In 1972, ABC Television hired song publisher Don Kirshner as an executive producer and consultant for their new “In Concert” music series which ran every other week in The Dick Cavett Show slot. The show, featuring acts like Alice Cooper, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and The Steve Miller Band, was highly successful, even occasionally topping NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The following year, Kirshner left “In Concert” to launch his own syndicated weekly rock program, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” On September 27, 1973, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” premiered featuring The Rolling Stones first American television performance in over four years.
Unlike TV music shows, such as American Bandstand, performances on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” were not lip-synched in a studio. Instead, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” featured raw, full-length performances in a live concert or club setting. For each episode, Don Kirshner dressed in a high-collared leisure suit and introduced acts in his distinctive Bronx accent. Don became famous for his stiff posture and monotone introductions of musicians which led to a famous parody that musician and bandleader Paul Shaffer delivered regularly on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” featured legendary performances by popular acts such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, B.B. King, The Police, The Sex Pistols, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sly & the Family Stone, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, KISS, The Ramones, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, the Eagles, ABBA, Prince, Bob Marley, Alice Cooper, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, David Bowie and countless others. The show also included a comedy segment that promoted the careers of many legendary comics including Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal and David Letterman.
According to Rob Simon of the Paley Center for the Media, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” was “a crucial ’70s bridge between the Ed Sullivan era of the ’60s and MTV of the ’80s…Don Kirshner was able to capitalize on many different forms of music that were coming about in the ’70s.” The launch of MTV in 1981 along with the growing popularity of staged music videos marked the end of “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” Before ABC pulled the plug on the program, the final season was hosted by Kirshner’s son and daughter. While many were sad to see the show end, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” had an unforgettable eight year run from 1973 to 1981 and will always be remembered as the place America tuned in to catch the most popular performers and hottest rock n roll acts of the 70’s and early 80’s.
- Tommy Ramone – 4 Live Moments by American SongwriterA great compilation of Tommy Ramone’s live performances by Alli Patton at American Songwriter. Including, this excerpt: In 1977, the band made an appearance on the music variety show, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, playing another fiery set for television audiences. The drummer can be glimpsed in the back, delivering a durable beat to songs like … Read more
- “IT’S ALIVE” highlights Sly & the Family Stone “If You Want Me To Stay” (1973) on Louisville Public MediaIt’s Alive is an LPM show that briefly devotes the airwaves to live music everyday at 1pm. Tune in to hear this performance and more live tracks! Excerpt: The funk rock legend, Sly Stone, came from a musical family, and was considered a prodigy at a young age. At 23 he founded what would become his … Read more
- Classic Rock History: Before MTV, There Was Don Kirshner’s Rock ConcertClassic Rock History has posted a great article contrasting the show’s origin to what came next, written by Brian Kachejian. Excerpt: In the 1960’s and 70s’s we never imagined the advent of MTV, cable television, and even the internet. Our only opportunity to enjoy music was from the vinyl grooves of the albums we loved, … Read more
- Alice Cooper’s Controversy Live on ABCTyler Golsen at Farout Magazine highlights the moment that Don Kirshner invited Alice Cooper to be the first band to appear when the new show launched on ABC in November of 1972. Check out this great post, including this excerpt: Within a few minutes, a rerun of the 1960s western Rawhide was being shown instead. … Read more
- Congratulations Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2014All of us at Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert would like to congratulate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Cat Stevens was one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the ‘60s and ‘70s, responsible for hits such as “Wild World,” “Father and Son,” and “Peace Train.” In the 80s he dropped out … Read more
- New Documentary About Jim Morrison and The DoorsJust days after The Doors finished recording the album “L.A. Woman” in January 1971, the band’s iconic front man Jim Morrison left for Paris, France. He would never return, as 6 months later, the world lost a great artist and musician. While he left us far too early, the incredible music legacy of Jim Morrison … Read more