Saturday, June 6, 2009

Documentaries Yet To Be Made

Here is my response to a discussion on the lack of a documentary on Del Shannon in the Del Shannon Yahoo Group:

What I have envisaged for some time now is an extensive series of definitive DVD documentaries on first generation rock 'n' roll musicians with as many uncut TV/film performances as possible as bonus features on a second disc. In some cases there are already really good documentaries like on Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley. But I think there are several artists who have yet to have much of anything made in the form of documentaries at all or, better yet, a really great documentary. Del Shannon is one artist who begs to have a documentary made. What a great story there is to tell here. There are plenty of interviews, especially from the 1980s in existence. Plus there are TV performances from three decades and several countries.

Bobby Fuller is another. There were stories about Bobby on "Unsolved Mysteries" and a half hour story on "The E! Mysteries and Scandals" series. Still, a definitive documentary is due.

Gene Vincent is yet another. In Gene's case, there was a remarkable "fly-on-the-wall" documentary made at the time of his 1969 tour of the UK, which could be used in part in a film on his entire life.

One documentary on Roy Orbison has lengthy interviews with Fred Foster, producer and owner of Monument Records. This was the first time I'd ever seen him interviewed, which was long overdue. I think a definitive documentary on Roy has yet to be made.

Imagine the challenge of making a documentary of Link Wray. Nerves of steel and infinite patience my be necessary here.

Bill Griggs, West Texas music researcher, has often commented that a frustrating thing about even well-made documentaries on musicians of all styles is that so often just as you are about 60-90 seconds into a memorable vintage TV performance, the narrator, or worse yet, an endorsing 1970s rock star cuts in before the clip is completed. That why I think DVD releases of music documentaries ought to have at least one bonus disc with all these famous TV performances presented uncut. Get the clearances and royalties in order and get the darn things on the market!

I think the likelihood of documentaries like this will show up in time. There many really fine documentaries on blues, jazz, and county musicians (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Louis Prima, and Hank Williams come to mind.) The DVD format with bonus features remains a massively successful home video format. Right now, an authorized documentary on Wanda Jackson is in production and promises to be good.

But, yeah, you're right, the Del Shannon story needs to be told on the tube!