For 26 Episodes in 1966, WFAA Played Host to the Funkiest, Most Soulful TV Show in America

TheBeatatWFAA.jpg
Etta James and the host of The !!!! Beat, Bill "Hoss" Allen
Last night, I got a text from Peter Schmidt, who could not believe I've never written about a short-lived 1966 TV show called The !!!! Beat, hosted by iconic Nashville deejay Bill "Hoss" Allen. Wrote Peter, who'd come across it yesterday after a lunchtime discussion about Etta James turned up an extraordinary clip from the series, "Turns out the show was filmed at WFAA because Nashville had no color TV facilities."

Oh, right -- that's the show from which we used to pull Freddie King videos whenever they'd show up on YouTube. Which was but a tip of the tip of the iceberg: The series was shot on film and nationally syndicated (it debuted on WAII in Atlanta, for instance, on May 7, 1966), aired for 26 episodes and featured everyone from Otis Redding to Archie Bell and the Drells to Joe Tex to Louis Jordan, and featured no less than Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and David "Fathead" Newman in the house band.

TheBeatSlate.JPG
"And if you watch the show in order, Gatemouth begins with a beat-to-shit guitar ... and then a little bit into the show he gets a new guitar, so it looks better," says George Gimarc, who, but of course, is a student of the show. "When you have him trading licks with Freddie King, oh my God. And to see Little Gary Ferguson, who was Michael Jackson before Michael Jackson, and Barbara Lynn, who you forget played guitar." The first episode was shot on January 31, 1966; the next nine, during the first two weeks of February, many on the same day. Best Gimarc can tell, through his own research and chats with former WFAA cameramen, though The !!!! Beat was shot here, it never aired in Dallas.

But unlike WFAA's legendary Ron Chapman-hosted Sump'n Else, which aired locally from '65 till '68 and saw most of its footage erased almost immediately after broadcast, The !!!! Beat goes on: In 2005 German-based Bear Family released six volumes' worth of broadcasts, in addition to a CD compilation featuring some of the show's lesser-knowns. (Amazon has the DVDs too, at a higher price tag.) According to Gimarc, for decades the show was thought to be lost -- till, that is, Willie Nelson began going through and selling off his personal belongings when he had the taxman breathing down his neck in the early '90s. Rumor is, the entire collection was in his possession.

In his 2000 book Station to Station: The History of Rock 'n' Roll on Television, Marc Weingarten noted its point of origin ("nationally syndicated from Dallas, Texas") and calls it "far and away the quirkiest and coolest R&B-driven television show of the decade." Which had everything to do with Allen, who, as Chet Flippo pointed out in his 1997 obituary for Billboard, began late-night broadcasting blues and R&B as early as the 1940s, introducing white audiences to the likes of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, James Brown and Ray Charles.

Allen hosted all but the final episode: Legend has it he was so distraught over its cancellation he fell into a bottle and couldn't make it to say farewell. Which is why Otis Redding is seen below hosting an episode -- the final one, which appears to have been shot in October '66. Yes, Otis Redding hosted a show taped at WFAA.

"It's an amazing grab bag of who was on the road and in the area" at the time, says Gimarc. But it wasn't just national acts who made the show: Among those making an appearance were The Dolls, a girl group of out Waco whose single "The Reason Why" was released on the tiny Loma Records label.

Here you'll find reviews of five of the six discs. And here's a YouTube channel that aggregates many of the best performances, some of which I've highlighted below. And there are many more scattered all over YouTube. The rabbit hole is deep, and its rewards are plentiful.



















My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
Jason
Jason

Great post, RW!  Loved the clip of Etta with Esther Phillips.  They were all great but watching those two do what they do...  wow.

Paul
Paul

Oh my God ... lock up your kids ... they are playing "race" music ... and you know that those white people playing back up are communist liberal sympathizers ....

Seriously, wonderful clips from an era in music when different things were being tried out ...

Freddie King is awesome ... of course it is all awesome ...

Montemalone
Montemalone

The Tighten Up has been a fave for a long time. Used to be on the rotation on KEOM, then I heard it on XRT the other day, but the video, wow.Who knew Robert Palmer was an Archie Bell fan?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

MY god, this is awesome! Why Dallas isnt putting out quality product like this anymore is something we all need to ask..Gotta love Archie Bell's back-up band, never seen white boys in this town so funky...

Hardliners
Hardliners

If that doesn't induce that stirring in your loins that only the devil's music can, you got something seriously amiss...for those around back then, check out the Archie Bell and the Drells' 'Tighten Up' clip....is that Ovid Stevens of the Southwest FOB on guitar?

Reel George
Reel George

I should have guessed Angus was involved - it's so like something he would have been participating in.  Little Gary is loads of fun on these shows - the kid is so full of confidence and swagger!

LaceyB
LaceyB

Now, if this isn't truly passionate fywlp, I have no idea what is. Etta, Otis, wow--what a lineup! Thanks to Angus & George also for helpin' a brother out. Can't wait to watch!

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

Wow the Big O, Otis, hosting at our own WFAA. sorry Dale you are not the biggest badass to take command of that studio. thanks so much as Jim said, made my day.

Ray
Ray

DAAAHYUM! Shades of Hairspray! Dallas white kids, don't you dare watch this sinful music!LOL! Everyone else, let's dance!RW, you and Angus gotta gotta get together and film some kind of music history DVD featuring these tapes along with Ron Chapman's show.(that I used to watch)

Three guys sitting around tellin tales and playin the good stuff.Come on now, you can do it.

lemonaioli
lemonaioli

Did you ever catch Hullabaloo? Same time frame, seems like a similar format. KERA showed it a few years ago with Sammy Davis Jr as the host. 60s night on KERA? My mom used to watch it but I was a toddler at the time so may have seen it but couldn't appreciate it.

Angus Wynne
Angus Wynne

Thanks, Robert, for posting the particulars of this seminal series of r'n'b classics and for the handy links to the history they represent. I was fortunate enough to have been present at several of these shows as they were being taped at Channel 8, as I was co-managing both Freddie King and Little Gary Ferguson then. These were amazing for that time period because they featured outstanding acts performing in front of a live band, rather than lip-synching or singing live over taped tracks--an expensive rarity in those days.Etta James' performing "Something's Got a Hold On Me" without the chorus from the original recording is a classic testament to her house-rockin' abilities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.... It'll be interesting to watch Xtina Aguilera, whom Etta adored, perform a tribute to her on the Grammy Awards this year. Meantime, her dead-on replication of Etta's original tune, from the movie "Burlesque" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... does justice to the original. YouTube's the big star here--wish we'd had it 30 years ago.

pslavens_kera
pslavens_kera

wow. amazing. I am going to be busy for a while watching these. thanks.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

get George in on that panel discussion too.

JRowlett11
JRowlett11

Angus, thank you so very much for posting this!  Didn't you also put on several shows at Market Hall those days?  My memory tells me my brother Doug went in on a couple of those.....of course I've learned not to trust my memory these days though it does "enhance' details making stories much better.  I do remember seeing several of these talents while they were here and what a great time I had. Thanks again!

Jill Rogers Rowlett

Mary Nash Stoddard
Mary Nash Stoddard

Angus, these are incredible! Truly buried-till-now priceless treasures to those of us who love Music and its History! Thanks to all who played a part in getting them posted. Pardon me, while I hit 'Play' again ... !!!

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...