The King of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson, died today in 1938, rumored to have been poisoned by a jealous husband. Johnson is also rumored to have, as he sang in his song Cross Road Blues (later covered by Eric Clapton), to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. Johnson was 27, one of the first members of what Kurt Cobain’s Mom would call “that stupid club” of musians to die at 27, and several of his prominent fans would follow him: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain to name a few.
Stevie Wonder released his first single today in 1962, I Call It Pretty Music (But Old People Call It The Blues). “Little” Stevie was all of 12 years old at the time, and not yet playing all the instruments on his albums: The drums were done by Marvin Gaye.
It was early this morning in 1962, after a show at the Cavern Club, that Beatles manager Brian Epstein told drummer Pete Best he was out, with no reason or explanation given. John had already invited Ringo to join the band, but as he was on his way back from a 3-week engagement at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Brian had the nerve to ask Pete to play one last show that night in Cheshire. Not surprisingly, Pete didn’t show up, and the drum throne was filled that one night by Johnny Hutchinson of the band The Big Three.
6 years later to the day, The Beatles were at Abbey Road studios. They recorded 14 takes of George Harrison’s new song While My Guitar Gently Weeps, taking it from George’s acoustic demo to the electrified classic played on KZOK with some regularity. George’s friend Eric Clapton would later be invited to overdub the actual guitar-weeping.
While the Beatles were at work today in 1968, Bruce Springsteen’s new band Earth made it’s live debut at a coffee shop in Red Bank New Jersey. The band would last all of 6 months, but it was then that he earned the nickname “The Boss” because he handled the power trio’s affairs.
One year later to the day, Led Zeppelin played in Bruce’s hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, with opening act Joe Cocker. Joe would be heading to upstate New York to appear at a little rock festival the next day, and was in contact with people there already, sharing stories of what was going on at Woodstock with Zeppelin. Springsteen was just down the road, playing with his new band Child, and missed Zeppelin, Cocker, and Woodstock.
Day two of Woodstock was in full swing today in 1969. Friday’s line up had finished at 2am with a six-month-pregnant Joan Baez. Saturday’s action started just after noon with Quill, followed by Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John Sebastian, The Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, The Grateful Dead (who’s set was cut short when amplifiers overloaded), C.C.R., a well-lubicated Janis Joplin (it was 2 am Sunday morning when she went on), Sly and the Family Stone, The Who (who went on stage at 5 AM…their set was briefly interrupted by political activist Abbie Hoffman taking the microphone while Pete Townsend was adjusting his amp between songs. Pete whacked Abbie with his guitar and told him to “get off my f***ing stage”.), and the Jefferson Airplane, who finished their set at 9:40 AM Sunday morning. Music started back up at 2 pm Sunday afternoon, with Joe Cocker.
It was during their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour today in 1975 that frontman Peter Gabriel announced he was leaving Genesis. They would audtition some 400 potential replacements over the next 18 months beofre deciding that drummer and backup vocalist Phil Collins fit better than any of them, and they would go on to sell more records than the Gabriel-led band ever did.
Elvis Presley’s then-girlfriend Ginger Alden found him dead in the bathroom of a heart attack at age 42 today in 1977. He had been reading The Scientific Search For Jesus on the toilet.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Easybeats drummer Gordon “Snowy” Fleet is 66.
Golden Earring singer Barry Hay is 64.
Iggy and the Stooges drummer Scott “Rock Action” Asheton is 63.
Melvins and Mudhoney bassist Matt Lukin is 48, and comfortably retired from music in West Seattle, working as an expert carpenter.