Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

WHY LLOYD THAXTON DISAPPEARED - AGAIN?

LLOYD'S DOG TUCKER'S FAVORITE POST

I was looking over some of my previous posts and was surprised to discover that I have been doing this for over 2 years (This is my 100th posting). According to the amount of comments my past posting, “WHY LLOYD THAXTON DISAPPEARED,” generated, it would make it the most popular one I’ve written so far. Because it was posted so long ago, I realized that many of our newer Mouse Cliquers might have missed it. So, here it is again.

Sub Title
I LET THEM ADD THE BRASS

In 1959 I was hosting The Lloyd Thaxton Record Shop on channel 13, Los Angeles. I sat all by myself behind a desk in front of a stage flat painted to look like record shop album shelves.


Like a radio disk jockey, I played records. This, however, was TV and the audience had to watch something while the records were playing. So, among a host of others gimmicks, I lip-synced, faked musical instruments and created finger people to perform this task. Even though it was a morning show with a low rating, I did manage to get some great musical artists as guest.

By 1961, just before the debut of The Lloyd Thaxton Show, which added teen-agers to the mix, the Record Shop had built up quite a sizable audience.

One morning I had country singer Jimmy Dean as a guest. Most people today know Jimmy Dean as the frozen sausage king.


But in the late 50’s, Jimmy not only made hit records, he was also the star of a highly rated country music TV show in New York City. That is, until, according to Jimmy; “I let them add the brass.”


Though The Jimmy Dean Show was already a hit in the New York suburbs, no one expected the show to make it in the Big City itself. But, according to the ratings, the show was, in fact, becoming a big city hit. Because of this, the wise men at the New York station came to Jimmy and said he would have to make some major changes in the show. “Why?” asked Jimmy. “The show is a hit.”

According to these wise men, THAT was the very reason for the changes. They told Jimmy the viewers in the city are too sophisticated to watch a country music show. The show now has to be more sophisticated. “But the show is already a hit with the big city slickers. They like it as it is,” complained Jimmy.

The wise men won out and added all kinds of changes. Out went the country humor and all those fiddles. In their place they put a big band with lots of trombones and trumpets (they added the brass). The format was totally changed from “A Little Bit of Country” to “Big Brassy New York City.”

You guessed it. The ratings went in the toilet and the show was canceled. Jimmy was telling me this story as a friendly warning. He said that I should not change anything in my show just because the ratings showed that more and more Los Angeles people were starting to watch it.

When Jimmy left the studio, his parting words were, “Remember, Lloyd, don’t let them add the brass.”

In 1966, I forgot.

The Lloyd Thaxton Show was designed from the beginning as a low budget local show. It had one host (me), an average of 30 teens dancing to records in a small TV studio in front of an inexpensive set. There were several innovative elements that separated it from other dance shows at the time. Everyone (myself and the kids) lip-synced records and performed other wild and crazy production numbers in order to make the music visual and more entertaining to watch. Some have referred to these bits as “the beginning of the Music Video.” The show held on to its classic local show look.


In just 10 months, The Lloyd Thaxton Show zoomed to the top in Los Angeles. Not only was it a hit with teens, it was number one with 18-39 year-old viewers. This is the audience demographic most coveted by advertisers and in 1964 the show went into national syndication. And, guess what. The wise men showed up.

I was advised that because the show would now be seen in cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we had to make changes. At the time, I remembered Jimmy Dean’s advice and refused to change or “add the brass.” The show continued its rating success in every city it played, big and small. It looked so local that many people thought that it was telecast live from their own city’s station.

Reality Fact #1: The only reason the show was in syndication was because it was rated number one in the 18-39 demographics. Advertisers drool over this coveted bracket and the Lloyd Thaxton show was getting the winning numbers.

Reality Fact #2: Very few corporate executives, the ones who make the ad buying decisions, really watch the shows they advertise in on a regular basis, if at all. They make their ad buy decisions based on the rating books.

Then one day it all changed.

One of the Lloyd Thaxton Show’s biggest advertisers was Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate placed a lot of ads in the show. One afternoon the president of Colgate just happened to tune in and watched for about five minutes. What did he see? According to him, he saw nothing but teen-agers DANCING! He immediately called his ad department and asked, “Why are we advertising in that show? It’s a teen show! They don’t buy toothpaste!” The advertising department could not convince the president of the company that the rating books , not only showed teens were watching, but, adults 18-39, were also watching, so Colgate pulled their ads. On some TV stations this represented about 50% of their advertising and they panicked.

In marched the wise men again. “Change the show. Make it look older,” they said. This time I didn’t listen to Jimmy Dean. I could have held on. There were enough other advertisers aboard to get us through this short-term emergency. But, I gave in and agreed to make changes.

I made what I now consider to be my biggest mistake. I changed the age limit for the kids on the show. They now had to be over 18. Instead of always using high school groups, I intermingled them with college students. “Ok,” I said, “If any of the wise men tune in now, they will see 18 to 23 year-olds on the show.

Was this a fantastically shrewd move or not? NOT! I had broken the Jimmy Dean rule. I had “added the brass.”

Though it was still a very entertaining show, I slowly started to lose some of my faithful teen audience. This was the show’s core. The overall ratings dropped. I could have still held on (and sometimes I wish I had) but I had been doing the Record Shop, plus The Lloyd Thaxton Show five days a week, 52 weeks a year for over nine years and felt I should move on. The final straw, of course, was the 60s itself. The Vietnam War, the teen-age draft, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, plus Martin Luther King, Civil Rights Demonstrations, riots, Rock & Roll’s morphing into “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll,” was taking a heavy toll on teen-agers. This was the beginning of the end of the fabulous 60s.

I cancelled the show.

I sometimes wonder that if I hadn’t given in to the wise men (There were definitely more than three), some version of The Lloyd Thaxton Show would still be around today.

We’ve all heard the saying, “What works, works. What doesn't work, doesn't work. Working hard at what doesn't work will never make it work” (Stuff Happens)

Adding the brass doesn't work.

Stay tuned

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uncle Lloyd:
I haven't been reading your blog 'since the beginning' but I have gone through the archive and I've read and enjoyed each and every posting.

Here's to hundreds more!

Becky
Toledo

10:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I remember is we looked for you one day and the show wasn't there. We naturally went into 'Lloyd Thaxton' withdrawl (that I remember!). Btw, I agree with Ms. Weiss. You look fantastic and as funtastic as ever! Blessings! Michele

8:03 AM

 
Blogger Mike Barer said...

Congrats on your 100th post. It is been so much fun reading and I think you really bring something special to the net.

1:44 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great post and a lesson for the ages. If you could only spell Stan Freberg's name, it would be perfect.

10:58 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Thaxton! I remember watching your show on KCOP as a very young youngster (from age 4 to 7!). I still remember the great comedy bits--and you really opened my ears to great pop music at a very early age. We lived in Buena Park; my mother worked in Long Beach, and she would say, "I'm going into town today, do you want me to get you any records?" And I'd say, "Yeah! I want 'Roses Are Red' by Bobby Vinton, 'Surfer's Stomp' by the Marketts, 'Calling All Cars' by Davey Summers and 'Watermelon Man' by Mongo Santamaria!" Your show made me a very hip and precocious kid.

I remember always being amused at the fact that most of the live acts lip-synched to their records; this reached a pinnacle one day (or maybe a nadir!) when Bill Cosby had to lip-synch to his record of the "Noah and the Ark" routine! He was trying so hard to remember the exact words he'd used, which obviously weren't going to be as easy to recall as a lyric.

I'm glad that you're happy and healthy and on the 'net, and I thank you for a thousand happy memories.

Randy Skretvedt
forwardintothepast@yahoo.com

7:59 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sally Gordon of the Murmaids said they were on the L. T. Show. Do you have a kinnetta you could upload to Youtube? That would be great. I'm jstark@nyit.edu. , john

7:55 PM

 
Anonymous Amir Krocabalony said...

WHOLLY STUFF, MAN, LLOYD IS THE SENIORS' SENIOR, BUT HE STILL HAS THAT SAME FRESH SENSE OF HOMER (HUMOR) THAT HE HAD IN THE 50s- 60s... how do you do it? OMG, we still dig you, man.
THANX, THAX.

PS: Ur ex-neighbor, Dobie Gillis moved, too. LOL!

9:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the Lloyd Thaxton show growing up, I'm 57 now, those were
the really good ole days.

Mr. Thaxton looks great!

Denise

5:13 PM

 
Blogger Thomas Hover said...

Mr Thaxton, I'm from the other coast, I am 59 now, watched you every day after high school. I just came back from Vegas and seen the Cher Show, and for you reason you came into my mind. I first seen Sonny and Cher on your show when they where nobody! It's amazing how time moves on, thank you for being who you are and brought the talent you did to us here in Philly.

2:33 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lloyd,
I'm 53 now and used to watch your show every day after grade school. I remember seeing Johnny Rivers performing "Washed My Hands in Muddy Water," and your many other great guests like the Yardbirds. There was nothing else like it on TV. I wish some of these were available on DVD. Thanks for the memories.
Jack Garrett in Virginia

11:57 AM

 
Blogger Scott Harris said...

Where can I get a high resolution shot of Heads on Shelf. I'm a headhunter and it's perfect.

3:17 PM

 

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