Carl Perkins had already had a hit with Blue Suede Shoes, and came into Sun Records studios in Memphis today in 1956 to record some new songs including a rockabilly version of the old blues song Matchbox (The Beatles would cover it, making drummers Pete Best and later Ringo Starr take the lead vocal), with his brothers Jay and Clayton, and drummer “Fluke” Holland. Owner Sam Phillips thought it might be good to “fatten” the sound by adding his latest signee on piano, the yet unknown Jerry Lee Lewis. Two other Sun artists showed up later to check things out, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and before long they ended up jamming on country and gospel songs they all knew, and engineer Jack Clement later remembered thinking, “I’d be remiss not to record this”, which he did, giving birth to what the local newspaper called The Million Dollar Quartet. It would inspire a stage play that first played at Issaquah’s Village Theater of all places in 2007, before having longer runs in Chicago and “Off Broadway” in New York.
Here’s West Seattle’s most excellent guitarist Rod Moody, Easy Street Records interweb guy and member of too many bands to mention, on a pilgrimage to Sun Studios last month, sitting at the piano The King is in the photo, though apparently you can’t play it. Sam Phillips moved to a bigger location by ’60, and the original building became a plumber’s shop and then an auto parts store, but it was restored in ’89, and those may be the original acoustic tiles on the wall. Rod says “They taste like the 50’s”. It’s been a National Historic Landmark since 2003.
The Beatles released their 4th album Beatles For Sale in England today in 1964. It wasn’t made available in the U.S. until 1987, but 8 of the songs, which saw Lennon and McCartney writing more of their own stuff (critics noted that John’s I’m A Loser was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, who they’d met for the first time in August) made it on their Beatles ’65 album on our side of the pond.
The Byrds started a three week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart today in 1965 with Turn, Turn, Turn. It was their second #1 hit, but unlike their cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, Columbia Records allowed them to play their own instruments instead of calling in session players.
A “Package Tour” featuring The Pink Floyd, The Move, The Nice, Eire Apparent, The Outer Limits, and Amen Corner all doing short sets as the openers for The Jimi Hendrix Experience played Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England tonight in 1967. Hendrix was having equipment problems, and in frustration shoved the Gibson Flying V guitar he was playing (he’s most always associated with Fender Stratocasters) into his amplifier, where it stuck, protruding from the speakers like an arrow, which the crowd all thought was part of the act.
Deep Purple had rented The Rolling Stones mobile recording studio and taken it to Montreaux Switzerland’s casino on the shores of Lake Geneva tonight in 1971, intending to start in the next day. But tonight the casino’s theater had a show by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, and Deep Purple were all there when “some stupid with a flare gun” fired it into the ceiling during a synthesizer solo by Don Preston, setting the place ablaze, as described in the song Smoke On The Water written by the whole band but initiated by bassist Roger Glover. The line “Funky Claude, Running in and out” is a reference to Montreaux Jazz Festival director Claude Nobs, who personally and at great risk to himself led many concert-goers to safety. Deep Purple had planned on recording in the theater, and had to find another spot, but did manage to lay down their best album Machine Head there over the next couple of weeks.
American guitarist Tommy Bolin, who had briefly replaced Joe Walsh in The James Gang and Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, died of a heroin overdose today in 1976 at age 25.
Workers at EMI’s packaging plant in England went on strike today in 1976, refusing to stuff the Sex Pistols new single Anarchy in the UK.
Self-taught musician, composer, film director, and political activist Frank Zappa succumbed to a long battle with prostate cancer today in 1993 at age 52.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Moby Grape singer, songwriter, and bass player Bob Mosley is 74. He shocked the other members of the band when he quit just after the release of Moby Grape ’69 to join the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War, but was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic during basic training and discharged 9 months later. He was homeless for several years, but in 1996 his bandmates Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and Don Stevenson reformed the band with the goal of helping him recover emotionally and financially.
The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Hillman is 72.
The Beach Boys singing drummer and songwriter Dennis Wilson would be 72. He drowned in L.A.’s Marina Del Rey just after his 39th birthday after a day of heavy drinking. Dennis was the only member of the band who surfed when the band started, and his lifestyle was the subject of many of their songs. He’s also famous for hanging with Charles Manson and getting the group to record one of his songs.
Mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods of Irish band The Pogues is 69, and partially responsible for The Fairy Tale of New York, repeatedly in many publications voted as The Best Christmas Song of All Time. You be the judge.
Guitarist Gary Rossington, the only original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, is 65. It was Gary who inspired the song That Smell, when after buying a brand-new Starsky and Hutch edition Ford Torino in 1976, got severely wasted and crashed it into a tree. “Whiskey bottles, and a brand new car. Oak tree, you’re in my way”. He suffered a heart attack in Rocktober, and Skynyrd had to cancel some shows, but he’s said to be recuperating nicely.