The Barry Richards Show
Released November 1, 2011
But when Gary Gebbler of Catonsville's too-cool-for-school record store Trax on Wax ("Your Vinyl Destination") loaned me his coveted copy of The Barry Richards Show TV Collection Vol. 1 DVD ("Turn-On, Groove-In, Rock Out!"), I quickly realized that I was in for a real treat.
For what SCVT's Gerry Todd was to video deejays, Barry Richards was to radio jocks - the ultimate stereotype of the glib, plastic, fast-talking hipster. Only in Barry's case it was unintentional. Fans of Peter Bogdanovich's cult classic film Targets might be reminded of that film's slippery-tongued AM DJ "Kip Larkin" (played by comedian Sandy Baron) when they hear Barry drop his "That's wild, baby!" and "Crazy man crazy!" asides. Move over Cousin Brucie, Murray the K and Wolfman Jack, another legendary jock has joined your ranks!
|Ultra-glib DJ Kip Larkin|
As comedian-actor-filmmaker Albert Brooks famously characterized them, disc jockeys from this era fall somewhere between curable and incurable lepers in the lower rungs of the social strata. In fact, one of the great joys of watching this DVD is seeing Richards's Zelig-like metamorphosis over the years as he dons increasingly ridiculous personas and laughable fashions (nehru jackets, beads and medallions, psychedelic shirts, etc.) as rock evolves from post-Beatlemania teenybop innocence to greasy-haired, flared denim prog rock grunginess.
But in his defense, Barry Reazar Richards really was a pioneer in a lot of ways. He had pretty good taste (he was one of the first jocks in the country to play the progressive hard rock of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Vanilla Fudge during his stint at Gaithersburg's WHMC) and filled a gaping video void with music that otherwise wouldn't been seen on TV; remember, this is pre-MTV times and then some. There was really nothing on TV beyond the lip-synced appearance on Dick Clark's national American Bandstand and local purveyors like Richards and Kerby Scott and their ilk. And I believe Richards's show was the first - before Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, before the Midnight Special - to broadcast live rock music performances.
So when you saw Steve Marriott and a young Peter Frampton playing blues boogie with Humble Pie, or the Irish Jimi Hendrix Rory Gallagher blistering away his 12-bar blooze, or Alice Cooper performing "Eighteen" and "Black Juju," 'twas the real "concert experience" deal, bum notes and all.
|The Byrds learn the Fats of Life|
In fact, one of the highlights of the DVD is seeing Fats Domino, backed by the country-rock period Byrds (Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons and Skip Battin), teach bassist Skip Battin how to play the walking bass line to "Walking To New Orleans" just before performing it live on TV. This kind of footage is priceless, and informative, in ways programs like VH1's Behind the Music can only hint at.
And admittedly Richards was one of the top DJs working in the DC metropolitan area throughout the late '60s and early '70s at such stations as WHMC, WINX, WEEL, and WEAM, becoming known as a purveyor of "the best in heavy music."
I know my friend Jeff Krulik is familiar with Richards because one of DJs's most famous promotions was the alleged January 20, 1969 appearance of Led Zeppelin at the Wheaton Youth Center in Wheaton, Maryland. The show is a source of contention, some insisting they were there, while others denying it ever took place. Krulik is currently completing editing on a documentary about the "show of legend" called Led Zeppelin Played Here.
But now, thanks to Resurrection Productions - and a little misunderstanding over hippie chicks and body paint - the rest of the world outside the metropolitan DC and Baltimore regions can now enjoy the best of Richards' WDCA television legacy during the years 1968-1970s-something. As John Kelly wrote in his January 14, 2010 Washington Post column (D.C. DJ's old TV shows make for a groovy project"), Barry Richards came into possession of his old TV show videotapes after he and a friend were caught body painting some female fans at Channel 20 by furious station owner Milt Grant sometime around 1973.
"He said 'The show's canceled! You're fired! And take these!'" Richards recalled to Kelly, explaining how he came into possession of countless hours of the show he hosted on WDCA, tapes that otherwise might have been trashed or erased. The tapes sat around for decades until Richards fanboy (and Blood Farmers bass player) Eliot Brown, who worked at a mastering studio and was writing a book on 1970s-era hard rock, dedicated himself to remastering and releasing the tapes on DVD. Brown was amazed that "something like this could exist on a small UHF station: a live show with real rock bands."
|Barry Richards and Eliot Brown (photo: John Kelly, Washington Post)|
Brown wasn't the only one impressed; notable celeb fans of the Barry Richards shows include everyone from Minor Threat-Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye to New York underground filmmaker Nick Zedd (see his rave review "The Boss with the Hot Sauce").
Following are two teaser trailers posted by WDCAfan showcasing highlights from the DVD. The first one features the psychedelic Turn-On theme song, and the second one opens with an intro by Wolfman Jack, followed by the groovy "Barry Richards" theme - written and performed by the inimitable Little Richard.
Besides the great television show appearances of artists ranging from Dr. John the Night Tripper and Little Richard to Humble Pie and Alice Cooper (with such curios as appearances by cult singer-songwriter Emitt Rhodes and Fats Domino backed by The Byrds!), the DVD includes a bonus CD of radio interviews Barry did with artists like: The Beatles (one from his days at Atlantic City's WMID, when he introduced them as "the boss beltin' be-boppin Beatles" in his best AM teenybopper DJ voice), an exceedingly mumbly (stoned?) Dr. John (Barry: "You haven't done a lot of TV appearances, have you?"; Dr. John: "No, I have not been on TV very much, as of yet"; Barry: "Why is that?"; Dr. John: "I have not been asked to be on TV very much, as of yet"), Little Richard singing that fantastic "Barry Richards" theme song ("He's the boss, with the hot sauce/He's the greatest, 'cause he's the latest/Whip it, whip it, whip it, whip it!"), and a fantastic interview with Alice Cooper - aided and abetted by his pals Flo & Eddie - from his March 28, 1973 "Billion Dollar Babies" tour stop in Baltimore for lunch at Jack's Delicatessen on Corned Beef Row and a concert later at the Baltimore Civic Center (Flo & Eddie were Alice's opening act on this tour). It's actually one of two interviews Richards did with Cooper, one right before School's Out came out and the other during the Million Dollar Babies tour.
|Jack's Corned Beef Delicatessen (photo: Baltimore Sun)|
This hilarious interview - which features Alice talking about Jack's Corned Beef Delicatessen (with Flo & Eddie singing Jack's praises to the tune of "The Lady Is a Tramp"), reading the news and local ads ("Dun - what? Dundalk?"), and flirting with local girls on the call-in phone lines (Alice: "Do you look like Carly Simon?"; Girl: "I don't know, I've never met him") - dates from Barry's 1973-1975 stint as Program Director and afternoon radio personality at Catonsville's WKTK 105 FM, the home of "50,000 watts of rockin' quad!"
Listen to Barry "rap" with Alice Cooper and Flo & Eddie.
|Alice Cooper at the Baltimore Civic Center (1973)|
|Alice Cooper and Flo & Eddie, "Billion Dollar Babies" Tour|
Another funny CD highlight is hearing a young Fred Willard working with the Ace Trucking Company. This was an improv group that was doing sketch comedy before SCTV or Saturday Night Live. Besides Willard, its ranks included George Memmoli, Michael Mislove, Bill Saluga, and Patti Deutsch. They released one self-titled LP on RCA Records in 1970.
|Ace Trucking Company (RCA, 1970)|
See them perform "The Commercial" below:
Richards hosted a number of oddball rock programs on UHF TV stations in the late '60s and throughout the 1970s, starting with 1967's Wing-Ding and 1968's teen-centric Groove-In. The latter featured low-budget cardboard set designs on a par with elementary school art classes.
This was followed by the "free-form" Turn-On, which, anticipating USA Network's 1980s variety show Night Flight, mixed music performances with campy Abbott & Costello, Charlie Chan and Bowery Boys movies (Barry describing the latter's old Monogram Pictures flicks as "outta sight!"), as well as classic serials like Flash Gordon (today's Svengooli on Me TV was merely yesterday's Turn-On). Turn-On aired Friday nights at 11 p.m. on WDCA TV Channel 20, and had another great theme song - this one a rocking slice of psychedelia, clearly reflecting his progression from AM pop music shiller to "underground" FM DJ.
Along the way, he also hosted The Barry Richards Show on Baltimore's WMAR TV-2, Barry Richards Rock 'n' Soul, Video Disco, Studio 78, Video Trax, The Video Zoo and BTV. Later, Barry wrote a regular column for Hitmakers Magazine and started his own production company in 2000. These days, Richards is a consultant for major record labels and can be heard on Sirius radio - he even has a Facebook page (be sure to "Like" him!).
He's also at work on a book and movie about his life - and why not? He's already had a screening of the Barry Richards Rock Show at the prestigious AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring.
|The AFI Silver Theatre turns on the Barry Richards Show|
OK, I'm stealing some of the following information and colorful pix describing the DVD's contents from a great web site called Rock! Shock! Pop!.
*** THE BARRY RICHARDS TV COLLECTION VOL. 1 ***
Video clips include: Prince George's Community Center/Cliff Nobles' "The Horse"/Groove-In Teen Panel/Cliff Nobles Interview/Groove-In Movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey/Groove-In Fashions/The Flavor - "Sally Had a Party"
Nick Zedd's brilliant commentary describes this segment as follows:
"Barry Richards TV Collection Vol.1" starts with a brilliantly amateurish achievement from 1968 called GROOVE-IN featuring local teenagers at the Prince George's Community Center, assembled to witness one-hit wonder Cliff Nobles and his band do the soul hit "The Horse."
Shoving his microphone into the mugs of bewildered teens to demand their ages and what high school they attend, Richards, resplendent in a psychedelic black and purple silk shirt with paisley patterns and an out-of-date greaser DA with fashionable sideburns, exudes an infectious nervous energy that rivets one’s attention.
Cliff Nobles and band perform the rockin' "Horse"
Followed by the Groove-In Teen Panel in which local kids with as much personality as a row of cabbages recite what appear to be pre-written questions for the equally inarticulate but amused 18-year-old Cliff Nobles, I felt my mind being warped by the sheer strangeness of the proceedings.
"Groove-In"'s Teen Panel shows off their cardboard set design
The cardboard sets with Day-Glo letters were a perfect repository for these teen mutants, creatures devoid of style or apparent grey matter placed in chairs behind a snazzy wooden construction similar to “Mac McGarry's That's Academic” (another local show designed to showcase the intellectual skills of local high schoolers.) This bargain basement bizarro world inquisition, refereed by Richards (in a red turtleneck, black nehru jacket and silver medallion) is a marvel to behold, a rare gem of awkwardness and bright-eyed cluelessness, later trumped by a movie review segment in which the squarest-looking humanoid imaginable, a kid named Barry, resembling a giraffe in a monkey suit offers his opinions on Kubrick's "2001." "It didn't look like they were, ah...y'know, like shooting it off a walls or something. It seemed like it was, you know, really shooting it right there in the moon or right, you know, on Jupiter or whatever. The plot was really average. You had to really think a lot."
Cookie-cutter cutie models groovy Hechts Dept. Store fashions
This is followed by Kathy, 16 from Fort Hunt High School on the teen board representing a Hechts Department Store, showcasing local fashions, as Barry holds up "threads" on a hanger representing "the Indian look." Resembling a young Stepford Wife, Kathy recites her programmed screed concocted to immortalize mediocrity in clothing apparel for all gullible consumers. Beige is the dominant color, probably in polyester for all style conscious Marylanders.
Local band Flavor then lip synch "Sally Had a Party" under a cheesy red jet on a pedestal in a park I recognize from my personal stone age. Barry Saunters in to conduct an abortive interview, exuding hipster charm in spite of his ‘50s ‘do. "It's gonna be a stone gold nugget!" Barry opines regarding their ditty.
Flavor - "Sally Had a Party"
I recall owning that Cliff Nobles instrumental single (great song!), but Flavor's "Sally Had a Party" sounds like nothing more than a rehash of The Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" to my ears. Barry interviews the lads at some park with a rocket ship sculpture (anybody know where this is?). Personally, I will forever remember the name of Teen Panelist "Winship Wheatley of Northwestern" (wotta great name!) And I will always wonder if Barry tried to body paint Hechts hottie Kathy's groovy figure (God knows I would have been tempted, though she clearly is a vain little Jane whose eyes look right past Barry and straight into the camera!).
BARRY RICHARDS PRESENTS "TURN-ON" PILOT (5/6/1970):
Video clips include: Richie Havens - "Handsome Johnny"/Jamul -
Tobacco Road"/Jamul interview with Little Richard and Uncle Dirty/Zephyr - "St. James Infirmary"/Uncle Dirty & Little Richard Interview/Little Richard - "Good Golly Miss Molly"
Little Richard is a dynamic personality and the real highlight here. Though Barry characterizes "Uncle Dirty" as a comedian-poet on par with Lenny Bruce, I just see a dirty hippie boho type with visions of grandeur. Zephyr mines jazz-rock/blues territory with a would-be Janis Joplin lead singer, while the heavy-rocking Jamul play their version of "Tobacco Road" in the great outdoors. But Jamal truly shine backing Little Richard on "Good Golly Miss Molly." (Apparently, Little Richard had heard their cover of "Long Tall Sally" and specifically asked them to back him on the show.)
BARRY RICHARDS PRESENTS "TURN-ON" (1970-1971)
Video clips include: Alice Cooper - "Eighteen" and "Black Juju"/Humble Pie - "Rollin' Stone"/Bob Segar System - "Lucifer," "Song for Rufus," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"/Fats Domino with The Byrds - "I'm in Love Again," "I'm Ready," "Blueberry Hill," "Walking To New Orleans"/Biff Rose - "Myrtle's Pies," "Jesus and Mary Magdalene," and "Nothing To Gain."
Turn-On provides most of the highlights of this DVD.
|Former Mod Steve Marriott goes all grungy in Humble Pie|
First up, there's the treat of seeing Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton trade Blues licks live in Humble Pie. I loved the Small Faces and regretted the day Little Stevie ditched his Mod gear for grungy patched denim duds, but I was still curious to see a performance from his Greasy Americana Period. Nick Zedd (again) gets it just right in describing the vocal force that was Steve Marriott (with whom I share a January 30 birthday!) :
Humble Pie, a stadium band that were relentlessly hyped on the radio at the time, are also on this collection, featuring the riveting Steve Marriott whose greatness was cemented as the lead singer of the Small Faces in the 60s, and a very young and bearded Peter Frampton on lead guitar. Marriott, one of the finest singers in the history of rock n roll, is incredible. It doesn't matter what he sings about; the energy he channels is always powerful. He was a kind of rock n roll animal, the likes of which the world will likely never again see. Current singers could learn a lot from watching these performances; irony and ennui are boring; passion and raw power delivered in a forceful manner by a vocalist who cares and means what he's singing about is what real rock n roll is all about. Barry Richards had a keen eye for recognizing such talent. On one of his later shows he presented for the first time on TV a Mick Rock directed promo film of David Bowie on the cusp of achieving world fame as Ziggy Stardust.
Then there's also an impressive turn by Bob Seger with his hard-rockin' quartet The Bob Seger System. Before he got into his "Night Moves," Seger was into some serious hard rock on a par with Iggy & The Stooges and the MC5; apparently, this footage is the only live footage of his band from this period. His beefcake blonde drummer looks like like Thor, God of Thunder (he also has an unusual aerial tom-tom setup, perhaps the better to show off his bulging biceps), and I could swear it looks like Seger's playing guitar in his bare feet.
|Bob Segar System|
Segar looks like a man possessed as he shreds away on his red-white-and-blue guitar (kinda hideous!), or, as Nick Zedd put it: "Seger appears to be having a seizure, channeling years of pent-up angst in a wild performance that left a permanent mark on my psyche when I first witnessed it on the tube 40 years ago. It still lives up to the memory..."
But the true highlight of this set is seeing Alice Cooper perform "Eighteen" and "Black Juju" to a "polite" audience sitting cross-legged on the floor.
|Alice Cooper "raps" with Barry Richards|
Nick Zedd: "This performance, following the bands national debut in the one-shot TV special Midsummer Rock left a lasting impression on every teenager who witnessed it in the summer of 1970. They were one of the top three bands in the country by then, breaking new ground and making history by returning rock n roll to its punk roots while bringing horror, fun, sexual perversity and theatricality to a medium in dire need of rejuvenation at the time. Just the idea that this band of trailblazing freaks was performing in a little TV studio a few miles from where I lived gave me a reason to live. A couple years later I saw them live at the Capitol Center, from a coveted third row seat which left me deaf for a week. I loved them.
Watch Alice Cooper play "Eighteen" and "Black Juju."
Alice Cooper - "Eighteen" and "Black Juju"
Somewhere in here, there's also a clip from the Barry Richards Rock'n'Soul show (1974-1975) of an oddball performer named Iron Jaw Samson, who proceeds to open a soda can with his teeth, eat a light bulb ("I prefer GE bulbs, to me GE stands for 'Good Eating'"!), swallow it down with his Pepsi, and rub broken glass and lit cigarettes over his elongated tongue (all the while with Barry intoning "Don't try this at home!").
Watch Iron Jaw Samson do his thing on the Barry Richards Rock'n'Soul show (Vimeo).
And to think that this performance took place ages before Jim Rose and his Sideshow Circus - though contemporaries like Iggy Pop were already rolling in broken glass and singer Ben Vaughn (of Annapolis punk band Judie's Fixation) would also later master the art of becoming a human can-opener.
|Iron Jaw loves the sound of breaking glass|
Googling "Iron Jaw Samson," I learned that he was also a guest on the July 28, 1970 broadcast of The Mike Douglas Show - along with John Waters's nemesis, Mary Avara of the Maryland State Board of Censors! (But he's not to be confused with 1920s sideshow performer "Samson of the Iron Jaw" of Vienna, Austria!)
LOST TURN-ON BLACK AND WHITE FOOTAGE
Video clips include: The Illusion - "When I Metcha Baby," "Did You See Her Eyes," "Man," "Let's Make Each Other Happy"/Crow - "Cottage Cheese," "Don't Lay No Boogie Woogie On the King of Rock N Roll"
I must admit, I haven't watched these clips yet.
SNEAK PREVIEW: BARRY RICHARDS ROCK SHOW (1973)
Video clips include: Rory Gallagher - "Walk On Hot Coals"/Muddy Waters - "Baby Please Don't Go," Interview excerpt, "Got My Mojo Workin'"
Repetitive hard rock blues boogie is not my thing, but I have to give Rory Gallagher his due - he's a real virtuoso on the electric guitar. Muddy Waters, meanwhile, is a total class act.
STILL GALLERY/AUDIO EXTRAS
This DVD chapter includes audio of Barry Richards interviewing Buster Crabbe, Little Richard on WUST, James Whitmore, Alice Cooper (again!) on WEEL, and Chris Mitchum (Robert's son) and Patrick Wayne (John's son) on WHMC promoting their film Big Jake (1971).
The Barry Richards TV Collection Vol. 1 is a priceless time capsule of a bygone "no-rules, anything goes" era when television and rock music were still trying to figure out how to compliment each other. And word has it that there are even more tapes in the vaults awaiting a Vol. 2 release. Hopefully, future releases will include some of the acts that didn't appear on Vol. 1 - such as Captain Beefheart, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, and Black Sabbath - as well as that famous interview with Buster Crabbe, whose Flash Gordon serials were featured on Richards's late-night movie-music madness show.
So stay tuned to "Turn-On" once more with Barry Richards!
Barry Richards Shows (www.barryrichardsshows.com)
Joe Hasselvander's Blog of Dooom ("In Praise of Barry Richards' "Turn On")
Rock! Shock! Pop!'s review
Barry Richards (Facebook)