Today in Rock & Roll History: January 20th

1958: Rick Nelson started two weeks at #1 on the Billboard pop chart with his self-titled debut album, Ricky.

1962: The Ventures released their fifth studio album, Twist with the Ventures, which consists mostly of instrumental versions of popular dance tunes from the late 1950s to early 1960s.

1964: Meet the Beatles!, the second American Beatles album and first to be released by Capitol Records, was released in both mono and stereo.

1965: Petula Clark, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, Bobby Vee, Bobby Sherman, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Walker Brothers, and Glen Campbell all appeared on the first hour-long episode of ABC’s Shindig! The Rolling Stones also made an appearance, performing the American debut of their song “Heart of Stone.”

1965: The Byrds recorded Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” at Columbia Records’ Hollywood studios before the release of Dylan’s own version. The song was produced by Terry Melcher, who initially lacked confidence in the band’s musicianship, and replaced Gene Clark, David Crosby, Michael Clarke, and Chris Hillman with Wrecking Crew session musicians to back Roger McGuinn and his 12-string Rickenbacker guitar for the recording of the backing track over which McGuinn, Crosby, and Clarke sang. By the time the sessions for the Byrd’s debut album began two months later, Melcher had become satisfied that the band was competent enough to record its own backing musical.

1966: The Spencer Davis Group had their first of two on the UK #1 singles with “Keep on Running.”

1967: The Rolling Stones’ fifth British and seventh American studio album, Between the Buttons, was released in the UK.

1967: The Spencer Davis Group released “I’m a Man.” The single reached #9 in the UK and #10 in the US. It was the band’s last hit before brothers Steve and Muff Winwood left to pursue their own separate careers.

1967: Arthur Conley recorded “Sweet Soul Music” at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Conley, a big fan of Sam Cooke, originally intended to record “Yeah Man” from Cooke’s posthumously released Shake album, but together with Otis Redding, re-wrote the song. The new lyrics paid tribute to soul singers Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Lou Rawls, and Otis Redding, who was included at Conley’s suggestion. But Sam Cooke, the song’s original author, was not mentioned in the lyrics or credited as composer. Cooke’s business partner and chief of Kags Music firm J.W. Alexander sued Conley and Redding for plagiarism. A settlement was reached in which Cooke’s name was added to the writing credits and Redding agreed to record some songs in the future for Kags Music.

1968: John Fred and his Playboy Band topped the Billboard Hot 100 with their only US #1, “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses).”

1968: Aretha Franklin began four weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart with “Chain of Fools.”

1968: In his first public appearance since his motorcycle accident two years earlier, Bob Dylan joined Pete Seger, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Ritchie Havens, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and The Band at a Carnegie Hall tribute concert for Woody Guthrie.

1968: Pink Floyd lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Syd Barrett played his last ever gig with the band at the Pavillion Ballroom in Hastings, England.

1970: Simon & Garfunkel released “Bridge Over Trouble Water” as the third single and title track from their fifth and final studio album.

1970: The Grateful Dead released “Truckin’” from their fifth studio album, American Beauty. The lyrics refer to a drug raid of the band’s hotel lodgings in New Orleans during a concert tour earlier in 1970.

1970: Elton John released “Daniel,” the second single from his sixth studio album, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. The single reached #4 in the UK, #2 in the US, and earned John and lyricist Bernie Taupin the 1973 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

1971: “What’s Going On,” the lead single and title track from Marvin Gaye’s eleventh studio album, was released as a single. Gaye had been re-evaluating what he wanted to say in his music, and was deeply troubled by the letters he’d received from his brother serving the US army in Vietnam and the social unrest at home. He decided that in order to write songs that would reach the souls of other people, he needed to show them what was happening in the world. This meant shattering Motown Records’ pop formula and addressing pressing social issues, which did not please the label’s founder, Berry Gordy Jr.. Gordy claimed “What’s Going On” was the worst song he’d ever heard, to which Gaye insisted that he would never record for Motown again if the song was not released. A month later, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 and ultimately reached #2 in April. Gordy changed his tune, and Motown soon began releasing socially conscious music.

1972: Grateful Dead singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia released Garcia, his first solo album. Garcia played almost all instrumental parts on the LP and several tracks (specifically those coauthored by lyricist Robert Hunter) later became standards at Grateful Dead concerts.

1975: Bob Dylan released his fifteenth studio album, Blood on the Tracks. It marked Dylan’s return to Columbia Records after releasing two albums with Asylum Records, and shortly before its release in December, Dylan re-recorded much of the material.

1977: Jimmy Buffett released his seventh studio album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. It became his first top 10 album and remains the best-selling studio LP of Buffett’s career.

1978: XTC released their first studio album, White Music.

1978: Gerry Rafferty released his second studio album, City to City. It reached #1 on the Billboard chart in the US and was his only solo LP to reach the top 20.

1979: “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers entered the Billboard Hot 100. It climbed all the way to the top, making it the group’s second and last #1 on the chart.

1979: Parliament was at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart with their only song to top the chart, “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop).”

1984: Echo & the Bunnymen released “The Killing Moon,” the lead single from their fourth studio album, Ocean Rain.

1987: Motown Records released The Return of Bruno, the debut studio album by actor Bruce Willis and companion to the HBO special of the same name. It features an eclectic mix of R&B covers in which Willis is backed by musicians including Booker T. Jones, The Pointer Sisters, and The Temptations.

Birthdays Today

Lead Belly, legendary folk blues singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, was born Huddie William Ledbetter in Mooringsport, LA in 1888.

Ray Anthony, bandleader, trumpeter, songwriter best known as a member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and for his part in recording the single version of the theme from Peter Gunn, was born in Bentleyville, PA in 1922.

Piney Brown, R&B and blues singer and songwriter, was born in Birmingham, AL in 1922.

Lee Pockriss, prolific songwriter who wrote songs including “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini,” “Catch a Falling Star,” and “Johnny Angel” in addition to several songs for Sesame Street, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1924.

Earl Grant, pianist, organist, and vocalist, was born in Idabel, OK in 1931.

Ronald Townson, violinist and original member of the 5th Dimension, was born in St. Louis, MO in 1933.

William Powell, founding member of the O’Jays, was born in 1942.

Rick Evans, half of the duo Zager and Evans, was born in Lincoln, NE in 1943.

Eric Stewart, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of both the Mindbenders and 10cc, was born in 1945.

George Grantham, drummer and vocalist for Poco, was born in Cordell, OK in 1947.

Melvyn Pritchard, drummer for Barclay James Harvest, was born in Oldham, Lancashire, England in 1948.

Scott Thunes, bassist with acts such as Frank Zappa, Wayne Kramer, and the Waterboys, was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1960.