Saturday, May 14, 2022

Weekend Post

Time to plug my book again since summer is coming as well as Father's Day.  It's THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s). You can find the Kindle version here.  Here is an excerpt.  Think of how much fun you'll have on the beach reading this. 

1964, Woodland Hills

Must viewing: THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW. Each afternoon from 5-6 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, Mash 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 elf-looking 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! However, I did get to appear on NINTH STREET WEST.

With the success of THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW every local channel had their own dance party show. Over the next few years there would be SHEBANG on Channel 5 with Casey Kasem, SHIVAREE on Channel 7 with KFWB D.J. Gene Weed, and NINTH STREET WEST on Channel 9 hosted by KFWB D.J. Sam Riddle. Stations hired the D.J.’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 Kia 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 three guests scheduled to lip sync their songs. It was impossible to do them live. One amplifier and ten dancers would be pinned against the wall. The guests were the Beau Brummels (a group out of San Francisco), a very young Marvin Gaye, 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.

During a commercial break they set up for Marvin Gaye’s number. Surprisingly, he seemed incredibly nervous. His hands were practically shaking. Hardly the super cool image we’d come to expect. I assured him he was great and had nothing to worry about. It must have meant a lot coming from a white kid in his bar mitzvah suit. He gave me a quick smile, the red light went on and he did his song. Afterwards when he was off camera he thanked me. Not necessary but a lovely gesture.

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!”



Roger Owen Green said...

Thank you for saving Marvin's career!

thirteen said...

In NYC, it was a guy named Clay Cole. He was our Lloyd Thaxton. Clay's show had a nine-year run, ending in 1968. Clay died in 2010 at 72. BTW we got Thaxton's show as well.

Monkeefan88 said...

Pre- Monkees appearance by Michael Nesmith on that show...

Mike Barer said...

My introduction to Rock and Roll was partly through Lloyd Thaxton's show in the early 1960's. I got to know Lloyd through the computer when he wrote his blog. He even gave me a mention in a post
Needless to say, I was absolutely crushed when I read of his passing.

Bob Paris said...

Wouldn't Sam Riddle have been on KHJ - the sister radio station to Channel 9?

Mitch said...

It's true that KCOP had a reputation for being "cheap," but for a local station it aired some pretty interesting programming. Lloyd Thaxton's show was a good example. Lloyd had been working as a local TV pitchman, doing commercials on Oscar Levant's late night talk show on Channel 13. Radio legend Bill Ballance had a record hop show on the station, and when he left, KCOP offered the job to Thaxton, and gave him a budget of $600 a week to do it. That meager allowance included his salary. When I interviewed him for the station's 50th anniversary program, he told me his show, which aired in the same time slot as ABC's American Bandstand, consistently drew a larger audience than Dick Clark's. And he brought copies of the overnight ratings sheets to prove it. Clark told me the same thing -- and sounded a little jealous. Thaxton claimed the key to his program's success was that the kids he enlisted to dance on his show came from four or five local high schools. Also, major musical performers often used his show to introduce their latest songs, sometimes before they got radio airplay. Lloyd Thaxton, along with people like Al Burton -- another KCOP alum -- were tuned in to what young people were interested in, and they created programs that appealed to a younger audience. And KCOP, because it was so "cheap," gave those entrepreneurial hosts and show creators the opportunities other stations in the market did not provide.

maxdebryn said...

Lulu was "harder edged" ? I love it when you're sarcastic.

Scottmc said...

This excerpt motivated me to take the book down from the bookshelf. I noticed, by rereading the Introduction, that this is the 10th Anniversary of the book’s publication. A good reason to reread it.

Anonymous said...

A very young me attended a taping of the afternoon teen dance party titled “Groovy” hosted by a very blonde surfer-looking dude named Michael Blodgett on the beach in Santa Monica. His co-host was a beautiful blonde. I want to say her name was Kam Nelson. They looked like a live version Ken and Barbie.

maxdebryn said...

@Anonymous - The movie version of Ken and Barbie is being filmed as we speak.

DwWashburn said...

I still have my Dawk protest doll.

Curt Alliaume said...

Cool story. My understanding is he always was a nervous live performer.

Cap'n Bob said...

"You saw me kissing your sister. You saw me holding her hand." So sang Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Not my idea of diddling.

JessyS said...

Ken, I thought it was Marty McFly that saved Marvin Gaye's career.

Chuck said...

10 year anniversary of the book's publication explains the Kia reference. Check out the Telluride. Three-row SUV that receives Consumer Reports Magazine's highest rating of some 260 reviewed vehicles in the April '22 issue. 97 out of 100. Just as, and in some cases more luxurious than the luxury brands. And a starting price thousands less.

That's really all I can comment on here. My only experience with appearing on television came when I was 8 years old, on Chicago's Bozo's Circus. It was "Grand Prize Game" time and the manner of choosing contestants landed on me. However, they already had a boy contestant and were then looking for a girl. But my face appeared on local TV. And no one I knew saw it.

I did get to meet Bozo after the show though. (Everybody did.) He mistook my then 7 year old cousin, Lisa, as my wife. What an idiot!

VincentP said...

Sam Riddle, who died last September (Ken's tribute to him is at, hosted "Hollywood-A-Go-Go" on KHJ-TV in the mid-'60s...which is available on DVD. Learn more at

DBenson said...

Thaxton was syndicated up here on KTVU out of Oakland. Somehow I assumed he was local. The show replaced Sir Sedley and his puppets, who ran Three Stooges shorts.

I remember him making album covers and cartoony postcards lip sync to songs by cutting a slit on their mouths and slipping through a piece of black paper. Also remember the theme song, "Lloyd Thaxton Hop". They'd open on a miniature facade of a malt shop and the camera would advance through the window.

Somebody mentioned Bozo. That franchise never quite took root in the Bay Area. As a kid I remember one using a "Butch finder" to choose "Butch for a Day" (Butch was the circus kid sidekick in the cartoons). Many decades later I stumbled across another attempt on UHF. One day his peanut gallery consisted of developmentally disabled adults, so he skipped his usual schtick of working the kids into a frenzy.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Why weren't you around to save Marvin Gaye's life?

maxdebryn said...

There's a Marvin Gaye biopic on the way (2023), maybe the young Ken figures in that one.

Don Jennett said...

Though the show was on KHJ-TV, Sam started on the show while still at KFWB. April 27, 1965 was the day KHJ-AM changed formats. Sam joined then.

420 said...

Woody Harrelson is opening a cannabis dispensary in West Hollywood.

Do you get a friends' discount, Ken?

Earl Boebert said...

I gather your date at the Carolina PInes was before iits, er, transformation.

Anonymous said...

5 o'clock was always a problem for me as child growing up in the Los Angeles ADI. I liked Lloyd Thaxton but I also like the news with Baxter Ward at the same time. His was the lowest rated of the network channels, but I was a natural contrarian and preferred his conversational style to The Big News at 6.

By 5:10 I usually switched to Lloyd Thaxton. He was fun and funny and the major local stories were over. But then came 5:30 and anothe problem. That's when Soupy Sales started. Soupy, White Fang and Black Tooth usually won--unless Thaxton had a good guest star.

As a coda I'm adding a link that shows one of the saddest local dance shows ever. It's part of a Standells video, but wait 20 seconds. 6 kids dancing and 25 standing or sitting around the edge of the dance floor, too shy or awkward to dance. It's like every junior high dance I ever went to.

Mike Barer said...

What we failed to mention is that the Thaxton show went national and he competed ABC's American Bandstand. While Dick Clark always played it straight, while Lloyd was free spirited and had that "what me worry" persona.
Clark looked like your buddy, Thaxton looked like your dad.
But, as the kids would yell at the end of every Lloyd Thaxton show, So What!

ScarletNumber said...


Your name is apropos as Clay Cole's show aired on Channel 13 before it became a PBS affiliate. This is the Channel 13 mentioned by Billy Joel in "Pressure".

Another variation of this theme aired on WNJU-TV47, where Zacherley hosted Disc-O-Teen. Here are the kids dancing to Let's Spend The Night Together, without Mick having to change the words 🤣

McTom said...

(Marcia visits Ken's blog)
"cute, but not SO hot..."
(a solitary tear rolls down her cheek)

Mitch said...


If you stop to realize that 1970 and 2022 are as far apart as 1970 and will make ya wonder


Russ DiBello said...

When "The Lloyd Thaxton Show" got syndicated on WPIX here in NYC (alongside our wonderful local hero Clay Cole), it had its fans. I'm one of them. And I totally agree with Ken about how smartly he manipulated the medium of TV in an el cheapo situation; two instances of his "discount Ernie Kovacs" act stand out with me to this day:

1. A completely dark studio, except for a spotlight on Lloyd, sitting on a stool and strumming an acoustic guitar. Looking like he was in deep rapture, staring off into space, emotionally lip-syncing Donovan's "Catch The Wind" (never a hit on WABC BTW!).

He goes through the entire first verse uneventfully, until he gets to the line, "Ah but I may as well try to Catch The Wind..." Suddenly, a huge fan gets turned on, debris starts flying across his face, and the soundtrack develops some very loud stock SFX of a hurricane blowing, right over Donovan's track.

Lloyd never once breaks his look of folkie rapture. He just sits there, staring off, strumming and (pantomime) singing as $2 worth of toilet paper (at 1960s prices!) blows onto the set and engulfs him. It was not exactly a think piece, but it was a funny as hell cheap laff! And man, he SOLD it!

2. "Lloyd Thaxton" was the show where I, personally, saw God.

Oh sure, I had heard plenty of Motown sides on the radio, where it all was just one big happy Top 40 potpourri of "The Sound Of Young America", interspersed with Big Dan Ingram and PAMS jingles. But this was TV. And on my Aunt Pauline's classy RCA Color TV set, these four young Black men came out in front of those musical notes, dressed in what appeared to be iridescent orange suits (coulda been the Tint control, dunno), and started lip-syncing (again!) to "Get Ready".

Yes, it was the Temptations. The original Temps. And... oh my Lord... they were doing DANCE MOVES! And these weren't the usual dance numbers you'd see from shiny white showbiz kids on some dumbass NBC musical Special, either. Every single phrase of the song was choreographed, hands and feet in motion, within an inch of its life!

I just stared in complete awe of what I was seeing, along with the obviously killer tune with which I was already familiar. It changed my life, and I'm serious about this. It's where I realized that the Greatest Generation could slime American Rock and Roll all they wanted, yet not only wasn't it going anywhere soon, but I was privileged to be living in the most significant phase of America ever, the postwar boom. And this music was the foundation of it all, taking everything to the next level. And I had to become a part of all of it.

And it's a tribute to Lloyd that some 56 years later, all this grooviness is still playing in my head.