When Broadcast Networks Ruled TV

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Back before the internet and on-demand video, back before cable brought us CNN and MTV, three broadcast networks ruled and we watched television over the air. As I was working on today’s digital visit with you all, I brought up Detroit Free Press columnist,  BetteLou Peterson’s TV article from today in 1970. Here’s a real trip back in time. What were Detroiters watching?

On Monday night, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was at the height of its popularity, the most popular program in town. Mod Squad owned Tuesday nights. On Wednesday the competition between The Virginian, Glen Campbell, and the Sally Field’s Flying Nun was fierce. Family Affair and Daniel Boone were the winners on Thursday night. Ranch opera programming was also popular on Friday night on the broadcast networks, with High Chaparral beating the Brady Bunch. Jackie Gleason was still on the air in 1970 and in the front spot on Saturday nights with My Three Sons, and Lawrence Welk trailing. The Wonderful World of Disney was still in the lead on Sunday night with The FBI close behind.

With three broadcast networks still dominating our viewing, Fred Silverman’s concept of the “least objectionable alternative” was in full bloom. It’s still a valid concept today. Think about how you manage your Netflix queue. But those of us who were growing up back then still, occasionally, look back wistfully on the days when huge audiences turned to our TV sets to be entertained, en mas.

Quick Takes:

This resonates with my 1976 DJ self.

From the archives: For all you who live in northern climes. Does 10 minutes of exposure to shivering cold equals an hour of exercise? One study thinks “maybe”.

Where it all began. A brilliant look back at Facebook’s beginnings at Harvard.  Great writing by The Atlantic

Today in History: 

The Smothers Brothers Reader’s Digest Issue #1

1922: The first Reader’s Digest magazine is published.
1924: The Royal Greenwich Observatory begin broadcasting the hourly time signals known as the Greenwich Time Signal or the “BBC pips”.
1942: “Woman of the Year” film directed by George Stevens, starring Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy opens at Radio City.
1953: Walt Disney releases ‘Peter Pan’.
1957: 5,000 fans greeted Bill Haley when he arrived from New York on the liner Queen Elizabeth at Southampton, for his debut UK concert tour. Haley was the first American rock artist to tour the UK.
1962: The Beatles played two shows, one at The Cavern Club at lunchtime and in the evening at the Kingsway Club in Southport. It was the first time Ringo Starr appeared live with the group after drummer Pete Best got sick.
1962: The first days recording sessions for Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music took place at Capitol Studios in New York City. Regarded by many critics as Charles’s best studio album, the albums lead single, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’, became a huge hit.

Janet and Justin

1967: “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” premieres on CBS (later ABC, NBC)
1972: Paul Simon released his first solo single, ‘Mother and Child Reunion’, which peaked at No.4. Simon got the idea for the song’s title from a chicken-and-egg dish called Mother and Child Reunion that he saw on a Chinese restaurant’s menu.
1979: According to Census Bureau – US population reaches 200 million
1991: 1991 A Michigan court bars Dr Jack Kevorkian from assisting in suicides.
2004: Janet Jackson’s breast was seen by millions on TV after Justin Timberlake pulled at her bodice during a duet. Search engines reported a big jump in searches as people turned to the web for images of the Wardrobe Malfunction.”
2012: American record producer and session musician Al De Lory dies aged 82.

Today’s Birthdays:

Hal Blaine

1900: Adlai Stevenson (d. 1965)
1906: John Carradine (d. 1988)
1919: Red Buttons, (d. 2006)
1926: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher (NY Times) (d. 2012)
1941: Motown’s Barrett Strong.
1942: Wrecking Crew Drummer Hal Blaine. (d. 2019)
1942: Corey Wells (Three Dog Night)
1944: Al Kooper (Organized Blood, Sweat and Tears)
1948: Barbara Hershey, in Atlanta Georgia
1948: David Denny (Steve Miller Band)

Much More Music:

In 1966, Petula Clark scores her second No.1 in the US singles chart with ‘My Love’, making her the first British female to have two US No.1 hits. But she initially didn’t like the song and tried to discourage Warner Bros A&R man Joe Smith from issuing it as a single: “He’s a very small man physically…about the right height for me. I was able to get hold of his lapels, and I said to him, ‘Joe, I don’t care which [of the three songs] you put out, but just don’t put out “My Love”. And he said: ‘Trust me, baby.'” (Video)

Today in 1972, Paul Simon releases his first new song without Art Garfunkel, ‘Mother and Child Reunion’. It will peak at No.4. Simon got the idea for the song’s title from a chicken-and-egg dish called Mother and Child Reunion that he saw on a Chinese restaurant’s menu. While the self titled album was Paul’s first release as a solo artist, it was actually his second. His first solo album was recorded in England in 1965 but remained unreleased in the U.S. (except for a brief period in 1969) until 1981 (Video)

This Juice Newton tune came up in the Keener rotation this morning. Sometimes, when you hear a really great song, you just have to share it. The first pressings of the album featured a different arrangement of the song, with a more prominent steel guitar part and no oboe. After the unexpected crossover success of “Angel of the Morning” and “Queen of Hearts”, a pop version was mixed and replaced the country version on all future pressings. (Video)

Today’s Quote Worth Re-Quoting: “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” ~ Henry J. Kaiser

We leave you with the first hit for the 5th Dimension. The Jimmy Webb song cleaned up at the 10th Annual Grammy Awards in 1968, winning for Record of the YearSong of the YearBest Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalsBest Performance by a Vocal GroupBest Performance by a Chorus and Best Contemporary Song. The the Wrecking Crew, provided the backing tracks, including guitarist Al Casey and drummer (and birthday boy) Hal Blaine.

Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit