1954: After making a name for himself in West Coast juke joints and signing with Federal Records, Young John Watson adopted the stage name “Johnny Guitar” and recorded “Space Guitar,” a fierce instrumental that pioneered reverb and feedback techniques and inspired a generation of guitarists.
1955: During sessions at Sun Records Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley recorded “Baby, Let’s Play House.”
1956: “See You Later, Alligator” by Bill Haley and His Comets was released. The single was the group’s last top 10 hit on the Billboard pop chart, where it peaked at #6.
1960: “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong entered the Billboard Hot 100. Written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, the single was the first hit record by Gordy’s Motown Records, and had been released on Motown’s Tamla label. The song peaked at #23 in April and was the only song recorded by Strong that reached the Hot 100, though Strong went on to write many of Motown’s biggest hits.
1962: “Laughing Boy” by Mary Wells was released. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, the single was expected to continue Wells’ streak of top 10 hits on the Billboard pop chart, but stalled at #15.
1962: The Beatles played a show at the Thistle Cafe in West Kirby, England. It was the groups first gig booked by manager Brian Epstein, who took a 10% commission.
1963: 17-year-old Neil Young played his first professional gig at a Winnipeg country club as a member of The Squires.
1964: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles became the group’s first #1 in the US when it began seven weeks #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was also the first #1 single by a British group since the instrumental “Telstar” by the Tornadoes two years earlier. After the song’s run at the top, the Beatles held on to the top spot with their second US #1, “She Loves You.”
1964: Indiana Governor Matthew E. Welsh declared the song “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen pornographic, claiming that hearing the song made his “ears tingle,” and requested that the Indiana Broadcasters Association ban the record. The song’s publisher, Max Firetag, offered $1,000 to anyone that could find anything “suggestive” in the song’s lyrics.
1965: James Brown and his band stopped at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina while en route to a show and recorded one take of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Despite the intention to start with recording a run-through, Brown decided that only the first take was necessary, as everyone in the studio was dancing to the playback. The song has since been considered the beginning of funk, and it was that evening that Brown also decided that he would no long be a standard soul singer and would pursue his own direction.
1966: The Young Rascals recorded “Good Lovin’,” the song that became their first hit and reached the top of the charts that spring. The band had added it to their live repertoire after hearing the song originally done by Los Angeles doo-wop group the Olympics.
1967: Jefferson Airplane released Surrealistic Pillow, their second studio album and first to feature vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden. It became the band’s highest charting LP, reaching #3 on the Billboard pop chart.
1967: Frank and Nancy Sinatra recorded “Something Stupid” with session musicians Al Casey playing guitar and Hal Blaine on drums.
1967: The Beatles began work on “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band,” recording nine takes of the song at EMI’s recording studios in London. It was the first time that a direct injection recording method had been used by the band. EMI had built their own direct injection boxes, and were perhaps the first the first to pioneer the recording technique.
1967: Jefferson Airplane’s second studio album Surrealistic Pillow album released. It was the first album by the group with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden and became the their highest-charting LP on the Billboard chart, reaching #3.
1969: Joni Mitchell made her Carnegie Hall debut just a year after releasing her self-titled debut album. Shortly after the performance, Mitchell emerged as one the most popular artists of the 1970s.
1969: Bob Seger had his first top 20 hit in the US with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” The single peaked two weeks later at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1969: Tommy James and The Shondells were at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first of two weeks with their second of two American #1 singles, “Crimson and Clover.” The song spent sixteen weeks on the chart and has since sold over five million copies, making it their best-selling song.
1969: Elektra Records released Kick out the Jams, the debut album by MC5, recorded the previous Halloween over two nights at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1968.
1969: Tyrone Davis went to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart with his debut single “Can I Change My Mind,” which also managed to reach the top five on the Hot 100 pop chart.
1970: Led Zeppelin achieved their first of eight British #1 albums with their second studio album, Led Zeppelin II.
1972: Neil Young released his fourth studio album, Harvest. Featuring guests that include David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, James Taylor, and the London Symphony Orchestra, it became an international hit and his only LP to reach #1 in the US and UK. On the same day, the album’s first single, “Heart of Gold,” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on its way to becoming his only #1 single.
1972: Paul McCartney wrote and recorded the protest song “Give Ireland Back To The Irish,” after watching news coverage of Bloody Sunday, in which thirteen people in Northern Ireland protesting the treatment of Irish nationalists were killed by British paratroopers. McCartney was so upset that he wrote the song in less than two hours and recorded it two days later.
1974: Earth, Wind & Fire released “Mighty Mighty,” the first single from their fifth studio album, Open Our Eyes.
1974: The Doobie Brothers released their fourth studio album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.
1974: T. Rex released Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow – A Creamed Cage in August, the group’s ninth studio album and only album credited to “Marc Bolan & T. Rex.”
1975: Neil Sedaka had his second US #1 single with “Laughter in the Rain” over twelve years after he last hit the top of the chart with “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”
1975: Scottish band Pilot was at #1 on the UK singles chart with their only British chart-topper, “January.” The song held the top spot for three weeks while also occupying the #1 spot for eight weeks on the Australian chart.
1980: Blondie released “Call Me,” the theme to the 1980 film American Gigilo and first single from the film’s soundtrack. The song became their second #1 in the US and also topped the chart in the UK.
2001: Singer-songwriter Jack Johnson released his debut album, Brushfire Fairytales.
2010: Over eighty artists gathered at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles to record a remake of the 1985 charity single “We Are The World.” The resulting single, “We Are The World 25 for Haiti,” premiered at the opening of the Winter Olympics on February 12 and raised money for victims of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that had hit the country a month earlier.
2011: R.E.M. released “Oh My Heart,” the fourth single from their last studio album, Collapse Into Now.
Bob Shane, singer, guitarist, and founding member of the Kingston Trio, was born in Hilo, HI in 1934.
Don Everly, singer, songwriter, and half of the duo the Everly Brothers, was born in Brownie, Muhlenberg County, KY in 1937.
Ray Sawyer, vocalist, percussionist, and frontman for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, was born in Chickasaw, AL in 1937.
Jimmy Carl Black, drummer and vocalist for the Mothers of Invention, was born James Inkanish, Jr. in El Paso, TX in 1938.
Joe Sample, keyboardist, composer, co-founder of the Jazz Crusaders, solo artist, and contributor to recordings by artists such as Miles Davis, George Benson, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and the Supremes, was born in Houston, TX in 1939.
Del McCoury, singer, bluegrass musician, and solo artist who’s worked with acts such as Phish, Steve Earle, and The String Cheese Incident, was born in York, PA in 1939.
Normie Rowe, pop singer, songwriter, and actor, was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in 1947.
Mike Campbell, songwriter, guitarist, producer, and lead guitarist with Tom Petty & Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch, was born in Panama City, FL in 1950.
Fran Christina, drummer for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, was born in Westerly, RI in 1951.
Exene Cervenka, singer, poet, solo artist, and vocalist for X, was born Christene Lee Cervenka in Chicago, IL in 1956.
Patrick Wilson, drummer and co-founder of Weezer, was born in Buffalo, NY in 1969.