Category: rock & roll

On this day in music history: June 7, 1982 – “…

On this day in music history: June 7, 1982 – “Built For Speed”, the US debut album by the Stray Cats is released. Produced Dave Edmunds, Hein Hoven and The Stray Cats, it is recorded at Eden Studios, Jam Studios in London and AIR Studios in Montserrat, W.I. from Early – Late 1981. The first American album by the Massapequa, LI, NY rockabilly trio is a compilation that features six tracks from their self-titled UK debut and five tracks from their second UK album “Gonna Ball”. Heavily influenced by 1950’s rockabilly music pioneers like Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Bill Haley & His Comets, and Gene Vincent, the band garner a solid following playing bars and clubs in their native Long Island, NY and New York City punk venues like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. They get their big break when they move to England in 1980, and they meet musician Dave Edmunds (“I Hear You Knocking”). They are quickly signed by Arista Records in the UK and land a spot as the opening act for The Rolling Stones. EMI-America Records in the US sign them and release “Speed”. “Stray Cat Strut” (#3 Pop) is initially released as the first single a few weeks after the album in July of 1982. Top 40 radio programmers unsure of what to make of the band, greet the record with indifference. The Stray Cats fortunes turn around when “Rock This Town” (#9 Pop) is issued in September. Accompanied by a memorable video clip, MTV begins airing it, and radio soon catches on, with the single hitting the top ten before Christmas. “Strut” is then re-released the same month, entering the chart the week of Christmas, rocketing up the chart and into the top five by the end of February 1983. The albums sales propelled by the two singles are very strong, but is unable to grab the top spot on the pop album chart, held off by Men At Work’s “Business As Usual” and then Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Out of print on vinyl in the US since 1989, it is reissued as a 180 gram LP as part of the “From The Capitol Vaults” reissue series. “Built For Speed” spends fifteen weeks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: June 7, 1960 – &…

On this day in music history: June 7, 1960 – “Walk – Don’t Run” by The Ventures is released. Written by Johnny Smith, it is the second single and first major hit for the surf rock instrumental band from Tacoma, WA. Originally formed in 1958 by Bob Bogle and Don Wilson, the pair meet and discover that they each share a mutual interest in guitars. Buying a pair of cheap pawn guitars, they form a duo calling themselves The Versatones. When they discover the name is already being used by another band, they change their name to The Ventures. A short time later, Bob and Don meet Nokie Edwards performing at a nightclub in Tacoma. Primarily a guitar player, they ask Edwards to join their band playing bass, and Edwards accepts their offer. Looking to make a record, Bogle remembers a song on a Chet Atkins album titled “Walk – Don’t Run”. Written by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954 (Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Stan Kenton), the band decide the instrumental is perfect for them. Needing a drummer for the session, the band hire Skip Moore. Using money provided by Bob Bogle’s mother Josie, The Ventures record “Walk – Don’t Run” at recording engineer Joe Boles’ Custom Recorders studio located in the basement of his home in Seattle, WA. The track is recorded live to tape on an Ampex two-track machine. First released on their own Blue Horizon label, “Walk – Don’t Run” receives its first radio airplay, when station KJR begins using the song as a music bed intro and outro for its news reports. Record producer Bob Reisdorff (The Fleetwoods) hears the song on the radio, and calls the station to ask who it is. The station puts Reisdorff in contact with the band, who offers to re-release the single on his label Dolton Records. With Dolton having a distribution deal with Liberty Records, “Walk – Don’t Run” is released nationally. One of the first major hits of the surf-rock genre, “Walk” takes off quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #88 on July 18, 1960, it rockets to #2 on August 29, 1960 behind Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never”, selling over a million copies. Session drummer Skip Moore, who had declined to join The Ventures to work in his family’s gas station, files a lawsuit against the band for royalties after becoming a huge hit. At the time of the recording, Moore also opts out of his 25% share of future royalties in lieu of a one time only session fee of $25. His lawsuit is quickly dismissed, and The Ventures continue with drummer Howie Johnson, who remains with the band until 1963, when he is replaced by Mel Taylor. “Walk – Don’t Run” becomes one of The Ventures most popular and loved songs, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest instrumentals of all time. The songs popularity is so great, that The Ventures themselves record a new version in 1964. Titling it “Walk – Don’t Run ‘64”, the dramatically revamped instrumental hits the top ten again, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on August 22, 1964.

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: June 4, 1942 – C…

On this day in music history: June 4, 1942 – Capitol Records is established in Hollywood, CA. Founded by songwriting legend Johnny Mercer (“You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”, “Autumn Leaves”, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Hooray for Hollywood”), songwriter/film producer Buddy De Sylva, and music store owner Glenn Wallichs (Wallichs Music City), Mercer proposes the idea of starting a record label the year before to his friend Wallichs. A few months later, Mercer proposes the same idea to De Sylva who is an executive producer at Paramount Pictures. With the third partner aboard, the three get to work organizing their first releases and opening their first offices in a building south of Sunset Blvd. By July 1, 1942, the label releases its first nine singles. The label innovates new techniques in promoting the sales of records including being the first to distribute free records to disc jockeys for promotional purposes. Capitol quickly builds up an impressive roster of artists that includes Les Baxter, Les Paul, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, and Nat King Cole. Over the years that list of artists grows to also include Frank Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Judy Garland, Stan Freberg, Gene Vincent, Dean Martin, The Four Freshmen, Al Martino, The Kingston Trio, Nancy Wilson, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Steve Miller Band, Bob Seger, Natalie Cole, Tina Turner, George Clinton, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Queen, Heart, MC Hammer, Garth Brooks, Radiohead, Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Katy Perry. Happy 76th Anniversary, Capitol Records!!!

On this day in music history: May 23, 1960 – &…

On this day in music history: May 23, 1960 – “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on June 13, 1960. Written by Don Everly and Phil Everly, it is the third and final US chart topper for the pioneering rock & roll duo from Brownie, KY. After a string of successful and memorable hits for Archie Bleyer’s Cadence Records, they are signed by Warner Bros. Records to a long term contract worth over $1 million (an unprecedented sum at the time). Phil comes up with the initial idea for “Cathy’s Clown” after they record other eight songs, with none of which is deemed suitable for their first release. Don helps his brother finish off the tune before going into RCA Victor Studio A in Nashville, TN to record it. Released in April of 1960, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on April 18, 1960, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. “Cathy’s Clown” is a big hit internationally also, topping the UK singles chart for seven weeks in May and June of 1960. The Everlys have a successful string of hits on Warner Bros through 1962. In late 1961, The Everly Brothers enlist in the Marine Corps Reserves, to avoid being drafted into the Army for active duty.  The duos hit streak is also hindered when they have a falling out with Welsey Rose, the head of the powerful Nashville music publisher Acuff-Rose Music, whom Phil and Don’s own songs are also published by. This ends up cutting the brothers off from many of the songwriters that have written their past hits. As a result, The Everlys are only able to score one more US top 40 hit single over the next four and a half years. “Cathy’s Clown” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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.

Born on this day: May 8, 1940 – Singer and act…

Born on this day: May 8, 1940 – Singer and actor Rick Nelson (born Eric Hilliard Nelson in Teaneck, NJ). Happy Birthday to this rock & roll legend and television icon on what would have been his 78th Birthday.