Today in Rock & Roll History: April 26th

1940: Folk singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie recorded most of the tracks for his “Dust Bowl Ballads” album at RCA’s Victor Studios in Camden, New Jersey. Guthrie’s first commercial recording and his most successful album, the semi-autobiographical LP depicts the economic hardship that many migrant workers faced in California during the Dust Bowl era, and is considered to be one of, if not the first concept album.

1964: For the first time in 51 weeks, the Beatles were not at the top of the UK album chart, finally unseated by the Rolling Stone’s debut LP.

1966: The Beatles recorded John Lennon’s “And Your Bird Can Sing” at EMI Studios in London. Released first on the US and Canada-only album “Yesterday and Today,” the song was later included on their seventh studio album, Revolver.

1966: Dusty Springfield had her first #1 on the UK chart with “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” It was also her highest-charting US single yet, reaching #4 on the Billboard chart and #3 on the Cash Box chart. The year before, the original version of the song, recorded by Pino Donaggio and co-written with Vito Pallavicini, had been at #1 in Italy. Springfield had been an attendee at Italy’s Sanremo Festival, where the song was introduced to audiences. Despite not understanding the song’s lyrics, Springfield was moved to tears and, after securing an acetate recording of Donaggio’s song, eventually had an English version written by “Ready Steady Go!” producer Vicki Wickham and Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell, neither of whom had any experience as songwriters.

1967: Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys was arrested by the FBI for refusing to report for military service after receiving his US army draft notice in January. Wilson filed for “conscientious objector” status, but ultimately was indicted and faced criminal persecution for draft evasion. After being arrested, Wilson was released on $15,000 bond but refused to do the subsequent community service. A judge was later convinced to allow Wilson to fulfill his community service by performing at hospitals and prisons.

1969: “These Eyes” by The Guess Who entered the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. A month later, it became the Canadian group’s first top 10 hit in the US, reaching #6. Over the next five years, it was followed by twelve more top 40 hit singles, six of which reached the top 10. Regarding the release of “These Eyes,” lead singer Burton Cummings later recalled, “We fought RCA tooth and nail not to release it as a single because we wanted to be a rock band.”

1969: The original cast of the rock musical Hair started thirteen weeks at #1 on the Billboard album chart with the show’s original Broadway cast recording. The album had received a Grammy award for Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album in March, sold nearly thirteen million copies by that December, and was the last Broadway cast album to top the Billboard pop chart.

1970: The Supremes released Right On, the group’s nineteenth studio album and first not to feature former lead singer Diana Ross, who had been replaced by Jean Terrell.

1975: B.J. Thomas not only reached the top spot on both the Cash Box Best Seller list and Billboard Hot 100, but also set a record for the #1 song with the longest title with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” The record was surpassed six years later in June of 1981 when Dutch novelty group Stars on 45 topped the Billboard chart with an eleven-song medley that combined covers of Shocking Blues’s “Venus,” the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” and eight Beatles songs.

1978: Ringo Starr appeared in his first American network television special. Titled Ringo, the NBC film featured an all-star cast that includes Art Carney, Angie Dickinson, Carrie Fisher, Vincent Price, John Ritter, Mike Douglas, and George Harrison. The plot is loosely based on the Mark Twain story The Prince and the Pauper and features Starr performing several of his songs, including some from his recently released album, Bad Boy.

1978: The Last Waltz, director Martin Scorsese’s documentary on The Band’s last concert, premiered in New York City. Filmed on Thanksgiving Day at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1976, the concert featured over a dozen special guests, including Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, the Staple Singers, Dr. John, and more.

1980: British ska band The Beat released “Mirror In The Bathroom,” the first digitally recorded single released in the UK.

1980: Slash records released Los Angeles, the debut album by L.A. band X. The album was produced by former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

1982: Paul McCartney released his third solo album and first after the dissolution of Wings, Tug of War. McCartney’s overall eleventh post-Beatles album, it was also his first release since the death of former songwriting partner John Lennon and was produced by former Beatles producer George Martin.

1983: The self-titled debut album by “Weird Al” Yankovic was released. The album, which consists of five direct parodies and seven original songs, was the first of many produced by former The McCoys guitarist Rick Derringer. The album received lukewarm reviews from critics who felt that Yankovic would be unable to overcome the stigma of a novelty record.

1984: After being filled during construction of the Merseyrail underground railway, Liverpool’s Cavern Club was re-excavated and re-opened in its original location, with a shopping center and offices above, and an authentic reconstruction of the original venue, with many of the original bricks, below ground level.

1994: Johnny Cash’s 81st album American Recordings was released by American Recordings after the label had changed its name from Def American. The album, which was Cash’s first without any accompanying musicians, marked the beginning of a career resurgence. Cash had been approached by producer and head of American Recordings Rick Rubin to record an album became he had felt Cash had been written off by the music industry. Once he promised Cash a high level of creative control, Cash began work on the album at his cabin in Tennessee and at Rubin’s home in Los Angeles, accompanied by only his guitar. After receiving widespread critical acclaim for the project, five more albums by Cash were released by on the American Recordings label.

2005: Bruce Springsteen released Devils & Dust, his thirteenth studio album and third acoustic album.

2011: Steve Earle released I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, his fourteenth studio album, produced by T Bone Burnett.

Birthdays Today

Duane Eddy, guitarist who devised a technique of playing lead on his guitar’s bass strings to produce a low, reverberant “twangy” sound, was born in Corning, NY in 1938.

Maurice Williams, lead singer for The Zodiacs, was born in Lancaster, SC in 1938.

Georgio Moroder, singer-songwriter, DJ, record producer, and founder of Musicland Studios in Munich, was born in Urtijëi, South Tyrol, Italy in 1940.

Gary Wright, singer, songwriter, keyboardist, composer, member of Spooky Tooth, and solo artist who helped establish the synthesizer as a leading instrument in rock and pop music, was born in Cresskill, NJ in 1943.

Tony Murray, bassist for the Troggs from 1969-1977 and 1979-1984, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1943.

Mike Finnigan, touring and session musician with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dave Mason, and Buddy Guy, was born in Troy, OH in 1945.

Chris Mars, drummer for The Replacements from 1979-1990 and a solo artist, was born in Minneapolis, MN in 1961.