Let the Good Times Roll (1973): Robert Abel and Sidney Levin’s Rockumentary-Concert Film

From Our Vaults:

Robert Abel and Sidney Levin directed Let the Good Times Roll a rockumentary-concert film, featuring numerous stars from the American pop and rock music scene of the 1950s.

Let the Good Times Roll
Let the Good Times Roll poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The film is based on footage of two concert from 1973, one at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and a second at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan, during the height of multi-artist tours known as the “Rock and Roll Revival.”

It is interspersed with footage of the singers from the 1950s and 1960s, including interviews with the singers.

The film ends with rare, and apparently impromptu, duet between Berry and Diddley, who had recorded t]before, but were not often filmed on stage together.

The film uses split screen to contrast the performers in the 1950s and those in the 1970s, as well as clips from 1950s-era films such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

Some critics pointed out there might have been unintentional social commentary, with the majority-white audience giving the black fist to the majority-African American performers, as if implying there are no black memories of the nineteen-fifties.

The film attempted to show “musical milestones” in the socio-political contexts of the times, and, like American Graffiti and Grease, it sets rock and roll as the soundtrack to the decade.

Let the Good Times Roll received its premiere in New York on May 25, 1973.

Its success bolstered Bo Diddley’s career, which at the time was stagnating.

The Bell Records label released 2-disc soundtrack album, with performances from the film, including versions of songs truncated in the film, such as Bill Haley’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

Omitted from the album, however, are Chuck Berry’s songs, due to his being under contract to Chess Records at the time (including his jam session with Bo Diddley), though Diddley’s other two performances are retained on the album.

Cast

Chuck Berry
Chubby Checker
The Coasters
Danny and the Juniors
Bo Diddley
Fats Domino
The Five Satins
Bill Haley and the Comets
Little Richard
The Shirelles

Credits:

Directed by Robert Abel, Sidney Levin
Produced by Charles W. Fries
Cinematography Robert C. Thomas
Edited by Bud Friedgen, Hyman Kaufman
Distributed by Columbia

Release date: May 25, 1973

Running time: 99 minutes
Box office $1,050,000 (US/ Canada rentals)