Last week’s blog featured music films. Now I want to focus on the small screen. These are the shows that showed me how to dance the jerk, that women could play the banjo, and gave me faith that mainstream music can be about people who could really sing and not just look good in tight pants.
Saturday mornings were reserved for perfecting my dance moves with that eternal teen Dick Clark. Because of this show, I would never embarrass myself at school dances. Or maybe I did and everyone was just polite about it.
I know I’m going to get crap for this but it’s a show that’s brought us some truly great singers like Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert. I wish desperate contestants would stop sobbing about music being their life but that’s why God invented DVRs.
Andy Griffith Show
It’s Andy’s fault that I’m a bluegrass fan. The Darlin’s – real life band The Dillards – were featured in many episodes. Andy played a pretty good guitar too.
Austin City Limits
One of the greatest live music shows. They skipped Elvis and featured awesome lesser-known artists like blues artist Susan Tedeschi:
Dolly Parton Show
Who doesn’t love Dolly? She sings the heck out of every song, writes killer songs and can play the banjo with glamour-length nails. Here she is with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt
Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert
It was worth waiting up past my bedtime on Saturdays. He featured all the greats – Kansas, Johnny Winter, The Police – and then some.
I’ll get rapped on the knuckles for this one too but I just can’t help myself. I fast forward through the syrupy ballads but I love the mash-ups and the dance numbers. I have to pinch myself when I see the gay plot lines. Who thought we’d see two swishy teenagers dancing around “their” living room singing a Christmas song? Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in 1980 anymore.
Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour
What can I say? I’m a sucker for shellacked hair and musical guests like Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Anne Murray and Johnny Cash.
I loved Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, the Unknown Comic and judges like Jaye P Morgan and Artie Johnson. Not all the acts were cringe worthy. Steve Martin played some mighty fine banjo on one show. One year the winner was a four woman band called The LA Lacers. They wore gym clothes (Get it?) and played some pretty good funk/pop:
I love me some Barbara, Louise and Irlene. Their harmonies were seamless and they certainly knew their way around a lot of instruments. Irlene was no Buddy Rich but she had great comedic timing. I loved the performances where they’d jump around, switching to several instruments in one performance. Barbara is a killer pedal steel player and she’s not too shabby on the banjo either. Here they are on “Dueling Banjos.” Who knew a xylophone was a bluegrass instrument?
Swoon. Say what you will about their cornball TV show, it was popular and included some great songs like “Daydream Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” Here they are with Bobby Sherman:
“It’s time to play the music …” This show still makes me laugh my ass off. They had great musical guests like Elton John, Kris Kristofferson and Julie Andrews. Here’s Animal in a drum contest with Buddy Rich. Animal killed it.
It’s my dream to master the tambourine this well:
Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger
This was a little known show from the late 60’s that featured folk, blues and country musicians like Brownie McGhee, the Stanley Brothers, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, and Johnny Cash. Here’s Pete with Elizabeth Cotton, doing her well-known “Freight Train”
The Sing Off
Comedy AND folk music? Where do I sign up? Here they are with Donovan and Peter Paul and Mary:
Sonny and Cher
Cher always had the upper hand and looked fabulous. Here’s rock band Fanny on a 1971 show. I had the pleasure of interviewing the members not long ago and they told me this segment was taped ahead of time, without an audience. They put rubber mats on the drums so they wouldn’t make too much noise so the rest of the band could hear the tracks well enough to lip sync.
Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour
Back when TV was all black and white, they offered a glimpse of some amazing talent including a seven year old Gladys Knight and Ann Margaret at sixteen. Here’s an eight year old Irene Cara:
Better than American Idol, it lost some steam toward the end but I love that there’s no age limit. While they had their share of beautiful young pop singers, they didn’t shy away from performers like older rocker Beverly McClellan. It’ll be interesting to see where this show goes.
So what did I miss? What was your favorite TV show? If I can admit to loving the Monkees, surely you can fess up too.
Thanks to my Facebook friends for their great suggestions.