It was a music awards show that gave no awards, but has gone on be to immortalized as one of the greatest moments in pop music history. Originally released in movie theaters as a concert film during the fall of 1964, the TAMI Show (an acronym for Teenage Awards Music Intl.) has never been officially released on DVD.
But on March 23, Shout! Factory will issue the “The TAMI Show: Collector’s Edition,” complete with re-mastered sound and the full performances of all 12 artists, which included rock pioneers (Chuck Berry), leading proponents of surf music (the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean), kings and queens of Motown (the Supremes; Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye), the Godfather of soul (James Brown); and the more rough-hewn stalwarts of the British Invasion (the Rolling Stones).
The show is legendary not only for the strength and diversity of its lineup — seven of the 12 performing artists have since been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — but also its wide-open embrace of music previously ghettoized in the marketplace.
“The beauty of this show is that it broke through the racial barriers,” said Steve Binder, who directed the film. “It introduced white audiences all over the country to black artists they had listened to on record but didn’t have a clue as to what they did on stage.”
When the film was released theatrically in November of 1964, however, it is rumored that many venues in the South refused to play it because it showed white and black teens dancing together. “That kind of thing was prevalent at the time,” said ’60s teen pop queen Lesley Gore, one of the performers.
Famed arranger/studio musician Jack Nitzsche is credited with assembling the lineup as well as the house band, which included Leon Russell and Glen Campbell. Those players eventually became known as the Wrecking Crew, which played on hundreds of hit records in the ’60s.
The show itself — featuring the best takes of three performances shot at the Santa Monica Civic Center in October 1964 — almost didn’t happen, due mainly to a shortage of funds. On the day of the first taping, Berry threatened to walk off if he wasn’t paid $15,000 in cash, which Bill Sargent, the show’s exec producer, had to borrow on the spot from American Intl. film president Samuel Z. Arkoff. (The acts were each paid between $10,000 and $25,000, which was 10 times or more what they were making for a single performance at the time.)
The film grossed an estimated $9 million between 1964 and 1966. But after the initial run, Murry Wilson, father of Beach Boys Brian, Dennis and Carl, and manager of the group, insisted the band’s performance be removed from the film. That, as well as legal battles involving Arkoff and Dick Clark over the various rights, has kept “The TAMI Show” off the shelf and out of theaters for decades, except for a 1984 homevideo release “That Was Rock,” which melded songs from both the TAMI Show and its sequel, the Big TNT Show.
“(James Brown) was the only artist that I didn’t get to rehearse,” Binder said. “I said, ‘O.K. James, I would like to rehearse the camera shots.’ I had never seen James Brown perform and he looked at me and just responded: ‘When you see me, you will know what to do.’?”
Years later, when asked what was the worst moment in his career with the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards responded: “Following James Brown on the TAMI Show.”