“Little” Richard Penniman was in new Orleans recording studio today in 1955 with Fats Domino’s backing band and things weren’t going well. Penniman had been performing and recording for four years, but had never captured his live act in the studio or scored any kind of hit, but when producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell called a lunch break they all headed for a bar that happened to have a piano. After the meal and a few drinks he loosened up and started banging out a suggestive little song that started out with some nonsense words and then lyrics about back-door sex. Blackwell knew he had a hit, and they went back and recorded it…without the naughty bits. Tutti Frutti, which means “all fruits” in Italian, was picked by the great British music magazine Mojo #1 on it’s list of 100 Records That Changed The World, #43 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in 2010 made the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
The Beatles were deeply involved in day three of filming their Magical Mystery Tour TV special today in 1967, or at least they were trying. They were looking for a quiet, secluded field to shoot a scene in, but by this time they were causing Seattle-worthy traffic jams wherever they went, and had to call police for crowd control.
While he was on tour in Britain today in 1968, Roy Orbison’s Nashville house burned to the ground, killing his two eldest sons.
The comic book The Archies became a TV cartoon today in 1968. Like most Saturday morning fare of the era, the Riverdale High School friends played together in a rock band, leading millions of American kids to start bands when they got a little older. Music for the show was coordinated by producer Don Kirshner, who’d been forced out of his job as the hugely successful musical director for The Monkees, by the “band” members who wanted creative control. The song Sugar Sugar would become a huge hit the following year, the biggest hit ever for a cartoon non-band. Kirshner was one of music’s biggest moguls, but television wanted more, and ABC got him to produce Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in ’72.
Jamaican Reggae music was already big in England , but few Americans were familiar with it when Eric Clapton went to #1 in the U.S. with a cover of Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff today in 1974.
The movie based on the 1973 Who album Quadrophenia premiered at the Toronto Film Festival today in 1979, starring Phil Daniels as mod-protagonist Jimmy Cooper, the lovely Leslie Ash as the object of his affection Steph, and The Police’s bass-playing frontman Sting as uber-mod Ace Face. Other than a clip of them performing Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere on Brit TV show Ready Steady Go! The Who do not appear in the film, but shooting was almost cancelled when Keith Moon died in 1978.
While his hit Copperhead Road was about a rural southern man growing weed much the same as his father made moonshine, guitarist and songwriter Steve Earle was sentenced to one year in prison for possession of crack cocaine today in 1994.
Paul McCartney’s hand-written lyrics to the Beatles song Getting Better sold at a Southeby’s auction for almost a quarter-million dollars today in 1995. Beatles songs do well like that.
The English are big on historical landmarks, and it was today in 1997 that over 2000 fans watched The Who’s Pete Townsend unveil a blue heritage plaque on the outside of a flat at 23 Brook Street in London where Jimi Hendrix had lived in 1968-69. Experience bass player Noel Redding, Jimi’s dad Al, and half-sister Janie were in attendance. Interestingly the place had a previous musical history as the home of Messiah composer George Handel in the 1700’s. It’s since been turned into a museum.
The Grateful Dead’s 1965 Gillig tour bus named Sugar Magnolia was fully restored and on display at the Volo Automobile Museum in Volo, IL today in 2005. The ceiling is lined with vintage rock show posters, not just of The Dead, but other artists who visited the bus like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Nazareth’s bass player Pete Agnew is 70.
Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines would be 67 today had he not been killed in the band’s plane crash in 1977. Interestingly he’d replaced original Skynyrd guitarist and former Strawberry Alarm Clock member Ed King who is also 67 today, and still very much alive, comfortably retired in Nashville.
Free’s guitarist Paul Kossoff would be 66 today had he not died at 25 of a cocaine related heart attack on a flight from LA to NYC.
Barry Cowsill, drummer and bass player with the family band that inspired The Partridge Family, would be 61 if he’d made it through Hurricane Katrina.