Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I recently finished reading Michael Walker’s new book, “Laurel Canyon – The Inside Story of Rock & Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood.” I can personally vouch for a lot of the book’s memories of Laurel Canyon in the 60s. When I was doing the Lloyd Thaxton Show, I was living in Laurel Canyon myself. It was not unusual to go to the Canyon Store just down from my house and see Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas buying groceries, or the Byrd’s David Crosby pulling in on his Triumph Bonneville motorcycle with his cape flowing behind, or Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, or the Turtle’s Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. They were all guests on The Lloyd Thaxton Show.

The turmoil of the late sixties inspired the success of the new sound, “Folk-Rock,” or what I described at one time as “folk singers electrifying their guitars to sell more records.”

One group that always stood out was the “Byrds.“ To me, they were America’s first challenge to the Beatles.

When I had my first TV show, “The Record Shop, “ I featured mostly what was played in the late 50s and early sixties on the “Good Music” radio stations, i.e., Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, etc. When I switched to “The Lloyd Thaxton Show, “I also switched to a combination of “Good Music” and “Top Forty,” which I sometimes referred to as “Good Top Forty.”

I remember going to see this new group, The Byrds, at Ciro’s nightclub, just down the street from Laurel Canyon on Sunset Blvd. As I was mostly accustomed to the way the dancers danced the Frug, Mash Potato and The Slausen on the show, I was stunned to see the dancers out on the floor at Ciros. It was a whole new ball game (a whole new Ball DANCE?). It reminded me of the movie, “The Snake Pit.” The dancers didn’t dance; they jumped – in a constant frenzy – up and down – to the music. I guess when people first saw the Twist, they got the same impression, but the Twist was silly and fun. This had heavy drug use written all over it.

However, I was captured by the Byrd’s sound and invited them to be on my show.

You have to remember that the show’s dress code was jackets and ties for the guys and party dresses for the girls. A “Bee Hive” hairdo was not a requirement, but it was the style at the time.

The Byrds represented the new Hippy generation that actually put down “Good Top Forty” music and all the artists that participated in what many of them considered worthless “pap. “ They even objected to the tight matching suits and skinny ties of the Beatles, but the Byrds recognized the commercial value of the genre and the Beatle haircuts. They also adopted the Fab Four’s “pop band look.” Note in the picture: their outfits matched, but ties were a definite no-no. I had the distinct feeling they considered me a real “square.”

The LT Show was produced LIVE in a rather small studio. We only had room for about 15 couples on the floor and that was it. To make room for guests, we had to crowd the couples off the stage and on to a small bleacher just out of camera range before we could set up for the guest performance. This was particularly difficult for groups like the Byrds that didn’t lip-sync but preferred to perform live. We not only had the problem of setting up drums, speakers, microphones and platforms, we had to do mike checks and all the other requirements for a live performance.

AND, we had to do all this in the 2-minute commercial break just before their performance.

As soon as the commercial break started, the couples were rushed out (We played “Sit-Down Music” to help move them along). Then the TV stage crew rushed in to do their incredible magic.

On this particular set-up we were right on time. As a matter of fact, we were 30 seconds ahead of schedule. However, as we were in the middle of our sound check, the audio man in the booth told me that the speakers were too loud for the sound control panel to handle. The sound was being totally distorted (note the huge speakers in the picture. There were four, all designed to blast out to a hall filled with 5000 screaming fans, or the outdoor stages of Dodger Stadium with 50,000).

I ran in and told the Byrds they would have to turn down the speaker volume controls. I explained that we were not in a stadium; that there are only 15 couples sitting in small bleachers just five feet away. The group looked at me like I really didn’t understand (“The music has to be loud, man!”), but, to their credit, they did turn (Turn, Turn, Turn?) and made the necessary adjustments.

And, it was just in the nick of time; The commercial was over and we were back on the air. I picked up my mike and said, “And here they are, THE BYRDS.”

Then, as if someone gave them a cue from off stage, each member of the group reached down and turned their respective speakers back up to full volume. When the first “HEY” of “HEY, MISTER TAMBORINE MAN” hit our mikes, I looked up at the control room window and saw my audio man being literally blown back in his seat. The needles on his control board were spinning like a racetrack-timing clock. Remember that speaker commercial on TV where the person is sitting in a chair listening to a powerful speaker and his hair is “blowing in the wind?” That was the scene that day in The Lloyd Thaxton Show studio.

But you know what? It was an exciting performance and the kids loved it. I loved it too.

Unfortunately, this was a harbinger of things to come. Rock and Roll, as we knew it at the time, was changing and would soon disappear along with the Lloyd Thaxton Show itself. “Rock & Roll” became “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. As the Byrd’s Chris Hillman put it in “Laurel Canyon,” “The climate in the country changed. We were very close to anarchy. Very close. With Vietnam, riots on campus, the assassinations, we were close to collapse.”

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long after that when the Byrds did collapse with its members moving on to other groups. But, I will never forget that moment. It was deaf-finitely for the Byrds.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The proof is in the picture, and it’s worth a thousand words. The first TV reality show was done on Thanksgiving Day, 1952. How do I know that? I was there.

In 1952, I had my own TV show, “Leave It To Lloyd.” It was on every afternoon on hometown WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio. This was of course before videotape, so the show was live. As the first Thanksgiving Day since I had been doing the show was approaching, I realized that the TV audience would be eating their Thanksgiving dinner at home, while I had to be at the studio. Who would want to stop eating and watch television?

Besides, why should I have to tap dance while others were stuffing their faces? Since I was a little kid I had never missed Thanksgiving with my family. I came home from college to do this. And when I was in the Navy, I was lucky enough to be stationed close enough to make the trip. Why should I make an exception just because I had a little thing like my own TV show to do?

Then I thought … WAIT! This is my show. I can do anything I want. Why not be a little daring and try something never done before. I could have my TV cake and eat it too. I decided to have my Thanksgiving dinner on television and call it, “Leave It To Lloyd To Do Thanksgiving Dinner on TV.”

A dining room table with all the trimmings was set up in the middle of the studio. My Dad sat where he always sat, at the head of the table. My Mom sat at the other end. My first wife, Jackie and my two boys, Lee and Robin sat with me on one side. My daughter Jennifer was also there. You can’t see her in the picture because she had not yet been born.

Almost, but not quite.

The idea was to leave the other side of the table empty so that the audience at home could pull their chairs up to their TVs and join us. Who would think of such a thing?

We said Grace; my dad cut the turkey and served. The rest of us ate. Lee and Robin ate nothing but buttered biscuits (This was the only bit of non-reality. If they were not on TV, they would never have gotten away with THAT). We included the audience in our conversation as if they were sitting right there (I found out later, they were actually doing this).

I had no idea how this was going to be received or if anyone would even watch such a weird show. It had never been done. But, as it turned out, I got more reaction to that show, than to anything I had ever done before or since. People loved it. They wrote that it gave them a chance to meet and be a part of my real family.

Because of the audience response, I did the same thing for three more Thanksgivings. I would most likely have continued, but by the late 50s, we were off and running toward Hollywood.

Think of it. This was the harbinger of things to come like, “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Amazing Race,” and the hundreds of the other highly popular reality based television shows of today.

I want my commission.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


In a preceding blog I wrote “How We Did It,” the story of producing the Lloyd Thaxton Show five days a week for eight years. If you thought that I minimized a very important aspect of the show by stating, “After our musical bits were penciled in, we wrote in the guest star (we seldom had more than one guest star) and locked in the show,” you were right. When I wrote that, I fully intended to come back and go into more detail.

Celebrity certainly has it peaks. You’re HOT! And, then your NOT! That NOT part can be a real downer to some. That “some” never included me. The Perks made up for it. I would never have had the opportunity to meet and actually get to know and enjoy the company of so many celebrity friends if I didn’t have my own television show while enjoying a certain amount of celebrity myself.

I can’t emphasize enough how privileged I was to meet so many movie and TV stars and be able to count them as friends. Quiz show host Hal March (a lovely person), actors Robert Wagner, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen, just to mention a precious few (I’ve already told you of my wonderful experiences with Brando and McQueen. In case you missed this, you can go into my blog archives and read all about it). I spent many an evening (plus many a dollar) with Milton Berle as a poker partner. He was my idol when I was in college. Meeting him years later was a major thrill (being a guest on his TV show wasn’t chopped liver either, by the way).

How does one meet these people? Without my TV show it would have never happened. This made me enough of a celebrity to get me invited to parties at which other celebrities attended. And, isn’t a party one way many of you met and made new friends?

One of my favorite parties was a Fourth of July pool party and dinner at Rock Hudson’s house. I was introduced to Rock by Robert Wagner.

There were about 20 invited guests including Carol Burnett, Polly Bergan, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner and Roddy McDowell. One of the nice things about going to a party filled with celebrities is that everyone there is recognizable and they need no introduction. It’s like going to a party where you know everyone and no one has to ask, “What do you do, Lloyd?” You can just relax and have fun. It was a great party.

Now, if you have a successful TV show, you have to include all the people you actually had as guests on your show. In eight years I met a lot of wonderful artists.

I actually first met Sonny Bono when he was a record promoter. Each record company would have a record promoter. His or her job would be to promote new artists and when he had a new artist or record to promote, he would either call or visit our office. If we had an opening we put the artist on our guest list. I first met Cher when Sony brought her along just to visit the show. He came on a later date to promote their own new record as “Caesar and Cleo.” It was later that they became “Sonny and Cher.”

The wonderful thing about doing a show in Hollywood is that so many talented artists lived relatively close by and could (and would) pop in on a moments notice.

Though we never had a show on which we didn’t have a guest, there were times when a guest had to cancel last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. In that case we had a line-up of people on the sidelines who would step in and substitute at the last minute. Glen Campbell, who lived not too far from our studio, was one of our regular fill-in guests before he had his first record. He was a studio musician and played on the tracks of many hit records. Glen would perform on the show live.

Trini Lopez was another guest who was on stand-by. He introduced “If I Had A Hammer.”

Johnny Rivers was always ready. His “Memphis” went on to become a big hit.

Herb Alpert introduced “The Lonely Bull” on one of these substitutions. It was a fun and exciting time. They all became friends (and big recording stars).

Roger Miller made several appearances and became a dear friend. His “Dang Me” and “King of the Road” brought the house down.

Brian Wilson dropped in from time to time. I had the pleasure of being invited to his house to sit at his grand piano in his sand-filled dining room. I got to put my toes in the sand and think “Beach.”

Roger Williams was also always ready. He taught me how to finger sync his hit “Autumn Leaves.” I always looked forward to Roger’s Christmas parties where he sat at his piano and led his guests in beautiful carols.

Jerry Lewis made several appearances on the show. To me he was an idol, mentor, and good friend. He even put me in one of his movies, “The Patsy.”

I introduced the Righteous Brothers for the first time on TV with “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” Forty years later I was asked to introduce them again at the Hollywood Bowl. It was their first Bowl appearance as headliners and it was sold out. 18,000 fans watched the best rock show ever presented at the bowl (my opinion).

Then there’s James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul.” What a grand person he is. Still going strong. How many people get to sing a duet with this giant (see picture)?

When I was nine years old, Fred Astaire was my favorite movie star. And here I was with my own show and FRED ASTAIRE WAS MY GUEST. Probably my biggest thrill was when he asked me during the interview, “Lloyd, how do you do this everyday?” I was tongue-tied.

And the beat goes on; Too many guests to mention here. To paraphrase a famous line, “I never met a guest I didn’t like.” When you see all of the Entertainment Tonight type shows that are on TV, you tend to get a distorted picture of celebrities. Many are presented as vain egotistical frauds that are always getting into some kind of trouble. Thanks to the new crop of reality shows, the celebrity/average person thing gets kind of balanced out. They show you that the celebrity scene isn’t too far removed from real life. It’s kind of like the Rock Hudson party; The difference between a celebrity and the average person is that everyone recognizes the celebrity.

The bottom line:

Celebrity has its peaks and doesn’t always last …

But, it sure does come with some wonderful perks.

I highly recommend it.

Next I’ll tell you how you might get your own TV show.

How you too could become a celebrity.


Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


A lot of people are putting pictures on their blogs. I thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of what I look like today after 40 years of wear and tear. What do you think? More pictures?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Several fans have written asking about The Lloyd Thaxton Show production schedule. They wanted to know how long it took to put each live show together with all the lip-syncs, finger people numbers, booking guest stars, and the kids who danced and performed on the show? The answer to that question is simple: It took one full day for each show. But, that answer might just be … too simple.

I had lunch recently with Duke Anderson. Duke was one of the audio technicians who sat up in the sound booth and spun the records. Without Duke, it would have been chaos instead of the precision it took to make the show successful. Duke always spun those records live right on cue without EVER missing a beat. EVER!!! And he added some amazingly clever stuff all on his own that helped give the show that “different” feeling.

One of the things Duke and I kept asking ourselves at lunch was, “How did we do it? Five one-hour shows a week, 52 weeks a year for over eight years. That’s over 2000 hours of live non-stop programming. No vacations, no hiatus, no re-runs.” Most television series tape or film only 22 episodes a year.

Well, here is how we did it?

We started each day with a blank piece of paper.

We checked the daily music charts, listened to new record releases, chose those we wanted to use for lip-sync and dance contests. We picked the records that I would lip-sync, do as a finger people number, a piano finger-sync, or cover lipping.

“Cover lipping?” This might seem strange if you’ve never seen the show, but cover lipping was cutting out the lips on an album cover, putting my lips in the hole and mouthing the words.


Absolutely NOT!

After our musical bits were penciled in, we wrote in the guest star (we seldom had more than one guest star) and locked in the show. Then everyone went to his or her respective offices and started typing out and timing the script. Actually, we didn’t have a script, per say. It was more of a list of what we were going to do. All programmed so the show would flow smoothly and end on time.

I rehearsed my numbers and at 3:45 PM we all got back together. After going over our production check list, we headed for the studio.

It sounds like we had a rather large staff to do this, right? Wrong! Not counting the studio production crew, i.e., camera people, stage managers, etc., the entire show office staff consisted of myself and three other fantastic, talented hard working people. Sam Ashe handled booking the kids for the show, plus he sorted out all the music for me to hear and booked all the guest stars. Then there was my amazing assistant Renee Maltz. She did everything else. She typed and distributed the script, timed everything out and cleared all the music.

In 1964 I added David Barnhizer as my co-producer and idea mavin. David had been my roommate at Northwestern University who became a successful TV director in Chicago before heading for LA. He was my comic alter ego and contributed some really memorable funny bits.

At college, David and I were always in charge of our fraternity party entertainment. Take out all the Animal House antics and you were left with the beginnings of the Lloyd Thaxton Show.

That was it - including me - FOUR PEOPLE, TOTAL! And they stayed with the show for the entire run. If you check the credits on most TV shows today, you’ll find five times that many staff people. And that’s just the producers.

OK, we now have our show on paper and at 4:00 PM we head for the TV studio office down the street. We have a production meeting with the show's director. There were several different station staff directors who took turns each day according to their schedules. They were the best directors I have ever worked with. Then or since.

At 4:30 sharp we walked into the television studio where Sam Ashe had already seated our teen-age dancers in the bleachers. After a short “Thaxton” lecture on how to “look your best” when over a million people are watching every move you make and how "you now represent all of America’s teen-agers,” we played the records we would use in our lip-sync contests. Everyone sang along and from this exercise we picked our contestants. It was somewhat like an open audition. Everyone had a great time doing this warm-up and it set up an excitement that slid right into the opening and continued throughout the show.

At exactly 5:00 PM, the show went on the air. And, at exactly 5:57:30 PM, the show closed.

The next morning (for more than 2000 mornings) the paper was once again blank.


As my interview on Rockit Radio and the interview with Dee Dee of Dick and Dee is no longer on the schedule I have deleted the two posts that made that announcement. For some great rock radio, I recommend that you continue to listen. That's

My favorite? Lane Quigley's Memory Lane Show.

Sorry, but to do this I also had to delete the comments.

Stay tuned.