mainstream acceptance of Rock music.