Today in Rock & Roll History: May 4th

1956: Gene Vincent recorded “Be-Bop-a-Lula” after being invited by Capitol Records to record the song at producer Owen Bradley’s Nashville studio. The song later reached the top 10 and became one of rock’s all time classics. Drummer Dickie Harrell screamed twice during the recording because he wanted to make sure his family could hear him on the record.

1959: The first annual Grammy Awards show was held as two simultaneous ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California and the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City.

1963: The Beach Boys made their US top 10 debut with their fourth single, “Surfin’ USA.” Three weeks later, the song peaked at #3.

1963: Wilson Pickett debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with “If You Need Me.”

1963: Jackie Wilson scored his fifth #1 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart with “Baby Workout.”

1964: The band that later became known as the The Moody Blues began to form in Birmingham, England with keyboardist Mike Pinder and flute and harmonica player Ray Thomas forming the Krew Cats. The pair soon after recruited guitarist and vocalist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. The band’s eventual name came from a potential sponsorship from the local M&B Brewery. After calling themselves “The M Bs” and “The M B Five,” it was finally revealed in an interview that the band was named “Moody Blues,” referencing how music affected people’s moods, and the fact that they were playing blues at the time.

1966: Motown Records released Stevie Wonder’s fifth studio album, Up-Tight. The album was Wonder’s first LP to chart in the UK as well as the his first album to enter the Billboard pop chart after Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius in 1963.

1968: The Moody Blues’ second album Days of Future Passed, recorded with a full orchestra and a lineup that now included guitarist and vocalist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, entered the Billboard album chart at the #200 spot. Four years later, the album peaked at #3.

1968: Blue Cheer’s biggest hit, their cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1968: The first European International Pop Festival was held in the Palazzo dello Sport in Rome. Performing acts during the multi-day event included Pink Floyd, Donovan, The Move, Captain Beefheart, The Nice, Julie Driscoll, and the Samurai. It was intended that the festival would feature fifty-five acts over two weeks, but only a fraction came, and the event lasted just four days.

1970: At Ohio’s Kent State University, a student protest against the United States’ bombing of Cambodia during the Vietman War ended with the Ohio National Guard shooting and killing four students and wounding nine others. In response, hundreds of schools across the country closed due a student strike of four million students. Neil Young penned the song “Ohio” within a week and it was recorded and released by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in early June. Numerous other artists recorded tributes after the events at Kent State including Steve Miller, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, and Dave Brubeck.

1973: Led Zeppelin opened their ninth North American tour in Atlanta, Georgia. Billed as the “biggest and most profitable rock & roll tour in the history of the United States,” manager Peter Grant booked several large stadiums, and as a result, the tour broke box office records across the country. On the tour’s second show at Tampa Stadium in Florida, Zeppelin played to 56,800 fans, breaking the previous record held by the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Altogether, the tour was at the time one of the biggest and most profitable rock and roll tours in the country, grossing over $4 million. Shows also featured more developed effects including lasers, dry ice, mirrors, and pyrotechnics. Between gigs, the band flew in a Boeing 720 passenger jet dubbed “The Starship.”

1974: Grand Funk Railroad’s cover of Little Eva’s 1962 hit “The Loco-Motion,” produced by Todd Rundgren, became the band’s second of two hits to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It was only the second time that a cover as well as the original version of a song had both reached #1.

1977: Archival Beatles live recordings from 1964 and 1965 were released on LP as The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. Recorded by Capitol Records, the quality of the tapes had initially been deemed inadequate for commercial release. In the 1970s, after years of fans demanding a live Beatles album, producer George Martin had the 3-track tapes painstakingly transferred to 16-tracks for filtering and editing. Despite being 12 and 13 year old recordings, the album reached #1 on the New Musical Express chart in the UK and #2 on the Billboard pop chart in the US.

1979: Frank Zappa released Orchestral Favorites, an instrumental album performed by the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was a group of Hollywood session musicians, some of whom had previously worked with Zappa to record music for his first solo album Lumpy Gravy in 1967.

1982: The Cure’s fourth album Pornography was released. After recording sessions that saw the group on the brink of collapse with drug use, in-fighting, and frontman Robert Smith’s depression, bassist Simon Gallup left the band, and the Cure switched to a much brighter and more radio-friendly new wave sound. Despite the album’s poor reception by critics, it became the group’s most popular LP yet, reaching #8 on the UK chart.

1984: Echo & the Bunnymen released their fourth studio album, Ocean Rain. The LP was the group’s second to reach the top 5 in the UK and was their first to enter the top 100 on the Billboard chart in the US.

1989: Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan began what ended up being his last tour at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in support of his fourth and final studio LP In Step. Consisting of six legs and 136 shows, Vaughan and Double Trouble co-headlined with Jeff Beck and Joe Cocker during the third and fifth legs, branded as “The Fire Meets the Fury” and “Power and Passion” tours.

1993: David Crosby released his third solo studio album, Thousand Roads.

2010: Live at the Troubadour by Carole King and James Taylor was released. Recorded in 2007 at The Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood, the duo’s performance celebrated the venue’s 50th anniversary. It was also the first venue that King and Taylor played together in November 1970. At the end of March in 2010, King and Taylor also began the Troubadour Reunion Tour in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and North America.

Birthdays Today

Ed Cassidy, drummer and founding member of Spirit, was born in Harvey, IL in 1923.

Dick Dale, guitarist and pioneer of surf rock music who worked with the Fender corporation to develop new equipment to push the limits of electric amplification, was born in Boston, MA in 1937.

Tyrone Davis, blues and soul singer, was born in Greenville, MS in 1938.

Ronnie Bond, original drummer for The Troggs and a solo artist, was born Ronald James Bullis in Andover, Hampshire, England in 1940.

Peggy Santiglia, singer-songwriter and member of The Angels, was born in Belleville, NJ in 1944.

Georg Wadenius, session musician, composer, and lead guitarist of Blood, Sweat and Tears from 1972 to 1975, who worked with many musicians including Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, James Brown, Dr. John, and Paul Simon, was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1945.

Nickolas Ashford, half of the songwriting, production, and recording duo Ashford & Simpson with his wife Valerie Simpson who together wrote hits for the Shirelles, Ray Charles, and Chaka Khan, and songs such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” was born in Fairfield, SC in 1946.

Darryl Hunt, bass player for The Pogues, was born in Christchurch, Dorset, England in 1950.

Jackie Jackson, singer, songwriter, and founding member of the Jackson 5, was born Sigmund Esco Jackson in Gary, IN in 1951.

Bob Sheppard, jazz saxophonist, woodwind player, and solo artist who’s worked with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and others, was born in Trenton, NJ in 1952.

Sharon Jones, soul and funk singer, was born in Augusta, GA in 1956.

Anders Osborne, singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was born in Uddevalla, Sweden in 1966.

Mike Dirnt, bassist for Green Day, was born Michael Ryan Pritchard in Oakland, CA in 1972.