Today in Rock & Roll History: December 15th

1955: Sun Records released “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash from his debut album, Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar!. Recorded earlier that July, the song was inspired by Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, a 1951 noir film that Cash saw while serving in West Germany in the United States Air Force.

1958: Jackie Wilson started five weeks at the top of Billboard’s R&B chart with his first #1 single, “Lonely Teardrops.”

1959: The Everly Brothers recorded “Let It Be Me” in New York. Originally a French hit in 1955 titled “Je t’appartiens,” the English version was first recorded by American pop singer Jill Corey in 1957 and further popularized by the Everly Brothers in 1960, whose version reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1964: Dusty Springfield was deported from South Africa after performing before a desegregated audience at a show near Capetown. Springfield was the first British artist to stipulate the inclusion of a specific “No Apartheid” clause into her contract, and her disgust with the country’s policy of racial segregation and discrimination inspired a cultural boycott of South Africa.

1964: Capitol Records released the Beatles’ seventh American album, Beatles ‘65, which contained eight of the fourteen songs from the band’s newest UK LP, Beatles for Sale. After entering the Billboard pop chart, the album moved from #98 straight to #1, making the biggest jump to the top position in the history of the Billboard album charts up to that time.

1967: The Who released their third studio album, The Who Sell Out. The concept album is formatted as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with faux commercials and public service announcements. The album’s release was reportedly followed by lawsuits due to the mention of real-world companies and products and the use of real radio jingles. Nonetheless, critics claimed the album was the band’s best yet.

1967: The Beatles released their fifth Christmas record for fan club members, Christmas Time Is Here Again!. Developed around the concept of several groups auditioning for a BBC radio show, the band’s members portray several characters and the title song serves as a refrain throughout the record.

1968: While performing with the Jefferson Airplane on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Grace Slick appeared in blackface and raised a black leather glove in solidarity with the Black Power movement at the conclusion of their performance of “Crown of Creation.” The incident was one of several that led to the television program’s cancellation the following season.

1969: The Rascals released their sixth studio album, See.

1969: “No Time,” the lead single from The Guess Who’s sixth studio album, American Woman, entered the Billboard Hot 100, where it later became their second top 10 hit in the US, peaking at #5. Originally recorded for the group’s previous album, Canned Wheat, it was the second version recorded for their American Woman LP that was released as a single and became a hit.

1969: The Byrds released “Jesus Is Just Alright,” the second single from their eighth studio album, Ballad of Easy Rider. The song was introduced to the band by drummer Gene Parsons, who had been in the studio when it was originally recorded by The Art Reynolds Singers in 1966. In 1972, the song was covered by The Doobie Brothers, whose version featured an arrangement that was heavily influenced by the Byrds’ recording.

1969: John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band held a “Peace for Christmas” benefit concert for UNICEF at the Lyceum Ballroom in London. George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie, Billy Preston, and the Who’s Keith Moon also took part. It was Lennon and Harrison’s first scheduled performance since The Beatles’ last concert in 1966, and Lennon’s last live performance in his home country of England.

1978: Marvin Gaye released his fifteenth studio album, Here, My Dear. Largely based on his divorce from his first wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, it was initially a commercial and critical failure, though after Gaye’s death, critics have considered the double LP one of Gaye’s best.

1979: Pink Floyd started five weeks at the top of the UK chart with “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” the lead single from the band’s eleventh studio album, The Wall.

1980: The Eagles released their live cover of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” as a single from their first live album, Eagles Live.

1984: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by UK charity supergroup Band Aid topped the UK singles chart.

1984: Hall & Oates released “Method of Modern Love,” the second single from their twelfth studio album, Big Bam Boom.

Birthdays Today

John Hammond, record producer, A&R scout, civil rights activist, and music critic who was instrumental in launching or furthering the careers of such artists as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billie Holiday, Big Joe Turner, Pete Seeger, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, was born in New York City in 1910.

Stan Kenton, innovative and influential jazz musician, composer, and bandleader, was born in Wichita, KS in 1911.

Max Yasgur, owner of the dairy farm in Bethel, New York where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in August of 1969, was born in New York City in 1919.

Tommy Durden, steel guitarist and songwriter best known for co-writing Elvis Presley’s breakthrough hit, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was born in Morgan County, GA in 1919.

Alan Freed, disc jockey and promoter who popularized the phrase “rock n’ roll,” the term he used for the mix of blues, country, and rhythm and blues music he promoted on the radio in the US and Europe, was born in Windber, PA in 1921.

Jesse Belvin, R&B singer, pianist, and songwriter, was born in San Antonio, TX in 1932.

Cindy Birdsong, singer with Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles who later replaced Florence Ballard in the Supremes, was born in Mount Holly Township, NJ in 1939.

Dave Clark, drummer, leader, and manager of the Dave Clark Five, was born in Tottenham, North London, England in 1939.

Carmine Appice, songwriter, percussionist, and drummer for Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Beck, Bogert & Appiceand, and others, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1946.

Paul Simonon, vocalist, songwriter, and bassist for the Clash, was born in Thornton Heath, Croydon, England in 1955.

Tim Reynolds, multi-instrumentalist and lead guitarist of Dave Matthews Band, was born in Wiesbaden, West Germany in 1957.

Mick Cooke, brass player, guitarist, and founding member of Belle & Sebastian who left in 2013 to focus on composing, was born in 1973.