Gary: “Previously I did a post on all the great studio musicians: Session Musicians / A-Team / Funk Brothers / Wrecking Crew / Swampers and I also looked at my live TV Music Show: Shindig! Best Live Musical TV Program Ever! But tonight I am going way back to black and white television in it’s infancy and I will talk about a show that I never did see, so please just humour me, I do this sometimes.
Artists included in this post:
- Bob Luman
- Bobby Helms
- Carl Perkins
- Collins Kids
- Eddie Cochran
- Gene Vincent
- Joe Maphis
- Johnny Cash
- Larry Collins
- Merle Travis
- Patsy Cline
- Wanda Jackson
It was 1951, the place was Compton California and the show would have variations on names but the main one for me was “Town Hall Party”. This was a pure Country and Western show (of which I know very little) and it lasted until 1960.
It started as a Radio Show, but parts of it in the mid to late 50’s where filmed for the armed services in half hour segments.
OK, so here is where I’m going with this. Some of the greatest “Rock and Roll” stars appeared on the show and where filmed. The old kinescope recordings are not fantastic, but they are pure and rare. These old films or kinescope recordings are really at the beginning of the Rock and Roll Journey.
Town Hall Party was the most popular country and western variety music show in Southern California during the 1950’s.
Broadcast from a theater in the Compton suburb of Los Angeles that was converted to look like a barn, it began in 1951 as a radio barn dance on KFI radio in Compton, becoming a television show in 1953, when KFI started feeding the one-hour show to the NBC Network.
Later, Armed Forces Television filmed it for overseas showing. Thirty-nine half-hour versions were filmed by Screen Gems for syndication showings around the world and these continued for several years after the show ended in 1961.
Many country stars whose careers blossomed in the 1960’s were featured on the show, such as Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, and Johnny Cash. Later episodes of the show also featured such rock n’ roll luminaries as Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.
I have searched long and hard for these, so I hope you enjoy them. These are extremely rare videos of the early Rock and Rollers live on “Town Party”. Yes, I am aware that the sound and visual aspects are not up to today’s digital standards, but please remember that some of them are 55 years old.
Bob Luman, long before “Let’s think about Living”
The Collins Kids:
Bobby Helms Long before Jingle Bell Rock
The Early Guitar Pickers / Joe Maphis / Larry Collins / Merle Travis