Stevie Wonder was in Detroit today in 1962, recording his first single Thank You For Loving Me All The Way for Motown Records, backed by the legendary group of studio musicians that would come to be known as The Funk Brothers. At the time “Little Stevie” was 12 years old.
The Beatles were busy today in 1963, putting the finishing touches on their second album With The Beatles at Abbey Road, laying down a song they had already given to The Rolling Stones, I Wanna Be Your Man. John Lennon later said “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo (on vocals) and The Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it. We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?” Then they were off to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Sweden. They’d had “residencies” at nightclubs in Hamburg, but this was their first-ever tour outside Britain. They were met at the airport by hundreds of screaming blonde Swedish “birds” who had taken the day off school, which would be repeated at many more airport arrivals over the next couple of years.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Bob Dylan was at Columbia Records recording studio in New York today in 1963, recording one of his most famous songs, The Times They Are A-Changin’.
Harold David Box was a Texan rockabilly singer who’d played with Roy Orbison and because he looked a bit like him and sang a lot like him, had replaced Buddy Holly in The Crickets after his death in a plane crash in 1959. Unfortunately for David, he was also destined for the same fate. By today in 1964, the band had evolved into a tribute act called Buddy and The Kings, and all four members were on a small Cessna plane piloted by the band’s drummer Bill Daniles when it crashed killing them all instantly.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their first single today in 1966 in London. Although the song Hey Joe is claimed by some to be a “traditional” folk song (meaning no one knows who wrote it, and no one is owed royalties), it was copyrighted by South Carolina songwriter Billy Roberts in 1962, and subsequently covered by L.A. band The Leaves, as well as The Standells, The Surfaris, Love, The Music Machine, and The Byrds, making it a early 60’s garage-rock staple. But Hendrix’s version was slower and bluesier, and is by far the most famous version.
The Yardbirds were in San Francisco tonight in 1966 at the Fillmore, playing their first-ever show with Jimmy Page on lead guitar replacing the recently fired Jeff Beck.
They’d done it in Europe several times already, but Led Zeppelin made their American national television debut tonight in 1976 on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.
They’d had more than a few on the charts in their 9 years as a band, but today in 1976 Chicago had a #1 hit. If You Leave Me Now from their 10th album featured lead vocal by bass player Peter Cetera, and marked a new direction for a band who’s previously more-rockin’ songs reflected their politics and counterculture lifestyle. The success of the soft-rock love song would lead Cetera to a successful if somewhat sappy career as a solo artist.
Mark David Chapman quit his job as a security guard today in 1980, from which he had to “sign out”, putting his signature on a clipboard sheet. Instead of writing “Chappy” as he usually did, he wrote “John Lennon“, and went home to read whatever nonsense he imagined from J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye, obsess over Beatles records, and further plan the murder of John Lennon he’d been plotting since a trip to Hawaii the previous month, which he would realize on December 8th, 6 hours after he’d got him to autograph his copy of Double Fantasy.
Nirvana played in Europe for the first time tonight in 1989 in Newcastle England with Seattle band Tad as the opener of a 36 night tour. Sub Pop Records co-founders Bruce Pavitt and Jon Poneman had flown British rock writer Everett True to Seattle, where he’d fallen in love with our scene, befriended many of it’s muscians, and he had written about them extensively in Melody Maker magazine, and BBC DJ John Peel had been playing them on his show, and while the “grunge” phenomenon was already becoming popular in England it was relegated to college radio stations like the UW’s KCMU here at home. Pavitt accompanied them on the tour, and in 2014 released a book of photos and memories from that adventure, Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe 1989.
Def Leppard got a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records today in 1995, for being the first entertainers ever to do three shows in one 24 hour day on three different continents. They flew from a morning show in Tangiers, Morocco (Africa) to London, England (Europe), then over the North Pole to Vancouver, Canada (North America).
A federal judge in St. Louis dismissed a lawsuit against Chuck Berry today in 2002, brought by his former piano player and songwriting collaborator Johnie Johnson, who claimed he had helped Chuck write over 30 songs from 1955 to 1966, including hits like No Particular Place To Go, Sweet Little Sixteen, and Roll Over Beethoven. The judge admitted that Johnson may well have had a part in writing them, but Berry had copyrighted them in his name alone, and in his dismissal wondered aloud why Johnnie hadn’t said anything until now.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Gerry and The Pacemakers guitarist Freddie Marsden is 76. He and his brother Gerry started the band in 1959. They were the second band sign a management deal with Brian Epstein, and recorded as their first single a song The Beatles had recorded but declined to release, How Do You Do It?
Humble Pie and Spooky Tooth bass player Greg Ridley would be 69. He died of pneumonia in 2003.
Motörhead guitarist Michael “Würzel” Burston would be 67. He died of heart failure in 2011.
Accordion player, singer, and song-parody master Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic is 57. Kurt Cobain is said to have been quite pleased that Al did a parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Bass player for Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society, Jerry Cantrell, and a member of Metallica since 2003, Robert Trujillo is 52.