Breezy, offbeat, trashy, yet intermittently illuminating – and just in time: Zero to 180’s curated highlights from 1983’s Rolling Stone Rock Almanac humbly serves as your Summer Beach Read! These carefully selected bits of humor and offbeat information have been lavished with picture sleeves from around the world, streaming audio, and tons of hyperlinks that deepen and extend the history [with all King Records references noted in red ink]. This sideways overview of the first 25 years of popular music from the original rock & roll era (1954-1979) is intended as a pleasant summertime diversion, whether lounging poolside or seaside:
January 18, 1954: In what Billboard later terms “a move to capture the Negro market for potential advertisers,” New York City radio station WMGM signs Noble Sissle, the so-called Mayor of Harlem, as a Monday-through-Saturday disc jockey. Sissle, an actor and composer, is best known for collaborating with Eubie Blake on “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “Love Will Find a Way,” the Broadway musical Shuffle Along and another musical, Chocolate Dandies.
April 14, 1954: [King Records] The Midnighters have their first hit since changing their name from The Royals with the sexually explicit – and later quite controversial – “Work With Me Annie.” The first single of the so-called Annie trilogy, “Work With Me Annie” was written by lead singer Hank Ballard and featured the straightforward lines “Annie please don’t cheat/Give me all my meat.”
The Royals – vs. – The Midnighters
April 30, 1954: The Music Performance Trust Fund reports to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) that record sales in 1953 reached an all-time high of $205 million. The market is divided among 78 rpm discs (which account for fifty-two percent of all sales), 45 rpm discs (twenty-eight percent), and the relatively new category, LPs (twenty percent).
June 5, 1954: Major record labels will supply radio station disk jockeys with 45 rpm rather than popular 78 rpm singles beginning next month, Billboard reports. Although 45 rpm discs have been available since 1949, the industry has never adopted the small disc as the standard for singles. The change, which is cited as a “money-saving move,” will prove to be the subject of great debate and controversy over the next few months.
July 15, 1954: The Treniers, a black vocal group, record “Say Hey (the Willie Mays Song)” for Columbia Records’ Okeh subsidiary in New York City. The song, which also features the voice of New York Giants center fielder Willie Mays himself, is recorded under the direction of twenty-one-year-old Quincy Jones.
September 11, 1954: A survey of the National Ballroom Operators Association reveals that business is down fifty-four percent compared to the first half of 1953. Musicians and ballroom operators complain that “record hop” dances, which are cheaper and treat audiences to the most popular recorded versions of the tunes, account for the drop in attendance.
December 11, 1954: Billboard predicts that 78 rpm discs “may fade into oblivion” because of the popularity of the smaller 45s.
February 26, 1955: For the first time since their introduction in 1949, 45 rpm discs are outselling the old standard, the 78, Billboard reports. Another change in the industry is also noted. On some New York City jukeboxes, it now costs ten cents instead of five cents to play a record.
February 26, 1955: Lavern Baker appeals to Congress, in a letter to Michigan Representative Charles Diggs, Jr., to revise the Copyright Act of 1909 so that recording artists can be protected against “note-for-note copying” of previously recorded R&B tunes and arrangements by white (i.e., pop) artists and arrangers. Baker’s R&B hit “Tweedle Dee” was covered by Georgia Gibbs and Vicki Young, both of these versions – at least theoretically – have deprived the original artists of the royalties they might have received if there had been no competing version.
June 29, 1955: Count Basie‘s “Every Day” enters the R&B chart. With his use of riffing, of loose, stripped-down arrangements and hard-hitting, four-to-the-bar rhythms, pianist and bandleader Basie has been an important — though mostly unrecognized — influence on rock & roll.
July 25, 1955: The Collins Kids, Larry, 10, and Lorrie, 13, sign to Columbia. A rockabilly act, the brother-and-sister duo will have several country hits, including “Mercy,” “Whistle Bait” and “Rock Boppin’ Baby” but never enter the pop chart. Larry will later write Helen Reddy‘s 1973 Number One hit, “Delta Dawn.”
September 3, 1955: Billboard reports that independent record manufacturers are continuing to expand at an unprecedented rate, despite publicized marketing efforts on the part of majors to check the growth of independents. The latter grossed $20 million in 1954, with the larger labels — Modern, Chess, Savoy, Peacock, Jubilee, Aladdin and Specialty — leading in sales.
September 17, 1955: Capitol Records releases a Les Paul single, “Magic Melody, Part Two” that it claims is the shortest song ever released — it consists of two notes. Paul decided to make the recording after Capitol had received complaints from disc jockeys about Paul’s “Magic Melody.” It seems that “Magic Melody” ended with the familiar “shave and a haircut, two bits” musical phrase – minus the last two notes – the “two bits,” which “Magic Melody, Part Two” supplies.
One second in duration = world’s shortest commercial recording?
October 29, 1955: [King Records] R&B and soul singer Joe Tex‘s debut, “Davy, You Upset My Home” (and “answer” record to the concurrent Davy Crockett trend), backed with “Come In This House,” is released by King Records.
December 17, 1955: [King Records] With “Only You” at #2, The Platters‘ “The Great Pretender” enters the R&B chart at #13. [NOTE: According to 45Cat, “Only You” was released on Mercury (June, 1955) as well as on King subsidiary, Federal (November, 1955).
February 22, 1956: [King Records] Billboard reviews James Brown‘s debut record, “Please Please Please” — “A dynamic, religious fervor runs through the pleading solo here. Brown and the Famous Flames group let off plenty of steam.”
1959 King EP
July 14, 1956: Columbia reactivates its “race record” label, Okeh, as an R&B label. Among the R&B stars who record for Okeh are Smiley Lewis, The Marquees, and a Teenagers-style vocal group called The Schoolboys. In its previous incarnation, the label included Big Maybelle and Johnnie Ray on its roster.
July 14, 1956: It’s correct, but it’s not right—a trade ad for Bo Diddley‘s “Who Do You Love” reads “Whom Do You Love.” [Link to PDF version of Billboard‘s July 21, 1956 edition — see ad at the top of page 46.]
August 18, 1956: [King Records] Little Willie John‘s original version of “Fever” enters the pop chart at #24. The song, which will later be a smash hit for The McCoys and Peggy Lee, was a Number One R&B in the spring.
August 25, 1956: The Coney Island Kids‘ “We Want a Rock & Roll President” is released on Josie Records. Among their nominees for the nation’s top position are Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Pat Boone [see “follow-up” King history piece from the JFK era].
January 1, 1957: “Cool for Cats,” a British rock & roll television show, premieres on BBC.
May 27, 1957: Mercury Records releases Swinging Guitar, an album by Jorgen Ingmann. The LP contains Ingmann’s rockabilly instrumental hit “Apache,” whose reverberating lead guitar will be emulated by future guitarists, from Duane Eddy to Hank Marvin of The Shadows, to Matthew Ashman of Bow Wow Wow.
June 3, 1957: RCA Victor releases a single “Butterfingers,” backed with “Fingertips,” by Cool Dip (born Kuldip Singh), a rockabilly singer from India [NOTE: Discographies from 45Cat & Discogs, plus profile of “The Crooner from Kashmir” from the South Asian American Digital Archive].
July 27, 1957: The Bobbettes‘ first release and only Top Forty single, “Mr. Lee,” enters the pop chart. The song is about the trio’s high-school principal. Three years and zero hits later, they will record a follow-up tune, “I Shot Mr. Lee.”
December 15, 1957: Sammy Davis, Jr., initiates a Westinghouse syndicated radio talk show a “round-table” discussion of rock & roll; his guests are Columbia Records executive Mitch Miller and MGM Records president Arnold Maxim. When Davis and Miller blast rock & roll as “the comic books of music,” Maxim takes an opposing viewpoint and says, “I don’t see any end to rock & roll in the near future.” To which Davis replies, “I might commit suicide.” A week later, Davis still will be alive — and releasing a cover of the rockabilly standard “I’m Comin’ Home” [co-written by Bob Crewe].
January 1, 1958: Gibson patents its “Flying V” electric guitar. The design will become a favorite of many rock guitarists and the trademark instrument of bluesman Albert King.
March 9, 1958: As the three-day First Annual Pop Disc Jockey Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, comes to an end, the most outspoken message delivered to radio station owners, managers and program directors is that disc jockeys are opposed to the Top Forty format, which they see as “restrictive,” dull,” “unimaginative” and designed to “de-activate them as personalities by confining their duties to impersonal intros to the same top-selling records every station plays.”
July 15, 1958: During Senate hearings on the music industry, American Guild of Authors and Composers counsel John Schulman plays The Coasters‘ “Yakety Yak,” citing it as an offender in the alleged “cheapening of American music” by rock & roll, against which Schulman seeks legislation. The hearings had resulted from suits between the two biggest music licensing organizations, ASCAP and BMI.
November 11, 1958: [King Records] Hank Ballard and the Midnighters record the original “Twist” in King Studios, Cincinnati, Ohio.
1959 King EP
January 19, 1959: A Billboard article on the general easing of TV and radio censorship of pop songs notes one exception, and it’s an instrumental — Link Wray‘s hit “Rumble” is still considered unplayable by some authorities because its title connotes teen-gang violence (the accuracy of this suspicion was later confirmed when Wray revealed that the title came from an incident where The Wraymen had to play the instrumental onstage in order to distract participants in a gang “rumble”). When Wray and his Wraymen recently appeared on “American Bandstand” to perform “Rumble,” Dick Clark was forbidden to mention the title, so he simply said, “and now, here’s Link Wray” as an introduction.
March 20, 1959: Dolly Parton‘s first record, “Puppy Love,” is released on Gold Band Records. Billboard‘s capsule review notes, “She sounds about twelve years old.” Dolly is thirteen. [NOTE: Check out the prices paid for an original 45].
October 19, 1959: Tommy Facenda‘s “High School, U.S.A.” enters the pop chart at #97. One of the more novel novelty discs of all time, it is released in dozens of different versions, mentioning different high schools for different cities.
November 1, 1959: The Spacemen‘s “The Clouds” enters the R&B chart at #24. Their only chart entry ever, it will eventually become an R&B Number One and will remain on the R&B chart for eighteen weeks.
December 14, 1959: A report by the Ohio State University Research Center state that though rock & roll is the overwhelming favorite of fourteen-to-eighteen-year-olds, more adults aged nineteen to seventy list it as their least favorite form of music.
January 9, 1960: Emile Ford and the Checkmates, a British group of Bahamian immigrants, becomes the first homeland black act to top the British charts when “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?” hits Number One. It will be the only such success for Ford.
February 6, 1960: Jesse Belvin, an important figure in West Coast R&B during the Fifties, dies in an automobile accident in Los Angeles at age twenty. Belvin had his first R&B hit, “Dream Girl,” as half of Jesse and Marvin in 1953. On his own, he had hits with “Goodnight My Love” in 1956 and with “Funny” and “Guess Who” in 1959. He also sang as a member of such doo-wop groups as The Cliques, The Sharptones, Three Dots and a Dash, and The Sheiks. He made his biggest impact, however, as the co-author of “Earth Angel,” The Penguins‘ doo-wop classic of 1954.
April 4, 1960: Billboard reports that RCA Victor Records will release all pop singles simultaneously in mono and stereo — the first record company to do so. Elvis Presley‘s first post-army single, “Stuck on You,” is RCA’s first mono-stereo release.
July 21, 1960: British teen idol Cliff Richard‘s “Please Don’t Tease” is knocked out of the Number One spot on the UK pop chart by “Apache” by his backing band, The Shadows (the song was originally recorded by Jorge Ingmann).
September 4, 1960: The Flamingos‘ “Mio Amore” enters the R&B chart, where it will peak at #27. It will be the doo-wop quintet’s last hit until 1966, when they will return to the R&B Top Thirty with “The Boogaloo Party.” The Flamingos, who formed in Chicago in 1952, are best known for [1959’s] “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
November 21, 1960: “Twang” guitarist Duane Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood have parted company after three successful years, Billboard reports. Hazlewood, a former Phoenix, Arizona disc jockey, has had almost as much to do with creating Eddy’s distinctive sound as the guitarist himself: He and Eddy cowrote most of Eddy’s material, including the hits “Rebel Rouser,” “Forty Miles of Bad Road” and “Because They’re Young,” and it was Hazlewood who suggested that the guitarist play his leads on the bass instead of the treble strings and who applied the essential reverb.
January 24, 1961: Le Palais des Sports, Paris, is the site of the first French International Rock & Roll Festival. The headliners are Bobby Rydell, representing the USA, Little Tony of Italy, Emile Ford of Great Britain, and French stars Johnny Halliday, Frankie Jordan, and Les Chausettes Noires.
April 24, 1961: Bob Dylan makes his recording debut, playing harmonica on the title track of Harry Belafonte‘s Midnight Special album, for which he is paid fifty dollars.
Credits affirm that Dylan really did blow harp on this LP
May 11, 1961: Soviet bandleader and musicologist Alexander Utyosov, writing in the East Berlin Freie Walt, contends that “what some people now call ‘Dixieland’ music was played for many years in Odessa in our Socialist Motherland before it was called to life in New Orleans.”
May 21, 1961: “Every Beat of My Heart” enters the Hot 100 in two versions — one on the Fury label by Gladys Knight, the other on the Vee Jay label by The Pips. They are not the same recording, but are rendered by the same act, victims of a contract dispute. The Vee Jay single will be the more successful, rising to #6 on the pop chart and Number One on the R&B chart. Gladys Knight and the Pips, whose first hits these are, will eventually sign to Motown’s Soul label.
September 23, 1961: Minit Records releases “I Cried My Last Tear” by New Orleans R&B singer Ernie K-Doe (né Ernest Kador), but his only big hit will be the novelty song “Mother-in-Law,” which made Number One earlier this year. “I Cried My Last Tear” will rise as high as #69 in the pop chart, and K-Doe will have two more minor hits in the next several months.
Composed by “Naomi Neville” = i.e., Allen Toussaint
November 6, 1961: Minit Records releases the rock & roll anthem, “It Will Stand” by The Showmen, whose lead singer, General Johnson, will resurface in early 1970 as the distinctive scatting and hiccuping lead voice on Chairmen of the Board‘s soul hit “Give Me Just a Little More Time” [NOTE: “It Will Stand” was used as a bumper theme between ad breaks for 1979’s ABC-TV’s rock doc “Heroes of Rock and Roll“].
February 10, 1962: The instrumental “Soul Twist” is released on Enjoy Records. The record features saxophonist King Curtis, who provided the raunchy, honking tenor sax breaks in such Coasters classics as “Charlie Brown” and “Yakety Yak.” The record will eventually reach #17 on the pop chart.
April 7, 1962: [King Records] James Brown‘s predominantly instrumental “Night Train,” based on an earlier instrumental hit by ex-Count Basie saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, is released on King Records. It will reach #35 on the pop chart and #11 on the R&B chart.
UK – 1962
July 12, 1962: The Rolling Stones make their performing debut at the Marquee Club in London. The group, according to a handbill publicizing the event, is composed of vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Elmo Lewis, bassist Dick Taylor, pianist Stu and drummer Mick Avery. Future Kinks drummer Avory’s name is misspelled. Stu is Ian Stewart, who will remain the Stones’ unofficial pianist. Dick Taylor will soon leave the group to form The Pretty Things. Elmo Lewis is actually Brian Jones.
October 24, 1962: [King Records] James Brown records Live at the Apollo, Volume 1 at the landmark theater in Harlem, New York City. The album will sell over a million copies — an unprecedented feat for an R&B album — and will later earn a reputation for being one of the finest concert albums ever made [NOTE: NPR piece about a “missing” live album at the Apollo from 1972 that had been unearthed in 2016].
December 22, 1962: The Tornadoes‘ “Telstar” becomes the first record by a British group to top the American pop chart. The song was inspired by the launching of the Telstar commu-satellite in July. It is the only significant American hit for the organ-dominated instrumental group, although such follow-up recordings as “Globetrotter,” “Robot” and “The Ice Cream Man” make the British Top Twenty in the coming year.
January 5, 1963: “As it stands today, there’s virtually no difference between rock & roll, pop and rhythm & blues,” Leonard Chess, cofounder of Chess Records, tells Billboard. “The music has completely overlapped.”
February 25, 1963: Vee Jay Records, the small Chicago-based label, releases the first Beatles record in the USA, “Please Please Me” backed with “Ask Me Why.” In spite of “Please Please Me” being a smash hit in England, virtually no one notices it in America (perhaps because Vee Jay credits the record to “The Beattles“).
May 15, 1963: “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto hits Number One on the pop American chart — the first Japanese song to do so. Sakamoto has been a singing star in Japan for five years, with fifteen hit singles and half as many hit albums to his credit. “Sukiyaki,” under its original title, “Ue O Mui Te Aruko,” was a huge Japanese hit before Capitol Records released it in the US, changing the title to one of the few Japanese words Americans would recognize. In spite of the record’s success, it will prove to be Sakamoto’s only US hit.
August 24, 1963: Little Stevie Wonder is the first artist to make the Number One position on the pop singles chart, the pop albums chart, and the R&B singles chart at one time. In fact, no one before him has made the pop-singles and the pop-albums charts simultaneously, let alone the R&B singles chart, too. Wonder’s wonders are The Twelve-Year-Old Genius and one selection from that live album “Fingertips, Part Two.”
September 16, 1963: The Beatles‘ “She Loves You” backed with “I’ll Get You” is released in the US on the small, independent, New York-based Swan label, as Capitol Records — EMI’s American affiliate — has refused it, just as it refused “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You.” Currently Number One in Britain, “She Loves You” will be ignored in America until early 1964, when it bounds to Number One here, too [NOTE: See related Zero to 180 history piece about Seymour Stein + other Beatle writings].
February 1, 1964: Cameo-Parkway Records releases The Swans‘ “The Boy With the Beatle Hair,” and Capitol releases Donna Lynn‘s “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut.” [NOTE: More Beatle novelty items here.]
March 2, 1964: Columbia Records is suddenly inundated with requests for heavyweight boxing champ Cassius Clay‘s album I Am the Greatest, released in September 1963 but now in great demand after Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston on February 25. Columbia expects to sell 500,000 copies. Says Clay: “I’m better and prettier than Chubby Checker” [NOTE: Check out Zero to 180’s “Ali: The People’s Choice“].
May 14, 1964: The “blue beat” dance craze has taken hold in Cleveland and Detroit in the wake of Millie Small‘s chart-climbing hit “My Boy Lollipop.” According to Billboard, the song that is based on Jamaican prereggae ska music, is a smash in Britain. Within one week, Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun and engineer Tom Dowd will fly to Jamaica and return with forty newly recorded sides by ska acts like The Blues Busters, Stranger Cole, The Maytals and others [NOTE: And yet, only 12 sides issued on 1964 LP Jamaica Ska, Atlantic’s lone long-playing album].
May 30, 1964: The Jamaican Government , in cooperation with Atlantic Records, announces that it will send six dancers to demonstrate the ska at New Jersey’s Palisades Amusement Park in June. The Jamaican government will later send artists like Jimmy Cliff and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires to the New York World’s Fair in the summer of 1964.
June 20, 1964: “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl,” by Patty and the Emblems (on Herald Records), enters the Hot 100. It will eventually reach #37 and will be covered in a hit version in the late Seventies by New York band Mink DeVille.
September 5, 1964: “Mercy Mercy” by Don Covay and the Goodtimers enters the Hot 100. It will eventually reach #35 and will be one of the biggest hits for Memphis soul singer and composer Covay under his own name in the Sixties. In 1968, Covay’s song “Chain of Fools” will become a smash hit in a version sung by Aretha Franklin, and will win her a Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.
UK – 1964
November 28, 1964: Soul singer Betty Everett enters the Hot 100 for the fourth time in her career with “Getting Mighty Crowded,” which will remain on the chart for six weeks, eventually reaching #65. The song was written by Van McCoy, at the time a house composer/arranger for Everett’s label, Vee Jay; he would go on to become a prime mover of the disco movement in the Seventies with such hits as “The Hustle.” “Getting Mighty Crowded” would be covered by Elvis Costello in the late Seventies.
January 1, 1965: England’s New Musical Express reports that the US government, for undisclosed reasons, has denied working visas to British rock bands. This means the cancellation of tours by groups like The Nashville Teens, The Zombies and The Hullaballoos, who are already in New York with DJ Murray the K of New York’s WMCA.
February 5, 1965: Screaming Jay Hawkins begins his first British tour. He tells the NME, “I want to meet this guy Screaming Lord Sutch” — referring to the British rock singer who took both his name and flamboyant stage act from Hawkins.
March 6, 1965: Memphis gospel and soul singer Solomon Burke enters the pop and R&B charts with the single that will be his biggest hit on both charts, “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” which will peak at pop #22 and be an R&B Number One.
April 19, 1965: The film The T.A.M.I. [Teen-Age Music International] Show — featuring James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles — opens in London under the title Teenage Command Performance. The film, partially financed by Phil Spector, will become one of the most popular documentaries of the rock era.
July 17, 1965: [King Records] James Brown‘s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” enters the R&B and pop charts. It will hit R&B Number One — Brown’s first single to do so since “Try Me” in 1958 — and reach pop #8, Brown’s first to break the pop Top Ten. In the next ten years, Brown will have fifteen more R&B Number Ones and five more pop Top Tens (but no Number Ones), earning the indefatigable singer/dancer such epithets as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “Soul Brother Number One,” “Mr. Dynamite,” “The Godfather of Soul” and “Minister of the New, New Superheavy Funk.”
September 4, 1965: The Who have their equipment van stolen outside the Battersea Dogs Home in England while they are inside the Home buying a guard dog.
November 13, 1965 [King Records] James Brown‘s “I Got You (I Feel Good) enters both the pop and R&B charts. The song will reach Number One R&B and #3 pop, and will become one of the Godfather of Soul‘s most enduring and most readily identifiable classics.
January 8, 1966: The final episode of “Shindig!” featuring The Kinks (“I Gotta Move“) and The Who (“I Can’t Explain“), is broadcast on ABC-TV. The show had premiered in September 1964 and from 1965 had aired twice weekly, on Thursday and Saturday evenings.
February 14, 1966: The New York Times reports on The Moppets, an all-girl rock band formed by four Mount Holyoke College students, and notes other groups at other women’s schools.
May 7, 1966: Del Shannon, who had big hits in 1961 with “Runaway” and “Hats Off to Larry,” enters the Hot 100 for the sixteenth and last time with “The Big Hurt” which in its two weeks on the chart will peak at #94. Little will be heard from Shannon again until 1981, when he has a Top Forty hit was “Sea of Love,” produced by Tom Petty [NOTE: See Zero to 180 piece about Shannon’s “lost” album of 1967].
October 22, 1966: The Beach Boys release their classic single “Good Vibrations” on Capitol Records. The song, featuring inspired use of the sci-fi movie sound-effects instrument the theremin, is the most expensive production for a single up to this time [NOTE: See recent Zero to 180 history piece about “serious pop“].
December 23, 1966: BBC-TV broadcasts “Ready Steady Go!” for the last time after more than three years in which the weekly show was Britain’s most popular pop-music television program. The special guests for the farewell show are The Who.
January 1, 1967: Country music star Moon Mullican dies at age fifty-eight of natural causes at his Tennessee home. Though he never had any pop hits, Mullican’s two-fingered “hillbilly boogie” piano style made him arguably the first white boogie-woogie pianist and a definite influence on the pounding piano style of Jerry Lee Lewis [NOTE: Zero to 180’s tribute piece to King recording artist, Moon Mullican].
February 23, 1967: Jamaican ska singer and producer Prince Buster‘s “Al Capone” becomes the first Jamaican record to enter the UK pop chart (Millie Small‘s “My Boy Lollipop,” which had earlier kicked off the ska boom, was recorded in London). The song will later be covered under the title “Gangsters” by British two-tone ska-rock band The Specials in the late Seventies.
June 23, 1967: Arthur Conley receives a gold record for “Sweet Soul Music,” his first hit. The song — a rewrite of Sam Cooke‘s “Yeah Man” — is a tribute to the current soul music explosion and names Otis Redding, (Conley’s mentor), James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls and Sam and Dave. “Sweet Soul Music” did equally well on both the pop and R&B charts in May.
July 1, 1967: After almost ten years together, The Parliaments make both their pop and R&B chart debuts with “(I Wanna) Testify,” which will reach #20 pop and #3 R&B. Following this initial success, The Parliaments, under the leadership of vocalist, songwriter and producer George Clinton, will modify their name to Parliament and expand their ranks to include an instrumental section, Funkadelic, which will also make its own Clinton-directed records. In the Seventies, Parliament-Funkadelic and other permutations, such as Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Brides of Funkenstein, The Horny Horns, and Parlet, will epitomize the street-smart spaced-out jumble of rhythm & blues and acid rock called funk. Their slogan: “Funk for its own sake.”
October 7, 1967: South African émigré singer Miriam Makeba makes her pop and R&B chart debut with “Pata Pata,” which will peak at #12 pop and #7 R&B. Makeba – who came to America under the auspices of Harry Belafonte in 1960 and was married to South African trumpeter Hugh Maskela (“Grazing in the Grass“) before returning to Africa as the wife of American black nationalist Stokely Carmichael – sings this dance song in English and in her native Xhosa language.
November 2, 1967: The five members of The Move and their manager, Tony Secunda, appear in a London court for hearings on a suit filed against them by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The subject of the suit is a picture postcard The Move used to promote their single “Flowers in the Rain.” It depicts the prime minister nude in bed. The court will later decide in Wilson’s favor, fine The Move and confiscate all remaining copies of the offending postcard.
December 20, 1967: The First Czechoslovak National Festival of Rock Music opens for two days in Prague. Featured among the performing bands is The Primitives, who will later be known as The Plastic People of the Universe.
January 11, 1968: The Daily Mirror of London reports that Jimi Hendrix has moved into the London townhouse that George Frederick Handel is believed to have composed Water Music and The Messiah over 200 years earlier. Hendrix assures the Mirror that he, too, will compose in the Handel house and “not let the tradition down.”
May 8, 1968: Buddah Records books New York’s Carnegie Hall for a promotional concert at which the entire Buddah roster — eight groups, including The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Ohio Express, The Lemon Pipers and other leading purveyors of bubblegum pop — combines to form the forty-six-strong Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus, which follows up its Carnegie Hall triumph with a hit single, “Quick Joey Small”
July 18, 1968: South African emigré Hugh Masekela claims his only gold record, with an instrumental single, “Grazin’ in the Grass” (later given a hit vocal treatment by The Friends of Distinction).
November 1, 1968: George Harrison becomes the first Beatle to issue a solo album when he releases Wonderwall Music, the soundtrack to the film Wonderwall on Apple.
November 2, 1968: The four-day Czechoslovakian International Beat Festival, to be headlined by The Soul Men from Bratislava, is canceled by Soviet invasion authorities.
January 11, 1969: Album-cover nudity hits the bubblegum genre as Buddah Records Vice President and General Manager Neil Bogart designs a cover featuring a photo of six nude women for the bubblegum greatest hits LP, The Naked Truth. Bogart claims the nudes on the cover depict “what life is really all about,” and represent “the freedom of expression common to music today and the new attitude toward living.”
January 29, 1969: “The Bosstown Sound” hype reaches Newsweek, which reports on such Boston phenomena as The Ultimate Spinach, Earth Opera, and Phluph, and the clubs where these bands may be experienced — The Psychedelic Supermarket, The Catacombs, and The Boston Tea Party. The article quotes one Peter Wolf of The Hallucinations (later of The J. Geils Band): “Kids wandered around Boston for years saying, ‘Something’s got to happen in this town,’ but nothing happened and they left. Now I get calls saying, ‘We’re coming back to Boston. Something’s happening there.'”
June 29, 1969: Shorty Long, the Detroit soul singer who recorded the original version of “Devil with a Blue Dress On” (later made famous by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels), drowns at age twenty-nine when his boat capsizes off Sandwich Island, Ontario, Canada. Long’s hits include “Function at the Junction” and “Here Comes the Judge.”
UK – 1966
September 22, 1969: A new weekly prime-time rock-oriented show, “The Music Scene,” debuts on ABC. In its one-year run, the forty-five minute show, conducted by comedian David Steinberg, features such stars as James Brown, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Issac Hayes, Tom Jones, and Cass Elliott [NOTE: Not to mention Johnny Cash, in this colorful filmed segment that features overheated summer classic “Blistered”].
David Steinberg with Groucho Marx
October 3, 1969: Legendary bluesman Nehemiah “Skip” James dies of cancer in Philadelphia at age sixty-seven. His best-known song was “I’m So Glad,” which Cream covered in 1967.
January 31, 1970: England’s biggest reggae stars — Desmond Dekker, Max Romeo, Jimmy Cliff, The Upsetters, The Pioneers, and Harry J’s All-Stars — kick off a package tour of England at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
March 18, 1970: British label Immediate Records (whose roster included The Small Faces), founded by former Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, goes out of business.
April 17, 1970: Johnny Cash performs at the White House at the invitation of President Richard M. Nixon but refuses to oblige the president by singing “Welfare Cadillac” or “Okie from Muskogee,” which are not his songs; he does, however, comply with an executive request for his Number One hit, “A Boy Named Sue.”
June 25, 1970: KRLA-FM in Pasadena, California, drops its long-running series of gen-minute daily comedy routines by The Credibility Gap, a hip satirical outfit, explaining that “Humor is no longer funny in today’s society.”
July 12, 1970: South Dakota judge S.K. Hicks, who claims to be the inspiration for Johnny Cash‘s hit single “A Boy Named Sue,” receives autographed records and photos from Cash.
August 4, 1970: The Medicine Ball Caravan, featuring The Grateful Dead and hippie scene people like Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney) of the Hog Farm, becomes rock’s first and last movable festival as it leaves San Francisco on a cross-country trek, pulling seven tie-dyed tepees along with it. The caravan will eventually reach the United Kingdom, document itself with an album, and its own rock band, Stoneground, will emerge from it.
September 28, 1970: A unique new music show debuts on Hollywood TV station KCET, Channel 28. “Boboquivari” (a Hopi Indian word for the neck of an hourglass, “the place where time begins”) presents rock, pop, folk and other performers in an informal, intimate studio setting — but with no host, no format and no lip-synching. The first shows feature Tim Buckley, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Roberta Flack and Freddie King. [NOTE: TV Guide provides summary listing for each episode].
December 12, 1970: Rock critic John Mendelsohn‘s band, Christopher Milk, arouses the ire of Doug Weston, owner of the Troubadour club in Los Angeles. At a Monday night audition there, the band’s lead singer, Mr. Twister, wreaks havoc by pouring hot wax all over himself, biting audience members, overturning tables and spilling drinks in customer’s laps.
January 10, 1971: Making a rare appearance, Bob Dylan accompanies country star Earl Scruggs on “East Virginia Blues” and “Nashville Skyline Rag” for a public television documentary. The latter of the two is later released as part of an LP titled Earl Scruggs — His Family and His Friends.
February 8, 1971: Bob Dylan‘s one-hour-long documentary film, Eat the Document, is screened at New York’s Academy of Music (later known as the Palladium). Much of the footage is from Dylan’s 1966 UK tour with The Band, filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, who also did Dylan’s Don’t Look Back. Performances shown include “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and other classics. But the film is fragmentary and difficult for most in the audience to latch onto. Eat the Document is not shown on TV as the reclusive star had hoped for, until ten years later.
April 28, 1971: Barbra Streisand gets a gold album for Stoney End, one of her rare forays into rock music [NOTE: Separate from her foray into experimental pop]. That album, along with 1969’s What About Today? featured material by such writers as John Lennon, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, and Carole King. At twenty-eight, Streisand seems intent on changing her image (“The Jeaning of Barbra Streisand” is how Rolling Stone titles a 1971 piece on the singer), and even takes to lighting joints onstage in Las Vegas.
ONLY in Mexico is Barbra’s ‘Stoney End’ album entitled ‘Soul’!
June 6, 1971: John Lennon and Yoko Ono appear on stage for the first time since 1969, joining Frank Zappa for a jam at the Fillmore East. Says Lennon of the encounter: “I expected sort of a grubby maniac with naked women all over the place. The first thing I said was, ‘Wow, you look so different. You look great!'” Zappa had his own preconceptions, too. The first thing he said, recounts Lennon, was, “You look clean, too.”
September 18, 1971: The unusual pairing of Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo and soul singer Bobby Womack enters the soul chart with “Breezin’,” a song written by session guitarist Phil Upchurch that will be a #63 pop hit in an instrumental version by jazz guitarist George Benson in 1976. The Szabo-Womack version of “Breezin‘,” however, will only hit #43 on the soul chart.
December 11, 1971: Godfather of Soul James Brown has his thirty-second album released this week. Revolution of the Mind, subtitled Live at the Apollo 3 and released by Polydor Records, opens with a song whose title only James Brown could have come up with: “It’s A New Day So Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn” [NOTE: Song birthed from two earlier 45 releases on King Records].
December 28, 1971: Keith Moon emcees a concert for one of his favorite acts, Fifties revivalists Sha Na Na.
March 27, 1972: Elvis Presley records what will be his last major hit, “Burning Love,” which reaches #2 in October. The song was originally recorded by blues singer Arthur Alexander.
April 24, 1972: One of John Lennon‘s most controversial singles, “Woman Is the N*gger of the World,” is released. The song goes to #57, despite the fact that virtually every radio station in the country refuses to play it.
August 12, 1972: The Festival of Hope — the first rock festival used to raise funds for an established charity — gets underway at Roosevelt Raceway in Garden City, New York. The concerts are sponsored by the Nassau Society of Crippled Children and Adults, and features appearances by many rock and soul acts, including The Jefferson Airplane, Stephen Stills, James Brown, Sha Na Na and many others.
September 8, 1972: John Sinclair organizes the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. What makes the festival different from all others, boasts the noted political activist, is that “it’s gonna be a real people’s festival — produced by freaks and for the community.” And he actually pulls it off, with a bill including Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bonnie Raitt, Sun Ra, Junior Walker, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Luther Allison, and Bobby “Blue” Bland.
September 9, 1972: England’s BBC-TV premieres “The Old Grey Whistle Test,” a rock & roll program that will serve as a showcase for rock talent.
November 4, 1972: London gets its first permanent rock & roll theater, the 3,000-plus capacity Rainbow Theatre. With its art-deco decor, the forty-one-year-old building (originally called the Finsbury Park Astoria) becomes one of England’s most popular venues. The Who are the inaugural act, playing three consecutive nights.
November 24, 1972: ABC-TV premieres its late-night rock show “In Concert,” produced by the man who gave you The Monkees, Don Kirshner. The first show, taped earlier at Long Island’s Hofstra University, stars Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Poco, and The Allmans (then with the late Berry Oakley). Kirshner will later leave “In Concert” and begin his own “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.”
February 1, 1973: Island Records’ Chris Blackwell announces to Rolling Stone that he is founding Mango Records, a label dedicated to molding reggae artists. “I think that reggae has a chance of breaking in America,” Blackwell predicts, although he adds that he sees its audience being “musicians and professional people more than kids, who won’t quite understand.”
February 11, 1973: Jazz drummer Elvin Jones plays a pair of benefits in Sacramento, California, to raise funds to help rebuild Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital, which had been destroyed by US bombers last Christmas.
July 29, 1973: Led Zeppelin, in the middle of a highly successful US tour, are the victims of one of the largest cash thefts ever pulled off in New York City, as $180,000 is pilfered from the group’s deposit box at the Drake Hotel. The money mostly represents cash receipts from the first two of three Madison Square Garden shows. Police have dusted for fingerprints and are investigating the crime.
August 2, 1973: Who is Jobraith? According to Rolling Stone, impresario Jerry Brandt has announced that bids to sign his new artist must start at $1 million. Just what does Jobriath do? Sings and plays piano, for starters, but he’s also designed his own stage act, which includes a replica of the Empire State Building that turns into a penis as the star sheds his King Kong suit and slips into something more comfortable. Jobriath also plans to be filmed playing piano in the Mojave Desert during an upcoming solar eclipse.
September 9, 1973: Todd Rundgren keeps his promise and records 1,000 voices in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the left track of his song “Sons of 1984“; he had recorded over 5,000 fans in New York’s Central Park on the right track. But the open-air recording session ends in a rumble, as police move in to arrest a twenty-one-year-old man for allegedly peddling cannabis, and a melee erupts. Eleven persons are arrested.
September 26, 1973: The Dutch instrumental group Focus receives a Gold record for Focus 3, which comes on the heels of their lone hit, “Hocus Pocus.” The song is notable for its lead “vocals,”
March 28, 1974: The Raspberries have split in two. Rolling Stone reports that the rhythm section of Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley have left and have formed a band called Dynamite. Original members Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson, meanwhile, plan to continue, and have added drummer Mike McBride and bassist Scott McCarl.
April 8, 1974: “Bennie and the Jets” turns gold, no doubt pleasing Elton John. But what makes John even happier is that the tune becomes a major hit on the R&B chart, as well.
May 10, 1974: New Jersey funk band Kool and the Gang‘s Wild and Peaceful album, their seventh in five years, goes gold. The album features three top-selling singles: “Jungle Boogie” (#4 on the pop chart), “Hollywood Swinging” (#6) and “Funky Stuff” (#29). Originally a jazz-oriented band, Kool and the Gang began moving toward R&B in the early Seventies, and by the time of Wild and Peaceful had perfected a protodisco style in which “party” vocal chants and staccato horn fills sparred over a stark, heavy, metronomic funk rhythm.
May 23, 1974: According to Rolling Stone, two would-be promoters, George T. McGinis and Archie McIntosh, are indicted on federal mail-fraud charges in connection with a mail-order ticket offering for an “Elten John” concert, to be held June 8. That’s Elten spelled with an e, mind you, not an o, as the real Elton spells it. Authorities confiscate about $11,000 in checks and money orders as evidence.
November 7, 1974: Rolling Stone reports that Ted Nugent has won the National Squirrel-Shooting Archery Contest by picking off a squirrel at 150 yards. Nugent also wiped out twenty-seven more of the small mammals with a handgun during the three-day event.
January 11, 1975: Shirley and Company‘s “Shame, Shame, Shame” enters both the pop and R&B charts. After sixteen weeks on the pop chart, it will reach #12, and after seven weeks on the R&B chart, it will hit Number One on March 1. The Shirley of Shirley and Company is Shirley Goodman, who, as half of the New Orleans duo Shirley and Lee, scored such hits as “Let the Good Times Roll” in the late Fifties. Shirley and Company will have only one more hit, “Cry Cry Cry,” which will reach #91 in the summer of 1975.
Excuse the typo above
February 1, 1975: Down by the Jetty, Dr. Feelgood‘s first record, is put out by United Artists in England. The band, headlining in England over Kokomo and Chilli Willi on the Naughty Rhythms tour, is perhaps the missing link between pub rock and punk; its hard-edged, almost brutal R&B sound and throwback stance presages much of what emerges in England over the new two years.
February 21, 1975: John Entwistle begins the only solo tour by a Who member in Sacramento, California. The quiet bassist and his band, Ox (after his own nickname), play for five weeks in the States, with mixed results: Entwistle later complains the tour cost him a fortune and that he hates guitarist Robert Johnson. It is his last public solo endeavor for over six years.
February 22, 1975: The second single from John Lennon‘s Walls and Bridges album, “#9 Dream,” peaks at — of course — #9 on the charts.
May 10, 1975: Stevie Wonder plays before 125,000 people at the Washington Monument as part of Human Kindness Day, for which he is the honoree. Despite initial reservations as to whether the focus of his involvement might detract from the event’s impact, Wonder and his group, Wonderlove, perform for over an hour.
September 12, 1975: Hard rock band Slade‘s attempt at rock moviemaking, Flame, opens in St. Louis. The band, as popular in its native UK as it is overlooked in the US, stars as a prepackaged Sixties band. But despite the concurrent release of Flame, the book, and Flame, the soundtrack, the venture falls far short of capturing the American interest.
“From the forthcoming film” – Spain
September 19, 1975: Dickie Goodman, master of the novelty “break-in” record—where excerpts from current hits are used to flesh out what, in Goodman’s case, is inevitably some sort of parody of current events or fads—earns his only gold record, for “Mr. Jaws,” currently on its way to #4 on the pop chart. Goodman had many other such hits, including “The Touchables” (1961), “Ben Crazy” (1962), “Batman and His Grandmother” (1966), “On Campus” and “Luna Trip” [moon landing-themed] (1969), “Watergrate” (1973), “Energy Crisis ’74” and “Mr. President” (1974). Before going solo, Goodman had scored several other “break-in” novelty hits as half of a duo with Bill Buchanan. The first of their duo hits, 1956’s “Flying Saucer,” was also the first “break-in” record and sparked controversy among the composers and publishers whose songs had been excerpted.
November 18, 1975: Rock & roll and prime-time television meet again, under the usual inane circumstances, when Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen appear on an episode of “Police Woman.” The band, playing a rock group named The Chromium Skateboard, and the Commander deliver twenty-two speaking lines. The best line actually comes from an assistant director, who outlines some professional camera behavior for the group: “Please, try not to stare at Angie’s [assets].”
November 22, 1975: British soul singer Pete Wingfield‘s only US chart entry “Eighteen with a Bullet,” reaches—inevitably— #18 on the chart, with a bullet [NOTE: Actually, Billboard indicates peak chart position to be #15 on November 29, 1975].
UK – 1975
January 30, 1976: Texas “songster” Mance Lipscomb dies of natural causes at age eighty in his Navasota, Texas home. Popularly thought of as a country bluesman, Lipscomb used the term songster to describe himself and to differentiate himself from bluesmen, and with good reason: he was more of a minstrel than anything else, and played not only blues but ballads, reels, jigs, breakdowns, drags, shouts, jubilees, spirituals and more. In fact, perhaps no other single performer embodied as many aspects of the Afro-American folk-music tradition as Lipscomb. He performed locally in Texas all his life, but did not record until 1960, when he was discovered by Chris Strachwitz of the Arhoolie label, for whom he recorded several well-received albums.
March 13, 1976: Philadelphia soul vocal trio The O’Jays enter the charts with the double-sided hit “Living for the Weekend” backed with “Stairway to Heaven” (not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin classic), which will go on to become on the three R&B Number One hits for the group this year. The other two are “Message in Our Music” and “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby” [NOTE: O’Jays’ first two 45s as The Ascots issued on King].
May 3, 1976: Paul Simon organizes a benefit show at Madison Square Garden for the financially troubled New York Public Library. Phoebe Snow, Jimmy Cliff, and the Brecker Brothers pitch in for the concert, which nets over $30,000 for the institution.
June 19, 1976: Reggae stars Bob Marley and the Wailers enter the pop chart with what will become their first US hit, “Roots Rock Reggae,” which will peak at #37.
August 21, 1976: The self-titled album by New York disco-sophisticates Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band enters the LP chart. The album features their only hit singles, “I’ll Play the Fool” (which will reach #80 in late 1976) and “Cherchez La Femme” (which will hit #27 early in 1977). The group will become a great favorite of critics enamored of their cosmopolitan blend of disco, pop, Latin and big-band swing (what the band members themselves termed “mulatto music”). But they will never be very commercially successful, and will disband after two more albums, though they will occasionally reunite in the early Eighties for New York City concerts. Savannah Band members August Darnell and “Sugar Coated” Andy Hernandez will later go on to form Kid Creole and the Coconuts, a more tropical version of the Savannah Band that will find more commercial success than the Dr. Buzzard unit. Hernandez will then leave Kid Creole to go solo as the rap act Coati Mundi.
December 28, 1976: Blues guitar giant [and King recording artist] Freddie King (no relation to those other blues guitar giants, Albert and B.B. King) dies of hepatitis at age forty-two in Dallas, Texas. King’s fleet-fingered guitar work on such songs as “Hideaway” was highly influential on Eric Clapton, among many others, and King recorded two albums, Burglar and Freddie King (1934-1976), with British sessionmen.
UK – 1965
January 29, 1977: United Artists releases The Stranglers‘ first single, “(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)” backed with “London Lady,” in Britain. Formed as a London pub-rock-band in 1975, The Stranglers have more recently won the allegiance of the punk movement; their vinyl debut, therefore, is considered one of the earliest punk records.
1977 EP – US
3-D specs not included
March 11, 1977: The Slits makes their stage debut, opening for The Clash at the Roxy in London. The first all-female punk group, The Slits will have to bear the double curse of their sex and their style, which takes the concept of enlightened amateurism to an extreme. Accompanying The Clash on their White Riot tour of the UK after having played only three gigs, The Slits will respond to charges of incompetence by inviting members of the audience on stage to play while the four women take to the floor to dance.
April 8, 1977: The Damned‘s performance at New York City’s CBGB makes the first appearance of a British punk group in America.
June 24, 1977: Harvest/EMI Records releases the first punk compilation album, Live at the Roxy. The set includes concert numbers by The Buzzcocks, Eater, Johnny Moped, X-Ray Spex, The Adverts, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Unwanted and Wire, recorded at London’s preeminent punk club.
July 13, 1977: A city-wide power outage in New York City brings Boz Scaggs‘ Avery Fisher Hall concert to a premature end. But at the Bottom Line, NRBQ, taping flashlights to their microphone stands, transform their concert into an acoustic set.
August 27, 1977: A picnic at Levon Helm‘s home in Woodstock, New York, provides the occasion for the formation of The RCO All-Stars, with drummer Helm, pianist, Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald Dunn and harmonica player Paul Butterfield. Helm’s former colleague in The Band, Robbie Robertson, is also at the picnic, but declines to join the group, which will set off on its first tour in the fall [see related story about RCO All Stars & King’s Henry Glover].
September 23, 1977: British CBS releases The Clash‘s “Complete Control” backed with “City of the Dead.” The single was recorded this summer in Kingston, Jamaica, with Lee ‘Scratch‘ Perry, the legenday reggae producer, at the board. Perry had introduced himself to The Clash after hearing their version of “Police and Thieves,” a song he had written and produced for Junior Murvin. This meeting of punk and reggae will be the inspiration for Perry’s next collaboration with Bob Marley: “Punky Reggae Party,” which will be a British Top Ten single for Bob Marley & the Wailers in December.
November 26, 1977: French “Euro-disco” unit Le Pamle-mousse enter the soul singles chart with “Le Spank,” a glossy, mechanized reworking of a classic James Brown riff, which will peak at #13 in its nineteen weeks on the chart.
March 22, 1978: The Rutles‘ All You Need Is Cash, an affectionate satire of The Beatles, airs on NBC-TV. The Rutles are played by Eric Idle, of British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus; ex-Beach Boy Ricky Fataar; ex-Bonzo Dog Band member Neil Innes; and John Halsey (who’s worked with Roy Harper and Patto, among others). Paul Simon and Mick Jagger make cameo appearances as themselves. George Harrison appears as an interviewer. Among the songs featured: “Cheese and Onions,” “Ouch!” and “I Must Be in Love.”
April 3, 1978: Blues guitar giant B.B. King joins famed defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey for a rap session and concert for inmates at Norfolk Prison in Boston, Massachusetts, as part of their ongoing duties as co-chairmen of FAIRR (Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Rehabilitation and Recreation). Portions of the Norfolk concert are shot by ABC-TV for inclusion on a subsequent episode of “Good Morning America.”
August 9, 1978: Blues legend Muddy Waters performs at a White House picnic for President Jimmy Carter.
October 18, 1978: The film Rockers, produced and directed by Greek Theodoras Bafoloukos, premieres in Kingston, Jamaica. This reggae feature, with a plot similar to the well-known reggae cult film The Harder They Come with Jimmy Cliff, stars reggae session drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace; he plays himself, taking on a crime syndicate that threatens the welfare and lifestyle of Kingston’s reggae musicians. The film also features such reggae stars as Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney, Jacob “Killer” Miller, Gregory Isaacs, The Mighty Diamonds, Big Youth, Robbie Shakespeare, Dillinger, Jack Ruby, Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus as themselves. The film’s soundtrack also features the music of Prince Hammer, Peter Tosh, The Heptones and others. It will not be shown in the US until 1980, when it will enjoy a brief but well-received fun.
UK – 1979
November 18, 1978: Critically-acclaimed British funk-pop band Hot Chocolate make one of their rare entries into the US soul charts with “Every 1’s a Winner,” which in its eighteen weeks on the chart will peak at #7.
December 16, 1978: Parliament, part of George Clinton‘s subversive-message funk empire, enters the soul LP chart with Motor-Booty Affair. The album, which yields the hit single “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop),” Number One for four weeks starting January 20, 1979, will rise to #2 on the chart. It caps off a highly successful year for Clinton, who has already had two Number One singles with Parliament’s “Flashlight” (Number One for three weeks starting March 4) and Funkadelic‘s “One Nation Under a Groove” (Number One for six weeks starting September 30), and a Number One soul LP in Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove (Number One for four weeks starting October 28).
December 16, 1978: James Brown makes his third and last soul singles chart entry of the year with the title cut of his latest album, “For Goodness Sakes, Look At Those Cakes.” The bawdy ode to one variety of girl-watching will peak at #52.
January 8, 1979: Canadian rock band Rush are named the country’s official “Ambassadors of Music” by the Canadian government.
February 7, 1979: Stephen Stills becomes the first rock performer to record on digital equipment in Los Angeles’ Record Plant Studio. However, his digital material is never released, and Ry Cooder will become the first rock performer to release a digitally recorded record [1979’s Bop Till You Drop, presumably].
March 2, 1979: Havana Jam, the first jointly sponsored US-Cuban music event in twenty years, begins three days of performances today. Featured artists include Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, and Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. CBS Records will later release an album documenting the festival.
March 9, 1979: ABC-TV shows the rock documentary, Heroes of Rock & Roll, narrated by Jeff Bridges and featuring clips of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello and other rock greats, as well as the first film ever seen of Bruce Springsteen in performance (an excerpt from “Rosalita“).
August 23, 1979: Brooklyn declares this “Peter Tosh Day,” awarding the reggae star an honorary citation as he tours the borough’s Jamaican neighborhoods.
October 6, 1979: Funk band Fatback enter the soul chart with “King Tim III (Personality Jock),” which will peak at #26 in its eleven weeks on the chart, and which will later be seen by many observers as a seminal pre-rap song.
November 3, 1979: Guyana-born British reggae-funk-rocker Eddy Grant enters the US soul chart for the only time this decade with “Walking on Sunshiine,” which will only reach #86 in just three weeks on the chart. The song will later be an international funk hit in a 1982 cover version by Brooklyn-based Rockers Revenge. Grant himself – a former member of late-Sixties interracial British teenybopper band The Equals — will reemerge triumphant in 1983 with the hit singles “Electric Avenue” and “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and the hit album Killer on the Rampage.
December 3, 1979: Eleven fans are trampled to death in the rush to gain admittance for general or festival (unreserved) seating to The Who‘s concert this evening at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. As is typical in festival-seating concerts, thousands of fans had arrived early for the show, all hoping to get into the Coliseum as quickly as possible to get the best seats they could. Since they could be admitted through only two doors, a crushing human bottleneck formed; the eleven people died when the doors were finally opened and the mob stampeded for the doors. Coroner’s reports ruled that the eleven died from “suffocation due to accidental mob stampede.” The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, will cancel The Who’s concert scheduled there in two days. Multiple suits will be filed by the families of the deceased against the city of Cincinnati, Riverfront Coliseum, The Who, and the Cincinnati concert’s promoters, Electric Factory (run by Larry Magid, who in the late Sixties ran one of the first East Coast rock ballrooms, Philadelphia’s Electric Factory). Festival seating itself will be almost universally blamed for the tragedy (except by Walter Cronkite, who on tonight’s “CBS Evening News” blames it on “a drug-crazed mob of kids“), but festival seating will continue to be used in concerts around the country.
December 31, 1982: One of New York City’s longest-running rock clubs, Max’s Kansas City, closes. Recently a haven of punk rock bands, Max’s had been the watering hole for Andy Warhol‘s coterie, including The Velvet Underground, in the late Sixties. Here, the Velvets, The New York Dolls and many other important rock bands made their reputations. Devo made its first sensational New York stage debut, introduced by David Bowie, at Max’s in 1976. And it was at Max’s that the young, unknown Bruce Springsteen played solo acoustic sets in the early Seventies, opening for The Wailers.