Shine a Light On Me: 40 Years of The Midnight Special
Recently, I was swallowed under a wave of memories while channel surfing. Thanks to some infomercial hustlers who were selling a DVD collection, I was spending the first moments of a new Saturday watching scenes from The Midnight Special for the first time in more than 30 years.
My eyes were fixed to the screen, which was now 52 inches wide and not bound by Curtis Mathis' carved wood. It didn't matter. I was eight years old again, watching Wolfman Jack howl and introduce music's biggest acts.
Pop-music-history stuff: The Midnight Special was a television program on NBC. In the 1970s and '80s, it aired after Johnny Carson's Friday-night episodes of The Tonight Show.. Its producer, Burt Sugarman, created a show that featured many of the era's biggest or most promising music and comedy acts. The show debuted 40 years ago this year.
Its heart beat more than 400 times over nine years. Radio personality Robert Weston Smith -- better known by his on-air name, Wolfman Jack -- was its frequent, but not lone host. Singer Helen Reddy of "I Am Woman" fame also hosted several episodes. Most often, musicians of the day like Olivia Newton-John or Mac Davis, guest-hosted.
The show was such a success by the end of its first season it had spawned a rival, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, down the dial at ABC.