Prime time 1960s US pop music series produced by Jack Good.
With occasional exceptions (such as guest appearances on such variety programmes as 'The Ed Sullivan Show'), rock & roll music was not a staple of American television during its early years.
There was ABC’s daytime hit 'American Bandstand,' of course (which moved to Saturday mornings by 1963); along with the numerous “teen party” shows airing on local stations. But for two seasons in the mid-1960's, two of the three major broadcast networks tried to imitate British TV’s success with programmes such as 'Ready, Steady, Go' and 'Top Of The Pops'–in prime time, no less.
ABC was the first to hit the airwaves, when 'Shindig' premiered on September 16th, 1964. Los Angeles-based radio disk jockey Jimmy O’Neill was the host of the half-hour series, which featured popular acts of the day doing their biggest hits. 'Shindig' was actually created and produced by Jack Good and the premiere episode was in fact a regular episode of 'Ready, Steady, Go,' with the 'Shindig' logos substituted and commercial breaks for American viewers. (That first episode featured an appearance by The Beatles; the group sang “I’m A Loser” and “Boys.”)
'Shindig' would return to London for future episodes and it also helped break the racial barrier by showcasing such popular black vocal acts as Sam Cooke, James Brown, Mary Wells, The Isley Brothers and The Supremes. There were as many as a dozen acts in each 30 minute episode, making for an exhausting but thrilling experience for young viewers and not-so-youthful audiences who (in the advertising phrase of the period) thought themselves to be part of the Pepsi Generation. In addition to the week's musical acts and O'Neill, there was a group of dancers known as the "Shin-diggers." (One of the members was future actress Teri Garr; the show’s assistant choreographer, Antonia Basilotta, had a 1982 hit with the song "Mickey" under the name Toni Basil.) The show's house band featured such future musical stars as Glen Campbell, Billy Preston and Leon Russell. And there was a group of female backup singers known as The Blossoms, which featured vocals by Darlene Love, who was either credited or uncredited on a number of hit songs produced by Phil Spector (including The Crystals' 1962 smash "He's A Rebel”).
By January 1965, 'Shindig' did well enough to expand from 30 minutes to a full hour every Wednesday night. The problem with 'Shindig' and its NBC counterpart 'Hullabaloo' (see separate entry for more on that series) was their appeal. While teenagers and younger audiences watched, not too many older folks tuned in–and that was not good enough to compete in the high-stakes battle of prime time TV, which aimed for the largest audience possible. In fact, some stations pre-empted both shows, relegating them to weekends or afternoons. 'Shindig' also suffered from ABC’s nagging problem of not enough affiliates (compared to NBC and CBS) and its delay in converting to colour broadcasting at a time when Americans were finally buying colour sets in droves.
In September 1965, Shindig became a twice-weekly show, airing for a half-hour on Thursday and Saturday nights. It also included more familiar and traditional musical guest stars to attract older viewers. But the changes didn’t work, and Shindig ended its run in early January 1966. The Thursday version made way for one of ABC’s bigger hits of the decade, the camp adventures of 'Batman.'
Both 'Shindig' and 'Hullabaloo' live on today, thanks to DVD collections. They remain a snapshot of new and emerging talent in rock music during one of its most vital periods.
Questions Site Information Contact
Return to Top of Page