CLEVELAND, Ohio - Cleveland's iconic music TV showcase "Upbeat," hit the airwaves in the early 1960s, just as the Civil Rights movement was gathering momentum and black musical artists were beginning to break into mainstream radio playlists and pop charts. "Upbeat "producer Herman Spero helped spur change nationally, envisioning the series as an inclusive, "color-blind show," said his son, David.

The music television series aired weekly on WEWS-TV Channel 5 in the 1960s and early 1970s, featuring performances by a who's who of future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Simon and Garfunkel, The Yardbirds, The Temptations and Otis Redding all made early TV appearances on "Upbeat." In fact, most of the rock and pop stars of the '60s performed on the show.

During a time of racial tension across the country, Herman Spero thought it was important to showcase African-American artists and their sound. Artists from Motown and Stax records were regulars on the show. Spero would often pair white and black artists together for "Upbeat" performances such as when Otis Redding and Mitch Ryder sang "Knock on Wood," in Redding's last TV appearance before the soul legend as killed in a plane crash.

The series premiered in 1964 in Cleveland as "The Big 5 Show," then became "Upbeat" in 1965 when Don Webster, who would later become a local fixture as a TV weatherman, was hired as host. At its peak, the show was syndicated in more than 100 markets nationally, and a rival to "American Bandstand."

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David Spero, 13 years old at the time of the shows conception, worked on the show with his father. He went on to become a noted DJ on Cleveland radio stations, including WMMS-FM 100.7. He's had a long career as an artist manager, too. Over the years, his clients have included everyone from Joe Walsh and Ian Hunter to Cat Stevens and Eric Carmen.

David sat down and talked with about the show and what it meant to the music scene.

Watch highlights from the show in the video above that is part two in a five-day series.


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