Where The Action Was | porchlight - Indiana Public Media

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Where The Action Was


Marina del Rey, California

This episode of PorchLight begins down in the basement. As it turns out, a particular basement in Elkhart, Indiana provided the inspiration. That’s where my dear friend Niki made a discovery stashed in a cardboard box while she was cleaning out her childhood home.

It was a promotional publication for a new syndicated television series that premiered on January 2, 1965. The afterschool program on ABC was entitled “Where The Action Is”. Turns out the show’s entire concept was a promotion in itself.

Dick Clark, who had reached national prominence hosting American Bandstand, was eager to capitalize on the growing popularity of music shows like Hullabaloo and Shindig. American Bandstand had relied on in-studio lip-synched performances from the show’s musical guests. Here, Dick Clark added a house band and singers to present the popular hits of the day. He also featured a variety of invited acts performing selections outdoors under stage-managed conditions: again a live rendition that would later be dubbed in with the actual audio recording.

Even projecting a five-day-a-week, year-round production schedule, there was plenty of content to draw on. Let’s just consider what some of us were listening to on AM radio during that first week in 1965. On the Billboard Top 20 then were two Beatles songs, plus brand new recordings by The Supremes, The Stones, The Zombies, The Righteous Brothers, Manfred Mann, and Marvin Gaye. Waiting their turn a little further down the list were The Beach Boys, The Kinks, and the Miracles with Smokey Robinson. Just so your memories don’t get too full of themselves, Number 7 the previous week was Bonanza star Lorne Greene’s rendition of “Ringo.” Not about the drummer.

This was right in the heart of it all. What has since proven to be timeless essential music with more arriving that next week and then the week after that one.

Much of it was being listened to in basements similar to where Niki found that box. A basement was where I heard the Top 40 Countdown every Friday night on an old Philco while playing ping-pong with my friend Paul. Others of us were there rehearsing our first bands or dancing with friends to 45s stacked up on a record player.

That’s how it’s going to sound here. We’ll play the original recordings that were performed, sort-of, on Where The Action Is during its two and a half year run. Back then, on a small, grainy, black and white screen, you’d watch the acts pretending to sing and play these versions. For the next hour, you can imagine what those acts might have looked like fifty years ago. You’ll find their music hasn’t changed one bit.