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Category Archives: on this day

On This Day…1977

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No mention on the news.  No acknowledgement that I’ve seen today.  However, today is the 32nd anniversary of the death of Elvis. One place that never, ever forgets Elvis is his home town of Memphis.  Death Week festivities culminate with the “vigil”, each August 15th.  Having witnessed this firsthand during our six year stint in Memphis, I must say that seeing the thousands upon thousands standing silently with candles and moving through the gates of Graceland is quite touching.

My Elvis love has been well-documented in several posts, here, here, and here.  As I reflect on the death of Les Paul and his dramatic impact on modern music and Rock & Roll, in particular, I can’t help but also think about Elvis’ significant influence.  These people made HUGE changes to their worlds.  Makes me wonder….just where are this generations change agents?  Miley Cyrus?  The Jonas Brothers?  Where are the new “originals”?

In this age, where non-conformity is the norm, it is hard to appreciate just how odd and different Elvis was.  Coming out in the Deep South, where good, upstanding citizens listened to clean cut white boys in the vein of Pat Boone, Elvis’ loud clothes, swiveling hips, provacative dance moves, and strong R&B leanings were not exactly embraced by the adults of the South (or otherwise).  But, the kids got it and they LOVED it.

America loves an original, and Elvis was definitely original.  In the thirty odd years since his death, I’ve often thought about what Elvis would have done, had he lived.  Would he have joined the fitness revolution and slimmed down?  Would he have realized that overuse of prescription drugs IS drug abuse and checked himself in to Betty Ford?  Would he have made a big comeback?  And, just WHAT would he look like at 74?  Well, wonder no more…

ElvisPresleyAgeProgression 

Oh, to go back to when Elvis was Young & Beautiful….

 
 

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50 Years Ago Today…

Thanks to Cocodrie Pat for bringing this to my attention!

It’s the Golden Anniversary of the release of this 1959 classic.

I made reference to Sleepwalk in an earlier post about Shelby Lynne’s Where I’m From, but didn’t expand on the Johnny & Santo eclectic composition that has been an inspriation for many steel guitar riffs in popular music.  While steele guitar was a staple in Country Music, it was not a factor in “Pop” music until the Farina brothers’ 1959 chart topper.

While it might be a bit of a stretch, I’m thinking that Sleepwalk may have been a bit of an inspiration to Robert Randolph, no?

  The March, Robert Randolph

 

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“One Small Step…”

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40 years ago today, the now infamous Neil Armstrong uttered those famous words and in doing so, declared a de facto victory in the “space race” and fulfilling JFK’s goal of putting a man in space by the end of the decade.

I was nearly five years old when Armstrong took those fateful steps and it is one of my earliest memories.  Oddly, I remember watching it on that big, old console TV with Walter Cronkite commenting.

It was one of those “American” moments where everyone comes together for common support, regardless of affiliation.  Like the 1980 USA Hockey Team vs. USSR and the days after 911, Americans were united in their awe and pride during these sweltering days of July four decades ago.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a commonality again, for something so positive? 

There’s just something about that big old light in the sky that inspires, with music being no exception.  Over the years, many a song have been dedicated to the moon and its alluring and romantic qualities.  In honor of the moon and man’s seeming conquering of it 40 years ago, here is Music Maven’s Moon Playlist:

  Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra

  Paper Moon, Nat King Cole

  Blue Moon of Kentucky, Patsy Cline

  Harvest Moon, Leon Redbone

  Moon River, Audrey Hepburn (“Breakfast @ Tiffany’s”)

  Moondance, covered by Michael Buble’ because Van Morrison is an anti-internet Nazi

  Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival

  Moonshadow, Cat Stevens

  Yellow Moon, The Neville Brothers

  Shame on the Moon, Bob Seger

  Dancin’ in the Moonlight, King Harvest

  Cajun Moon, Ricky Skaggs

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2009 in on this day, through the years

 

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One If by Land, Two If by Sea…

The Lads arrive in New York, 1964

Forty five years ago today, the American music scene was forever changed.  The first on-slaught of the British Invasion arrived in the form of the Fab Four, those crazy, lovable long hairs from Liverpool.

I Want to Hold Your Hand was #1 in the U.S. when The Beatles landed at the newly-named JFK airport for their first foray on American soil.  Within a few short months, The Beatles would hold the top 5 spots on the Billboard charts — a feat that had not been achieved before and likely never will be again. 

While the The Beatles were accustomed to the foolishness of European teenagers, they anticipated a much more sedate audience from the prim and proper American youth.   Likely the biggest misunderestimation of their careers.

  The Beatles arrive @ JFK

  Press Conference & Crowds

The Beatles took America by storm.  After the infamous press conference, they were on to experiencing New York City and to the Ed Sullivan Show.

   The Beatles debut on American Television via The Ed Sullivan Show — February 9, 1964  (The end shows the group taking in some music & dancing at a NYC club)

Can you see/hear the Buddy Holly influence?  Master showman, Sullivan, ingenuously had The Beatles both open and close the show to keep viewers the entire hour.  It worked.  The Ed Sullivan Show garned the largest T.V. audience to date.

After NYC, the lads moved on to D.C., where they played the Washington Coliseum on February 11th:

   I Saw Her Standing There

   Long Tall Sally

The next night, they were back in NYC to play the legendary Carnegie Hall.  The Beatles then traveled down to Miami Beach where Ed Sullivan had deftly booked them for their farewell performance before departing for Britain.  Out of the Deauville Hotel, The Beatles….

  The Beatles, breaking the previous record for T.V. viewing that they had set the week before

Just three short months removed from the horror of the JFK assassination, The Beatles brought a welcomed, exciting diversion that helped Americans briefly forget about their sorrow and troubles.  They brought fun, pleasure, and hope.  Hope for a new generation. 

 

 

NOTE:  Some of the videos are long, but if you have time please listen to the end…there are some gems there.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2009 in classic rock, on this day, the beatles

 

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The Day the Music Died: Part 3 – Ritchie Valens

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Seventeen years old.  Let that sink in a minute. 

My son is 17.  I cannot more imagine him dropping out of school to become a recording star at this age, than me becoming Secretary of State.  Yet, Richard Stephen Valenzueala did exactly that — dropped out of school at 16, as a matter of fact, and rode the whirlwind of fame in a stellar eight month career.

In May 1958, Ritchie landed a recording contract with the Del-Fi recording label out of Hollywood, CA.   In July, Valens recorded his first record, Come On, Let’ s Go, which became his first hit.  He was one for one.

  Come On, Let’s Go

Shortly after, he recorded his second, and most prolific hit, Donna:

  Donna

As is widely known, Donna was written by Valens for his girlfriend, Donna Ludwig.  In the late 1950s, inter-racial couples were not readily accepted nor encouraged.  Even though Valens was now a hero in the Latino community, he likely had a tougher time in society, as a whole.  His relationship with Donna was full of angst and longing, that resonated across racial lines and brought Ritchie into the mainstream when it went to #2 on the Billboard charts.

The flipside of Donna was a Mexican folk song that Valens’ mother convinced him to record.  La Bamba would become a mega-hit, but not until 1987, when Lou Diamond Phillips starred as Valens in the movie, La Bamba. 

 

Despite his Chicano roots, Valens had to learn the Spanish words to La Bamba phonetically, as he had only spoken only English since birth.  La Bamba is listed as the #345 on Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 Songs of All Time.  It is the only spanish language song in the Top 500.

The dual A-side recording of Donna/LaBamba would pay for a new house for Valens’ mother, but would be the last release of his life.  Several recordings were released after his untimely death, including Cry, Cry, Cry and my favorite, We Belong Together:

A talented, self taught guitar player, Ritchie was well-liked and had a notable energy on-stage.  He went on tour in Hawaii with Buddy Holly and Paul Anka and when Holly was looking for acts to join him for the ’59 Winter Dance Party, he immediately invited Ritchie Valens.  Valens agreed, and despite being a minor, went off on his own to follow his dream.

After extended freezing tempatures, grueling routes from point to point, and the isolation of being a teenager in a man’s world, Valens was homesick and miserable.  Traveling in the unfamiliar snow and cold of the Midwest was more than he had bargained for.  When he heard that Buddy Holly had chartered a plane to transport his band from Clear Lake, IA to Fargo, ND, Ritchie begged Cricket’s guitarist, Tommy Allsup to give up his seat to Valens.  Here is Allsup’s account:

Seventeen.

 

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The Day the Music Died: Part 2 – The Big Bopper

J.P. Richardson

J.P. Richardson

“Hellllllooooo, Baaaabbbeeee!………………….”

Consider J.P. Richardson, the DJ/Singer/Songwriter from Beaumont, TX the man who brought you such songs as Luckenbach, TX,  Amanda, Mamma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys and Suspicious Minds.  You can thank The Big Bopper for the legendary Outlaws album. 

On a frigid night in February, J.P. Richardson — The Big Bopper — simply couldn’t face another night on the cold, drafty bus that served as transportation for the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour.  Suffering with the flu, Richardson was desperate to avoid another long ride in freezing tempatures, sleeping upright on hard seats.  When he learned that Buddy Holly was chartering a small plane to get to the next stop for him and his band, The Crickets, he approached the bass player and asked if he would mind giving up his seat so that The Bopper could get some rest and try to recover.  The young, affable 22 year old Waylon Jennings agreed.

Buddy Holly ribbed his bandmate about giving up the seat.  “I hope your ole’ bus freezes up again”.  Jennings sarcastically snapped back, “Well, I hope your damn plane crashes.”  Jenning was riddled with guilt for trading places with The Big Bopper and was very reluctant to ever discuss his role in “the day the music died”.

1958, The Big Bopper, traveled extensively on tour, promoting his music.  His new single, Chantilly Lace, had recently caught on when fate coupled him with new sensation, Ritchie Valens; rock and roll stalwart, Buddy Holly; and mega-popular, Dion & The Belmonts for the Winter Dance Party tour in early 1959.

  Chantilly Lace, The Big Bopper

The Big Bopper was big and bold.  After an army stint, J.P. Richardson returned to his hometown of Beaumont, TX and eventually ended up as a DJ at KRTM.  In 1957, he broke the record for continuous on-air broadcasting — 5 days, 2 hours, and 8 minutes.  Shortly thereafter, he adopted the name The Big Bopper, originated from watching college students in Beaumont doing the dance, The Bop.  His first foray into performing and recording was the old-time Country Beggar to a King, but it struggled to gain any traction on the charts:

  Beggar to a King, The Big Bopper

He quickly recovered with Chantilly Lace and took the show on the road to capitalize.  His goal was to make as much money as he could to build a recording studio in Beaumont where he could make music and produce other acts.  He was also working on a new concept that he called a “music video”.  His live shows were part skit, part song and he was wildly popular.

Back at home in Texas, his wife was pregnant with their second child, a son who would be born two months after his death.  J.P. Richardson, Jr. now performs as his father and oddly, “met” his father for the first time in 2007 when he had The Big Bopper’s body exhumed to rule out foul play.  (It was.)

Perhaps The Big Bopper’s most lasting legacy is the three songs he wrote that were #1 hits for other artists.  White Lightnin’ was recorded by George Jones in 1959 and ended up at the top of the Country charts. 

  White Lightnin’, George Jones

Richardson not only wrote Running Bear, but provided back up vocals on the Johnny Preston hit that was released in September 1959.  It hit #1 on the Country charts shortly thereafter.

  Running Bear, Johnny Preston

Finally, Jerry Lee Lewis re-leased Chantilly Lace, scoring a #1 Country hit in 1972.

  Chantilly Lace, “The Killah”

Much like Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson was an “evoluntionary”.  He was perfecting a successful songwriting formula, experimenting with new facets of music via film performances, and was aspiring to produce other acts.  At 28, The Big Bopper was pushing the “norms” of the music business and had nowhere to go but up.  

The plane crash threw his body 40 ft. from the wreckage and he suffered severe trauma, dying on impact.

 

The Day the Music Died — A Music Maven Mini-Series

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This coming Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009, will be the 50th anniversary of the great Buddy Holly’s tragic death when the small plane he was a passenger on crashed in an Iowa corn field.

Holly’s short, yet meteoric career, provided influence for many musicians across many genres.  Over the next three days, Music Maven will pay tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson).  We’ll explore their influences and perhaps even reveal a few tidbits you might not be aware of.

Shortly, I will post the first of the series.  It will be a post on American Pie, the Don McLean classic inspired by the death of Buddy Holly.  American Pie  is a perennial favorite, but do you know about Don McLean’s musical kun-NECK-shuns?  Do you know all of the hidden meanings in the song? 

Check back to learn more…hope you enjoy the show!

 

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