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American Soundtrack: 'Rock at Fifty’ (1955-1965)

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PBS Invites America to Celebrate The First Decade of Rock In American Soundtrack: ‘Rock at Fifty’ (1955-1965)

Viewers will be joining an SRO audience by dancing in the den, swaying in their seats, and there’ll be a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on” as fans of rock and roll help celebrate the latest PBS production of American Soundtrack: “Rock at Fifty (1955 – 1965).” This is the 12th installment of one of the most successful series of productions in public broadcasting history.

The musical montage of doo wop, pop, and rock is hosted by Gary Puckett, the lead namesake of the 60’s rock band Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and one of American Soundtrack’s most popular hosts, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler, who makes his seventh appearance. Puckett and Butler are part of a star-studded cast of artists who helped to make what is called “the first decade of rock” a piece of American history.

Featured in “Rock at Fifty” are the “Killer” himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, guitar legend, Bo Diddley, and diva Darlene Love, who performs her memorable classic “He’s A Rebel” and “Winter Wonderland.”

Also on the bill are the eternal young lovers, Paul & Paula, with their 1963 chart-topping hit, “Hey, Paula”; Gary U.S. Bonds, singing “A Quarter To Three”; Johnny Tillotson with “Poetry In Motion”; Brian Hyland’s “Sealed With A Kiss”; The Fiestas mellow “So Fine”; Jack Scott performing “What In The World’s Come Over Me” accompanied by the smooth vocals of Elvis Presley’s backup singers, the Jordonaires; and singer/songwriter Lesley Gore with “Maybe I Know.” Danny and the Juniors, featuring Joe Terry, close out the show promising the audience and viewers that “Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay.”

“ Rock at Fifty”--in true-to-form PBS style--features three special musical segments highlighting artists and their classic music. The first features Executive Producer T.J. Lubinsky traveling to London to pay tribute to the 1964 British invasion and The Mersey Beat with featured artists The Manfreds (“Do Wah Diddy Diddy) and Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers fame (“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” and “Ferry Across the Mersey”).

The second special segment is a memorial tribute to several artists who died recently but were featured in the past four years of American Soundtrack. In many cases, the PBS specials were the last time these men and women performed in public so this special helps to capture their legacy and talent for future generations.

Finally, no special saluting rock would be complete without a tribute to the doo wop sound, which got its roots in rhythm and blues. Featured in the street corner segment are The Jaguars (“The Way You Look Tonight”); Terry Johnson’s Flamingos (“Mio Amore,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “Lovers Never Say Goodbye”); The Avalons (“My Heart’s Desire”) and The Heartbeats (“1000 Miles Away”).

PBS’ American Soundtrack series is preserving American music culture from doo-wop to folk to rock and roll to rhythm and blues. It is the most successful series of fundraising specials in public television history. Over 250 groups have either been reunited or have performed for the first time for the tapings. In four years, nearly $80 million has been raised for PBS.

American Soundtrack concert series is a production of WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh, in association with SHOUT! Entertainment. Creator and executive producer is T.J. Lubinsky.
“ Rock at Fifty (1955-1965)” was taped this past May at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center.

US Airways is the official airline of the American Soundtrack concert series.

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