Posts Tagged ‘Circus’

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UPBEAT: TV THAT ROCKED

April 18, 2012

If you were a young person in the 1960’s and early 1970’s who loved rock ‘n roll and lived in northeast Ohio and if you were anywhere near a television on Saturday’s at 5:00 PM from 1964 – 1971 you were more than likely tuned into the Upbeat TV Show that aired weekly over Cleveland’s WEWS Channel 5. Upbeat was a weekly music program that featured the top national, international and regional bands of the day.

“It was the first show of its kind that really wasn’t a dance party,” said David Spero to WEWS not long ago. David Spero is the son of Herman Spero, producer of the WEWS program The Old Dutch Polka Review, which would later be known as Polka Varieties. “Instead of having, like American Bandstand, where they’d have Frankie Avalon come on and sing two songs, all the rest was kids dancing to the records, he said ‘Let’s have 10 acts.'”


 Upbeat was a trendsetter having appeared long before Hullabaloo, Shindig, Where The Action Is and later, In Concert, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and the Midnight Special. It debuted on August 29, 1964 as The Big 5 Show, named so because it aired on Channel 5 at 5:00 PM on Saturdays. It was hosted by a variety of Cleveland area disc jockeys until Spero decided a permanent host was needed. Spero saw a young Don Webster hosting a Canadian dance party show and hired him to take over the soon-to-be-renamed Upbeat show.
 
After being hired by WEWS one of Webster’s first duties was to interview The Beatles during their Cleveland appearance.

                                       Don Webster & The Beatles – 1964
 
Soon after Upbeat’s popularity grew so large that Spero and WEWS began syndicating the show around the country, eventually appearing in 105 television markets.
 
Bands/performers would be brought in on a Friday and Spero, Webster and their staff would try to get them a booking at a local High School or club so they’d get some extra pay out of it.

The McCoys (Rick Derringer – left) w/ Don Webster

“We would tape it on Saturday afternoon, rehearsal started at nine, took a break at noon, came back at 1:30 and shot the show and hopefully it was done by five o’clock when you had to see it,” Spero explained. The videotape of one-hour “Upbeat” episode would be copied nine times and then sent to a station in each of the top ten markets (such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas) broadcast and then that station would sent to a station in the next lower market size, shipped or “bicycled” from market to market.

It didn’t take long for acts who appeared on Upbeat to eventually be seen nationally after a month or so of the tapes making the rounds.

Eric Burden & The Animals appeared

Over the years a virtual who’s who of national, international and regional bands performed numerous times on Upbeat, a few examples included Marvin Gaye & Tammie Terrel, Music Explosion, Velvet Underground, McCoys, Yardbirds, Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, John Kay, Steppenwolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Monkees, Sonny Geraci and The Outsiders, Canned Heat, Paul Revere & The Riders, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy James, Sly and The Family Stone, Terry Knight and the Pack,  Johnny Nash, Billy Joe Royal, Stevie Wonder, Gene Krupa, Steam, Box Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Eric Burdon, Lou Christie, The 5th Dimension, Gene Pitney, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Otis Redding, Bar-Kays, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Fanny, Scott MacKenzie, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Circus, The Toys, American Breed, Steve Colt, The Chylds, The Fifth Estate, The Sonics, Doughboys, Pleasure Seekers, Tiffany Shade, London & The Bridges, The Debutantes, Cyrus Erie, Kickin’ Mustangs, John Sebastian and The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bob Seger, GTO’s, The Shangra-La’s, Spanky and Our Gang, Peter and Gordon, Simon and Garfunkel, Chubby Checker, Grasshoppers, Gary Puckett and Union Gap, Pete Best, Left Banke, Raven, James Gang, Eric Carmen, Choir, Damnation of Adam Blessing.

The legendary BB King

One memorable guest who appeared performed for the last time. On December 9, 1967, after appearing on the Upbeat show and doing a gig in Canton, OH, Otis Redding subsequently died in an airplane crash on the way to his next gig in Madison, WI. “The end of the show was him (Redding), with the Bar-Kays and Mitch Ryder singing ‘Knock On Wood’,” Spero said.
 
Over the years Upbeat featured several ‘house bands’ to back up solo performers. Upbeat house bands were Dave C and the Sharptones, The Grasshoppers (of which the late Ben Orr of the Cars was a member), Rapid Transit and the People’s Choice (Puzzle People).

The Cowsills

Another selling and focal point to the Upbeat show were the ‘Upbeat Dancers’ who performed during various guests’ performances. Maurice “Hank” Nystrom, who went on to national acclaim, was Upbeat’s choreographer (1968 – 1971) when the show was televised to 105 cities nationwide.

Over the years Upbeat Dancers included Jean Hagedorn. Linda Mulcahey, Arline Burks, Jacquelyn Carson, John Magill, Mary Lynn Curnayn, Arlee Gibson, Constance Gibson, Michael Ray, Linda Mulcahy, Kim Havrilla, Arline Burks, Mary Lynn Curnayn, Jacquelyn “Jackie” Carson, Peggy Miller, and Diane Rini, among others.


 After Upbeat ended in 1971 Webster remained at WEWS until his retirement in 1999. He did weather, hosted the Ohio Lottery show, Academic Challenge, The Gene Carroll Show, Bowling for Dollars and anchored Live On Five. Webster is now enjoying his retirement in South Carolina.

Mitch Ryder, Webster, Otis Redding

Ironically, Upbeat founder Herman Spero, who died in 1979 at the age young of 55, proposed to cable networks the idea of a music TV channel just before his death. HBO turned him down. Within a couple years MTV was born.

UPBEAT honored by Hall of Fame

Alex Chilton & The Boxtops appeared several times

The UPBEAT DANCERS

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Rock ‘N Roll Eye Candy

January 3, 2012

The previous post featuring the Sunset Strip in 1974 sparked some memories after seeing the Mott The Hoople and David Bowie billboards. I can remember once in the mid-1970’s driving north to Cleveland and being shocked to see a billboard along I-71 advertising KISS’ Destroyer album. I knew they had the coolest rock ‘n roll billbaords in New York, London and L.A. cause magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and the like would on occasion publish a photo of one. Seeing rock ‘n roll themed billboards promoting new albums and upcoming concerts (World Series of Rock, etc…) would be a bit more frequent over the next couple years around Cleveland and Akron but like all things, they too faded.

Here’s some billboards from ‘back in the day’, the glory years of rock ‘n roll. Click on images to enlarge!

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‘Big Time’ Rock N Roll In A Small Town Pt.1

September 7, 2008

Terry Knight of Terry Knight & The Pack

Way back in the early 1960’s at the Atlantic-Richfield gas station on West Market Street in my hometown of Orrville, Oh ‘sock hops’ were held during summer evenings. I was too young to attend but my older brother and sister went to them. A couple years later a couple dances with live bands were held in the parking lot on the north side of Smith’s Grocery on South Main Street and even though I was too young to attend I do remember one dance in particular, circa 1966, that my sister and her best friend attended that featured Terry Knight & The Pack.

 

Dad & Mom drove Cheryl and her friend, also named Cheryl, in to Orrville and dropped them off at Smith’s while the rest of our family went several blocks away to my uncle and aunt’s home until the dance was over. Another uncle & aunt were there so eventually a cousin and myself walked up Oak Street to Main Street to Clyde Matthew’s Union 76 gas station to get a bottle of Pepsi. Several blocks south we could hear the music so we decided to walk down and take a peak.

 

Once we got near Smith’s Grocery (we were across the street and intimidated by all those rowdy teenagers) we hung around for about a half hour and watched the band and the high schoolers having a good time before walking back to our uncle’s.

 

After the dance both Cheryls walked up to where our uncle lived and man were they exited! Terry Knight & The Pack (never heard of them prior to that night) had a couple records being played on Cleveland radio and to the two Cheryls they were big stars! You’d have thought they died and went to heaven (they had some of their 45 singles).

 

Fast forward to 1971 and I’m a typical male teenager into Grand Funk Railroad. I knew they were managed by Terry Knight but imagine my surprise when, after reading various articles and interviews with Mark, Don and Mel in Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and Rolling Stone I discovered that Grand Funk’s Mark Farner and Don Brewer were in Terry Knight & The Pack! Cripes, I saw 2/3 of Grand Funk Railroad several years prior and didn’t know!

 

Not long after that discovery I was able to catch Grand Funk Railroad in concert in Cleveland and I think somewhere around ’73 or ’74 I caught them in Indianapolis when a carload of us went to see them.

 

Terry Knight, from Flint, MI, was a DJ in the early 60’s (including a stint at the legendary CKLW and credited as the DJ who broke the Rolling Stones in the USA – some referred to him as the ‘Sixth Stone’) before deciding to become a ‘rock star’. He started Terry Knight & The Pack in 1965 and served as frontman and singer with Don Brewer on drums, Mark Farner on bass, Carl Johnson on guitar and Bobby Caldwell on keyboards.

 

At least a half dozen of their records made the Top 40 regionally (Detroit, Cleveland, New York) and among the singles were Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I, I (Who Have Nothing), This Precious Time, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Tears Come Rollin’, How Much More, Better Man Than I, and the song they are most identified with, A Change On The Way.

 

Soon after Farner took over as lead guitarist.

 

The band was big in Cleveland and appeared numerous times on Don Webster’s UPBEAT TV show and throughout the region opened for bands like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five and others.

 

By the end of ’67 Knight left for a solo career as a singer (that failed) and producer (that succeeded). As a producer/manager he helped put together Grand Funk Railroad with Farner, Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher in 1968 and took them to the top before a major falling out in 1974 that resulted in Knight more or less retiring from the music business.

 

Knight, born Richard Terrance Knapp, was born April 9, 1943 and was tragically murdered on November 1, 2004 by his daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend, out of control on drugs, was fighting with his daughter when Knight stepped in to protect her. He was stabbed 17 times.

 

I always thought my first ‘big time’ concert was Alice Cooper in Akron after that band made it big (I had seen them prior to becoming superstars at Chippewa Lake Park) but perhaps, in retrospect, my first was really Terry Knight & The Pack.

As far as I know the next ‘big time’ name band to play Orrville was Kim Simmonds’ Savoy Brown on September 1, 1979 at Wayne County Speedway.

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Run-Run-RUNAWAYS!

August 29, 2008

A publicity photo of the Runaways taken a couple months before I saw them in Massillon, OH.

Recently while driving down the road with my youngest son (25-years-old) the song ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top came on the radio. I mentioned to him how I liked Joan Jett’s version and we started talking about her. He had no idea she was in a band, The Runaways, prior to forming Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. So I told him about having all their albums, a few 8-tracks and seeing them live a couple times back in the day.

 

The next day I surfed online for some Runaways information to see what LPs were available on CD and came across the news that drummer and co-founder Sandy West had passed away on October 21, 2006 at the age of 47 of lung cancer. I had no idea. It was a sad moment because I instantly flashed back to a night in 1976 when Sandy took the time to talk to myself, Flash, Mott and Bug.

 

Joan Jett and Sandy West formed The Runaways in August 1975 and by the first of the year rock magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, Who Put The Bomp!, Cleveland Scene and even a British paper or two (I got them all back then) had begun writing about a new LA band made up of teenage girls who weren’t bubble gum or sugar coated, they were hardcore rockers (the term punk was also being bandied about). That new band was The Runaways and producer Kim Fowley, who always made the magazines, was their producer.

 

In March ’76 they entered the studio, recorded their first album, The Runaways, and went on tour amid lots of hype and media coverage. On June 1, 1976 The Runaways’ debut album was released and I dutifully bought it, I think at Far East Audio in Wooster, OH. I also picked up the 8-track for the Lincoln (I had a all black ’63 Lincoln Continental Towncar with suicide doors in mint condition).

 

Soon after word filtered out that The Runaways were going to be playing at The Wine Cellar in Massillon, OH, a nightclub. When the night came Flash, Bug, Mott and myself headed east to Massillon and caught their show. My Gawd, it was true! They were only 16 and 17! Jailbait!

 

It was a hot, sweaty, sticky night with a full crowd in attendance and while a bit sloppy I guess, The Runaways rocked the house by sheer enthusiasm, tenacity and guts. You couldn’t help but like them even though they were on par with some of the local bands talent-wise at that time.

 

After they were done we hung around for a couple more drinks and while getting ready to head out we walked by Sandy West who apparently was coming out for a cigarette before they closed The Wine Cellar for the night. We stopped and complimented her and the band and she was, looking back, gracious enough to stop and talk to us for a good 15 or 20 minutes.

 

She was fun, cute, friendly and loved rock ‘n roll.

 

That was a night we had a ton of fun. The original line-up of The Runaways that night consisted of Joan Jett (16), Sandy West (16), Lita Ford (17), Jackie Fox (16) and Cherie Currie (16).

 

I saw them one other time, on March 13, 1978 (three days before my oldest son was born and a day or two before a HUGE blizzard hit this area) at the Flying Machine in Akron, OH. The band line-up at that time included, Jett, West, Ford and Vicki Blue.

 

Apparently there is a film, Edgeplay, a Runaways documentary. I need to find that. One caveat is Joan Jett reportedly refused to have anything to do with the documentary personally.

 

After The Runaways broke up in 1979, Sandy West formed the Sandy West Band as a singer, drummer and guitarist. She released one solo EP.

 

For more information on Sandy, Rocket City Records has a great tribute online, the Sandy West Tribute.

The late Sandy West in action. Tom Golden Photo

The late Sandy West in action. Tom Golden Photo

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Confession: I Read 16 Magazine (44 Years Ago)

March 1, 2008

I have a confession to make. I once read 16 Magazine. Now before you call my manhood into question let me elaborate. Back in ’64 when the Beatles hit my older sister Cheryl and cousin Sue were your typical early 60’s teenyboppers and they had Beatlemania like you wouldn’t believe! Cousin Sue had all the LPs and 45’s and got all, and I mean all of the magazines like 16, Tiger Beat and the rest. You couldn’t go into a drug store or grocery store without seeing them in the magazine racks. 

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I can remember when the British Invasion was in full force Sue and her family moved to Ghent, OH. When visiting them and, loving the Beatles and all things rock ‘n roll, I would go through her stack of teen magazines and read them (I was all of eight or nine years old). More often than not when we would visit Sue would invariably give Cheryl back issues of the ones she missed. (If there was a poster of the Beatles, Tommy James or Sonny & Cher, for example, Cheryl would have them on her bedroom walls or school locker.)

 

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 Fast forward a couple years and it soon became apparent (due to peer pressure…and taste) that 16 Magazine (and the rest of that ilk) were for girls only and no way would a guy buy or read them! So by 1968 they were off limits. Once the 70’s hit I remember my kid sister, five years my junior, buying those magazines plastered with David Cassidy, the Defranco family, Donny Osmond and whoever else was the flavor of the month. I vividly remember giving her hell and constantly teasing her for reading such ‘baby crap’ magazines when she could be reading my Creem, Rolling Stone, Circus, Crawdaddy or any of the other ‘true’, ‘adult’ magazines.  

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Of course, (*harrumph*) when I read 16 Magazine for a couple years it featured the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who and all the rest of the ‘mature’ rock bands, no bubble gum in sight (have I justified myself yet?). But in all honesty, it would be a kick to be able to leaf through and read a couple of them from 1964-1966 today, just for the sake of nostalgia and to remember the innocence of a different time and era. 

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Do they still publish the thing?

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For my recollections (and obession) on 70’s rock ‘n roll magazines visit this entry: Biology & Rock ‘N Roll ‘Literature’

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Biology & Rock ‘N Roll ‘Literature’

February 14, 2008

Way, way, way back in the early 1970’s when I attended Orrville High School I had a pretty good time (more on ‘good times’ another time soon) and for the most part the academic end of the high school experience came somewhat easy for me considering I never took a book home after my freshman year. I got decent grades, in some classes damn good grades, but there were two subjects that I just couldn’t get into no matter how hard I tried.

 

 

 

One was math, and the other biology. During my sophomore year biology was a required course and the lecture part of the class was taught by John Wiant who was a brilliant and extremely intelligent teacher but I just could not get into it.

 

 

 

After the first couple weeks it became obvious that I’d rather read my rock n roll magazines during class than listen to Mr. Wiant and take notes. A buddy of mine, who sat to the left of me, was Bug Jones and he shared my apathy for the subject.

 

 

 

To the right of me was a girl named Brenda S., a very pretty cheerleader who was pretty hip, too. She got Bug and myself through that course.

 

 

You see, why we laid back and read the newest issues of Circus, Creem, Rolling Stone, Rock Scene, Scene and the rest she was busy taking notes and when quiz time came around would pass her paper over to us to copy. Of course, we’d always miss a couple to get that ‘C’ grade as Brenda always got ‘A’s’.

 

 

 

The lecture class was held in the school auditorium and we sat back far enough that Mr. Wiant never realized, or let on, that while the majority of the class was doing the right thing (once we set a chair on fire, nevermind…..), Bug and I were reading about the latest exploits of Led Zep, Mott The Hoople, T.Rex, Rolling Stones, Montrose, David Bowie and the Spiders, Alice Cooper, Slade and all the rest.

 

 

 

We made it through the whole year reading rock n’ roll magazines and I passed with a ‘C’ on the year….thanks to Brenda S.!

 

 

 

 

I recall a lot of people used to borrow my rock magazines especially in study hall (hello Beth C.!). I tried to use study halls to do whatever homework was required for the following day because when that final bell rang for the day school never entered my mind until the next morning.

 

 

 

 

Throughout the 1970’s, until the end of the decade, I had complete 1970 runs of Circus, Creem and Rolling Stone with stacks and stacks of Hit Parader, Rock Scene, Crawdaddy and any others that came along that featured hard rock. Including stacks from the mid-to-late 1960’s.

 

 

 

 

I also purchased, when I was able and could find them, music newspapers/magazines from England like Melody Maker and New Musical Express, among others. Those two were, and probably still are, the top music rags in Britain and the newsstand store at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron back in the 70’s carried imported magazines including NME and MM, among the occasional other rock publication from the UK which I dutifully would buy.

 

 

 

 

I devoured all of those magazines from both sides of the pond and I think it was a huge influence after high school when I published Bangagong Magazine.

 

 

 

There were places around Orrville to buy the magazines, like Buehler’s grocery store, Bigler’s, and Dick Zarle’s drug store uptown (good ‘ol Dick once told me, I swear to God (!), “Hey, kid, this ain’t no library!”) and it seemed like the magazine rack at the Three Sisters Restaurant always had a good selection and often got them sooner than the other places in town, plus they were always open for breakfast as I headed for school (and sometimes stopped for breakfast, too).

 

 

Wish I still had all of them!

 

And rest in peace Lester Bangs!

 

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