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The History of Super Bowl Half-time Shows

Holy Mary Mother of God, where has the time gone? Well I have just had a boatload of things going on in my life, lots of writing projects and the big time-sucker was buying a house. I’ve been working on the house like crazy, and well I’m in love with my little house.

However, this past weekend I had a wicked horrible virus and was trapped in the house and was forced to view the Super Bowl from my couch as I was prisoner of other’s viewing pleasure. But as a pop culture aficionado, I like to tune in anyway just to catch a glimpse of the Busby Berkeley spectacle that is called the half-time show, just so I know what others are talking about at the proverbial water cooler.

This year was God-awful. Not a huge Katy Perry fan, just think she’s over-exposed, and not just her breasts. Hiyo! I’m just sick of hearing her very purposefully crafted pop songs everywhere and seeing her “Look at me, I’m so cutesie and quirky with big cans”. I don’t hate her, I’m just tired of her. Ya’ know like Taylor Swift. Anyway, the performance was so blatantly G rated,it looked like Disney and Nickelodeon had a baby and it was so sterile you could eat off it. Way over produced and choreographed. Just not my thing. It was like a modern day version of Up With People. However, Missy Elliott kicked ass. I wish she was the main performer. Although it was a bit of a non-sequitor, did they just like draw names out of a hat to see who would perform? “Let’s see who no one has seen in a while and will be so dumbfounded they won’t care about Katy Perry’s ugly outfits?”

But this got me to thinking, when did all this schlocky half-time nonsense start? Well, there is a definite, very specific turn of events that brought on the schlock but we have precursors and foreshadowing. Allow me to demonstrate…

According to Wikipedia, Super Bowl I in 1967 half-time performers included: University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band (always a kick ass show), Al Hirt (trumpet dude), and the Arcadia High School Drill Team and Flag Girls. What an extravaganza! And go figure, their setlist featured John Phillip Souza’s “The Liberty Bell March”, better known as the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Take note of AM radio favorite at the time Al Hirt as a sign of things to come. (cue ominous music)

College marching bands were the regular fare until 1970, when another pop culture figure was slipped into the show. They brought in a shocker with that rabble-rouser Carol Channing! Edgy, edgy, edgy. No doubt she sang that tribute to devil worship, “Hello Dolly!”


The 1970’s stayed pretty constant with marching bands, the annoying Stepford Children’s chorus that was “Up With People”, and the occasional broadway or AM radio star – Andy Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, more Carol Channing, more Up With People. Not much change.


The 1980’s was pretty much more of the same – marching bands, Up With You Know Who, Disney produced crap, Mickey Rooney, George Burns… and then I think somebody got bored around 1987. They tried to get edgy again with Chubby Checker and the Rockettes. Nothing says hip like featuring a performer who’s last hit was 25 years earlier. Then in 1989 they featured the shenanigans of something or someone called Elvis Presto and some 3-D card tricks. WTF? Too much cocaine that year, apparently.

1990 was a tried and true marching band perhaps due to a prestidigitation fail from the previous year. But 1991… 1991 was the culprit. 1991 was the year it all went to hell. The sons of bitches at Disney go and bring in New Kids on the Block. There went the bar. That bar was set higher than the Empire State Building and producers have been chasing it ever since… and I hate them for that. I completely missed the half-time show that year because I was travelling from one party to another since my beloved hometown boys the Buffalo Bills were in the game, everyone was having a party. Don’t get me started on that heartbreaker against the Giants. I’m verklempt.

Anyway, that was it. Game over. The following is a list of the crap left in the half-time wake…

1992 – Gloria Estefan

1993 – Michael Jackson

1994 – Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, The Judds, Travis Tritt

1995 – (a mish mash that seemed to have strayed) Patti LaBelle, Indiana Jones & Marion Ravenwood, Tony Bennett, Teddy Pendergrass, Arturo Sandoval and Miami Sound Machine. Tha hell?

1996 – Diana Ross

1997 – Blues Brothers (sans a dead John Belushi), ZZ Top, James Brown

1998 –  Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah, and just for old time’s sake Grambling State University Band.

1999 – Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover (these last 2 years sound entertaining)

You can find the rest of the list here. I’m sure you all have vague memories of the past 15 years. It was basically whoever was on top of the charts – Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Phil Collins, Janet Jackson, No Doubt, Sting, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, etc.

Thankfully, the had the decorum to use the half-time show in January of 2002 to pay tribute to the victims of 9/11 that had just taken place 4 months before. However, they used U2 as the performer to deliver the goods. Eh, I guess when you want somber and self-righteous you bring Bono in.

So, I guess we have 1991 and Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie and Danny to thank. (seriously I had to look that up, they were a little passed my time, although I do like Donnie now, thanks to Wahlburgers on A&E) . Actually I blame Disney, they produced the show that year. I pretty much blame them for everything evil in our society. It will be interesting to see what’s in the years to come, with each year trying to top the last. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for Jesus, Gandhi, Elvis, and Mr. Bojangles to appear as the half-time super group? Oh trust me, with holograms it will happen in my lifetime.

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