Murray Forman‘s new book, One Night On TV Is Worth Weeks at the Paramount: Popular Music On Early Television is an invaluable history, but one with a frustrating premise at its heart. The history, out now through Duke University Press, does an excellent job of setting up and proving the notion that “music television” didn’t start with MTV in the early ’80s.
In addition to the myriad shows that would feature music as part and parcel of their programming as the medium went forward, television used music from its very inception. Singers and musical combos were part of the first broadcast tests. It’s a natural progression from radio, from whose networks television would arise. It’s only logical that the earliest things to come across the airwaves into the sets would be a visual representation of the most predominant aspect of radio. Namely, music.