The Big Break
In the Fall of 1967 WABC launched a new feature known as "The Big Break." The idea was to give local rock bands a chance to win recognition and a recording contract. Each night, Cousin Bruce Morrow played a special recording from a local group. The artists introduced themselves and their original songs. Of course, only the best recordings made it to Bruce's show. After twelve weeks, the finalists were brought to a playoff concert in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton. A recording contract was awarded to the best group. As part of that first concert, WABC invited "The Blues Magoos" to be the featured performers.
Jack Pignatello was, and is, part of a band that was one of three winners in 1967/68. His band "The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band" is still in existence (and has its own website). Jack wrote to me about the experience:
" In 1968, my band, The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band, was one of the three winners of The Big Break, sponsored by Cousin Brucie. This was a real accomplishment, because we weren't by any means rock and roll; we were (and still are) an actual jug band...banjo, washboard, jug, washtub bass, etc."
"We won a recording contract, etc, and of course nothing ever came of it, but we all still have the memories. The band STILL exists, with many of the original members, and we still play. I have some Big Break memorabilia... I'm sitting next to one of those black and yellow wall-sized posters that used to hang all over NYC to advertise upcoming events. It mentions us as "WABC's 'The Big Break' Winner."
Thanks to Jack, we have a copy of both sides of the original program for the final concert from that first year of "The Big Break' in January, 1968:
In 1968/69 WABC decided to enhance "The Big Break". That year the final concert featured "Steppenwolf" . The size of the Grand Ballroom was 4,500 seats. Three hours before the concert, 10,000 people were already on line. WABC never did seem to recognize its own power in those days.
The problem was that Steppenwolf did not arrive to the concert on time. Fearful that a riot might result since so many in the audience were already frustrated about the difficulty getting seats, Cousin Bruce did the best he could to keep the audience placated. Finally Steppenwolf arrived and an intermission was called. Apparently the members of the band were not in great shape after traveling to get to New York. In fact, the organ player fell over on stage and was knocked out! Bruce Morrow's father, who was backstage, was able to revive him with a wet towel. He returned on stage and, fortunately the audience never knew the difference!
In 1969/70 the "Third Annual Big Break" was held, but this time at Carnegie Hall. It featured Tony Orlando and Dawn as the feature perfomers. Here is the promo that ran in the Fall of 1969 to attract participants.
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