Today in Rock & Roll History: February 17th

1960: After more than 15 million in sales with Cadence Records, the Everly Brothers signed a ten year $1 million contract with Warner Bros. Records. The duo went on to have eight more top 40 hits in the US over the next seven years.

1962: Gene Chandler had his first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Duke of Earl,” which had already reached the top of the R&B chart weeks earlier. The song had originated as a warm-up exercise by the Dukays, a vocal group that included Chandler, under his original name, Eugene Dixon. The Dukays had planned to record the song, but their record company preferred to release a different track, “Nite Owl,” and left Dixon with the offer of releasing “Duke of Earl” as a solo artist. Dixon took the offer and changed his name to Gene Chandler.

1962: The Beach Boys debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with their first single, “Surfin’.”

1965: Following its UK release a month earlier, the Kinks’ single “Tired of Waiting” was issued in the US. The record peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the next day, reached at #1 in the UK.

1966: In the early hours of the morning at Columbia’s Music Row Studios in Nashville, Bob Dylan recorded twenty takes of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” for his Blonde on Blonde LP. During the three hour session, Dylan continually revised the song’s lyrics and reworked its structure with each successive take before choosing the twentieth and final recording as the master. The entire three hour session was released in 2015 by Legacy Records as part of The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966.

1966: Nancy Sinatra was at #1 on the UK singles chart for the first time with her first major hit “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” which had been recorded with the help of Los Angeles’ Wrecking Crew session musicians. Ten days later the record topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

1966: Brian Wilson started work on “Good Vibrations” with The Wrecking Crew session musicians, a process that spanned six months, four studios, seventeen sessions, and cost an estimated $50,000-$70,000. The project marked the beginning of the Beach Boys’ Smile album, the follow-up to their Pet Sounds LP. The single and album represented a new approach by Wilson in creating songs through recording short interchangeable musical fragments. Numerous issues prevented the Smile album from being completed or released, and it was ultimately abandoned. Over the next few decades, occasional attempts were made to resurrect the project, during which time recordings surfaced in bootleg circles. Portions of the sessions were officially released in the 1990s, and in 2004, Brian Wilson reinterpreted and released Smile as a solo album.

1967: The Beatles began recording “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” at Abbey Road Studios in London. The inspiration for the song had come from an antique circus poster from 1843 that he had purchased in January while out filming a promotional film for “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

1968: “Valleri” by the Monkee was released. The song had been written by the songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart after a request by Colgems Records executive and Monkees manger Don Kirshner for a “girl’s-name-song” to be used in the Monkee’s television show. Boyce & Hart improvised the song on way to Kirshner’s office after telling him that they had already finished it. “Valleri” later went to #3 on Billboard Hot 100, #1 on Cash Box chart, #1 in Canada, and #12 in the UK. The track’s flamenco-esque guitar solo was performed by session musician Louis Shelton. The original recordings were featured on the first season of the Monkees’ TV show in 1967. Afterward, Lester Sill of Colgem Records decided to overdub brass onto the track before its 1968 release. Michael Nesmith was reluctant to remake the song or release it as single, calling it “the worst record ever,” but was overruled by Colgem.

1968: After Syd Barrett withdrew involvement from Pink Floyd, David Gilmour officially replaced Barrett as guitarist and vocalist. Initially, the intention was for Gilmour to assume Barrett’s role as a musician in the band while Barrett focused exclusively on songwriting. By March, however, working with Barrett had become too difficult, and he agreed to leave the group.

1969: Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash began the first of a two-day recording session. It was the only time the two men recorded together despite a decades-long friendship. Dylan had been finishing his Nashville Skyline album at Columbia Studios in Nashville when he was joined by Cash, and less than three months later, Dylan joined Cash on the first episode of The Johnny Cash Show.

1971: James Taylor made his prime-time television debut in the US on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC, performing “Fire and Rain,” “Country Road,” “Sweet Baby James,” and a duet with Cash of the Stephen Foster song “Oh! Susanna.” Additional guests on the program were Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, and Tony Joe White.

1973: A week after achieving their first #1 album on Billboard’s R&B albums chart, War’s fifth studio LP The World Is A Ghetto became their first and only #1 LP on the Billboard pop chart.

1973: “Love Train” by the O’Jays started four weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart. The single reached #1 on the Hot 100 pop chart in late March.

1973: Free played their final live gig at Florida’s Hollywood Sportatorium.

1975: John Lennon released his sixth solo album, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Made up of covers of late 1950s and early 1960s songs, sessions were partly produced by Phil Spector. Recording had begun in late 1973 and various problems caused recording to span the entire year. The album was Lennon’s last until 1980, during which time he took a hiatus from the music business.

1979: Blondie had their first #1 album on the UK charts with Parallel Lines. On the same day, the group debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US with “Heart of Glass,” which later became their first American #1.

1997: Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees premiered on ABC television. Written and directed by Michael Nesmith, it was the last time Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork appeared together in a new television program.

Birthdays Today

Gene Pitney, pop songwriter and vocalist, was born in Hartford, CT in 1940.

Karl Jenkins, composer and musician with Soft Machine, was born in Penclawdd, Gower, Wales in 1944.

Billie Joe Armstrong, songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist for Green Day, was born in Oakland, CA in 1972.

Ed Sheeran, singer, songwriter, and record producer, was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England in 1991.