The former Quarrymen played the nightclub they would make famous in Liverpool for the first time…The Cavern Club…as The Beatles…tonight in 1961. It had been opened 4 years earlier by the son of a local doctor who was inspired by the basement jazz clubs of Paris. He’d found the subterranean spot that’d been used as an air-raid shelter in WWII, and initially allowed only jazz bands but later warmed to the new “Skiffle’ bands becoming popular, but had a strict policy against rock and roll, which John Lennon had ignored with The Quarrymen, but The Beatles had just returned from Hamburg Germany and were starting to become a bit of a thing. They would play there 291 more times over the next couple of years, picking up manager Brian Epstein who saw them there in November, and who promised the club they would come back when they played their last in August of ’63, but they never did. Other soon-to-be-famous acts like The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds would play there before it closed, with one final show by the Dutch band Focus, in 1973 to make way for the Merseyrail subway loop, but was reopened nearby, using many of the original bricks, in 1984, financed by a Liverpool FC football star, and Paul McCartney did play the new Cavern in 1999.
The Beatles first appearance on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show was tonight in 1964. Ed and his entourage had been at London’s Heathrow airport in the fall, and saw fans greeting them on their return from a show in Stockholm, been impressed, and contacted manager Brian Epstein, offering him top dollar for an appearance. Brian countered with a proposal that would cost CBS less money, but get his band greater exposure: 3 consecutive Sundays with top billing and the opening and closing spots on all three shows. They’d made it to radio already,appeared in TV news reports, and when they landed at JFK airport two days earlier been greeted by 3000 fans, but tonight’s first live performance was seen by an estimated 73 million viewers, the most-watched event in television history until the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983, since eclipsed by several Super Bowls, on of which Paul McCartney played in 2005.
The Beatles were done playing live when they appeared on the BBC’s Top of the Pops tonight in 1967 in the art form they all but invented, what would later become known on MTV as the “rock video“. They’d made short promotional films for two songs that would make places they’d known growing up in Liverpool famous worldwide: Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane.
Bill Haley was found dead at his home in Texas of a heart attack at age 55 today in 1981. The first true rock and roll star, he sold over 25 million records, and was the first to tour Europe, influencing British kids who would later return the favor. An accomplished piano and guitar player, he started performing at age 13.
A little over 10 years after the two Concerts for Bangladesh at New York’s Madison Square Garden, George Harrison was at the offices of UNICEF today in 1982, presenting them with a check for $9 million from record sales of the album recorded there, featuring himself and Beatle-mate Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and all of Badfinger. Harrison and Shankar’s fundrasiing concerts were the first of their kind, and would later inspire Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof to promote even bigger charity events.
British television personality Bill Grundy died of a heart attack at age 69 today in 1993. He had been the first to put The Beatles on TV in 1962, but his career was ruined in 1976 when he’d had The Sex Pistols on his show, and provoked them (not that it took much provoking) into swearing on live television.
Singer Brian Connolly died of kidney and liver failure at age 51 today in 1997. He’d replaced Ian Gillan (later of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fame) in a band called Wainwright’s Gentlemen, who later changed their name to Sweetshop and then simply The Sweet.
Two years after turning down mountains of money to tour with a reformed Led Zeppelin following the Ahmet Etertegun Tribute Concert, singer Robert Plant was in Hollywood at the Grammy Awards tonight in 2009, collecting 5 of them for his work with singer Allison Krauss.
Ringo Starr got his very own star today in 2009, the 2,401st to be added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, then celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. Our own Danny Bonaduce still has not been given a star, and is still fairly bitter about it.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Carole King is 75. She wrote an incredible string of hits starting in the late 50’s with then-husband Gerry Goffin covered by other artists including The Drifters, The Coasters, Little Eva,The Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad, and The Monkees before having her own breakthrough hit album with Tapestry in 1971.