For the first time in almost three decades, fans of “Jubilee Showcase,” a groundbreaking gospel music television program that aired from 1963 to 1984 on WLS Channel 7 in Chicago, will be able to see highlights of the venerable show as it celebrates its 50th anniversary during a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Pledge special. Veteran entertainer Clifton Davis (star of the vintage TV sitcoms “Amen” and “That’s My Mama” and composer of “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Jackson 5) will host the pledge break program on WTTW, the Chicago PBS affiliate, on October 10, 2013 at 9 P.M. CST. The special will also air nationally on PBS stations throughout the United States beginning in December 2013.
“First of all, I love gospel music,” Davis says of his decision to host the program. “I love historic gospel music. Every time we review this on television, a new generation has a chance to be introduced to something that inspired us back then.”
The hour-long broadcast will present historic footage of The Staple Singers, The Soul Stirrers and The Caravans, among others, from the television show that opened each Sunday morning with this announcement: “Hello, I’m Sid Ordower and welcome to ‘Jubilee Showcase,’ the program presenting songs truly American: gospel, spiritual and jubilee songs – the great inspirational music of the past and present.” Golden Age of Gospel star, Dorothy Norwood, who was once a member of The Caravans and appeared on the program during its twenty year run, will make a cameo during the pledge break to reflect on the show and its cultural significance at the time.
An Army captain with a double Purple Heart who fought in the Battle of Normandy during World War II, Sid Ordower launched “Jubilee Showcase” in 1963 from an auto dealership on 47th Street. As a white man active in the civil rights movement, Ordower became acquainted with gospel music because so many political activities took place in churches where he came in contact with gospel performers. He became a fan of the genre and created the television show as a mainstream showcase for the artists.
At its height, “Jubilee Showcase” boasted over 250,000 weekly viewers and presented some of the biggest names in gospel. “I always used to pride myself on getting the best soloists, the greatest groups, the finest accompanists in gospel,” Ordower told the Chicago Tribune in 1992. “The idea was to get variety. We didn’t want to feature just quartets or just soloists. We wanted everything that was out there, so long as it was the best.” Many Chicagoans fondly remember watching Jubilee Showcase on Sunday mornings as “church before church.” Log on at http://www.jubileeshowcase.com for news and updates.