I'm still in a Marvin Gaye mood after seeing the tribute show Thursday night at the Hollywood Bowl. So thought I would share my one personal encounter with him. This is actually an excerpt from my book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s) that you need to buy immediately. An early version of this was posted a few years ago, but how often do I get a chance to slyly plug my book?
1964 Woodland Hills
Must-viewing: The Lloyd Thaxton Show. Each afternoon from 5:00-6:00 Lloyd Thaxton hosted a live dance party show on the cheapest cheesiest independent station in LA – KCOP. If his budget was more than $4.95 a show I’d be shocked.
His set consisted of four panels (probably cardboard) with musical notes drawn on them. Kids from local high schools were invited to dance on a soundstage the size of an elevator. This was appointment television for every teenager in Los Angeles.
What made the show special was Lloyd Thaxton. Most shows like this were hosted by disc jockeys. They were content to just introduce the records and step aside while the kids did the Twist, Jerk, Fly, Popeye, Monkey, Frug, Mashed Potato, Locomotion, and whatever other inane dance was the rage that minute. Lloyd was the first to realize “this was TELEVISION,” you had to do something VISUAL. So he would find ways to comically present the songs. This elfin redhead would lip sync, mime playing instruments, use finger puppets, don wigs, do duets with rubber masks, cut out the lips on an album cover and substitute his own – anything to make the songs fun. In many ways, Lloyd Thaxton was a local version of Ernie Kovacs, finding innovative new ways to use the new medium. Music videos these days are all ambitious, elaborate productions. Back then we were quite content to watch a guy sing into his hand.
I always wanted to be on his show but of course didn’t qualify because I was still in Junior High. The indignities continue! I did however, get to appear on Ninth Street West.
With the success of The Lloyd Thaxton Show, every local channel had their own dance party copycat. Over the next few years there would be Shebang on Channel 5 with Casey Kasem, Shivaree on Channel 7 with KFWB DJ, Gene Weed, and Ninth Street West on Channel 9 hosted by KFWB DJ, Sam Riddle. Stations hired the DJ’s with the best and most teeth.
I sent in requests to all of them, but only Ninth Street West bit. Talk about a great date -- taking a girl to a TV show and dinner at nearby Carolina Pine’s coffee shop in Hollywood. Thanks again for driving, Mom!
I asked my friend Marcia. You always want to be seen on TV with someone hotter than you, but not so hot that it screams “pity date.” Marcia was very cute yet believable as my escort.
The show originated from the Channel 9 studios on Melrose Ave. The soundstage was nothing more than a one-car garage (for a VW maybe). About forty of us were jammed into this tiny space. It’s hard to rock out with reckless abandon when at any moment you could get an elbow in your eye.
There were several guests scheduled to lip sync their songs. It was impossible to perform live. One amplifier and ten dancers would be pinned against the wall. The guests that night were the Beau Brummels (a group out of San Francisco), and British imports, Peter & Gordon.
Kids were so crazed over the Beatles that they started buying records from any group that came out of England. It’s the same principle where girls who can’t sleep with rock stars wind up in bed with their roadies. First it was the Dave Clark 5, and then the floodgates opened. Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (who sang one of the creepiest songs EVER – “Little Children.” The story of a guy threatening little children because they caught him diddling their sister. Ugh!), Gerry & the Pacemakers, Herman’s Hermits, the inane Freddy & the Dreamers (whose entire act was to wear suits that didn’t fit and do jumping jacks), and Peter & Gordon. The harder edged Rolling Stones, Animals, Who, and Lulu would come a bit later.
The next day in school Marcia was quite the celebrity. Everyone had seen her on Ninth Street West. Maybe two or three had seen me. I wanted to say, “Hey, screw you, people. I’m the one who saved Marvin Gaye’s career!”