Jimmy O'Neill, DJ and 'Shindig' host was 73

jimmy-oneill-yt.jpgJimmy O'Neill gained a measure of Los Angeles radio immortality when he became the first voice heard on KRLA when the AM station switched to rock and roll (from country western music) in 1959. He went on to become LA's top radio deejay, then at age 24 went national as the host of ABC's short-lived rock music show "Shindig" in 1964. From the LAT obit by Elaine Woo:

Compared with "American Bandstand," the afternoon music-and-dance show for teenagers helmed by Dick Clark, "Shindig!" was a blast of hot air that featured frenetic dancers (including a young Teri Garr) and mingled black and white musicians in an era when much of the country was still segregated. Each episode showcased a dozen of the biggest names in pop music, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. Bobby Sherman, Leon Russell, Darlene Love and Billy Preston were also among the regulars.

"It was a phenomenal experience," said Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers, who performed on the first telecast of "Shindig!" with Cooke and the Everly Brothers. "We were like 23, 24 years old and on national television. This was like the coolest thing in the world. And Jimmy was just the perfect guy to host that show. He wasn't slick … he never tried to be too hip. He was just the perfect guy to hold all that together."

O'Neill opened every show with the same rousing welcome:

"Howdy-hi, Shindiggers… we've got a 'Shindig!' for you that's so far in it's out of sight!"

The show, broadcast on ABC, lasted only 15 months, but it made its emcee so famous with the underage crowd that it inspired a character named Jimmy O'Neillstone in the 1960s "Flintstones" cartoon series. The episode was called "Shinrock-a-Go-Go."

O'Neill for a time also ran Pandora's Box on the Sunset Strip and hosted a youth-oriented talk show, "The Jimmy O'Neill Show," on KCOP Channel 13.

Unlike "American Bandstand," an afternoon show that focused mostly on dancing teenage kids, Shindig aired at night with bands often actually performing and with pro dancers. The house band included at times Glen Campbell, Preston, Russell and members of the legendary Wrecking Crew of Hollywood session musicians. Ray Pohlman was the show's musical director. The dancers were choreographed by David Winters and included Antonia Basilotta, also known as Toni Basil.

This performance by the Beach Boys on April 21, 1965 gives you the flavor of "Shindig," which was filmed mostly in front of an audience at ABC's Television Center in Hollywood (and also in London.)

I posted this clip of Bo Diddley and Norma-Jean Wofford on "Shindig" back in November. Below, O'Neill introduces Sonny and Cher.

More by Kevin Roderick:
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