4 Die In Ohio, Zeppelin Charter The Starship, Metallica Go After Napster: This Day In Classic Rock [Videos]

Gene Vincent was at Owen Bradley’s recording studio in Nashville today in 1956 recording what would be his biggest hit, Be-Bop-A-Lula. He’d written it while recovering from a motorcycle accident at the U.S. navy hospital in Norfolk Virginia. The song would go to #1 on both sides of The Atlantic, The Beatles would cover it regularly in their sets in Hamburg, and John Lennon would include it on his Rock and Roll solo album, and it would be covered by Queen, Foghat, The Stray Cats, and Danny Bonaduce’s TV big brother David Cassidy to name but a few.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience were the featured guests on the BBC’s Top of the Pops tonight in 1967.

Today in 1970 was a Monday, and protests against the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon’s ordered excursion by the Army into Cambodia, and Nixon himself had been going on all weekend when some 2000 showed up today on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. There had been rocks, bottles, and tear gas all weekend, but the Ohio National Guard troops called out today to clear the campus escalated things further, fixing bayonets and eventually firing. 29 of the 77 Guardsmen, most he same age as the students, later claimed to have fired their weapons…A 67 round barrage lasting 13 seconds that killed 4 students, and wounded 9 others, one of whom was paralyzed for life. Two of the dead had been involved in the protest, the other two had been walking between classes. Though polls showed a  decreasing majority of Americans still supported the president and the war, the shootings would turn public opinion against it, and inspire Neil Young to write the best protest song ever. Three of the students there that day were later inspired by the power of Neil’s song to start their own bands. Chrissie Hynde would move to England and form The Pretenders, while Gerald Casale, who knew was good friends with two of the victims, later said “It was the day I stopped being a hippie”, and with classmates Bob Lewis and Mark Mothersbaugh began writing on the concept of de-evolution and called their band Devo.

Led Zeppelin were in Atlanta Georgia at the start of what would be the most lucrative rock and roll tour ever to date tonight in 1973. They’d crossed the vast distances of the North American continent by bus, but by 1972 manager Peter Grant had decided to hire an aircraft so they could stay in nicer hotels in bigger cities, most notably the Hyatt House in Hollywood where they had so much fun it became known as the “Riot House”, but after encountering severe turbulence on flight that scared the crap out of them Grant decided they needed a bigger plane, and they could certainly afford it. He rented “The Starship” from teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman, a Boeing 707 modified with creature comforts designed for hard partying, including a lounge,  the latest in electronic entertainment , a full bathroom with shower, and a white fur-lined bedroom that no doubt saw some serious action. The aircraft would be used by Deep Purple, Elton John, Bob Dylan and The Band, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, and finally Peter Frampton before it was retired and cut up for scrap in 1983.

Grand Funk Railroad hit #1 today in 1974 with a song Carole King and Gerry Goffin had originally written for Dee Dee Sharp in 1962, The Loco-Motion. Dee Dee’s version had gone nowhere, but a version by Little Eva had hit #1 that year, so when Grand Funk topped the charts it marked only the second time in history the same song had hit #1 by two different artists. Interesting the first time was the song Go Away Little Girl, also written by King-Goffin.

Blues harmonica player and singer Paul Butterfield died today in 1987 of drug-related heart failure at age 44. He was inducted along with his namesake band last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan played the Orpheum Theater in Vancouver BC tonight in 1989 at the start of a tour that would be his last. He would die in a helicopter crash in August of the following year, having played 107 of the scheduled 110 dates. He was also posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.

Courtney Love listed the house Denny Blaine house Kurt Cobain had bought when Nirvana hit it big today in 1997 for sale with an asking price of $3 Million. It was bought by a software executive, who immediately had the garage with the upstairs room where Kurt took his own life torn down, but the house sits right next to tiny Viretta Park, which continues to this day as a pilgrimage site for Nirvana fans.

Metallica started legal action against the on-line music sharing service Napster today in 2000, demanding that they immediately dump some 335,000 users they claimed had illegally downloaded their music. The lawsuit was joined a month later by rapper Dr. Dre, who used the same law firm, and though both artists settled out of court for undisclosed sums, the snowball effect as other artists jumped on led Napster to bankruptcy a year later.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy would be 93 if he’d made it past age 89.

The Troggs drummer Ronnie Bond would be 76 if he’d made it past age 52.

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