This Week in Music History

Ringo’s Rockin’ Gift … Brian’s Breakdown … Adios Godfather

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Historic Events that Rocked Music—The Week of December 21, 2015

Ringo Starr Brian Wilson James Brown

1918: Composer Franz Gruber writes the music for "Silent Night"...it’s performed for the first time the next day—Christmas Day—at Oberndorf, Austria in the Church of St. Nikolaus…

1934: Future gospel and soul singer McKinley Mitchell is born this Christmas Day…prophetically, his final album will be titled I Won’t Be Back No More

1942: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” tops the Billboard pop chart…the song is re-released during ensuing holiday seasons and nails the top spot again in 1945 and 1947, ultimately becoming one of the biggest singles ever…

1954: R&B star Johnny Ace is backstage at a Houston concert toying with a revolver…when he points the pistol at his head claiming to know which chamber holds the single bullet in the weapon, he irrevocably proves himself wrong…

1956: Elvis shines as the most successful chart star of the year, with 17 hits...poor Pat Boone, the runner up, had a mere five…

1958: Ooh-wee baby…Frankie Ford’s rocking “Sea Cruise” is released this week and will eventually go gold while also becoming a staple of the Crescent City R&B sound…the song, originally recorded by Huey “Piano” Smith with Bobby Marchan on vocals and a rockin’ horn section, is overdubbed with Ford’s vocal…from his energetic, hoarse reading of the song, most listeners assume Ford is black…in reality he’s a pompadoured white Louisiana teenager destined for one-hit-wonder status…

1959: 18-year-old Richard Starkey gets his first drum kit as a Christmas present...the set will take him far…

1962: British band The Tornadoes score a #1 Billboard hit with their instrumental “Telstar” named for the first communications satellite…UK studio wizard Joe Meek wrote and engineered the tune that features the distinctive electronic sounds of a clavioline—a forerunner to analog synths…Meek is sued for plagiarism by a French composer claiming the Brit lifted the song from a film score he’d written—due to the suit, Meek receives no royalties…the case is finally decided in Meek’s favor in 1967, three weeks after his suicide…

 

With Joe Meek’s electronic flourishes, “Telstar” offered a taste of the waves of analog synths to follow.

1963: The Rolling Stones appear on the U.K. television show Ready, Steady, Go! performing “I Wanna Be Your Man,” a song written for them by Lennon and McCartney…

1964: On a flight from L.A. to Houston Beach Boy Brian Wilson suffers a mental collapse and gives up touring…he is replaced onstage by studio musician Glen Campbell…this same week, showing a distinct lack of Christmas spirit, a gang of female George Harrison fans thrash Patti Boyd, George's girlfriend for having what they all want…not to be left out of the assault on seasonal cheer, The Rolling Stones place a tongue-in-cheek seasons-greeting ad in the New Musical Express that reads “Best wishes to starving hairdressers and their families”…

1965: The Beatles’ new LP Rubber Soul goes gold after just two weeks on sale…

1967: The Beatles’ new film Magical Mystery Tour, which writer Tom Wolfe will later claim was inspired by the travels of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, premieres on BBC-TV...it creates plenty of mystery in its own right when audiences try to figure out what the novice filmmakers could possibly have been thinking…

1968: Playing their first-ever U.S. show, Led Zeppelin opens for Vanilla Fudge and Spirit in Denver…tickets at the Denver Auditorium run five bucks a pop…

1969: Capping a meteoric rise in rockdom, Led Zeppelin II nails the top position on the US album chart and will go on to move more than five million copies…this same week Elton John and Bernie Taupin join forces to form one of the most successful songwriting teams of the 20th century…

 

“Whole Lotta Love,” the leadoff track from Led Zeppelin II became a regular part of the band’s live sets.

1970: Joni Mitchell strikes gold for the first time with her album Ladies of the Canyon

1971: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” rules the pop singles chart…originally recorded by Beatles cohort Billy Preston, the copyright owners of The Chiffons ‘60s hit “He’s So Fine” will sue Harrison claiming plagiarism…a court will find that the ex-Beatle did indeed subconsciously copy the oldie, despite Harrison maintaining the melody was inspired by the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ version of the public domain gospel song “Oh Happy Day”…

1972: After months of legal wrangling between Grand Funk Railway’s past and present management, the band’s final date of its 1972 tour at Madison Square Garden nearly doesn’t happen when former manager Terry Knight attempts to seize band equipment…the show, a benefit for a drug rehab facility is also scheduled to air on ABC TV’s In Concert…at the last minute the court issues an injunction preventing the seizure… this same week residents raise hell about all the noise coming from a Manfred Mann show in Miami...authorities pull the plug mid-concert and the crowd goes berserk...destruction ensues…

1973: Just two weeks before release of the new LP, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, Tom Johnson of The Doobie Brothers goes down for pot possession…

1974: John Lennon’s single “#9 Dream” hits the U.S. pop chart…it will coincidentally top out at the #9 position…this same week, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, and Joni Mitchell take to the streets of Los Angeles singing Christmas carols…

1975: A whacked-out fan levels a loaded .44 at super-hunter Ted Nugent during a show…he’s brought down without incident by a combined force of security guards and fans…also this week, Ike and Tina Turner are robbed of a suitcase holding $86,000 in concert receipts…

1976: Proving that they made a smart move when they got Joe Walsh onboard, the Eagles touch platinum with Hotel California

1977: Singer-songwriter Cat Stevens becomes a Muslim and changes his name to Yusuf Islam…

1978: The Who's drummer throne, recently and tragically vacated by Keith Moon, is credibly assumed by former Faces drummer Kenney Jones…also this week, Rod Stewart releases "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"...apparently someone does; the song will hit No. 1…

1979: In a potentially confusing move, Iron Maiden drummer Doug Sampson is replaced by ex-Samson drummer Clive Burr…

1980: Stiff Records puts out the faux album, The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan…the record consists of 40 minutes of silence…

1983: Dennis Wilson, the only real surfer among the Beach Boys, drowns after diving from the deck of a friend's boat in Marina Del Rey, California…an autopsy reveals the singer-drummer has a blood-alcohol level of 0.26…Wilson had blown his fortune and was near destitute at the time of his death, the victim of serious drug and alcohol problems…he is given an official Coast Guard funeral and burial at sea despite never having served…

1987: Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx is revived with two shots of adrenaline after being pronounced dead from a heroin OD…he springs back to life, flees the ambulance he’s being hauled to the ER in and gets a ride home where he promptly shoots up and passes out…the episode will inspire the Crüe’s anthem “Kickstart My Heart”…

1989: A former cook in the restaurant owned by Chuck Berry takes her erstwhile boss to court for allegedly placing a camera in the women’s bathroom…

1991: Greg Allman makes his acting debut as a drug lord in the movie Rush…this same week James Brown sues the producers of the movie The Commitments claiming one of its characters is modeled too closely on The Godfather of Soul…he’ll lose the case…

1992: Harry Connick Jr. is busted at JFK Airport trying to smuggle a 9mm pistol onto a plane…also this week, Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel dies of liver failure…influenced by Jimi Hendrix, his blazing 10-minute guitar solo on “Maggot Brain” is revered by fans of fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar…

1993: Walter Scott, lead vocalist for Bob Kuban and the In Men whose big hit was “The Cheaters” disappears mysteriously…four years later his remains are found in a neighbor’s concrete cistern…an investigation reveals Scott’s wife had been involved with the neighbor, Jim Williams, and that Williams had murdered the singer along with his own wife…

1998: After cops watch rapper Busta Rhymes make three successive lane changes without signaling, they pull him over and discover a loaded, unregistered handgun leading to his arrest…

1999: Sean “Puffy” Combs is arrested on weapons charges after leaving a nightclub where three people have just been shot…

2003: Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent’s debut LP more than meets the album’s stated objective by becoming the biggest-selling record of the year and going 6X platinum…

2004: When singer-songwriter John Mayer shows up for his Pennsylvania high school’s Hall of Fame ceremonies he winds up in the principal's office…citing security concerns, school officials stall the recording star until the ceremony is under way, then walk him to his car…”It was hurtful,” Mayer says…

 

John Mayer got the cold shoulder when he showed up for his alma mater’s hall of fame program.

2005: Former Bee Gee Barry Gibb buys the former home of the late Johnny and June Cash in Hendersonville, Tennessee...the sale price isn’t announced, but the property had been on the market for $2.5 million…this same week, the body of former family-band member Barry Cowsill is found on a wharf in New Orleans...it is believed that he died during Hurricane Katrina…and finally this week, Google reports Janet Jackson was the most-searched name of the year following her notorious wardrobe “slip” during the 2004 Super Bowl…

2006: The Godfather of Soul is felled by pneumonia on Christmas morning in an Atlanta hospital...three days later thousands line the streets of Harlem as James Brown’s funeral procession files past the Apollo Theatre, the scene of many triumphant appearances and the venue where he recorded his still-venerated live album in 1962…

 

The Godfather of Soul delivered transfixing performances while supported by the funkiest bands in the known universe.

2008: The Guardian.com reports that of the 13 million songs available for sale oline in the past year, more than 10 million failed to find a single buyer…also this week, a casette recording of a drunk John Lennon singing a raunchy version of the Lloyd Price song “Just Because” goes for $30,000 at auction…

This Week’s Births

December 21: blues pianist Peetie Wheatstraw born William Bunch (1902), country musician and songwriter Freddie Hart (1926), soul-jazz sax player Hank Crawford (1934), Frank Zappa (1940), Ray Hildebrand of Paul & Paula (1940), R&B/soul singer Carla Thomas (1942), guitarist Albert Lee (1943), Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys (1946), flamenco guitar master Paco De Lucía (1947), Jim Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1947), The Rumour's Martin Belmont (1948), singer-songwriter Nick Gilder (1951), soul singer Betty Wright (1951), Nashville singer-songwriter Lee Roy Parnell (1956), guitarist Anthony Paule of The Bey-Paule Band (1956), Berlin drummer Rob Brill (1956), Emmett Murphy of Dinosaur Jr (1964), Patrick Murphy of The Lemonheads (1964), Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack (1965), Gabby Glaser of Luscious Jackson (1965), Brett Scallions of Fuel (1971), Chris Kilmore of Incubus (1973), hip-hop star Rick Ross born Chandler Broz (1977), Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody (1980), No Doubt singer John Spence (1987)

December 22: composer Giacomo Puccini (1858), Texas bluesman T.D. Bell AKA Little T-Bone (1922), R&B guitarist and singer Alvin “Shine” Robinson (1935), Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist James Gurley (1939), Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew (1941), The Animals drummer Barry Jenkins (1944), Maurice and Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees (1949), Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen (1954), guitar ace John Patitucci (1959), Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers (1967)

December 23: country singer Harold Dorman (1924), jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker (1929), R&B singer Esther Phillips (1935), British rocker Johnny KIdd (1935), Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (1940), Eugene Record of The Chi-Lites (1940), folksinger Tim Hardin (1941), Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy (1941), Harry Shearer AKA Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap (1943), Spooky Tooth's Luther Grosvenor AKA Ariel Bender (1949), prog-rock guitarist Adrian Belew (1949), Iron Maiden's Dave Murray (1958), Will Sin of The Shamen (1960), Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam (1966), Montsho Eshe of Arrested Development (1974)

December 24: songwriter Harry Warren (1893), New Orleans R&B titan Dave Bartholomew (1920), R&B singer Lee Dorsey (1924), under-appreciated African American country singer-songwriter Stoney Edwards (1929), MGM Records president and self-appointed drug czar Mike Curb (1944), Lemmy AKA Ian Kilmister of Motorhead (1945), Jan Akkerman of Focus (1946), bassist Tom "T-Bone" Wolk (1951), Human League's Ian Burden (1955), Mary Ramsey of 10,000 Maniacs (1963), Latino pop star Ricky Martin (1970)

December 25: blues pioneer Tampa Red (1900), bandleader/singer/dancer Cab Calloway (1907), jazz and R&B guitarist Oscar Moore (1912), R&B singer Chris Kenner (1929), gospel/soul singer McKinley Mitchell (1934), O'Kelly Isley of The Isley Brothers (1937), Trevor Lucas of Fotheringay and Fairport Convention (1943), Canned Heat guitarist Henry Vestine (1944), bassist Noel Redding of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1945), Jimmy Buffett (1946), country singer Barbara Mandrell (1946), soul-gospel singer Merry Clayton (1946), Robin Campbell of UB40 (1954), singer Annie Lennox (1954), The Pogues' Shane MacGowan (1957), singer Alannah Myles (1958), Noel Hogan of The Cranberries (1971), pop singer Dido (1972), Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese (1972)

December 26: pianist and TV personality Steve Allen (1921), Leonard “Chick” Carbo of The Spiders (1927), Abdul "Duke" Fakir of The Four Tops (1935), legendary producer and weirdo Phil Spector (1940), Henning Schmitz of Kraftwerk (1956), drummer Lars Ulrich of Metallica (1963), J. Yuenger of White Zombie (1967), Peter Klett of Candlebox (1969), Daughtry frontman Chris Daughtry (1979)

December 27: singer-actress Marlene Dietrich (1901), pianist-comedian Oscar Levant (1906), rockabilly guitarist Scotty Moore (1931), John “Buddy” Bailey of The Clovers (1931), Les McGuire of Gerry and the Pacemakers (1941), Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues (1941), Kinks bassist Pete Quaife (1943), Mick Jones of Foreigner (1944), singer Marianne Faithfull (1946), singer Tracy Nelson of Mother Earth (1946), Larry Byrom of Steppenwolf (1948), drummer Terry Bozzio of Missing Persons (1950), David Knopfler of Dire Straits (1952), singer Karla Bonoff (1952), singer Hayley Williams of Paramore (1988)

This Week’s Deaths

December 21: blues pianist Peetie Wheatstraw born William Bunch (1941), original No Doubt vocalist John Spence (1987), Cockney Rebel bassist Paul Jeffreys (1988), blues guitar great Albert King (1992), Be-Bop Deluxe bassist Charlie Tumahai (1995), trumpeter Johnny Coles (1997), British country and pop singer Karl Denver (1998), Iron Butterfly bassist Lee Dorman (2011)

December 22: “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey (1939), Rockin’ Robin Roberts of The Wailers (1967), Dennis Boon of The Minutemen (1985), jazz drummer Beaver Harris (1991), Lawrence Berk, founder of Berklee College of Music (1995), truck drivin’ country singer Dave Dudley (2003), songwriter Dennis Linde (2006), raw soul singer Marva Whitney (2012), Joe Cocker (2014)

December 23: Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel (1992), guitarist Dan Hamilton (1994), singer-songwriter Jimmy Silva (1994), British jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott (1996), Carl Hogan of The Valentines (1997), Jackie Landry of The Chantels (1997), composer and classical guitarist John Duarte (2004), jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (2007), songwriter Clint Ballard Jr. (2008), Rigor Mortis and Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia (2012), session drummer Ricky Lawson (2013)

December 24: film composer Bernard Herrmann (1975), Doobie Brother percussionist Bobby LaKind (1992), R&B singer-guitarist Buddy Ace AKA The Root Doctor (1994), Nick Massi of The Four Seasons (2000), singer Ray Collins of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (2012), jazz clarinetist Buddy DeFranco (2014)

December 25: rockabilly bassist Clayton Perkins (1973), blues guitarist Eddie Taylor (1981), Eugene “Bird” Daughtry of The Intruders (1994), crooner-actor Dean Martin (1995), Bryan MacLean of Love (1998), jazz and R&B singer Damita Jo (1998) jazz guitarist Derek Bailey (2005), “Godfather of Soul” James Brown (2006), singer Eartha KItt (2008), blues singer-guitarist Robert Ward (2008), folk-rocker Vic Chesnutt (2009)

December 26: The “5” Royales guitarist-singer Lowman Pauling (1973), soul great Curtis Mayfield (1999), rock photographer Herb Ritts (2002), cymbal maker Armand Zildjian (2002), soul singer Fontella Bass (2012)

December 27: rockabilly/country singer Bob Luman (1978), songwriter/pianist Hoagy Carmichael (1981), Bob Kuban and the In Men vocalist Walter Scott (1983), record mogul Ewart G. Abner (1997), legendary country, rock and jazz guitarist Hank Garland (2004), Delaney Bramlett of Delaney and Bonnie (2008), soul singer Teena Marie (2010)

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