Don Cornelius circa 1970's
Dick Clark circa late 1950's

With the passing of Don Cornelius (R.I.P.) a couple of months ago and then Dick Clark (R.I.P.) last week, I, like most American Music Fans, have been watching the news clips of these great music men of the past hosting the Music Television Shows which made them huge stars. I was thinking about the History of Music Television Shows. TV Shows that had music from beginning to the end of their time slot. Not to be confused with Shows that focus on other areas of entertainment and just have an original artist play a song or two.

Since early Television, TV has played a big part in the History of Music. The Milton Berle Show gave the world it's first glimpse of  ELVIS , Ed Sullivan presented The Beatles to America, and after their Grammy Award was taken/given back, Milli Vanilli performed on The Arsenio Hall Show. Milli Vanilli did NOT lip sync like the tribute band who they truly were, but sang for real (in my opinion, real bad). Arsenio Hall also had a music guest give a "lewinsky" to a saxophone. This guy would later become President of the United States.

Of course their are Holiday Specials filled with music including Christmas Specials, 4th of July Music Specials, & Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve all have music in them but they were not weekly shows, so these don't count.

From Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Hee Haw, The Tonight Show, The Late Show, Saturday Night Live, to Beavis & Butt-Head, these TV Shows would play videos or have musical "guests" perform a song or two but these Television Shows were not totally about music or even had Music as it's main focus.

Instead of reviewing a new original CD this week, I want to share some thoughts about the subject of Music TV Shows:

The TWO Kings of TV Music Shows

American Bandstand
Dick Clark in the center of the American Bandstand audience.
From 1952 to about 1956 this music show started out as a local teenie-boper dance show on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia, PA. It was originally called Bandstand and hosted then by Bob Horn. The show's original time slot was for two and a half hours (didn't they have XBOX then?). Then a Disc Jockey named Dick Clark  who would later be nicknamed "America's oldest teenager," took over as the host and later as producer. From the start, the show always had local teenage boys & girls dancing to the hits of the time. My father even danced twice on the show in his early years. He told me that all the boys had to wear a tie and the girls had to wear skirts or they would not be allowed into the studio.

Dick Clark with Run DMC on AB.
Soon, the ABC network took over, the show became more polished and a nationwide hit. American Bandstand, sometimes called AB, would later move across the country to studios in California. It stayed there until it's final year in 1989 (36 years total). Throughout the years, AB would also have Mr. Clark do quick interviews with the dancers and the artist who came to lip sync their hit song. The show kept up with the times. Mostly Top 40 original music artist of that era would appear but occasionally an unique artist would make an appearance and do a cover song. We rarely write about cover songs or cover acts on this site, Original Music Reviews. However, here is a unique fact that some people may not know: Chubby Checker appeared several times doing a song & dance he made famous called "The Twist." Did you know that Chubby Checker's version is NOT the Original ? In 1959, R&B guitarist Hank Ballard of the group Hank Ballard & The Midnighters wrote and recorded the original version. It was released as a "B" side to their song "Teardrops on Your Letter."

Over those years many other TV shows popped up but American Bandstand had no major competition for the national audience with the exception of...

The Soul Train
Don Cornelius circa 1980s on Soul Train.
From 1970 to 2006 (34 years ) Everyone who was alive back in the 80's knows the intro... "The SOOOOOOOOUL TRAIN!" This is one of the longest running syndicated TV Shows in history. It originated in Chicago, IL on WCIU-TV. Don Cornelius, another former disc jockey, was the original creator, producer, and host. The show had more of an urban feel with it's style and music choices. Soul, R&B, Funk, Rap, & Hip-Hop as well as Disco in the early years of the show. Over the many years greats were on the show like The Commodores, Isaac Hayes, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, The Roots, Teena Marie just to name a few. No other TV Music Show did more for the Rap Music Community. Soul Train would showcase many Rappers like Busta Rhymes, Kris Kross, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, The Sugar Hill Gang and others. As if Soul, R&B, Funk, Rap, & Hip-Hop were not enough, the show was very diverse with appearances by other artists who crossed over or hugged the line of other music genres & styles like The Back Street Boys, Beastie Boys, Elton John, Captain & Tennille, New Kids On The Block, Pretty Poison just to name a few. None of these groups were known as Soul or R&B artists, but the were on the show doing their hit songs of that time.
Aretha Franklin & Don Cornelius

Some other Music Shows on TV

Midnight Special 1973 - 1981
Hosted by various people over the years including John Denver & veteran DJ Wolfman Jack. This show aired on NBC on Friday nights after the very popular Tonight Show with Johnny Carson time slot. This show was mostly Recorded Live Artist's performances in their prime like Al Green, The Bee Gees, Barry White, Cheap Trick, Dolly Parton, Donna Summer, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Rick and The Village People. The Midnight Special was also Ziggy Stardust's (David Bowie's stage name at that time) last broadcast performance.

Solid Gold 1980 - 1988
This was a music count down show which featured the "Solid Gold Dancers" dancing to the songs just like Soul Train & American Bandstand. Artist would also come in and lip sync their hit of the day. I remember seeing OZZY OSBOURNE and his band do a tune called "So Tired" and lead guitarist Jake E. Lee looking so bored pretending to play rhythm guitar. (writer's note: I searched in vein to find a clip of this video. I guess that it IS as bad as I remember it.)

Friday Night Videos 1983 - 2002
Weekly show which aired music videos. This was NBC's answer to MTV. This show basically played the same videos that aired daily on MTV. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Speaking of MTV...

Whatever happened to MTV ?
"F" Snooki and 16 & Prego... I  want  my  MTV (back) !!

There was a time when MTV stood for it's name, MUSIC TELEVISION. Not just have a show or two about music, but an entire station dedicated to Music, 24 hours a day seven days a week. IF you were alive in the 1980's - 1990's and you had cable, you saw videos of original music by NEW artists of that era. Bon Jovi, Boys II Men, Guns 'N Roses, Madonna, & Nirvana. You also saw the entire concert of LIVE AID from both London, England & Philadelphia, PA presented to your living room, where ever you lived.

Now, MTV no longer stands for Music Television. Many people call it Moron Television. Today, shows like Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, Teenage Mom (of course you become a teenage mom AFTER your 16 & Prego) and Jackass (great show but no music). MTV is now a toxic cocktail of Jerry Springer esquic Reality TV, and stupid people doing stupid things to make themselves famous for being stupid. Much stupidity but no music. Gone are the MTV VJs , The music videos, MTV News, Yo MTV Raps (1988 -1999), and Headbanger's Ball (1987 -1995).

Today's Music Television Shows

Headbanger's Ball
(Yes, Headbanger's Ball)
which was mostly hosted in the late 80's & early 90's by Riki Rachtman, is now reborn if you can get MTV2 (some cable companies do not carry it). Seems the big shots at MTV realize the growth of the Metal fan base in the USA. This market of original music is back and stronger than ever. I don't think that it ever went away, it just went underground. It does seem to have a loud & proud younger generation of audience members with head banging bands & fans who believe Justin Bieber music is for their little sister. Just last Friday I saw Over Kill kick off their tour in Philadelphia with God Forbid, Givethemrope and others at the Trocadero. I was very surprised to see how many of the crowd of about 1,200 or so were in the pit moshing to songs written before they were born. The new Head Banger's Ball is now hosted by Jose Mangin from Sirius XM Radio and contains interviews and new original music like it's previous version. Jose Mangin does a good job as host. I like his off beat common man approach which is his own but has similar traits like Riki Rachtman. I recently watched Jose do a nice interview with Over Kill about the new album and tour, then another one with Slash eating one of Jose mom's enchiladas (insert your joke, here).
Scott Ian of Anthrax with Jose Mangin of Headbanger's Ball
is a cool mostly Rock genre music channel in HD, available on many cable outlets. It plays a lot of recorded concerts and festivals from Europe. You can also see some other gems like Dropkick Murphys Live from Fenway, a 2010 Soundgarden concert, Florence + the Machine Unplugged, and much more. It also plays a huge selection of music videos from the Rolling Stones to the Foo Fighters.

another music channel, still carries a bunch of music and music related shows. They still do a lot of Music Videos, Concert Specials, Behind the Music & Metal Evolution by Sam Dunn (one of my favorite shows) and That Metal Show on VH1 Classic.

"That Metal Show" is another example of a popular TV Music Show. Long time radio DJ Eddie Trunk along with co-hosts Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson dive into interviews with past or current Metal music stars. Not much music being played, but the talk is all about hard rock & heavy metal MUSIC. Mostly interviews, a debate about the top five of something in music in what they call "the Throwdown." At the end of the show each member offers their "Pick of the week" which is a suggestion of a new CD they think you may like to hear. One of my favorite parts of the show is called "Stump the Trunk." Audience members ask music questions to Eddie Trunk. If he doesn't know the answer, the audience member wins a prize.

What's Next for Music on Television

Who really knows? I am unaware of any big national network shows outside of American Idol or The Voice. These shows don't count as "original" because they have people singing covers. I have no problem with a band doing 1 or at most 2 covers to fill a large set list. But to listen to cover tunes all show is boring to me. I may as well go to the local bar and watch some Karaoke Clowns pretend that they are a real band.      

Here is what I do know; if guys like Eddie Trunk, Jose Magin, and Sam Dunn can continue to put together a lengthy Music Television career like Don Cornelius and Dick Clark, maybe their is a future for Music TV Shows. Though, it will be harder today with the loss of those great producer/hosts, their stars still shine brightly. 


As ALWAYS, I want to read your thoughts.
Please comment below.