What Else Was Going on in Memphis? Popular Music and TV in Late 1967 and Early 1968

We share these events in order to provide a better understanding of the time frame of the Memphis Sanitation Strike.

January 1968

In pop music, saying that 1967 is a massively influential year is almost an act of understatement. Both the United States and the United Kingdom delivered huge hits for the Beatles, the Doors, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. Memphis did not fail to deliver for the year, providing three Gold Record Award certifications, whereby a single sells more than a million copies. “Green Onions” previously released in 1962, and recorded by Stax Records’ Booker T and the MGs received this honor in 1967. Stax’s Sam and Dave hit single “Soul Man”, as well as the Box Tops’ “The Letter”, recorded at American Studios at 827 Thomas Street round out the three Memphis million sellers.

Another hit is sure to be on the horizon with the recent release by Stax Records of the Otis Redding single “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. While Redding’s recent death in a plane crash has cut short an already legendary career, Memphis studios are poised to release more hits to the world in 1968.
“Movies-TV-Arts”, Commercial Appeal. January 14, 1968.

January’s Top Pop Songs—Billboard­

The end of the month allows for reflection on January 1968’s top pop hits!

#1        January started off with The Beatles at the top spot with their infectious “Hello Goodbye”, released by Capitol Records. By the end of the month however, John Fred’s “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” gave The Beatles the boot. “Judy in Disguise”, a Paula Records release, owed much to the Fab Four, with the very song title a play on The Beatles 1967 song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, as well both songs’ “trippy” psychedelia-inspired sonic disposition.

#2        The first of the year had Gladys Knight and the Pips upbeat rendition of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (Soul Records) peaking in the number two spot. After the Monkees “Daydream Believer” (Colgems Records) spent a week in spot, Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” (Atlantic Records) claimed the spot for the remainder of January.

#3        The last week of the month had Buddah Records’ The Lemon Pipers hit “Green Tambourine” at the coveted number three spot.

#4        Tamla Records could boast number four on New Year’s Day with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “I Second that Emotion”. It would only hold that spot a short while, when Columbia Records would release Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s “Woman, Woman”.

#5        Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s hit single “Bend Me, Shape Me” (Acta) would peak at number five at the end of January.


Monday January 22 1968

On this day, NBC-affiliate WMC-TV channel 5 premiered the groundbreaking comedy show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. This hour-long variety show served as the introduction of numerous actors and comedians to the general public, including Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Arte Johnson. The show’s often counter-cultural take on current events and classic sketch comedy endeared it to viewers, as well as the numerous sayings it popularized, including “sock it to me” and Arte Johnson’s “verrrrry interesting”. Memphians would first see it on channel 5 at 7:00 PM, between The Monkees and before the Danny Thomas Hour.
Television Section. Commercial Appeal Movies-TV-Arts, January 21, 1968.
–Whitburn, Joel. Billboard’s Top 10 Charts. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc, 1988.