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Red Skelton Opens Rock Archives

An archive of great rock and pop musical performances first seen on The Red Skelton Hour is coming out of mothballs.

Unseen since they first aired between 1962 and ’71, performances by The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, The Animals, Kinks, Searchers, Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night and Manfred Mann helped bring younger viewers to the CBS variety series. But unlike the network’s Ed Sullivan Show where the musical acts stuck to their hits, Skelton often got the rock stars to join in his sketches. Peter Asher still cringes at the time he and singing partner Gordon Waller had to dress and dance as Swiss Yodelers. Jan and Dean helped turn “Easter Bonnet” into a slapstick routine.

There’s also some important history here. The Beach Boys performed on Red’s season-opening show in September ’63. They didn’t appear on Sullivan for another year. The Rolling Stones also did Red’s program before Ed’s. And while Skelton didn’t have the rock-and-roll reputation that Sullivan did, his show welcomed a diverse array of bands — even Iron Butterfly, who performed their classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

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