Mississippi blues guitarist Elmore James died today in 1963 at age 45, killed by a heart attack and not the moonshine whiskey he loved so much and sometimes made himself. Known as “the King of Slide Guitar”, Elmore was a huge influence on the many rockers who covered his songs, including Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and George Harrison.
The BBC gave The Beatles their own radio show, and they recorded the first installment today in 1963. It was called Pop Go the Beatles, and featured The Lorne Gibson Trio as their first guests.
Singer Don Van Vliet, now using the stage name Captain Beefheart, debuted at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood tonight in 1966. His backing band was made up of members of The Doors and Buffalo Springfield, taking turns. The Captain once claimed to have had no more schooling than a half-day of kindergarten: “If you want to be a different fish, you’ve got to jump out of the school.” But Frank Zappa’s Antelope Valley High School yearbook shows Don graduated as well, and has a no doubt very weird signature from his good friend.
The Rolling Stones released Jumpin’ Jack Flash today in 1968. It shot to #1 in England and #3 in America. The riff was a combination of Keith learning “Nashville Guitar” tunings from George Jones’ band, and a bass riff played on organ footpedals by Bill Wyman. Keith had Mick over to his Redlands country house to sort out the words, and they were doing their usual morning wake-n-bake-with-a-cuppa when Mick heard some stomping going on out the window and asked “Wot’s that?” Keith replied, “Ah, that’s just Jack the gardener. Jumpin’ Jack!” When they got done laughing they finished their 7th #1 hit.
Guitarist Peter Green played his last show with the band he started, Fleetwood Mac, today in 1970 at the Bath Festival in Somerset England. He’d been doing quite a lot of LSD, had come to view money as the root of all evil (once threatening a record company employee trying to deliver a royalty check with a shotgun), and wouldn’t play much again until the late 70’s.
An American giant of music, swing era bandleader Duke Ellington died of lung cancer at 75 today in 1974. Once when asked for his thoughts on all this new rock and roll, he said “There’s only two kinds of music: Good music and bad music, and any kind of music you can think of you’ll find both kinds.”
Genesis fans showing up at the box office at The Roxy in Hollywood to buy the tickets released today in 1980 for their upcoming show were surprised to find Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and Phil Collins manning the counter and signing autographs.
Guitarist, songwriter, and Byrds founding member Gene Clark died of a heart attack today in 1991 at age 46. He wrote their hits Eight Miles High and I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better.
A hotel in Montgomery Alabama called the police today in 1992 when a man who claimed to be guitarist Steve Miller skipped out on his $600 room. He wan never caught, and did leave a $73 tip on a $8 bar tab. Steve Miller of the Steve Miller Band was at home in Washington State at the time.
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who’d died in 1991, was honored today in 1999 with a collectible millenium stamp issued by the British Royal Mail. It caused a bit of a stink when the upper crust noticed it was a recreation of a shot of Queen playing live with part of drummer Roger Taylor clearly visible, and by tradition the only living people allowed to be on Royal mail stamps are members of the royal family.
The Beatles had been pronounced subversive by the Soviet Politburo in their heyday, but they’d been gone 12 years when Paul McCartney played Russia for the first time tonight in 2003 in front of 20,000+ who unsurprisingly went nuts when he played Back in the U.S.S.R. on a stage set up in Moscow’s Red Square. Sad that John wasn’t around for the victory over Marx and Lenin by McCartney and Lennon.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, is 76.
Wishbone Ash drummer Steve Upton is 71.
Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard is 70.
Über-groupie Cynthia “Plaster Caster” Albritton is 70.The artistic medium that made her famous started when her college art teacher gave an assignment to “plaster cast something solid that can retain it’s shape”, though as Eric Burdon points out below, it didn’t always. Her first willing subject was Jimi Hendrix, opening the floodgates, and Frank Zappa was quite amused and was always willing to recommend new models for her work though he never had her cast his own unit.
Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson is 48.