Leonard Chess of Chicago’s Chess Records blues label signed guitarist Chuck Berry to a contract today in 1955 on the recommendation of Muddy Waters.
The Beatles played their last show open to the public in England tonight in 1966 at the NME Poll Winner’s Concert at the Empire Wembley Pool in London. Also on the bill were The Rolling Stones, The Spencer Davis Group, The Who, The Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richard, The Small Faces, The Walker Brothers, and Dusty Springfield. The Fab Four would head out on tour in June: 3 shows in Germany, 3 in Japan, one in Manila, and 14 dates in North America, with the third-from-last at the Seattle Center Coliseum. They had already soured on playing live, struggling to be heard over the screaming girls, even though the Vox company had built special 100 Watt amplifiers much louder than their standard AC30 (The classic Beatle amplifier, still highly sought by guitarists today), but where John Lennon’s quip in March that “the Beatles were more popular than Jesus” had gone virtually unnoticed at home in England, it raised the hackles of American religious conservatives, and by the middle of the summer they were genuinely fearing for their lives, and would not play live again until the Apple building rooftop “concert” in 1969.
A 32 year old Elvis Presley married 21 year old Priscilla Beaulieu today in 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. Elvis had met her in Germany in 1959 while he was in the Army. She was just 14 at the time, but looked much older. Her parents let him see her with a chaperone, and manager Colonel Tom Parker was all too aware of what marrying an underage girl had done to the career of Jerry Lee Lewis, but Elvis convinced them to let her move into Graceland in 1963. During this time he had affairs with his Viva Las Vegas co-star Ann Margaret (and the leading ladies in all of his movies except one: Mary Tyler Moore later said “What was I thinking? I could have slept with Elvis!”), and the two divorced in 1973.
The Beach Boys lead guitarist Carl Wilson was arrested by the F.B.I. today in 1967 for avoiding the military draft and refusing to take the “oath of allegiance”. He was eventually given “conscientious objector” status, and joined the band on tour in Ireland.
Bachman Turner Overdrive released their first album today in 1973. The band from Winnipeg, Manitoba was led by former Guess Who guitarist Randy Bachman, who at the urging of disc-jockey and Concerts West owner Pat O’Day, decided to record the album here in Seattle at Kaye/Smith studios.
In an effort to improve his stodgy image, about the most non-threatening rock band in America at the time The Carpenters, played at the White House tonight in 1973 at the invitation of President Nixon for a State Dinner for West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
The Rolling Stones were in New York City today in 1975, announcing their upcoming U.S. tour with a publicity stunt, playing Brown Sugar from the bed of a flatbed truck driving down 5th Avenue. Drummer Charlie Watts had got the idea from New Orleans jazz musicians who advertised their evening shows with daytime parades.
Led Zeppelin were at number one on the U.S. album charts with their 7th studio album Presence today in 1976. It was Zep’s 5th #1 album.
Elton John became the first western rocker to play in Israel tonight in 1979. Three weeks later he would also become the first rock and roll dirtbag to play in Soviet Russia.
The South African government banned Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall single today in 1980 after black school children had adopted the song as an anthem in protest of the inferior education they got compared to white kids.
Despite selling millions of records and making mountains of money touring, Fleetwood Mac’s drummer Mick Fleetwood filed for bankruptcy today in 1984. He later admitted that most of his money had gone “up his nose”.
Courtney Love put the Denny-Blaine mansion near Lake Washington where she and Kurt Cobain had lived up for sale today in 1997, with an asking price of $3 million. It sold quickly to a software millionaire, who immediately remodeled the house and tore down the garage with greenhouse room above where Kurt had committed suicide in 1994.
An exhibit of some 70 paintings by former Beatle Paul McCartney opened at a gallery in Siegen, Germany today in 1999. One of the works is titled “Bowie Spewing“, a representation of a young David Bowie.
Neil Young was sued by a writer today in 2000, who was seeking $1.8 million in Los Angeles County Superior Court claiming that Neil had reneged on an agreement to write a biography about him.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
The patron saint of harmonica players, and the only person inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2008 as a “sideman”) solely for playing that instrument, bluesman Little Walter (real name Marion Walter Jacobs) would be 83. He died at 37, but not before becoming the first ever to play his harp through an amplifier, creating a distorted and “grungy” sound.