Alan “Moondog” Freed, like a lot of radio people, started out wanting to be a musician. In Freed’s case he was the trombone player in a band called The Sultans of Swing (no relation to the Dire Straits song, which came about 40 years after the band), but an ear infection ruined his ability to play with others. He served as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio in WWII, then began his career as the disc jockey who mixed black blues and R&B records with country and rockabilly and called it “rock and roll“, sometimes even affecting a black accent. He put on some of the earliest rock concerts in the 50’s, organized traveling rock tours, and even began taping a weekly show for Radio Luxembourg, where The Beatles, listening in Liverpool, were first turned on to artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry. But it all came to an end when it was discovered that he’d been taking money from record companies to play specific artists. The ensuing congressional investigation became known as the “Payola” scandal, and it largely changed the way music was selected at American stations: Disc Jockeys were no longer allowed to choose records. That task was taken over by station management and ownership, and while congress had outlawed the process, the money continued to flow into station coffers well into the 80’s through “independent” record promoters. But Freed was fired from WABC in New York, several subsequent stations, began drinking heavily and died 5 years later, today in 1965, just weeks after his 44th birthday.
The Monkees TV show was aired in England for the first time tonight in 1967. NBC had picked it up for the fall season of the previous year, with 4 young men who became known as “the Pre-Fab Four” as the show had been inspired by The Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night. They were sensitive to the criticism, and when they were sent to Britain to promote the show were quite surprised to get an invitation to a party being thrown for them by the real deal, at Abbey Road studios while they were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Michael Nesmith had sheepishly asked John Lennon, “Do you think we’re a cheap imitation of The Beatles? Your movies and your records?”, and John had replied, “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers! I’ve never missed one of your programs!” The party inspired Mickey Dolenz to write a song of his own, Randy Scouse Git, which became something of a hit in England despite being banned by the BBC for use of unpleasant British slang.
Led Zeppelin’s first album had just come out, and they were mostly unknown on their first tour of North America tonight in 1969 when they played a show at the Wheaton Youth Center in Wheaton Maryland, just North of Washington DC where Richard Nixon was being inaugurated as President with performances by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the prefabricated anti-counterculture folk group (there were 4 of them touring the country at one point) Up With People. The show in legend provided a counter-cultural counterpoint to the “establishment” festivities going on a few miles south, except that it may have never happened. Many who claim to have been there estimated the crowd at 12-to-50 people tops, which would have made it the smallest show Zeppelin ever played, but no one in the band or their management remembered it at all, though it is listed on the band’s website as an “unconfirmed rumor”, but it did inspire a documentary film three years ago called Led Zeppelin Played Here.
Pink Floyd were starting a British tour in Brighton tonight in 1972 when they attempted a performance of the work-in-progress 8th studio album they hadn’t recorded yet, The Dark Side of The Moon. They’d assembled a dazzling array of state-of-the-art musical technology, but they were plagued by technical difficulties, gave up after Money went particularly badly, and went back to their usual set of tunes from their previous albums. They pulled it off the next night, and as the show got better each night, performed it for the press in London in mid-February to rave reviews, then started recording at Abbey Road in May.
Ozzy Osbourne was playing the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines Iowa tonight in 1982 when a fan threw what looked to Ozzy to be a fake rubber bat on stage. He picked it up, and as he’d done in a record executive’s office the year before with one of the doves he’d planned to release as a sign of peace on signing a solo recording contract, bit it’s head off (he’d been quite inebriated). The fan later said he’d brought the bat to the show dead, but Ozzy claimed not only was it alive, but that it’d bit him when he bit it, and went in for treatment with a painful series of Rabies shots.
Def Leppard released their 3rd album Pyromania today in 1983. They’d started recording with original guitarist Pete Willis, but fired him for excessive drunkenness and replaced him with Phil Collen. The first single from it, Photograph, went to #1 in the U.S. and #12 at home in England, and made the band a household name.
The Beatles were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel tonight in 1988. It was the third year for the Rock Hall’s inductions, though the museum itself wouldn’t be built until ’95, located in Cleveland Ohio because DJ Alan Freed had first coined the term “rock and roll” while working there before moving to New York. They got a nice little induction speech by Mick Jagger, then George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko, Julian, and Sean Lennon accepted the award, but Paul McCartney didn’t attend, instead sending a letter of apology, saying his ongoing business disputes with the others left him unable to.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Huddie William “Leadbelly” Ledbetter would be 129. He died at age 61 in 1949, but his songs have been covered by rock and roll artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, and many more all the way to Nirvana.
Rick Evans of the Lincoln, Nebraska one-hit-wonder duo Zager and Evans is 74.
Judas Priest bass player Ian Hill is 66.
Kiss guitarist and singer Paul Stanley is 65.