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A Great Day in Harlem, the iconic photograph by Art Kane, was taken on this day in 1958 — 65 years ago
A Great Day in Harlem, the iconic photograph by Art Kane, was taken on this day in 1958 — 65 years ago.
The black and white group portrait of 57 notable jazz musicians was photographed in front of a Brownstone in Harlem, New York City. The photo has remained an important object in the study of the history of jazz.
Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire magazine, took the picture around 10 a.m. on August 12 in the summer of 1958. The musicians had gathered at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues in Harlem.
Esquire published the photo in its January, 1959 issue. Kane calls it "the greatest picture of that era of musicians ever taken."
Jean Bach, a radio producer of New York, recounted the story behind it in her 1994 documentary film, A Great Day in Harlem. The film was nominated in 1995 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
As of now, only two of the 57 musicians who participated are still living. They are Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins.
Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Count Basie, Emmett Berry, Art Blakey, Lawrence Brown, Scoville Browne, Buck Clayton, Bill Crump, Vic Dickenson, Roy Eldridge, Art Farmer, Bud Freeman, Dizzy Gillespie, Tyree Glenn, Benny Golson*, Sonny Greer, Johnny Griffin, Gigi Gryce, Coleman Hawkins, J.C. Heard, Jay C. Higginbotham, Milt Hinton, Chubby Jackson, Hilton Jefferson, Osie Johnson, Hank Jones, Jo Jones, Jimmy Jones, Taft Jordan, Max Kaminsky, Gene Krupa, Eddie Locke, Marian McPartland, Charles Mingus, Miff Mole, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Pettiford, Rudy Powell, Luckey Roberts, Sonny Rollins*, Jimmy Rushing, Pee Wee Russell, Sahib Shihab, Horace Silver, Zutty Singleton, Stuff Smith, Rex Stewart, Maxine Sullivan, Joe Thomas, Wilbur Ware, Dickie Wells, George Wettling, Ernie Wilkins, Mary Lou Williams and Lester Young
(*) denotes still living people
It was in the 1960s, as a teenager attending the Anderson County Fair in South Carolina, that I saw Porter Wagoner introduce his new “girl singer,” Dolly Parton.
Let’s just say for a Southern kid, it was a day I will never forget.
I grew up around Wagoner, who actually rode in the Christmas parade in my tiny hometown of Honea Path. He was always a flashy character, wearing Nudie and Manuel suits with his big blond pompadour.
Today, Porter Wagoner would be 96 years old. Known as Mr. Grand Ole Opry, Wagoner charted 81 singles from 1954–1983 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Born in West Plains, Missouri, Wagoner’s first band, The Blue Ridge Boys, performed on radio station KWPM-AM from a butcher shop in his native West Plains where Wagoner cut meat. In 1951, he was hired by Si Siman as a performer on KWTO-AM in Springfield, Missouri. This led to a contract with RCA Victor.
With lagging sales, Wagoner and his trio played schoolhouses for the gate proceeds. In 1953, his song "Trademark" became a hit for Carl Smith, followed by a few hits of his own on RCA. Starting in 1955, he was a featured performer on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri.
He often appeared on the show as part of the Porter Wagoner Trio with Don Warden and Speedy Haworth. Warden, on steel guitar, became Wagoner's long-time business manager. In 1957, Wagoner and Warden moved to Nashville, Tennessee, joining the Grand Ole Opry.
Like many of his contemporaries in country music, Wagoner toured and performed outdoors for fans at American Legion houses in rural towns. Fans sat on wooden benches facing what was often a makeshift stage, just as I did when I first saw Dolly Parton.
Wagoner would mingle with the audience during performance breaks and usually remembered the names of the towns he visited. He could easily have been a politician.
Wagoner's 81 charted records include "A Satisfied Mind" (#1, 1955), “Misery Loves Company” (#1, 1962), “I've Enjoyed as Much of This as I Can Stand” (#7, 1962–1963), “Sorrow on the Rocks” (#5, 1964), “Green, Green Grass of Home” (#4, 1965), “Skid Row Joe” (#3, 1965–1966), “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” (#2, 1967) and “The Carroll County Accident” (#2, 1968–1969).
Among his hit duets with Dolly Parton were a cover of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind" (1967), "We'll Get Ahead Someday" (1968), "Just Someone I Used to Know" (1969), "Better Move it on Home" (1971), "The Right Combination" (1972), "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" (#1, 1974) and "Making Plans" (#2, 1980).
His syndicated television program, The Porter Wagoner Show, aired from 1960 to 1981. There were 686 30-minute episodes taped; the first 104 (1960–66) in black-and-white and the remainder (1966–81) in color.
At its peak, his show was featured in over 100 markets, with an average viewership of over three million. Reruns of the program air on the rural cable network RFD-TV and its sister channel in the UK Rural TV.
Though Parton's departure from Wagoner caused some animosity on both sides, the two reconciled in the late 1980s and appeared together a number of times in the following years. Parton inducted Wagoner into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002.
Until his death, Wagoner appeared regularly on the Grand Ole Opry and toured actively. He died from lung cancer in Nashville on October 28, 2007 at age 80.
Dolly Parton performed a concert at her Tennessee theme park, Dollywood, in his memory after his death.
Here is Porter Wagoner with Dolly Parton on his TV show, 1973.
With the birthday today of Porter Wagoner, it’s hard to separate the performer from Nudie Cohn, the famous suit-maker, who designed his clothing.
Cohn, who died in 1984, was born in Ukraine and was known for his “Nudie Suits” and “Nudie Mobiles,” customized Pontiac Bonnevilles.
Nudie’s customers, in addition to Wagoner — who owned 52 suits costing between $11,000 and $18,000 each — were Elvis, Bob Dylan, Roy Rogers, Hank Williams, John Lennon, Gram Parsons, John Wayne and ZZ Top.
Below, Bob Dylan had Nudie make this “Jesus Jacket” during his 1979 “born again” phase.
Jimmy Norman after an appearance at Penang with Jonny Rosch and Friends on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, October, 2003
Photo by Frank Beacham
Jimmy Norman was born 86 years ago today.
Norman was a rhythm and blues and jazz musician and a songwriter. In his early career, Norman had a charting single of his own, "I Don't Love You No More (I Don't Care About You)," as well as performing session work with Jimi Hendrix, but he is better known as a lyricist and songwriter.
He wrote the expanded lyrics of the song "Time Is on My Side," which became a hit for The Rolling Stones, and later in 1985 re-recorded and produced by Stephen Vanderbilt featuring "St. Tropez" as the A side of a 45 released on the album "Home" throughout Europe.
Norman composed a number of songs performed by well-known musicians including Johnny Nash and Bob Marley.
In 1969, he became involved with The Coasters, first as a producer and then as a touring member. He toured with the group for 30 years. He was also recording independently, releasing a solo album in 1998, the same year poor health forced him to retire from performance.
Like many other musicians of his time, he was not financially prepared for retirement or heavy medical bills, and with few royalties for his writing soon found himself in economic crisis.
With the assistance of the charitable organization, Jazz Foundation of America, Norman regained his feet and resumed performing, releasing his first wide distribution album in 2004, Little Pieces. He performed in the Manhattan area until shortly before his death.
In July, 2002, Norman's rare tape of his jam session with Marley was located in his apartment and, with the help of Frank Beacham, placed on auction, retrieving considerably above its estimated value when auctioned at $26,290.
During a housekeeping session, Norman had thrown away a garbage bag full of old notebooks containing his song lyrics.
Producer Kerryn Tolhurst, with the aid of Frank Beacham, recorded Norman performing the songs on a tape recorder in his apartment, taking the tapes into the studio later to add parts by other musicians.
Judy Collins, whose drummer, Tony Beard, contributed to the project, released the resultant album under her own Wildflower label in 2004. The album, Little Pieces, is the first recording Norman ever released with wide distribution.
In 2006, Little Pieces won in The 5th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues Album.
Norman died on November 8, 2011, in New York City after a long illness.
Here, Frank Beacham interviewed Jimmy during a recording session about his favorite songs.
Jimmy Norman performs “This Old World.”
The Rolling Stones perform Jerry Ragovoy and Jimmy Norman’s “Time Is On My Side” in Tempe, Arizona, 1981.
In his later years, a Sid Bernstein favorite was David Ippolito, that guitar man in Central Park. Bernstein is with Ippolito in the above photo.
Photo by Frank Beacham
Sid Bernstein was born 105 years ago today.
Bernstein was a music producer and promoter who changed the American music scene in the 1960s by bringing The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Moody Blues and The Kinks to America. He was the first impresario to organize rock concerts at sports stadiums.
Born in New York City, Bernstein was adopted by a Russian Jewish family. He studied journalism at Columbia University before working in a ballroom and joining the U.S. Army in 1943. During World War II, he was stationed in Britain and also served in France with the 602nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion of the United States Army.
After the end of the war, he returned to New York and became the manager of mambo musician, Esy Morales, as well as acting as a booking agent. He started work for the General Artists Corporation (GAC), and by the early 1960s was working as a booking agent for pop stars such as Dion and Chubby Checker.
Bernstein helped to start the British Invasion by first bringing The Beatles over to the United States from Britain. An Anglophile, he contacted Brian Epstein in early 1963 after having read about the group in British newspapers, and, after persuading Epstein that they could be successful in the U.S., he booked Carnegie Hall for their first appearance without informing the venue of their style of music.
In late December, 1963, the unknown Beatles were introduced to the Tidewater area of Virginia. Almost every other song played by the area’s DJs were Beatle records, accompanied by giveaways of shirts, etc. The following month in very early January, 1964, the same phenomenon occurred, as the Beatles were introduced to the New York City area complemented by all sorts of contests and gifts.
They played at Carnegie Hall on February 12, 1964, after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Bernstein also booked them at Shea Stadium, a concert that Bernstein described as "inaudible" due to the crowd’s loud cheering and the inadequate sound system.
After the group retired from touring and later split up, Bernstein made many attempts to persuade them to re-form, at one point taking out full-page newspaper articles asking them to perform together for charity.
During the Beatles Shea concert, Bernstein had the phrase "The Rascals are coming!" displayed on the Shea Stadium scoreboard. "I had met the Rascals in the summer of '65 though Billy Smith (Amato) in Westhampton Long Island; I put their name up on the scoreboard (at Shea) - 'The Rascals are coming! The Rascals are coming!' A lot of people who hadn't seen pictures of them thought they were a black group. I sensed something big about them."
He worked with the Rascals for five years, helping along their rise from obscurity, changing their name from "The Rascals" to "The Young Rascals" in an attempt to avoid controversy because of a similar named group.
Bernstein also brought British bands including The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Moody Blues and The Kinks to America. He also organized concerts for Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Laura Nyro, Laura Branigan, Melanie and Sly & the Family Stone.
James Brown said that Bernstein "was in the forefront of race relations" by booking African-American musicians during the 1960s.
In 1964, he brought many Israeli singers to the United States for their first major concerts, among them Shoshana Damari, Shaike Ophir and Yaffa Yarkoni, who appeared at Carnegie Hall a year after the Beatles. He was the first to stage a rock show at Madison Square Garden.
Bernstein died on August 21, 2013 in Manhattan at age 95.
Sid Bernstein and Frank Beacham
Mark Knopfler is 74 years old today.
Knopfler is a British guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer and film score composer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the British rock band, Dire Straits, which he co-founded in 1977.
After Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, Knopfler went on to record and produce several solo albums, including Golden Heart (1996), Sailing to Philadelphia (2000) and Get Lucky (2009), Privateering (2012) and Tracker (2015).
He has composed and produced film scores, including Local Hero (1983), Cal (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987).
In addition to his work with Dire Straits and as a solo artist and composer, Knopfler has recorded and performed with many prominent musical artists. These include Bob Dylan, Phil Lynott, Chet Atkins, The Chieftains, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Jools Holland, Steely Dan, Sonny Landreth and Van Morrison.
Knopfler has also produced albums for Dylan, Tina Turner and Randy Newman. He is one of the most respected fingerstyle guitarists of the modern rock era. Knopfler and Dire Straits have sold in excess of 120 million albums to date.
Knopfler holds three honorary doctorate degrees in music from universities in the United Kingdom.
Here, Knopfler performs “Romeo and Juliet,” 2009.
Pat Metheny, jazz guitarist and composer, is 69 years old today.
As the leader of the Pat Metheny Group, he is also involved in duets, solo works and other side projects. His style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, post-bop, latin jazz and jazz fusion.
Metheny is the brother of jazz flugelhornist and journalist, Mike Metheny. He has been touring for more than 30 years — playing between 120 and 240 concerts a year.
His tone, which has evolved over the years, involves using the natural full-frequency response of his hollow-body guitar, combined with high-midrange settings on his amplifier to create a smooth, sustaining lead sound that is virtually devoid of piercing treble yet is able to cut through a dense mix.
By using digital signal processing that involves digital delay/chorus and reverb, Metheny has created a big rich, and resonant instrumental voice.
In 2009, 2001 and 2011, Metheny was voted "Guitarist of the Year" in the DownBeat Magazine's Readers Poll.
Here, Metheny performs Carly Simon’s “That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be.”
Whiskey a Go Go, Los Angeles, circa 1960s
Photo by Julian Wasser