One appealing aspect of the Swing Era was the remote radio broadcast—live music by a band at a hotel or dance hall, usually high atop some place. It was generally a group like Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm, but heavies like Basie, Goodman and Ellington turned up too. More important, the spontaneity of a live performance could make any band or even the most often replayed hit tune fresh. That phenomenon has largely died out in popular music. TV offers snatches of top artists—too often in sterile lip-synched or studio-taped performances—on Midnight Special, the Don Kirshner series, and the various disco-dance shows. And there’s still the Grand Ole Opry. But now there are also signs of a new interest in one-attraction radio concerts.
ABC’s FM network last year inaugurated its Supergroups series, eight shows that are scheduled for 1980. The first—Blondie in London—ran in March and included a solid two-hour set, minus time for commercials and some chitchat with Deborah Harry. The sound quality was excellent, and the audience enthusiasm more than made up for the technical tricks Blondie had to leave in the studio. The next Supergroups concert, featuring the Cars, airs April 19 on most of the 200 ABC FM stations (check local listings), and Styx, the Moody Blues and Chicago appear later in the year. Most of the 500-station ABC Entertainment (both AM and FM) network, meanwhile, will broadcast the second of its new Country Greats in Concert series April 12, with a spirited hour-long set by Tanya Tucker. Ronnie Milsap is scheduled for May 3, the Oak Ridge Boys for June 7, Waylon Jennings for August 2. The often exhilarating concerts of Jazz Alive!, which began in 1977 on National Public Radio, are still alive too. The 1980 schedule includes harmonica jazz man Toots Thielemans on April 13 and Woody Herman, Tom Scott, Oscar Peterson, Anthony Braxton and Billy Taylor later. None of these series is really broadcast live, but even on tape they are a relief from the mechanical repetition of top-of-the-chart radio.