"Every kid, every 20 year old and every 30 year old was watching" --Alice Cooper
"It was before MTV, it was before music video, so it gave us our first opportunity to play on TV, play live for our fans on television" --Kevin Cronin, REO Speedwagon
Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me, Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-loving light on me... --Traditional Lyric
It's one of the definitive documents of what was really going on in music then."
Back in the early '70s, the only ways for fans to see their favorite rock stars were in concert or in the pages of magazines like Rolling Stone or Creem. So the idea for The Midnight Special, which ran on NBC from 1972 to 1981, came to creator Burt Sugarman in a light-bulb moment. A veteran of producing Grammy Awards telecasts, Sugarman was frustrated by the network's lack of programming after The Tonight Show -- the screen reverting to test patterns at 1:00 a.m. A next-door neighbor to Johnny Carson, Sugarman recognized this TV wasteland for what it was: a place where he could cater to an audience that craved seeing its latest rock n' roll heroes brought into their livin rooms every Friday night. And, with the pilot, which premiered at 1:00 a.m. on August 19, 1972 with Johnny Rivers rendition of "The Midnight Special," Leadbelly's classic gospel song, he did just that.
"The Midnight Special was one of the greatest music television shows that was ever done."