Sam's Television Appearances
Over the years, several lists have been compiled of Sam Cooke’s appearances on television. Clark Kauffman and Martijn Buisman have both posted such lists on their respective web sites based on their research and review of available literature. Over the past year, video archivist Matt Wheeler and I have prepared what we hope will be the “definitive” list of Sam’s television appearances. If anyone has additional information or knows of any other Sam Cooke television performances that are not listed here, please let us know.
The Ed Sullivan ShowSunday, November 3, 1957
Larry Auerbach, an agent with The William Morris Agency (“WMA”), met with Sam and Bumps Blackwell in New York City in October 1957, while the two were out on the road promoting “You Send Me.” Based on Auerbach’s promise that he could book Sam onto the Sullivan show, Bumps signed a letter of intent with WMA. Auerbach delivered on his promise and Sam got the booking, but he was a new talent and unfamiliar to Sullivan, who scheduled his performance as last on the show. Typical of the Sullivan show, it was jam-packed with performers. According to TV Guide, the following were all scheduled to appear: The Dancers of Bali; Mario and the Tabanan Palace Gamelan Orchestra; Anna Maria Alberghetti and her sister, Carla; Jimmie Rodgers (“Honeycomb”); Paul Anka (“Diana”); The Sparkletones (“Black Slacks”); French singer Patachou; comedienne Sue Carson; ventriloquist Arthur Worsley; variety act Joy Kay and Company; acrobats The Latinos; and Sam. Nearing the end of the show, Sullivan called actor Rod Steiger out of the audience to plug his latest movie and invited him to listen to Sam, who was only able to finish the first line of the song when viewers’ television screens went black and the CBS eye logo popped up. Watching from a television in the lobby of the Savoy Hotel in Atlanta, Aretha Franklin and her group “just had a fit. We all but turned the lobby and the hotel out.” (Guralnick, p. 203.) This brief clip can be seen on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD.
The Guy Mitchell ShowMonday, November 11, 1957
Guy Mitchell (born Al Cernik) was a popular singer of the 1950's whose hit record, “Singing The Blues,” set a Billboard chart record when it stayed in the No. 1 spot for 10 consecutive weeks in the fall of 1956. He also had top ten hits with “Rock-A-Billy” and “Heartaches by the Number.” Mitchell’s chart success is no doubt one reason why ABC created a musical variety show for him in the fall of 1957. Guralnick references Sam’s appearance on the show on November 11 (p. 207), and even states that he received $750, minus his WMA commission, for the appearance. Sam is not mentioned in TV Guide as being a guest on the show; only Peggy King is named, but the Mitchell Estate confirmed that Sam appeared on the show, and also advised that there is no existing film footage. Based on the timing, Sam certainly must have performed “You Send Me,” and more than likely an additional duet number with the host.
The Ed Sullivan ShowSunday, December 1, 1957
The furor over Sam’s appearance on the November 3 show had been so intense that the Sullivan show rebooked him even before he arrived back on the West Coast. This show was again packed with acts, including actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.; singer Polly Bergen; the Glenn Miller Band; the General Mills All-American Football Team; The Rays (“Silhouettes”); Buddy Holly and The Crickets (“That’ll Be The Day”); Bobby Helms (“My Special Angel”); comedienne Jean Carroll; ballroom dance team Tony and Sally DeMarco; and Sam. Acting as contrite as Sullivan ever could, in a reference to the earlier appearance, Sullivan introduces Sam by saying “Here’s the time.” Sam sang “You Send Me” and then returned in the second half-hour of the show to perform “For Sentimental Reasons.” Sullivan publicly apologized to Sam on the show, stating that he had “never received so much mail in my life!” The clip appeared officially on The Best of Ed Sullivan television program which aired on PBS stations in the 1990; it does not appear to have been included on any of the Best of DVDs that have been released.
American BandstandMonday, December 2, 1957
The morning after Sam's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show he took the train from New York to Philadelphia for his first documented appearance of Dick Clark's program. According to television listings in the Long Beach (CA) Independent, "Sam Cooke sings at 3 p.m. as show goes on a 'same-day' basis and announces a satellite-naming contest." No film is known to exist of this performance. Sam most surely sang "You Send Me."
The Howard Miller ShowWednesday, December 4, 1957
Howard Miller, the host of the morning show on WIND-AM in Chicago, was one of the biggest disc jockeys in the country in 1957. According to an article featured in Time magazine in April of that year, Miller had the nation's biggest local audience and was earning over $350,000 per year. In addition to his radio duties, Miller hosted this show, also known as Club 60, based from the WNBQ studios (the local NBC affiliate). It was then syndicated to other areas of the country. Sam was a guest on this particular show to promote his appearance at Miller's live musical revue at the Chicago Opera House on Friday, December 6, 1957. Headlining this live show along with Sam were Mike Douglas, Barbara Becker, and the Melle Larks. According to NBC Master Books, Sam sang "You Send Me" and "For Sentimental Reasons." No film is known to exist of this performance.
1958 March of Dimes Public Service AnnouncementVarious Airings
In 1958, the March of Dimes, best known for its crusades to eradicate polio and birth defects, launched a full scale multi-media fund raising campaign, the highlight of which were a series of Public Service Announcements (“PSAs”) filmed by various musical artists of the day. Sam filmed a PSA in which he sang “Desire Me,” then spoke about polio victims and the need for people to contribute to the March of Dimes. He concluded the PSA by singing “For Sentimental Reasons.” This film footage still exists and a clip of Sam performing “Desire Me” can be seen on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD. Other performers who filmed PSAs for this campaign were country singer Molly Bee, actor Sal Mineo, and singer Bobby Troup.
The Steve Allen ShowSunday, January 5, 1958
The Steve Allen Show on NBC was the direct competition to Ed Sullivan’s CBS show. Sam appeared on this program just one month after his date on Sullivan. Presumably the spot was booked for him by the William Morris Agency. Once again, Sam sings “You Send Me,” then jokes around with Allen, who shows off a gold record of the hit, then makes it disappear. Allen asks Sam what song is on the flip side of the record and Sam responds, “Summertime.” “Oh, yeah,” states Allen, “I should have known that.” Later, Sam sings “For Sentimental Reasons.” Like Sullivan, Allen booked numerous acts onto one show. According to TV Guide, the following appeared along with Sam on this episode: actors Ward Bond and Robert Horton from the “Wagon Train” TV series; Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra with singer Abbe Lane (“Dry Coconut,” “South America, Take It Away”); and comedian Johnny Haymer. Show regulars were Tom Poston, Louis Nye and Don Knotts. The show’s announcer was Gene Rayburn (perhaps best known as the host of the 1960's TV game show Jeopardy) and the orchestra leader was Skitch Henderson. Footage of Sam’s performance from the show does exist. The interview portion of the show was used in the 1990's Mysteries and Scandals program on the E! Network.
The Big RecordWednesday, January 29, 1958
This musical variety show, filmed in New York City, was hosted by popular singer Patti Page (the original singer of “Tennessee Waltz”). Along with Sam, the guests on this show, as reported in TV Guide, were Broadway star Carol Haney; singers Eddy Howard and Margaret Whiting; Louis Jordan; pianist Roger Williams; and Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra. TV Guide does not indicate what song(s) Sam performed on the show, and apparently there is no surviving film. According to a contemporary issue of Jet magazine, Sam sang "You Send Me" and "I'll Come Running Back to You." Guralnick reports that Sam was interviewed by a reporter from Tan magazine on the set of the show for an article that appeared in that magazine’s April 1958 edition.
The Steve Allen ShowSunday, March 2, 1958
This was Sam’s second appearance with Steve Allen in a two-month span. Sam performs a comfortable, relaxed version of “Ol’ Man River,” one of the cuts off of his first Keen LP, Sam Cooke. Appearing along with Sam on the show were Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra and singer Abbe Lane (one would think that Cugat and Sam had the same booking agent at WMA based on their appearances on the same shows); actor Peter Ustinov; the four singers from the TV show Your Hit Parade - Jill Corey, Tommy Leonetti, Virginia Gibson and Alan Copeland. Regulars included Louis Nye, Don Knotts, Joyce Jameson, announcer Gene Rayburn and the Skitch Henderson Orchestra. In his introduction to Sam’s number, Allen states that the success of “You Send Me” has “catapulted Sam Cooke into New York’s Copacabana starting this Thursday” (March 6, 1958).
The Dick Clark Saturday Night ShowSaturday, March 22, 1958
In late 1957, ABC wanted to capitalize on the success of the afternoon American Bandstand by presenting Dick Clark in prime time on Monday nights. Clark recounts in his book, Rock, Roll & Remember (Crowell Co. 1976), that he hated the show and it was quickly canceled. It did not take long for ABC to return Clark to prime time, this time on Saturday nights. Clark was much happier with this show as he had total control of the production and booking of the artists. The show originated from the Little Theater in New York City. The venue was aptly named as it held only 498 seats. The first show aired on Saturday, February 15, 1958; it had no sponsor until the third week when Beech-Nut Gum came on board. Sam appeared on the show’s sixth week. There apparently is no existing footage of this performance, so it is only an educated guess that Sam would have performed “Win Your Love For Me” and “Lonely Island,” the double sided single which hit the Top Ten just two weeks later (#7 R&B - 04/07/58). According to TV Guide, in addition to Sam, Clark’s guests on this show were singers Betty Johnson, Billy Williams, The Diamonds, and Bill Haley and the Comets.
The Jimmy Dean ShowSaturday, March 29, 1958
Country singer Jimmy Dean and his band, the Texas Wildcats, got their first television break when they hosted a local show each weekday afternoon on WMAL-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. The show was called Town and Country Time and debuted in January 1955. In 1957, Dean learned that CBS was looking for a new country themed show to go up against NBC’s morning hit, The Today Show with host Dave Garroway. Dean spent his own money and produced a kinescope pilot of The Jimmy Dean Show which he submitted to CBS for consideration. Dean’s show was selected over several other Nashville produced audition tapes. His CBS show, initially named Country Style, became the first nationally televised network show to originate from Washington, D.C., broadcasting from studios at WTOP-TV. According to Dean himself, the show debuted on April 8, 1957 and aired Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. After a 15-minute break, the show was repeated live each day for the Central time zone. The show was a huge hit and beat the Today show in most major market Neilsen ratings. The success of the weekday show spawned The Jimmy Dean Show, a live one hour show that debuted in October 1957 at 12 noon ET. Sam appeared on one of the Saturday programs. Since the show aired live on the East Coast, it must have been taped for a delayed broadcast that began in Los Angeles at 10:30 a.m. Unfortunately, there appears to be no existing film of this show and no information has been located to confirm what song(s) Sam performed.
Strictly InformalFriday, July 4, 1958
This locally produced show is referenced in Guralnick’s book (p. 242) under the name The Larry Finley Show. TV Guide reports the actual title of the show was Strictly Informal and Finley was indeed the host. No detailed descriptions of the show’s content appear in TV Guide. Guralnick obtained his information about the show from an article in Billboard magazine that ran a couple of weeks later. According to that source, the program was a tribute to the success of Keen Records. Sam was presented with an award from Finley as the “Brightest Young Singing Talent to Grace the Airwaves of KTLA for 1958.” Bumps Blackwell received an award for discovering Sam and other new artists. Sam performed “Win Your Love For Me.” No film footage is known to exist.
The Johnny Otis ShowMonday, July 7, 1958
Johnny Otis was a vocalist, drummer, musician, composer and band leader who had his own band in the 1940's and 1950's. He was a fixture in the clubs up and down the West Coast and is credited for discovering such artists as Charles Brown, Little Esther, Mel Walker, The Robins, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Etta James (Jamesetta Hawkins). He had numerous Top Ten recordings on the Billboard R&B charts throughout the 1950's, recording on the Regent and Savoy labels. In 1958, perhaps as Los Angeles’ answer to Philadelphia’s American Bandstand, Otis hosted his own local show which aired on KTLA Channel 5 and featured regulars Mel Williams, Don & Dewey and 3 Tons of Joy. This was the debut show and it featured Sam and Jody Reynolds, a rockabilly singer whose hit record was called “Endless Sleep.” Local television listings do not indicate what song(s) Sam performed on this show. His most recent Top Ten record was “Lonely Island/You Were Made For Me” (#4 R&B - 04/07/58) and his next, “Win Your Love For Me,” would peak at # 4 almost two months later.
In Town TonightMonday, August 25, 1958
This locally produced 15-minute musical variety show on Chicgo's CBS affiliate was sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes and hosted by Jim Conway. Show regulars included Patricia Scot and Len Dresslar. Sam's appearance is based solely on a television listing appearing in the Chicago Defender of the same date. No other information is available for this program and no film is known to exist. Sam's current hit was "Win Your Love For Me."
The Arthur Murray PartyMonday, October 6, 1958
In the fall of 1958, Sam was touring the South on a package arranged by Atlanta promoter B.B. Beamon. Following a show in Birmingham, Alabama, Sam took a break from the tour and flew to New York for an appearance on The Arthur Murray Party. Murray’s wife, Kathryn, provides the introduction, stating that the artist has “an amazing list of hit records, and he’s earned every one of them.” With her final announcement, “It’s Sam Cooke!,” Sam darts out from the wings of the stage just in time to deliver the first beat of “Mary, Mary Lou.” This is one of Sam’s most memorable TV appearances, perhaps because he appears so confident and happy, despite having to share the stage with Murray’s dancers. Most noticeable in listening to this performance is how the microphones pick up Sam’s finger snapping and hand clapping.
The Dick Clark Saturday Night ShowSaturday, October 11, 1958
As opposed to the usual setting at the Little Theater in New York City, this show was filmed on site at the main grandstand (capacity 6,000) at the Southeastern Fair in Lakewood Park, Atlanta, Georgia. Sam shared the bill with Danny and the Juniors (“At The Hop”), country singer Conway Twitty (“It’s Only Make Believe”) and singer Paul Peek. Although no footage of this show appears to have been saved, author Daniel Wolff quotes from a Billboard magazine article reporting that Sam performed “Win Your Love For Me.” Dick Clark recounts in his book, Rock, Roll & Remember, and in an interview on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD, the threats received from the KKK prior to the taping of the show. Clark spoke to Sam at a motel before the show, apparently giving Sam every opportunity to back out, but Sam was resolute and told Clark, “I’m going on.” (Wolff, p. 185; Clark, pp. 133-136). [Wolff incorrectly states that the show aired on October 22; the October 11 date was confirmed through TV Guide.]
Buddy Bregman's Music ShopSunday, January 11, 1959
In the 1950's, Buddy Bregman was a well-known musician, composer, arranger and conductor for television shows, motion pictures and records. In 1959, he was the musical arranger for The Eddie Fisher Show. Bregman is alive today and remains active in various productions. A complete list of his production credits can be seen on his website. In early 1959, NBC gave Bregman an opportunity to host his own show, characterized on his web site as “a poor man’s American Bandstand.” The debut program featured Richie Valens (“La Bamba,” “Donna”) and Sam. [Valens died less than three weeks later in an airplane crash on 02/03/59 that also killed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.] Sam is not listed as a guest in the write-up for the show in TV Guide, but Bregman recently confirmed that he appeared on the first show along with Valens. The series certainly was no match for AB and only lasted a total of 13 episodes. There is no existing film footage (which is a shame as the show was broadcast in color) and no printed record of what Sam performed. His most recent hit on the Billboard charts was “Love You Most Of All” (#12 R&B 12/01/58).
The Dick Clark Saturday Night ShowSaturday, March 14, 1959
According to Guralnick (p. 282), Sam had a performing engagement in Honolulu, Hawaii in early March 1959, then flew to New York for yet another appearance on Dick Clark’s Saturday night show at the Little Theater. Sam lip synchs his two highest charting records to date, “Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha” and “You Send Me.” Appearing on this show along with Sam, as reported by TV Guide, were singers Lou Monte (“Italian Cowboy Song”); Art and Dottie Todd (“Spanish Marching Song”) and The Fleetwoods (“Come Softly To Me”). As an aside, on several occasions the camera pans the theater audience, many of whom are wearing buttons which read “IFIC.” These buttons were promotional items distributed prior to the show by the sponsor. Clark would often do on-air commercials for his sponsor, referring to “Beech-Nut flavorific Gum.”
The Jimmy Dean ShowFriday, May 1, 1959
Despite its good ratings, CBS cancelled Jimmy Dean’s weekday morning show after just nine months on the air because, according to Dean, CBS could not sell enough advertising for this early time slot to justify the production expense. However, CBS made Dean “an offer I couldn’t refuse” and moved him from Washington, D.C. to New York for a new daily afternoon half-hour show which debuted at 2:00 p.m. ET on September 22, 1958. Dean recollects that he wasn’t that pleased with the show’s presentation as he felt it was more “uptown” in style and was betraying his country fans. According to a film collector who owns a 16mm film of this program, Sam performs three songs: “Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha,” “God Bless The Child,” and a duet with host Dean on “Just A Little Talk With Jesus.”
In his autobiography, entitled Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham, Dean makes the following recollection about his television shows. “When people ask me who were some of my personal favorites that were on the show I have to say ... I ... loved Sam Cooke. What a great singer and delightful human being he was. Sam and I enjoyed hanging out together and would sometimes go out for a bite to eat after the show.” (Dean, p. 88)
The Dick Clark Saturday Night ShowSaturday, June 20, 1959
Sam makes a return appearance to the Little Theater in New York City for Dick Clark’s weekly Beech-Nut Show. According to TV Guide, Sam sang “Only Sixteen,” his Keen single which was released that same month. Other guests on this show were Julius La Rosa (“Honey Bunch”), Jimmy Darren (“Gidget”), Tony Bellus (“Robbin’ The Cradle”), and Stonewall Jackson and The Mystics (“Hushabye”).
American BandstandMonday, June 29, 1959
Just one week after performing his new Keen release on Dick Clark’s Saturday night program, Sam returns to Philadelphia to sing “Only Sixteen” on the weekday afternoon American Bandstand. If there is any existing film footage of this performance, Dick Clark has not released it on video or DVD.
General Electric Theater - "The Patsy"Sunday, February 21, 1960 and July 17, 1960
This half-hour drama starred Sammy Davis, Jr. (Jacob Johnson) and Robert Culp (Captain Masters). Publicity agent Jess Rand was able to get Sam this minor part, ostensibly as a precursor to bigger and better acting roles down the road. According to TV Guide, the synopsis of the show is as follows: “The product of a small Alabama town, mild-mannered Jacob Johnson is an ideal target for the practical jokesters in his Army platoon. Offered a transfer to another platoon, Johnson refuses, convinced that the attention he receives from his fellow soldiers is really a form of affection.” (See Guralnick, pp. 305-306, 321.) Sam portrays a character named “Sam.” Film of this program has been located.
Saturday PromSaturday, November 12, 1960
This musical variety show was filmed at NBC Studios in New York City and was sponsored by Beech-Nut Gum, subsequent to the cancellation of The Dick Clark Show on ABC. Merv Griffin was the host and director. The show had debuted just three weeks earlier on October 15. TV Guide reports that the guests on this show were Sam, Johnny Carlo and the Bill Black Combo. A new “up and coming” group was featured on each show; on this one, the “Band of the Month” was Bobby Vinton and his Orchestra. There appears to be no existing footage of this program. According to NBC Master Books, Sam sang "Chain Gang" and "Sad Mood."
The Wink Martindale Dance PartySaturday, January 7, 1961
An article in the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that Wink Martindale was bringing his local "Dance Party" television show to the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium for a show beginning at 8:00 p.m. The show was to feature Sam Cooke and Dodie Stevens. The songs to be performed on the show are not included in the article. Sam's most recent hits at the time were "Chain Gang" and "That's It, I quit, I'm Movin' On." Sam and Buddy Knox were to headline a six-act stage show at the auditorium at the conclusion at the television broadcast. We have no knowledge of existing film or tape of this performance.
Saturday PromSaturday, April 1, 1961
According to TV Guide: “Singer Sam Cooke is a guest. Merv Griffin hosts this last show of the series.” No footage exists. According to NBC Master Books, Sam sang "That's, I Quit, "I'm Movin' On" and "Grandfather's Clock."
Play Your HunchFriday, May 19, 1961
Merv Griffin, a San Francisco disc jockey and a singer with Freddy Martin’s big band, made his debut as a host on this daytime game show which aired on NBC. It was produced by Mark Goodson & Bill Todman and was taped at NBC Studio 6B in New York. It was also the first game show to feature Johnny Olson (“Come on down!” from The Price Is Right) as announcer. According to a show synopsis which can be found on the web site Wikipedia, two couples, usually husbands and wives, competed on each show. The game revolved around solving “problems” which had three choices or solutions. The choices were labeled X, Y and Z. Based on the synopsis, it appears that, as a guest star, Sam was one of the choices (either X, Y or Z) to one of the problems. And, it’s possible that he may have sung on the show, as it is reported that host Griffin sang from time to time. No footage has been located and no further information on this particular episode has been found.
PM East / PM WestMonday, June 12, 1961
This 90-minute late night variety/talk show program was produced by WBC Productions (Westinghouse Broadcasting Company), the predecessor to Group W Productions, and was intended to be a direct competitor to NBC’s The Tonight Show. The program premiered on Monday night, June 12. The show consisted of two parts. The first one hour segment, PM East, originated in New York and was hosted by Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes fame) and Joyce Davidson. The second half hour segment originated out of KPIX-TV in San Francisco (the local CBS affiliate which was owned by Westinghouse) and was hosted by local columnist Terrance O’Flaherty. On the debut program from New York, Wallace talks with Sam, who then performs “Summertime.” This brief appearance was a preview to the full hour program to be devoted to Sam and his music just two days later. No film footage of this show has been located.
PM East / PM West - "Sam Cooke: Phenomenon"Wednesday, June 14, 1961
Peter Guralnick reports that Sam’s appearance on this show was the brainchild of Mike Santangelo, a friend of publicity agent Jess Rand. (Guralnick, p. 375). The show aired from ABC Studios in New York City, although it was syndicated. The entire PM East hour was devoted to Sam. His RCA producers, Hugo and Luigi, appeared on the show, and Sam sang several selections backed by bassist Clif White and Panama Francis on drums. Sadly, no film appears to have been saved. In addition, the TV Guide Los Angeles edition does not list the show, so it may not have aired in this market. It definitely was seen in San Francisco on KPIX-TV. Guralnick’s detailed descriptions of the show and its contents come from trade reviews and reports that appeared in Billboard, Cash Box, and The Hollywood Reporter. There are a few rare still photographs from the show in circulation.
Thank Your Lucky StarsSaturday, November 10, 1962
At the end of September 1962, Sam began a week long tour of American military bases in Germany, then flew to England for a three-week tour in which he and Little Richard were the headliners. The tour was the brainchild of British promoter Don Arden. It began on October 8 at the Gaumont Theater in Doncaster. Guralnick provides an extensive overview of the tour (pp. 422-430). Several internet sites report that Sam was a guest on the teen music program Thank Your Lucky Stars that ran on the BBC in England. This show was similar in format to The Dick Clark Show here in the U.S. The host of the show was radio DJ Brian Matthew, who still does a 60's retrospective show on Saturday mornings on BBC Radio. On this episode it is reported that Sam, The Fentones and Ken Kirkham were the guests.
The show was usually taped live on the Sunday prior to broadcast. For this air date, the normal taping date would have been Sunday, November 4, 1962. However, this date is in conflict with some other reported dates. Guralnick has Sam leaving England after an October 28 show with Sophie Tucker and opening at the Apollo Theater in New York on Friday, November 2, 1962 (p. 431); he does not mention Sam’s appearance on this show in his book. It is possible that the show was taped two weeks prior to air date. No film footage of this show is known to exist and records have not been located that indicate what Sam sang on the show. His current U.S. hits were “Nothing Can Change This Love” (#2 R&B - 10/20/62) and “Somebody Have Mercy” (#3 R&B - 10/13/62), but since this was his first tour of England he may have gone back to an earlier hit such as “You Send Me” or “Chain Gang”.
The Tonight ShowMonday, November 19, 1962
Johnny Carson had just taken over the reins of The Tonight Show from Jack Paar on October 1, 1962, a few short weeks prior to Sam’s appearance. The show originated in New York. Sam had just returned to the States from his tour of England and, according to Guralnick’s records, he opened at the Apollo Theater on November 2. This appearance took place one week after the close of his Apollo engagement. Regrettably, most all of the videotape of the early years of Carson’s Tonight Show has been erased and reused. No film footage has appeared from this show. Local television schedules report that Sam was a guest on this show (his first appearance) along with Betty White and actor Larry Storch (F Troop). There is no printed report of what song(s) Sam performed on the show but his current hits were “Nothing Can Change This Love” (#2 R&B - 10/20/62) and “Somebody Have Mercy” (#3 R&B - 10/13/62). At the time, the Tonight Show Band was led by Skitch Henderson; Doc Severinson did not come on board until 1967.
The Merv Griffin ShowMonday, March 18, 1963
Before he was a well-known TV talk show host, Merv Griffin was a TV game show host. He debuted as host of Play Your Hunch in 1958. In 1962, Merv was a guest host for The Tonight Show for one week and was so well received that NBC offered him his own daytime talk show, which lasted for six months. It was then syndicated starting in 1965. Merv did a night time version of his show on CBS in 1969 (apparently an attempt at competition for Johnny Carson), then returned to syndication from 1972 to 1986.
The local edition of TV Guide reports that Merv’s guests on this particular show were comedienne Dody Goodman and author Betty Friedman; Sam is not specifically mentioned. No further information is available concerning the song(s) Sam performed. Sam’s current hit single at the time was “Send Me Some Lovin’” (#2 R&B 02/09/63).
The Jerry Lewis ShowSaturday, December 7, 1963
This two-hour variety show featured boxer Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), opera star Patrice Munsel, ventriloquist Senor Wences, the Marquis Chimps, along with Sam. According to Guralnick, Jerry Brandt got Sam the booking for this show on the strength of Cassius Clay’s celebrity. Brandt told the Lewis people that if they wanted an appearance from Clay that they would have to take Sam as part of a package deal (see Guralnick, p. 534). Clips from this performance are available on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD. This is one of Sam’s finest moments on television. He opens with an energetic rendition of “Twistin’ The Night Away” and then transitions effortlessly into a soft and moving performance of “The Riddle Song.” Seated on a stool at center stage, in the dark but for one spotlight, Sam brings the audience to total silence and he is always in total control.
The Tonight ShowFriday, February 7, 1964
Johnny Carson’s show was still originating from NBC Studios in New York City at this time. Sam performed “Basin Street Blues,” backed by the Tonight Show Band with band leader Skitch Henderson, and additional strings. After the performance, Carson turns to Ed McMahon and states “he sings well!” A short clip is also included on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD. Sam had arrived in New York at the beginning of the week in order to promote his new RCA single, “Ain’t That Good News”/”Basin Street Blues.” There are several reports (Wolff p. 293; Guralnick p. 552) that Sam also performed “A Change Is Gonna Come” on this show. There was much debate on this point; however, the performance was confirmed by NBC Master Books.
The Clay Cole ShowSaturday, February 8, 1964
The Mike Douglas ShowTuesday, February 18, 1964
Mike Douglas was a popular singer in the 1940's and 1950's who later became one of the country’s best-known daytime talk show hosts, long before Phil Donahue or Oprah Winfrey came along. His first show was a local program on WGN-TV in Chicago called Hi, Ladies! but it did not last very long. (Douglas met Sam during his stint in Chicago and he makes reference to this fact during the program.) Later, he was selected to be the host of a new afternoon program which aired locally on Cleveland, Ohio station KYW-TV, debuting on December 11, 1961. In less than a year the show was syndicated nationally and by 1964 it was the country’s #1 daytime program. If you don’t remember it, then you just weren’t born yet!
Guralnick reports that Sam left New York on Saturday, February 8, and flew to Cleveland for the taping of The Mike Douglas Show (p. 553). It is not clear on what day the show was actually filmed, but its original air date is either February 18 or 25, depending on locale and source. Sam appeared on the show along with Broadway singer/actor Howard Keel and comedienne Eleanor Harris. Douglas introduces Sam, who opens his segment with “Ain’t That Good News,” accompanied only by the show’s small ensemble of musicians, making the Top Ten pop song sound more like a blues club number that belonged on the Night Beat LP. Sam then joins Douglas and the other guests for a brief chat, where he provides the “capsule version” of his life story. A lengthy chat ensues when Sam explains that he appeared at the Copa and “bombed.” Harris asks Sam why he thinks he bombed and Sam responds, “because I wasn’t ready!” Sam then returns to the stage and performs the combo “For Sentimental Reasons/You Send Me.” Finally, at the trademark “sing-a-long” conclusion of the show, Sam leads the group into “Basin Street Blues,” with Keel punctuating the performance with “yeahs” throughout, and even resting his elbow on Sam’s shoulder while he is singing.
In reading his autobiography, I’ll Be Right Back (Simon & Schuster 2000), it becomes clear how likable a man Douglas was and why his talk show was the highest rated daytime program for many years. This quality certainly comes through on the film footage from this program as Douglas appears genuinely interested in and appreciative of Sam. Other than PM East, it is one of Sam’s lengthiest performances on any television show, and it is thoroughly delightful and charming. A brief portion of the interview segment can be seen on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD.
GrandstandSaturday, March 7, 1964
Grandstand was a sports anthology show on the BBC in England, very similar in format to ABC’s Wide World of Sports here in the U.S. The first broadcast was on October 11, 1958 and it concluded a 48-year run in January 2007. On Tuesday, February 25, 1964, Sam was in Miami where he attended the Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali)-Sonny Liston fight. He was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, Allen Klein and his wife, Betty, and J. W. Alexander (Guralnick p. 554). Following Clay’s victory he is mobbed in the ring and surrounded by sports reporters. During an interview, Clay spots Sam in the crowd, calls him up into the ring and introduces him as the “world’s greatest rock ‘n roll singer.” This clip has been seen on numerous occasions, particularly whenever there is a retrospective of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career.
One week later, Sam hooked up with Clay again in New York City, where Sam produced Clay’s rendition of the song, “Hey, Hey, The Gang’s All Here.” Very likely the next day, March 4, Sam went with Clay to a New York television studio where Clay conducted a Transatlantic interview with BBC Sports commentator Harry Carpenter. Midway through the interview, Carpenter can hear Sam talking off camera and he asks Clay who is there in the studio with him. Clay pulls Sam into the camera frame and then says to Carpenter, “As you can see, like me, he’s awful pretty.” Sam and Clay then proceed to give Carpenter a little a capella sample of the “Gang’s All Here” recording. Clay appears to be totally mesmerized by Sam and looks up at him with longing eyes as if he were just another of Sam’s teenaged fans. The March 7 broadcast date is based on the fact that Grandstand aired on Saturday afternoons, and this would have been the first Saturday following the interview date. The footage can be seen on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD.
American BandstandSaturday, April 4, 1964
Dick Clark begins his introduction, “It’s Saturday, it’s Good News, it’s Sam Cooke!” Sam then performs a lip synch to “Ain’t That Good News,” then is interviewed by Clark for a few minutes. Sam talks about getting his start in the music business by singing “spirituals” and then explains it was his “economic situation” that caused him to pursue a pop career. The two talk about Sam’s recording of “Hey, Hey, The Gang’s All Here” with Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and how Sam has chosen not to tour so much but rather to stay home and work with other artists. This is when Sam tells Clark that the best thing that could ever happen to him is “if all the artists associated with me had hits.” This segment is officially released on the 1986 videotape entitled Dick Clark’s Best of Bandstand: The Superstars, which is now out of print, but occasionally copies can be seen for sale on eBay. The Sam Cooke: Legend DVD includes a short segment from the Clark interview, but does not include the “Good News” performance.
Missing LinksTuesday, June 30, 1964
This is Sam’s second appearance on a television game show. This show, another Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production, debuted in 1963 on NBC with Ed McMahon (“Here’s Johnny!”) as host. It moved to ABC beginning on March 30, 1964, with Dick Clark as the host. While it aired on ABC, the show was taped at the Elysee Theater in New York. Sam was in New York at the time as he had opened at the Copacabana the preceding Wednesday night (June 24), and perhaps he was able to use the show as an opportunity to promote the Copa engagement, which lasted until July 8. The synopsis of the show: celebrity panelists tried to guess key words omitted from funny or embarrassing real-life stories narrated by studio contestants. The contestant gave a statement to the panel that contained a series of blanks, and each member of the panel had to guess the missing words. The contestant earned money for each incorrect guess. The last story of the day was told by a celebrity guest - in this case, Sam. No footage of this particular episode of the show has been located.
Shindig!Wednesday, September 16, 1964
This is the television performance which showcases Sam at the peak of his stardom. Having just come off the amazingly successful Copacabana engagement in July, Sam returned to the West Coast and taped this, the premiere episode of Shindig, on August 10, 1964 for broadcast on September 16. Sam’s first segment is a lively version of “Tennessee Waltz,” accompanied by show regulars The Blossoms (featuring Darlene Love) and the Righteous Brothers, all of whom provide background vocals and hand clapping. Sam returns later to do a stellar version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” [If Sam had been comfortable performing “A Change Is Gonna Come” in public, this would have been the best opportunity to showcase it; instead, he elected to go with Bob Dylan’s protest song.] With sweat dripping from his forehead, Sam walks down the wide stage and right into the audience where the first row of teenagers encircles him as he finishes the song. It is a very interesting angle as the camera is focused on his back for the last 30 seconds of the performance and we don’t see his face. Sam joins The Everly Brothers at the conclusion of the show for an upbeat version of “Lucille,” but the song is incomplete and is performed as the closing credits are run. Portions of this performance can be seen on the Sam Cooke: Legend DVD.
Talent PartyTuesday, November 3, 1964
In late October 1964, Sam was out again on a Supersonic Attractions tour, this time headlining with Jackie Wilson. On Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, the tour had reached Memphis where they were to perform that evening at Ellis Auditorium. According to Guralnick (p. 604) Sam got a call that afternoon from local DJ George Klein, a personal friend of Elvis Presley, who asked him to appear on his local dance program. Sam talked Wilson into going along with him and, again according to Guralnick’s account, Klein convinces the two of them to do a version of “Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha” together, even though this record was nearly five years old by this time. Sam performs the first verse and, out of nowhere, Wilson glides onto the stage and takes over the next verse. It initially appears as if Jackie had butt into Sam’s performance. But it quickly becomes clear that it was all planned and all in fun. Sadly, it was to be Sam’s last live television appearance.
VH-1 Legends: Sam CookeMonday, December 17, 2001
This was the first airing of the documentary on Sam’s life and career that was produced by VH-1 cable network as part of their series on rock & roll legends. The program was rebroadcast on various dates and at various times over the next several months. The program was subsequently released on DVD by ABKCO Films under the title Sam Cooke: Legend. The DVD includes additional footage of the interviews of Charles Cook, Agnes Cook, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin and others that was not included in the original one-hour program.