Most of Ohio’s larger cities had some type of locally produced TV show during the 1960s, when these shows were common throughout the US. Prior to the British Invasion, the TV shows that featured rock and roll or R&B acts were almost always variety shows which would include (usually) teenage groups amongst a wide range of performers. After the British Invasion, shows catering to a teenage / top 40 audience were started up to meet the explosion of demand. These shows, depending on location and access to performers, would include dancing to current hit records played over a PA system to a studio audience, performances by local/regional groups doing covers of current hits, performances by local/regional groups to promote a released (sometimes pending) recording, or touring national recording groups. Only shows in the largest cities were able to land recognizable national acts. By the late 1960s, changing musical tastes and demographics lead to the end of almost all these types of shows.
Most of these shows were taped, or aired live, from the local TV station studio. Unfortunately, almost none of these shows survived in any form. Many of them, if recorded, were simply taped over for another show. Upbeat, with its wide syndication network (requiring multiple tape copies) is the only 60s show that has survived in any quantity. The only drawback is that many of the syndicated versions of Upbeat were half hour (the show was intended to be an hour) and the local band footage was left out. Occasionally some forward thinking people (for example, the Edicates from Dance Party) had a copy made back in the day and hung onto it.
· Upbeat – the biggest, most famous, and longest lasting of these shows from Ohio. Upbeat started on August 22, 1964 as the Big 5 show, broadcast on WEWS (channel 5, ABC affiliate) and airing at 5PM on Saturday. In the fall of 1965 the show was syndicated to places like Cincinnati and over the next year the syndication network grew to over 60 stations, including Boston, New York City, and Denver. For the October 30 1965 show the dancers were listed as the Upbeat dancers in the Plain Dealer TV listings, the first known reference to Upbeat as a name, corresponding to the show syndication. In early 1966 the show was listed in the PD as the Big Five Upbeat show. Sometime around April 1966 the PD listed the show as Upbeat, instead of Big Five, and stayed that way. The official name change was listed happening on Jun 25, 1966, according to a 1989 story in the Scene. The show first aired outside of Cleveland in Cincinnati on September 18, 1965 as the Upbeat show, with Columbus adding the show on October 9. In June 1967 the show went all color. Don Webster was the host for the entire run, except for the first few shows, where local DJs Ron Britian, Joe Mayer, and Johhny Walters took turns. As best we can tell, Webster took over on September 26, 1964. The show’s network started to contract through 1970 and the last show aired in Cleveland on January 30, 1971. At its peak in 1967-8, Upbeat was nearly as famous as American Bandstand, the granddaddy of these shows. Upbeat was an hour long and the acts were taped Friday afternoon for broadcast the next day. The syndicated shows were delayed by one-two weeks for tape transit – no ‘satellite networks’ back then! Because of its popularity Upbeat was able to get many national acts on the show, but there was always a couple slots for local/regional bands to perform. Some point during our lifetimes we will try to put together a complete list of Upbeat show performers as they were listed in the Cleveland papers (not always in the TV guides).
· Jerry G show – started as a rival to Upbeat by WKYC channel 3. Ran 1965-7 and hosted by Cleveland DJ Jerry G. Half hour show had local and national acts. When Jerry G left Cleveland, the show continued as the Big Jack show
· Big Jack show –.Starting Feb 11, 1967, Big Jack took over the Jerry G show after Jerry left Cleveland. Big Jack was WKYC radio DJ Jack Armstrong, formerly of WIXY.
· World Of Soul aka Ken Hawkins’ World Of Soul – On WEWS (channel 5), airing late Saturday night for one hour. Ken Hawkins was a DJ on WJMO and hosted this show which was primary soul/R&B performers. The show featured national talent as well as local groups. In addition to groups like the Imperial Wonders, Intertains, and the Sensations, white greaser bands like the Naturals and the Originals were also featured. The show first aired on August 19, 1967, and the lineup included the O’Jays, Jackie Wilson, Norma Jenkins (Detroit soul singer) - and B.J. Thomas and Bobbie Gentry! The show lasted until late 1968 or so. The show was videotaped but the tapes were reused and nothing is known to survive.
- Lou "King" Kirby show - On WUAB TV, channel 43, from 6-7PM Saturdays. Started September 21, 1968 and ran until December 13, 1968. The last two shows (Dec 7 and 13) were half hours. According to a PD story on December 14, the show's end was caused by 'production problems' at WVIZ TV where it was recorded. Lou "King" Kirby was one of the most popular DJs on WIXY and the show feattured national and local bands. The Convention were the house band. A picture of the set can be seen in the Child's Smile band entry. No footage is known to survive.
· Chippewaction – On WAKR (channel 23), this show aired during the summers of 1967 and 1968. It was partially filmed at Chippewa Lake park.
· Dance Party aka Jerry Rasor’s Dance Party aka Dance-O-Rama – Started 1964 by Columbus DJ Jerry Rasor, Dance Party was the second longest and probably the second most famous show in the state behind Upbeat. The show aired on WLWC (channel 4), Saturday 11AM for an hour. During the summer shows were taped on location at local outdoor teen dance spots. Dance Party included local and national acts. The show was not syndicated and most of the material was not saved.
· Bob Braun’s Bandstand – possibly the earliest show of its type from Ohio, originating in 1957. Bob Braun was a local DJ and started the show at the dawn of rock-n-roll. The show aired on WLWT, Sundays at 1PM.
List of shows compiled by the editors