1949: RCA Victor introduced a new 7-inch 45 rpm record with a larger hole in the center. The new format was smaller, more durable, and higher fidelity than 78 rpm shellac discs and, after the release of the first 45s at the end of March, became the standard for single releases. The first 45 rpm records were monaural, but by the early 1970s, almost all were produced in stereo.
1956: Backed by drummer D.J. Fontana, guitarist Chet Atkins, and pianist Floyd Cramer, Elvis Presley cut his first sides for RCA Victor in an eight hour recording session at the Methodist recording studios in Nashville. Over two days, Presley and the band recorded Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got a Woman” along with “I Was the One,” “Money Honey,” “I’m Counting on You” and, most famously, “Heartbreak Hotel,” the song that later became his first #1 single and the best-selling song of the year.
1956: Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers released their first single, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” It became their biggest hit, reaching #1 on the R&B chart, #6 on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart, and #1 in the UK.
1964: Originally scheduled to be released in July of 1963, the first American Beatles album, titled Introducing… The Beatles, was released by Chicago R&B label Vee-Jay Records in the United States. After releasing the Beatles’ first US single “Please Please Me,” Vee-Jay had initially intended to release the band’s British debut album Please Please Me in the States unaltered, but in keeping with the American norm of a 12-song album, Vee-Jay omitted tracks “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” in addition to changing the album’s title. A shake-up in the management of Vee-Jay later resulted in the cancellation of the album’s release. After choosing not to report sales royalties for their release of the “Please Please Me” single, EMI affiliate Transglobal Music Co. declared Vee-Jay’s contract to release Beatles albums null and void. However, after Capitol Records released the Beatles single “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in the US, Vee-Jay was desperate for cash and decided to release whatever Beatles material they had, and issued the previously scrapped Introducing… the Beatles LP. Capitol then filed a restraining order against Vee-Jay to stop distribution of their Beatles records. To circumvent the order, Vee-Jay quickly altered the album, removing “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” and replaced them with “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me,” and the new pressings appeared in stores in February. Vee-Jay and Capitol continued to battle in court and finally settled in April. Vee-Jay was allowed to continue to release the sixteen Beatles songs it controlled until mid-October, after which all rights to Beatles songs reverted to Capitol. Despite being released over a week later, Captiol Records’ Meet the Beatles! album entered the US charts a week earlier than Vee-Jay’s, and Introducing… The Beatles stalled on the chart at #2 behind Meet the Beatles! for nine consecutive weeks.
1966: The Byrds released “Set You Free This Time,” the second single from their second studio album, Turn! Turn! Turn!.
1968: Gary Puckett & The Union Gap released their debut album, Woman, Woman.
1969: Frustrations began to mount during the Beatles’ “Get Back” sessions at Twickenham Film Studios. After George Harrison briefly quit during filming, he rejoined the group less than a week later with the stipulation that the plan for a live show before an audience be dropped and that sessions move to the new studio in the basement of Apple’s headquarters in Savile Row, London.
1970: The Jackson 5’s first nationally released single with Motown Records “I Want You Back” went to the top of the Billboard R&B chart for the first of four weeks.
1976: Earth, Wind & Fire had their second #1 on the Billboard R&B chart with “Sing a Song.”
1977: The Ramones released their second studio album, Leave Home.
1977: Muddy Waters released Hard Again, his first album on Blue Sky Records after leaving Chess Records and his first produced by Johnny Winter.
1978: Linda Ronstadt’s version of Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” was released as the third single from her eighth studio, Simple Dreams.
1980: English new wave band The Buggles released their debut studio album, The Age of Plastic.
1981: “Imagine” by John Lennon began four weeks at #1 on the UK singles chart following Lennon’s death in December.
1983: U2 released “New Year’s Day,” the lead single from their third studio album, War. Written about about the Polish Solidarity movement, it became the band’s first UK hit, reaching #10, as well as their first international hit. In the US, it was their first single to chart and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #53.
1983: Neil Young released his twelfth studio album, Trans. It was his first album with the Geffen Records label after leaving Reprise and features an electronic sound created with instruments including a synthesizer, a Synclavier, and a vocoder. Young was reportedly inspired by the work of German group Kraftwerk, but has said that the distorting of his voice reflected his attempts to communicate with his son, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
1983: Dire Straits released ExtendedancEPlay, a 12-inch EP and the band’s first release with new drummer Terry Williams.
1985: Chris Isaak released his debut album, Silvertone.
1989: Lou Reed released his fifteenth solo studio album, New York. The LP is widely considered to be among Reed’s strongest solo efforts and its success reinvigorated Reed’s solo career to the extent that his former band, the Velvet Underground, were revived for a world tour.
1998: Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s tribute to Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind 1997,” spent its fourteenth and final week at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 after its debut at #1. The re-written and re-recorded version of his 1973 song was Elton John’s ninth US #1, his fourth #1 in the UK, and became the best-selling single in both charts’ history. Reaching the top of music charts around the world, the record ultimately became the biggest-selling CD single ever and the second biggest-selling single of all time behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
2008: Radiohead topped the Billboard pop album chart for the second time with the physical release of their seventh studio album, In Rainbows, which was originally sold via the internet for a price chosen by fans.
Buddy Johnson, jump blues pianist and bandleader, was born Woodrow Wilson Johnson in Darlington, SC in 1915.
Jerry Wexler, music journalist and producer who coined the term “rhythm and blues” and was integral in signing and/or producing many of the biggest acts of the 1950s through the 1980s, was born in the Bronx, NY in 1917.
Johnnie Ray, 1950s singer, songwriter, and pianist whose jazz and blues-influenced music and stage personality have lead many to cite him as a major precursor to rock and roll, was born in Dallas, OR in 1927.
Ronnie Hawkins, singer, songwriter, harmonica player, talent scout, and mentor to musicians that he recruited for his band the Hawks, several of which left Hawkins to form The Band, was born in Huntsville, AR in 1935.
Rob Relf, half of soul duo Bob & Earl, was born in 1937.
Scott McKenzie, singer-songwriter, was born Philip Wallach Blondheim III in Jacksonville, FL in 1939.
Jim Croce, singer-songwriter, was born James Joseph Croce in Philadelphia, PA in 1943.
Rod Stewart, singer songwriter, and vocalist for Long John Baldry and the All Stars, the Jeff Beck Group, and Faces, was born Roderick David Stewart in Highgate, London, England in 1945.
Aynsley Dunbar, drummer who’s worked with many artists and groups including John Mayall, Frank Zappa, Shuggie Otis, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Nils Lofgren, Eric Burdon, Mick Ronson, Ian Hunter, Jeff Beck, Jefferson Starship, Leslie West, and many others, was born in Liverpool, England in 1946.
Bob Lang, bassist for the Mindbenders, was born in Manchester, Lancashire, England in 1946.
Donald Fagen, co-founder, lead singer, and keyboardist of Steely Dan, was born in Passaic, NJ in 1948.
Scott Thurston, keyboardist, guitarist, and vocalist with the Stooges and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was born in Medford, OR in 1952.
Pat Benatar, singer, songwriter, actress, was born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY in 1953.
Shawn Colvin, singer-songwriter, was born in Vermillion, SD in 1956.
Don Letts, disc jockey, videographer, and co-founder of Big Audio Dynamite who later directed music videos for artists such as the Psychedelic Furs, the Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, was born in London, England in 1956.
Curt Kirkwood, songwriter, leader guitarist, and vocalist for Meat Puppets, was born in Amarillo, TX in 1959.
Brad Roberts, singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist for Crash Test Dummies, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1963.