HISTORY OF ROCK & ROLL
Tune in Thanksgiving weekend for our 52-hour program, “The History of Rock & Roll; the First 20 Years.” Relive the memories and hear the stories as told by the artists themselves. Hosted by the late legendary radio programmer and personality Bill Drake.
About the History of Rock & Roll:
The History of Rock & Roll is an American radio documentary on rock and roll music, first syndicated in 1969. Originally one of the lengthiest documentaries of any medium (48 hours in the 1969 version, 52 hours each for the 1978 and 1981 versions). The History of Rock & Roll is a definitive history of the Rock and Roll genre, beginning in the early 1950s. It features hundreds of interviews and comments from numerous rock artists and people involved with rock and roll.
Notable features of this documentary include the “chart sweep,” featuring a montage of #1 songs and notable hits from a given year or artist, a “time sweep” for each one-hour segment providing a montage of the major hits for each year or individual artist, and closing with a special climactic time sweep featuring a montage of every #1 hit from 1955 to the then current year. While the documentary focuses on Rock & Roll and its variants, some songs and artists from other genres are also represented as they also became major hits on stations that primarily played Rock & Roll.
The History of Rock & Roll first aired on the weekend of February 21–23, 1969, on 93 KHJ Los Angeles, hosted by Robert W. Morgan. It aired for 48 hours and was later syndicated. Later that year, with slight modifications to the script, another version was aired hosted by Humble Harve Miller. The program was then syndicated nationally in the fall of 1969 by parent company RKO General. KHJ repeated this in 12-hour blocks. This version was syndicated throughout the early 1970s, and was sent to stations on large 1⁄2″ reels of 1/4″ tape, in full-track mono. Stations were required to return the tapes immediately after airing, though (surprisingly) several stations offered copies of the show as prizes. The original KHJ show also carried promos awarding copies of the show as prizes to a handful of listeners, on reel-to-reel tape AND a tape recorder to play it on.
In 1975, Drake-Chenault began the process of updating the documentary. Finding that the 1969 script contained inaccuracies and omissions, programmer/DJ/music historian Gary Theroux researched, rewrote, and rebuilt the program entirely from scratch. The new version expanded the story with fresh interviews, insightful narration, more music, and a host of innovations—all in a modular format which allowed stations more programming flexibility. Drake knew that the rising popularity of stereo FM rock stations made it necessary to redo the show in stereo. The revised show was also completely remixed and re-edited from scratch, using a homebuilt control room assembled together by engineer Mark Ford at the company headquarters in Canoga Park, California, and a library of thousands of LPs and 45 singles. The program employed a systematic approach covering each year with a focused half-hour as well as separate segments devoted to key artists or trends. The result, hosted by Bill Drake, was an enormously successful ratings hit. Drake replaced previous host Humble Harve Miller. The 1978 edition of “The History of Rock & Roll” debuted as a marathon broadcast over more than 400 domestic stations and another 400 overseas, and won Billboard magazine’s “Top Special Program of the Year” award. That led Theroux to host his own version of “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” as a syndicated daily 21⁄2-minute feature.
The final Drake-Chenault version was released in the spring of 1981, named the Silver Anniversary Edition of the History of Rock & Roll, so-called as it was released 25 years after Elvis Presley’s first #1 hit. Not wishing to increase the size of the program, and with an attempt to place greater emphasis on the current musical trends, the controversial decision was made to severely cut back the sections devoted to the 1950s and early 1960s (prior to the advent of the Beatles). All of the pre-1978 content in the “Silver Anniversary Edition,” therefore, was actually a recycled cut-down of Theroux, Ford and Drake’s award-winning work. Only their two-hour profile of Elvis Presley remained relatively intact. The half-hour recaps of chart highlights from each year between 1956 and 1963 were condensed into a single half hour, while new chart sweeps for 1978, 1979, and 1980 were expanded to a full hour each. The final hour, the “time sweep”, brought the number one song montage up to date through Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night”, the song that was number one in early 1981, at the time this version was prepared. The program closed with The Beatles’ version of “Rock and Roll Music”.