WGBH Boston and Reelin’ In The Years Productions Partner to License Music Footage

WGBH, the largest producer of content for public television, and Reelin’ In The Years Productions, the world’s premier footage source for musical artists and entertainers, have announced an exclusive licensing representation deal for WGBH’s music-related footage.

The deal will include more than four decades of material produced by WGBH between 1968 and 1995, much of which has not been seen since its original broadcast. The footage is part of the WGBH Media Library and Archives and will be made available through Reelin’ In The Years Productions (RITY).

“We are excited to have our music collection represented by such an experienced and trusted music licensing service,” says Alison Smith, associate director of the WGBH Media Library and Archives. “Reelin’ in the Years Productions recognizes the historic value of this footage and how to bring it forward to new audiences.”

Since its first television broadcast in 1955, WGBH has been the source of hundreds of award-winning news, documentary and drama programs, many of them featuring popular music. Perhaps best known is the James Brown concert at the Boston Garden in 1968, the day after Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. was killed. WGBH filmed and broadcast the three- hour performance live at the request of Boston Mayor Kevin White in the hope of keeping residents at home and the city calm. It is credited with helping prevent riots which other cities were experiencing.

Other notable performances that will now be available through RITY, feature soul music artists who appeared live on WGBH’s public affairs TV series Say Brother (now Basic Black), including Gladys Knight & The Pips, David Ruffin, Earth, Wind & Fire, Carla Thomas, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, Smokey Robinson, Sly & The Family Stone, Isley Brothers and The Parliaments (featuring the earliest known footage of George Clinton). Other unique programs in the archive feature performances and interviews with artists such as James Taylor, Buddy Guy, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Big Mama Thornton, Taj Mahal, Bobby Blue Bland, George Thorogood, New Edition, Nancy Wilson, Eartha Kitt, B.B. King, J. Geils Band, Frank Zappa, and Tony Bennett.

In 1993, WGBH produced, in association with the BBC, a 10-part documentary mini-series series called Rock & Roll which traced the history and evolution of rock and roll music, from its rhythm and blues, country, gospel and jazz roots in the early 1950s, through the advent of folk, rock, soul, heavy metal, glam, funk, punk, and reggae, to the emergence of rap in the 1980s. WGBH saved and preserved all 80 of the raw interviews they filmed (ranging from 45-90 minutes in length). The archive contains a “who’s who” of notable artists being interviewed including songwriters and producers who rarely sat down for interviews. Artists include Little Richard, Ike Turner, Scotty Moore & DJ Fontana, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, George Clinton, Wilson Pickett, Robbie Robertson, Jerry Lee Lewis and producers such as Berry Gordy, Jerry Wexler, Lieber & Stoller, Rick Hall, George Martin, Gamble & Huff, Phil & Marshall Chess, Tom Dowd and Jeff Barry. Sadly, many of these great artists are no longer alive, but thanks to this archive the stories of their significant contribution to the history of popular music can be seen and heard.

“To represent the performances and interviews from this major archive is truly a great honor,” says RITY founder and president David Peck. “The WGBH holdings feature many one-of-a-kind performances and interviews -- it’s the rediscovery of a great American treasure.”

RITY has begun the process of cataloguing the WGBH music footage and making it available for clips to be used in documentary productions.