Happy Birthday, Bird

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

August 29

Charlie Parker 1

1920: Charles “Bird” Parker is born in Kansas City. He will become one of the 20th Century’s greatest jazz saxophonists and composers. He is among the leading figures in the creation of bebop — a form of jazz featuring fast tempos and improvisation. Bebop is one of the great paving stones in the road to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Drug addiction will take his life when he is just 34 years old.

The Monkees1967: The Monkees go to #1 with I’m a Believer.


Nothing can stop me now

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

July 6

Bill Haley & His Comets rehearse at the Dominion Theatre in London, where they will open their British tour. The Comets include accordion player Johnnie Grande, bassist Al Rex, and saxophonist Ruddy Pompilli.

1925: Bill Haley is born.

Gene Chandler1937: Gene Chandler is born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, where he lives and continues to perform to this day. Biggest hit comes in 1962, when Chandler’s Duke of Earl is #1 for three weeks.

I’m leavin town tomorrow

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

July 5

Robbie Robertson1943: Robbie Robertson is born.

Elvis Presley1954: Auditioning at Sun Records, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black spontaneously perform bluesman Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s All Right in romping, uptempo style. The next day, bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon of Kentucky is given a similarly playful treatment. On July 19th, the two songs are released as Elvis Presley’s first single, which bears the legend “Sun 209.”

Keeps rainin’ all the time

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

June 30

Lena Horne1917: Singer and courageous activist Lena Horne is born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She begins her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club. She wins a Grammy as best pop vocal performance (female) for the 1981 album Lena Horne: The Lady and her Music Live on Broadway.

Clyde McPhatter1956: Clyde McPhatter has the #1 song in the R&B nation with Treasure of Love.

Getting ready for the heartaches to come

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

June 6

Levi Stubbs1936: Levi Stubbs, lead vocalist with The Four Tops, is born Levi Stubbles in Detroit. A cousin of Jackie Wilson, Stubbs meets Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Lawrence Payton and Abdul “Duke” Fakir in high school. They form The Four Aims in 1954 and nab a recording contract with Chess Records. To avoid confusion with the popular Ames Brothers, they change their name to The Four Tops and they are destined to become one of the most influential groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Stubbs with his powerful baritone is the most popular member of The Four Tops, but he refuses to have separate billing, unlike many other groups of the era (e.g. Dion and The Belmonts, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes). Loyal to his bandmates, he turns down a number of offers to go solo. He tours with The Four Tops into the 1990s until he is diagnosed with cancer and then suffers a stroke. Stubbs dies in his sleep in October 2008. Fortunately for us, we have The Four Tops recordings featuring Stubbs and his incredible vocal range.

That’ll be the day when I die

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

May 27

1Buddyholly1957: Buddy Holly and the Crickets release That’ll Be The Day. Holly and co-writer Jerry Allison are inspired by the movie The Searchers, in which John Wayne’s character repeatedly says “that’ll be the day.” Voila! Song. It is a huge hit, topping charts in the U.S. and the U.K. Many artists cover it, including Linda Ronstadt. It is the first song to be recorded by The Quarrymen, the Liverpool group that becomes known as The Beatles. Here’s the original and the Ronstadt cover.

Your friends, baby, they treat you like a guest

Steve Kline Ages of Rock

May 6

Bob Seger1945: Bob Seger is born in Michigan.

Solomon Burke1965: Got to Get You Off My Mind by Solomon Burke is released. It will be his biggest hit, peaking at #1 on the R&B chart.

Grace Slick1967: A harbinger of the Summer of Love enters the Top 40. Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane with the incomparable Grace Slick on vocals will remain on the charts and on the air well into the summer, eventually peaking at #5. This song made me fall in love with Slick and I’ve never fallen out of love with her. What a voice. What a presence.