1956: After being turned down by several other record labels, James Brown and His Famous Flames were signed to Federal Records, a subsidiary of Cincinnati’s King Records label. After receiving a demo tapes from the young singer, King’s head of A&R Ralph Bass and Chess co-founder Leonard Chess both raced to sign Brown and the Flames to their respective labels. Bass won out, signing Brown after a snow storm prevented Chess from flying to Georgia. In early February, James Brown and His Famous Flames recorded their first single “Please Please Please” at King Studios in Cincinnati, which later went on to become a million-seller.
1958: Brunswick Records released “Maybe Baby” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
1964: The Temptations released “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” the song that later became their first single to enter the top 100 on the pop charts and their first #1 on the R&B charts.
1965: “Downtown” by Petula Clark became her first of two #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 after peaking at #2 in the UK in December, making Clark the first British female vocalist to reach #1 in America since the arrival of the Beatles. Among the orchestra of session musicians assembled to record the song were the Breakaways, drummer Ronnie Verrell, and guitarists Big Jim Sullivan, Vic Flick, and Jimmy Page.
1967: The Supremes released their tenth studio album, The Supremes Sing Holland–Dozier–Holland.
1969: Elvis Presley recorded “Suspicious Minds,” a song originally written and recorded by songwriter Mark James, at American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee with producers Chip Moman and Felton Jarvis.
1970: Family released their third studio album, A Song for Me.
1970: Folk singers Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Phil Ochs, and Pete Seeger were denied permission to sing as part of their testimony for the defense at the trial of The Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war and counterculture activists that had been charged by the US government with conspiracy and inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
1971: Gladys Knight & the Pips scored their third #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart with “If I Were Your Woman.”
1973: Rick Wakeman released his second studio album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Musicians from Yes and Strawbs, both groups that Wakeman was or had been a member of, contributed to the album.
1973: Towards the end of a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Neil Young was handed a message onstage. He then declared to the audience of 20,000 people that President Richard Nixon had announced an end to the Vietnam War.
1976: David Bowie released his tenth studio album, Station to Station. The LP is most closely associated with Bowie’s Thin White Duke persona.
1977: Carole King’s second studio album, Tapestry, became the longest-charting album by a woman on the Billboard 200 list when it reached 302 weeks on the chart. The LP later set a record of 318 weeks on the chart, which was later broken in 2017 by Adele’s 21 album.
1981: Elvis Costello released Trust, his fifth studio album and fourth with the Attractions. It was also his fifth straight LP produced by Nick Lowe, though Lowe did not produce another Costello album until Blood & Chocolate in 1986.
1981: After its initial release in May 1980, Joan Jett’s self-titled debut album was re-issued by Boardwalk Records as Bad Reputation with a rearranged but otherwise identical track listing.
1983: Men at Work started five weeks at the top of the UK album chart with their debut album, Business as Usual. The same week, the album’s second single, “Down Under,” started three weeks as the group’s only #1 on the UK singles chart.
1984: The seventh single and title track from Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album, Thriller, was released in the US.
1984: The Rolling Stones released “She Was Hot,” the second single from their seventeenth British and nineteenth American studio album, Undercover.
1984: Genesis released “Illegal Alien,” the fourth single from their eponymous fourth studio album.
1986: After the museum’s founding in 1983, the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were honored at a ceremony held at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. The inaugural group featured many of the rock’s forefathers: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Included in the Non-Performer category were Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and disc jockey Alan Freed, who many credit with coining the phrase “Rock and Roll.” Also inducted were blues icon Robert Johnson, musician Jimmie Rogers, pianist Jimmy Yancey. Columbia Records A&R man John Hammond, who was responsible for discovering Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many others, received the Hall’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. Performers at the ceremony included Steve Winwood, John Fogerty, Billy Joel, and ZZ Top, backed by David Letterman’s Late Night house band lead by Paul Shaffer.
1989: Eighteen years after the release of his first solo album, David Crosby released his second solo studio LP, Oh Yes I Can.
1990: Linda Ronstadt’s cover of Karla Bonoff’s “All My Life,” featuring guest vocals by Aaron Neville, was released as the second single from Ronstadt’s album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.
1990: At a press conference at the Rainbow Theatre in London, David Bowie announced that his forthcoming Sound+Vision tour would be his last world tour, and that the setlists would be determined, in part, by listeners of radio stations in the cities on the tour. After which, he planned to retire his catalog from live performance.
1996: Smashing Pumpkins released “1979,” the second single from their third studio album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
2007: John Mellencamp released his nineteenth studio album, Freedom’s Road. It later debuted at #5 on the Billboard pop chart, making it the highest debuting LP of his career.
Django Reinhardt, influential French jazz guitarist, was born in Liberchie, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium in 1910.
George Tipton, composer, musical arranger, and conductor known for his collaborations with Harry Nilsson, was born in 1932.
Cyril Davies, blues musician and one of England’s first blues harmonica players, was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England in 1932.
Ray Elliot, keyboardist, saxophonist, and flute player for Them, was born in Belfast, Co Atrim, Northern Ireland in 1939.
Johnny Russell, country singer, songwriter, and comedian best known for his song “Act Naturally,” made famous by Buck Owens and The Beatles and recorded by many other artists, was born in Moorhead, MS in 1940.
Jimmy Castor, funk, R&B, and soul vocalist, saxophonist, and composer, was born in Manhattan, NY in 1940.
Buddy Buie, songwriter, producer, and publisher known for writing hits for artists including Tommy Roe, Classics IV, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section, was born Perry Carlton Buie in Marianna, FL in 1941.
Jerry Lawson, singer, producer, and arranger, and original lead vocalist for the Persuasions, was born in Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1944.
Anita Pointer, second oldest of the Pointer Sisters, was born in Oakland, CA in 1948.
Bill Cunningham, original bassist and keyboardist for the Box Tops, was born in Memphis, TN in 1950.
Danny Federici, organ, glockenspiel, and accordion player and a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, was born in Flemington, NJ in 1950.
Robin Zander, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Cheap Trick, was born in Beloit, WI in 1953,
Bill Miller, Native American singer-songwriter and artist of Mohican heritage who has toured with artists that include Eddie Veder, Richie Havens, Bodeans, John Carter Cash, and Arlo Guthrie and has co-written songs with Nanci Griffith, Peter Rowan, and Kim Carnes, was born on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, near Shawano, WI in 1955.
Ralph Carney, singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, co-founder of Tin Huey, and session musician best known for his association with Tom Waits, was born in Akron, OH in 1956.
Earl Falconer, bassist and vocalist with UB40, was born in Meriden, Warwickshire, England in 1959.
Nick Harmer, bass guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie, was born in Landstuhl, West Germany in 1975.