Today in Rock & Roll History: May 19th

1956: After launching the skiffle craze in Britain, Lonnie Donegan kicked off a tour of the US with an appearance on The Perry Como Show on NBC, performing his debut single, “Rock Island Line.” Two weeks later, the song went to #1 on the Billboard singles charts as well #1 in Canada and the UK.

1958: The Everly Brother’s recording of Boudleaux Bryant’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream” reached the top of the Billboard Top 100 chart. The record was the duo’s second #1 in the US and on July 4th became their first #1 on the UK chart.

1958: Atco Records released “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin. The song was the first 8-track recording released on record and became Darin’s first hit single, reaching #3 on the US pop charts, #2 in Canada, and #1 on the US R&B charts.

1958: Dion and the Belmonts debuted on the Billboard pop singles chart with “I Wonder Why.”

1958: Ritchie Valens recorded his first single, the self-penned “Come On, Let’s Go” for Del-Fi Records in Los Angeles. By the time the song peaked at #42 on the Billboard singles chart the following autumn, the demands of Valens’ career had forced him to drop out of high school.

1958: Peggy Lee recorded “Fever” at Capitol Records’ studios in Hollywood. Lee’s version features significantly rewritten lyrics compared to the original recording of the song by Little Willie John in 1956, which have since been included in most subsequent covers of the song. The record was Lee’s last top 10 single in the US, peaking at #8.

1958: Jan & Dean, then credited as Jan & Arnie, debuted on the Billboard pop singles chart with their first single, “Jennie Lee.”

1965: During a concert in Wales, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies was knocked unconscious when he was struck in the back of the neck with a hi-hat cymbal by drummer Mick Avory. According to band leader and Dave’s brother Ray Davies, Avory had been looking to exact revenge on Dave, who had kicked over Avory’s drum kit in retaliation to an alcohol-fueled fight the two had had night before. Convinced he had killed his bandmate, Avory immediately fled Cardiff’s Capital Theatre and went into hiding. When the police caught up with him, Avory denied the whole thing happened, though the police pointed out that the show’s entire audience were witnesses. Dave Davies, who received sixteen stitches, dropped all charges against the band’s drummer and relations in the group were smoothed over, though the remaining dates on the band’s tour were canceled. The American Federation of Musicians refused to allow the band to tour in the US for four years due to their “violent” reputation at a time when British music was taking America by storm, and the band’s popularity in the US suffered as a result. Ray Davies later said that the ban took away the Kinks’ best years when they were performing at their peak.

1967: Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock released their first single, “Incense and Peppermints.” It became the group’s only top 10 hit, and by the end of November, the song reached the top of both the Billboard and Cash Box singles charts.

1967: The Beatles held a launch party for their eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, at the London home of their manager, Brian Epstein.

1969: Epic Records released Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the debut album by Los Angeles country rock band Poco. The LP was one of the earliest examples of the emerging country rock genre and several of the album’s songs were written by Richie Furay during his time as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Bassist Randy Meisner quit the band shortly before the album’s release after Furay had insisted that he not be present at the final mix playback sessions. Meisner’s lead vocals were removed from the album and his image on the cover was replaced with a dog.

1969: Moby Grape co-founder Skip Spence released Oar, his only solo album. Spence recorded the album at Columbia’s studios in Nashville after spending sixth months in New York’s Bellevue Hospital following a delusion-driven attempt to attack Moby Grape bandmates Don Stevenson and Jerry Miller with a fire axe. Recorded in Nashville, the sessions were intended to only be a demo, and Spence handed the recordings over to producer David Rubinson to flesh out the album. Instead, Rubinson simply had Columbia release the demos by themselves. The album was not promoted by Columbia Records, became the lowest-selling album in Columbia’s history at the time, and was deleted from the record company’s catalog within a year of its release.

1972: Elton John released his fifth studio album, Honkey Château. The LP was titled after Château d’Hérouville, the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded. In June, it became John’s first #1 in the US and the first of six consecutive studio albums to top the US charts.

1973: Wizzard had its first #1 in the UK with their second single, “See My Baby Jive,” written and produced by lead singer Roy Wood.

1973: Stevie Wonder went to #1 on Billboard Hot 100 with “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” his third #1 and second single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book. The song made it to #3 on the R&B chart.

1973: “Kodachrome,” the lead single from Paul Simon’s third solo album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, entered the Hot 100, where it later reached #2.

1975: Elton John’s ninth studio album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, was released. The album is an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John and his long-term lyricist Bernie Taupin, and reached #1 on the Billboard chart in its first week of release.

1975: “One of These Nights” by the Eagles was released. The lead single title track from their fourth studio album, it became the band’s second US #1 and first song to chart in the UK.

1976: Billy Joel released his fourth studio album, Turnstiles.

1977: Aretha Franklin released her twenty-third studio album, Sweet Passion.

1978: Dire Straits released their first major label single “Sultans Of Swing” on Warner Bros.’ Vertigo Records. It wasn’t until the song was re-release the following year that it became the band’s first hit, reaching #4 in the US and Canada and #8 in Britain.

1978: The seventh studio album by the Kinks, Misfits, was released.

1979: Eric Clapton held a party at his Surrey house celebrating his recent marriage to Patti Boyd, with guests that included the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman, Elton John, David Bowie, Denny Laine, and Clapton’s former Cream bandmates Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Clapton had set-up a small stage in the garden and as the evening progressed, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr staged a partial Beatles reunion. The group jammed together with Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Mick Jagger, performing boozy renditions of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Get Back,” and a selection of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran songs.

1979: Supertramp went to #1 on the Billboard pop chart for the first of four weeks with Breakfast In America, the group’s sixth studio album and only LP to top the US charts. The album produced four hit singles, won two Grammy Awards in 1980, and became the group’s biggest-selling LP.

1981: The Moody Blues released “Gemini Dream,” the first single from their recently released tenth studio album, Long Distance Voyager. It peaked at #12 in the US and #1 in Canada.

1983: Big Country released “In a Big Country,” the third single from their debut studio album, The Crossing, in the UK. It reached #17 on the UK chart, and after the single’s release in the US in autumn, it similarly reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1983: Stevie Nicks released “Stand Back,” the lead single from her second solo studio album, The Wild Heart. It became one of her biggest solo hits, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became a staple of Nicks’ live shows both solo and with Fleetwood Mac.

1985: Dire Straits’ fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms, began its first of fourteen non-consecutive weeks at the top of the UK chart. It became the best-selling LP of the decade as well as the band’s first #1 in the US in August.

1986: Following the break-up of The Go-Go’s, lead singer Belinda Carlisle released her debut solo album, Belinda.

1986: Genesis released “Invisible Touch,” the title track and lead single from the group’s thirteenth studio album.

1986: Bananarama released their cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” as the second single from their third studio album, True Confessions.

1986: Pete Gabriel released his fifth studio album, So. After working with producer Daniel Lanois on his first soundtrack for the 1984 film “Birdy,” Gabriel invited Lanois to his home to work on his next solo project. The album was an immediate commercial success and became Gabriel’s best-selling solo release.

1986: The Ramones released their ninth studio album, Animal Boy.

1989: Van Morrison released his nineteenth studio album, Avalon Sunset.

1998: Calexico released second album The Black Light.

Birthdays Today

Herbie Flowers, one of Britain’s best-known session bassists, having played with artists such as David Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, Harry Nilsson, and T. Rex, was born in Isleworth, Middlesex, England in 1938.

Mickey Newbury, songwriter who wrote hits recorded by Kenny Rogers and First Edition, Andy Williams, Solomon Burke, Eddy Arnold, and Tom Jones, was born in Houston, TX in 1940.

Pete Townshend, singer, lead guitarist, and principal songwriter for the Who and a solo artist, was born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend in Chiswick, London, England in 1945.

Gregory Herbert, jazz saxophonist, flute player, and brief member of Blood, Sweat and Tears from 1977-78, was born in 1947.

Jerry Hyman, trombone player for Blood, Sweat and Tears from 1968-1970, was born in 1947.

Steve Currie, session musician and bass player for T. Rex, was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England in 1947.

Tom Scott, saxophonist, composer, arranger, member of The Blues Brothers, and leader of fusion group L.A. Express, was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1948.

Grace Jones, singer, songwriter, supermodel, record producer, and actress, was born in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, British Jamaica in 1948.

Dusty Hill, bassist, vocalist, and keyboardist for ZZ Top, was born Joseph Michael Hill in Dallas, TX in 1949.

Larry Wallis, guitarist, songwriter, member of bands including Shagrat, Blodwyn Pig, UFO, the Pink Fairies, and Motörhead, a solo artist, and in-house producer for Stiff Records, was born in England in 1949.

Joey Ramone, songwriter and lead vocalist for the Ramones, was born Jeffrey Ross Hyman in Queens, NY in 1951.

Martyn Ware, musician, composer, arranger, record producer, and founding member of The Human League, was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England in 1952.

Iain Harvie, guitarist and songwriter for Del Amitri, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1962.