Before MTV, there was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert

Don Kirschner Rock Concert

Photo: By Rogers, Cowan & Brenner, Beverly Hills-publicity (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During the 1960’s and 1970’s in the middle of the classic rock era, the only opportunity fans had of seeing their favorite bands was through the acquisition of concert tickets. Before the age of MTV, VH1, YouTube, and all the other modern day musical video outlets, fans for the most part only knew what bands looked like from album covers and magazine articles. However, in 1973 a opportunity arose that would offer rock music fans a chance to see their favorite artists on television for the first time. It was a limited ninety minute a week opportunity, but at the same time it was for the most part, the only opportunity.

Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert premiered for the first time on broadcast television in 1973. In the early 1970’s most homes around the world only received televised programming from less than a dozen broadcast channels. Cable TV had not yet infiltrated mass culture. In 1973, no one had really yet even heard of the concept of cable TV. Nonetheless, once a week, usually on a Saturday night at 11.30 pm, we all gathered around the television set to watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. It was spellbinding to see the bands that we had never seen in concert perform live or from taped live concerts.

The Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert series that began in 1973 had originally started as a show called “In Concert,” in 1972.” The show’s performance in the 11:30 pm time slot began to draw huge ratings. Don Kirshner who had been associated with the “In Concert,” series left the show to develop the iconic Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert television series that lasted from 1973 to 1981 and was broadcast on American Television.

The show featured such well known acts as, The Allman Brothers BandBad CompanyBadfingerBlack Sabbath, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, The Eagles, Pat Benatar,The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Edgar Winter, Rory Gallagher, George HarrisonBilly JoelJourneyKISS, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, The Ramones, Steve Miller, Van Morrison and so many more. The first band to ever appear on the show were the Rolling Stones in a live appearance from London.

There were other music specials that began to broadcast in the seventies including “The Wolfman Jack Show,” featuring  the notorious radio disk jockey from the 1950’s. The Midnight Special, also became a very popular late night music program. With the premier of Saturday Night Live in the mid-nineteen seventies opposite Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, competition for viewership increased because of Saturday Night Live’s popularity. Saturday Night Live also had a penchant for attracting the most popular music artists of the time period to perform live on the show.

In the 1960’s and 70s’s we never imagined the advent of MTV, cable television, and even the internet. Our only opportunity to enjoy music was from the vinyl grooves of the albums we loved, and the concert performances we attended. The Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert series began a series of events that would eventually change the music industry, and the fan experience.

Don Kirshner’s Career

While most rock fans who grew up in the 1970s only associate the name Don Kirshner with his rock music television show, many do not know the man’s musical success before his legendary television show. Don Kirshner first foray into the music business was when he began working with Bobby Darin collaborating on jingles.  In the late 1950s Don Kirshner co-founded a successful music publishing company called Aldon Music with Al Nevins.

Don Kirshner and Al Nevins utilize that Publishing Company in association with the Brill Building songwriters such as Carole KingNeil Diamond, Paul Simon and so many more of those wonderful songwriters during that time. Eventually, Don Kirshner  sold the company to Columbia Records.

Don Kirshner would go on to manage many legendary musical artist. As the head of Screen Gems Music Don kessinger was responsible for the eventual success of the band The Monkees and their successful television show. Don Kirshner also launched the career of the band The Archies. Even on the Progressive music side, Don Kirshner was known as the man who discovered the legendary rock band Kansas.

Don Kirshner never stopped working in the music business in some form. He continued promoting music and finding new talent up until the age of 76 when he passed away due to heart failure. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized his contributions to rock and roll by inducting him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, a year after his passing.


  1. Tom Neokleous March 16, 2016
  2. jeffrey heff October 6, 2016

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