Posts Tagged ‘Left Banke’

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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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Chippewa Lake: A Baby Boomer’s Paradise

February 23, 2008

 

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Back in the 1960s and 1970s when I was growing up there was a spring/summer tradition that brought a gathering of the tribes, if you will, to a place called Chippewa Lake Amusement Park located in Chippewa Lake, Ohio. A well known and impressive amusement park that began life in 1878, by the time the swinging 60’s arrived there was an annual ‘Fan Appreciation Day’ that was at first hosted and sponsored by the famed WIXY 1260 AM radio station and then later hosted by WHLO 640 AM radio and each station brought in some of the biggest names in rock n roll for performances.

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My first visit there was in the mid-1960’s sometime when I was staying with an aunt and uncle for several weeks. One day we went to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park to drop my cousin and her friend off and decided to stay awhile. While I was fairly young I remember having a lot of fun on the rides, eating the good food and checking out the lake and then I heard the music! I know that song! From the spacious ballroom came the thundering and melodic sounds of Tommy James & The Shondells!

 

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 Throughout the 60’s annually top bands would come in to Chippewa Lake when that appreciation day was first known as the Galaxy of Stars Teen Fair. During the 60’s those lucky enough to attend could see, among the top local and regional bands, such national acts as the aforementioned Tommy James and The Shondells, the Outsiders, Music Explosion, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Neil Diamond, Left Banke, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Chylds and many, many others. Cost? Anywhere from 50 cents to a buck and a half would get you in for a full day of music and fun.

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 Somewhere around 1970 I returned with my pals and made it an annual trek during the 70’s. In fact, it often seemed the entire town of Orrville would show up among the thousands of others from the neighboring towns and cities. My first time back there as a teenager was to see Alice Cooper and in the ensuing years bands and performers such as Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Glass Harp and many others made their way to Chippewa Lake Park. 

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One of my fondest memories attending WHLO Fan Appreciation Day came in 1973 when a large caravan of cars left Orrville and headed about 20 minutes north to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. It was a hot, sunny day, perfect weather, probably a dozen cars and vans from Orrville packed with people parked together and I had a very special young lady with me that day named Lauren, a beautiful, beautiful, classy young lady who made the day special. She was better than I deserved.

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The radio station also had several promotions going and the one I remember each year was when they would drop probably hundreds of ping pong balls with prizes on them, usually a 45 record of which I won several. Each time I attended, with a sweltering mass of thousands of people, was a positive experience. How could a teenager go wrong with beautiful weather, a first class amusement park, terrific food, a friendly staff, some of the best rock n roll music and thousands of pretty girls everywhere you looked?  

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Alas, Chippewa Lake Amusement Park is no longer in existence. After 100 years the park shut down in 1978 and has been idle since then. Unfortunately, the ornate ballroom was victimized on June 13, 2002 when vandals set fire to it. But when it was alive and well, it was booming and thriving and a wonderful place for baby-boomers to create memories. And I have plenty! 

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For more on Chippewa Lake Amusement Park visit: Chippewa Lake There is also an active & passionate Yahoo Group devoted to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park: Chippewa Lake Yahoo Group

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Contact Doc at: DocLehman99@gmail.com

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