The Beat Goes On: Rock and Pop on Sixties Sitcoms

by Karen A. Romanko

In 5th grade, I circulated a petition among my grammar school classmates to “Bring the Beatles to Boston.” I dutifully collected the signatures, brought the petition home, and put it on a shelf, congratulating myself on a job well done. In my mind, that silly, ineffectual petition marks the arrival of Beatlemania in Mattapan, my little corner of Boston.

A full-fledged British Invasion followed the Beatles, influencing American musicians, especially in California, and a new hybrid emerged called folk rock. Suddenly rock groups were everywhere, filtering into mainstream consciousness via our TV sets, especially on variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show. If that wasn’t exciting enough (or annoying enough, depending on your generational viewpoint), sometimes the musical mop-tops popped up on our favorite sitcoms, and even the occasional drama, where producers and writers knew a fertile cultural moment when they saw one. 

The (solid) gold standard in this mini-genre is “The Redcoats Are Coming,” a 1965 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Real-life British folk-rockers Chad and Jeremy portray the aptly named Redcoats, the musical guests of the week for The Alan Brady Show, where Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) is head writer. The young Brits are beset by hordes of teenage girls wherever they go in this snappy satire of Beatlemania. Every element is carefully chosen, down to the secret password, “Paul Revere,” uttered by Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon) in the clandestine operation to stash the lads at Rob’s home. The Redcoats sing two Chad and Jeremy songs during the show, including “No Other Baby.” Chad and Jeremy also appeared on The Patty Duke Show and later Batman, where they were “The Cat’s Meow,” at least as far as Catwoman (Julie Newmar) was concerned.

Since nothing says rock ‘n roll quite as much as a 19th century cavalry outpost, F Troop created its own stand-in for the Beatles in the “Bedbugs,” a musical act that Corporal Agarn (Larry Storch) hopes to manage. In “That’s Show Biz” (1967), a group called The Factory portrays the Bedbugs, and its founder, Lowell George, went on to achieve fame with the respected rock group Little Feat (whose live performance I saw in Boston during the 70s). For long-hairs, The Factory was strangely attracted to the military, first in F Troop and then “100 years” later in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. “Golly!”

And the beat went on. Bobby Sherman portrayed a rich-boy lead singer for a group called The Paupers on detective series Honey West, while Boyce and Hart were caught in a spell cast by wild witch Serena (Elizabeth Montgomery) on Bewitched. The Wellingtons portrayed The Mosquitoes on Gilligan’s Island, prompting Ginger (Tina Louise), Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), and Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) to form their own trio, The Honey Bees. (Singer Jackie DeShannon supplied the vocals for Mary Ann.) Davy Jones, who with his “prefab” bandmates, had turned ersatz Beatlemania into an entire series with The Monkees, got to do the guest-idol bit on The Brady Bunch, to rescue Marcia, Marcia, Marcia (Maureen McCormick) from some high school embarrassment.



These are the main ones I remember from my TV travels. If you know of others, please post them in the comments.

Groovy! Groovy!


Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this! I recall watching the F Troop episode you mentioned. It was a silly and fun parody. I look forward to future entries.

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  2. Loved this , the only thing I know though is The Monkees , rest a little before my time lol.

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  3. Loved the Monkees - their music is still greatly underrated - at local gigs out here in East Anglia (that's part of the UK for non-UK readers) you still get bands getting the audience waving their hands in the air for "I'm a Believer". Curriously the Banana Splits was another must-watch early Saturday evening TV show when I was a teenager growing up in the Sixties

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    1. I’m an Anglophile. I know East Anglia from Lovejoy! Lol That show will be getting a mention here in a couple of weeks. I agree about the Monkees. It was hard for them to get past their “prefab” origins. Thanks for your comment! ☮️💟

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  4. This is spectacular!!! I forgot all about Bobby Sherman, my idol lol! I remember the Brady Bunch episode. This was definitely more my age group. I love it! 💖

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    1. Thank you! I didn’t remember that you loved Bobby Sherman! I do remember, though, that you loved the Brady Bunch, especially Greg/Barry Williams!

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    2. I still watch the Brady Bunch! 😁

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  5. This is spectacular!!! I forgot all about Bobby Sherman, my idol lol! I remember the Brady Bunch episode. This was definitely more my age group. I love it! 💖

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  6. Every Mother's Son performing Come On Down To My Boat on an episode of The Man from UNCLE during a fight scene where the lead singer's guitar gets smashed.

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    1. Wish I had seen that one! I’ll have to look for it. I was playing that song on my summer playlist last year. ☀️ 😎

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