Today in Rock & Roll History: January 6th

1956: Lonnie Donegan’s recording of “Rock Island Line” entered the UK singles chart. The single eventually sold over three million copies and kicked off a national skiffle craze.

1957: Elvis Presley made his third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show singing seven songs in three segments. CBS censors prohibited Presley’s whole body from being shown, broadcasting his performance from the waist up. Presley paid tribute to anti-Soviet Hungarian revolutionaries and, at his request, Sullivan solicited the television audience to donate to relief efforts, raising about 25 million Swiss francs.

1958: The Gibson Guitar Corporation was granted a patent for its Flying V electric guitar. After Fender introduced the iconic Stratocaster, company president Ted McCarty decided Gibson needed to restore its image as an innovative industry leader and kick-started the development of several of the most valued guitar models of all time, including the sunburst Les Paul Standard, the ES-335, the Explorer, and the Flying V, all of which debuted in 1958. From concept to production, the Flying V was the only guitar whose design was unaltered. Though designs of the Flying V and Explorer models helped revitalize Gibson’s reputation, it did not translate into sales, with dealers considering the new models too far fetched or space age. After selling less than a hundred Flying V guitars in 1958, and even fewer in 1959, the new model was phased out of production. The few that were in circulation caught the attention of performers like Lonnie Mack, Albert King, and the Kinks’ Dave Davies, who right away adopted the Flying V as their signature instruments. The new exposure increased demand, leading Gibson to release a second version, which was adopted most notably by Jimi Hendrix. Other musicians who took up the Flying V include Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons, Marc Bolan, Mick Ralphs, Grace Potter, and Eddie Van Halen, and the guitar model experienced a surge in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s.

1958: Days after topping the Billboard pop chart, Danny & the Juniors went to #1 on the R&B chart with “At the Hop.” The single was the group’s only song to reach the top of either chart.

1963: Billy J. Kramer signed a six-year contract with Beatles manager Brian Epstein. By the end of the year, Kramer had three top 5 singles on the UK chart.

1964: The Rolling Stones began their first UK tour as headliners with opening act the Ronettes at the Granada Theatre in London.

1968: Dick Clark’s rock variety show Happening ‘68 premiered on ABC. It was hosted by Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere from Paul Revere and the Raiders.

1968: The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album began eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

1969: Diana Ross & the Supremes released “I’m Livin’ in Shame,” the follow-up to their #1 hit, “Love Child.” It was later included on the group’s sixteenth studio album, Let The Sunshine In.

1970: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young made their UK debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Among the audience of 5,000 people were Donovan and Paul McCartney, who were eager to witness the group the British press were calling “the American Beatles.”

1973: Stevie Wonder scored his seventh #1 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart with “Superstition.” By the end of the month, it also became Wonder’s second song to top the Hot 100 pop chart.

1973: Carly Simon achieved her only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 with “You’re So Vain.”

1976: Peter Frampton’s live double album Frampton Comes Alive! was released in the US. It stayed on the chart for ninety-seven weeks and became one of the best-selling live albums in America, selling over eight million copies.

1978: David Bowie released “Beauty and the Beast,” the second single from his twelfth studio album, “Heroes”. Guitarist Robert Fripp has stated that his guitar work on the track is a first take made straight upon his arrival at the studio.

1984: John Lennon released “Nobody Told Me,” the lead single from his sixth and final album with wife Yoko Ono, Milk and Honey. Three days later, the single was issued in the UK.

1987: Bruce Hornsby and the Range released “Mandolin Rain” from their debut album, The Way It Is.

Birthdays Today

Earl Scruggs, musician known for popularizing a three-finger picking style for banjo that elevated it from being a background instrument and has since defined bluegrass music, was born in Cleveland County, NC in 1924.

Doris Troy, R&B singer and songwriter, was born Doris Elaine Higginsen in the Bronx, NY in 1937.

Adriano Celentano, vocalist, musician, producer, comedian, actor, film director and TV host credited with introducing rock and roll to Italy, was born in Milan, Italy in 1938.

Van McCoy, musician, record producer, arranger, songwriter, singer and orchestra conductor best known for his most successful single, “The Hustle,” and for producing songs for artists such as Gladys Knight & the Pips, Aretha Franklin, David Ruffin, and Lesley Gore, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1940.

Syd Barrett, original lead singer, songwriter, and founding member of Pink Floyd, was born Roger Keith Barrett in Cambridge, England in 1946.

Sandy Denny, singer-songwriter, singer with Fairport Convention, Strawbs, Fotheringay, and a solo artist, was born Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny in Merton Park, London, England in 1947.

Kim Wilson, blues singer and harmonica player for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, was born in Detroit, MI in 1951.

Neil Simpson, bassist for the Climax Blues Band, was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1959.

Mark O’ Toole, founding member and original bassist for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, was born in Walton, Liverpool, England in 1964.

Alex Turner, lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for Arctic Monkeys, was born in High Green, Sheffield, England in 1986.