Larry Parnes was considered England’s first real rock manager, a flamboyantly gay former London dress shop proprieter who hand picked, renamed, and groomed handsome young men to be pop crooners in the late 50’s and early 60’s. His roster of singers included Billy Fury (Real name Ron Waycherly), Vince Eager, (Roy Taylor), Dickie Pride (I’ll bet!) (Richard Kneller), Lance Fortune (Chris Morris), Georgie Fame (Clive Powell), and Johnny Gentle (John Askew). He also promoted early rock and roll shows, including the ill-fated tour of American rockabilly stars Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran that ended in a car crash that killed Cochran and messed Vincent up for the rest of his short life. He became quite wealthy, owning racehorses, country mansions, and a London penthouse where he threw lavish parties, but he could have been a lot richer had he been more impressed today in 1960 when he auditioned The Silver Beetles as a backing band for Billy Fury. He decided to send the group (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stu Suttcliffe, and Tommy Moore) who had just changed their name from The Beatals, on a short tour of Scotland backing Johnny Gentle instead. Johnny loved them and suggested Parnes manage them, but he passed. They changed their name again, of course to The Beatles, and as they conquered the world, made Parnes style passé. He went on to produce plays and died of mennegitis at 59.
The Rolling Stones were at Olympic Studios in London today in 1963, recording their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Come On. Their manager Andrew Oldham picked it, but they didn’t like it and refused to play it live. Decca records promoted it weakly, buying one small ad in one small music magazine, but by then they had a fan club going, and Oldham knew which record stores to send them to, and it made it on the charts, barely. They would do much better with their second single I Wanna Be Your Man, famously given to them by Lennon and McCartney.
By 1965 The Stones were the second most popular group of the British Invasion currently in progress, and while touring America on today of that year stopped at 2121 South Michigan Ave. in Chicago, thrilled to be able to record the song Mick and Keith had just written, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, at the Chess Records studio where so many of the blues records they idolized had come from. Brian Jones played the riff Keith heard in his head as a horn section on harmonica, but they didn’t like it and two days later re-recorded it at RCA Studios in Hollywood using the Gibson Maestro fuzz box he’d used when he recorded his demo in a Miami hotel room a few weeks earlier.
By 1967 Andrew Oldham had cultivated their Bad Boy image a little too eagerly, and some conservative elements of the British press had set up Mick and Keith in the famous drug bust at Keith’s country estate Redlands, with Mick being found in possessions of Amphetamines (for which he had a foreign presciption) and Keith charged with allowing cannabis to be smoked at his residence. Both were in court today in that year, pleading not guilty and both were released on £100 bail, but they would also each spend a night in prison.
The Turtles played at the White House today in 1969, at the invitation of one of their fans, President Nixon’s daughter Tricia. At first they refused, but their management insisted: “You’re Americans. You get invited to play the White House, you do it.” Lead singer and now Seattle-area resident Howard Kaylan tells much more of the tale in his recent memoir Shell Shocked: My Life with The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, Frank Zappa, Etc., but long story short they were given Abraham Lincoln’s library to use as a dressing room, did lines of coke on his desk, and Kaylan says “…much to our relief, Tricky Dick was off on a foreign mission somewhere, killing our troops, and so he never made an appearance. I’ve always been thankful for that. I am absolutely positive, considering our states of mind that evening, that I—or some other equally messed-up Turtle—would have given him an earful of our contempt and probably would have ended up in Gitmo.”
Led Zeppelin were on tour in America today in 1969 when their debut album debuted at #6 on the British album charts. It would debut at #10 in America the following week, but the band was busy heading to Seattle, where they would utterly destroy the Green Lake Aqua Theater opening for Three Dog Night the next day. (See tomorrow’s post on that subject here)
One of America’s most successful all-female bands broke up today in 1985. The Go Go’s started in 1978, and toured and partied as relentlessly as any male band. A friend who was once a disc jockey at Western Washington University’s KUGS-FM said, “They got totally wasted and were all over me. One of them shoved her hand down my pants, I can’t remember which one, I was pretty wasted too. My girlfriend was pissed.” They went on to solo careers (singer Brenda Carlsile was big on MTV), but have re-formed several times.
Poet, illustrator, children’s book author, singer, and songwriter of hits including Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s Cover Of the Rolling Stone, Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack today in 1999.
The ornate red Victorian iron gates of the Strawberry Fields children’s home in Liverpool, which had inspired John Lennon to write one of rock’s psychedelic masterpieces, were removed today in 2011 by current owner The Salvation Army. Replaced by replicas for the tourists who still come by every day, they were taken to a secret location to be stored for later auction.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
New Orleans R&B singer Larry Williams would be 81. His songs Slow Down, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, and Bad Boy were famously covered by his fans The Beatles.
“The Scottish Bob Dylan” Donovan Leitch is 70.
Guitarist Dave Mason, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Traffic, is 69.
Spirit lead singer Jay Ferguson is also 69.
Reggae superstar drummer Sly Dunbar is 64.
The Sex Pistols almost-a-bass-player Sid Vicious (John Ritchie) would be 59. He, not Johnny Rotten, is the Pistol that is “gone but not forgotten”: He OD’ed on heroin at 21 before his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
U2 lead singer Bono Vox (Paul Hewson) is 56.