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Retro : What’s All the Hullabaloo?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rock ‘n’ roll went prime time in a big way on television in the mid-'60s with ABC’s weekly music series “Shindig” and NBC’s Hullabaloo.

Thanks to MPI Home Video, “Hullabaloo” fans can enjoy a blast from the musical past. On Tuesday, MPI releases the first four volumes ($80) of its “Hullabaloo” series. MPI is scheduled to later release three more sets of episodes. Each of the first three tapes contains two complete half-hour programs plus bonus songs. Volume 4 features a one-hour show and bonus songs.

“Hullabaloo” originally aired from Jan. 12, 1965, to Aug. 29, 1966, on NBC and was billed as “a fast-paced hour of song, dance, comedy, showcasing young talent from Hollywood, Broadway, television, nightclubs and recordings.” The series was cut down to 30 minutes during its second season.

Prominently featured on the series were the Hullabaloo Dancers, an integrated corps of 10 dancers, six miniskirted women and four men who would dance the frug, the mashed potato, the swim, the pony and the twist during the musical numbers. One of the dancers was Donna McKechnie, who later created a hullabaloo on Broadway by winning the Tony Award for her role as Cassie in “A Chorus Line.”

For the first three months of the series, the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, appeared in taped segments from London, where he presented such British acts as The Moody Blues and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

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Each episode followed the same format: The week’s host would perform the opening number and introduce the guests. “The Top of the Pops” section featured the top hits of the day performed by such guests as the Byrds, Dionne Warwick and Jackie DeShannon. The highlight of “Hullabaloo A-Go-Go” segment was the “Lady in the Cage” (Lada Edmund Jr.) dancing the frug.

The MPI set is wonderfully entertaining, filled with several surreal, funny sequences. For example, the Mamas & Papas perform their hit “California Dreamin’ ” surrounded by bathtubs. In the middle of the song, the Hullabaloo Dancers pop up out of the bathtubs and start frugging.

Then there’s host Michael Landon trying bravely to sing “I Like It Like That.” But he fares better than Jerry Lewis and son Gary’s rendition of “Help!” or Peter and Gordon’s version of “The Ballad of Cat Ballou.” Another rib-tickling sequence finds Nancy Sinatra, Lola Falana and host Frankie Avalon singing a TV theme-song medley, including “The Flintstones” and “Bewitched.”

The set offers a rich opportunity to see some of the great groups of the ‘60s at their peak: the Yardbirds performing “I’m a Man”; Smokey Robinson & the Miracles singing “Going to a Go-Go”; The Supremes doing “Nothing But Heartaches”; Marvin Gaye singing “Ain’t That Peculiar”; the Young Rascals giving “Good Lovin’.”

The episodes featured in the set include:

Volume 1

Original air date: April 11, 1966. Host: Paul Anka. Guests: The Cyrkle, Peter & Gordon and Lesley Gore.

Original air date: Dec. 6, 1965. Host: Frankie Avalon. Guests: The Hollies, Nancy Sinatra, the Ronettes, the Yardbirds, Lola Falana. Bonus numbers performed by: Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Bobby Fuller Four, the Vogues and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

Volume 2

Original air date: Nov. 29, 1965. Host: Michael Landon. Guests: The Byrds, Jackie De Shannnon, Chad & Jill, Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Original air date: March 14, 1966. Host: Gary Lewis. Guests: The Playboys, the Mamas & Papas, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Rydell and Noel Harrison. Bonus numbers performed by: the Moody Blues, the Marvelettes, the Turtles and the Animals.

Volume 3

Original air date: Sept. 20, 1965. Host: Jerry Lewis and son Gary. Guests: Barry McGuire, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Joannie Sommers.

Original air date: Sept. 13, 1965. Host: Sammy Davis Jr. Guests: The Lovin’ Spoonful, the Supremes, Sonny & Cher, the Strangeloves. Bonus numbers performed by: The Searchers, Marvin Gaye, Dusty Springfield and the Young Rascals.

Volume 4

Original air date: May 5, 1965. Host: Trini Lopez. Guests: Sir Douglas Quintet, Herman’s Hermits, Chuck Berry, the Four Seasons, Vikki Carr, Martha & the Vandellas, Freddie and the Dreamers and the Travellers Three. Bonus numbers performed by: Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, the Four Tops, Gene Pitney and Johnny Rivers.


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