Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A STORY FOR THE BYRDS


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.





18 Comments:

Blogger Gary said...

Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' 'bout, Lloyd! LOVE stories like this. I would pay BIG BUCKS to see the Byrds performance on your show, as would the others here. You wouldn't by chance........er.....*ahem* still have that one stored, would you?
Ahhhhh the 60s. Gotta love it!
Gary

5:34 AM

 
Blogger Gaylel said...

Lloyd,

I wonder if Taylor Hicks, the soon-to-be American Idol was an artist in that era appeared on your show and became popular then?

Imagine him being on your show, doing his James Brown-type moves and being one of the big stars then?

Anyways, this is not the reason that I'm posting, but I was imagining having the Byrds to get out their comfort zone and conforming to television sound. By reading your entry, your producers pulled it off real well without any problems at all. And we got to hear them anyways.

Get that DVD out, will ya...now we have to show those kids how it was done then...

--Gayle

2:37 PM

 
Blogger EV Rider said...

The BYRDS were the first pop group I'd ever seen perform live, (Anyone remember 'The Trip' on Sunset Blvd in 1964-65)?

Their unmistakable sound and incredible group talent did rival that of the Beatles, while both groups acknowledged the others importance, ..and as the doors of convention forcibly flew back, and nothing could contain the music explosion that literally set us free from the confines of rigid formality and boring old school status quo.

Not everyone understood the message back then, because the music and message in the songs of The BYRDS and Bob Dylan were for the young and those who dared to be different. Get out of the way if you can't lend a hand, (for the Bells of Freedom were flashing brightly), and no one would be able to control things in the music industry again for at least a few years after this bountiful burst of refreshing new energy arrived on the scene.

How interesting that your studio got blasted as it did, when the energy couldn't be contained on live TV anymore than anywhere else it got played loudly and with purposeful abandon. Get out of the way if you don't understand, for the Times they are a changin'.

Those were the best days of our lives.

6:50 AM

 
Anonymous Tom Quigley said...

I remember the Byrds' first perfomance on your show, Lloyd. Roger commented that "today's sound [meaning the sound of the 60's] has the tone of a jet plane, because those are the types of sounds people are used to these days, as opposed to our parents' era [big band era] where the music had the characteristic sound of a prop-driven plane."

Roger's been nice enough to answer several emails from me over the past few years as I've always been a big fan of his and the Byrds' music, and into my Baby Boomer period, not only have I seen him perform twice in solo concerts, but I was finally able to afford a Rickenbacker 12-string very similar to the ones he played back in the 60's, and still plays. I was so proud to tell him about my own!

He has his own blogsite, in case anyone wants to keep up with him and follow his latest projects: http://rogermcguinn.blogspot.com/.
He's currently in the process of releasing a new 4-CD set based on his Songs From the Folk Den archives that can be found on his website.

Roger -- One of the great innovators of modern pop music!

7:22 AM

 
Anonymous Lucinda said...

Just found your blog - what fun. I was talking to a coworker about old tv shows, and when I mentioned yours, he said "Who?" Bummer for him!

Fascinating to read about the loud music. As a tail end boomer (b.1961, cut off's '64-who knew?) by the time I was a teen, the music had gotten a whole lot louder. I had to laugh - Look out for that raucous rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man". Better get those earplugs out, "Turn, Turn, Turn" is next.

My husband's sister and her husband sang "Turn, Turn, Turn" at our wedding, with acoustical guitar. It's always been one of my favorites, and we'd been dating for seven years. The irony was lost on most people. I was under strict orders not to cry, 'cause if I started up, she would, and wouldn't have been able to sing.

Since I was a kid when I watched, I remeber loving your show better than I remember what I saw. Boy, I wish we did have 'em on tape! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I sure look forward to reading more.

4:16 PM

 
Blogger THE ROCK RELIC said...

The Byrds were one of the pioneer groups of the new rock age; when we got away from the "June, moon, spoon" semi-saccharine into the heavier material.
Of course, they copied some Dylan material, like "All I Really Want To Do" and "Mr. Tambourine Man".
Though not totally "The Byrds" on the recording of that song (it was Knechtel, Blaine and other studios on the instruments, with the Byrds vocalizing. Though Roger (then Jim) on lead guitar), it did more for the twelve-string Rickenbacker than any other artist before or since.
DYNAMITE story, Mouser! Perhaps hear from you later ...?

2:37 PM

 
Blogger BiLL Earl said...

Happy Birthday, Lloyd!

39, correct?

4:48 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a daily viewer to your show....was not martha and the vandellas your final guest ever on channel 13?
along with 9th street west (sam riddle ) and boss city (the real don steele) and may i throw in shrimpenstein....we had it all in l.a. in the 60s

jeff prescott

8:47 AM

 
Anonymous Dave Gaytan said...

Who could ever forget the live Tiger Milk commercials with Kitty Karbo? Or Tim & Brandy? Whatever became of Brandy, anyway? Or Kam Nelson, who was on virtually every local teen show there ever was?

8:55 PM

 
Anonymous cousindino said...

I loved the Byrds from the moment I first heard them on the radio. But I have a crystal clear memory of actually seeing them the very first time on your show, Lloyd, when it aired on one of the local channels in New York City back in 1965.

I recall being quite impressed with how raggedy they looked -- so much so that I grew my hair even longer than it already was and bought myself a Rickenbacker 12-string with my savings from a high school job.

Thanks for the great story. And congratulations on still being. . . alive!

10:22 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what ever happened to Kam Nelson?

6:30 PM

 
Anonymous Ed Greenwald said...

I too often wonder what ever happened to Kam Nelson and what does she look like now. I actually named my daughter after her.

12:52 PM

 
Blogger Ovation Leader said...

What a blast from the past, Lloyd. Thanks for setting up this amazing blog. I just ran across you while researching 1960s pop icons for my novel set in SoCal's 1960s. I googled Kam Nelson, looking for the name of the dance show I'd seen her on. I not only found her, but I found you. I watched your show all the time back in the day. I'll be back when I have more time to reminisce through your past posts. Drop by my blog at Ovations and say hello.

~Carolyn

11:58 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lloyd:
I was about 7 yrs old when the Byrds aired.
We lived in Palos Verdes at the time..and my bother was a good friend of the guys in the group. I remeber them coming over to the house..and mom laughing at their tight pants...they would smoke in my brothers room out on the balcony...I was in awe. Guess that's why I play rock n roll!!
Cheers to ya
Keith Jackson
GLASS HEROES

8:02 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kam Nelson married Olympic star Bob Seagram, cut her hair short, and dyed it blonde. That was about ten years ago. Haven't seen her since.

4:18 PM

 
Blogger Richard said...

Loved The LT Show! I was just a bit young then, still in grade school but I had older bros and sis. I remember watching my sister Ginger and our next door neighbor Sandy Hahn watching the show. Ginger was constantly trying to teach Sandy how to do the Pony or the Mashed Potato's. It was a real gas! I tend to disagree with anyone that trys to compare ANY group with The Beatles, expecially the Byrds. Don't get me wrong, I loved the Byrds. In fact I've been listening to them all week on Pandora. The Byds weren't all "that" proficient musically and they rarely wrote their own material, depending mostly on Dylan to provide their tune that they simply electrified and added that 12 string "jangle". When speaking of "great music" we must never confuse serendipity with genius. The Byrd were the perfect examply of a group being in the right place at the right time, capitalizing on a popular poet and a catchy 'hook" instrument.

7:28 AM

 
Blogger Richard said...

Loved The LT Show! I was just a bit young then, still in grade school but I had older bros and sis. I remember watching my sister Ginger and our next door neighbor Sandy Hahn watching the show. Ginger was constantly trying to teach Sandy how to do the Pony or the Mashed Potato's. It was a real gas! I tend to disagree with anyone that trys to compare ANY group with The Beatles, expecially the Byrds. Don't get me wrong, I loved the Byrds. In fact I've been listening to them all week on Pandora. The Byds weren't all "that" proficient musically and they rarely wrote their own material, depending mostly on Dylan to provide their tune that they simply electrified and added that 12 string "jangle". When speaking of "great music" we must never confuse serendipity with genius. The Byrd were the perfect examply of a group being in the right place at the right time, capitalizing on a popular poet and a catchy 'hook" instrument.

7:29 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CXan somebody tell me..what song(s) Bob Dylan peformed on Lloyd Thaxton? Icant find that information. Lots of people talk about watching it...but what did he actually play?

2:40 AM

 

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