A song included on the new Neil Young and Crazy Horse album Americana was performed for the first time today in 1847 by an unnamed local group at Andrews Eagle Ice Cream Saloon in Pittsburgh, PA. “Oh Susannah” was a minstrel song written by Stephen Foster, often called “The Father of American Music” (Some of Foster’s other compositions are still famous today: Camptown Races, Old Folks at Home (Swanee River), My Old Kentucky Home, Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair, and Beautiful Dreamer). Foster was long rumored to have sold the rights to Oh Susannah for a bottle of Whiskey, but he was actually paid the princely sum of $100. The Byrds also recorded a version on their 1965 album Turn! Turn! Turn!

The Beatles were back at EMI Studios at Abbey Road in London today in 1961 for a third attempt at recording their first single. At the insistence of producer George Martin, session drummer Andy White took over for Ringo Starr.  The version of Love Me Do on the Please Please Me album is the Andy White take, but the single that came out in early October featured Ringo on drums.

The Town Hall of the Royal Greenwich borough of London held a Mick Jagger impersonation contest today in 1964. The winner turned out to be one Chris Jagger, Mick’s younger brother.

The Beatles were at a decommissioned RAF airfield in Kent today in 1967, beginning production of their 1 hour TV special Magical Mystery Tour, which would debut on the BBC on Boxing Day (It is being rereleased on DVD and BluRay In early October). It is widely considered the band’s only flop. They started with only a bunch of great songs and instead of the usual script, they had what Paul McCartney called a “scrupt”: a very loose collection of sketches and handwritten ideas and situations. The only other musical performer in the film was a collection of art-school types called The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (who would later be connected with the Monty Python troupe) who performed a song called Death Cab for Cutie, later taken as the name for a band from Bellingham that would become quite popular.

Larry Graham, bassist for Sly and the Family Stone was busted for cannabis possession today in 1968, just as the band was starting a tour of England. Good thing they didn’t look in Sly’s violin case.

Tacoma-born Gonzaga University grad and swing-era uber-crooner Bing Crosby was feeling the spirit a bit early today in 1977, taping what be the last of his many Christmas specials called A Merrie Olde Christmas that featured him doing a merrie olde duet of The Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie, who he had invited personally. Bing died a little over a month later at 74.

Peter Tosh, founding member of Bob Marley’s Wailers and solo artist, was at home in Kingston Jamaica today in 1987, having just returned from a tour. Three armed gunmen, led by a man Tosh had befriended after his release from prison, showed up and demanded money. Several other friends stopped by to welcome him home, they and Peter were tortured and after several hours shot dead.

David Bowie became the first major artist to release a song exclusively on the interwebs today in 1996. No one remembers the song Telling Lies.

Tommy Chong, half of the Cheech and Chong comedy duo, was sentenced to 9 months in prison and a $20,000 fine today in 2003 for selling “Chong’s Bongs” over the interwebs. He managed to stay out of jail in Vancouver until 2004, but eventually returned to the U.S. and served his sentence.

Rock And Roll Birthdays

One half of the Grateful Dead’s dual-drummer “rhythm devils”, Mickey Hart is 68.

Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw is 59.


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