Shindig!, TV’s first prime-time rock music show, premiered on ABC on Sept. 16, 1964, and was later expanded to an hour in January 1965. The brainchild of British TV producer Jack Good, the energetic half-hour’s instant success spawned a raft of imitators — including Hullabaloo, Shivaree and Hollywood A Go-Go.
Along the way, Shindig! and host Jimmy O’Neill, an L.A. disc jockey, showcased the cream of ‘60s rock, from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys to the Animals, Kinks and the Byrds. Soul and R&B stars Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, the Supremes and the Temptations joined early rock legends like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, as well.
Teen idol Bobby Sherman got his start on Shindig!, one of a core group of singers and dancers that appeared each week. Musical tracks were performed by the show’s house band, the Shin-diggers, later known as the Shindogs. Future stars Leon Russell, Glen Campbell and Billy Preston passed through the Shindogs’ ranks.
Good, a fan of hard-edged rock, squabbled with ABC throughout the show’s run and left in mid-1965. The final episode of ‘Shindig!’ aired Jan. 8, 1966, the victim of poor ratings. To celebrate Shindig!, Ultimate Classic Rock talked with vocalists Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers; Donna Loren; Darlene Love of the Blossoms; and George Patterson of the Wellingtons. Toni Basil, then an assistant choreographer; and Glen D. Hardin, the pianist of the Shindogs, helped complete this oral history …
TONI BASIL: This was Jack Good’s baby. Before Jack Good put Shindig! on the air, there was no connection to pop culture. Everybody was mind-blowing, whether it was Tina Turner or Jeff Beck or Donovan, it was quite an eclectic group of people and performers that Jack Good put together.
BILL MEDLEY: He was great, man. I loved the show so much because it was such a fast-moving, hard-paced, ass-kickin’ show. I think Jack Good was a very, very bright guy. He knew the show had to have all that balls in it, but he was smart enough to know that it was still ABC television. The band was stupid good. They were just unbelievable. Billy Preston, Leon Russell — these are the real guys. Larry Knechtel was playing bass on the show, and he was one of the great piano players. James Burton was in the Shindogs. I mean, those are guys that you’re still hearing about today. I think that was the greatest thing about Shindig! It was legitimate rock ‘n’ roll and in those days you didn’t get a lot of that. It was just flat-out, honest, ass-kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll. And go figure, it took some guy from England to come over and show Americans how to do what they learned from us. And those dancers. My God, I learned in a heartbeat my respect for the dancers. They were just so professional and they were so good and they had more to learn than anybody. We very rarely stopped and those dancers would be running to change those costumes and stuff, they just worked their rear ends off.
TONI BASIL: I came in as the assistant choreographer to David Winters. I think that they found us because we probably were the only choreographers and dancers that could cross over from the jazz dance period into the go-go period. We were the moving props. We decided very early that it was too much to choreograph every part of every single number. So what we had them do was specifically say when they wanted the dancers — in what shot, in what part of the song. And that enabled us to choreograph sections of songs, not the whole song. It enabled us to do more songs that way. It was a picnic, are you kidding? There were all these fabulous young guys with talent, meeting up with these girls that were actually not groupies, more on their level, in the business. It was a great merger of social events. But don’t forget, they were only in for a week and they were out. And then there was another group.
DARLENE LOVE: All of the music was prerecorded. The background singers were lip-synching. The only thing that wasn’t prerecorded were the lead voices. Mick Jagger was singing live. Aretha Franklin was singing live to her track. I tell people all the time, the best way to do a lip-synch is to learn the song and sing live with it. Our other little trick is they had cue cards! (Laughs) Because it’s almost impossible to learn seven or eight songs in one week and make it look like you’re actually singing it. The reason most people didn’t know it was prerecorded was because the Shindogs were on the stage playing live.
GLEN D. HARDIN: We would look like we were playing, but what we were playing wasn’t being picked up and sent out on the airwaves. I was playing a little Italian organ called a Farfisa. I would use a real piano to record with, of course. The little Farfisa made it possible to squeeze us in tighter together and keep all four of us in the picture.
GEORGE PATTERSON: The genius of all this was that they never went into a show not knowing exactly how long it was going to be. Because they had all the tracks.
DARLENE LOVE: It was like a madhouse. But for some reason, when it was time for taping, everything went just like clockwork.