Leo Fender of Fullerton California patented his second electric guitar today in 1956. The Stratocaster would become just as if not more popular than his previous Telecaster. While the “Strat” has been manufactured by the Fender Musical Instruments Company ever since. Leo sold his company to CBS in 1965, the quality of the guitars diminished greatly, and “Pre-CBS” Fender guitars are highly sought by collectors. Buddy Holly was one of the first to popularize it, and several of the most famous Stratocasters ever (the 1956 model dubbed “Brownie” by Eric Clapton played with Derek and the Dominoes, and both whole, broken, and burned examples played by Jimi Hendrix) are owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and are on display at the Experience Music Project here in Seattle. Fender guitars of widely varying quality, price, and configuration are made in Korea, Indonesia, India, China, Japan (pre-1990 Japanese “Squier” models are also highly sought these days), Ensenada Mexico, and the top-of-the-line “Custom Shop” in California, which offers “signature models” based on those used by some of the most famous players including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Dick Dale (who helped Leo develop amplifiers), David Gilmore, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Eddie Van Halen.
The Beatles original bass player died today in 1962. He was just 21.The only one not born in Liverpool, Stuart “Stu” Sutcliffe moved from Edinburgh, Scotland to attend the Liverpool College of Art, where he met John Lennon. The two came up with the band’s name in tribute to Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and when Stu started dating photographer Astrid Kirchirr while they were in Hamburg, she encouraged them to ditch their rockabilly haircuts in favor of the bowl-cut “Beatle” haircuts that were already popular in Germany. They played as a 5-piece band, with Paul McCartney on guitar, for a while there, but when George Harrison was deported for being underage, and then Paul and Pete Best were deported for setting fire to their hotel room in apparent retaliation for their firing by the hotel and nightclub’s owner (they had played at a competing nightclub), and John followed the rest of the band back to England, Stu quit the band in ’61 and stayed in Hamburg to study art. He’d been complaining of severe headaches and sensitivity to light, and collapsed in the middle of a class. He was rushed to a hospital, but died on the way of a brain aneurysm.
A school in Wrexham, Wales sent a memo home to parents today in 1965, urging parents to make sure their children were coming in their required uniforms, and not wearing corduroy trousers like The Rolling Stones.
The Doors drunken frontman Jim Morrison was dragged off stage by his keyboard player Ray Manzarek tonight in 1970 at a concert in Boston. Jim had just asked the audience if they would like “something that rhymes with ‘sock’, and then again more blatantly “Would you like to see my genitals?!” Ray feared a repeat of an earlier show in Miami, where Jim had been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, an offense for which he had not yet gone to trial. Theater management was way ahead of Ray, and had already cut off the power to the sound system before Jim could attempt to break free and return to the microphone.
Paul McCartney issued a press release today in 1970 announcing that he had “no future plans to record or appear with The Beatles again, or to write any music with John“. Lennon, who had already quit the band but kept his decision secret to protect the others, was pissed. When contacted by a reporter for a reaction to Paul’s announcement, he said angrily, “Paul hasn’t left. I sacked him”.
Former Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton went to #1 on the U.S. album chart with Frampton Comes Alive today in 1976. While not the best live album in rock history (That honor goes to The Who’s Live At Leeds), it remains the best selling live album of all time, and was the best selling album of that year, staying on the charts for a remarkable 97 weeks, and was voted best album of ’76 by readers of Rolling Stone magazine. Frampton was the most popular rock star in the world when he made the career-killing mistake of appearing with disco-kings The Bee Gees in director Robert Stigwood’s gawd-awful Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.
Two days after his body was discovered in a room above the garage of his Denny-Blaine mansion, some 5000 Nirvana fans attended a memorial service for Kurt Cobain at the Seattle Center’s flag plaza pavillion today in 1994. Seattle Disc-jockeys Damon Stewart from KISW and Scott Vanderpool from KXRX, who had been early fans of the band, were asked by their bosses to attend the memorial to keep Californian-staffed “Alternative” radio station KNDD “The End” from “turning Kurt’s memorial into a station promotion”, which they did anyway. Shortly after some disc-jockey speechmaking and most of the crowd had left, Kurt’s widow Courtney Love showed up to commiserate with a few of the remaining fans. She had him cremated, and as there is no official gravesite, the small Viretta Park next door to the home she sold some years later remains a pilgrimage site for Nirvana fans to this day.
Paul McCartney played at the Royal Albert Hall in London tonight in 1999 in a somber charity fundraiser in honor of his late wife Linda, who had died of breast cancer a year earlier at their home in Tuscon, Arizona. Other performers that night included The Pretenders Chrissie Hynde, George Michael, Elvis Costello, and Sinead O’Connor.
The final episode of MTV’s “reality” show The Osbournes aired in England tonight in 2005, having ended in late March in the U.S. The show had been hugely popular in both countries, but Ozzy was at a loss to explain it’s popularity, saying “I suppose Americans get a kick out of watching a crazy Brit family like us make complete fools of ourselves every week.” He later admitted that he had “been stoned during the entire filming of the Osbournes“, and could no longer watch the show.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Burke Shelly, bass player and singer of influential Welsh band Budgie, is 65.
Fred Smith, bass player with CBGB bands Blondie and Television, is 64.
Parliament/Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel would be 63. He died at 42, but was posthumously inducted into the rock of Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and is #43 on the Rolling Stone magazine Top 100 Greatest Guitarist of All time list.
Rockabilly revivalist Brian Setzer, guitarist and frontman of The Stray Cats is 54.