Like counter-programming Inside Llewyn Davis against The Monkees...
September 5, 2018 8:45 PM   Subscribe

The Happeners was the most promising TV pilot of 1967 that never got the chance to be a series. Created by Plautus Productions (fresh from completing the final season of seminal courtroom drama The Defenders, The Happeners was a show about a trio of young folk singers (two guys, one gal just like Peter, Paul, & Mary) looking to make it big in Greenwich Village, where the show was filmed on location. The show got rave reviews from Variety before it even aired, but ABC refused to air the pilot after sponsors stayed away. The pilot aired once on syndicated station WPIX-TV and a copy still exists in The UCLA Film & Television Archive, but cannot be found online, although you can hear an audio soundtrack from the pilot episode on YouTube. That's weird enough, but what happened to the title trio, played by Craig Smith, Chris Ducey, and Suzannah Jordan, after the show got cancelled is when it really starts to get weird.

Suzannah Jordan would later perform under the names Sidonie Jordan and Sydney Foxx. At the age of 19, she'd become one of the first white women to go on tour with Ike & Tina Turner as an Ikette. Later, she would marry Peter Banks, the original guitarist of Yes, and form the progressive rock group Empire.

Just weeks before he successfully auditioned to be on The Happeners, Chris Ducey recorded an album, Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest, for the budget label Surrey Records, but after getting his TV gig, ABC-TV wanted Ducey to record exclusively for their label, ABC Records. ABC legally squelched Surrey from releasing Ducey's songs, but Surrey had already printed up covers for the album. Surrey outmaneuvered ABC by modifying the letter "D" in Ducey on the cover to read Chris Lucey, and then hired another folk musician, Bobby Jameson, to release songs as the fictional Chris Lucey. Since the covers had already been printed up with Ducey's original song titles, Surrey told Bobby Jameson to write new songs, but with the exact same song titles that Ducey used! (Bobby Jameson died in 2015, but before he did, he wrote his own epic autobiography as a 305-part series of blog posts on his namesake blog.)

Craig Smith started his musical career as a member of The Good Time Singers, a squeaky clean folk music ensemble who were regulars on the Andy Williams Show. (Fortunately, the only clip of them on YouTube prominently features Smith bantering with Andy Williams.) After winning the role on The Happeners, Smith discovered his voice harmonized perfectly with his co-star Chris Ducey. So after The Happeners was cancelled, Smith and Ducey formed the duo, Chris and Craig. Eventually, Chris and Craig adds on additional musicians, morphing into the band Penny Arkade, who later get discovered by Mike Nesmith, who's looking for street cred and opportunities to branch out as a producer after starring on The Monkees. Penny Arkade records at least a whole album's worth of material, but the album never gets released, due to bad timing related to the cancellation of The Monkees TV show and Mike Nesmith's problems owing back taxes.

Thus, after Penny Arkade breaks up, Smith decides he'll go India, in emulation of the Beatles' trip to see the Maharishi Maheshi Yogi. Smith takes the hippie trail to India, through Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, ingesting massive quantities of LSD and easily available local hashish on the way. Unfortunately, Smith likely had an undiagnosed mental issues that were exacerbated drug use. While in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Smith gets paranoid and takes out a knife against a vendor at a street bazaar. The vendor's friends beat up Smith, leave him for dead, and urinate on him. Due to the bad drug reactions and the concussions from the attack, Smith has a schizophrenic break with reality. After returning to the United States, Smith announces that he is a messianic figure named Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, later self-releasing the albums Apache and Inca, which combine Penny Arkade outtakes with more recent demos to create a mesmerizing work of psychedelic outsider art.

Craig Smith, Chris Ducey, and Suzanna Jordan would all write songs for musicians more famous than they ever were.

Craig Smith

Andy Williams, Christmas Holiday
Andy Williams, Holly
The Good Time Singers, I Care Babe
The Robbs, Rapid Transit
The Monkees, Salesman
Glen Campbell, Country Girl
Chris and Craig, I Need You
Penny Arkade, Voodoo Spell
Heather MacRae, Hands of the Clock
Maitreya Kali, Sam Pan Boat

Chris Ducey

Chris and Craig, Isha
The Groop, The Jet Song (When The Weekend's Over)
Design, The Jet Song
Prairie Madness, Say It Again I Love You
El Chicano, Make It All Go

Suzanna Jordan

Jim Ford, Changin' Colors
Sidonie Jordan, Something About You
Crazy Horse, Rock and Roll Band
Empire, More Than Words
Sidonie Jordan, Pete Townshend, and Peter Banks, All God's Mornings
posted by jonp72 (16 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Haha! Great!
posted by bird internet at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2018

If this wasn't a TV show back then, how could it not be one now?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by mwhybark at 11:42 PM on September 5, 2018

Wow, I don't even know what to think about what became of Craig. For a long time, I thought "Salesman", a song I really like, was a Nesmith tune. And if you told me Craig was somehow related to Mickey Dolenz, I'd believe it; there's something weirdly similar about their looks.

And it's a shame about the show. It's too bad we can't see it. I think it'd've been a great tie-in somehow with Inside Llewyn Davis on Sundance Channel, or something. Alas.
posted by droplet at 12:41 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

To be fair, 1967 is also the year that The Monkees went on tour and Jimi Hendrix was the opening band for a several shows. And Sgt. Peppers, and Summer Of Love and establishment of the CPB and The Graduate and also a lot of political stuff that was a lot less chaotic than today overall. It was a different time.
posted by hippybear at 2:33 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's more or less what I came here to mention. Folk revival trios took off in the late-50s and kind of peaked as an early-60s phenomenon. Folk was still very popular through the 70s though by the late 60s, solo singer-songwriters influenced by Dylan and The Beats who were focused on their own material were becoming more popular than squeaky-clean groups like The Weavers harmonizing over old songs.

It would be kind of like trying to launch a TV series in 2018 about an emo band who solves crimes.
posted by ardgedee at 3:03 AM on September 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Folk was still very popular through the 70s though by the late 60s, solo singer-songwriters influenced by Dylan and The Beats who were focused on their own material were becoming more popular

I think the crossover point between these was probably The Troubador in LA, and its effect on who got recording contracts.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 AM on September 6, 2018

Sounds like the music industry.
posted by spitbull at 4:58 AM on September 6, 2018

It would be kind of like trying to launch a TV series in 2018 about an emo band who solves crimes.

I mean, I'll watch the fuck outta that, too.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:00 AM on September 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

Ask MetFilter: an emo band who solves crimes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:31 AM on September 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

The crime solving emo band Lavender Day struggles to find a studio to cut their newest hit single when a groupie is found brutally murdered in a locked room at Blood Thirsty Studios. They are deeply upset but rally together to discover if it's the ruthless executive or the psycho roadie. The truth comes out in the lyrics of the next hit record.
posted by sammyo at 6:06 AM on September 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

I did not know about The Happeners until this post, but Chris Ducey's 1975 album Duce of Hearts has been in my collection since I found it in a cut-out bin around 1978 or so. It's pretty good for a record that cost 50 cents! Sort of pop-folk-rock, with what to my ear sounds like a bit of a Van Morrison influence in places. Here's the title track.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 6:33 AM on September 6, 2018

As a hobbyist musician/performer, I don't know what to think about somebody who blows out his mind on LSD, goes full-on schizophrenic, gets stomped and left for dead, and STILL has it together enough to create and release two albums of material.

In my defense though, there's a lot of solid binge TV now.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Library of Congress is supposed to have the film but it hasn’t been digitized (i.e, not yet available for viewing). Yet.
posted by datawrangler at 9:15 AM on September 6, 2018

Holy WTF, what a great story.
posted by freakazoid at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2018

Empire, More Than Words

So Extreme's song of this name is not a cover? How disappointing!
posted by billsaysthis at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2018

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