Today in Rock & Roll History: January 23rd

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 Cricket.

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.

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: 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: Towards the end of a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Neil Young was handed a message onstage and then declared to the 20,000 people in the audience that President Richard Nixon had announced an end to the Vietnam War.

1977: Carole King’s Tapestry became the longest-charting album by a woman on the Billboard 200 list when it reached 302 week 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.

1977: Pink Floyd’s 10th studio album Animals was released. Recorded at the band’s Britiannia Row Studios in London, the album was a marked change in musical style from their earlier work—a concept album that provides a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late 1970s Britain. In February, the album entered UK chart at its peak position of #2 and reached #3 in the US.

1983: Men at Work started a five-week run at the top of the UK album chart with their debut LP, 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.

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.

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.

Birthdays Today

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.

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.

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.

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.