1955: Bill Haley & His Comets topped the UK singles chart with their first charting single and only #1 hit, “Rock Around the Clock.”
1956: One of the first rock and roll movies, The Girl Can’t Help It, opened in America. Featuring performances by Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, The Platters, and Fats Domino, the filmed starred Jayne Mansfield as an aspiring singer.
1957: Buddy Holly and the Crickets made their television debut on The Ed Sulllivan Show, performing two of their biggest songs, “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day.” Also on the show was the first TV appearance of The Rays, singing “Silhouettes,” as well as Sam Cooke, who after being cut off on his first Ed Sullivan appearance a month earlier, sang both “You Send Me” and his new hit record, “Sentimental Reasons.”
1958: “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by The Teddy Bears was the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. The vocal trio consisted of the song’s writer, Phil Spector, along with his two friends Marshall Leib and Annette Kleinbard.
1962: “Tell Him” by the Exciters entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record became the group’s only top 40 hit on the Hot 100, where it reached #4, as well as the R&B chart, where it peaked at #5. Written by songwriter and producer Bert Berns earlier that year as “Tell Her,” it was first recorded by Gil Hamilton, aka Johnny Thunder, and was also a single for Ed Townshend. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller produced the version by the Exciters, which had been released in October.
1963: After an unbroken 30-week run at #1 on the UK album chart, the Beatles’ debut LP, Please Please Me, was knocked out of the top spot by the group’s follow-up album, With the Beatles, which continued the band’s hold on the #1 spot for an additional 21 weeks.
1964: Rock disc jockey Murray the K held a Christmas show at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, featuring Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, The Drifters, The Shirelles, Dick & Dee Dee, The Shangri Las, Patti La Belle & The Bluebells, The Vibrations, Dionne Warwick, The Zombies, The Nashville Teens, and The Hullabaloos. Later that month, Murray broke the news on air that he was resigning from AM radio station WINS due to the yet unpublished news that the station was being sold and changing its format to news. After his last show on WINS at the end of February, an FCC ruling prohibiting AM and FM stations from simultaneously airing the same content allowed Murray to become the program director and primetime DJ for WNEW-FM 102.7, one of the first FM rock stations. There, he played long album cuts rather than singles and often played groups of songs by a single artist or thematically linked songs without commercial interruption. He also combined live in-studio interviews and all forms of popular music in a free-form format.
1965: Peter & Gordon recorded their first sessions for “Woman,” with the song’s writer, Paul McCartney, playing drums. The final version of the song, without McCartney, was later released with a songwriter’s credit of “Bernard Webb.”
1966: Tom Jones scored his second of two #1 hits on the UK singles chart with “Green, Green Grass of Home.”
1968: At the Family Dog concert hall in San Francisco, Janis Joplin made her last appearance with Big Brother and the Holding Company after making her intentions to leave known to the band earlier that summer. She remained with the group to finish their remaining performing commitments.
1969: Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees announced that he was quitting the group. His brother, Robin, had made the same decision earlier in the year, and all three brothers ended up releasing solo material before they reformed in late 1970.
1971: Grand Funk Railroad’s fifth album and their last produced by Terry Knight, “E Pluribus Funk,” entered the Billboard chart, peaking a month later at #3.
1971: John Lennon and Yoko Ono released “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” in the US. Recorded with the Harlem Community Choir in late October, the song was the culmination of more than two years of peace activism undertaken by Lennon and Ono that began with the bed-ins they convened in March and May of 1969.
1972: “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” the third single from the Eagles’ debut album, was released.
1975: Former Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen released his first solo single, “All By Myself.” The record entered the pop charts a few weeks later and in March of 1976 became his biggest hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Cash Box Top 100.
1976: The Sex Pistols, who had just released their first single, “Anarchy in the UK,” appeared on British television’s Today Show as a last-minute replacement for Queen. After interviewer Bill Grundy asked them about their controversial reputation, the band’s profanity-laced response caused a national uproar, but boosted record sales. The incident effectively ended Grundy’s career while simultaneously elevating the Sex Pistols to notoriety and signalling the arrival of mainstream punk rock.
1978: The Doobie Brothers released their eighth studio album, Minute by Minute. The last to include members Jeff Baxter and John Hartman, it became the band’s first and only #1 album. At the 22nd Grammy Awards, the album won for Best Pop Vocal by a Duo or Group, and the hit single “What a Fool Believes” earned three Grammys, including Record of the Year.
1979: Prince had his first #1 single when “I Wanna Be Your Lover” went to the top of the Billboard R&B chart.
1979: Steve Forbert debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Romeo’s Tune,” the lead single from his second album, Jackrabbit Slim. The song became Forbert’s biggest hit, reaching #11.
1990: Chris Isaak debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Wicked Game.” Released as a single the previous year, the song did not become a hit until it was featured in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart. It soon after became Isaak’s first and biggest hit and only single to enter the top 40 on the Hot 100, peaking at #6.
Matt Monro, singer known as “The Man with the Golden Voice,” who was one of the most popular international music entertainers during the 1960s and 1970s, was born Terence Edward Parsons in Shoreditch, London, England in 1930.
Lou Rawls, singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer, was born in Chicago, IL in 1933.
Billy Paul, soul singer, was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1934.
Sandy Nelson, one of the best-known rock session drummers of the early 1960s who also had several solo instrumental top 40 hits, was born in Santa Monica, CA in 1938.
Eric Bloom, singer, songwriter, and guitarist and keyboardist with Blue Öyster Cult, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1944.
John Densmore, drummer for the Doors, was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1944.
Bette Midler, singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1945.
Gilbert O’Sullivan, singer-songwriter, was born Raymond Edward O’Sullivan in Waterford, Ireland in 1946.
Jaco Pastorius, jazz bass guitarist and member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981, who also worked with Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell and recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader, was born in Norristown, PA in 1951.