It might sound strange but there was a time when a disc jock­ey was more than just a voice announc­ing the lat­est block of lame Top-40 pro­gram­ming.  As the 1960’s gave way to the 1970’s, pop­u­lar music was expe­ri­enc­ing a rev­o­lu­tion not unlike what Hollywood film­mak­ing was under­go­ing at that time: the fron­tiers of rock were being blown out in all direc­tions by an array of ambi­tious musi­cal acts and sta­tion own­ers began to exper­i­ment with pro­gres­sive for­mats to tap into the new­ly-noticed under­ground audi­ence that want­ed to hear the­se diverse sounds.

These pro­gres­sive radio sta­tions relied upon their dee­jays to dis­cov­er the hip new acts and act as cul­tur­al ambas­sadors, indoc­tri­nat­ing the lis­ten­ers into the wild, new lifestyle that rock music was breed­ing.  Barry Richards was this kind of d.j.: he sought out dar­ing new sounds for his radio audi­ence, pro­mot­ed con­certs for the­se per­form­ers and even took advan­tage of late-night t.v. pro­gram­ming oppor­tu­ni­ties to bring the under­ground into the liv­ing rooms of young rock and roll fans.

Barry Richards T.V. Collection Vol. 1 offers a gen­er­ous cross-sec­tion of his work as a t.v. host.  It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing time cap­sule of an era before media con­glom­er­ates had a stran­gle­hold on the air­waves and you could actu­al­ly inter­est­ing, local­ly-pro­duced pro­gram­ming.

The first seg­ment is devot­ed to Groove In, an ear­ly pro­gram­ming attempt from 1968.  This was before he went full-on pro­gres­sive so it fol­lows the lead of American Bandstand-type pro­gram­ming, com­plete with a pan­el of teenagers inter­view­ing R&B singer Cliff Nobles (in a weird bit of irony, he had a fluke hit with “The Horse,” an instru­men­tal b-side from one of his songs, which he dances to Groove In in lieu of singing).  The teen-cen­tric seg­ments are lit­tle corny, espe­cial­ly an unin­ten­tion­al­ly fun­ny bit where a teen foot­ball play­er offers a mono­syl­lab­ic film review for 2001: A Space Odyssey.  That said, the­se seg­ments offer an inter­est­ing view into the for­mats that Richards was up again­st when he start­ed in tele­vi­sion.

From there, the disc moves into an array of killer footage from Barry’s late-night pro­gram­ming, fea­tur­ing a vari­ety of groups and singer per­form­ing live between 1970 and 1975.  The major­i­ty of it comes from Turn On, the cult fave show that heart­land rock fans best know him for.  It kicks off with the pilot episode of the show, which fea­tures an eclec­tic array of tal­ent:  Little Richard appears alongside alter­na­tive comic Uncle Dirty and Zephyr, fea­tur­ing a young Tommy Bolin on gui­tar, does a steamy ver­sion of “St. James Infirmary.”  Elsewhere, obscure psych/heavy rock­ers Jamul do a jam-hap­py ver­sion of “Tobacco Road” and back up Little Richard for a barn­storm­ing take on “Good Golly Miss Molly.”

The next block of mate­ri­al culls var­i­ous high­lights from Turn On’s 1970–1971 era.  Alice Cooper kicks it off in high style with the Love It To Death line­up offer­ing a nice grungy take of “Eighteen” that is fol­lowed by a full pre­sen­ta­tion of “Black Juju,” com­plete with Alice bran­dish­ing a pitch­fork and loung­ing in an elec­tric chair.  Other acts include Peter Frampton-era Humble Pie dish­ing up a fiery ren­di­tion  of “Rollin’ Stone” and a Van Dykes Park-esque set of piano pop tunes per­formed by Biff Rose (David Bowie cov­ered one of his songs on Hunky Dory).

This mid­dle block also fea­tures two down­right rev­e­la­to­ry sets.  One come from Fats Domino, who is backed by the Byrds(!) as he per­forms a string of his clas­sic hits.  He looks odd­ly age­less as he cranks out his hits with a beam­ing smile and there’s also a fas­ci­nat­ing off-air bit where he coach­es the Byrds through an arrange­ment of “Walkin’ To New Orleans.”  The oth­er killer is a three song set from the Bob Seger System, the band Seger had before becom­ing a heart­land rock spe­cial­ist.  Seger is skin­ny and beard­less here as he bares his teeth and howls his way through an elec­tric set of garage rock­ers capped by his ear­ly clas­sic “Ramblin’ Gamblin Man.”

The next seg­ment fea­tures some lost footage tak­en from grainy but watch­able VHS dupe.  These show off sets by the Illusion and Crow: the for­mer is a sort of miss­ing link between psy­ch and hard rock while the lat­ter deliv­ers a heavy ver­sion of bluesy garage stylings (they had one chart hit with “Evil Woman,” cov­ered by Black Sabbath on their first album).  It says a lot about Richards’ enthu­si­asm for under­ground acts that he let such lesser-known per­form­ers do lengthy sets on his show.

The final seg­ments cap­ture a few addi­tion­al per­for­mances from the 1973–1975 era.  Muddy Waters turns in a few blues clas­sics, the best being a taut ren­di­tion of “Got My Mojo Working,” and Irish blues-rock­er Rory Gallagher deliv­er­ing a siz­zling ren­di­tion of “Walk On Hot Coals.”  The amus­ing closer to this set is footage of Iron Jaw Samson, an odd­ball night­club per­former who eats his way through a Pepsi can before chomp­ing down on a light­bulb!

All in all, Barry Richards T.V. Collection Vol. 1 is a tes­ta­ment to the good work this d.j. did for bud­ding rock fans, offer­ing a strong mix of cut­ting-edge rock­ers, intrigu­ing lesser known acts and respect­ful trib­utes to rock’s pio­neers.  It also cap­tures the go-for-broke spir­it of local t.v. pro­gram­ming in the 1970’s, dis­play­ing an ambi­tious, free­wheel­ing love for alter­na­tive cul­ture that tele­vi­sion could use more of today.