RIP, Donnie the K

This will only mean something to you if you were listening to pop-rock music in the 1960s and ’70s, or watched TV programs of similar vintage revolving around said music.

Don Kirshner is gone.

Kirshner — or Donnie the K, as I like to call him — started out as a Tin Pan Alley music publisher, whose stable included numerous legendary songwriting duos, from Goffin and King to Sedaka and Greenfield. But he became a household name in the ’60s as the impresario behind prefabricated-for-television pop groups such as The Monkees and The Archies.

In the ’70s, Kirshner’s eponymous record label signed the progressive-rock band Kansas, unleashing a string of hits including “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”

That same decade, Kirshner began producing and hosting the late-night TV music series, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Donnie the K’s eerily awkward on-camera presence made him the butt of numerous jokes — including an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch starring Paul Shaffer, who later starred in a sitcom produced by Kirshner called A Year at the Top — and proved the venerable maxim that record producers should be neither seen nor heard. Still, the show ran for a decade, and featured pretty much every big-name act in pop music at one time or another.

As a kid who loved the songs of The Monkees and The Archies (“Sugar Sugar” was one of the first mainstream pop records I ever owned), and later as a teenager who was a major-league Kansas fanatic (I celebrated my 19th birthday at a Kansas concert at San Francisco’s Cow Palace), Don Kirshner contributed mightily to the soundtrack of my youth — even though he never sang or played a note. (For which, if his musical talents matched his abilities as a master of ceremonies, the universe should be eternally grateful.)

They also entertain who only sit and write checks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Celebritiana, Dead People Got No Reason to Live, Reminiscing, Ripped From the Headlines, Soundtrack of My Life

One Comment on “RIP, Donnie the K”

  1. Donna Says:

    Back in the day, I was a frequent viewer of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concerts. It was a late Friday night treat and a chance to see bands performing that I wanted desperately to see at a live concert.

    My mom then was reluctant to let me attend many concerts. Living close to the bay area gave us plenty of venues to choose from. But, alas, I only ever got to see John Denver at the Cow Palace and Santana outdoors on the campus of Berkeley (with the one and only Uncle Swan on a hot August night).

    Having access back then to TV on demand like we have today would have been a bonus! I recall one night trying desperately to stay awake to see the Eagles on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. I failed to remain awake and only awoke in time to see the credits rolling at the end of the show .

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