By Steve Palec Special to OnMilwaukee Published Feb 02, 2019 at 6:01 PM

This Sunday will mark the 48th Super Bowl without the Green Bay Packers.

It’s still a great day with food, football, friends, beverages, good commercials and a halftime musical extravaganza. There is some controversy this year with Maroon 5 not eliciting the cache some expect – but hey, not every Super Bowl halftime extravaganza has been extravagant.

So, here’s my ranking of all the shows. And yes, it is very subjective, so spare me the red flag, OK?

46. XVII: The L.A. Super Drill Team

I’ll reserve judgement until I see the video.

45. XIII: Ken Hamilton’s "Salute to Caribbean"

Nothing against Ken, but Philadelphia Eagles safety Patrick Chung was born in Jamaica, where his mother Sophia George was famous for singing "Girlie Girlie," a reggae hit. I’d have gone with Sophia.

44. III, V, VII and XVIII: Various marching bands

And nothing against marching bands … but not much thought went into these halftime shows except that Super Bowl XVIII had an introduction by Phyllis George, who was actually an excellent sportscaster.

43. X, XVI and XX: Up With People

Nothing against people, but the Super Bowl needed to up their image.

42. XXIX: Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass and Tony Bennett

So, of course, why not add a bizarre sketch about Indiana Jones?

41. XV: "Mardi Gras Festival"

Helen O'Connell was the quintessential big band singer of the 1940s. Not exactly the big bang. Plus, the previous year was already ...

40. XIV: "Salute to the Big Band Era"

This time, with more Up with People!

39. XI: "It’s A Small World"

Hard pass.

38. XXV: New Kids on the Block

May have been more tolerable had they not done "It’s A Small World." Again.

37. XXI: George Burns and Mickey Rooney

Possibly the inspiration for AARP.

36. IX: Mercer Ellington

Who, you say? Obviously, Duke Ellington’s son. (It was a tribute to Sir Duke.)

35. XXVIII: "Rockin' Country Sunday"

It’s hard to believe that, with the popularity of country music, the genre doesn’t get a lot of attention at halftime. Not here, as Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and The Judds fought for attention with special guest Joe Namath.

34. VI: "Salute to Louis Armstrong"

Ella Fitzgerald, Al Hirt and Carol Channing all performed. With Topo Gigio in the wings?

33. XXII: Chubby Checker with The Rockettes

Bizarre as that combination is, at least it opened the door to some rock and roll.

32. XXXIII: Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder

And Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. So yeah, just more random talent thrown together.

31. XIX: "World of Children's Dreams"

While Janet and Justin worked blue in 2004, this halftime show featured Tops in Blue, an Air Force musical ensemble. No criticism here.

30. XXIII: "1950s Rock and Roll"

Including Elvis Presto performing a magic trick – televised in 3-D. How do you beat that?!

29. VIII: "A Musical America"

The University of Texas marching band with Miss Texas 1973 on fiddle. Awesome.

28. XLIV: The Who

Following McCartney, the Stones, Prince, Petty and Bruce, you can’t go wrong with The Who. Unless they didn’t feel like playing well.

27. XII: "From Paris to Paris of America"

Featuring Pete Fountain and, making his 4th appearance, Al Hirt, the Tom Brady of trumpet.

26. IV: Tribute to Mardi Gras

Somebody finally realized there was no law that required only marching bands. So they jazzed it up with Doc Severinsen, more Al Hirt and Lionel Hampton.

25. XXXVII: Shania Train, No Doubt and Sting

Like a special teams coach having to improvise with whoever they have, Super Bowl XXXVII had three different but still great artists to work with. 

24. LII: Justin Timberlake

Hard to believe he made it back after "accidently" disrobing Ms. Jackson. The NFL don't like no nasty car, don't like a nasty food, huh. The only nasty thing they like is the nasty groove. This was also memorable for the appearance by the late Prince via hologram ... projection ... thing.

23. II: Grambling State University marching band

And the 2-0 Green Bay Packers.

22. 50: Coldplay

And Beyoncé. And Bruno Mars. And oops, sorry we’re out of time …

21. XXXII: "Salute to Motown"

This was the Super Bowl I actually made it to. A tough Packers loss in San Diego. I don’t remember much else – even the Motown tribute at halftime featuring Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and more.

20. XL: The Rolling Stones

True legends and still the greatest rock and roll band in the world, ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones. They only slip this far down because they allowed the NFL to dial down Mick Jagger’s microphone during some questionable lyrics.

19. XXVI: Gloria Estefan

More memorable for the year FOX aired a live version of "In Living Color," causing the NFL to up its game.

18. XXX: Diana Ross


17. XLVI: Madonna

The reviews were mixed. I was disappointed that CeeLo Green, who also appeared, didn’t get to do his 2010 hit, "Forget You."

16. XXXIV and XXXV: "Tapestry of Nations" and "The Kings of Rock and Pop"

The former had Phil Collins and Christina Aguilera. The later had Aerosmith and Britney Spears. On Nov. 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right – but he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return.

Now can the aforementioned musical odd couples share a stage without driving each other crazy?

15. XLV: Black Eyed Peas

Yes, Usher and Slash were there for variety, but the Black Eyed Peas have a great catalog of songs all on their own. And ultimately, it’s the songs. And seeing Fergie try to replicate them live was enjoyable.

14. XLIX: Katy Perry

AND Lenny Kravitz. But this is when I knew my buddy Jessob Reisbeck – now with WJLA-TV in Washington DC – was destined for marriage. Watching at a party at my house, he was more enamored with the Arizona State Sun Devil marching band than Perry’s shocking encounter with Left Shark.

13. XXIV: "Salute to New Orleans"

Halftime shows were still mostly dominated by marching bands when New Orleans went all New Orleans on us with Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas and Pete Fountain. Excellent.

12. XLVIII: Bruno Mars

For those starting to doubt the music industry's ability to find mega-names, it is best to turn to a true performer. Bruno Mars was captivating. Throw in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and ... um, well, that made little sense. But still it was true entertainment.

11. XXXI: "Blues Brothers Bash"

This had James Brown, ZZ Top, something resembling The Blues Brothers and, best of all, YOUR Green Bay Packers.

10. XLVII: Beyoncé

Even had she not reunited with Destiny’s Child for this memorable show, it was still spectacular.

9. XLII: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I don’t know anyone that didn’t enjoy the late great Tom Petty.

8. LI: Lady Gaga

Just when the shows were getting a little too commercial and contrived, they had the foresight to let Jack Maine’s future wife be herself.

7. XXVII: Michael Jackson

He wanted to do one song. He was talked out of it. He wasn’t always right – but man was he special.

6. XLI: Prince

Priiiiiiince! (All that needs to be said.)

5. XLIII: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Bruuuuuuuuuce! (Again, all that needs to be said.)

4. I: The Three Stooges

They had no idea how big all of this would become. They had two marching bands and added Al Hirt. But here’s the part most people forget: They also had The Three Stooges! And Larry Fine got fined by CBS for giving the finger! That’s entertainment.

3. XXXIX: Paul McCartney

Got to credit the NFL for going safe but NOT crawling under a shell after the debacle of the year before. A phenomenal icon who still is a phenomenal performer.

2. XXXVI: U2

Not only a compelling remembrance of 9/11, but they weren’t goofing around with melodies, performing just three whole songs.

1. XXXVIII: Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson

And Jessica Simpson and P. Diddy and Kid Rock and Nelly. But nobody remembers that. I was in the kitchen at halftime and heard a blood-curdling "GET IN HERE" from those watching in my living room as Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson. That moment of great, world-stopping entertainment was offset over the next couple years by the FCC cracking down on any questionable broadcast – including a lot of songs I still think twice about playing on the air.

Steve Palec Special to OnMilwaukee
Steve Palec, the host of WKLH's "Rock and Roll Roots" wrote a letter to every radio station in town when he was a sophomore in high school. He offered to sweep floors.

Two responses came back, including one janitor position. Steve took the other: the opportunity to hang out at WUWM.

After that, he worked at WAUK, then WQFM, then WZUU, then back to WQFM ... and finally worked afternoons at WKLH for a little while.

"I gave up Eddie Money to earn money in 1986," says Steve, who eventually entered the world of commercial real estate.

"But 23 years ago WKLH offered me the chance to wake up early every Sunday morning," he says. "I mean every Sunday morning. I mean like 5:30 am. I mean no matter what I did on Saturday night. Live every Sunday morning. I love it."