Musical entertainment touring group Up With People was founded in Tucson, AZ, in 1965 by one J. Blanton Belk in response to the growing number of protests and demonstrations spearheaded by the nation's youth. In its original incarnation, the nonprofit included a leadership curriculum and overseas study program in addition to a song-and-dance troupe that spotlighted the talents of performers aged 18-25. With its squeaky-clean image and wholesome, humanistic entertainment, Up With People proved popular at sporting events and other large gatherings -- they headlined no fewer than four Super Bowl halftime shows, most notably 1976's Super Bowl X, with their production "200 Years and Just a Baby: America's Bicentennial Tribute." At its peak, the group was earning 30 million dollars annually, with five different 150-member casts of performers simultaneously touring the globe; for the Pace label, Up With People also recorded a handful of LPs, among them Encore!, The Sing-Out Musical, and In Hollywood. The very banality of their music and showmanship also made Up With People ripe for parody: one episode of the animated television classic The Simpsons presented a thinly veiled takeoff troupe called "Hooray for Everything!" Despite changing tastes and attitudes, tours continued successfully well into the 1990s, but when Up With People ended the fiscal year 2000 3.2 million dollars in debt -- the product of a series of ill-conceived business decisions -- the company announced it was shutting down. In late 2002, chairman and CEO Jeff Hoag said the group was instead on extended hiatus, with plans to relaunch in 2004 -- although this time, Up With People was to be more about leadership and education, and less about music.
Share this page