Charlie Watts, longtime drummer for the Rolling Stones, was born 82 years ago today
Charlie Watts was born 82 years ago today.
Watts was drummer for the Rolling Stones and also the leader of a jazz band, a record producer, commercial artist and horse breeder.
Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts was born to Charles Watts, a lorry driver for a precursor of British Rail, and his wife, Lilian, at University College Hospital, London. He was raised along with his sister, Linda, in Kingsbury.
Watts attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956. As a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football. As a child, Watts lived in Wembley at 23 Pilgrims Way. Wembley’s houses had been decimated by German bombs during World War II.
Watts and his family lived in a prefabricated house, as did many in the community. Watts's neighbor, Dave Green, lived next door at 22 Pilgrims Way. Green went on to become a jazz bass player. Green was Watts's childhood friend and they remain friends today.
Green recalls that as boys, "we discovered 78 rpm records. Charlie had more records than I did. We used to go to Charlie's bedroom and just get these records out." Watts’ earliest records were jazz recordings. He remembers owning 78 rpm records of Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker.
Green recalls that Watts also "had the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio. Charlie was ahead of me in listening and acquisitions." When Watts and Green were both about thirteen, Watts became interested in drumming.
Green and Watts began their musical careers together from 1958-1959 playing in a jazz band in Middlesex called the Jo Jones All Stars. Watts initially found his transition to rhythm and blues puzzling. "I went into rhythm and blues. When they asked me to play, I didn't know what it was. I thought it meant Charlie Parker, played slow,” he recalled.
Watts' parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955. He was interested in jazz, and would practice drumming along with jazz records he collected. After completing secondary school, he enrolled at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), which he attended until 1960.
After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company called Charlie Daniels Studios, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs.
In 1961, he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated. At that time, Watts was on his way to a sojourn working as a graphic designer in Denmark, but he accepted Korner's offer when he returned to London in February, 1962.
Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated and maintained a job with another advertising firm of Charles, Hobson and Grey. It was in mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs. It wasn't until January, 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join the Rolling Stones.
Watts was involved in many activities outside his high-profile life as a member of the Rolling Stones. In 1964, he published a cartoon tribute to Charlie Parker entitled “Ode to a High Flying Bird.”
Although he made his name in rock, his personal tastes focused on jazz. In the late 1970s, he joined Ian Stewart in the back-to-the-roots boogie-woogie band, Rocket 88, which featured many of the UK's top jazz, rock and R&B musicians.
In the 1980s, he toured worldwide with a big band that included such names as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine and Jack Bruce, who was also a member of Rocket 88.
In 1991, he organized a jazz quintet as another tribute to Charlie Parker. In 1993, came the release of Warm And Tender, by the Charlie Watts Quintet, which included vocalist Bernard Fowler. This same group then released, Long Ago And Far Away, in 1996.
Both records included a collection of Great American Songbook standards. After a successful collaboration with Jim Keltner on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon, Watts and Keltner released a techno/instrumental album simply titled, Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project.
Watts said that even though the tracks bore such names as the "Elvin Suite" in honor of the late Elvin Jones, Max Roach and Roy Haynes, they were not copying their style of drumming. Rather they were capturing a feeling by those artists.
Watts At Scott's was recorded with his group, "the Charlie Watts Tentet," at Ronnie Scott’s, the jazz club in London.
In April, 2009, he started to perform concerts with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie together with pianists, Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters. The group also included Watt’s childhood friend, Dave Green, on bass.
Besides his musical creativity, Watts contributed graphic art to early records such as the Between the Buttons record sleeve and was responsible for the 1975 tour announcement press conference in New York City. The band surprised the throng of waiting reporters by driving and playing "Brown Sugar" on the back of a flatbed truck in the middle of Manhattan traffic.
Watts expressed a love–hate attitude toward touring.
In the Canadian magazine, Maclean's, he told interviewer Brian Johnson that he has had a compulsive habit for decades of actually sketching every new hotel room he occupied — and its furnishings — immediately upon entering it. He said he kept every sketch, but still doesn't know why he felt the compulsion to do this.
Watts' personal life outwardly appeared to be substantially quieter than those of his bandmates and many of his rock-and-roll colleagues. Onstage, he seemed to furnish a calm and bemused counterpoint to his flamboyant bandmates. Ever faithful to his wife, Shirley, Watts consistently refused sexual favors from groupies on the road.
A famous anecdote relates that during the mid-1980s, an intoxicated Jagger phoned Watts' hotel room in the middle of the night asking, "Where's my drummer?"
Watts reportedly got up, shaved, dressed in a suit, put on a tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs and punched Jagger in the face, saying: "Don't ever call me your drummer again. You're my fucking singer!"
Watts died at a London hospital on August 24, 2021, at the age of 80, with his family around him.
Here Watts performs “Monkey Man” with the Rolling Stones
The cast of Leave It To Beaver, 1998
Jerry Mathers, the actor who played Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver on the TV series Leave It To Beaver, is 75 years old today.
Mathers reportedly got the role of Beaver Cleaver when he told the show's producers he would rather be at his Cub Scout meeting than auditioning for the part. The producers found his candidness appealing and perfect for the role.
Mathers played the Beaver for six years, appearing in all 234 episodes of the series. He was the first child actor ever to make a deal to get a percentage of the merchandising revenue from a television show.
The Leave It to Beaver show still generates merchandise revenue today — more than 50 years after its original production run ended. The original sitcom has been shown in over 80 countries in 40 languages.
Mathers has noted that the Leave It to Beaver phenomenon is worldwide. "I can go anywhere in the world and people know me," he said.
In addition to acting, Mathers has also owned and operated a catering business and has done commercial work for national and regional spots for advertisers such as PET Condensed Milk, Kellogg’s (he and Tony Dow were the first non-athletes on a box of corn flakes), General Electric, Purina, Kern International, Chevrolet, Toyota, General Mills, AOL, Coca Cola, Jim Beam and Biogen.
Marvin Hamlisch was born 79 years ago today.
A composer and conductor, Hamlisch was one of only eleven EGOTs — those who have been awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. He was also one of only two people to have won those four prizes and a Pulitzer Prize (the other being Richard Rodgers).
Born in Manhattan to Viennese-born Jewish parents, Hamlisch’s father was an accordionist and bandleader. His son was a child prodigy. By age five, he began mimicking the piano music he heard on the radio.
In 1951, a few months before he turned seven, Hamlisch was accepted into what is now the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. His first job was as a rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand.
Shortly after that, he was hired by producer Sam Spiegel to play piano at Spiegel's parties. This connection led to his first film score, The Swimmer. His favorite musicals growing up were My Fair Lady, Gypsy, West Side Story and Bye Bye Birdie. Hamlisch attended Queens College, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967.
Although Liza Minnelli's debut album included a song he wrote in his teens, his first hit did not come until he was 21-years-old. This song, "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows," co-written with Howard Liebling, was recorded by Lesley Gore and reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1965.
His first film score was for The Swimmer, after the film's producer, Sam Spiegel, hired Hamlisch based on a piano performance Hamlisch did at one of his parties. Later, he wrote music for several early Woody Allen films such as Take the Money and Run and Bananas.
In addition, Hamlisch co-wrote the song "California Nights" (also with Liebling), which was recorded by Lesley Gore for her 1967 hit album of the same name.
The Bob Crewe-produced single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 in March, 1967, two months after Gore had performed the song on the Batman TV series. Gore guest-starred as an accomplice to Julie Newmar's, Catwoman.
Among his better-known works during the 1970s were adaptations of Scott Joplin's ragtime music for the motion picture, The Sting, including its theme song, "The Entertainer."
“The Entertainer” hit #1 on Billboards Adult Contemporary chart and #3 on the Hot 100, selling nearly two million copies in the U.S. alone.
He had great success in 1973, winning two Academy Awards for the title song and the score for the motion picture, The Way We Were, and one Academy Award for the adaptation score for The Sting.
In 1975, he wrote what, for the first 12 years, would be the original theme music for Good Morning America, which was built around four notes.
He co-wrote "Nobody Does It Better" for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) with his then-girlfriend, Carole Bayer Sager, which would be nominated for an Oscar.
In the 1980s, he had success with the scores for Ordinary People (1980) and Sophie's Choice (1982). He also received an Academy-Award nomination in 1986 for the film version of A Chorus Line. His last projects included The Informant! (2009), starring Matt Damon and directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Prior to his death, he completed the scores for the musical, The Nutty Professor, and the HBO movie, Behind the Candelabra (2013), also directed by Soderbergh and starring Damon and Michael Douglas as Liberace.
Marvin Hamlisch died on August 6, 2012, in Los Angeles at age 68 following a short illness. His death was primarily due to respiratory arrest caused by a combination of anoxic brain encephalopathy and hypertension.
The Associated Press described him as having written "some of the best-loved and most enduring songs and scores in movie history."
Here is Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better”
Ray Charles, Los Angeles, 1985
Photo by Norman Seeff
Ray Charles was one of the founding fathers of soul music — a style he helped create and popularize with a string of early 1950s hits on Atlantic Records like "I Got A Woman" and "What'd I Say."
This fact is well known to almost anyone who has ever heard of the man they called "the Genius."
But what is less well known — to younger fans especially — is the pivotal role that Charles played in shaping the course of a seemingly very different genre of popular music.
Willie Nelson, speaking before Charles' death in 2004, said Ray Charles — the R&B legend — "did more for country music than any other living human being."
The landmark album that earned Ray Charles that praise was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which gave him his third #1 hit, "I Can't Stop Loving You," which topped the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1962 — 61 years ago.
Executives at ABC Records — the label that wooed Ray Charles from Atlantic with one of the richest deals of the era — were adamantly opposed to the idea that Charles brought to them in 1962. He wanted to re-record some of the best country songs of the previous 20 years in new arrangements that suited his style.
As Charles told Rolling Stone magazine a decade later, ABC executives said, "You can't do no country-western things....You're gonna lose all your fans!" But Charles recognized the quality of songs like "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Don Gibson and "You Don't Know Me" by Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker.
And the fact that his version of both of those country songs landed in the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts was vindication of Charles's long-held belief that "There's only two kinds of music as far as I'm concerned: good and bad."
This all-embracing attitude toward music was one that Ray Charles developed during a childhood immersed in the sounds of jazz, blues, gospel and country.
To him, the boundaries between those styles of music were made to be crossed, and he made a career out of doing just that.
Released over the initial objections of his record label and its distributors, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, went on to be the biggest-selling album of 1962. It occupied the top spot on the Billboard album chart for 14 weeks.
"I Can't Stop Loving You" held the #1 spot on the singles chart for five weeks beginning on this day in 1962, eventually becoming the biggest pop hit of Ray Charles's monumental career.
Here, Ray Charles performs “I Can’t Stop Loving You” in 1982
Pete Conrad being interviewed by Frank Beacham, late 1960s
Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., third man to walk on the moon, was born 93 years ago today.
A U.S. Navy officer and NASA astronaut who flew the Apollo 12 mission, Conrad set an eight-day space endurance record along with his command pilot, Gordon Cooper, on the Gemini 5 mission. He also commanded the Gemini 11 mission.
After Apollo, he commanded the Skylab 2 mission (the first manned one), on which he and his crew-mates repaired significant launch damage to the Skylab space station. For this, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978.
Conrad was always the “fun” astronaut — a man with great sense of humor. He was often seen around the bars and other nightlife spots in Cocoa Beach, Florida during the space flight era.
As a pilot, Conrad was invited to take part in the selection process for the first group of astronauts for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (the "Mercury Seven").
Conrad, like his fellow candidates, underwent several days of what they considered to be invasive, demeaning and unnecessary medical and psychological testing at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico.
Unlike his fellow candidates, Conrad rebelled against the regimen. During a Rorschach inkblot test, he told the psychiatrist that one blot card revealed a sexual encounter complete with lurid detail. When shown a blank card, he turned it around, pushed it back and replied "It's upside down.”
Then when he was asked to deliver a stool sample to the onsite lab, he placed it in a gift box and tied a red ribbon around it. Eventually, he decided he had enough.
After dropping his full enema bag on the desk of the clinic’s commanding officer, he walked out. His initial application to NASA was denied with the notation not suitable for long-duration flight.
Thereafter, when NASA announced its search for a second group of astronauts, Mercury veteran Alan Shepard, who knew Conrad from their time as naval aviators and test pilots, approached Conrad and persuaded him to reapply. This time, the medical tests were less offensive and Conrad was selected to join NASA.
Conrad joined NASA as part of the second group of astronauts, known as the New Nine, on September 17, 1962. Regarded as one of the best pilots in the group, he was among the first of his group to be assigned a Gemini mission. As pilot of Gemini 5 he, along with his commander Gordon Cooper, set a new space endurance record of eight days.
The duration of the Gemini 5 flight was actually seven days, 22 hours and 55 minutes, surpassing the then-current Russian record of five days. Eight days was the time required for the first manned lunar landing missions. Conrad facetiously referred to the Gemini 5 capsule as a flying garbage can.
Conrad tested many spacecraft systems essential to the Apollo program. He was also one of the smallest of the astronauts in height — 5 feet, 6½ inches — so he found the confinement of the Gemini capsule less onerous than did his commander, Gordon Cooper, who had played American football.
On November 14, 1969, Apollo 12 launched with Conrad as commander, Dick Gordon as Command Module Pilot and Alan Bean as Lunar Module Pilot. The launch was the most harrowing of the Apollo program, as a series of lightning strikes just after liftoff temporarily knocked out power and guidance in the command module.
Five days later, after stepping onto the lunar surface, Conrad joked about his own small stature by remarking: “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me.”
He later revealed that he said this in order to win a bet he had made with the Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci, for $500 to prove that NASA did not script astronaut comments.
Conrad died on July 8, 1999, less than three weeks before the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing. While motorcycling in Ojai, California, with his wife and friends, he ran off the road and crashed.
His injuries were first thought to be minor, but he died from internal bleeding about six hours later. He was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery, with many Apollo-era astronauts in attendance.
Here is the liftoff of Apollo 12, the second mission to the moon
The Beatles turned a critical corner in their career with the U.S. release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on this day in 1967 — 56 years ago.
Writing in The Times of London in 1967, the critic Kenneth Tynan called the release of Sgt. Pepper "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization," but 30 years later, Paul McCartney called it a decisive moment of a more personal nature.
"We were not boys, we were men," is how he summed up the Beatles' mindset as they gave up live performance and set about defining themselves purely as a studio band. "All that boy [stuff], all that screaming, we didn't want any more," McCartney said. "There was now more to it."
With Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles announced their intention to be seen "as artists rather than just performers." Sgt. Pepper is often cited as the first "concept album."
It was an inspiration to reach new heights of creativity for other great pop stars of the 60s — from the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
For the Beatles themselves, 1967 marked not just a new creative peak, but also the beginning of a three-year period in which the group recorded and released an astonishing five original studio albums, including two legendary ones — 1968's The Beatles (a.k.a. "The White Album") and 1969's Abbey Road.
Here, Paul McCartney and friends perform “Sgt. Peppers Only Hearts Club Band”
Goodbye to go to the Korean War, 1950
Photo by Bill Crouch