Today in Rock & Roll History: December 17th

1954: Bill Haley and his Comets put the first rock and roll song on the UK singles chart with “Rock Around the Clock.” The song later peaked at #4 by the end of January.

1955: Carl Perkins wrote “Blue Suede Shoes.” Two days later, he recorded the song at Sun Records’ studio in Memphis.

1960: “Calendar Girl” by Neil Sekada entered Billboard Hot 100. It became his firs top 5 hit on the chart, peaking at #4.

1963: Carroll James at WWDC in Washington, D.C. became the first disc jockey to broadcast “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles on American airwaves. After hearing about Beatlemania in the UK, James had asked his stewardess girlfriend to bring back a copy of the record. The tremendous response from American listeners helped in persuading Capitol Records to push the single’s American release forward in time for the holiday sales season.

1965: Herman’s Hermits released “A Must to Avoid.” Written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, the single became the group’s fourth top 10 hit in the UK and seventh in the US.

1965: The Beatles released their third Christmas record for British fan club members.

1966: The Royal Guardsmen debuted the Billboard Hot 100 with “Snoopy vs. the Red Barron,” the title track from the group’s first album. The single became their only top 10 hit in the US, peaking at #2 during its eleven weeks on the chart. The record was also the group’s first of two #1 records in Australia.

1966: “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful entered the Billboard Hot 100. It became their last top 10 hit on the chart, reaching #8.

1966: “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops entered Billboard Hot 100, where it later reached #6 in late January.

1968: Pink Floyd released “Point Me at the Sky,” the group’s fifth single and last released in the UK for nearly a decade. The song was an early collaboration between Roger Waters and David Gilmour, and though it was not issued in the US, it was released in Canada, Europe, and Japan.

1971: David Bowie released Hunky Dory, his fourth studio album and first with RCA Records.

1976: Genesis released their eighth studio album, Wind & Wuthering. It was the group’s first album recorded outside the UK and their last to feature guitarist Steve Hackett.

1977: “Thunder Island,” the title track from Jay Ferguson’s second solo album, entered the Billboard Hot 100. Four months later, it became his only top 10 single.

1977: Elvis Costello appeared on NBC TV’s Saturday Night Live, where show producer Lorne Michaels as well as Costello’s record label, Columbia, insisted he play his latest UK single “Less Than Zero” for his American debut. A few bars into the song however, Costello halted his band, the Attractions, and launched into a blistering performance of “Radio Radio,” a song critical of the broadcasting industry. Costello was not invited back onto the program again until 1989, and during SNL’s 25th Anniversary special in 1999, he rushed the stage to interrupt the Beastie Boys, who joined him in a raucous rendition of “Radio Radio.” Costello insists that his act of rebellion in 1977 was inspired by the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s appearance on the BBC’s Lulu Show in 1969, in which Hendrix and the Experience halted their performance of “Hey Joe” to play an unscheduled cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” which resulted in Hendrix being banned from the BBC.

1983: The Pretenders entered the Billboard Hot 100 with “Middle of the Road,” the third single and opening track from the group’s third studio album, Learning to Crawl.

1983: Cyndi Lauper debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with her first single, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which later peaked at #2.

1987: Robert Plant performed Led Zeppelin songs for the first time as a solo artist at a show in Folkestone, England

Birthdays Today

Tommy Steele, Britain’s first teen idol and rock star, was born in Bermondsey, London, England in 1936.

Art Neville, singer, songwriter, keyboardist, and member of the Neville Brothers and the Meters who also performed on recordings by such artists as Labelle, Paul McCartney, Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, Dr. John, and Professor Longhair, was born in New Orleans, LA in 1937.

Carlo Little, drummer who played in an early version of the Rolling Stones, Cyril Davies’ All-Stars, and was a founding member of Screaming Lord Sutch’s Savages, was born in Shepherd’s Bush, London, England in 1938.

Eddie Kendricks, solo singer and co-founder of the Temptations, was born in Union Springs, AL in 1939.

James Booker, keyboardist whose unique style combined rhythm and blues with jazz standards, was born in New Orleans, LA in 1939.

Dave Dee, singer, songwriter, and frontman for 1960s pop band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, was born David John Harman in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England in 1941.

Paul Butterfield, blues harmonica player, singer, and leader of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was born in Chicago, IL in 1942.

Martin Smith, drummer for Simon Dupree and the Big Sound and Gentle Giant, was born in Southampton, England in 1946.

Jim Hodderm, drummer and early member of Steely Dan, was born in Bethpage, NY in 1947.

Jim Bonfanti, drummer for the Raspberries, was born in Winber, PA in 1948.

Paul Rodgers, singer, songwriter, musician, and vocalist for Free, Bad Company, and the Firm, was born in Middlesbrough, England in 1949.

Carlton “Carly” Barrett, reggae percussionist and drummer with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s The Upsetters and Bob Marley and the Wailers, was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1950.

Mike Mills, bassist for R.E.M., was born in Orange County, CA in 1958.

Sara Dallin, singer, songwriter, and founding member of Bananarama, was born in Bristol, England in 1961.