HOW WE DID IT
Several fans have written asking about The Lloyd Thaxton Show production schedule. They wanted to know how long it took to put each live show together with all the lip-syncs, finger people numbers, booking guest stars, and the kids who danced and performed on the show? The answer to that question is simple: It took one full day for each show. But, that answer might just be … too simple.
I had lunch recently with Duke Anderson. Duke was one of the audio technicians who sat up in the sound booth and spun the records. Without Duke, it would have been chaos instead of the precision it took to make the show successful. Duke always spun those records live right on cue without EVER missing a beat. EVER!!! And he added some amazingly clever stuff all on his own that helped give the show that “different” feeling.
One of the things Duke and I kept asking ourselves at lunch was, “How did we do it? Five one-hour shows a week, 52 weeks a year for over eight years. That’s over 2000 hours of live non-stop programming. No vacations, no hiatus, no re-runs.” Most television series tape or film only 22 episodes a year.
Well, here is how we did it?
We started each day with a blank piece of paper.
We checked the daily music charts, listened to new record releases, chose those we wanted to use for lip-sync and dance contests. We picked the records that I would lip-sync, do as a finger people number, a piano finger-sync, or cover lipping.
“Cover lipping?” This might seem strange if you’ve never seen the show, but cover lipping was cutting out the lips on an album cover, putting my lips in the hole and mouthing the words.
After our musical bits were penciled in, we wrote in the guest star (we seldom had more than one guest star) and locked in the show. Then everyone went to his or her respective offices and started typing out and timing the script. Actually, we didn’t have a script, per say. It was more of a list of what we were going to do. All programmed so the show would flow smoothly and end on time.
I rehearsed my numbers and at 3:45 PM we all got back together. After going over our production check list, we headed for the studio.
It sounds like we had a rather large staff to do this, right? Wrong! Not counting the studio production crew, i.e., camera people, stage managers, etc., the entire show office staff consisted of myself and three other fantastic, talented hard working people. Sam Ashe handled booking the kids for the show, plus he sorted out all the music for me to hear and booked all the guest stars. Then there was my amazing assistant Renee Maltz. She did everything else. She typed and distributed the script, timed everything out and cleared all the music.
In 1964 I added David Barnhizer as my co-producer and idea mavin. David had been my roommate at Northwestern University who became a successful TV director in Chicago before heading for LA. He was my comic alter ego and contributed some really memorable funny bits.
At college, David and I were always in charge of our fraternity party entertainment. Take out all the Animal House antics and you were left with the beginnings of the Lloyd Thaxton Show.
That was it - including me - FOUR PEOPLE, TOTAL! And they stayed with the show for the entire run. If you check the credits on most TV shows today, you’ll find five times that many staff people. And that’s just the producers.
OK, we now have our show on paper and at 4:00 PM we head for the TV studio office down the street. We have a production meeting with the show's director. There were several different station staff directors who took turns each day according to their schedules. They were the best directors I have ever worked with. Then or since.
At 4:30 sharp we walked into the television studio where Sam Ashe had already seated our teen-age dancers in the bleachers. After a short “Thaxton” lecture on how to “look your best” when over a million people are watching every move you make and how "you now represent all of America’s teen-agers,” we played the records we would use in our lip-sync contests. Everyone sang along and from this exercise we picked our contestants. It was somewhat like an open audition. Everyone had a great time doing this warm-up and it set up an excitement that slid right into the opening and continued throughout the show.
At exactly 5:00 PM, the show went on the air. And, at exactly 5:57:30 PM, the show closed.
The next morning (for more than 2000 mornings) the paper was once again blank.