Held at the RKO Theater on 3rd Avenue and 58th Street, this edition of Murray's holiday 'live on stage' shows would become legendary for its line-up that included some big names, some one hit wonders and the U. S. live performance debuts of two obscure bands from the UK that would go on to spearhead an era of British rock superstardom.
This was toward the end of the days of package shows that included many acts performing at most a handful of songs. Often these packages would tour the country as did Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars.
Murray's production did not leave NYC. It had a one week residency from March 25th through April 2nd and presented 3 shows a day. I was 16 when my sister and I, along with my friend Steve took a bus into Manhattan that March to attend.
The headliners were Wilson Pickett and Mitch Ryder. Also on the bill were: Jim and Jean, Mandala (from Canada), The Hardly Worth It Players, The Chicago Loop, and The Blues Project, but what motivated our trip into the city that day was to see a band that to that point was something of a well kept secret in this country. The Who.
My friend Steve and I were in a band and we had become fascinated by the music and the image of The Who ever since I had first read about them in back issues of the English teen Magazine Rave that my sister and I used to buy at a used book store in Passaic. We managed to find and acquire their first album The Who Sing My Generation even though it got virtually no airplay on American radio.
It is often assumed that the first stateside performance by The Who was their breakout set at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, but this show preceded that historical event by over two months.
I've read accounts of The Who's appearance at the Murray the K show where it's been written that they did only a two song set. My recollection is of them playing 'Happy Jack' (their current single at the time), 'Substitute,' and the climactic 'My Generation' wherein an audience on this side of the pond (us!) first experienced the auto-destruct portion of The Who's stage act.
The other less than well known Brit act on the bill that March was Cream, or The Cream as they were referred to in the promotional ads. The brand new progressive FM stations had been playing their track 'I Feel Free,' but very little seemed to be known about the band other than that one of its members was guitarist extraordinaire Eric Clapton who the rock cognoscenti knew had started out with The Yardbirds and then moved on to the more purist John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
When they hit the stage and turned out to be a mere trio but cranked out more volume than most 5 piece acts, we knew we had entered a new musical era.
New York's own Blues Project were also one of the acts my sister, Steve, and I were anxious to check out. They did a short set that included 'No Time Like the Right Time,' the band's first and only bid for an AM pop hit. Keyboardist/singer Al Kooper suffered an instrumental malfunction when his portable cylindrical pre-synthesizer keyboard known as a 'tubon' wouldn't work. In a year or so he would go on to form the ground breaking horn section rock outfit Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
This was my third ever concert going experience. In later years we were struck by how lucky we were to have seen such a landmark show during one of pop music's golden eras.