Former 'Shindig' host honed his craft at Pittsburgh's KQV
LOS ANGELES — Jimmy O'Neill, an Oklahoman barely out of his teens when he became Los Angeles' top-rated radio deejay and only 24 when he catapulted to national celebrity as the host of “Shindig!,” one of the earliest rock ‘n' roll shows on prime-time television, died on Friday in his home in West Hollywood, Calif. He was 73.
He had diabetes and heart problems, said his son, James O'Neill.
In 1959, O'Neill made radio history as the first voice heard on KRBC-AM when it dropped its country-western format for rock music. It became a powerhouse in rock radio and spiraled O'Neill into television in 1964 as the winsome emcee of “Shindig!”
Compared with “American Bandstand,” the afternoon music-and-dance show for teenagers helmed by Dick Clark, “Shindig!” was a blast of hot air that featured frenetic dancers (including a young Teri Garr) and mingled black and white musicians in an era when much of the country was still segregated. Each episode showcased a dozen of the biggest names in pop music, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. Bobby Sherman, Leon Russell, Darlene Love and Billy Preston were among the regulars.
O'Neill opened every show with the same rousing welcome:
“Howdy-hi, Shindiggers ... we've got a ‘Shindig!' for you that's so far in it's out of sight!”
O'Neill was born Jan. 8, 1940, in Enid, Okla. At 15, he won a chance to have his own two-hour show on the local radio station. “The program director hired him on the spot,” his son said. After he graduated from high school, the director helped him land a deejay job at KQV in Pittsburgh.
He stayed in Pittsburgh for only a year before he moved to Los Angeles.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.