Monday, December 20, 2010

NYC Rock/Pop TV Pioneer Clay Cole Passes

Clay Cole, who was host of a very popular East Coast music show and was the only disc jockey to feature both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on the same TV show, has died of a heart attack. He was 72.
Cole April '10 at Long Island
TV & Radio Day

According to Steve Marinucci at examiner. com, Cole's East Coast show featured every major group of the '60s and rivaled "The Ed Sullivan Show" as a place where new acts needed to be showcased. As  Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits told him, “When we were in England and on our way to America, we were told we must do two shows -- Ed Sullivan and Clay Cole.  The trouble is we didn’t know which was which.'”

Read more here.

According to NYC-based radio writer Vince Santarelli, Cole was born Albert Rucker, Jr. on January 1, 1938 in Youngstown, Ohio. At the age of 15, he was the host of his own televison show called Rucker's Rumpus Room. In 1957 he moved to Manhattan, first working as an NBC page and then as a production assistant on the game show "Twenty-One." 1958 saw him continuing his teen telelvison excursion with a show in Providence, RI called "Al Rucker and the Seven Teens."  In 1959, he went to work for Channel 13 WNTA TV and was asked to change his name. He chose Clay Cole who was a distant cousin.

Cole proved to be very successful. In 1960, his ten-day, all star Christmas show at the Brooklyn Parmount Theatre broke the all-time house box office record. He was also one of the few white performers invited to appear at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

Cole was responsible for introducting many rock and comedy acts to the public.   Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Fannie Flagg are some names who were introduced by Cole.

In 1968, Cole became disenchanted with rock music as it moved into psychadelic, acid rock and heavy metal music. Cole decided that it was time to move on, so he just walked away from the TV show at the height of its popularity.

Read more here.
Dion with Cole
Clay Cole was considered the missing link that brought Rock n Roll to Television. First on WNTA (Ch 13 - now WNET) in September 1959 as Rate the Records, within two months the format was changed, and an hour-long Saturday-night show was added. In the summer months, the show was expanded to an hour, six nights a week, live from Palisades Amusement Park, where Chubby Checker first performed and danced "The Twist."

When WNTA's licence was sold to a public broadcasting foundation, the show moved to WPIX (Ch 11) where for five years it was wildly successful, thanks to first-time guest appearances of the Rolling Stones (on a program with one other guest, The Beatles), Neil Diamond, Dionne Warwick, Simon & Garfunkel, Richie Havens, Tony Orlando, and The Rascals.

Channel 11 erased all the historic tapes in a cost-cutting move; no tapes exist to this day. Except for this one.

For more on Clay Cole, visit his website: CLICK HERE.

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