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Murray the K’s Historic TV Special to Screen at New Orleans’ Ponderosa Stomp September 4, 2010

Posted by David W. King in Music, Rock, Rockn'Roll, television, Video.
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Controversial “It’s What’s Happening, Baby” hasn’t been seen in its entirety since 1965

Santa Monica, CA,– Murray “the K” Kaufman’s ground-breaking 1965 television special “It’s What’s Happening, Baby” is being presented in its entirety for the first time since the program aired during primetime on June 28, 1965, on the CBS Television Network. The screening, made possible by The Murray the K Archives and Historic Films, will be part of The Ponderosa Stomp Music Festival’s Clandestine Cinema film series at One Eyed Jack’s in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The presentation is scheduled at noon on September 25, 2010

The special, which pioneered the use of on-location, choreographed, storyline performances by popular music groups foreshadowed the format that became familiar when MTV premiered sixteen years later. The line-up of talent includes now-classic performances by Martha & the Vandellas, Donne Warwick, Tom Jones, Ray Charles, the Righteous Brothers, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, the Ronettes, Patti Labelle, Marvin Gaye, the Drifters, and more. Fred Gwynne, as Herman Munster, participated in a skit with Murray the K, and Bill Cosby performed a standup routine about life in a high school shop class and the fate awaiting dropouts.

When the program aired, under the auspices of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) during the height of the American civil rights movement, it drew twice as many viewers as the other programs in its time slot – “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Ben Casey,” “The Jonathan Winters Show,” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” – but it only attracted scorn from Congressional Republicans. GOP Senator Gordon Allott of Colorado called the program, whose underlying goal was to inform teenagers about job opportunities and encourage them to stay in school, “shameful and degrading” and admitted that it “made me want to regurgitate.” Senate GOP leader Everett Dirksen described colleagues as “almost incandescent in their fulminations” and said he was authorized to inquire about “who inspired it, who put it together.”

“It’s What’s Happening, Baby,” which had its genesis in a conversation between OEO Inspector General William Haddad, who was seeking ways of reaching at-risk youth, and Murray “the K” Kaufman, who the OEO had identified as a credible voice among teenagers and who was the top-rated disk jockey in the top music market in the country, managed to gets its message across. According to Holmes Brown, the OEO’s head of public affairs, “We think we reached people who never have been reached before. It sounded a little kooky to me, too, at first, but we have to find unorthodox ways to get to these kids.”

Clips from the ninety-minute, black and white show have appeared from time to time in other productions, including DVD compilations of performances by renowned Motown groups, but the Ponderosa Stomp screening will mark the first time in forty-five years that the complete show has been seen.

The Murray the K Archives [http://www.murraythek.com] curates and licenses audio, video, photographic, and printed materials related to the life and career of Radio Hall of Fame disk jockey Murray “the K” Kaufman. The Murray the K Archives contains Kaufman’s signature “ah bey!” chant; programs from his record-breaking rock and roll shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theater and elsewhere featuring acts as diverse as Ray Charles, Bobby Vinton, the Lovin’ Spoonful and, in their first U.S. appearance, The Who and Cream; audio interviews with John Lennon, Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond, and many others; and his 1960s television specials featuring performances by divas like Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Dionne Warwick; groups ranging from the Temptations to the Doors, the Ronettes, and the Righteous Brothers; and mythic figures like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding in his last television appearance. All can be found in The Archives, providing a glimpse into the cultural shifts that characterized the ’Sixties.

A full inventory is available to qualified production companies, publishers, and radio and television broadcasters.

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