One Night on TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount

Popular Music on Early Television

One Night on TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 29 illustrations Published: July 2012

Author: Murray Forman

American Studies, Media Studies > TV, Music

Elvis Presley's television debut in January 1956 is often cited as the moment when popular music and television came together. Murray Forman challenges that contention, revealing popular music as crucial to television years before Presley's sensational small-screen performances. Drawing on trade and popular journalism, internal television and music industry documents, and records of audience feedback, Forman provides a detailed history of the incorporation of musical performances into TV programming during the medium's formative years, from 1948 to 1955. He examines how executives in the music and television industries understood and responded to the convergence of the two media; how celebrity musicians such as Vaughn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Fred Waring struggled to adjust to television; and how relative unknowns with an intuitive feel for the medium were sometimes catapulted to stardom. Forman argues that early television production influenced the aesthetics of musical performance in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly those of emerging musical styles such as rock and roll. At the same time, popular music helped to shape the nascent medium of television—its technologies, program formats, and industry structures. Popular music performances were essential to the allure and success of TV in its early years.


One Night on Television is Worth Weeks at the Paramount is a rich resource. The detailed descriptions of television musical performances and the analysis of such a wide range of archival sources provides a comprehensive account of the emerging practices and processes of television music in the U.S.A: this is valuable to any scholar interested in the history of television, popular music, and music on screen.” — Lauren Anderson, Screening the Past

“[A] recollection and examination of what exactly went into the first days of that ground-breaking marriage between music and television, far before the first episode of 120 Minutes even aired. The book takes an impressively researched look at how much effort went into making sure this combination could even get off the ground, let alone explode into the massive fixture it is today, by focusing on the technological and developmental advancements of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s as it related to utilizing this particular form of media.” — Colin McGuire, PopMatters

“[A]n easy to read history of how the ‘music industry’ merged with TV to cross-promote music.” — Steve Ramm, In the Groove

“The historical perspective offered by Murray Forman in One Night On TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount is an invaluable collection of programs, musicians, and hosts, placed in a wonderful context of history. In particular, the chapters on the African-American and Latin experiences in television’s early days are especially worthwhile to any student of popular culture.” — Rock Star Journalist

“Forman’s deft analysis of historical materials amounts to a considerable contribution to our knowledge of postwar American popular culture, and the book’s theoretical concerns bring television studies, American studies, and popular music studies into a productive dialogue.” — Jacob Smith, Journal of American Studies

“Forman… provides the best history to date of the incorporation of musical performances into TV programs up to 1955…. One Night on TV reminds modern readers that popular music performances, relatively cheap to produce, were essential to the success and spread of television in its early years.” — Christopher H. Sterling, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“In One Night on TV, Murray Forman offers an intelligent history of popular music’s place on early TV.  In the process, he fills a significant gap in our understanding of early television in America…. One Night on TV should be of value to all of those interested in television’s most important moment.” — JamesL. Baughman, Business History Review

“Murray Forman’s extensively researched study challenges many of the assumptions that inform histories of popular music…. Overall, this is a ‘rich and convoluted tale’ (p. 7) containing much more than space allows me to highlight here.” — Keith Negus, Popular Music

“[T]his book provides a valuable insight into the first eight years of television as the cultural, political and industrial forces which brought musical performance to the small screen." — Paul Oldham, Media International Australia

“[A] fascinating and rich account…. Forman’s study is a welcome contribution to a neglected topic within both popular music and television history.  The study offers astute insights on the period from 1930-1955, which are generated from his combination of industrial and cultural history with theoretical reflections and close analysis…. [T]he study significantly redresses numerous orthodoxies in the respective histories of popular music and television.” — Carolyn Birdsall, Screen

"One Night on TV persuasively demonstrates how television had begun to influence the performance of popular music before Elvis ‘hit the screen’.... As well as providing a much-needed history of early American television, then, One Night on TV also serves as a reminder that popular music has shaped technology as much as technology has shaped popular music." — Kate Guthrie, Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

"Each of these chapters is researched in extreme depth and illustrated in exquisite detail.... [T]he sheer amount of rich, new research in this book makes it more than worthwhile. That it is presented in a way that is engaging and often entertaining is a bonus. Forman opens new windows onto mid-century media and musical cultures." — Kyle Devine, Canadian Journal of Communication

"Recommended." — C. L. Clements, Choice

"Forman's scholarship is impressive, delving into a range of primary sources that run from the trade press to  industry documents, to excavate a neglected story.... This book fills an important gap and sets out a model  for study of the way television engages with music encoded in genres, patterns of gendered, ethnicised and  economically organised forms that represented and spoke to key audiences in post-war America." — Tim Wall, Critical Studies in Television

"One Night on TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount is an important contribution to the history of TV, popular music, and the relation between television and musical performance. It is clearly well researched, and it includes fascinating information and many delightful tidbits." — Pamela Robertson Wojcik, author of The Apartment Plot: Urban Living in American Film and Popular Culture, 1945 to 1975

"One Night on TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount is an impressive industrial and cultural history of the dazzling range of musical performances and genres on early television. Filling a much-neglected area of television studies, Murray Forman focuses not only on network shows but also on regional productions and local stations. His discussion of raced representations provides important new insights into television history, as do his accounts of regional tastes, amateur shows, and the significance of stage settings and nightclub venues." — Lynn Spigel, author of TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television

"One Night on TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount will be the standard work on postwar U.S. music and television. Murray Forman gives us a full picture of cultural change in a key period of media transition. Reading his book, we witness the breakup of the big bands, the dismantling of the Hollywood system, the rise of network television, and the tense politics of race and ethnicity that marked popular American entertainment in the 1940s and 1950s." — Will Straw, author of Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Murray Forman is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. He is the author of The 'Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop and a coeditor, with Mark Anthony Neal, of That's the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Popular Music and the Small Screen Frontier: An Introduction 1

1. Music, Image, Labor: Television's Prehistory 17

2. "Hey TV!": Musical Pioneers and Pessimists 51

3. Harmonizing Genres 115

4. The Look of Music 169

5. Music in a "Sepia" Tone 231

6. Maracas, Congas, and Castanets 273

Conclusion: Rocking the TV Conventions 319

Appendix 341

Notes 343

Bibliography 363

Index 389
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5011-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4998-3
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