Carl Perkins was at Sun Studios in Memphis today in 1955 recording Blue Suede Shoes. The song came from a conversation he’d had with Johnny Cash, who told him about a black guy he met while in the Air force in Germany who referred to his regulation black Airman footwear as his “blue suede shoes” and suggested it would be a good song topic. Perkins had said at the time, “I don’t know anything about shoes. How can I write a song about shoes?”, but while he was playing a dance later, overheard a man tell his partner near the front of the stage, “Uh-uh, don’t step on my suedes!”, and the song was born. Carl’s version would go to #2 on the U.S. singles chart, and hit #10 in England, where it would make a big impression on John Lennon, who recorded it later, as did Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, George Jones, and Lawrence Welk to name but a few.
The Supremes had another #1 hit with Baby Love today in 1964. It would be the second of 5 straight #1 singles for them, and their first to hit that mark in Britain, where they were hugely popular with the “mod” crowd. It was written and produced by Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland hit machine, with the instrumental parts handled by Motown’s roster of session musicians called The Funk Brothers, who though they mostly labored anonymously, as was pointed out in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, had more #1 hits than Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.
The Glad Rag Ball was the name for a rock and roll show at London’s Empire Pool tonight in 1965. A 19th-Century slang term for a person’s very best clothes, it was a celebration of “Mod” culture…the Mods like to dress up when they went out. Tickets were quite expensive for the day: 30 Shillings (about $4.20 U.S.), but had a top-notch lineup of The Who, The Kinks, The Hollies, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Wilson Pickett, and The Golden Apples of the Sun.
Chuck Berry got out of prison today in 1979 after serving four months for income tax evasion. In June he’d played at The White House at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter, but the I.R.S. had been investigating him, suspecting that his unusual touring style allowed him to hide income. He traveled only with his beloved Gibson ES-355, figuring that he could pick up a backing band that knew his songs wherever he went ( Steve Miller and Bruce Springsteen were among those he’d used, and once at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival, Roger Fisher, Steve Fossen, and Michael Derosier of Heart), and was almost always paid in cash by the local promoter.
Tom Evans of Badfinger was found hanging from a willow tree in his back yard this morning in 1983, a suicide for which he left no note, but his family said he’d slipped into a deep depression after the suicide of his former bandmate and songwriting partner Pete Ham in 1975 from which he never recovered, and had been arguing over money with Joey Molland. He was just 36.
David Crosby was at the UCLA Medical center in Los Angeles today in 1994, getting a new liver as the one he’d been born with had been ravaged by years of alcohol and drug abuse, and Hepatitis. His hefty hospital bill was picked up by his friend Phil Collins.
Mick Jagger released his fourth solo album today in 2001. Goddess in the Doorway featured guest appearances by many of his friends including Bono, Lenny Kravitz, Jim Keltner, Joe Perry, and the man who’d suggested he do another solo record as his latest crop of songs didn’t sound like The Rolling Stones, Pete Townsend. On it’s first day in stores worldwide, it sold an unremarkable 954 copies.
Humble Pie bass player Greg Ridley died of pneumonia today in 2003 at age 56.
Having been detained at Ho Chi Minh Airport in Vietnam several days earlier while attempting to board a plane to Thailand, Gary Glitter was formally charged today in 2005 with molesting two girls aged 10 and 11. He’d applied for permanent resident status in Vietnam after being kicked out of some 13 countries since fleeing England when child pornography was found on a laptop computer he’d taken in for repairs there in 1997. He was able to escape the prescribed punishment of death-by-firing-squad by paying the girls families some 7 million Dong each (about $320 U.S.), but was imprisoned until 2008, when he was deported to England and placed on the sex offenders register.
Two British farmers were found not guilty of health and safety offenses today in 2012 in a freak accident that had killed Electric Light Orchestra cellist Mike Edwards, who had been driving a van in rural Devonshire when a 1300 pound cylindrical hay bale had rolled down a hill, crushing the van.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention singer Ray Collins would be 81. He died the day before Christmas in 2012.
The Miracles bass-singer, songwriter, and vocal arranger Warren “Pete” Moore is 78. Though his childhood friend and fellow Miracle Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the rest of the group didn’t make it in until last year.
Paul Revere and the Raiders drummer Joe Correro Jr. is 71.
Guns-N-Roses drummer Matt Sorum is 57.