Today in Rock & Roll History: March 31st

1949: After announcing the new 45 rpm record in January, RCA Victor released the first singles on the new format. The seven-inch disc was designed to compete with the long playing record introduced by Columbia Records the year before. Both formats offered better fidelity and longer playing time than the 78 rpm record that was currently in use. The first 45 rpm disc released in the US was “Texarkana Baby” backed with “Bouquet of Roses” by country and western singer Eddy Arnold and his Tennessee Plow Boys. The record was made of green vinyl as part of an early attempt to color-code singles according music genre.

1958: “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry was released. The single entered the Billboard charts six weeks later and climbed to #8 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart.

1958: Two weeks after topping Billboard’s Best Sellers in Stores chart, The Champs went to #1 on the R&B and Most Played by Jockeys charts with “Tequila.” It was the group’s only #1 hit and first of two top 10 singles on the R&B chart.

1965: Canadian band Chad Allen and the Expressions reached #1 on Canada’s pop chart with their cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over.” It was the band’s first hit and also went to #22 in US. Mimicking a ploy the previous year by “The You Know Who Group” in the US, Quality Records credited the single only to “Guess Who?” in an attempt to build a mystique around the record. Even after the label revealed the band’s identity, disc jockeys continued referring to them by the name that they subsequently adopted, The Guess Who.

1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience kicked off the first night of a 24-date tour at the Astoria in London’s Finsbury Park as part of a month-long packaged tour featuring The Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Californians, The Quotations, and MC Nick Jones. During a performance of “Fire,” Hendrix set his guitar aflame in his first live attempt at the stunt. He was taken to a hospital after suffering burns to his hands, but the guitar-burning act later became a trademark of Hendrix’s performances and earned him monikers such as “The Black Elvis” and “Wild Man of Borneo.” The Fender Stratocaster burned on stage by Hendrix later sold for £280,000 at a 2008 London auction of rock memorabilia.

1969: Dusty Springfield’s fifth studio album Dusty in Memphis was released as her first LP entirely of R&B songs. Recorded at American Sound Studio in Memphis, Springfield worked with a team of musicians and producers from Atlantic Records that included Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Tom Dowd, Gene Orloff, The Sweet Inspirations, Tommy Cogbill, and Reggie Young.

1972: Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show’s second single “Sylvia’s Mother” entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record later reached #5 in the US, and #2 in the UK.

1972: Cat Stevens’ adaptation of the hymn “Morning Has Broken,” featuring a piano arrangement composed and performed by keyboardist Rick Wakeman, entered the Billboard Hot 100. The single became Stevens’ second top 10 hit on the Hot 100, reaching #6, as well as his second #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

1976: Led Zeppelin released Presence, their seventh studio album, on their own Swan Song Records label in the UK. Jimmy Page and manager Peter Grant had been fearful that Robert Plant might quit the band during his family’s recovery from a serious car accident the year before, so the band was rushed to Musicland Studios in Germany to get Plant out of his depression and “back in the groove.” After a month of rehearsals, the album was recorded in just eighteen days with Plant in a wheelchair.

1983: Reggae singer Eddy Grant released “Electric Avenue” in the US after its initial release in the UK. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and with the help of an MTV video, it became one the biggest hits of the year. Grant had written the song after the 1981 Brixton riot that occurred in London’s Brixton disctrict, where tensions over unemployment, racism, and poverty culminated in hundreds of injuries and severe property damage.

1984: Kenny Loggins started a three week run at #1 on the US singles charts with “Footloose,” the theme song from the film of the same name and his only record to reach the top of the US pop charts.

1992: Bruce Springsteen released two albums on the same day: Human Touch and Lucky Town. Originally set for release in early 1991, Springsteen put off the release of Human Touch until he revisited the project in September, and recorded ten new songs that became Lucky Town. He then decided to release both albums on the same day. Human Touch reached #2 and Lucky Town peaked at #3 on the Billboard pop chart, and both albums sold over a million copies.

Birthdays Today

John D. Loudermilk, singer and songwriter who wrote hits for Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Everly Brothers, the Nashville Teens, Marianne Faithful, and others, was born in Durham, NC in 1934.

Herb Alpert, jazz musician who had many hits with his band the Tijuana Brass and co-founder of A&M Records, was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1935.

Hugh McCracken, guitarist, session musician, arranger, and producer who contributed to recordings by artists such as Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Roberta Flack, B.B. King, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, The Monkees, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Graham Parker, Loundon Wainwright III, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Hall & Oats, and Gary Wright, was born in Glen Ridge, NJ in 1942.

Mick Ralphs, guitarist, songwriter and founding member both Mott the Hoople and Bad Company, was born in Stoke Lacy, Herefordshire, England in 1944.

Al Nichol, guitarist and original member of The Turtles, was born in Winston-Salem, NC in 1946.

John Poulos, drummer and founding member of The Buckinghams, was born in Chicago, IL in 1947.

Richard Hughes, drummer in Johnny Winter’s band from 1973-1976, was born in Trenton, NJ in 1950.

Tony Brock, drummer for The Babys who later accompanied Rod Stewart, Roy Orbison, Jimmy Barnes, and Elton John, was born in Poole, Dorset, England in 1954.

Jack Antonoff, producer, lead guitarist for Fun, and lead singer and songwriter for Bleachers, was born in Bergenfield, NJ in 1984.