Friday, April 5, 2013

Legendary Comic Red Skelton Loved Rock & Roll? Who Knew?!

The Rolling Stones - the early years
Back in the late 1980s, I had the pleasure of interviewing legendary comedian Red Skelton for a story I was writing on one of his art exhibits. Red was an accomplished painter whose specialty, naturally, was clowns. And he was a very kind man. We chatted that afternoon for more than two hours. "A clown is not only what I love to paint, it's what I love to be," Red told me at the time. "There's no greater honor than to make people laugh."

Of course, Red, who died in 1997, made us laugh for decades. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest entertainers of all time. His TV show, The Red Skelton Hour, which ran on CBS from 1962-1971, was one of America’s finest TV variety shows. I remember watching it as a little kid with my parents. Red appealed to "kids" of all ages.

Red Skelton
While most people remember Red's comedy, including his lovable characters Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddie the Freeloader, I think many of us have forgotten that some of the top musical artists of the day appeared on his show - everyone from The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel and The Animals to The Kinks, The Fifth Dimension, Jan & Dean and Dionne Warwick. 

It's really not that big a surprise, because Red loved music. He was an accomplished songwriter who wrote some 8,000 songs over the course of his life, and 64 symphonies.

But here's the thing: none of that classic rock music footage from Red's show has been seen since it first aired. It's never been available. Until now. Reelin’ In The Years Productions (RITY), the world’s largest music footage library, has just announced an agreement to exclusively represent for licensing all of the music footage from the The Red Skelton Hour

This is exciting news because this treasure trove of musical gems hasn't been seen by the public since the program was originally broadcast more than four decades ago. Reelin' in the Years, which is located in San Diego County, has already begun the process of meticulously categorizing the library, and has started making footage available for clips to be used in various documentary productions.

It isn't widely known that The Rolling Stones made one of their earliest national TV appearances on Red's show - two months before their legendary first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. On Red's show, the Stones performed three songs including their first American single, “Tell Me.”

The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys appeared twice on Red's show: once in 1963 (their second time ever on national TV, and with original member David Marks still in the band) and, again, in 1964 performing the classics “In My Room” and “I Get Around.”

Other gems in the archive include Three Dog Night performing their smash hit “Easy To Be Hard” from the play "Hair," The Four Seasons singing “Sherry,” three appearances by Johnny Rivers including renditions of “Secret Agent Man,” “Memphis,” and his poignant chart-topping ballad “Poor Side Of Town,” and The Association performing their #1 hit “Windy.” 

Possibly the rarest musical guest on the show was Iron Butterfly, the San Diego-originated band that performed their trippy classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" - though not the 17-minute version, of course.
Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
One particularly cool feature of The Red Skelton Hour archive is the broad collection of “British Invasion” performances; virtually every major UK act, save the Beatles, appeared on Red's program. In addition to The Stones, other artists include The Kinks, The Animals, The Hollies, Manfred Mann, The Searchers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Dusty Springfield, Peter & Gordon, The Honeycombs, Chad & Jeremy, and Freddie & The Dreamers. 

To view a sampling of the unique content from The Red Skelton Hour check out this YouTube link for a nine-minute trailer.

“Representing the performances and interviews from the musical guests on The Red Skelton Hour is truly a great honor," says Reelin’ In The Years founder and president David Peck. "The holdings are incredible, featuring many unique and one-of-a-kind performances. In addition, since the music performances haven’t been utilized in any form since the early 1970’s, it’s the rediscovery of a great American treasure.”

No comments:

Post a Comment