Police in Cleveland Ohio, now home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, decided today in 1956 to start enforcing a law on the books since 1931 that prohibited anyone under the age of 18 from dancing in public unless accompanied by an adult. They were, of course, targeting fans of this new “rock and roll” music, surely the work of the devil.
Entertainment tonight in 1966 at the Cavern Club in Liverpool England was not The Beatles, who had outgrown the place by this point, but a 16 year old blind multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from Detroit named Stevie Wonder.
Pink Floyd headed to Sound Techniques Studios in London’s Chelsea neighborhood today in 1967 to record several songs including Interstellar Overdrive, Candy And a Currant Bun (which had been changed by Roger Waters from “Roll Another One“), and what would be their first single, not included on the first album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn: Syd Barrett’s Arnold Layne usually ran 10 to 15 minutes when they played it live, but they shortened it to 3 minutes so it would get played on the radio. Arnold was apparently based in part on a real person, a transvestite who got his women’s clothing by stealing it from clotheslines. Roger later said, “Both my and Syd’s mothers had students as lodgers because there was a girl’s college up the road, so there were constantly great lines of bras and knickers on our washing lines, so ‘Arnold’ or whoever he was had bits off our washing lines”.
Steel Mill played it’s last show tonight in 1971 at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park New Jersey. The short-lived, mostly local band had managed to latch on to a few tours, going all the way to California opening for Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, Ike and Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, and Black Sabbath. Steel Mill’s singer would go on to become a household name, and three of the other members would find work in his “E-Street Band“.
George Harrison became the first of The Beatles to have a number one hit since their breakup today in 1971 with a song he wrote in praise of the Hindu god Krishna, My Sweet Lord. It featured George’s often copied slide guitar sound, later called by a biographer as “musically as distinctive a signature as the Mark of Zorro.” Inspiration for the melody came from a 1967 gospel arrangement of an 18th century hymn, “Oh Happy Day“, but in 1976 an American court decided that George had “subconsciously plagiarized” the melody from The Chiffons 1963 hit He’s So Fine. George originally gave the song to his friend, keyboard player Billy Preston, who’s version came out on his Encouraging Words album two months prior.
The opening act for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band tonight in 1977, Patti Smith, fell of stage six songs into her set in Tampa, Florida, cracking vertebrae in her back and sidelining her for a year.
Chicago’s founder, guitarist Terry Kath was at a party in Los Angeles today in 1978 at the home of one of the band’s crew, hanging out in the kitchen in a quite inebriated state where they were examining some handguns. Terry took an unloaded .38 revolver, put it to his head and squeezed the trigger several times to the amusement of all. He then picked up a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and the host told him he should be careful with it. Kath removed the empty clip and said “don’t worry, it’s not loaded”, then reinserted it and repeated the “Russian Roulette” move. Semi-automatics can also hold a bullet in the firing chamber, and he was killed instantly at the way-too young age of 31. The Chicago Transit Authority, as a hard-rocking politically vocal horn band, had toured with Jimi Hendrix in their early days, and Hendrix had called Kath his favorite guitarist, but by this time Terry was increasingly unhappy with Chicago’s adult-soft-rock direction, and was working on a solo album. Bass player Peter Cetera later said that had he lived, Kath would have been the first to quit Chicago.
A blind pianist, singer, and songwriter who had moved to Seattle in the 1950’s to get as far away from his native Florida as possible, and cut his musical teeth playing Central district jazz clubs with his friend Quincy Jones, Ray Charles became one of the first inducted into the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today in 1986.
An unheard of band from Aberdeen were at Reciprocal Recording, a small studio on Leary Way in Ballard today in 1988, recording with Skin Yard guitarist Jack Endino, who was impressed enough to give a copy of the demo to his friends Bruce Pavitt and Jon Poneman, who were starting a fledgling record label named for a cassette-fanzine Pavitt had been putting out while at the Evergreen State College in Olympia. They gave a copy of the first single, a cover of Dutch band Shocking Blue’s Love Buzz, to occasional Sub Pop office employee Scott Vanderpool, who was also at DJ at UW-owned all volunteer radio station KCMU, and Nirvana’s domination of the world was underway.
Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and songwriter Allen Collins survived…barely…the 1977 plane crash that killed songwriting partners Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. He’d broken two vertebrae in his neck and severely damaged his right arm, which doctors recommended be amputated. Thankfully Collins’ father refused, and he eventually recovered well enough to play again. He was not so lucky when he crashed his car in 1986 though. His girlfriend was killed instantly, and he was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to use his hands or arms. Allen never played guitar on stage again, and the paralysis led to the pneumonia that eventually killed him at the age of 37 today in 1990.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band and Steel Mill keyboard player Danny Federici would be 63. He died of cancer at 58.
Doobie Brothers guitarist Pat Simmons is 63.
The Box Tops bass and keyboard player Bill Cunningham is 63.
Cheap Trick’s lead singer Robin Zander is 59.
Puyallup High School grad Nick Harmer is 37, bass player for a band formed at Western Washington University named for the song the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band played for John Lennon at a strip club in Magical Mystery Tour: Death Cab For Cutie.