Today in Rock & Roll History: December 23rd

1957: The Champs recorded “Tequila” in three takes at Gold Star Recording Studio in Hollywood for Challenge Records. The session was originally organized to record the songs “Train to Nowhere,” “Night Beat,” and “All Night Rock.” “Tequila” was the last tune recorded and was released the next month as the B-side of “Train to Nowhere.” It wasn’t until a disc jokey in Cleveland played the B-side a few months later that “Tequila” began its ascent up the charts, reaching #1 in March of 1958.

1959: The Drifters recorded the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman song “This Magic Moment” at Bell Sound Studios in New York City in a session produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

1960: “Won’t Be Long” by Aretha Franklin was released as a single before its inclusion on her first studio album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo.

1964: On a flight from Los Angeles to a concert in Houston, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown, leading to his immediate retirement from touring. Glen Campbell was hired to take his place onstage and was eventually replaced by permanent member Bruce Johnston. Wilson didn’t appear onstage with the Beach Boys again for another twelve years. His time away from touring was instead spent focusing on the band’s studio projects, culminating in the band’s historic Pet Sounds album.

1966: Buffalo Springfield released “For What It’s Worth.” Written by Stephen Stills, the song was inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots that occurred earlier that year. That same year, the group had become the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. Stills later claimed that the title came from a conversation with Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegum, in which Stills presented him the song saying, “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.”

1966: British rock and pop television show Ready Steady Go! was broadcast for the last time as a special titled “Ready Steady Goes!” featuring guests Mick Jagger, Chris Farlowe, the Who, Paul Jones, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Tich, Eric Burdon, Alan Price, Donovan, Lulu, Keith Relf, Paul Sammwell Smith, Julie Felix, Cat Stevens, Merseys, Peter and Gordon, the Small Faces, and the Spencer Davis Group. As a finale, singer and entertainer Kenny Lynch led presenter Cathy McGowan and the various acts in a sing-along version of “White Christmas.”

1967: “Spooky” by Classics IV entered Billboard Hot 100. It was the group’s first song to enter the top 100 in the US and became their first of three records to become a top 10 hit.

1967: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart entered the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.” The single became the duo’s highest charting record and only top 10 hit, reaching #8.

1968: Taj Mahal released his second studio album, The Natch’l Blues. Session musicians on the LP include Al Kooper, Earl Palmer, and Jesse Ed Davis.

1969: Elton John met for the first time with what became his classic team of songwriter Bernie Taupin, arranger Paul Buckmaster, and producer Gus Dudgeon to begin work on his first solo album.

1972: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s television film Imagine was released. Written and directed by Lennon and Ono, the surreal half fiction, half real-life project was mostly filmed at their Tittenhurst Park home in Ascot, England and featured all the songs from Lennon’s Image album as well as “Mrs. Lennon” and “Don’t Count the Waves” from Ono’s album Fly.

1972: In the spring of 1972, Grand Funk Railroad fired manager Terry Knight after discovering that Knight had invested much of the band’s earnings into several non-music ventures. Knight, to whom Grand Funk was signed rather than Capitol Records, in turn sued the band for $57 million, claiming Grand Funk the band had breached their contract. At a December show at Madison Square Garden, Knight arrived with a court order allowing him to seize their equipment at the end of the performance. The two parties later settled out of court. Grand Funk Railroad was allowed to keep their name, but Knight got just about everything else, including publishing rights to all of their songs up to that point.

1973: “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce’ became his second of two #1 records in both the US and Canada.

1974: George Harrison released “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” as the second US single from his fifth solo studio album, Dark Horse. It had been issued in the UK on December 6th.

1989: Phil Collins had the last song to top the Billboard Hot 100 that year with his seventh US #1 single, “Another Day in Paradise.”

Birthdays Today

Milt Okun, arranger, record producer, conductor, singer, and founder of Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company, Inc who transformed the careers of several major US acts including Peter, Paul and Mary, The Chad Mitchell Trio, John Denver, and Harry Belafonte, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1923.

Harold Dorman, singer and songwriter known for his only hit record, “Mountain of Love,” which has since been covered by several artists, was born in Drew, MS in 1926.

Buddy Harman, country music session drummer who played on over 18,000 sessions for artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, Leon Russell, and many more, was born in Nashville, TN in 1928.

Chet Baker, trumpeter, vocalist, and cool jazz innovator, was born Chesney Henry Baker in Yale, OK in 1929.

Esther Phillips, versatile singer across multiple genres, was born in Galveston, TX in 1935.

Johnny Kidd, singer, songwriter, and lead vocalist for Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, was born Frederick Albert Heath in Willesden, North London, England in 1935.

Eugene Record, lead vocalist of the Chi-Lites, was born in Chicago, IL in 1940.

Jorma Kaukonen, guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist, and co-founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1940.

Tim Hardin, folk musician and composer, was born James Timothy Hardin in Eugene, OR in 1941.

Luther James Grosvenor (aka Ariel Bender), solo artist and guitarist for Spooky Tooth, Stealers Wheel, and Mott the Hoople, was born in Evesham, Worchestershire, England in 1946.

Bob Berberich, drummer for the Reekers, the Hangmen, and Grin, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1947.

Jim Pash, original saxophonist for The Surfaris, was born in 1948.

Adrian Belew, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist of King Crimson, who also worked with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Paul Simon, Tom Tom Club, and others, was born Robert Steven Belew in Covington, KY in 1949.

Johnny Contardo, lead singer of Sha Na Na, was born in Boston, MA in 1951.

Doug Stegmeyer, musician who was best known as the bassist and back-up vocalist for Billy Joel, was born in Flushing, Queens, NY in 1951.

Victoria Williams, singer, songwriter, musician, and founder of the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund charity organization, was born in Shreveport, LA in 1958.

Eddie Vedder, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and Pearl Jam guitarist and lead vocalist, was born Edward Louis Severson III in Evanston, IL in 1964.