Bo Diddley played CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show tonight in 1955. Producers asked him to play a song they’d heard him singing in the dressing room, the Merle Travis number Sixteen Tons, which was a hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford. But when the curtain came up, Bo sang his own song Bo Diddley. He recalled later, “Ed Sullivan said I was one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him. Said I wouldn’t last six months”, but Bo maintained that when he came out the cue card said “Bo Diddley” at the top, and he thought they wanted him to play both songs. He was never invited on the show again.
Bill Haley and his Comets went to #1 in England today in 1955 with their version of the Max Freedman and James Myers song Rock Around The Clock. It wasn’t the first rock and roll record by a long shot, and Bill Haley had already had hits in America with Shake Rattle and Roll and Crazy Man, Crazy, but Rock Around the Clock, which was used in the opening credits to the movie Blackboard Jungle, is widely considered the first rock and roll record to enter mainstream culture, and there were some kids in Liverpool and East London paying very close attention.
Bob Dylan started in recording his first album at Columbia Records studio in New York City today in 1961.
The number one hit on the U.S. singles chart today in 1967 was Incense and Peppermints by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, but unlike a lot of their psychedelic counterparts, the L.A. band was largely considered “bubblegum pop”. It was their only hit, their popularity declined and they went through several lineup changes, and by 1971 they were headlining a tour that hardly anyone came to see, but the opening act was a new “southern rock” band from Florida called Lynyrd Skynyrd, who liked Strawberry Alarm Clock’s original lead guitarist Ed King so much they asked him to join.
Having already been shown to a test audience in Hollywood, edited down to 86 minutes from it’s previous 110, and premiered to an audience of rock stars and critics in New York, The Monkees only feature-length film Head premiered in Hollywood tonight in 1968. Straying from the teenybopper audience of their TV show, the “psychedelic adventure comedy musical” was written by Director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson, and flopped mightily at the box office after reviews like this one from The New York Times: “It might be a film to see if you have been smoking grass, or if you like to scream at The Monkees, or if you are interested in what interests drifting heads and hysterical high-school girls.”
The Who were at The Cow Palace in San Francisco tonight in 1974 on the opening night of their Quadrophenia tour. They played three earlier songs before launching into 11 from Quadrophenia’s 17 which they managed with no problem and continued into some of their other hits, but drummer Keith Moon appeared to be having trouble during Won’t Get Fooled Again, then slumped over his drum kit, completely passed out. The house lights went up as roadies came on stage and carried him off, took him backstage, put him in a cold shower, and gave him an injection of cortisone. He came out after a 30 minute delay, and managed the wood-block part at the beginning of Magic Bus, but when he started to play drums he passed out again. Keith had managed to get some horse tranquilizers, which he washed down with prodigious amounts of brandy, and it became apparent that he wouldn’t be returning that night. After the other three managed to get through a drumless rendition of See Me, Feel Me from Tommy, Pete Townsend asked the audience, “Can anybody play the drums? I mean somebody good?” Near the front of the crowd was 19-year-old Scot Halpin, recently moved to the Bay Area from Iowa, who with his friend Mike Danese had waited some 13 hours to get near the front. Mike began shouting “He can play!” pointing to Scot, which caught the attention of promoter Bill Graham, who shouted “Can you do it?”, and Halpin said “yeah”. He was brought on stage, given a shot of brandy, and led to Moon’s drum kit. Halpin was no Keith Moon, but managed to keep a steady beat through a blues-jam that started with Smokestack Lightning and morphed into Spoonful, but when they got to The Who’s Naked Eye, Halpin started to feel a bit winded, later expressing admiration for the band’s stamina: “I only played three numbers, and I was dead!” He got to take the obligatory end-of-show bow with the band, then he and Danese were taken backstage and given tour jackets. Halpin said his was stolen later that evening, but Rolling Stone magazine named him the “pick up player of the year”. Halpin went on to play in several bands, and he and his wife managed a punk rock nightclub, but he died in 2008 of a brain tumor.
The Who kicked off another U.S. tour tonight in 1975 in Houston Texas, and drummer Keith Moon did not pass out, but at a party after the show he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, and spent the night in jail.
Paul Simon was the host and musical guest on NBC’s Saturday Night Live tonight in 1976. He was joined by his friend George Harrison for a version of Here Comes The Sun. Paul McCartney was visiting John Lennon at The Dakota apartments, and the two watched the show on TV.
The Rolling Stones announced today in 1991 that they’d inked a new record deal with Richard Branson’s Virgin Records for £20 million that required them to make three albums over the next 6 years.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
One-hit-wonder Norman Greenbaum is 71 and living quietly in Santa Rosa California.
The Allman Brothers Band and Derek and the Dominoes guitarist Duane Allman would be 67. He was killed in a motorcycle accident at age 24.
The James Gang, The Eagles, and solo guitarist Joe Walsh is 66.