Decca Turns Down The Beatles, George Gets Stoned At The White House: This Day In Classic Rock [Videos]

The Beatles were hard at work today in 1961, playing two daytime and one evening performance at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. The PM show was attended by Artists and Repertoire scout  Mike Smith of Decca Records, who’d heard of their growing fan base and wanted to check it out for himself. By February he’d arrange a proper audition, but Decca famously turned them down with the comment to their manager, “Guitar groups are on the way out Mr. Epstein”. Three years later at the height of Beatlemania, Decca would pull out all the stops to sign The Rolling Stones.

Elvis Presley was at #1 on both sides of the Atlantic today in 1962 with Return To Sender from his latest movie Girls Girls Girls. Saxophone on the song was played by Bobby Keys from Texas, who two years later would show up at a Rolling Stones gig there to see what these long-haired Limeys doing his friend Buddy Holly’s song Not Fade Away were all about, and leave best friends with guitarist Keith Richards, with whom he shared a December 18 1943 birthday. He’d play sax with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Plastic Ono Band to name but a few.

After a day in the studio laying down Foxy Lady, Jimi Hendrix made his television debut tonight in 1966 on Britain’s ITV network show Ready Steady Go! Also on the show that night was Marc Bolan, who would later form T-Rex.

Welsh guitarist Dave Edmunds had his only #1 hit today in 1970 with a cover of a 1955 Smiley Lewis song, I Hear You Knockin. He would include the single on his first full album Rockpile two years later, then in the late 70’s start a band with Nick Lowe under the name Rockpile, who would have some success on “New Wave” radio stations, even though their sound was decidedly old-school meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.

George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Preston were at the White House today in 1974, to have lunch with President Gerald Ford at the urging of Ford’s sons Jack and Steven, who are long rumored to have smoked weed in the executive mansion with The Quiet Beatle. They exchanged buttons, with George giving the President one reading “OM” (The Hindu mantra word expressing creation), and Gerry giving up a “WIN” (Whip Inflation Now) button. Later that day their guest for an afternoon snack was Peter Frampton.

The Rolling Stones request to stage a 3-day festival on Easter Island for 100,000 fans was officially denied by the government of Chile today in 1975, who claimed “the whole future of the island would be destroyed by such an event”.

Genesis drummer and solo singer Phil Collins made his American Television acting debut tonight in 1985 when he played a drug dealer on Miami Vice.

Over 150,000 fans showed up today in 1992 in Frankfurt to see The Scorpions play a free concert protesting recent violence by radical right-wingers in Germany.

Chuck Berry performed an hour-long set to mark the opening of a Hard Rock Cafe in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates city of Dubai today in 1997.

It wasn’t the first time a song from a children’s TV show hit #1 in England today in 1997. That honor would go to The Archies Sugar Sugar in 1969, but today’s was a little more weird: Teletubbies Say “Eh-Oh”.

Paul McCartney was at Waterstone’s Books in London’s Piccadilly Circus for his first-ever book signing today in 2000, autographing copies of Paul McCartney Paintings.

A series of love letters written by Mick Jagger in Australia on the set of Ned Kelley in 1969 to his secret girlfriend Marsha Hunt (the mother of his first child and the subject of Brown Sugar) sold at auction today in 2012 for £187,250 ($304,900 U.S.).

Rock and Roll Birthdays

? and the Mysterians guitarist Robert Martinez is 69.

Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is 68. He was working at Manny’s Music in Manhattan in 1966 when he and fellow Manny’s employee and guitarist Randy “California” Wolfe (who went on to start Spirit) were recruited by regular customer Jimi Hendrix to play…briefly… in his band Jimmy James and The Blue Flames (Baxter played bass). Baxter fell into a second career in the mid 80’s when the postman mistakenly delivered a neighbor’s Aviation Week magazine to his house, which led to conversations with the neighbor, a retired aerospace engineer who’d worked on the Sidewinder missile program, who ended up buying him a subscription. Baxter taught himself about missile systems and became a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and leading contractors, later saying, “We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles…My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

Amboy Dukes, solo, and Damn Yankees guitarist turned extreme-right political activist Theodore Anthony “Ted” Nugent is 68.

The Nice and Roxy Music guitarist Davy O’List is 68.

Television guitarist Tom Verlaine is 67.

The Knack guitarist Berton Averre is 63.

12/13

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