Today in Rock & Roll History: December 31st

1952: Jazz and blues musician Johnnie Johnson moved to St. Louis in 1952 and immediately formed the Sir John Trio. The group had a regular engagement at the Cosmopolitan Club and on New Year’s Eve, Johnson’s saxophonist suffered a stroke, forcing Johnson to look for a last-minute replacement. He called on a young guitarist named Chuck Berry, the only musician Johnson knew who, because of his inexperience, would likely not be playing on New Year’s Eve. When Johnson’s sax player had to leave the group for good, Johnson hired Berry as a permanent member of the trio. The two collaborated on many of Berry’s songs over the next twenty years.

1961: The Beach Boys, formerly known as the Pendletones, performed their first show under their new name at a New Year’s Eve concert dedicated to Ritchie Valens in Long Beach, California. Also on the bill were the Rivingtons, the Carlos Brothers, and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

1961: Janis Joplin made her public debut singing at the Halfway House Coffee Club in Beaumont, Texas.

1963: The Kinks, then known as The Ravens, played a show at London’s Lotus House restaurant. Their manager, Robert Wace, had decided to have the band play at the favorite restaurant of promoter Arthur Howes, who had previously handled the Beatles. Howes, who was notorious for making decisions on the spot, loved them and became the group’s booking agent.

1964: The Yardbirds debut live album, Five Live Yardbirds, recorded in March at London’s Marquee Club, was released exclusively in the UK.

1966: The Monkees topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the second time with “I’m a Believer” for the first of seven weeks. The record had reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 the week prior. With over a million advance orders, the record went gold two days after it’s release. The song was the band’s first #1 on the UK chart as well as on many of the European charts and went on to become the biggest-selling record for all of 1967.

1969: At a New Year’s Eve concert at the Fillmore East in in New York City, Jimi Hendrix introduced his new group, the Band of Gypsys, with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. The concert was recorded and several songs were released in March as Band of Gypsys. Another album titled Live at the Fillmore East, which included additional recordings from the show, was released in February of 1999.

1972: Three Dog Night’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the first edition of a television special conceived of by American Bandstand host Dick Clark, aired on NBC. Clark felt that the well-established big band broadcasts by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on CBS were outdated and did not appeal to younger viewers. The first edition of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was hosted by members of Three Dog Night with pre-recorded musical performances from the ballroom of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Preston, Helen Reddy, Al Green, and Three Dog Night. Clark served as a reporter from Time Square. The following year, comedian George Carlin was the host, and in 1975, the program moved to ABC and was billed as Chicago’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1975 with Chicago as the headlining act and Clark as host.

1974: After the departure of guitarist Bob Welch from Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were invited to join the band, thus forming the group’s classic line-up.

1974: Pink Floyd began work on their ninth studio album, Wish You Were Here, at Abbey Road Studios in London.

1976: The Cars played their live debut at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH.

1978: UK group XTC made their debut concert appearance in the US at New York’s Beacon Theater. The band had been invited by David Byrne to support the Talking Heads at the theater’s New Year’s Eve show.

1978: The Grateful Dead performed for the 48th time at Bill Graham’s Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco to close the venue. Opening the show were the New Riders of the Purple Sage as well as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, who appeared as their Saturday Night Live characters, the Blues Brothers. The complete concert was later released in 2003 on CD and DVD.

1981: Steve Winwood released his second solo studio album, Arc of a Diver. Winwood played all of the instruments on the LP and it features his first solo hit, “While You See a Chance.” It also reached #1 on the Canadian chart.

2004: Roger Daltrey was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to music, the entertainment industry, and charity.

Birthdays Today

Odetta, folk, blues, and spirituals singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as “the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement,” was born Odetta Holmes in Birmingham, AL in 1930.

Andy Summers, composer, songwriter, guitarist for the Police, Soft Machine, The Animals, and Strontium 90, and a solo artist, was born Andrew James Somers in Poulton-le-Flyde, Lancashire, England in 1942.

Pete Quaife, bassist and founding member of The Kinks, was born Peter Alexander Greenlaw Kinnes in Tavistock, Devon, England in 1943.

John Denver, singer-songwriter, record producer, actor, and activist, was born Henry John Deutschendorf in Roswell, NM in 1943.

Burton Cummings, pianist, singer, and songwriter for the Guess Who and a solo artist, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1947.

Donna Summer, singer and songwriter, was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Bostonm, MA in 1948.

Paul Westerberg, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the Replacements, was born in Minneapolis, MN in 1959.