Today in Rock & Roll History: July 4th

1959: The Island Records label was founded in Jamaica by English businessman and producer Chris Blackwell, engineer Graeme Goodall, and producer Leslie Kong. The label was financed by RKO owner Stanley Borden, and its name was inspired by the Harry Belafonte song “Island in the Sun.” Blackwell was among the first to record the Jamaican popular music that eventually became known as ska, and Island Records later promoted acts such as Traffic, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Free, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Melissa Etheridge, The Cranberries, U2, Robert Palmer, Grace Jones, Bob Marley, and many others.

1964: “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” by the Rolling Stones entered the Billboard Hot 100, where it later became their first top 40 hit in the US, reaching #24 in August.

1964: “I Get Around” became The Beach Boys’ first #1 single in the US.

1966: “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful was released. Later that summer, it became the group’s first #1 hit in the US and their second song to top the Canadian chart.

1969: “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones was released in the UK a week before the single was issued in the US. The song later topped both the British and American charts, becoming their eighth #1 in Britain and their fifth #1 in the US.

1969: “Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band was released in the UK. It was the first solo single issued by John Lennon while he was still a member of the Beatles and became an anthem of the American anti-war movement during the 1970s. The song peaked at #2 in the UK and, after its release in the US three days later, ultimately reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1969: The first Atlanta International Pop Festival began at the Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, Georgia. Crowds as large as 150,000 gathered to see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Canned Heat, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Delanie and Bonnie, Led Zeppelin, The Staple Singers, The Butterfield Blues Band, Al Kooper, and many others. A representative for Capitol Records saw Grand Funk Railroad perform, and signed the band to their first record deal.

1970: “Tighter, Tighter” by Alive N Kickin’ entered the Billboard Hot 100. Written and produced by Tommy James, it became the Brooklyn band’s only major hit, and reached to #7 in August.

1971: After three years, music promoter Bill Graham closed the Fillmore West, after five nights of shows featuring San Francisco bands such as Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, as well as a poetry reading from Allen Ginsberg. A documentary film of the last several concerts and a three-disc album titled “Fillmore: The Last Days” were later released in 1972. A week earlier, Graham had closed his companion venue, the Fillmore East in New York City.

1976: “Say You Love Me,” the fourth single from Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled tenth studio album, entered Billboard Hot 100, where it spent three weeks at #11.

1976: The Ramones made their British debut, supported by the Flamin’ Groovies, at London’s Roundhouse. Meanwhile, at the Black Swan in Sheffield, The Clash played their debut live gig supporting the Sex Pistols.

1981: Boston band Mission of Burma’s debut release, an EP titled Signals, Calls, and Marches, was issued on indie Boston label Ace of Hearts.

1983: Synthpop duo Yazoo, known as Yaz in North America, released their second studio album, You and Me Both. Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke announced their breakup a few weeks after the album’s release, and it later went to #1 on the UK chart.

1984: A year after The Beach Boys had been banned from performing at the National Mall in Washington D.C. because former Interior Secretary James Watt claimed they attracted “the wrong element,” the group played to an audience of over 500,000 at the Washington Monument grounds as the headlining act of a 13-hour musical extravaganza. They were joined by Ringo Starr on drums, and additional performers included The O’Jays, America, and Three Dog Night.

1986: The second Farm Aid benefit concert, organized by John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, and Neil Young, was held in Manor, TX. The show featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Blasters, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennins, Doug Kershaw, Kris Kristofferson, Los Lobos, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakters, Steppenwolf, Taj Mahal, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Walsh, and X.

1987: The Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, and others played at the July 4th Disarmament Festival in the Soviet Union. The show was sponsored by the Soviet Peace Committee, which celebrated the conclusion of a 450-mile march from Leningrad to Moscow that American and Soviet antinuclear weapons activists started more than two weeks earlier.

1994: The Rolling Stones released “Love Is Strong,” the lead single from their twentieth British and twenty-second American studio album, Voodoo Lounge.

2006: Johnny Cash released American V: A Hundred Highways, his fifth LP in a series released by producer Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label. It became Cash’s first #1 album in 37 years.

2011: Blondie released Panic of Girls, their ninth studio LP and first album of new material in eight years.

Birthdays Today

Stephen Foster, songwriter known as “the father of American music,” who wrote over two hundred songs including “Oh! Susanna,” “Hard Times Come Again No More,” and “Camptown Races,” was born in Lawrenceville, PA in 1826.

Joe Young, lyricist who co-wrote popular songs such as “I’m Sitting On Top Of The World” and “I’m Going to Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter,” was born in 1889.

Mitch Miller, oboist, conductor, leader of the Mitch Miller Gang, and head of A&R for Columbia Records, was born in Rochester, NY in 1911.

Bill Withers, soul and R&B singer-songwriter, was born in Slab Fork, WV in 1938.

Dave Rowberry, pianist, organist, best known as the keyboardist for The Animals, was born in Mapperley, Nottinghamshire, England in 1940.

Dick Addrisi, singer who, along with his brother Don, recorded several singles and had their biggest songwriting success with “Never My Love,” was born in Winthrop, MA in 1941.

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, co-founder, leader, harmonica player, guitarist, singer, and primary composer for Canned Heat, was born in Arlington, MA in 1943.

Annette Beard, singer best known for her work with Motown and as an original member of the singing group Martha and the Vandellas, was born in Detroit, MI in 1943.

Fred Wesley, trombonist who worked with James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, the Count Basie Orchestra, Ray Charles, Van Morrison and many others in addition to leading groups including The Horny Horns and the JB Horns, was born in Columbus, GA in 1943.

Jeremy Spencer, early Fleetwood Mac guitarist and solo artist, was born in Hartlepool, County Durham, England in 1948.

Gene Gunnels, drummer for Strawberry Alarm Clock, was born in Anderson, SC in 1949.

Tonio K, singer-songwriter whose songs have been recorded by artists like Al Green, Aaron Neville, Burt Bacharach, Bonnie Raitt, Chicago, Wynonna Judd and Vanessa Williams, was born Steven Krikorian in 1950.

Ralph Johnson, singer, songwriter, producer, and percussionist, drummer, and vocalist for Earth, Wind & Fire, was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1951.

Kirk Pengilly, saxophonist, guitarist, backing vocalist, and founding member of INXS, was born in Kew, Victoria, Australia in 1958.

Matt Malley, bassist for Counting Crows, was born in Oakland, CA in 1963.

Andy Creeggan, bassist, pianist, and percussionist for Barenaked Ladies, was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada in 1971.