Were you there? I was! In the mid sixties, Southern California became ground zero for the two greatest concert events of the decade and the generation who embraced them. The T.A.M.I. Show and The Big TNT show. Happening in 1964 and 1965 respectively. Both events promised to be “Ground Breaking, powerful and feature the greatest artists from all over the world and up and down the radio dial and to their credit, as history has proven, THEY DELIVERED…..
The buzz about The T.A.M.I show actually began in So. Cal months before the concerts Oct 29th debut. The event’s name alone grabbed us from the start T.A.M.I…”The Teenage Awards Music International! Show” Yeah, a very cool mix of James Bond and American bandstand. A flyer for the show also stated that T.A.M.I. Was a non-profit organization. Non of us had a clue as to what that meant, but it just added to the mystique of this incredible event. The big question for me and my friends was, just who was appearing? With names like The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Surpremes being confirmed daily, it was quickly rumored that The Beatles were headlining…..Not a chance, but, with the artists mentioned above along with Jan and Dean James Brown Leslie Gore, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson my friends and I knew “We hadda be there” The “There” being the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, an easy 40 minute car ride from our hometown of Eagle Rock Calif. and in 1964 none of us were old enough to drive. So, one of our moms drove us to Santa Monica.The potential for horrible humiliation was huge but soooo worth it. After all tickets were free to boot! But! In no time, were there, SORT OF. Off the freeway and into the streets of Santa Monica, it’s a parking lot, cars are bumper to bumper and no ones moving! This was the Civic’s first big concert event and the auditoriums concert hall only sat 3000 and no one was prepared for the onslaught of teen age music lovers descending on Santa Monica for a free show of Superstars. But, as we slowly crept toward the venue we noticed something truly awesome to a carload of young eager boys nearly every car we pulled next to was filled with excited young girls! All heading to The T.A.M.I. Show! YES! Thank you God. The truth is, the producers of the show visited all the local high schools in the area and handed out free tickets to the female students. Talk about “papering the house? But….We made it through the traffic past a security line that was primarily focused on the young girls in attendance and where they would be seated. My buddies and I were simply happy to be there among them, although we quickly learned one of music’s great lessons….The girls are out to meet “The boys in the band” and you are either in the way, or can help them out… OUCH
Meanwhile, we nervously fidgeted in our seats, looking over our shoulders and scanning the room. The unspoken truth was all of us had received a stern warning from our parents. They noted that The T.A.M.I show would feature as many “Soul Singers” ( or as we’d say today ” artists of color”) as “White” artists and racial tensions were likely to escalate. Our parents were right about the racial mix of artists. The T.A.M.I. Show stage embraced a line up of musical and racial diversity like no one had witnessed before. Frankly, even the producers were a bit concerned. However, the sad truth was, as my friends and I observed. We were part of this historic event and to our surprise an entirely all white audience! But, the lights go down, the curtain goes up and a mega ton blast of youthful energy explodes in the room and all any of us can see are the greatest artists of our generation! Everyone performed live, there was NO lip syncing at The T.A.M.I. Show. The sound was great and the backing band ( under the direction of Jack Nitzshe were tight, sounded awesome and backed each act with note by note perfection. Makes sense as the T.A.M.I. Show back up band went on to be known as “The Wrecking Crew and they actually were the session players who originally played on most of the records being performed at the show and so it went on… Artist after Artist, hour after hour. Jan and Dean opened the show and emceed, proving they were more than just Frat house boys who could harmonize. Chuck Berry followed and proved that he was, well….”Chuck Berry. Yes he sang “Maybelene” but it was his guitar playing that left us slack-jawed and in awe, The Beach Boys were still mastering their instruments and coalescing as a band. But their vocals were impeccable The same could be said for The Surpremes, plus this is 1964, prior to Diana Ross becoming Thee Diva.
As an audience we were stunned with each act being better than the one before…A teenage Leslie Gore strutted on stage and took over playing hit after hit exactly like they sounded on the radio. As did Marvin Gaye…
However, it’s the finale of The Tami show that much has been written about, and you probably know. The legendary argument over who would close the show, James Brown or The Rolling Stones. It’s here at The T.A.M.I. Show where Mr. Brown famously proclaimed “Nobody follows James Brown” But that night somebody did, The Stones. How the producers pulled it off is anyone’s guess. So we’re guessing CASH was involved. Never the less even Mr. Brown calls his performance the best of his career and it was that show where James introduced his legendary antic of ending his show by faking exhaustion and falling to his knees in a “Cold, Cold, Sweat” only to be rescued by one of his crew who drapes a cape over James and helps him to his feet, all the while resisting and claiming he can go on!….High drama, great theater and partly why James Brown is a legend. Ya hadda see it!
Meanwhile, The very nervous Rolling Stones sat backstage and watched this entertainment inferno ignite the stage and the audience. The crowed was on fire Everyone was on their feet, everyone who wasn’t screaming was crying backstage Mick and Keith agree that following James Brown was the worst decision they ever made. Mick is still in the infant stages of perfecting his “Satanic Rooster” moves, he turns to Marvin Gaye and asks “What do I do”? Marvin replies, “Anything you feel, that’s what I do, that’s what James does”
The rolling Stones go on and Tear down the house…Ya Hadda Be There…Were You there? If you were, SMS is eager to hear about your experience…and all your memories…
But here comes the best part,….. Scroll down to a recent post from Jimmy enjoy Mr. Browns legendary performance…….From The T.A.M.I. Show!
Noticed the James Brown video, published as part of your article, is no longer available. WELL, here’s another. Remember, FULL SCREEN and BLAST IT. Enjoy:
Hey Jimmy….Fantastic! Thanx so much for the assist and keeping the site current! I soooo love this clip of James! Made even better when you know that while “Mr. Brown” was tearing it up, Mick and Keith were watching and waiting tbackstage, turned to each other and simply said “HOLY SHIT!
“Super illuminating post. I really hadn’t understood the context or significance of the T.A.M.I show. In fact (you and yr readership will probably appreciate the youthful naiveté here), I had assumed that the T.A.M.I. show was an actual “show,” i.e. a television show, maybe or maybe not hosted by a woman named Tami. The Ed Sullivan Show. The Tami Show. It’s not so far flung.
Interestingly, my introduction to the T.A.M.I./Tami show was the following song, titled “Leslie Gore on the T.A.M.I Show.”
The song was written by one of my favorite lyricists, Owen Ashworth, back when he was recording under the moniker, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (a name that I like to think is hiply, consciously, maudlin, rather than just bad). Lyrically, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot going on here re: Leslie Gore, or the T.A.M.I show, but I know that he (Owen Ashworth) is a real student of pop culture, especially film and music, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the song was written as a sort of response, in sentiment and/or musical structure, to footage of her performance that night, which, thankfully, is readily available on youtube. I, myself, watched a few songs after reading your post.
Sharing all that just to say that there are musicians and songwriters out there today, young and youngish, trolling the same waters.
Incidentally, I read a little about Leslie Gore and found it really satisfying. Had no idea that she was openly queer; that she had written the music for Fame; that she’d racked up all those hits before 18; nor that she died last year. Remarkable person.
Last tidbit: though I didn’t know it for what it was at the time, I realize that I’ve seen a fictional version of the T.A.M.I show in the 2014 James Brown biopic, Get On Up (which film –and not to gloat here but it’s also worth noting–I attended the premiere of at the Apollo theater in NYC). The movie hasn’t really stuck with me, but there is a great moment where Brown performs and then these awkward, doofish teenagers walk on stage after him, only to be introduced as the Rolling Stones.
Hey Emmett, great to have you join the conversation. It’s especially refreshing to have someone share in the commentary who was born AFTER the 1960’s You hit on a number of interesting points about The T.A.M.I. Show. You are not alone in your confusion as to exactly what it was. Way back in 1964 my friends and I were deeply confused when we first heard about it. “Tammy” was a very popular name at the time, in fact only a short time before, there was a number one record called “Tammy’s in love”…..and as we dug deeper we discovered T.A.M.I. Stood for some never heard of organization called “The Teenage Awards Music International”….HUNH?…..Furthermore James Brown, with Leslie Gore?…Jan and Dean with The Supremes..HUNH?….again! Nothing about The T.A.M.I show made sense. Big cred goes to the promotors for designing a unique opportunity for the artists involved and pulverizing the racial and social divide in music and they did it on a world wide stage. It’s great to see that over 50 years later, their point isn’t lost on someone like yourself.
Lastly, your comment about The Stones and James Brown made me smile….Just Imagine, In 1964 James Brown was already an established entertainer “No one follows James Brown! But that night someone did. “5 doofish teenagers” called The Rolling Stones!…HUNH?…And finally, thanx for the tip on Owen Ashworth and the track “Leslie Gore at the T.A.M.I show. For me it underscores the importance of this relatively unknown event…Thank you Emmett for sharing your unique story!
Interesting note about Jan & Dean’s T. A. M. I. show theme song; “they’re Coming From All Over The World”. One of the lines goes ,”…The Rolling Stones from Liverpool have gotta be there”. Such was the state of Beatlemania that any British band was assumed to be from Liverpool which actually was the least likely place any Brit would assume they’d come from.
Well John, You’ve done it yet again! Providing detail and minutiae no mere mortal could uncover! I gotta admit, I love Jan and Dean “From all over the world is in my record collection, and yet I never picked up on that obvious lyrical mistake about the Stones being from Liverpoole! They’re all “Londoners” I believe……The song was written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, a couple of L.A. Staff writers ( ABC records/music publishing) They Shoulda known better!
Just to be fair, let’s listen to “From all over the world” aka “The theme from the T.A.M.I. show”…
Thank You John Zambetti…..Great Catch!