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American honky-tonk vocalist Webb Pierce was born 102 years ago today
Webb Pierce was born 102 years ago today.
One of the most popular American honky-tonk vocalists of the 1950s, Piece charted more #1 hits than any other country artist during the decade. His biggest hit was "In The Jailhouse Now," which was on the record charts for 37 weeks in 1955 — 21 of them at #1.
Pierce went to #1 for several weeks' each with his recordings of "Slowly" (1954), "Love, Love, Love" (1955), "I Don't Care" (1955), "There Stands The Glass" (1953), "More And More" (1954), "I Ain't Never" (1959) and his first #1, "Wondering," which stayed at the top spot for four of its 27 weeks' charting in 1952.
For many, Pierce, with his flamboyant Nudie suits and twin silver dollar-lined convertibles, became the most recognizable face of country music of the era and its excesses.
Pierce was an early influence on Bob Dylan. Footage of Pierce singing "There Stands the Glass" was featured in the 2005 Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, by Martin Scorsese. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Pierce became known for his excessive lifestyle. He had North Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen, who had made flamboyant suits for Pierce, line two convertibles with silver dollars.
He built a $30,000 guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home which became a popular paid tourist attraction — nearly 3,000 people visited it each week — causing his neighbors, led by singer Ray Stevens, to file lawsuit. Stevens lost, but eventually, as the crowds grew, Piece was forced to stop the tours.
Pierce waged a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which he lost on February 24, 1991, dying at age 69.
Here, Pierce sings “In The Jailhouse Now.”
Web Pierce in his guitar-shaped swimming pool in Nashville
Pierce built the $30,000 pool, which became a popular paid tourist attraction — nearly 3,000 people visited it each week — causing his neighbors, led by singer Ray Stevens, to file a lawsuit.
"That’s what he gets for living across the street from a star," snapped Pierce.
Stevens lost, and Pierce built the ramp.
But then Oak Hill Mayor Paul Simpson, arguing that the influx of up to 8,000 rubbernecks a week in the summer was "the best way to destroy a good place to live," got a court order barring tour buses at least from stopping at Pierce's place.
One of the most famous photographs in the history of rock and roll was taken on this day in 1969 — 54 years ago.
The photograph on the sleeve of Abbey Road by The Beatles signifies for a whole generation of fans the end of an era. The front cover design for the album, a photograph of the group traversing a zebra crossing, was based on sketched ideas by Paul McCartney. It was taken outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road.
At around 11:30 that morning, photographer Iain Macmillan was given only ten minutes to take the photo while he stood on a step-ladder and a policeman held up the traffic. In the scene, the group walk across the street in single file from left to right, with Lennon leading, followed by Starr, McCartney and Harrison.
McCartney is barefoot. With the exception of Harrison, the group are wearing suits designed by Tommy Nutter. To the left of the picture, parked next to the zebra crossing, is a white Volkswagen Beetle which belonged to one of the people living in the block of flats across from the recording studio.
After the album was released, the number plate (LMW 281F) was stolen repeatedly from the car. In 1986, the car was sold at auction for and in 2001 was on display in a museum in Germany.
The man standing on the pavement to the right of the picture is Paul Cole, who died in 2008. He was an American tourist unaware he had been photographed until he saw the album cover months later.
The image of the Beatles on the crossing has become one of the most famous and imitated in recording history. The crossing is a popular destination for Beatles fans and there is a live webcam featuring it.
In December, 2010, the crossing was given grade II listed status for its "cultural and historical importance." The Abbey Road studios themselves had been given similar status earlier in the year.
This week in 1944 — 79 years ago — Smokey Bear became the symbol for the U.S. Forest Service.
It was during World War II and wildfires were a major concern. Some feared attacks on the West Coast after a submarine shelled a refinery in California and a Japanese plane dropped incendiary bombs on Oregon.
The Smokey campaign was created by artist Albert Staehel in collaboration with writer and art critic, Harold Rosenberg. In 1952, the songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a successful song — "Smokey the Bear." The writers said "the" was added to Smokey's name to keep the song's rhythm.
During the 1950s, the name became widespread both in popular speech and in print. At first, the Forest Service first turned to the Disney movie character, Bambi, for a fire safety campaign.
Then, a living Smokey Bear emerged. In 1950, a cub was found clinging to a burned tree in the Capitan Gap fire, a wildfire that burned 17,000 acres in the Lincoln National Forest, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico.
The bear cub was rescued by firefighters, named Smokey and turned into a national phenomenon by the press. The cub was taken to the National Zoo in Washington, where he lived until his death in 1976.
Smokey's remains were returned by the government to Capitan, New Mexico, and buried at what is now the Smokey Bear Historical Park. The plaque at his grave reads, "This is the resting place of the first living Smokey Bear ... the living symbol of wildfire prevention and wildlife conservation."
Throughout the years, many actors have served as the voice of Smokey the Bear. In June, 2008, the Forest Service launched a new series of public service announcements voiced by actor Sam Elliott, simultaneously giving Smokey a new visual design intended to appeal to young adults.
For decades, there has been disagreement about whether humans try to put out too many forest fires that start naturally. The political and scientific debate continues today, and even Smokey acknowledges the benefits of some natural fires.
Thanks New York Times!
On this day in 1964 — 59 years ago — Columbia Records released Bob Dylan’s fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan.
The album contained “Chimes of Freedom” and “My Back Pages,” two Dylan classics. Tom Wilson produced the record.
The album deviates from the more socially conscious style which Dylan had developed with his previous LP, The Times They Are A-Changin.’ The change prompted criticism from some influential figures in the folk community.
Sing Out! editor Irwin Silber complained that Dylan had "somehow lost touch with people" and was caught up in "the paraphernalia of fame.”
Despite the album's thematic shift, Dylan performed the entirety of Another Side of Bob Dylan as he had previous records – solo. In addition to his usual acoustic guitar and harmonica, Dylan provides piano on one selection, "Black Crow Blues.”
Another Side of Bob Dylan reached No. 43 in the U.S. (although it eventually went gold), and peaked at No. 8 on the UK charts in 1965.
A high-definition 5.1 surround sound edition of the album was released on SACD by Columbia in 2003.
Dustin Hoffman with Ann Bancroft, who played Mrs. Robinson, in The Graduate in 1967
Dustin Hoffman is 86 years old today.
An actor with a career in film, television and theatre since 1960, Hoffman has built a career with versatile portrayals of antiheroes and vulnerable characters.
He first drew critical praise for the play Eh?, for which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This was soon followed by his breakthrough movie role as the good-looking, but troubled Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate in 1967.
Since then Hoffman's career has largely been focused on cinema, with only sporadic returns to television and the stage. Some of his most notable films are Papillon, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Lenny, All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man and Wag the Dog.
Hoffman has won two Academy Awards (for his performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man), five Golden Globes, four BAFTAs, three Drama Desk Awards, a Genie Award and an Emmy Award. Hoffman received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999.
Jimmy Witherspoon and The Gordon Robinson Septet, The Bamboo Club, Hazel Grove, Stockport, England, 1964
Photo by Alan Hare
Jimmy Witherspoon was born 103 years ago today.
Witherspoon was a jump blues singer born in Gurdon, Arkansas. He first attracted attention singing with Teddy Weatherford's band in Calcutta, India, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945.
In 1949, recording under his own name with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business," a song which came to be regarded as his signature tune.
In 1950, he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him: "No Rollin' Blues," "Big Fine Girl," as well as "Failing By Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman" recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra, which included Herman Washington and Don Hill on the Modern Records label.
These were recorded from a live performance on May 10, 1949 at a "Just Jazz" concert Pasadena, CA sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough."
Witherspoon's style of blues — that of the "blues shouter" — became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album, Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which featured Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis.
He later recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker. In 1961, Witherspoon toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-sixties live UK recording Spoon Sings and Swings (1966) with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet.
In 1970, he appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey, again and Terry Smith.
In the 1970s, he also recorded the album, Guilty! with Eric Burdon and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He then toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante.
A recording from this period, Spoonful, featured 'Spoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie. He continued performing and recording into the 1990s.
Other performers with whom Witherspoon recorded include Jimmy Rowles, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wiggins, John Clayton, Paul Humphrey, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Smith, Long John Baldry, Junior Mance, Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, Kenny Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Mullen, Count Basie, Van Morrison, Dutch Swing College Band and Gene Gilbeaux.
In the 1995 film, Georgia, Witherspoon portrayed a traveling, gun-collecting blues singer, Trucker, who has a relationship with the troubled character, Sadie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Witherspoon died of throat cancer in Los Angeles on September 18, 1997.
Here, Witherspoon sings his signature song, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”
Benny Carter greets Dizzy Gillespie
Photo by Allan Grant
Benny Carter was born 116 years ago today.
A jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader, Carter was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him “King.”
In 1958, Carter performed with Billie Holiday at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival.
The National Endowment for the Arts honored Carter with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award for 1986. In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. It was presented by President Bill Clinton.
One of the most remarkable things about Benny Carter's career was its length. It has been said that he is the only musician to have recorded in eight different decades. Having started a career in music before music was even recorded electrically, Carter remained a masterful musician, arranger and composer until he retired from performing in 1997.
In 1998, Benny Carter was honored at Third Annual Awards Gala and Concert at Lincoln Center. He received the Jazz at Lincoln Center Award for Artistic Excellence and his music was performed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall and Bobby Short.
Back trouble prevented Benny from attending, so Wynton Marsalis accepted on his behalf.
Carter died in Los Angeles at Cedars-Sinai Hospital on July 12, 2003 from complications of bronchitis at the age of 95.
Here, Carter performs “Rosetta” at the Bern Jazz Festival in 1983.
Joe Tex was born 89 years ago today.
Tex was a musician who gained success in the 1960s and 1970s with his brand of Southern soul, which mixed the styles of country, gospel and rhythm and blues.
Born in Rogers, Texas, and raised in Baytown, Tex's career started after he was signed to King Records in 1955, following four wins at the Apollo Theater.
Between that year and 1964, however, Tex struggled to find hits and by the time he finally recorded his first hit, "Hold What You've Got,” in 1965, he had recorded thirty prior singles that were deemed failures on the charts.
Tex went on to have three million-selling hits, "Hold What You've Got" (1965), "Skinny Legs and All" (1967) and "I Gotcha" (1972). Tex's style of speaking over the background of his music helped to make him one of the predecessors of the modern style of rap music.
In 1963, a longstanding feud between Tex and James Brown escalated when Brown and Tex performed at what was Brown's homecoming concert at Macon, Georgia. Tex, who opened the show, arrived in a tattered cape and began rolling around on the floor as if in agony, and screamed, "please — somebody help get me out of this cape!"
This allegedly resulted in Brown finding Tex at an after show party at a nightclub and shooting at the place with his gun. Tex would later claim that Brown stole his dance moves and his microphone stand tricks. In a few interviews he gave in the sixties, Tex dismissed the notion of Brown being called "Soul Brother No. 1," insisting that Little Willie John was the original "Soul Brother No. 1.”
A convert to the Muslim faith since 1966, Tex changed his name to Yusuf Hazziez, and toured as a spiritual lecturer.
On August 13, 1982, he died at his home in Navasota, Texas, following a heart attack, five days after his 49th birthday.
Here, Tex sings “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More” on Soul Train, 1977.
In 1955, the Union Pacific railroad debuted its luxurious Astra Dome dining car in Los Angeles.
According to a Union Pacific promotional piece, the railroad's new dining car would "offer you only the finest of freshly prepared foods, graciously served by attentive waiters."
A total of 35 cars including coaches, dining cars and observation cars were built. After the Union Pacific exited the passenger business in 1971, the Auto-Train Corporation purchased most of the fleet and operated them for an additional ten years.
Photo: Los Angeles Public Library