Famed New York disc jockey “Murray The K” (Murray Kaufman) became known as “The Fifth Beatle” when he befriended John, Paul, George & Ringo during the musical British Invasion of the 1960s. In addition to presenting all-star rock and soul concerts at the historic Brooklyn Fox theatre, Murray The K hosted a legendary star-studded special, It’s What’s Happening Baby to be telecast for the first time in more than a half century. The show featuring live, on-stage performances by some of the greatest soul, rock and r&b artists of the 20th century debuts Saturday, March 6 at 7:00 pm Eastern/ Central/Pacific Time on Public Television outlets with encore telecasts; check local listings.*
The long-unseen landmark program is being presented by veteran public television producer TJ Lubinsky, creator of the hugely popular My Music specials on PBS. It’s What’s Happening Baby has been newly-restored from original video and audio master tapes. The ground-breaking program was the brainchild of Kaufman, who had given many of the greatest African-American perform- ers their breakthrough in his staged concerts and radio shows. He then fought to present that powerful pool of talent, including many of the bright soul-pop stars of Motown on It’s What’s Happening Baby. The once-in-a-lifetime special was originally commissioned by the U.S. government’s Office of Economic Opportunity as part of the war on poverty, encouraging American youth to seek summer employment while out of school.
Featuring over a dozen iconic artists — including Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, The Righteous Brothers, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Rivers, The Miracles, Herman’s Hermits, The Temptations and Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles — It’s What’s Happening Baby proved to a huge success when it first aired on June 28, 1965 on CBS, attracting over 20 million viewers. Of special note is the fact that Mary Wilson of the Supremes shared her recollections of the show of which she was part. She recorded her interview for the program on January 26, 2021. It was to be the very last interview she would ever give as she passed away just 13 days after that nostalgic encounter.
Now, nearly 56 years later, many of the original musical artists appear in new segments, offering fond memories of working with Murray The K, who helped put rock and roll music into the mainstream during his days as one of the most influential radio personalities in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. Dionne Warwick recalls, “He was the man! To be part of a Murray The K show was the thing to be.” Little Anthony adds, “He was a real showman. Everybody fell in love with him.”
*Special New York market note: It’s What Happening Baby airs on WLIW at 10:30pm on March 6th.