Fifty years ago, Sid Ordower stepped out on faith to pitch a gospel show featuring African American acts to television broadcasters. With civil rights conflicts at its height and race relations deteriorating fast, there was no reason to think he would succeed.
But with God on his side, Ordower succeeded beyond measure in creating ‘Jubilee Showcase,’ which featured many legendary Black artists of the 20th century.
The 30-minute program aired weekly on ABC’s Chicago affiliate, WLS, from 1963 to 1984, attracting millions of viewers in Illinois and Indiana. In fact, the show’s dramatic impact on the industry led to it receiving a national Emmy Award for a ‘Pioneering Project in Television.’
Footage from Ordower’s trailblazing program will be aired nationwide next month on the PBS network, including local stations KVCR on Sunday, December 1 at 1 p.m., and on KOCE on a date to be announced.
“This year is actually the 50th anniversary of ‘Jubilee Showcase.’ The show was created by my father, who felt strongly about crossing social and racial boundaries,” said Steve Ordower, a film and video producer based in Chicago.
“My understanding of the story is that he pitched it to WLS and they agreed to do fifteen shows. It was so popular, it ran for 21 years and my father was the author and producer of the show.”
The gospel performers that Sid Ordower booked for ‘Jubilee Showcase’ ranged from Albertina Walker to Jessy Dixon to The Five Blind Boys to Mavis Staples, who will all be featured on the 50th Anniversary broadcast. Also, viewers will witness performances by Pastor Shirley Caesar and the Rev. James Cleveland as members of the group, Inez Andrews and The Caravans.
“Gospel music is a very important part of both African American and the nation’s culture. The impact that gospel music has had on the modern musical landscape has been huge,” noted Steve, who also manages the ‘Jubilee Showcase’ archives.
“Mavis Staples had one of her albums produced by Prince and Andre Crouch collaborated with Michael Jackson on “Man in the Mirror.” Gospel music is infused with a lot of the music that we hear today,” he said.
Reflecting on his father’s courage in producing ‘Jubilee Showcase’ during a turbulent time in the nation, Steve recalled, “He could not stand racism and fascism, so he fought hard for civil rights and labor rights in this country. As Albertina Walker said in her interview, ‘He stood boldly for whatever what was going on.’”
His detailed cataloguing of the show’s 500 episodes further reveals Sid Ordower’s character. His meticulous work has allowed Steve to produce the upcoming anniversary program.
“I really hope people tune in and watch it, experience it and share it with people who understand the significance. I really hope that older and young people will watch this cultural treasure together and I hope it makes an impact,” said Steve.