Dec 28, 2018
Across the Indiana landscape during the 1960s, there may not have been much surf and sand of the sort celebrated in the music of The Beach Boys. But there were plenty of garage bands, rock and roll concerts by national touring groups and jam-packed venues for the music that was captivating Hoosier teenagers during the era.
At center stage for much of the era that we will explore during this encore show (originally aired on Dec. 10, 2016) was Jimmy Mack, the host of Bandstand 13, a popular teen dance show broadcast on Channel 13 (then WLWI, now WTHR) from 1965 through 1969. His show was modeled on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.
Jimmy Mack was 94 years old when he participated as one of Nelson's guests on this show. This year, he turned 96 and moved into a retirement community in Indianapolis.
In addition to hosting his TV show during the 1960s, he was a well-known disc jockey and appeared at concert venues to play records before nationally known groups performed. In the mid-1960s, he was even at the Fairgrounds Coliseum for an appearance by the Rolling Stones.
During this show, you will be fascinated by our trio of guests as they share details about everything from a native Hoosier who is the widow of the lead singer for the Dave Clark Five and a rollicking Jimi Hendrix concert in Muncie in 1968 to Hoosier dance bands like the Workmon of Anderson, the Chosen Few of Muncie, the Boys Next Door of Indianapolis and the Teen Tones of South Bend.
Nelson and his guests also embark on radio road trips to explore venues of rock and roll concerts during the 1960s, including the Indiana State Fairground Coliseum, Indiana Beach on Lake Shafer and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne.
In addition to Jimmy Mack, the guests are:
David Humphrey, a freelance writer-photographer based in Pendleton who is the author of The Golden Years of Rock and Roll in the Hoosier State (M.T. Publishing Co.). David grew up in Anderson and remembers sneaking into a teen dance when he was 10 years old to hear The Chalets, a regionally popular rock and roll group based in his hometown.
And Robyn McDowell, who joined the Shy Ones, an all-female pop rock group, about a year after graduating from North Central High School in 1968. Robyn's sister Bonnie also was a member of the Indy-based group, which enjoyed an enthusiastic following on college campuses. Robyn is the daughter of Jimmy Mack, whose real name is Jimmy McDowell.
"During the golden years of rock and roll in the Hoosier state, there seemed to be a continuous flow of concerts to attend, records to buy or songs to hear on the radio," David Humphrey writes in his book. It features an interview with Miss Indiana of 1964, who later married Mike Smith, lead singer of the Dave Clark Five. He died in 2008, just 10 days before the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; his widow, Charlie Smith, lives in Valparaiso.
In David's book, Jimmy Mack describes his deejay gigs at dances and sock hops during the 1960s, as well as his extensive TV career.
"In the early days of Bandstand 13, boys were required to wear suits, and girls wore dresses," Jimmy recalls of the show, which featured performances by live acts and local teens dancing to hit records. The TV program also featured on-location footage of recent concerts in Indiana by headliners like Sonny and Cher. Bandstand 13 was broadcast in the morning and evening on Saturdays.
During that era, many of the Indiana-based bands were described with comparisons to nationally known groups. The Boys Next Door, for example, were often called "the Midwestern version of the Beach Boys." According to David's book, the Boys Next Door actually played several shows with the Beach Boys - as well as with Herman's Hermits, The Rascals and many other groups that were household names.
The Indy-based Shy Ones, featuring women playing rhythm guitar, drums and bass, had been performing for several years before our guest Robyn McDowell and her sister joined the group, providing lead vocals. After Robyn and Bonnie left the Shy Ones in 1970, they performed in Vietnam for U.S. troops.
As a special treat, during the final portion of our show listeners will enjoy an encore excerpt on a related topic from our archives of classic Hoosier History Live shows.
We will share a portion of a show about the classic pop tune Jingle Bell Rock and Indiana native Bobby Helms (1933-1997), the multitalented musician who made the song a seasonal favorite when he recorded it in 1957 for Decca Records.
For this show (original air date: Dec. 12, 2015), Nelson was joined in studio by John Kleiman, a Greenfield native who became Helms' personal manager (and close friend) for the last 10 years or so of the musician's life
Helms was born in Bloomington, lived for many years in Martinsville and made Jingle Bell Rock famous. His big year was 1957, when Decca also released two other hit songs that he recorded: My Special Angel and Fraulein.
Referring to Jingle Bell Rock, John says: "Bobby originally did not want to do it because he didn't believe it was right to mix rock and roll with Christmas. So the song does not mention Christmas anywhere."
Although accounts differ about credits for the lyrics and music, John says Helms wrote most of the words and that the tune was a joint effort between the Hoosier and Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, who plays the guitar lead-in on the original version of Jingle Bell Rock.
In the nearly 60 years since the tune was released, Jingle Bell Rock has been covered by vocalists ranging from Brenda Lee, Johnny Mathis and Neil Diamond to the Jonas Brothers and Amy Grant. It has also been featured on the soundtrack of movies such as Home Alone 2 (1992).