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In 1966, a Tennessee radio DJ named William “Hoss” Allen went to a Dallas TV station to host The !!!! Beat, a soul and blues program that would go on to feature an impressive lineup of artists. Beginning tonight and continuing every Friday in September, the Library of Congress plans to show a handful of classic episodes at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill. Library of Congress employee and WPFW DJ Larry Appelbaum, who is presenting the showings, spoke with Arts Desk via email about what viewers can expect.
Patti Labelle played the show. So did less famous artists like Mighty Joe Young. “We’ve come to know and mythologize the work of Etta James, Esther Phillips, Louis Jordan, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave,” says Appelbaum, “but the series also gives us an opportunity to see all these regional artists from Dallas, Nashville, and Chicago do their thing.”
While all of the episodes are available on import-priced DVDs from the German label Bear Family Records—-and some can be found on Youtube—-the show is still pretty obscure. “It was independently produced on a shoestring budget, so most people who saw it 45 years ago have only vague memories of it,” says Appelbaum.
While some of the “performances” are lip-synced, Appelbaum says his favorites are the live shows with Gatemouth Brown leading the house band. “There’s a killer jam on ‘What’d I Say’ featuring Etta James tearing it up with Esther Phillips, Roscoe Shelton, and Lattimore Brown, each taking a chorus or two and trading call and response,” he says. “As I say, big fun.”
The Library of Congress Jazz Film Series presents episodes of The !!!! Beat at 7 p.m. tonight and Fridays in September at the Hill Center at Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Free. (202) 549-4172.