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1970s TV Shows: What Did People Watch?
Television in the 1970s pushed what was considered acceptable to new limits. Many of the shows that came out challenged bigotry by making fun of it.
However, if you weren’t from the time, they just seem plain offensive at times.
Because of this offensiveness, the FCC received a record number of complaints from viewers. They pressured the government to do something. Not only did they ban cigarette ads (which is a good thing), but it also made new restrictions for violence.
Television entered a new age of candor. Its bold programming of ethnic humor and taboo “adult” themes ﬁnally began to mirror the increasing permissiveness of society, although it was only a pale reﬂection of the anything-goes spirit of movies.
The trend was pioneered by “All in the Family,” a situation-comedy series that spoofs bigotry and dares to be funny about such touchy topics as homosexuality, impotence, and menopause.
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The “Family” format was successfully adapted by three new comedies that were in the top 10. They were “Sanford and Son,” starring Redd Foxx as a bigoted black junkyard man “Maude,” with Beatrice Arthur as a phony radical chic liberal and “Bridget Loves Bernie,” which involved a “mixed” marriage and Jewish-Catholic in-laws.
One old favorite was scheduled to go off the air. Causing the broken hearts of many, NBC announced in November that “Bonanza” would go off the air in January, 1973.
Movies, aired in prime network time seven nights a week, were bigger than ever. Love Story, with most of its sexy footage intact, chalked up a 42.3 Nielsen rating on October 1st, making it (at the time) the highest-rated movie on TV ever.
Keep reading below for detail on each year, from 1970-1979, listing the most popular 1970s-era television shows.
In spite of changing attitudes toward the medium, by 1960 there was no question that television was the dominant mass medium in the United States. That year, average daily household radio usage had dropped to less than two hours TV viewing, on the other hand, had climbed to more than five hours per day and would continue to increase annually. Between 1960 and 1965, the average number of daily viewing hours went up 23 minutes per TV household, the biggest jump in any five-year period since 1950. At the movie theatres, weekly attendance plunged from 44 million in 1965 to 17.5 million by the end of the decade.
History of Football on Television
The NFL has seen changes throughout the last 55 yrs. Television is one of them. In the 1950's, football wasn't a popular sport. ABC, NBC, and CBS televised baseball on Saturday afternoons. It was a weekly ritual for baseball to have a game on television every week. In the NFL, there were maybe 1 game during the day and maybe 1 game at night. In 1956, CBS decided to carry the games to the local markets every Sunday.
NBC televised some games on Sunday afternoons during the 1950's, but not like what they did in the 1960's. NBC televised the 1958 NFL Championship game. Why is that game so special? Baltimore Colts beat the NY Giants at Yankee Stadium 23-17 in OT. It was the only time a championship game went into sudden death. Colts beat the Giants when Johnny Unitas handed the ball to Alan Ameche to score the winning touchdown.
In the 1960's AFL was organized. ABC televised the AFL games 1960-1964. CBS televised the NFL games 1960-1969. ABC televised the AFL Championship games 1960-1964. NBC then started televising the AFL games in 1965. In the first Super Bowl game which was on Jan 15, 1967, both CBS and NBC televised the game. It was the only time both networks televised the same game live. In 1964, CBS experimented "half and half" format. In that case, the first half was broadcasted by the home team announcers, the second half was broadcasted by the visitor team announcers. It didn't last long.
On November 25, 1965 which was Thanksgiving Day, CBS broadcasted their first NFL game in color. It was the Lions vs Colts. They would also broadcast in color that same season, the playoff game between the Colts vs Packers, then a week later, the NFL Championship game between the Browns vs Packers. In 1968, all games on CBS were televised in color. NBC followed suit with the AFL games.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to have a football game during a weeknight. CBS and NBC at first had no interest in doing so. In 1966 and 1967, CBS televised a Monday night game. NBC did the same for the AFL in 1968 and 1969. Monday night football as what it is today, started in 1970. ABC came back and took that course. Pete Rozelle asked NBC and CBS if they wanted to broadcast Monday night as a weekly thing. Both networks refused to accept the deal and kept their Sunday afternoon games. ABC decided to join the bid.
When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, CBS and NBC still carried the games. CBS would carry the NFC games while NBC carried the AFC games. That continued till 1993 season. In 1994, FOX took over the NFC games and left CBS out in the cold.
ESPN debuted in 1979, they were the first major cable network to broadcast all 4 sports. In 1987, ESPN began broadcasting Sunday night football. It was a big thing for ESPN, because they never broadcasted NFL football and hadn't televised baseball yet. They were still making a name for themselves. ESPN was also the one that changed the way the NFL Draft is perceived. With ESPN televising the draft, it made football more popular. In the early 90's, ESPN and TNT broadcasted Sunday night football. After ESPN got Major League Baseball in 1990, they had to broadcast baseball on Sunday nights during the first half of the NFL season. When regular season ended in baseball, ESPN then televised the NFL games till the season end.
In 1997, NBC was in their final year of their contract. They thought they would be broadcasting NFL for the next 10 yrs but it didn't happen. In 1998, CBS won the bid and televised the AFC games and left NBC out in the cold. CBS is still carrying the AFC games, after being without football for 5 years. FOX is still going strong for 18 years, and they seem like they will not be tamed. In 2005, ABC said goodbye to Monday Night Football. After being the first network to do so, they stopped televising football after the 2005 season. NBC came back and took over the Sunday night games in 2006. NBC won a bid to join the NFL after being out of football for 9 years. ESPN then took the Monday night games.
The NFL Network debuted in 2003. They first started televising NFL football on Thursday nights in 2006. The NFL Network televises 8 games during the season. They start on Thanksgiving Day, then continue till the season ends. Sometimes they televised the games on Saturdays. The NFL Network is on the Direct Satellite dish. Some people can get the NFL Network through their wireless cable provider. NFL Network also broadcasts preseason games.
The NFL has seen so many changes in television for the last 5 decades. They have made so much tv revenue money and has helped the NFL a lot. Without NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NFL Network the NFL wouldn't last this long like they did. Baseball for so many years was the most popular sport. When players like Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning stepped in the ring, it changed the dynamics in the game of football. Sure players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Jim Brown, and Otto Graham were great players back in the 50's – 60's, but not like the players of today.
Prime Time Television Line Up of 1965 - History
A look at television’s most groundbreaking sitcoms and series during the 1950s to present day.
The Civil Rights Movement was a fight for Blacks to gain equal rights under federal law. However, the movement was more than a platform for social justice it also broke barriers for Blacks in the entertainment and television industry. Although slavery had been abolished, discrimination and racism still existed especially in mainstream television. Blacks continued to portray servant roles in mainstream movies and perform racist caricatures. This week the Los Angeles Sentinel celebrates Black History month and Black culture by taking a look back at the evolution of African American television and sitcoms.
“Amos n’ Andy”: Tim Moore, top, playing the roguish but likeable Kingfish, Spencer Williams, lower left, as the gullible and romantically-involved Andy, and Alvin Childress as the homey, logic-minded Amos are back with the release of 20 episodes of “The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show” on videocassette. The move has contributed to a reassessment of the series and its place in popular culture. The 1951-53 CBS show was the target of determined protests by the NAACP and has been virtually invisible since it was pulled from syndication in 1966. (photo courtesy: AP Photo)
Amos ‘n’ Andy (1951-1953)
In 1951, the comedy show, “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” hit the screens. The show was centered on The Kingfish’s get rich schemes which usually involved tricking his brothers. Many viewers found that the show ignored real-life problems Blacks faced, portrayed an inaccurate idea of the Black middle class, and perpetuated demeaning stereotypes. On the other hand, some argued that the show provided jobs for Black actors and “normalized Black life.”
Shortly after the show aired, Nielsen ratings ranked “Amos ‘n’ Andy” number 13. Once the NAACP caught wind of ratings, the association initiated a boycott of its sponsor Blatz Beer. In April Blatz Beer withdrew its sponsorship. However, CBS, continued the syndication of the series more than four times. In fact, the show remained in syndication for 13 years after it was withdrawn from the network schedule.
“I Spy”: Comedian Bill Cosby alongside his co-star, Robert Culp. (courtesy photo)
I Spy (1965-1968)
Who remembers the show “I Spy” starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby? The 1960’s television series was about a pair of intelligence agents posing as a tennis pro and his coach going on secret missions around the world. Although “I Spy” was a significant breakdown of Black stereotypes it created an invisible standard for Black actors on primetime TV Blacks are acceptable as long as they are partnered with white co-stars.
“Roots”: LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte in a scene from 1977’s ‘Roots’ (photo courtesy: Time Magazine)
During the 1970s, viewers began to see an increase in the number of roles for Black actors. Additionally, Black middle class and political influence began to grow. In 1977, the seven part mini-series “Roots” became the first major TV drama to feature a primarily Black cast, and tackle the issue of racism and slavery in primetime television. “Roots” was also one of the first of its kind to capture racial oppressions, lynching, and much more in a historical setting. The series was shown in 85 percent of homes in the U.S. and is still used today in classrooms around the world to jumpstart the conversation on Black history and slavery.
“Soul Train”: Youth show off their dance moves on America’s favorite dance show “Soul Train” (photo courtesy: National Museum of African American Music)
Soul Train (1971-2006)
“Soul Train” dubbed America’s favorite dance show was the longest running and groundbreaking show of all time. The music-dance show, which ran for 35 years, featured performances from R&B, soul, pop and hip hop artists as well as funk, jazz, disco and gospel artists. The show’s host, Don Cornelius, who started his career as a beat cop turned DJ, wanted to create a show that would have Black teens dancing to the latest hits by Black musicians. His inspiration came after the Civil Rights Movement. Cornelius believed there was a need for “Black joy” on television and thus “Soul Train” was created. Cornelius’ push for the show to air on networks was a struggle. In fact, he received much rejection. Critics claimed the show would be “hard to sell to affiliates in the South.” Although Cornelius agreed to syndicate the show, stations around the country either didn’t air it or “buried the episodes” in late-night time slots. Despite many setbacks “Soul Train” became a hit!
The Jeffersons & Sanford and Son (1970s)
The “Jeffersons” (1975-1985) is known as one of the top sitcoms of all time. The show depicted a Black family living the “American Dream.” The show focused on characters George and Louise Jefferson who stumbled upon a large sum of money. The couple, along with their son Lionel, move from Queens to a deluxe, luxury apartment in Manhattan.
“Sanford and Son” (1972-1977) is a U.S. version of the British show, “Steptoe and Son.” The comedy show is widely known for being a model of a successful African American sitcom, and is about the misadventures of a “cantankerous junk dealer” and his frustrated son.
“Cosby Show”: The Cast of the “Cosby Show” (photo courtesy: Bio.com)
The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
Bill Cosby hit television screens in the early 1960s and has since become a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. In 1984, Cosby alongside Phylicia Rashad, Sabrina Lebeauf, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Keshia Knight Pulliam starred in the “Cosby Show.” The television series was one of the first of its kind to have a primarily Black cast. The show proved to naysayers that you can have an all-Black cast and become successful without leaning on the shoulders of white actors to bring in the ratings. The comedy show highlighted Black culture, history and touched on contemporary social issues.
“Different World”: The cast from “A Different World” (photo courtesy: HBCU Buzz)
A Different World (1987-1993)
The Cosby Show is known for playing a prominent role in the Black history of television however, the show’s spinoff, “A Different World,” was known as a game changer. The show, “A Different World,” was about a group of students at a historically Black university and their day-to-day challenges with surviving college. In the series, viewers see the “Cosby Show” character Denise Huxtable and her peers discuss serious social issues, romance, and friendship amongst many other relatable topics.
The evolution of Black actors in the entertainment and television industry was quite the sight to see. In fact, the list of Black groundbreaking shows is endless. Actors of color went from playing stereotypical Black-face characters and portraying servants to reintroducing Black culture and history to the world. Although there is room for improvement and continued change in Hollywood, we must stop to applaud all of the Black men, women, and networks who played a role in the change that we see in modern television shows like “Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Black-ish,” “Being Mary Jane,” “Empire,” “Insecure,” all of the Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey series and many more.
“Moondog Alan Freed” 1951-1965
1950s dance-concert scene with Alan Freed (far right) as DJ & emcee. CD cover for collection of 1950s songs from Freed’s radio years. Famous Grove Records / 1997-98. Click for CD.
The normal fare of the day was mostly a mixture of Big Band music, old standards, Frank Sinatra-style crooners, a few pop tunes, and some novelty songs. Among the No. 1 singles in 1950, for example, were: “I Can Dream, Can’t I,” by The Andrews Sisters “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” by Red Foley “Music! Music! Music!,” by Teresa Brewer “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole and “The Tennessee Waltz,” by Patti Page, among others.
But this style of music – which would remain a standard genre for years – was making room for a new sound and a new kind of music. And one place where the new music was being broadcast on the radio was in Cleveland, Ohio by a late-night disc jockey named Alan Freed.
Working at station WJW and using the on-air nickname “Moondog,” Freed in 1951 was playing a mixture of rhythm and blues (R&B) music — music performed and listened to by mostly African Americans music that was not widely played on mainstream radio. This was the music that would soon be known as “rock ’n roll” – a name that Freed would later be credited with advancing, if not inventing.
“Moondog” Alan Freed in 1951 at Cleveland radio station WJW where he called the new music he played, “rock ’n roll.”
R&B music was then also known as “race music” music that was played largely in the black community but rarely in white America. R&B music was racially-segregated, like much of American society then. But Alan Freed at WJW in Cleveland soon began using the music as a centerpiece of his broadcasts. Freed began his program of R&B music in July 1951 and he would later start calling it “rock ’n roll” music. He would also fashion a new kind of “DJ talk” during his broadcasts, ad-libbing and using part of the language he heard on the recordings he was offering.
“Yeah, daddy,” he would say, “let’s rock and roll!” He was 29 years old at the time. His late-night show was called “The Moondog House” and it soon became popular with the young kids – black and white – of Cleveland, Ohio and beyond. In fact, Alan Freed would be credited as one of the early prime movers of “rock ’n roll” music and the early rock concert business. And Cleveland, the town where the rock `n roll broadcasts began, would later be honored with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum as tribute to Freed. But when Freed came to Cleveland in the early 1950s, he had not come with the idea of broadcasting R& B music.
Early 1950s print ad for Alan Freed’s radio show on Cleveland’s WJW, sponsored by the Record Rendezvous.
By 1949 Freed had moved to WXEL-TV in Cleveland. There, Freed would later meet record store owner Leo Mintz in early 1951 who urged him to emcee a program of R&B music over WJW radio.
Mintz was the owner of the Record Rendezvous, one of Cleveland’s largest record stores, and he had noticed young white kids buying what had been considered exclusively black music a few years earlier.
Mintz believed that the R& B music was appealing to the white kids because of its beat, and that it could be danced to easily. He also proposed buying airtime on the station to help sponsor the R & B show. Record Rendevous would also appear in print ads promoting Freed’s shows, as illustrated in the ad above, which uses some radio lingo to pitch its ad slogans, such as: “He spins ‘em keed, he’s HEP, that Freed!”
Disc jockey Alan Freed shown in studio with 45 rpm recording in hand to play on his show.
Freed used an instrumental song, “Moondog Symphony,” as his show’s theme, a song by a New York street musician named Louis T. Hardin who also used the name “Moondog.” Others report that Freed used the song, “Blues for Moon Dog” as his radio theme, a song by Todd Rhodes.
On his show, Freed would later call the music he played, “rock `n roll,” a term found throughout R&B music. He wasn’t the first to use the term, but he became the first DJ to program R&B music for a much larger listening audience, helping to take the music business in a whole new direction.
WJW at the time was a 50,000-watt clear channel station powerful enough to reach a giant market throughout the Midwest. David Halberstam, describing Freed’s rise in his book The Fifties, wrote:
Poster advertising Alan Freed’s “Moondog Coronation Ball,” March 21st, 1952, Cleveland, Ohio.
“…His success was immediate. It was as if an entire generation of young white kids in that area had been waiting for someone to catch up with them. For Freed it was what he had been waiting for he seemed to come alive as a new hip personality. He was the Moondog, He kept the beat himself in his live chamber, adding to it by hitting on a Cleveland phone book. He became one of them, the kids, on their side as opposed to that of their parents, the first grown-up who understood them and what they wanted. By his choice of music alone, the Moondog has instantly earned their trust. Soon he was doing live rock shows. The response was remarkable. No one in the local music business had ever seen anything like it before. Two or three thousand kids would buy tickets …all for performers that adults had never even heard of.”
Freed’s dance concerts were advertised over his radio show and he would also emcee the live shows, appearing as the DJ, introducing guest acts, and playing records at the site. In March 1952, he promoted a dance concert to be held at the Cleveland Arena that he called the “Moondog Coronation Ball,” which some claim as the first rock concert. A number of live R& B acts were also billed as part of this concert, including Paul Williams & The Hucklebuckers, Tiny Grims & The Rockin’ Highlanders, The Dominoes, Danny Cobb, and Varetta Dillard.
March 21st 1952: Scene at the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, just before things got out of hand. Photo, Peter Hastings/Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Over 20,000 young teens showed up for the 10,000-person ice hockey facility. A riot ensued as the crowd broke into the rink. The police responded and the concert was shut down. Part of the problem was due to the fact that a second night of Moondog Ball entertainment was planned to follow the first night, but all of the tickets for both nights were printed with the first night’s date, March 21st. In any case, the riot that resulted became the talk of the town, as the community was outraged. But the incident only raised the visibility of Freed and his radio show, then becoming more popular among teens.
August 1954. Print ad for big R&B revue show in Cleveland with Alan Freed hosting.
“It is 1953, and Alan Freed is on the air again for his late night Moondog Show on WJW… Freed yips, moans and brays, gearing up for another evening hosting the hottest rhythm & blues show in the land. Slipping on a golf glove, he bangs on a phone book in time to the music – maybe ‘Money Honey’ by the Drifters, or ‘Shake a Hand’ by Faye Adams… [H]e spins the hits and continues his manic patter throughout the night, spewing forth rhymed jive with the speed and flections of a Holy Roller at the Pearly Gates.”
In 1953, when “The Biggest Rhythm and Blues Show” (run by the Gale Theatrical Agency) came to Cleveland on tour that summer, Freed was the featured emcee. On July 17,1953, thousands came out for that show at the Cleveland Arena, which also featured boxing star and celebrity Joe Louis for a brief appearance, as well as a full roster of performers including: Ruth Brown, Wynonie Harris, Leonard Reed, the tap dancing Edwards Sisters, Dusty Fletcher, Stuffy Bryant, and the Buddy Johnson Orchestra. That tour drew a largely black audience and became the largest grossing R&B revue of its day. In 1954, a similar tour again came to Cleveland in August, with Freed running that show as well.
These R&B revues, and Freed’s own stage shows and dances, drew tens of thousands of teens, black and white. Freed’s broadcasts from WJW in Cleveland, meanwhile, were being picked up by some radio stations in the East, on Newark, New Jersey station WNJR, for example, where the show found a receptive audience. Freed’s broadcasts were being picked up by radio stations in the East, and his on-air style was now spreading to other DJs who played a similar mix of music. Freed’s on air radio style was also spreading to other DJs, who played a similar mix of music. And by the early- and mid-1950s, the new rock ‘n roll music was also being listened to on small, hand-held transistorized radios, then selling for $25 to $50.
In May 1954, Freed traveled to Newark, New Jersey where he held the “Eastern Moondog Coronation Ball” at the Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark. It was Freed’s first personal appearance in the New York area. Among the R&B artists who appeared there were: Buddy Johnson and his orchestra and vocalist Ella Johnson The Clovers, a vocal quartet Roost Bonnemera and his Mambo Band Nolan Lewis, Mercury recording star Sam Butera, jazz saxophonist Muddy Waters, blues guitar player the Harptones and Charles Brown. A crowd of some 11,000 came out for Freed’s Newark show. RCA Victor recorded the entire show for use on a special Moondog album. Our World magazine also covered the event in a featured pictorial story.
In September 1954, Alan Freed would move from WJW in Cleveland, Ohio to WINS in New York City.
January 1955: “Billboard” magazine ad for Alan Freed’s shows on WINS radio, New York.
In September 1954 Freed was hired by WINS radio in New York. There he would receive a $75,000-a-year salary plus a percentage of syndication, as more than 40 radio stations would sign up to either simulcast or rebroadcast his show. Freed’s “Rock ’n Roll Party #1″ was broadcast Monday through Saturday in the 7:00-9:00 p.m. time slot. Another late night show, “Rock ’n Roll Party #2,” was broadcast Monday through Thursday in the 11:00 p.m.- 1:00 a.m. slot and Fridays and Saturdays, 11:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
Freed’s live concert dance shows, meanwhile, soon became New York sensations. On January 14th and 15th, 1955 he held a landmark dance at the St Nicholas Ballroom in Manhattan, promoting black performers as rock ’n roll artists. Each night was a sellout, with some 12,000 jamming the hall. The gate for the two nights was $27,500, pretty good money in those days. Among the performers were Joe Turner and Fats Domino.
Freed also became known for his New York stage shows at the Brooklyn and New York Paramount Theaters. At one of Freed’s Brooklyn Paramount shows in September 1955, called his “First Anniversary Rock ‘n’ Roll Party,” he broke the all-time record gross take for both the Brooklyn and New York Paramount Theaters with a gate of $178,000 (for an eight day run). This topped the previous high that had been set by the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy team some years earlier when they reached the $147,000 mark at the New York Paramount. Among those performing at this show were: Red Prysock and his band, The Cardinals, The Rythmettes, Nappy Brown, The Four Voices, The Harptones, Chuck Berry (doing “Maybellene”), the Nutmegs, Al Hibber, Lillian Briggs and others.
Wrote one Cash Box reporter who covered the show:
1950s: The Brooklyn Paramount’s electric marquee at night announcing an Alan Freed show and star participants.
“…This reviewer has been through the teen age hysteria that existed from 1936 through 1945 when the kids danced in the aisles to the music of Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey and others, but never have these eyes seen fanatical exuberance such as the type displayed at Alan Freed’s sensational 1st Anniversary Rock ’n roll program…”
In December 1956, during an eight-day stretch over the Christmas holiday, Freed threw his “Rock ’n Roll Christmas Show” at the Brooklyn Paramount with a line-up that included: the Drifters, Fats Domino, Joe Turner, and others. All the musicians were black, but at least half the audience packing the arena was white.
Print ad for one of Alan Freed’s Christmas Shows running over 8 days at the Brooklyn Paramount, 1950s.
Back home, meanwhile, Freed’s radio show was also having an influence on emerging U.S. artists. Fred Bronson, writing in Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits, offers the following account of how Freed’s show had an impact on the formation of one of the more successful “girl groups” of the late 1950s:
…Arlene Smith was the leader of the Chantels, and her inspiration for forming her girl group was a man – or rather, a teenage boy. “Alan Freed came on the radio and played Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers singing ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love,’” Smith told Charlotte Greig in [her book] Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? “It was a lovely high voice and a nice song. Then Freed announces that Frankie is just 13! Well I had to sit down. It was a big mystery, how to get into this radio stuff… It seemed so far removed, but I made a conscious decision to do the same.
October 1955 poster for an Alan Freed show at the Apollo Theater in New York City.
When Frankie Lymon played a theater in the Bronx, Arlene took her group to meet Richard Barrett, Lymon’s manager. Backstage, the Chantels sang one of Arlene’s songs, “The Plea.” Barrett liked them enough to tell record company owner George Goldner that he wanted to sign them. Their first release was “He’s Gone” on Goldner’s End label it peaked at No. 71. Their next single, “Maybe,” went to No. 15.
Within the space of five years or so, Alan Freed had helped move the rhythm and blues sound to a more prominent presence in pop and mainstream music. By early 1956, the music industry was advertising “rock ’n roll” records in the trade papers. A quote attributed to Freed from February 1956, has him explaining the new music: “Rock ’n roll is really swing with a modern name. It began on the levees and plantations, took in folk songs, and features blues and rhythm. It’s the rhythm that gets to the kids – they’re starved of music they can dance to, after all those years of crooners.” Freed had also become a champion of teenage kids and their musical interests, and a kind of middleman in the fight against those who wanted to ban the music seeing it as an influence on “juvenile delinquency,” a worrisome social problem and political issue at the time.
In 1957, while working for WINS, Freed continued hosting his big revues in the New York area and elsewhere. In Calgary, Ontario, for example, Freed’s “The Biggest Show Of Stars For 1957” played at the Stampede Corral venue. Performers included Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Clyde McPhatter, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Knox, Frankie Lymon, LaVern Baker, and The Drifters. Tickets were just $2.50. The show also played in the Canadian cities of Edmonton and Regina the next two nights.
By September 1957, Freed was a popular figure in the music industry, and during that month he hosted a big industry bash at his “Greycliffe” residence in Stamford, Connecticut. Among music label executives attending the gathering were: Bob Thiele of Coral Records Sam Clark of ABC-Paramount Morris Levy and Joe Kolsky of Roulette Records and Jerry Wexler, Herb Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic. Alan Freed by this time, wasn’t limiting his exposure to the music industry via radio and TV. He was also involved with bringing rock ’n roll music to film.
“Rock ’n Roll Films”
1956-1959: With Alan Freed
Poster for the 1956 film, “Rock Around The Clock,” billed as “The Screen’s First Great Rock ’n Roll Feature!” Click for 2-film DVD.
That early combination of rock ’n roll music with a movie also caught the attention of Hollywood promoters — and DJ Alan Freed wasn’t far behind. But Hollywood first came to Freed, seeing him and his radio platform as a marketing vehicle. “…Deejays out of town were picking up on whatever Freed did,” explained Paul Sherman, who worked with Freed in New York. “What Freed played, they played, what Freed hyped, they hyped…” So Freed agreed to take a part in a film called Rock Around the Clock. In making the deal, Freed at first wanted cash up front, but was persuaded to consider taking only a little money up front and a percentage of the box office. That turned out to be a good deal for Freed later on, or as Paul Sherman remembers: “They could have bought Freed for $15,000, and instead [with the percentage arrangement] he made a fortune.”
Scene from “Rock Around The Clock” with Bill Haley, center, plaid shirt & Alan Freed, upper right. Click for Haley story.
In addition to Bill Haley, a number of performers appear, including the Platters, Tony Martinez and band, and Freddie Bell and His Bellboys.
The film also marked the screen debut of Alan Freed, who plays a disc jockey who books the Haley group in a venue that gives them the exposure and notice they need to break through.
The following year, two more rock ’n roll films were made involving Freed. Rock, Rock, Rock, was a black-and-white motion picture featuring performances from a number of early rock ’n roll stars, such as Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Teddy Randazzo, The Moonglows, The Flamingos, and The Teenagers with Frankie Lymon as lead singer. The film’s story line has teenager Dori Graham, played by then 13-year-old Tuesday Weld, who can’t convince her father to buy her a strapless gown for the prom and has to find the money herself in time for the big dance. The voice of Dori for her songs, was not Tuesday Weld’s, but that of singer Connie Francis. David Winters who would later appear in West Side Story, is also in the film. And Valerie Harper, later of Rhoda TV fame from a Mary Tyler Moore Show spin off, made her film debut in the prom scene of Rock, Rock, Rock.
Another film in this same genre that also came out in 1957, Mister Rock and Roll, features Freed, professional boxer Rocky Graziano, and a number of musical artists, including: Teddy Randazzo, Lionel Hampton, Ferlin Husky, Frankie Lymon, Little Richard, Brook Benton, Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
“Go, Johnny Go!”
Go, Johnny Go! was a 1959 rock ’n roll film in which Alan Freed played a talent scout searching for a future rock ’n roll star. Co-starring in the film were Jimmy Clanton, Sandy Stewart, Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, Ritchie Valens, The Cadillacs, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Flamingos, Harvey Fuqua, and others.
In the film, as summarized by Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Freed, plays a kind of hipster father figure trying to give talented young people the musical exposure they need to become successful. Johnny Melody, played by Jimmy Clanton, is the troubled teen whose potential musical career Freed helps direct and save.
In this tale, Clanton/Melody rises from rags to riches via a demo disc played on Freed’s radio show. Freed plays himself in the film, as does Chuck Berry. Yet the plot, like most films in this genre, is thin, and puts a cleaned-up face on rock ‘n roll. Still, it does provide a look at the fledgling music industry of that time and its early hype.
Screen shot from "Go, Johnny Go!" shows Alan Freed on drums behind Chuck Berry on guitar.
Ritchie Valens, at age 18, has a cameo singing appearance in the film. However, Valens would die in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper on February 3, 1959, several months before the film was released. Go, Johnny Go! also marked the final screen appearance of “rockabilly” performer Eddie Cochran, who died in an automobile crash on April 17, 1960.
Cover of LP sound track album for the film, “Go, Johnny Go!,” with 19 song from the film, issued in early 1959. Click for CD.
TCM’s reviewer, meanwhile, noting the film’s “crude fictionalizing and dreadful miming,” did find some redeeming value. Go, Johnny Go! “offers the only moving evidence of Ritchie Valens,” he observes, and also includes “a rare fragment of Eddie Cochran.” The film also shows the Cadillacs doing two “Coasters-like” numbers, and has Chuck Berry “struggling to be a nice guy in a ‘major acting role’.” This film might have been better, he concludes, if it merely undertook to be a concert film or a documentary. But the “pretense of plot” made it pretty superficial.
In 1957, Alan Freed briefly had his own ABC-TV dance show. He is shown here at center, with Jackie Wilson, far left, and Jimmy Clanton, left of Freed, and others.
Headlines from a May 1958 Boston Globe story spell trouble for Alan Freed’s stage shows.
Nov 1959: Newspaper headline from story on payola hearings.
In 1959, a star contestant on the TV quiz show Twenty-One, named Charles Van Doren – who had become a national sensation for his assumed brilliance on the show – admitted later that he was given the correct answers beforehand.
Congress had a field day with the TV “quiz show” scandals, and then turned to the radio industry where a new kind raucous “rock ’n roll” music was shaking up the established order — and some thought, fueling juvenile delinquency as well.
But the main focus of the Congressional interest in the music business was something called “pay-for-play,” where radio DJ’s were being paid cash or given other favors by music industry reps for repeated playing or “plugging” of songs to boost their appeal and sales. This practice was given the name “payola,” a contraction derived from the words “payment” and “Victrola.”
Alan Freed, center, going into closed-door hearings before a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating “payola” in the American radio business, April 25, 1960.
In early 1960, hearings began, and some twenty-five witnesses would be called, including Clark and Freed, the presidents of several of the country’s larger radio stations, representatives from Billboard magazine, and others. Freed testified in a closed-door session in April 1960. But Freed had already made some public statements that did him little good as he stepped into the national spotlight: “What they call payola in the disc jockey business,” he is reported to have said at one point, “they call lobbying in Washington.”
At the time of the hearings, however, payola wasn’t a crime in most states, and many in the industry seemed to regard it as an accepted practice. Before it was all over, the U.S. House Oversight Committee, in both closed-door and open sessions, heard from some 335 disc jockeys from around the country who admitted to having received over $263,000 in “consulting fees.” But that number was likely low, since one DJ, Phil Lind, from Chicago’s WAIT, indicated he once received $22,000 to play a single record.
NY Sunday News runs front page story about Alan Freed‘s firing by WABC radio over “payola,” September 1960.
Other DJs and promoters involved in payola suffered similar results, but many made it through the proceedings with only minor damage. Freed’s rising prominence on the national scene, however, made him a prime target. And in the wake of the payola probes, there was also some impact on the music itself, if only temporary.
“One of the results of the payola scandal was the change in radio,” explains John Jackson in his book, Big Beat Heat – Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock ’n Roll. “WINS radio in New York dropped rock ’n roll and played Frank Sinatra three days straight. Other stations dropped rock. Disc jockeys no longer could chose songs and play what they wanted. The station play list came in. And music became bland.”
Alan Freed, meanwhile, tried to pick up the pieces of his shattered career and move on. In 1960, after leaving New York, he was hired by Los Angeles radio station KDAY – a station owned, ironically, by the same company that owned WINS. But shortly after starting at KDAY, Freed was called back to New York when a grand jury there handed down commercial bribery charges against him that dated back some ten years. In May 1960, he and seven other radio DJs were arrested and booked in Manhattan, charged with receiving a total of $116,850 in payola. The final verdict in Freed’s case wouldn’t come for another few years.
Back at KDAY, meanwhile, Freed had signed an agreement to steer clear of payola, and he jumped back into his DJ persona and musical passion, helping showcase new songs and artists, such as Kathy Young & the Innocents and their hit-to-be, “A Thousand Stars.” Freed was also planning to continue his live concerts in the L.A. area, this time eyeing the Hollywood Bowl as a choice venue for the live shows. KDAY, however, would not permit Freed to promote or stage his concerts, and with that, he quit the station and returned to New York. At the time, Chubby Checker’s hit song “The Twist” had caught on nationally spurring a new dance fad, and Freed hosted a live twist show for a time in New York. But as the twist rage faded, Freed left New York and began working at WQAM radio station in Miami, Florida, a job which lasted about two months.
By 1962, Freed was back in New York dealing with his commercial bribery trial. He was eventually charged with 26 counts of commercial bribery. In December 1962, he plead guilty to 2 counts, received a suspended sentence, and paid a fine of $300.00. Facing mounting legal bills for that fight, Freed then faced Federal charges of income tax evasion in 1964. By then, he was living in Palm Springs, California and drinking heavily. On New Year’s day 1965, he entered a Palm Springs hospital for gastrointestinal intestinal bleeding, resulting from cirrhosis of the liver. He died twenty days later of kidney failure. He was 43 years old.
Poster for 1978 film about Alan Freed and early days of rock ’n roll, “American Hot Wax.” Click for poster.
In 1986 Freed was among the original inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – located there partly due to Freed’s influence on early rock ’n roll. In 1988, he was also posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
In 1991, a “star” for Alan Freed was added in his name to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the same year John Jackson’s biography of Freed was published – Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll.
In 1999, another attempted film on Freed, this one for TV, titled Mr. Rock N Roll: The Alan Freed Story, with Judd Gregg as Freed, received a lukewarm reception, but still has a following.
Freed’s story is perhaps best told, however, at AlanFreed.com, a nicely assembled website managed by some of his surviving family, including a number of children and grandchildren. The site is highly recommended for those who want to see original news sources and other material. In addition to the other awards and inductions already mentioned, in February 2002, Freed was honored at the annual Grammy awards show with a Trustees Award, given to “individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.” And last but not least, the mascot of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team is named “Moondog,” in honor of Freed.
1991 hardback edition of John Jackson’s biography on Alan Freed and the early years of rock & roll (400pp), also available in 2007 paperback. Click for copy.
2009 film, “Mr. Rock N Roll: The Alan Freed Story,” starring: Judd Nelson as Alan Freed, along with Paula Abdul, Madchen Amick, and others. Click for film.
See also at this website, for example, “Bandstand Performers, 1963″ a story profiling and listing some of the musical guests who appeared on Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’ TV dance show that year from Philadelphia, or, “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-56,” a story profiling Elvis Presley in Jacksonville, Florida where he faced an arrest warrant if he “gyrated” too suggestively on stage. Additionally, the topics page, “Pop Music 1950s,” includes links to more than 20 stories on songs and artists from that era, and the “Annals of Music” page offers a broader selection beyond that.
Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 28 February 2014
Last Update: 1 August 2019
Comments to: [email protected]
Jack Doyle, “Moondog Alan Freed: 1951-1965,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 28, 2014.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
Alan Freed at WAKR radio in Akron, Ohio, mid-1940s.
Hartford Times (CT) newspaper story announcing a forthcoming January 1958 Alan Freed stage show.
1958: Alan Freed, going through a stack of 45rpm records at WABC radio station in New York.
Poster ad for an Alan Freed “Big Beat” stage show of April 16, 1958 for the Municipal Theater of Tulsa, OK.
Alan Freed in the 1950s, likely hosting a live stage show in the New York city area, broadcast over WINS radio.
Pennsylvania historic marker honoring Alan Freed at location of his boyhood years in Windber, PA.
8 Sept 1957: From left, Alan Freed, Larry Williams, Ben Dacosta (DJ) & Buddy Holly at NY Paramount Theater.
Judith Fisher Freed, “The Alan Freed Web- site,” AlanFreed.com.
John Morthhland, “The Rise of Top Forty A.M.,” in Anthony DeCurtis, James Henke, Holly George-Warren, and Jim Miller (eds.), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, New York: Random House, 1992, pp.102-106.
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“Moon Dog Dance To Be Restricted City of Fire Prevention Rules Threaten Frolic,” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), December 12, 1952.
“Moondog Bark Worse Than Bite Only 500 at Dance,” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), December 15, 1952.
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George E. Condon, On The Air, “‘King of the Moondogs’ Quits WJW to Sign with New York Station,” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), August 1954.
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Robert Sullivan, “Rock ‘n’ Roll – ‘n’ Riot,” Sunday News (New York), September 18, 1955.
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“Music: Yeh-Heh-Heh-Hes, Baby,” Time, Monday, June 18, 1956.
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Walter Ames, “L.A. Jockeys Deny Payola, But Admit Offers,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 24, 1959.
“Dick Clark Will Face Payola Probers Alan Freed Will Also Testify,” Los Angeles Evening Mirror- News, November 24, 1959, p. 1.
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(Cleveland, Ohio), Friday, September 27, 1991.
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Lance Freed, Special to The Plain Dealer, “2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions: Moondog Memories from Alan Freed’s Son, Lance Freed – Cleveland, 1952,” Cleveland.com, March 31, 2012.
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Lydia Hutchinson, “Alan Freed and the Radio Payola Scandal,” Performing Songwriter .com, November 20, 2013.
An Ohio Historical marker located just outside the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, commemorates Alan Freed’s contributions to rock ’n roll and also notes that he was a “charter inductee” at the Hall (1986).
Prime Time Television Line Up of 1965 - History
In the 1940s, the three networks NBC, CBS and ABC were "networks" in name only. All of the programming originated, live, in New York. The only way the networks had to distribute the shows to the rest of the nation was to point a film camera at a television screen and convert video to film. These 16mm films, known as kinescopes, were then duplicated and shipped to the few affiliated stations for broadcast later. By necessity, most programming was local, and cooking shows, wrestling and cartoons took up most of the broadcast day.
The networks became true networks when AT&T finished laying a system of coaxial cables from coast to coast. Coax the now familiar cables the run from cable TV wall outlets to today's tuners has enough bandwidth, or electrical carrying capacity, to transmit hundreds or even thousands of telephone calls as well as television signals.
In 1952 for the first time, television news was able to broadcast the Republican and Democratic conventions live from Philadelphia to the rest of the nation. The importance of that event for rural America went beyond the fact that rural residents knew in real time that Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson were running for President against each other.
- TV signals that could reach into the most remote corners of the U.S. broke down the last vestiges of isolation in rural America.
- Common national carriage of popular TV shows, news and sports events meant that there was a shared national experience. The day after major televised events, researchers found that almost everyone was talking about the event. They weren't saying the same things, but there was a sense of national dialog.
- The visual and aural experience together that television allowed especially after the advent to color TV in early 60s meant that regional cultural differences were ironed out. A more generalized "American" culture co-opted regional subcultures.
- Television familiarized rural residents with other regions making migration even more appealing.
Between 1949 and 1969, the number of households in the U.S. with at least one TV set rose from less than a million to 44 million. The number of commercial TV stations rose from 69 to 566. The amount advertisers paid these TV stations and the networks rose from $58 million to $1.5 billion.
Between 1959 and 1970, the percentage of households in the U.S. with at least one TV went from 88 percent to 96 percent. By 1970, there were around 700 UHF and VHF television stations today there are 1,300. By 1970, TV stations and networks raked in $3.6 billion in ad revenues today, that figure is over $60 billion.
Television programming has had a huge impact on American and world culture. Many critics have dubbed the 1950s as the Golden Age of Television. TV sets were expensive and so the audience was generally affluent. Television programmers knew this and they knew that serious dramas on Broadway were attracting this audience segment. So, the producers began staging Broadway plays in the television studios. Later, Broadway authors, like Paddy Chayefsky, Reggie Rose and J. P. Miller wrote plays specifically for television. Their plays Marty, Twelve Angry Men, and Days of Wine and Roses, respectively all went on to be successful movies.
As the households with TVs multiplied and spread to other segments of society, more varied programming came in. Situation comedies and variety shows were formats that were borrowed from radio. Former vaudeville stars like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason found stardom after years of toiling on the stages. Ernie Kovacs was one of the first comedians to really understand and exploit the technology of television and became a master of the sight gag.
During the 50s, quiz shows became popular until a scandal erupted. For three years, producers of "The $64,000 Question" supplied an appealing contestant with the answers to tough trivia questions to heighten the drama.
During this time, many of the genres that today's audiences are familiar with were developed westerns, kids' shows, situation comedies, sketch comedies, game shows, dramas, news and sports programming.
In the 1950s and 60s, television news produced perhaps some of its finest performances. Edward R. Murrow exposed the tactics of innuendo and unsubstantiated charges that Sen. Joseph McCarthy used to exploit the country's fear of Communism. The televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon were credited with giving JFK a slim election victory.
Filmed coverage of the civil rights movement and live coverage of Martin Luther King's March on Washington brought those issues into sharp focus.
When President Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, most Americans immediately turned on television sets to get the news. The networks devoted days and days of airtime to coverage of the tragedy, the funeral and the aftermath. Many Americans (who may have come home from church early) were watching live coverage on Sunday morning November 24, when they saw Jack Ruby kill the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Later, coverage of the Vietnam War was credited with, for the first time, bringing war into the living rooms of citizens. When CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite editorialized against the war, Pres. Johnson was reported to have said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the country." Within weeks, after also learning he had lost the support of key players on Wall Street, Johnson decided not to run for re-election.
Yet, this was also a time of abundant escapism on television. Producers added science fiction to the mix of genres on TV, perhaps in response to the NASA space program. This era produced some of the most enduring reruns in television history. "Star Trek" is the prime example.
In the midst of the turmoil of the 60s, it's fascinating that some of the most popular shows were firmly set in a rural past that was fast disappearing if, in fact, it ever existed.
In 1960, the "Andy Griffith Show" with its small town sheriff, his son, his deputy and a cast of stereotypical rural characters was the fourth most popular show on television. It stayed in the top ten every year until it reached number one in 1967.
Then came the "Beverly Hillbillies" in 1962. The premise was simple. Farmer Jed Clampett discovers oil on his worthless land, packs up daughter Elly May, nephew Jethro, Granny, all their belonging and millions of dollars and moves to California in a scene that was eerily reminiscent of photographs of Depression-era Okies moving to California.
The show was an inspired piece of silliness, produced by Paul Henning, a Midwesterner from Missouri who spent 30 years in Hollywood mining his rural roots. The "Beverly Hillbillies" shot up to number one in the ratings the first two years it was on the air, and stayed in the top fifteen for most of the rest of the decade. Critics have called the show, "equal parts Steinbeck and absurdism, the nouveau riche-out-of-water."
Producer Henning followed that up with "Petticoat Junction" from 1963-70 and "Green Acres" from 1965-71. Both shows proved to be almost as popular. The petticoats in the first show belonged the blonde, brunet and redheaded daughters Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo of Kate Bradley, the proprietress of the Shady Grove Hotel. The daughters gave the writers ample opportunity for thinly veiled farmer's daughters jokes while the hotel's isolation created a rural milieu that didn't exist in reality anymore.
"Green Acres" went even further into silliness. One fan web site, "Memorable TV," calls the show, "a flat-out assault on Cartesian logic, Newtonian physics, and Harvard-centrist positivism. Lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) and his socialite wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) come to Hooterville in search of the greening of America and lofty Jeffersonian idealism. What they discover instead is a virtual parallel universe of unfettered surrealism, rife with gifted pigs, square chicken eggs, and abiogenetic hotcakes a universe which Lisa intuits immediately, and by which Oliver is constantly bewildered."
Beulah Gocke (left) was one among many rural residents who appreciated the inspired silliness of these shows. "They poked fun at us," she recognizes, "but that's part of a good personality, if you can laugh at yourself."
William Luebbe (right) points out that two of his sons have gone to college and one has a doctorate degree. The TV shows "portrayed the farmers as being backward, uneducated [people]. But that wasn't fair to the farmers." William has only owned two television sets in his life.
Even critics at the time recognized the curious popularity of these rural shows. "A few TV critics," reported Newsweek in 1969, "argue that many newly affluent Americans, bewildered by the technological '60s, see themselves as bumbling hillbillies lost in suburbia."
"Petticoat Junction" was cancelled in 1970 after the show's star, Bea Benaderet playing Kate, died of cancer. Despite continued good ratings, the "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres" were cancelled the next year when CBS decided it needed to attract a more youthful Baby Boomer audience. Instead, the network began to produce such shows as "M*A*S*H," "All in the Family" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2007. A partial bibliography of sources is here.
Early CBS Color TV logo, from 1946
CBS' original "block text" oval logo
CBS eye logo, popularly known as the "CBS Eye" or "Eyemark".
CBS' older logo, with Serif font lettering
CBS unveiled its Eye Device logo on October 17, 1951. Before that, from the 1940s through 1951, CBS Television used an oval spotlight on the block letters C-B-S. Γ] The Eye device was conceived by William Golden based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as well as a Shaker drawing. (While commonly attributed to Golden, there is speculation that at least some design work on the symbol may have been done by another CBS staff designer, Georg Olden, one of the first African-Americans to achieve some notoriety in the postwar graphic design field.) Δ] The Eye device made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. The following season, as Golden prepared a new ident, CBS President Frank Stanton insisted on keeping the Eye device and using it as much as possible.
An example of CBS Television Network's imaging (and the distinction between the television and radio networks) may be seen in a video of the Jack Benny Program (undated) which aired on the television network. The video appears to be converted from kinescope, and "unscoped" or unedited. One sees the program as very nearly one would have seen it on live television. Don Wilson is the program announcer, but also voices a promo for "Private Secretary", which alternated weekly with Jack Benny on the television network schedule. Benny continued to appear on CBS radio and television at that time, and Wilson makes a promo announcement at the end of the broadcast for Benny's radio program on the CBS Radio Network. The program closes with the "CBS Television Network" ID slide (the "CBS eye" over a field of clouds with the words "CBS Television Network" superimposed over the eye). There is, however, no voiceover accompanying the ID slide. It is unclear whether it was simply absent from the recording or never originally broadcast. Ε]
The CBS eye is now an American icon. While the symbol's settings have changed, the Eye device itself has not been redesigned in its entire history. In the network’s new graphic identity created by Trollback + Company in 2006, the eye is being placed in a “trademark” position on show titles, days of the week and descriptive words, an approach highly respecting the value of the eye. The eye logo has frequently been copied or borrowed by television networks around the world, notable examples being the Austrian Broadcasting System (ORF) which used to use a red version of the eye logo, Associated TeleVision in the United Kingdom and Frecuencia Latina in Peru. The logo is alternately known as the Eyemark, which was also the name of CBS's domestic and international syndication divisions in the mid to late 1990s before the King World acquisition and Viacom merger.
Through the years, CBS has developed several notable image campaigns, and several of the network's most well-known slogans date from the 1980s. 1981's "Reach for the Stars" used a space-themed campaign to capitalize on both CBS's stellar improvement in the ratings and the historic launch of the space shuttle Columbia. 1982's "Great Moments" juxtaposed scenes from classic CBS programming such as "I Love Lucy" with scenes from the network's then-current classics such as "Dallas" and "M*A*S*H". From 1983 through 1986, CBS (by now firmly atop the ratings) featured a campaign based on the slogan "We've Got the Touch". Vocals for the campaign's jingle were contributed by Richie Havens (1983–1984 and 1984–1985), Aaron Neville (1984–1985) and Kenny Rogers (1985–1986). The 1986–1987 programming season ushered in the "Share the Spirit of CBS" campaign, the network's first to use full-out computer graphics and DVE effects. Unlike most network campaign promos, the full length version of Share the Spirit not only showed a brief clip preview of each new fall series, but also utilized the CGI effects to map out the entire fall schedule by night. The success of that campaign led to the 1987–1988 "CBSpirit" campaign. Most CBSpirit promos utilized a procession of show clips once again. However, the new graphic motif was a swirling (or "swishing") blue line, that was used to represent "the spirit". The full length promo, like the previous year, had a special portion that identified new fall shows, but the mapped-out fall schedule shot was abandoned.
For the 1988–1989 season, CBS unveiled its new image campaign, officially known as "Television You Can Feel" but more commonly identified as "You Can Feel It On CBS". The goal was to convey a more sensual, new-age image through distinguished, advanced-looking computer graphics and soothing music, backgrounding images and clips of emotionally-powerful scenes and characters. However, it was this season in which CBS began its ratings free fall, the deepest in the network's history. CBS ended the decade with "Get Ready for CBS". The 1989–90 version was a very ambitious campaign that attempted to elevate CBS out of last place (among the major networks) the motif was network stars interacting with each other in a remote studio set, getting ready for photo and TV shoots, as well as for the new season on CBS. The high-energy promo song and the campaign's practices saw many variations across the country as every CBS affiliate participated in it, as per a network mandate. Also, for the first time in history, CBS became the first broadcast network to team with a national retailer to encourage viewership, with the CBS/Kmart Get Ready Giveaway.
For the 1990–91 season, the campaign featured a new jingle—The Temptations offered an altered version of their hit "Get Ready". The early 1990s featured less-than-memorable campaigns, with simplified taglines such as "This is CBS" and "You're On CBS". Eventually, the advertising department gained momentum again late in the decade with Welcome Home to a CBS Night (1996–1997), simplified to Welcome Home (1997–1999) and succeeded by the spin-off campaign The Address is CBS (1999–2000).
Throughout the 2000s, CBS's ratings resurgence was backed by their "It's All Here" campaign, and their strategy led, in 2005, to the proclamation that they were "America's Most Watched Network". Their most-recent campaign, beginning in 2006, proclaims "We Are CBS".
The 10 Dumbest TV Shows of All Time
Tonight at 8pm, ABC will debut its new series Splash, a “celebrity” diving competition show in which such iconic figures as Kendra Wilkinson, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Louie Anderson… well, they do dives, and that’s pretty much the show. If you’re anything like us, you may have greeted this description with one question: “Holy moly, is that the stupidest idea for a television program, ever?” To which we laugh and laugh, and then say, “I dunno, maybe.” To be fair, it’s a tough competition since its inception, television executives have seemed consistently challenged to top each other in creating excruciatingly dumb shows. After the jump, we’ve rounded up ten that give Splash a run for its money.
Secret Talents of the Stars (2008)
Beware of any reality/competition show with “stars” or “celebrity” in its title — the simple math is, if someone’s career is in the kind of shape where they’re doing a reality/competition show, they’re probably not much of a star or celebrity anymore. Such was the case with this 2008 CBS series, featuring Clint Black showing off his stand-up chops, George Takei crooning a country tune, Mya tap dancing, etc. Trouble is, we weren’t all that interested in seeing these folks do what they were known for anymore — who cares if Sheila E. can juggle? Secret Talents of the Stars aired exactly once before the network canceled it due to low ratings.
Mr. Smith (1983)
Here’s something to remember about America in the ‘70s and early ‘80s: we loved monkeys. And we’re a simian-loving people today, but back in the Carter/Reagan years? Holy moly! There were the Clint Eastwood orangutan movies (Any Which Way You Can and Every Which Way But Loose), there was Tony Danza’s rip-off of the Eastwood movies (Going Ape), and then there were the TV shows, including the three-season (!) B.J. and the Bear and Me and the Chimp. But none of them were quite as stupid as Mr. Smith (no relation to the LL Cool J album). This 13-episode NBC sitcom centered on Cha Cha the orangutan, who escapes from his traveling act and ends up in a research lab, where he drinks an intelligence serum, develops a speaking voice and 256 IQ, and (wait for it) becomes a political adviser. Mr. Smith was one of nine new shows in NBC’s 1983 fall line-up that became notorious for not yielding a single hit, but relief was around the corner Mr. Smith’s show runner Ed. Weinberger would return the following fall with the series that would save NBC, The Cosby Show.
From its title, Automan sounds like a rip-off of Knight Rider, which debuted the previous year on NBC. But that was a fake-out it was actually a rip-off of Tron, which hit theaters in the summer of 1982. That movie took us deep into the world of computers and programmers and video games and all kinds of other cool stuff that felt like the future was happening right now. Which brings us to Automan (short for “Automatic Man”), the story of a computer programmer (played by Desi Arnaz Jr.) who develops a AI crime-fighting computer program that’s so super-awesome, it can actually leave the program and become a real person (Chuck Wagner), albeit with a weird glowing blue suit thingy that was not at all reminiscent of Tron. Automan only lasted 12 episodes on ABC, though its basic premise was apparently recycled for the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe movie Virtuosity 11 years later (in another period of ill-advised computer-heavy sci-fi).
The Flying Nun (1967-1970)
Sally Field’s “you like me, you really, really like me” Oscar speech is one of the most frequently quoted (and frequently parodied) in that ceremony’s history — so much so that it’s easy to forget what it signified. It wasn’t easy for Field to be taken seriously as an actress she had plenty of less-than-prestigious projects behind her, from the Smokey and the Bandit movies to Beyond the Poseidon Adventure to her big break as TV’s Gidget. But all of those works paled in comparison to The Flying Nun, the three-season ABC sitcom in which Field played Elsie Etherington, a nun with, yes, the power of flight. No, the title wasn’t some sort of religious metaphor — it really was a television series about a nun who could fly, which made it, according to David Hofstede’s invaluable book What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, “the dumbest concept ever for a television series.”
Hole in the Wall (2008-2012)
Then again, that book was written four years before the debut of Hole in the Wall, which Fox adapted from a Japanese game show called Nōkabe, and once again, the entire dumb concept is right there in the entire dumb title: the object of the game is for contestants to contort themselves in order to fit through person-sized holes in a wall (y’know, the kind that cartoon characters leave when they make an exit in a hurry). That is, no kidding, pretty much the game and the show, though there are variations like “Double Wall,” “Speed Wall,” and “Blind Wall.” Believe it or not, Americans did not rush to their television to see people squeeze through holes in walls, and Fox canceled the show after less than a season. But Cartoon Network knew not to let a stupid thing die — they picked up the show and aired it for four additional seasons.
Homeboys from Outer Space (1996-1997)
The UPN’s sci-fi comedy was so dumb, so lowbrow, and so inane (even by the UPN’s standards!) that it quickly became a punch line — one that lasted far longer than the series, which died quietly after a single 21-episode season. It was just as stupid as it sounds: it concerned a pair of zany 23rd-century astronauts who zipped through the universe in their winged “Space Hoopty” (no, seriously), having zany adventures with guest stars like Gary Coleman, Casey Kasem, and (of course) George Takei. See, because they’re homeboys! In outer space!
My Mother the Car (1965-1966)
You gotta give them this: when they come up with a genuinely inane idea for a television show, they at least have the courtesy to give a title that they think is simple enough for the morons they’re targeting. In this case, it’s the story of an attorney (Jerry Van Dyke) who purchases an antique jalopy, only to discover that his deceased mother (voiced by Ann Sothern) can communicate with him through the car radio. (We’re not making this up!) Conflict is provided by a villainous automobile collector who wants to acquire the mother/car — and by viewers, who fled this dopey sitcom after a single season.
Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell (1975-1976)
If you’ve ever wondered why the reruns of Saturday Night Live (and the opening announcement, to this day) just call it Saturday Night, here’s why: back in fall of 1975, when SNL debuted on NBC, another show on a rival network already had dibs on that moniker. It was a new prime-time variety series hosted by Howard Cosell, the love-him-or-hate-him sportscaster who killed on Monday Night Football and nailed his Muhammad Ali interviews — but neither his play-by-play nor profiling skills would make anyone in their right mind think he was the right guy to do the skits-and-music thing. Unsurprisingly, the show was the brainchild of ABC Sports mastermind Roone Arledge and Cosell himself, neither of whom seemed aware of the broadcaster’s limitations as an entertainer. It didn’t take them long to figure it out ABC canned the show after five months, and Lorne Michaels was able to retitle his show soon thereafter.
Three’s a Crowd (1979-1980)
With his bottom-scraping sensibility and broad taste for double entendre, Chuck Barris was in many ways the father of modern reality television though he worked primarily in the game show genre, he delighted in airing dirty laundry and showing average people at their very worst. But even Barris had to occasionally pull back, which was what happened with this syndicated game show that asked the question, “Who knows a man better, his wife or his secretary?” Said man would answer three questions (along the classy lines of, “What’s the main reason your secretary goes braless?”), followed by his secretary, followed by his wife the teams of secretaries or wives that got the most matches was the big winner, while the show’s broad themes of misogyny and adultery made everyone else a loser. Protests were swift and intense (even Barris’s own secretary told him the questions “create reactions between the wives and secretaries that are absolutely virulent”), and the reaction led to the cancellation of not only Three but three other of his shows, too. But Barris was merely ahead of his time — this kind of thing was daily fodder on the likes of Jerry Springer, and sure enough, Three’s a Crowd was brought back for a revival on the Game Show Network in 2000.
The Littlest Groom (2004)
A show really has to sink into the cesspool for even reality show viewers and execs to say “enough,” but that’s what happened with Fox’s The Littlest Groom, which disappeared after two episodes. The pitch: a Bachelor rip-off where the twist was (get ready for it!) that the bachelor and his would-be true loves were all little people. On episode two, however, they shook up the format and threw a dozen “average”-sized contestants in — making this a show that not only had an offensive and stupid premise, but that was so dumb it couldn’t even stick to it.
Those are our picks for TV’s dumbest shows — what are yours? Let us know in the comments.
This sitcom was about the dysfunctional Bundy family who lived in a fictional suburb of Chicago. It followed the life of Al Bundy, a salesman of women’s shoes who longed to relive his glory days as a high school football player. He had an obnoxious wife, a promiscuous daughter and a wisecracking son. The show is included in Time Magazine’s list of 100 best shows of all time.
They were neighbors of Archie Bunker in the show “All in the Family.” They were given a spin off show in 1975 entitled “The Jeffersons” that featured a rich African-American couple who lived in New York City. After 11 years, however, the series was suddenly cancelled without the opportunity for the characters to close out the show properly.
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