Category: 50’s

Blues guitarist Matt “Guitar” Mu…

Blues guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy (Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Etta James, The Blues Brothers) (born Matthew Tyler Murphy in Sunflower, MS) – December 29, 1929 – June 15, 2018, RIP

On this day in music history: June 9, 1958 – &…

On this day in music history: June 9, 1958 – “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 6 weeks. Written by Sheb Wooley, the novelty song is the biggest hit for the Oklahoma born singer/actor. Wooley auditions for the head of MGM Records in early 1958, singing mostly ballads. At the auditions conclusion, he sings “The Purple People Eater” when the label president asks if he has any other material. Sensing its hit potential, he signs the singer and rush him into the studio with producer/A&R man Neely Plumb (father of actress Eve Plumb, “Jan Brady” on “The Brady Bunch”). The song is quickly cut and released, becoming an immediate smash. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #7 on June 2, 1958, it leaps to the top of the chart the following week. “The Purple People Eater” sells over two million copies. Following the success of the record, Sheb Wooley stars on then new TV series “Rawhide” with an up and coming new actor named Clint Eastwood. “The Purple People Eater” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: June 5, 1956 – E…

On this day in music history: June 5, 1956 – Elvis Presley appears on comedian Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theater” variety show on NBC performing his then current hit single “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, and the about to be released follow up “Hound Dog”. It is Presley’s performance of the latter that thrusts the singer into controversy. Backed by his band featuring Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass) and D.J. Fontana (drums), Elvis sings the song with it seguing into a slow grinding tempo while he gyrates and thrusts his hips. Television critics and most adult viewers react with complete shock and outrage calling Presley’s performance “vulgar” and “obscene”. The appearance earns Elvis the infamous “Elvis The Pelvis” nickname much to his annoyance and displeasure. However, the program draws such high ratings that Elvis is immediately booked to play “The Steve Allen Show” (also on NBC) a month later on July 1, 1956. Presley again performs “Hound Dog”, but in a much tamer performance with the singer wearing a white and black tails while singing the song to a basset hound in a bow tie and top hat. The footage of Elvis performing “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle’s show is featured in the documentary feature “This Is Elvis” and in the film “Forrest Gump”.

On this day in music history: May 22, 1958 – M…

On this day in music history: May 22, 1958 – Musician Jerry Lee Lewis arrives in London to play a twenty seven date tour of the UK. While meeting the press at Heathrow Airport, a reporter from The Daily Mail asks a young girl with the entourage who she is, and replies “I’m Myra, Jerry’s wife”. The girl in question is Myra Gale Brown, the daughter of Lewis’ bass player Jay Brown. Not only do the press find out that Myra is Lewis’ thirteen year old first cousin (once removed), but that when the then twenty two year old musician had married her five months earlier (in December of 1957), while he was still legally married to his second wife. A immediate media firestorm erupts as a result of this discovery. When Lewis tries to continue the tour, his concerts are greeted with sparse attendance, and by boos and catcalls from the people who do show up. After less than a week, the remainder of the tour is cancelled and Lewis returns home to the US. By this time, news about the British media’s discovery has spread to the US press. Jerry Lee Lewis is almost completely blacklisted by American radio and television as a result of the news. Overnight, Lewis goes from playing top venues commanding up to $10,000 a night, to playing small clubs and bars for as little as $250 a night. The musician’s career never fully recovers from the scandal. Lewis and Brown have two children, a son (Steve Allen) and a daughter (Phoebe Allen). Their son drowns in the family swimming pool in in 1962 at the age of three. Jerry and Myra remain married for thirteen years before divorcing in December of 1970.

On this day in music history: May 21, 1955 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1955 – “Maybellene”, the debut single by Chuck Berry is recorded. Cut at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, IL, Berry bases the tune on the traditional country song “Ida Red”. Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess feels the name is “too rural” sounding and suggests changing the title to “Maybellene”. The songs then unusual hybrid of country & western and rhythm & blues supported by a big back beat along with its lyrical themes of fast cars and love gone wrong, is instantly appealing to black and white audiences alike. Released in July, the single is a huge hit right out of the gate, spending eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart and peaking at number five on the Pop Best Sellers chart. “Maybellene” goes on to become one of the most influential songs in the history of rock & roll, inspiring dozens of cover versions. Chuck Berry’s original recording of “Maybellene” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1988.

On this day in music history: May 18, 1959 – &…

On this day in music history: May 18, 1959 – “Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on May 11, 1959. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the biggest hit for the Charlotte, NC born R&B singer, songwriter and musician. Originally titled “K.C. Lovin’”, the song is first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield in 1952. Harrison performs the song as part of his live act for several years before recording it himself in March of 1959. Re-arranging the song to a shuffle tempo and adding the refrain “They got some crazy little women there, and I’m gonna get me one” to the chorus make it an instant classic. Issued on Bobby Robinson’s (later the founder of seminal Hip Hop label Enjoy Records) Fury Records in early April of 1959, the record is an immediate hit on both the pop and R&B charts upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #100 on April 13, 1959, it quickly streaks to the top of the chart five weeks later, making it the first single in Billboard chart history to enter at the bottom of the chart, and going all the way to number one. “Kansas City” is covered by numerous artists over the years including The Beatles, Muddy Waters and James Brown. Wilbert Harrison’s version of the song is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001. “Kansas City” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: May 12, 1958 – &…

On this day in music history: May 12, 1958 – “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 4 weeks, topping the Rhythm And Blues Best Sellers chart for 5 weeks on May 19, 1958, and also topping the Country And Western Best Sellers chart for 3 weeks on June 2, 1958. Written by Felice Bryant and Boudleaux Bryant, it is the second chart topping single for the rock & roll duo from Brownie, KY. Having also penned The Everly Brothers first number one single “Bye Bye Love”, the husband and wife songwriting duo of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant write the ballad “All I Have To Do Is Dream” in only fifteen minutes. The Everlys record the song at RCA Victor Studios in Nashville, TN on March 6, 1958, in just two takes. Legendary guitarist Chet Atkins also plays electric guitar on the track. Released as a single in April of 1958, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #9 on April 28, 1958, it will leap to the top of the chart two weeks later. When it tops the country singles chart on June 2, 1958, it becomes the first record in Billboard chart history to top the pop, R&B, and country charts simultaneously. The single is also backed by the song “Claudette”, written by a then relatively unknown musician named Roy Orbison, inspired by his wife. “Claudette” also charts, peaking at #30 on the pop Best Sellers chart on the same date that “Dream” tops the chart. A rock & roll standard, “All I Have To Do Is Dream” is covered numerous times over the years including versions by actor Richard Chamberlain (#14 Pop), Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell (#27 Pop, #6 Country), and Andy Gibb & Victoria Principal (#51 Pop). On of the duo’s biggest and best loved song, it s inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2004. “All I Have To Do Is Dream” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: May 11, 1959 – &…

On this day in music history: May 11, 1959 – “The Happy Organ” by Dave “Baby” Cortez hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Dave “Baby” Cortez and Ken Wood, it is the biggest hit for the songwriter and musician from Detroit, MI. Born Dave Cortez Clowney, begins playing piano as a child with aspirations to become a professional musician after seeing Duke Ellington And His Orchestra in concert. Cortez relocates to New York when he joins a group call The Pearls, as a keyboard player. Eventually he strikes out on his own working as a studio musician, when he is signed to independent label Clock Records (distributed by Ember Records). Collaborating with fellow songwriter Ken Wood, they write a song initially titled “The Dog And The Cat” that also features lyrics. When Cortez finds that the song doesn’t work in its original form, he makes it over as an instrumental, recording it with a Hammond Organ instead of a piano. Clock releases the song as a single just as Cortez leaves town to go on tour with Little Anthony & The Imperials. Entering the Hot 100 at #68 on March 16, 1959, it climb to the top of the chart eight weeks later. Cortez follow the song with the similar sounding “The Whistling Organ”, peaking at only #61 in July of 1959. Clock Records soon folds up in 1961, and he signs a deal with Chess Records, scoring another major hit with the single “Rinky Dink” (#10 Pop, #9 R&B). Cortez charts several more singles on the chart through 1966, then making his last chart entry with “Someone Has Taken Your Place” (#45 R&B) on All Platinum Records in 1973. “The Happy Organ” is also featured in theatrical trailers for the film “Tommy Boy” in 1995. Dave “Baby” Cortez recorded a new album in 2011 with Lonnie Youngblood and His Bloodhounds, his first new release in thirty nine years.

On this day in music history: May 4, 1956 – &l…

On this day in music history: May 4, 1956 – “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Gene Vincent And His Blue Caps is recorded. Written by Tex Davis and Gene Vincent, it is the debut release and biggest hit for the rock & roll band fronted by lead singer Gene Vincent (born Vincent Eugene Craddock). Co-written by Vincent and his manager radio DJ “Sheriff Tex” Davis, the pair demo the song, and Davis helps the singer secure a record contract. Hollywood, CA based Capitol Records, in search of “the next Elvis Presley” eagerly sign Gene Vincent. Vincent’s band, The Blue Caps, consist of Willie Williams (rhythm guitar), Jack Neal (upright bass), Dickie Harrell (drums) and Cliff Gallup (lead guitar). The band record the track at famed country music producer Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut studio in Nashville, TN. Released a month later, “Be-Bop-A-Lula” peaks at #7 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart on July 28, 1956, #8 on the R&B chart, and #5 on the C&W chart, selling over two million copies. The band also perform the song in classic rock & roll film “The Girl Can’t Help It”, released later in the year. The seminal recording becomes one of the definitive examples of rockabilly music, and goes on to influence many musicians over the years including The Beatles, The Animals and rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats. “Be-Bop-A-Lula” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

On this day in music history: April 30, 1955 -…

On this day in music history: April 30, 1955 – “Cherry Pink (And Apple Blossom White)” by Perez Prado And His Orchestra hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 10 weeks. Written by Louis Guglielmi, it is the biggest hit for the Cuban born bandleader known as “The King Of Mambo”. The song is featured in the John Sturges (“Bad Day At Black Rock”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Great Escape”) directed action/adventure film “Underwater!” starring Jane Russell and Richard Egan. Featuring trumpeter Billy Regis as the main soloist, the single sells nearly three million copies in the US alone. The song is covered by a number of different artists over the years including Chet Atkins, the James Last Orchestra, Bing Crosby, and The Ventures. Entering the Best sellers chart at #27 on March 5, 1955, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Cherry Pink (And Apple Blossom White)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.