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Thaxton, Lloyd, 1927-2008



  • Existence: 1927-2008

Lloyd Eugene Thaxton was an Emmy Award-winning television host and producer, and considered by some to be the father of the music video.  Born May 31, 1927, to George and Gladys Thaxton in Memphis, Tennessee, Lloyd and his family soon relocated to Toledo, Ohio, where George would work as a newspaperman for the Toledo Blade.  In 1932, Lloyd began kindergarten at Whittier Public School, and continued to attend Toledo Public Schools through his graduation from DeVilbiss High School in 1945.

After serving one year in the Navy as World War II ended, Thaxton utilized the G.I. bill to attend Toledo University for a year before transferring to Northwestern University, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity and was involved for three years in Northwestern’s annual, student-written comedic musical revue, the Waa-Mu Show.  Fraternity life was especially important to Thaxton at Northwestern, where he and his SAE brothers created a radio station titled WSAE, which was broadcast to other fraternity houses on campus by utilizing the heating pipes connecting those buildings.  Thaxton graduated from Northwestern in 1950 with a degree from its School of Speech.  Upon graduation, Thaxton returned home and began working at WSPD-TV in Toledo, a local television station where he began to make a name for himself with wacky comedic antics and impersonations.

Thaxton married Jacqueline Matthews in 1953 (later divorced in 1967), had one daughter with her, Jennifer (b. 1954), and also raised two children from Matthews’ previous marriage, Leland (b. 1949) and Robin (b. 1951).  The Thaxton family made the move to Los Angeles in 1957, where Lloyd began work in television commercials.  Less than a year after moving, however, he had landed a television show on KCOP-TV called Record Shop, which ran until 1961 and boasted a strong guest list with names like Jerry Lewis, Elsa Lanchester, and Fred Astaire.

In 1961, KCOP offered Thaxton his own show, The Lloyd Thaxton Show (LTS), which became one of the highlights of his long career in the television industry.  The show was similar in format to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in that it coupled musical performances and dancing teenagers from area high schools.  Unlike American Bandstand, Thaxton’s show supplemented the music and dancing with a variety of lively comedic skits as well as early forms of lip-sync, in which Thaxton or one of the teenage guests would mouth the words to a popular song. The Lloyd Thaxton Show boasted guests such as The Supremes, James Brown, Cher, The Byrds, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as many other popular musical acts of the 1960s. At its peak, The Lloyd Thaxton Show reached over 350,000 households across the country.  Baltimore mayor Theodor McKeldin even declared June 26, 1965, to be known as “Lloyd Thaxton Day” in the city, saying that Thaxton “serves to bridge the chasm between adult maturity and teenage exuberance and so establishes a common ground of understanding upon which to build a better relationship between yesteryear’s youth and those of today.”

During the seven-year run of The Lloyd Thaxton Show, Thaxton became a well-known personality and in 1964, the persona of the fun-loving television host paid off in Thaxton’s first and only film role.  Thaxton and Jerry Lewis had met years earlier when Lewis appeared on Record Shop, and the two became friends.  Lewis’s film The Patsy featured a number of television celebrities playing versions of themselves, including Thaxton.

In 1965, during the peak of The Lloyd Thaxton Show’s run, Thaxton was credited as the co-creator and editorial director of a new magazine, Lloyd Thaxton’s Tiger Beat, aimed at the show’s target audience of young consumers of popular music.  The magazine featured interviews with popular musicians and other celebrities of the 1960s, often involving light-hearted speculation about their personal lives and upcoming career moves. Although his name and image no longer appear on its cover, Tiger Beat remains in circulation today.

After the series ended in 1968, Thaxton went on to host and produce a number of short-lived game shows, including Everybody’s Talkin’ (1967) and Funny You Should Ask (1968-69).  The former also featured celebrity guests and was notable for being the final daytime television program to be aired in black and white.

In 1968, Thaxton hosted a traveling talent search show that aired on NBC titled Showcase ’68.  On the set of this production, he met Barbara Snyder Whitman, a script supervisor who was also working for the show.  The two married a year later, and were together until Thaxton’s death in 2008.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Thaxton remained a prominent figure in the entertainment industry, producing a number of shows for both television and radio, including Pro-Fan, a game show that pitted fans against professional sports players and the three-minute radio serial program Mobil’s Mansion of Mystery, both of which aired in 1975.  A year later, Thaxton joined television host David Horowitz as producer on a consumer awareness show that aired for fourteen years.  The show, originally titled California Buyline, later became known as Fight Back! With David Horowitz.  Thaxton rebooted his famous Lloyd Thaxton Show twice after its original run, once for a one-time special in 1977, and again for an updated series in 1986.  For the next decade, Thaxton produced occasional segments for NBC’s Today Show.

In the early 2000s, Thaxton worked with motivational speaker/author John Alston on an inspirational self-help book entitled Stuff Happens (And Then You Fix It!), eventually published in 2003.  Stuff Happens contains a list of nine “reality rules” to help the reader overcome life’s challenges, and contains stories from the lives of Thaxton and Alston as well as imagined scenarios.  The book was successful and received favorable reviews.

Also in the 2000s, Thaxton was heavily involved in the Briarcliff Homeowners Association, working to manage access to walking trails in Laurel Canyon and Fryman Canyon, near their home in Studio City, California.

Although Thaxton had begun to write a memoir before his death tentatively titled So What?!, it was never published.  He additionally worked on the prospect of releasing a Lloyd Thaxton Show DVD compilation.  Because the program was broadcast live, very few recordings of The Lloyd Thaxton Show exist, providing added complications to the production of a DVD.  Thaxton authored an Internet blog, “The Mouse Clique,” in which he engaged with fans during the last years of his life.

Lloyd Thaxton died at his home in Studio City, California, on October 5, 2008.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lloyd Thaxton Papers

Identifier: 31/6/123
Abstract Lloyd Eugene Thaxton (1927-2008) was a popular television host and producer, with a career spanning nearly fifty years.  His musical variety show, titled The Lloyd Thaxton Show, ran from 1961-1968, and featured many popular musical acts of the era.  Thaxton was also executive producer of Fight Back! With David Horowitz, a consumer advocacy show that ran 1976-1992.  The collection includes biographical materials, photographs,...
Dates: 1862 - 2008; Other: Majority of material found within 1922 - 2008; Other: Date acquired: 01/08/2012