Month: December 2013

Rock the Day New Year’s Eve 40 Years Ago

New Year’s Eve 1972: The first of rock icon Dick Clark ‘s New Year’s Eve TV specials, Three Dog Night‘s  New Year’s Rockin Eve, airs on NBC. Clark wants to give young people an alternative to the annual Guy Lombardo New Year’s Eve TV specials. (Lombardo’s show ran for 48 years on radio and then TV). The upstart Rockin special features pre-recorded musical performances from the ballroom of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California by Blood, Sweat & TearsHelen ReddyAl Green, and Three Dog Night. Clark serves as a reporter from Times Square for live coverage of the ball drop and arrival of 1973. The second special, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1974, also on NBC, is hosted by comedian George Carlin and features musical performances by The Pointer SistersBilly PrestonLinda Ronstadt and Tower of Power – once again pre-recorded on the Queen Mary.Beginning with the 1975 edition, the program moves to ABC and Clark assumes hosting duties. Here is a 45-minute clip of highlights from the ’74 show:


Love is the banquet on which we feed . . .

Rock the Day Beautiful Birthday Babies

Wow. Look at these December 30 birthdays:

1928 — Ellas Otha Bates born in McComb, Mississippi. He grows up to be Bob Diddley:

1934 — Charles Westover born in Coopersville, Michigan. He grows up to be Del Shannon:

1942 and 1945, respectively — Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones are born. They become Monkees:

1946 — Patricia Lee is born in Chicago. She grows up to become Patti Smith:

If I Listened Long Enough . . .

Rock the Day RIP Tim Hardin

December 29, 1980 — A heroin overdose takes the life of singer/songwriter Tim Hardin, just 39 years old. Among the songs he leaves us are If I Were a Carpenter, Reason to Believe and Morning Dew. Rod Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story includes a beautiful cover of Reason to Believe, but here is Hardin and the pure unplugged original:

There are many covers of If I Were a Carpenter, but it’s almost as if it is written for John and June:

And here is the Jeff Beck Group doing Morning Dew:

Ain’t Nobody Cryin’

Rock the Day Pops Arrives

Roebuck “Pops” Staples makes his first glorious sounds as he enters the world on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi on December 28, 1914. Youngest of 14 children, Roebuck grows up hearing and then playing his $5 guitar with local blues artists like Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson and Son House. He drops out of school after the eighth grade and moves to Chicago, where in 1948 he and his wife Oceola form The Staple Singers. During the 1960s and ’70s, The Staple Singers rule the kingdoms of gospel and R&B. The group includes Pops’ daughters Mavis, Yvonne and Cleotha, and his son Pervis. When Pops is in his late 50s, The Staple Singers have a #1 hit in I’ll Take You There:

Pops is 62 years old in 1976 when The Staples appear in The Last Waltz, The Band’s last concert, sharing vocals with his daughters, Levon Helm and Rick Danko on a version of The Weight that lifts you up and saves your soul (exactly what the Gospel is supposed to do):

She Ain’t No Good for You

Rock the Day December 27, 1931

Winfield Scott “Scotty” Moore is born in Gadsden, Tennessee. He begins playing a guitar at age 8, and he’s still playing today. There is Elvis’ voice on all those early hits, and there is Scotty’s guitar. Elvis would not be Elvis without Scotty’s licks. On July 5, 1954, there is a break in a recording session at Sun Records (Moore on lead guitar, Bill Black on bass and a relatively unknown Elvis on vocals). The boys start playing around with an upbeat version of a tune from the 1920s, That’s Alright Mama. Sam Phillips instantly recognizes a hit and asks them to start over so he can record it. On July 7 a local DJ, Dewey Phillips, plays That’s Alright Mama on his popular “Red, Hot & Blue” radio show. He gets 40 phone calls and has to replay the song 14 times. It sweeps the nation and Elvis is on his way. Some say it doesn’t matter too much who is singing as long as Scotty is on the guitar. See for yourself with this little bit featuring an older Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana on drums and Sir Paul McCartney:

Here’s Scotty (he’s on the left) and DJ with Elvis doing Heartbreak Hotel on the old, old Milton Berle show:

Rock the Day December 26, 1935: When You Feel Lost . . .

 Abdul “Duke” Fakir is born in Detroit, Michigan. He attends Detroit Pershing High School, where he meets Levi Stubbs. The two of them meet Lawrence Payton and Renaldo “Obie” Benson in 1954 at a mutual friend’s birthday party and discover that they can have loads of fun singing together. They form a group they call The Four Arms, later renaming themselves The Four Tops.  After playing a key role in shaping the Motown sound in the 1960s, The Four Tops venture into the realms of jazz, adult contemporary and showtunes. The original four perform together until 1997. Thank the Lord, we still have The Four Tops to this day, and tenor Fakir is the only remaining original member. In August 1966, The Four Tops release what will become a #1 hit and one of the all-time greatest Motown songs ever recorded, Reach Out I’ll Be There:

Rock the Day Christmas 2006, 1960, 1940

On December 25, 2006, we lose the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The Barnwell, Georgia, native is 73 when he dies in Atlanta. He leaves a towering legacy and is a key influence in rock, soul, funk, hip-hop and rap. Here is Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud:

On Christmas Day 1960, Brenda Lee has the #14 song on U.S. charts, Rockin Around the Christmas Tree:

Phil Spector is a Christmas baby in 1940. He is just 23 years old in 1963 when his brilliance as a producer comes shining through on the Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector album. Here’s the entire album:

Rock the Day Christmas Eve 1955

The folk revival of the late ’50s and early ’60s begins with The Weavers’ Carnegie Hall concert on December 24, 1955. The Weavers, founded in 1947 by Ronnie GilbertLee HaysFred Hellerman and Pete Seeger, survive the political insanity of the Red Scare years, and the Christmas Eve concert in ’55 is something of a reunion. It is sold out, is a huge success and Vanguard issues a popular album of the live recording. Folk enters a new Golden Age as The Weavers become household names and inspire groups like the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, as well as artists like Bob Dylan. Our own time is starkly reminiscent of the Red Scare, thickly layered over with our rulers’ Orwellian behavior. Again we are in dire need of Seeger’s voice. Here are The Weavers with Kisses Sweeter Than Wine from Christmas Eve 1955 in Carnegie Hall:

Rock the Day December 22, 1939

The Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey (Gertrude Pridgett), dies in Columbus, Georgia. Born in 1886, she is among the earliest known blues singers to have a recording career. She tours with a group of awesome musicians in a band called Ma Rainey and the Assassinators of the Blues. Her work is seminal to the emerging genre of rock ‘n roll, whose taproot is African American blues. You might remember her name being mentioned in Bob Dylan’s Tombstone Blues:

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedroll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole . . .

In 1924 Ma Rainey records See See Rider with the incomparable Louis Armstrong. The song is covered beautifully by Eric Burdon and the Animals and (as C.C. Rider) by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. To start your Christmas weekend with a cool bluesy meditation, here are all three: