Lloyd Thaxton (May 31, 1927 – October 5, 2008) was an American writer, television producer, director, and television host best known for his syndicated pop music television program of the 1960s, The Lloyd Thaxton Show, which began as a local Los Angeles program on KCOP in September 1961.
Life and career
The son of a newspaperman, Thaxton was born in Memphis, Tennessee. On graduating from high school, Thaxton enlisted in the Navy, "barely hours" before he would have been drafted.
Thaxton came to Los Angeles from Toledo, Ohio, in 1957, becoming, in his words, a "freelance announcer" and host of the highly rated Leave It To Lloyd talk show on KHJ-TV. He casually coined the term "freelance announcer" since his work in commercials was most active toward the end of the era of live television; Thaxton would go from venue to venue performing the commercials live, since videotape was not in wide use then. Many of his commercials for KHJ and KNXT were for the now-defunct Southern California discount chain, White Front. His career at KCOP began in 1958 both as a commercial announcer and as announcer for The June Levant Show, an afternoon talk show starring the wife of celebrated pianist Oscar Levant. This led to his own afternoon show, Lloyd Thaxton's Record Shop, in 1959. The program attracted quite a number of big-name guests, some of whom stopped by to promote their latest record and many of whom simply stopped by for the chance to chat with Thaxton. Among those early guests were Fred Astaire, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Green and Dimitri Tiomkin.
In 1961 The Lloyd Thaxton Show (sometimes known as "The Lloyd Thaxton Hop") debuted on KCOP as an hour-long presentation from 5 to 6 p.m. The format, much along the lines of American Bandstand, featured local high school students dancing on the soundstage to the latest records. The show was almost totally unscripted and spontaneous. Thaxton's description of the idea: "No one told me what I had to do. I was producing it myself. I was writing it myself." Thaxton frequently clowned around on stage to the music, lip-synching the vocals and accompanying the records on guitar or piano. One favorite recurring skit had the costumed Thaxton on his knees, impersonating painter Toulouse-Lautrec, while lip-synching a current song. He also occasionally "performed" on an odd contraption made from a tennis racket and a bow and arrow that roughly looked like a guitar and "play-synked" popular early-1960s instrumental tunes like "Scratchy" by Travis Wammack and various The Ventures and Link Wray guitar songs. The Lloyd Thaxton Show, with its mix of new music and comedy skits, immediately shot to Number One in the time period, with a viewership of at least 350,000 homes, including those on the East Coast. Many leading rock 'n' roll acts of the time, like The Byrds, Sonny & Cher, The Kinks, The Bobby Fuller Four, The Challengers and others appeared on the program. Thaxton would end each show by saying, "I'm Lloyd Thaxton," followed by the teen audience shouting, "so what," whereupon the Bill Black Combo instrumental of the same name would play.
Although some cities carried his show almost from its inception, like KPTV in Portland, Oregon, The Lloyd Thaxton Show went into national syndication in late 1964, quickly becoming the highest rated musical entertainment program in the US for the next eight years. Lloyd Thaxton is today known as the father of music videos.
Thaxton's ventures into other television programs and facets of the entertainment industry earned him five Emmy Awards and 15 Emmy nominations. His face appeared at the top of the newly launched Tiger Beat magazine (then known as "Lloyd Thaxton's Tiger Beat"), for which he did a column. According to IMDB, Thaxton was a co-founder of Tiger Beat magazine.
During the late 1960s Thaxton hosted two short-lived game shows for ABC: Everybody's Talking (1967) and Funny You Should Ask (1968–69). He also was a radio talk show host on KABC-790 in Los Angeles from 1972-74. His Sunday show received positive reviews from the critics.
Moving behind the scenes, in 1977 he created the syndicated game show Pro-Fan, which he also announced. Charlie Jones hosted the series. He also served as producer and director of Fight Back! With David Horowitz from 1976–92, as well as producer for NBC's The Today Show.
In 2003 he co-wrote the best seller Stuff Happens (and then you fix it), published by Wiley & Sons.
Thaxton met his second wife, Barbara Snyder Whitman, on the set of the NBC summer series Showcase '68. They were married August 11, 1969. They had no children and remained married until his death from multiple myeloma in October 2008, which had been diagnosed in May of that year. He lived in Studio City, California, and was the head of his own entertainment firm, LT Productions, which is still active.