Before Dick Clark hit his stride in 1957 with his national television broadcast of American Bandstand, promoters had three choices. They had radio; the rock’n roll stations that dotted the land.
They had tours — road trips playing before live audiences. And they had theatres.
Television was a relatively new medium following the war, but theatres were in their golden age. Everyone went to the movies!
On Sept. 29 Film Chest Media Group will deliver a trio of mid-1950s theatrical concerts on the double-disc DVD release titled Rock ‘n Rhythm Collector’s Set.
The first in the collection is producer Ben Frye’s 1955 film, Rock 'n' Roll Revue. Joseph Kohn served as director and DJ Willie Bryant was the host. On the venue were Duke Ellington and His Orchestra performing “The Moochie,” Big Joe Turner knocking out “Okimoshebop,” Dinah Washington delivering “Only A Moment Ago” and Nat ‘King’ Cole crooning “The Trouble With Me Is You.” The concert concluded with Larry Darnell’s “What More Do You Want Me To Do” and The Clovers delivering their 1954 hit with “Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash.”
Rock 'n' Roll Revue was a perfect program filler — television variety in the decade that followed would pattern themselves after this type of theatrical release (which was actually filmed for television, but actually reached a wider audience theatrically).
Next in line is Rhythm and Blues Revue, which also teamed director Joseph Kohn with MC Willie Bryant.
The tune list included the likes of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher,” Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump,” the Delta Rhythm Boys rendition of “Dry Bones” and Nat ‘King’ Cole is on hand once again with a lively presentation of “Calypso Blues.”
Another rock impresario to take advantage of the moment was Alan Freed, who is credited with the term “rock ‘n’ roll” … a recording artist and DJ, his career would come crashing to an end within a couple of years over “payola” and he’d be dead at the age of 43 from acute alcoholism. But for a brief moment he toplined in five films, including director Will Price’s 1956 theatrical feature, Rock, Rock, Rock!, which combined the elements of a variety concert with the barebones of a plot.
Film Chest included this minor gem that stars a 13-year old Tuesday Weld as a teen in need of a new dress and her father will have nothing to with it. We said “barebones” … the plot was just an excuse to sting a series of musical performances together.
These include: Jimmy Cavallo & His House Rockers delivering the title song, “Rock, Rock, Rock!,” a young Connie Francis singing “I Never Had A Sweetheart” and “Little Blue Wren,” Chuck Berry knockin’em dead with “You Can't Catch Me” and The Moonglows with “Over and Over Again.” It has quite the soundtrack!