Arts

Long-Lost TV Special ‘It’s What’s Happening Baby’ Restored, Broadcast On PBS

Murray the K posed with The Ronettes: Nedra Talley, Ronnie Spector, Estelle Bennett.
Murray the K posed with The Ronettes: Nedra Talley, Ronnie Spector, Estelle Bennett.
Credit Photo provided by TJL Productions

It’s What’s Happening Baby” premieres on PBS stations, including Public Broadcasting Atlanta, at 8 p.m. March 6.

The program features live, onstage performances by some of the great soul, rock and R&B artists of the 20th century. Artists such as Ray Charles, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick and many others are a part of the lineup.

The program aired originally on CBS TV in 1965, and it has not been seen since. The MTV-esque show is presented by veteran public television producer TJ Lubinsky.

He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to discuss this newly restored special.

Interview Highlights

How he discovered this tape: 

“I’m an absolute aficionado nut of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. I would do anything I could to find footage of these guys. Somehow, I got hold of a VHS tape, which is a bootleg of a bootleg of a bootleg … 14 generations down. But The Miracles were together singing the great love song ‘Ooh Baby Baby.’ I just knew at a young age that I was going to do something with this library, and that’s how it started for me, wanting to get more footage of The Miracles. Then, I found a guy who had the tapes in L.A. who turned out to be the son of Murray the K. Shows like this don’t exist in their entireties,” said Lubinsky.

Producer TJ Lubinsky discovered this long-lost tape and decided to fully restore it for air on PBS. (Courtesy of TJL Productions)
Producer TJ Lubinsky discovered this long-lost tape and decided to fully restore it for air on PBS. (Courtesy of TJL Productions)

He continued, “He had this amazing 2-inch tape that hadn’t been played since 1965, which we had transferred. And on there are The Temptations, Mary Wells, Dionne Warwick, the great Ray Charles, and it was just unbelievable. It was like walking into a piece of history, and I knew right there we had to make this available to public television stations everywhere.”

Who New York radio DJ “Murray the K” Kaufman was:

“The difference between Murray and other guys was that he came along at a time after the great Alan Freed. Alan Freed, of course, coined the phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll.’ Later, came Cousin Brucie, who is the guy probably most associated these days with oldies. But in between that gap was ‘Murray the K’ Kaufman. He started out in vaudeville, and he cut his teeth on doing all those great shows and great theaters,” said Lubinsky.

He continued, “The thing about Murray was that there was a no color line with him. It didn’t matter to him if it was a white group or Black group, a Latino group. It didn’t matter at all as long as it had the feel of what the kids want. He started to play his own records, and, from that, it led to television. So he did these great concerts that were done at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, and someone approached him from the government, the office of economic development. They said, ‘We would like to reach young kids in urban cities to get back in school. How can we connect with them?’ And Murray said, ‘There’s no better way to connect with young kids than their music. So I’ll put this great list of artists, we’ll ask them to be a part of it’ — and that’s how this happened.”

His favorite performances in the special: 

“For me, it would be The Miracles when Smoke takes his bowtie off and leans down real low and The Miracles are doing their steps behind him. That’s powerful stuff to me.”

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