Meanwhile, mention of THIS show sparked some memories of the OTHER "History Of Rock And Roll" syndicated series that ran back in the '70's and '80's ...
Hi Kent ...
A few tidbits on the "HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL" from my perspective.
At the time of its inception I was Program Director of CKLW in Detroit (Windsor, Ont.). The late Bill Drake, the RKO Radio consultant, first brought up the idea of the 48-hour rockumentary in the fall of 1968. At the time he was the partner of Gene Chenault and they serviced all of the RKO stations including CK, KFRC, KHJ, WRKO and RKO's station in Memphis. In collaboration with KHJ PD, Ron Jacobs, the script was written by a local, and I believe former, LA Times writer.
All RKO PDs were asked to submit material for the program including interviews with local music mainstays. Being in Detroit, I interviewed several Motown stars for their input including Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Levi Stubbs, etc.
The tapes were then sent to LA for editing and inclusion in the HRR. Each RKO market then received the script and the interview tapes and we each produced our own version locally. The master program which first aired on KHJ was narrated by the late Robert W. Morgan, produced by Ron Jacobs and engineered by the legendary Bill Mouzis. In Detroit we produced our own, utilizing Mark Elliott (afternoon jock then known as Ed Mitchell). Midway through the recording process, however, I was transferred to KFRC, San Francisco, and took approximately 25 hours of tape with me which I had to smuggle under the Detroit River from our Windsor studios. In SF, and I can't recall the reason why, I flew Charlie Van Dyke out from Detroit to finish recording the whole thing (pausing between certain excerpts to record both the KFRC and CKLW call letters which were then spliced out depending on the station. Drake was upset that I'd used two voices for the broadcast. Once completed, the CK tapes were sent back East and the week following the KHJ premier the HRR was aired on the other RKO stations in early February of 1969.
The HRR was aired continuously for 48 hours on the first go-around. It's still hard to believe that so much work went into the show that was only heard between midnight and 6 am. Later broadcasts were aired in anywhere from 1 to 6 hour segments. Extensive promotion for the HRR took place in each market and the ratings were off the chart. If I remember correctly KHJ had nearly a 50 share in LA and KFRC was close behind. Just unbelievable!!! When Drake - Chenault later syndicated the concept around the world, the narrative was voiced by KHJ's "Humble" Harvey Miller. A still-later edition, upped to 50 hours, was voiced by Bill Drake himself.
One of your readers commented about Miller and his later legal problems. Harvey was indeed convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his wife. This occurred while I was later the PD at KHJ and it was a real nightmare.
All in all THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL was heard by millions around the world including Armed Forces Radio. When years later we aired the show on WTAE here in Pittsburgh where I was VP & GM I remember paying something like $7,500 for the syndication rights. Another huge success.
You might want to query John Rook, the then PD at WLS, about what he went thru to nab the broadcast. A fascinating story if he cares to share it.
Just thought I'd try to clear up any misconceptions regarding one of the great radio broadcasts of all-time, THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL. It was right up there with "War of the Worlds" only we didn't terrify, we enthralled.
I still have my original script for the program somewhere around here and all the RKO PDs were presented with a huge color litho commemorating our efforts and painted by Tom Jung. I have copy #69 out of 100 produced and it hangs proudly in my rock museum here at home (gold records, photos and a guitar mounted on the ceiling).
Thanks for letting me share and continued good wishes.
Although I’d been interested in rock and pop history since I’d begun on radio at age 11, the HRR turned my flame into an inferno. I began to extensively research rock history and even put together a 16 week radio series called “The Evolution of Rock” at my college radio station (WGLT).
The first thing I discovered in putting together the update was that the original HRR script suffered from some serious flaws. There were loads of factual errors, which was not surprising. considering the state of rock history at that time. Few historians took rock seriously in the mid-to-late ‘60s and most of the press coverage was on the level of fiction-filled throwaway teen fan magazines (“16,” “Flip,” etc.) Rolling Stone itself had only begun in 1967 and was largely focused on hyping the local San Francisco music scene.
The 1969 HRR suffered from a somewhat chaotic layout and a tendency to make opinionated predictions that turned out to be a bit off the mark. It viewed, for example, The Four Seasons’ then current “Genuine Imitation Life Gazette” LP as a pacesetting achievement, rather than what it really turned out to be – a ill-conceived dud.
I wound up researching, writing and co-producing an entirely different “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” retaining but one sequence from the original (the Phil Spector listening test). The entire show was restructured in a modular format, with each hour or half hour built around a single theme. In that way, stations could either run the show from beginning to end or strip it across a week or more (running any number of self-contained hours they wanted).
While some hours spotlit major figures in rock history, most dealt with genres (folk rock, Motown, etc.) or eras. The sequencing was done chronologically and the contents focused on the story from the viewpoint of a fair and balanced reporter – not a critic, who would bend history in order to play up personal favorites and play down the rest. My goal was to have the original artists, writers and producers themselves tell the story in their own words – with only minimal narration (by Bill Drake) to hold the show together and bridge gaps. Fortunately I have interviewed several thousand hitmakers over the years, so that audio was available. The final 52-hour program was released in 1978, ran on some 800 radio stations around the world and won Billboard’s “Top Special Program of the Year” award. To this day, I still get mail about the “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and various spinoffs.
One is a 2 ½-minute daily feature short-form version. Several hundred evergreen episodes have been produced over the years. Those self-contained donut-formatted features each spotlight three sequential hits by a major hitmaker and interweave music clips, fun facts and revealing artist interviews. Scott Shannon and I have talked about adding the features to his True Oldies Channel mix. We’ll see if that happens. In the meantime, you can read the whole story of the 52-hour HRR on the drakechenault.org website.
I wondered how one might go about getting a copy of this legendary program ... strictly as a collector and not with the intent to broadcast or resell. I also wondered if, with proper updating, The History Of Rock And Roll couldn't be even more relevant today. Let's face it, many of the artists interviewed for the original series are no longer with us ... their comments, memories and reflections are "frozen in time" so to speak and it'd be impossible to recreate them today. Here are a few more details from Gary (kk):
In those days, automated radio stations had a wall containing six to eight 10” tape decks with a central computer brain and a tape cassette carousel containing commercials, jingles, etc. A song on Deck 1 would run to its end, where a tone (unheard by the listening audience) would trigger Deck 2 to start, etc. The decks would play until a preset time when a commercial cluster would play off the carousel. The last commercial in the cluster would then trigger the next tape deck to begin playing. The system could be locally overridden at any time by a board operator, who could come on live to read the news, etc. His or her main function, though, was to sit there and watch the reels turn. When a reel came to it’s end, he or she would rewind it and replace that tape with another. If you fell asleep and all the tape decks ran out of tape, there’d just be silence on the air until the GM phoned you on the hotline to tell you that you had better wake up and reload the decks. You’d do so, restart the automation and then wait there for the GM to arrive, curse at you and hand you your pink slip.
No copies of the HRR were ever sold – legally. Instead, the show was leased to stations for a certain number of runs or unlimited runs within a certain time frame. After that, the copies were to be returned to Drake - Chenault and most all of them were. The reason the copies could not be sold is that they were licensed for broadcast use only. We did not clear the music for SALE and couldn't. That was because hundreds of tracks were involved, all master recordings (and copyrighted compositions) owned by a cornucopia of labels and music publishers. It would have cost a fortune to clear all that stuff for sale, even if we could, which we could not – because in some cases such licenses were unavailable at any price. You couldn’t get such rights for Beatles tracks, for instance, or Elvis, or a whole host of other acts that had never appeared on compilation albums before. So were dubs of the HRR ever sold anyway?
The answer is yes, but they were all bootlegs. I have been offered copies of the show many times by sellers who had no idea I researched, wrote and co-produced the program. As you might expect, the most heavily bootlegged hour was the last one, #52, with the HRR Timesweep – the longest montage of music ever produced up to that time. It included clips of every #1 hit in order from Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made Of This” in 1955 to the #1 record the week the show was completed – Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.” (I think that statement completely debunks Darwin's Theory of Evolution, at least musically.)
The Timesweep came about, by the way, quite by accident. I had planned to spend a half-hour profiling assorted key hits of each year that did not turn up elsewhere and supplementing that with an A and B montage. The B montage would be brief excerpts of other great hits of the year we did not have time to play in full. The A montage would be every #1 hit of that year in order.
The girlfriend of one of my engineers kept complaining to him, “Where ARE you every night? What is it about this History of Rock ‘n’ Roll project that keeps you working each evening?” He explained it was those darn montages that Theroux asked for, and to demonstrate, he ran a dub of the master reel of A montages and took it over to her house to play for her. He started the tape and then went out to pick up a pizza. When he returned, she was sitting, cross-legged in front of her speakers, in tears. “Hey,” he said, “It can’t be that bad.” “No,” she sobbed. “It’s wonderful. But I just heard my entire life pass before my ears.”
When I heard that, I knew how to end The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll. We edited together all the #1 hits montages in sequence and that became the famous closing Timesweep.
I should mention that three versions of the HRR were produced. The original 1969 edition was cut at KHJ in Los Angeles and then syndicated out. It seems hard to believe now, but back then very little serious research had been done on rock music or its history. Rolling Stone was in its infancy and basically covered only current music, just like Teen Beat, Fab or the other “groovy” teen magazines of the era. It was very difficult for the original crew to collect documented facts about rock’s history and had to make the best of what limited research materials were on hand. That’s why the 1969 HRR is so full of errors and misjudgments. Nevertheless, it was groundbreaking for its time – and when WLS in Chicago aired it in 1970, I ran down to Radio Shack and bought a case of tape in order to aircheck the entire 48 hours. Hearing it changed the course of my life. Little did I know that six years later I would be asked to remake the History, which I did, as it turns out, from scratch. Almost nothing from the 1969 show wound up in the 1978 version, except a handful of vintage interviews and the Phil Spector listening test sequence. When I began work on the show in 1976, all I inherited was a shoebox with a few interview tapes in it and the original script. It was only in going over it that I discovered how chaotically organized and full of errors the ’69 show was. I then decided to restructure the HRR into sequential themed modules and both tap my own archives of artist interviews and conduct a host of new ones. I wanted the story of rock to be told, as much as possible, by the writers, producers, musicians and singers who had made the magic happen. Fortunately for me, I also had access to my own immense archive of research data – something no one had assembled and had available in 1969.
The 1978 52-hour HRR aired on more than 800 stations around the world and won Billboard’s “Top Special Program of the Year” award. In the early ‘80s, after I had left Drake - Chenault, new people built what they called the “Silver Anniversary” edition (without specifying what it was the silver anniversary of!). About 75% of that version was a cut-down of my ’78 show, in which, among other things, they reduced the ‘50s to ONE HOUR. Other parts were slashed and burned as well in order to create room for full hours celebrating then currently hot artists – IF THEY ROCKED OR NOT. As an example, they spent an hour on Dionne Warwick, one of the greatest POP singers of all time but never a rocker (as she would tell you herself). And so it went. I had designed the show in modules to make it easier to update, but had never imagined that this kind of hack job would be done. Hearing “The Silver Anniversary Edition” on the air, I winced at every edit – knowing all to well what had been chopped out. Apparently, my disgust with that abomination was shared by the listening public, because “The Silver Anniversary Edition” bombed. The current owners of the longform HRR, Jones Radio, presently syndicate the award-winning ‘78 version – although, of course, it is now woefully out of fate and needs updating. Jones, however, apparently has no plans to do so.
One big problem in making and marketing an HRR today is that it would have to span some 60 years – from the ‘40s (Wynonie Harris’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight”) to today’s hits. How many stations today, even oldies stations, would agree to run something that covers that wide a time span? Especially in an era in which many OLDIES stations don’t even play anything from before 1975? I’d love to produce a new version and have all the materials to do it – and it wouldn’t be all that expensive, either – but it would be a hard sell to commercial radio. What would make more sense would be for XM or Sirius to let me develop a “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” channel – complete with themed hours, the stories behind the songs, intimate artist interviews, etc. I’ve talked with Scott Shannon about this approach to some extent, as he and I are kindred spirits. His True Oldies format (syndicated on terrestrial radio stations) is terrific in that it plays far more music than your standard, say, Cox Radio oldies format (which beats to death the same oddly chosen 200 tracks). Scott would be good to work with on such a project – or to bolster his True Oldies Channel. And along those lines, his format lends itself perfectly to a daily 2 1/2 minute syndicated version of the HRR, in which fun facts and artist interviews would illuminate the stories behind three sequential hits by a major artist. Such a daily feature version of the HRR already exists; in fact, I have produced more than 200 episodes with another 300 written and ready to be assembled. That approach would especially work on oldies stations that perhaps do not play music of certain stars or decades. As each 2 ½ minute episode is evergreen and self-contained, a station would only run those episodes that fit their programming perimeters. Anyone interested in more information? E-mail me at email@example.com.
So the answers to your questions are yes, you can get a bootleg copy of the 1978 HRR if you search long enough. No, I doubt that an update feature-length HRR will ever be produced, although I have the materials and would love to do write and produce it. Yes, a daily 2 ½ minute version of the HRR IS available for broadcast. And finally, yes, you can actually LEGALLY (apparently) buy a copy of HIGHLIGHTS from the 1969 HRR from Bill Mouzis, who engineered the KHJ version and also helped me with the 1978 remake. Below is a press release he sent me just the other day:
The original 93 KHJ History of Rock and Roll, the very first-ever radio "Rockumentary", was conceived by Bill Drake, former radio consultant to RKO General Inc. This 48 hour special is presently archived in The Library Of Congress in Washington D.C., The Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts in New York, The Julliard School Of Music in New York and the University of California in Los Angeles, California.
Against this backdrop I am pleased to announce that the highlights of this spectacular achievement can now be yours. I have isolated, compiled and processed close to two and one half hours of these highlighted segments as they were actually heard on Boss Radio 93 KHJ in February, 1969. This monumental Special was produced by Ron Jacobs, written by Pete Johnson, narrated by Robert W. Morgan with production engineering by Bill Mouzis. I have also completed putting together two highlight reels, actually CDs, which will form the nucleus for this limited special edition 2 CD Set. It contains twenty seven (27) unaltered highlights of the original show. Having been digitally re-mastered they include classically produced music montages, outstanding commentary by the inimitable Robert W. Morgan, comments by the stars, their songs and their history - a taste of honey for sure.
In a very personal but public way I have undertaken this endeavor to honor Mr. Morgan's memory and to dedicate this effort to that memory. He not only was my friend but my soulmate in our longstanding working relationship at KHJ. Working under the guidance of the very talented Ron Jacobs, in doing all of the production for 93 KHJ and the entire RKO General chain of stations for five years, there was never a "strassman" of disagreement among us in producing some of the greatest 93 KHJ Boss Radio on-air promos of all-time.
It is now my distinct honor and pleasure to announce that for the very first time this original material will be available to the general public. For the nominal price of $39.95, plus tax and shipping, a 2 CD Set can be purchased containing close to two and one half hours of air-checked archive material with appropriate notes included. The meticulous art work involved in completing the Set is in itself well worth the price and conjures up the times we lived in - a classic memento for a very special time in the annals of radio.
Profits derived from the sale of this highlight package will go to charitable causes, including The Robert W. Morgan Cancer Awareness Fund and for Ron Jacobs and The Association for the Preservation of Hawaiiana Online.
The scheduled date for release is May 22, 2007, the ninth anniversary of Mr. Morgan's untimely passing.
Bill Mouzis can be reached at: BMouzis@aol.com.
Thanks for asking.
Indeed, CHUM did launch “The Evolution of Rock” just before our “History” was completed. Knowing I was worried, a friend in Canada sent me a 90-minute aircheck of “The Evolution” so I could hear just what we’d be up against. I remember vividly putting it on the tape deck, sitting back and reading the note my friend had attached to the reel. It said, “This sucks.” It didn’t take long for me to realize how accurate that assessment was.
“The Evolution of Rock” was a textbook example of how NOT to put a radio special together. It was chaotically programmed, loaded with errors and heavily opinionated. Rather than telling it the way it was, the contents skewed history to both overstate the importance of the writer’s personal favorites while disparaging everything else. His opinions formed the backbone of the show, rather than genuine in-depth research and objective understanding of the material. This approach was the polar opposite of the one I took in building “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Rather than coming on like a self-important critic, I tackled my subject as an unbiased investigative reporter. That’s why, as much as possible, I let the original artists, writers and producers tell their own stories and only used narration as a bridging device. If a value judgment was called for, I turned to the only critics who counted – the public – who voted for the songs, stars and musical scenes that spoke for them by buying copies, attending concerts or requesting their play on the radio.
“The Evolution of Rock” proved to be no threat to “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It didn’t take long for industry word of mouth to sink it long before “The History” was released a short time later. Although I still have that Canadian aircheck, I myself had completely forgotten about “The Evolution of Rock” until it dawned on me where that clip you ran on “Indian Reservation” came from. (By the way, as that hit was recorded for release as a Mark Lindsay single, I would have asked Mark about it – not Paul Revere, whom, as I recall, was not even at the session.) As for “The History of Rock n’ Roll,” it went on to win Billboard’s “Top Special Program of the Year” award and air on more than 800 stations around the world.
The 52-hour, 1978 “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” last I heard, is currently owned by Jones Radio. I own the 2 ½ minute daily feature version, which interweaves fun facts and revealing interview clips with three successive hits by a given artist.