Elvis Presley released his second single with Sam Phillips‘ Memphis record company Sun today in 1954. Good Rockin’ Tonight was written and recorded by African American Roy Brown, who then offered it to African American pre-rock-and-roll jump-blues pioneer Wynonie Harris, who reluctantly recorded a more rocking way-ahead-of-it’s-time version in 1948. Phillips had always told anyone who would listen that if he could find a white kid who could sing like a black man, he’d make millions, and so he did. The song was later covered by The Honeydrippers (with Robert Plant and Jeff Beck, who changed “Tonight” to “Midnight”), Paul McCartney, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, and Montrose.
ABC Television showed the first episode of The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon today in 1965. It would run for four seasons of 48 episodes, depicting the band with mop-top haircuts in the suits they made famous in A Hard Day’s Night, and never tracked the band’s evolution in style. John, Paul, George, and Ringo had nothing to do with the show other than their recordings being used in it, in fact their distaste for the cartoon led them to not want anything to do with the feature-length Yellow Submarine in 1968, but they later warmed to both. The voices of Paul and Ringo were done by British actor and comedian Lance Pervical, while John and George were voiced by American actor Paul Frees, who’d done the Boris Badenov character on the popular Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
John Lennon recorded a song he had first offered to The Beatles during the Abbey Road sessions, written when he and Yoko were cleaning themselves up after a brief addiction to heroin, today in 1969. Paul hadn’t liked Cold Turkey, so John recorded it with Ringo Starr on drums, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and the Beatles’ old Hamburg friend Klaus Voorman on bass as The Plastic Ono Band. It would get as high as #14 on the British singles chart by November, but started slipping from there, and right around Thanksgiving John famously sent his MBE medal back to Buckingham Palace with a note that read, “I am returning this MBE in protest against Britian’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against Cold Turkey slipping in the charts. With Love, John Lennon of Bag.”
ABC Television took rock and roll to prime-time tonight in 1970 with the first episode of The Partridge Family, a group of 5 musical siblings aided by their widowed mother played by Shirley Jones, loosely based on real family-band The Cowsills, and led by oldest-child and teen heartthrob (and Jones’ real-life stepson) David Cassidy. The Partridges were rounded out by Susan Dey as gorgeous keyboard playing oldest-sister Laurie, Danny Bonaduce as the bass player and comedic foil Danny, Suzanne Crough as tambourine-banging little sis Tracy, and Jeremy Gelbwaks as the drummer and youngest brother Chris, who was replaced at the end of the first season (It ran for four) by Brian Forster. Jones and Dey would continue with acting careers, Cassidy would enjoy a good run as a “Tiger Beat” sex symbol, but Bonaduce, who could not actually play the bass, would later be forced to slum it in radio.
Black Sabbath released their 4th studio album, Volume 4, today in 1972. They’d intended to name the record after the first song on the second side, Snowblind, which accurately described what was going on at the time, but their record company was having none of it. They’d gone to Hollywood to record at The Record Plant studios, where they were having large speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered regularly. Bassist Geezer Butler later said, “We went out to L.A. and got into a totally different lifestyle. Half the budget went on the coke and the other half went to seeing how long we could stay in the studio. We rented a house in Bel-Air, and the debauchery up there was just unbelievable.”
Wings played a show in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy tonight in 1976, to raise money toward the preservation of the historic city, but the weight of the stage, sound system, crowd, and the band’s equipment caused even more damage.
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones was at Jimmy Page’s house early this afternoon in 1980 when he went to wake drummer John Bonham for another day of rehearsals for their upcoming American tour. Unfortunately Bonham had been drinking heavily during the previous day’s sessions, and in his passed-out state had choked to death on his own vomit. He was just 32. A coroner’s inquest determined that he had consumed some 40 shots of vodka. Media rumors began to circulate that Zeppelin would replace him with Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Phil Collins (who did play with them at their first “reunion”), Roger Taylor, or Simon Kirke, but by December 4th the band announced their breakup in a press release that read, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were”.
Queen were the featured musical guest on NBC’s Saturday Night Live tonight in 1982.
Nirvana had recently fired their drummer Chad Channing, and auditioned one on the recommendation of their old Aberdeen friend Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins today in 1990. Longtime Melvins fan Dave Grohl, of the recently-disbanded Washington D.C. based band Scream, was offered the job immediately.
Black Sabbath, more popular today in 2000 than they had been in their 70’s heyday, were nominated to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time, when Ozzy Osbourne sent a formal letter asking that they be removed from the list, calling their inclusion “meaningless”, and adding “Let’s face it. Black Sabbath have never been media darlings. We’re a people’s band and that suits us just fine.” They were inducted anyway, in 2006.
The Aberdeen house Kurt Cobain grew up in was put on the real estate market today in 2013 by his mom, who asked a cool half-million dollars for the otherwise unremarkable 4 bedroom 1 bathroom residence in hopes someone would turn it into a museum and of she cashing in, as Kurt’s estate went to his wife Courtney. Similar sized houses in economically depressed Gray’s Harbor County go in the 50 to 70 thousand dollar range, and the price dropped several times. By 2015 the price had dropped to $329,000, and Vanity Fair magazine wondered if it hadn’t sold because it was haunted, but Zillow now lists the house as “Off the Market” with “Zestimate” value of $75,000, which means it’ll likely soon open as some sort of museum.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Spirit and Nazareth keyboard player John Locke would be 74. He died in 2006.
Love guitarist Bryan Maclean, who had been rejected when he auditioned for The Monkees, would be 71, he died of a heart attack at 52.
Iron Butterfly bass player Jerry “The Bear” Penrod is 71.