The hippest party on TV from 1969 to 1970 was the syndicated program “Playboy After Dark,” starring Hugh Hefner, who made it a point to always have most the happening bands play for his guests.
Plenty of bands made it a point to boogie at Hef’s TV penthouse back in the day. Although the program's run was short, it provided a platform for bands that were too hip, too new or too radical to play prime time.
The original lineup for Deep Purple, or as Hefner referred to the band, “The” Deep Purple, made the scene only nine months after the group started out and shortly after it had scored its first hit, a cover of Joe South’s “Hush.” But what’s really fascinating is watching a very young Ritchie Blackmore giving Hefner a guitar lesson.
Ike & Tina Turner managed to jam their entire Las Vegas-style revue, including The Ikettes, into Hefner’s TV pad, playing not one but three songs – Sly & The Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher,” The Beatles’ “Come Together” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which the Turners made their own in 1971.
A pre-Schmilsson Harry Nilsson was Hefner’s guest one evening, talking about the five years he worked at a bank as well as singing with the “house band.” Especially noteworthy about this clip is that Nilsson appeared very bright and cheerful – the exact opposite of the image he presented on his 1972 hit album Nilsson Schmilsson.
The “hardest working man in show business,” James Brown, lights up the party as only he can.
Grand Funk Railroad wasn’t exactly the most TV-friendly band back in the late 60s, but they were welcomed at Hefner’s place where they performed a couple of their early recordings, “Mr. Limousine Driver” and “Please Don’t Worry.”
By 1969 Linda Ronstadt had charmed Los Angeles’ music community with her projected innocence and natural good looks. Here she’s charming Hefner with a rendition of “Living Like A Fool.”
One of the oddest moments of “Playboy After Dark had to be when The Grateful Dead appeared on the program, especially when Hefner asked Jerry Garcia about “the hippie scene” in San Francisco and then commented on the band’s “stereo effect” with drums.
Other acts that appeared on “Playboy After Dark” included Three Dog Night, Cher, B.B. King, Canned Heat, Lesley Gore, John Hartford and Buddy Miles. Check out the show on YouTube, or better yet, pick up the DVDs and spend some time with Hef and his guests.