Today in Rock & Roll History: August 15th

1959: The Drifters were at the top of the Cash Box chart and at #2 on the Billboard pop singles chart with “There Goes My Baby,” one of the first records to pair strings with a black vocal group.

1960: “It’s Now Or Never” by Elvis Presley started five weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. His fifteenth #1 on the chart, the record had international sales of over 20 million copies and was Presley’s fifth UK #1.

1962: Original Beatles drummer Pete Best played his last show with the group at Liverpool’s Cavern Club. The following morning, manager Brian Epstein told Best he was being dismissed from the band.

1964: “A Summer Song,” by British duo Chad & Jeremy entered the Billboard pop singles chart, where it later became the their first and only US top 10 hit, reaching #7.

1964: Capitalizing on their recent pop star success on the silver screen, MGM signed the Dave Clark Five to a movie contract for a picture called Catch Us If You Can. For its release in the US, the film was renamed Having a Wild Weekend. The film premiered in the US a year later after its initial release in the UK earlier in the spring.

1965: Donovan released his cover of “Universal Soldier,” a song originally written and recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie, as part of a UK EP titled The Universal Soldier. The song was later released as a single in the US in September.

1965: “Respect” by Otis Redding was released as a single from his third studio album, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul. It became a crossover hit, reaching #4 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #35 on the Hot 100 pop chart. The song started as a ballad, and was presented to Redding by Speedo Sims, who had intended to record it with his band, the Singing Demons. When Sims’ group was unable to produce a satisfactory recording, Redding decided to record it himself, with rewritten lyrics and an increased tempo. It is unknown who the original writer of the song was. Nearly two years later, the song was famously covered by Aretha Franklin. Her rearranged version, with a few lyrical changes, became her signature song and an anthem for the feminist movement in the 1970s.

1965: The Beatles kicked off their second tour through the US at New York’s Shea Stadium in front of a crowd of 56,000 fans and 2,000 security guards. The milestone event was the first major stadium concert, the first at Shea Stadium, and set new world records for attendance and for revenue.

1966: The Beatles played at D.C. Stadium in Washington during their third and final American tour.

1966: The debut album by Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released. Original female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson and drummer Skip Spence both left the group shortly after the album’s release and were replaced by Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden.

1966: Chad & Jeremy released Distant Shores, their fifth studio album and first in which the duo was given time to craft their sound and style. It includes the first recording of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound,” predating even Simon & Garfunkel’s record.

1968: “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company was released as a single from their second album, Cheap Thrills. Written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, the song was originally recorded by soul singer Erma Franklin a year earlier. Big Brother and the Holding Company’s version, featuring lead vocalist Janis Joplin, became a much bigger hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1969: The Woodstock Music & Art Fair began on Max Yasgur’s 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, NY. The three day long festival drew a crowd of more than 400,000 people and became one of the most celebrated rock and folk concerts of all time. Performers on the first day included Richie Havens, Sweetwater, Tim Hardin, Melanie Safka, Bert Sommer, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, and Indian musicians Ravi Shankar and Swami Satchidananda.

1969: Fleetwood Mac released the UK compilation album, The Pious Bird of Good Omen, which consists of the band’s first four non-album UK singles and their B-sides, two other tracks from their previous two albums, and two tracks by the blues artist Eddie Boyd with backing by members of Fleetwood Mac. The album’s title, taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the albatross on the cover both reference the group’s #1 UK hit, “Albatross.”

1972: The Doors released Full Circle, the band’s eighth studio album and second after the death of Jim Morrison.

1972: The Band released their first live album, Rock of Ages, which had been compiled from recordings made during their series of shows at the Academy of Music in New York City in late December of 1971.

1975: Rod Stewart released his sixth studio album, Atlantic Crossing. It became his fourth straight #1 on the UK chart as well as his third top 10 album in the US.

1975: Following weeks of speculation, a record company spokesperson announced that Peter Gabriel was leaving Genesis to concentrate on “other literary and experimental interests outside of music.” The spokesperson also assured that Genesis would have a new singer and continue touring. Gabriel, who had recently had his first child, later said, “There was all this big time stuff happening with long tours being planned way in the future, and I just felt I was getting to be part of a machine. I felt I was becoming a sort of stereotype, sort of ‘rock star,’ or falling into wanting that ego gratification. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like the situation, and I didn’t feel free.”

1979: Led Zeppelin released their eighth and final studio album, In Through the Out Door. The LP entered both the US and UK charts at #1, held the top spot on the Billboard pop chart for seven weeks, and sold over six million copies.

1980: The Jam released “Start!,” the lead single from their fifth studio album, Sound Affects. The song is based on the main guitar and bass riff from the Beatles’ 1966 song “Taxman.” It became the group’s second #1 on the UK chart.

1980: The Cars released their third studio album, Panorama. The record marked a shift from upbeat pop rock to a more aggressive and experimental sound.

1980: America released Alibi, their ninth studio album and first without producer George Martin after working with Martin on their previous five albums.

1981: The Pretenders released Pretenders II, the group’s second studio album and last with their original line-up.

1981: The Kinks released their fifteenth studio album, Give the People What They Want. The UK release of the album was delayed until January of 1982 due to plans to produce a full-length video for the album and to remix it for the European market, but both projects were ultimately scrapped.

1987: John Cougar Mellencamp released “Paper in Fire,” the lead single from his ninth studio album, The Lonesome Jubilee. It became his eighth top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and third #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

1988: Michelle Shocked released her second studio album, Short Sharp Shocked.

1988: Glenn Frey released his third solo studio album, Soul Searchin’.

1992: INXS achieved their only #1 album in the UK with their eighth LP, Welcome to Wherever You Are.

1995: R.E.M. released “Crush With Eyeliner,” the fourth single from their ninth studio album, Monster. Michael Stipe claims the song was inspired by the band New York Dolls who, in his opinion, “knew how to exaggerate a song, to make it sound really sleazy and over the top.”

1995: Blind Melon released Soup, their second studio album and final album with vocalist Shannon Hoon. Additional recordings featuring Hoon were posthumously released as part of the group’s next album, Nico.

1995: Wisconsin band Garbage released their self-titled debut album.

1995: Southern Culture on the Skids released Dirt Track Date, their fifth album and first for Geffen Records subsidiary label DGC Records.

Birthdays Today

Bill Pinkney, singer, member of The Drifters, and founder of The Original Drifters, was born in Dalzell, SC in 1933.

Bobby Helms, country, pop, and rockabilly singer, was born in Helmsburg, IN in 1933.

Mike Seeger, folk singer, musician, folklorist, and half-brother of Pete Seeger, was born in New York City in 1933.

Floyd Ashton, soul singer and earlier member of The Tams, was born in 1933.

Bobby Byrd, R&B and soul singer, songwriter, bandleader, talent scout, record producer, and musician who played an integral and important part in the development of soul and funk music in association with James Brown, was born in Toccoa, GA in 1934.

Stix Hooper, drummer and founding member of The Crusaders, was born Nesbert Hooper in Houston, TX in 1938.

Don Rich, country musician and member of Buck Owens’ The Buckaroos who helped develop the “Bakersfield sound” in the early 1960s, was born Donald Eugene Ulrich in Olympia, WA in 1941.

Pete York, drummer for the Spencer Davis Group who later played with Eric Clapton’s Powerhouse and fronted the Olympic Rock & Blues Circus, was born in Redcar, Yorkshire, England in 1942.

Frederick Knight, R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, and co-founder of Juana Records, was born in Bessemer, AL in 1944.

Eddie Phillips, guitarist for the Creation who was the first musician to use a violin bow with a guitar, a technique later popularized by Jimmy Page, was born Edwin Michael Phillips in Leyton, London, England in 1945.

Jimmy Webb, singer, songwriter, and composer who wrote hits for the Fifth Dimension, the Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, and many others, was born in Elk City, OK in 1946.

Kate Taylor, singer-songwriter and sister of James Taylor, was born in Boston, MA in 1949.

Matt Johnson, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist and only constant member of The The, was born in London, England in 1961.

Ted Dwayne, bassist and founding member of Mumford & Sons, was born in London, England in 1984.