Today in Rock & Roll History: December 11th

1958: The Coasters recorded “Charlie Brown,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, with saxophonist King Curtis. The single later reached #2 on both the Billboard R&B and pop charts and was the first of three top-ten hits for the group that year.

1961: Elvis Presley’s fourth soundtrack album, Blue Hawaii, started twenty weeks at the top of Billboard pop chart for mono releases.

1961: Motown Records achieved their first #1 pop single when the Marvelettes’ debut record, “Please Mr. Postman,” reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song had topped the R&B chart the month before and was the group’s only #1 hit. Session musicians on the track included 22-year-old Marvin Gaye on drums.

1965: The Velvet Underground made their live debut at Summit High School in New Jersey. The band’s original lineup of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played together for the first time that night, opening for garage rock group The Myddle Class.

1966: English R&B group Bluesology opened for Little Richard at the Saville Theatre in London. The pianist for the group, Reginald Dwight, later known as Elton John, later recalled “When I saw Little Richard standing on top of the piano—all lights, sequins, and energy—I decided then and there that I was going to be a rock and roll piano player.”

1968: Blood, Sweat & Tears released their self-titled second studio album. It was the group’s first LP with singer David Clayton-Thomas after the departure of Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, and bandleader Al Kooper. It also became their first to album reach #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

1968: At Intertel Studios in Wembley, England, filming began for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus concert film, which included performances by John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Who, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, and Jethro Tull along with clowns and acrobats. Originally intended to air on the BBC, the Stones considered their performance substandard, and the project was shelved until the early 1990s, upon the discovery of footage thought to have been lost or destroyed. Recordings of the concert were finally edited and released in 1996. It was also the final public performance of Brian Jones with the Rolling Stones.

1968: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band scored their only top-10 hit on the UK chart with “I’m the Urban Spaceman,” which peaked at #5 the following week. Written by Neil Innes and produced by Gus Dudgeon under the pseudonym “Apollo C. Vermouth,” it was the band’s most successful single.

1969: The film The Magic Christian, starring Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers, had its world premiere at the Odeon Theatre in London.

1970: John Lennon released his first solo studio album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band on the same day that his wife Yoko Ono released her debut studio album, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. Lennon’s album was co-produced by Phil Spector and both albums feature backing by the Plastic Ono Band, which at the time included Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, and Billy Preston.

1972: Genesis played their first US concert at a sparsely-attended gig at Boston’s Brandeis University. The performance was a warm-up show before the group’s official American debut two days later at Philharmonic Hall in New York.

1976: “Year of the Cat,” the title track from Al Stewart’s seventh studio album, entered the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at #8 the following March.

1979: The Cars released “Double Life,” the third and final single from their second studio album, Candy-O.

1982: The Jam played their last show at the end of a short UK tour at England’s Brighton Conference Centre.

1982: “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders entered the Billboard Hot 100. The song later became the group’s first of two top 10 hits on the chart.

1984: Leonard Cohen’s seventh studio album, Various Positions, was released in Canada. The album marked a turn to more modern sound with the use of synthesizers and increased contributions from vocalist Jennifer Warnes.

1989: British comedy troupe Monty Python released Monty Python Sings, an album that contains popular songs from their previous albums and films. It was dedicated to the memory of founding member Graham Chapman, who died two months before its release.

2004: U2 debuted at #1 on Billboard pop chart with their eleventh studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Birthdays Today

Pérez Prado, bandleader, organist, pianist, and composer known as the “King of the Mambo,” was born Dámaso Pérez Prado in Matanzas, Cuba in 1916.

Big Mama Thornton, rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, was born Willie Mae Thornton in Ariton, AL in 1926.

Benny Spellman, R&B singer, was born in Pensacola, FL in 1931.

Curtis Williams, baritone vocalist for The Penguins, was born in 1934.

Tom Brumley, steel guitarist who played with Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Ricky Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, and Chris Hillman’s Desert Rose Band in addition to artists including Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Chris Isaak, Waylon Jennings, and Rod Stewart, was born in Stella, MO in 1935.

McCoy Tyner, influential jazz pianist and solo artist known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet, was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1938.

Brenda Lee, rockabilly, pop, and country singer, was born in Altanta, GA in 1944.

Philip “Spike” Edney, multi-instrumentalist best known for playing with Queen since the 1980s who also worked with artists such as Ben E. King, Edwin Starr, Duran Duran, Boomtown Rats, Dexys Midnight Runners, the Rolling Stones, and Peter Green, was born in Portsmouth, England in 1951.

Jermaine Jackson, bass guitarist and vocalist for the Jackson 5, was born in Gary, IN in 1954.

Dave King, vocalist and primary writer and lyricist for the Flogging Molly, was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1961.

Darryl Jones, bassist who has worked with Miles Davis, Sting, Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Otis Clay, John Scofield, and the Rolling Stones, was born in Chicago, IL in 1961.

Justin Currie, singer, songwriter, and founding member of Del Amitri, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1964.

Dave Schools, songwriter, record producer, bassist, and founding member of Widespread Panic, was born in Richmond, VA in 1964.

Martin Blunt, bassist and co-founder of The Charlatans (known as Charlatans UK in the US), was born in 1966.