With millions already tuning in to the firmly established Grand Ole Opry on radio every week, Town Hall Party was television’s first attempt to corral country music fans in front of a small screen. Broadcast from a small theatre in suburban Los Angeles, it ran for 10 years until 1961 and gave early national exposure to such stars as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and George Jones.
None of the above appear on these three volumes from 1959, the guest list concentrating on more family-friendly entertainers such as Tex Ritter, Faron Young and Skeets McDonald. The second of these discs, however, features eye-popping performances from Gene Vincent, scaring the locals with Be-Bop-A-Lula before sending them off to bed with a gentle strum through Over The Rainbow.
As might be expected, the picture quality isn’t the best but, as an illustration of a medium still in its relative infancy, brimming with wholesome entertainment, it makes for intriguing viewing. Bear Family are also readying a series of compilation DVDs highlighting specific artists, so maybe we’ll see the Cash and Cline clips at a future date.