Today in Rock & Roll History: March 20th

1955: Blackboard Jungle premiered in New York City. It was the first major film to use a rock and roll song, featuring “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets during the opening credits.

1963: Jan & Dean recorded “Surf City” with members of Los Angeles session group The Wrecking Crew. Initially written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and finished by Jan & Dean, the song became the first surf song to reach #1 in the US as well the duo’s first single to top the chart. Jan & Dean continued to work with the Beach Boys, with Wilson contributing to several of their songs, and Dean Torrence provided lead vocals on the Beach Boys’ song “Barabara Ann.”

1964: The Beatles’ single “Can’t Buy Me Love” was release in the UK four days after its release in the US.

1964: “Bits and Pieces,” the second single from The Dave Clark Five’s debut studio album, “Glad All Over,” was issued in the US following its release in the UK in February.

1965: Motown began their first UK package tour, featuring Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, with a show at the Finsbury Park Astoria in London.

1965: “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record was their first to enter the US charts and only single to reach #1.

1967: The Supremes released “The Happening,” the final single issued under that name before changing it to “Diana Ross and the Supremes.” It was also member Florence Ballard’s last recording with the group before being replaced by Cindy Birdsong. Written by songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, the song served as the theme to the film of the same name. The movie flopped, but the single later went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May.

1969: John Lennon married Yoko Ono in a brief ceremony at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar, Spain.

1971: T. Rex was at #1 on the UK chart with “Hot Love.” It was the group’s first of four UK #1 singles and spent six weeks at the top of the chart.

1971: Janis Joplin’s recording of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” released posthumously on her final album Pearl, became her only record to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kristofferson, who had previously been in a relationship with Joplin, had sung the song for her and singer Bob Neuwirth had taught it to her. Kristofferson did not know Joplin had recorded the song until after her death.

1971: The Rolling Stones placed full page advertisements at their own expense in all of the UK music papers claiming they were against the release of their compilation album Stone Age, stating “in our opinion, the content is below the standard we try to keep.” Released by Decca Records, the album was made up of twelve songs the Stones had recorded in the 1960s, but never appeared on a UK LP.

1973: Jim Croce released “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” the second single from his fourth studio album, Life and Times. It became his first #1 record, reaching the top of the charts in the US and Canada.

1977: T. Rex played their final gig at The Locarno in Portsmouth, England.

1978: Wings released “With a Little Luck,” the lead single from their sixth studio album, London Town. In May, the single spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top 5 in the UK.

1982: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts started seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their first major hit, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In August, the single became their first to enter the UK chart, where it became their only top 10 hit, peaking at #4. The song was originally recorded as a B-side by English band The Arrows in 1975.

1987: Peter Wolf released his second solo studio album, Come As You Are.

1988: Six days after its release, Morrissey’s debut solo album, Viva Hate, entered the UK chart at #1.

2006: The Church released their twentieth album, Uninvited, Like the Clouds.

2018: Ringo Starr was knighted Sir Richard Starkey by The Duke of Cambridge at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Birthdays Today

Sam Lay, drummer and vocalist who played with many musicians such as Littler Walter, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, and most notably, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was born in Birmingham, AL in 1935.

Lee “Scratch” Perry, singer, songwriter, and pioneering reggae producer, was born Rainford Hugh Perry in Kendal, Jamaica in 1936.

Jerry Reed, country singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was born in Atlanta, GA in 1937.

Carl Palmer, drummer for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Asia, was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, England in 1950.

Jimmie Vaughan, guitarist, singer, co-founder of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, was born in Dallas, TX in 1951.

Alphonso Martin, percussionist and vocalist for reggae group Steel Pulse, was born in Birmingham, England in 1956.

Bill Pritchard, singer-songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, arranger, and producer, was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England in 1964.

Sean Dickson, singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist for the Soup Dragons who later formed High Fidelity and currently deejays at HiFi Sean, was born in Bellshill, Scotland in 1967.