I go to bed rather early. Come on I get up with the chicken, literally, so I go to bed early. It’s not like when I was younger. When I was younger staying up late was easy. I did not get tired; in fact, there were some things that I looked forward to when I stayed up late. Like TV shows. We did not have cable when I was young, so imagine my surprise when some of the greatest TV shows aired at midnight, and that got me thinking…
In 1973, I believe I was a freshman and there was a TV show on that made being an awkward teen a little easier. I could not wait to hear the theme song, it went something like; Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me / Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me / Let the Midnight Special shine a ever-lovin´ light on me. …
Yes, it was the Midnight Special which originally aired in 1972 and it was to have been just one show. Well you know how that worked out. The Midnight Special ran from 1973 to 1981. Not so bad for a shows that was to be aired just once. Much like a Lays Potato chip no one can eat just one, and no one could watch just one Midnight Special. It was a hit. It was the king of late night pop/rock.
You see the producer Burt Sugarman was pretty skeptical about doing a late night show with rock stars. After all, rock and rollers were not exactly business savvy and who knew if they would show up on time, and who knew if they would even remember showing up, for that matter who knew if they even cared. So Suagrman was smart, he hired someone he figured would dress up and show up, someone who looked wholesome. Now remember I didn’t say someone who was wholesome, just someone who looked it. That person was John Denver.
Okay I know I know, John Denver wow. But listen it was not the host that made the show that night, it was the guests that night that made the show so unforgettable. Cass Elliot, Argent, Linda Ronstadt, The Everly Brothers, David Clayton-Thomas from Blood, Sweat & Tears, War, The Isley Brothers, Harry Chapin AND Helen Reddy. By the way Reddy, the queen of housewife rock and roll hosted the show as a regular for a short time. Wolfman Jack hosted as a regular as well.
With a line up like that how could Sugarman do just one show? So the show turned into a weekly series that aired at midnight. The show literally had hundreds and hundreds of recording artists that appeared on the show.
The Midnight Special was about live performances and all of the who’s who. Some of the folks that performed were; Journey, Procol Harum, Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Elton John, Ray Charles, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, Tina Turner, Heart, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Janis Ian, Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Billy Crystal, B.B King, Kiss, The Guess Who, Andy Kaufman, Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick, Richard Pryor, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, The Cars, Eddie Money, Blondie, Jim Croce, T.Rex, Al Green, The New York Dolls, Fleetwood Mac, War, Genesis, King Crimson, REO Speedwagon, and the list could go on and on….
The Midnight Special was pure magic when I was a kid. Today it still seems magical thanks to youtube were I go to watch some great performances. With all the TV stations out today you would think there would be good programing like this, but sadly we are stuck with lifeless music programing.
So do you remember the Midnight Special?