Today in Rock & Roll History: December 20th

1965: Wilson Pickett recorded “634-5789” in Memphis with Stax house musicians the M.G.’s and Isaac Hayes on piano for his third album, The Exciting Wilson Pickett. The song is a reference to Motown girl group the Marvelettes’ 1962 hit “Beechwood 4-5789.” Despite the record’s success, Pickett’s “wicked” persona proved too difficult for the Memphis crew to handle and it was his last session at Stax, with president Jim Stewart allegedly banned him from returning. Concerned that another label might profit off the studio’s sound, Atlantic Records began sending Pickett and other artists, including Aretha Franklin, to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

1967: After leaving the John Evan Band, vocalist Ian Anderson, bassist Glenn Cornick, and guitarist Mick Abrahams recruited drummer Clive Bunker to form Jethro Tull. John Evan later joined as the group’s keyboard player. At first, the group frequently changed their name, but after one of their booking agent’s staff members christened them “Jethro Tull” after the 18th century agriculturalist, the name stuck the first time they were invited by a club manager for a return performance.

1969: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies entered Billboard Hot 100, where it later became their fourth top 10 hit, peaking at #7.

1969: “No Time” by The Guess Who entered Billboard Hot 100. The song had originally been recorded for the band’s Canned Wheat album, but was re-recorded for their next album American Woman and released as the LP’s lead single. The record peaked at #5 in the US and was the third in a string of million-selling singles that all hit #1 in the band’s home country of Canada.

1969: After scoring a pair of #2 singles in 1963 with “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Peter, Paul & Mary achieved their first and only US #1 hit with the John Denver-penned song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

1969: Just over a week after it’s release, the Rolling Stones’ eighth album in Britain Let It Bleed knocked the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP off the top of the UK album chart for one week.

1971: Billy Preston’s single “I Wrote a Simple Song” was released. The record’s B-side, “Outa-Space,” later became Preston’s first top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #2, as well as his first to reach #1 on the R&B chart.

1975: Joe Walsh officially replaced Eagles guitarist and founding member Bernie Leadon, who’d left to pursue a solo career.

1975: Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” the second single from his fourth solo album Still Crazy After All These Years entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record became his first and only solo #1 on the chart in February.

1975: “All By Myself,” the first single from Raspberries singer Eric Carmen’s self-titled debut solo LP, entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record later became his biggest solo hit, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Cash Box chart.

1980: “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon became his first solo #1 hit on the UK chart.

1986: The Bangles achieved their first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Walk Like an Egyptian,” written by “Akron Sound” songwriter Liam Sternberg.

Birthdays Today

Kim Weston, Motown singer, was born Agatha Nathalia Weston in Detroit, MI in 1939.

Bobby Colomby, drummer and original member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, was born in New York City in 1944.

Stevie Wright, musician, songwriter, and founding member and leader singer of the Easybeats, was born Stephen Carlton Wright in Leeds, England in 1947.

Alan Parsons, audio engineer, songwriter, musician, who served as record producer on several significant albums and lead his own group, the Alan Parsons Project, was born in London, England in 1948.

Anita Ward, singer and musician, was born in Memphis, TN in 1956.

Guy Babylon, keyboardist and composer who joined Elton John’s studio and touring band in 1988, was born in New Windsor, MD in 1956.

Billy Bragg, singer, songwriter, and activist, was born Stephen William Bragg in Barking, Essex, England in 1957.

Chris Robinson, lead singer for the Black Crowes, was born in Marietta, GA in 1966.