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Jimmy Carter - America's oldest living president - is 99 years old today
On this day in 1924 — 99 years ago — future President Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, Georgia.
Carter was the son of a peanut farmer and was the first president to be born in a hospital. He was raised a devoted Southern Baptist and graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1946. He married Rosalynn Smith later that year.
After graduation, Carter served in the Navy’s new nuclear submarine program and was looking forward to a career in the Navy when his father passed away in 1953. The Carters dutifully returned to Georgia and took over the family farm.
Back in Plains, Carter became involved in local politics, serving first on the school board and working his way up to a seat on the George State Planning Commission. In 1962, he was elected to the George Senate. Nine years later, he became governor.
A liberal Democrat, Carter launched a campaign against Republican presidential incumbent, Gerald Ford, in 1974, after former President Richard Nixon had resigned due to his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Ford, who assumed office immediately upon Nixon’s resignation in 1974, pardoned his former boss, enraging many who thought Nixon should have had to stand trial.
Carter’s "Washington outsider" persona helped him win the White House in 1976. Carter’s tenure as president was most notable for his alternative-energy policies, racial-equality programs and friendly overtures toward Russia.
He was instrumental in brokering a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and signed an arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union (SALT II). These triumphs, however, were overshadowed by his inability to lead the nation out of a crippling energy crunch caused by the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.
On top of his administration’s failure to effectively combat the energy crisis, which in turn contributed to rapidly rising inflation, Carter’s administration was forced to deal with another crisis.
In 1979, an Islamist student group in Iran stormed the U.S. embassy in Teheran, holding 70 Americans hostage for 444 days. Carter’s failure to secure the release of the hostages, the ongoing recession and a growing movement toward conservatism in America contributed to Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential campaign.
The Carters have since stayed active in national and international affairs. In 1982, they founded the Carter Center in Atlanta to advocate for human rights and to alleviate "unnecessary human suffering" around the world.
Since 1984, the Carters have given their time each year to build homes and raise awareness of homelessness with the international charitable organization Habitat for Humanity.
In 2002, Carter won the prestigious Nobel Prize for his efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights and to promote economic and social development.
On August 3, 2015, Carter underwent elective surgery to remove "a small mass" on his liver and his prognosis for a full recovery was initially said to be "excellent." On August 12, however, Carter announced he had been diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized, without specifying where the cancer had originated.
On August 20, he disclosed that melanoma had been found in his brain and liver, and that he had begun treatment with the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab and was about to start radiation therapy.
On December 6, 2015, Carter issued a statement that his medical scans no longer showed any cancer.
Carter is now in hospice care and his wife, Rosalind, who has dementia.
I had many encounters with Carter through the years. He even used my office to make phone calls when he was campaigning for president. I later travelled to Europe and the Normandy coast in France with Carter.
In the photo from the early 1980s, I, along with Carol Dickman, engaged former President Carter in a long conversation about woodworking. Carter’s former staff had given him some tools and he was making furniture, which he was quite excited about.
The conversational went on 20 minutes.
On Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday, there are so many memories. Even at such an advanced age, he still wakes up about 5 a.m. each morning. This is a time when his memory is particularly sharp. Chip Carter said his father recently recounted his 1978 state visit to France with French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in astounding detail and “ended this 20-minute conversation with, ‘And, his wife was a really good dancer!'”
I was on President Carter’s 1978 trip to France for ABC News. Working in European countries was always enjoyable for me — much more than visiting a foreign land as tourist. President Carter had toured the Normandy beaches and it had been a long, but memorable day.
On the night of Jan. 5, 1978 in Bayeux, France, just after the President had visited the war dead at the cemetery along the Normandy coast, we were all exhausted. The senior ABC workers had been given the night off.
As the junior member of the group, I was assigned to stay in an ABC mobile unit during the night. The ABC vehicle sat next to another mobile unit manned by an all-French TV crew. I settled in for what I expected to be a long and uneventful night.
All was quiet until I was awakened and told that President Carter wanted to make unexpected last-minute remarks from a small courtyard near our mobile units. The President’s remarks would air live on the morning talk shows back in the United States, which meant he would go on the air in the very early morning hours in France. Just after his short speech, Carter would then board a train with French President Giscard d’Estang to travel to Paris.
The president’s live speech would air in about an hour and no one had planned for this early morning broadcast. Knowing I was on my own, I began to try to figure out what to do. To get the audio of this live feed from the plaza, an audio cable would have to run from the ABC unit I manned to the French unit next door. The problem was the audio connectors. The American cables used XLR connectors and the French truck had banana jacks for the audio connections.
Thinking quickly, I noted a plate of fromage frais (fresh cheese) and other goodies in the ABC truck that the French had provided to us. I took the knife from the plate and sliced the connector off one end of the XLR audio cable and then stripped several of the wires to bare copper. After twisting the wires, I took toothpicks from the plate and a roll of gaffer’s tape and walked over to the French truck. There, I stuck the bare wires into the holes of the banana jacks and used toothpicks to hold them. I then secured the toothpicks with gaffer’s tape.
Believe it or not — after a brief test — the audio worked. The French, who couldn’t speak a word of English, and I, who knew no French, cheered and laughed hysterically. It was a great bonding moment, the kind I love while working in a foreign country.
Within minutes, senior ABC engineers arrived on the scene — totally mystified by what I had done. But Carter had to speak within minutes and my set-up worked. That’s all that really mattered, so they left it alone. The President of the United States successfully made his speech over my jury-rigged set-up. The ABC engineers congratulated me for thinking creatively through the situation.
The day was a remarkable day for the President and me as a kid solving problems in the middle of night in France.
President Carter and French President Giscard d’Estang
Photo by Kirk West
Albert Collins was born 91 years ago today.
An electric blues guitarist and singer with a distinctive guitar style, Collins was noted for his powerful playing and his use of altered tunings and capo. His long association with the Fender Telecaster led to the title, "The Master of the Telecaster.“
Collins was born in Leona, Texas and introduced to the guitar at an early age through his cousin, Lightnin' Hopkins, also a Leona resident, who frequently played at family reunions. In 1938, his family relocated to Marquez, Texas, eventually settling in Houston in 1941. He later attended Jack Yates High School.
Collins initially took piano lessons when he was young. During periods when his piano tutor was unavailable, his cousin, Willow Young, would loan him his guitar and taught Collins the altered tuning that he used throughout his career.
At 12, Collins made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing "Boogie Chillen'" by John Lee Hooker. At 18, Collins started his own group, the Rhythm Rockers, in which he honed his craft while remaining in employment including four years working on a ranch in Normangee, Texas. That was followed by twelve years of driving a truck for various companies.
Collins initially played an Epiphone guitar during his first two years with the Rhythm Rockers, but in 1952 after seeing Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown playing a Fender Esquire he decided to purchase a Fender.
Collins had wanted to buy a Telecaster, but due to their cost he opted instead to buy an Esquire which he then took to the Parker Music Company in Houston to have it fitted with a genuine Telecaster neck. This would remain his main guitar up until his move to California and the guitar he used on his earliest recordings including his signature song, "Frosty.“
In 1954, Collins, then 22 and still without a record release, was joined in the Rhythm Rockers by the 17-year-old Johnny Copeland, who had just left the Dukes of Rhythm (a band he had started with Houston blues musician, Joe "Guitar" Hughes).
Collins started to play regularly in Houston most notably at Shady's Playhouse where James "Widemouth" Brown (brother of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown) and other well-known Houston blues musicians would meet for the Blue Monday jams.
By the mid 1950s, he had established his reputation as a local guitarist of note and had started to appear regularly at a Fifth Ward club called Walter's Lounge with the group, Big Tiny and the Thunderbirds. The saxophonist and music teacher, Henry Hayes, had heard about Collins from Joe "Guitar" Hughes.
After seeing him perform live, Hayes encouraged Collins to record a single for Kangaroo Records — a label he had started with his friend, M. L. Young. Collins recorded his debut single ,"The Freeze" b/w "Collins Shuffle," for Kangaroo Records at Gold Star Studios, Houston, in the spring of 1958 with Henry Hayes on saxophone.
Texas blues bands of this period incorporated a horn section and Collins later credited Hayes with teaching him how to arrange for horns. In 1964, he recorded "Frosty" at Gulf Coast Recording Studio, Beaumont, Texas, for Hall Records owned by Bill Hall, who had signed Collins on the recommendation of Cowboy Jack Clement.
Clement was a songwriter and producer who had engineered sessions for Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records. His debut album, The Cool Sounds Of Albert Collins, was released in 1965 on the TCF label and consisted of previously released instrumentals including, "Thaw Out" and "Don't Lose Your Cool.”
On June 19, 1968, the group, Canned Heat, were playing at the Music Hall in Houston and a friend of theirs mentioned that Collins was playing at the Ponderosa Club which they attended. After Collins had finished playing, they introduced themselves and offered to help secure an agent for him as well as an introduction to Imperial Records in California.
With the offer of a record deal and regular live work, Collins made the decision to move. Relocating at first to Kansas City in July, 1968, he played in the organ trio of keyboardist Lawrence Wright. In November, he moved to Palo Alto, California.
Collins chose Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even In A Guitar) from the lyrics of Canned Heat's "Fried Hockey Boogie" as the title for his 1968 Imperial album in honor of Canned Heat and their lead-singer, Bob Hite, who had also provided the liner notes for the album.
In the spring of 1969, he was hired by Bob Krasnow to play on the Ike and Tina Turner album, The Hunter, which was released on Krasnow's Blue Thumb label. The move to California was proving to be the right decision for Collins. He soon established himself as a regular act on the West Coast circuit playing at the Fillmore West and Whisky a Go Go.
He also played at the "Newport 69" festival in Northridge, California, in June and the Gold Rush Festival at Lake Amador, California, in October.
Collins was performing at the Paléo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, in July, 1993 when he was taken ill. He was diagnosed in mid August with lung cancer which had metastasized to his liver. He had an expected survival time of four months. Tracks from his last album Live '92/'93 were recorded at shows that September.
Albert Collins died on November 24, 1993 at the age of 61.
Collins was an inspiration to a generation of Texas guitar players including Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughn. He was amongst a small group of Texas blues players, along with Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Johnny Copeland, who together shaped the legacy of T-Bone Walker into a modern blues template that was to have a major influence on many later players.
Here, Collins performs “Frosty” with Duke Robillard and Debbie Davies.
Betsy Siggins Schmidt with Bob Dylan backstage at the Wang Theatre, Boston, November, 2009
Betsy Siggins Schmidt, major witness to the folk music movement in the 1960s, is 84 years old today.
Schmidt ran Club 47, the legendary folk club in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Her Boston University freshman roommate was Joan Baez. Her first husband was a member of the Charles River Valley Boys. She hung out with Bob Dylan in Cambridge and New York, and had the Rev. Gary Davis sleep on her couch.
Today, Schmidt has founded the New England Folk Archives.
Her first husband was Bob Siggins of the Charles River Valley Boys. After a divorce, she married Benno Schmidt, the future president of Yale University.
In an interview with the Examiner, Schmidt said of Dylan in his early days:
"Dylan was a funny enigma. He talked about people and life. He was well into who he was going to be, but in such a way we could hang out with him. There was no wall up around him. He and Joan were very funny together! I found him so unique. We went to Washington Square in New York, and he smoked, his leg would be shaking, and he'd talk about Rimbaud. I not sure what he was talking about, but it was cool to listen to.
"He is one of the great wordsmiths," she said. "People say he's a recluse, but you don't need to do everything in public. He's given so much, and he's still doing a lot."
Earl Slick is 70 years old today.
Born in Brooklyn, Slick is a guitarist best known for his collaborations with David Bowie, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Robert Smith, although he has also worked with other artists including John Waite, Tim Curry and David Coverdale.
Slick also released several solo recordings.
In the early 1970s, he gained his reputation on New York music scene as a guitarist while playing in a band, Mack Truck, featuring both singer-songwriter Jimmie Mack and his brother, drummer Jack Mack.
His work with Scottish singer-songwriter, Jim Diamond, was as the duo Slick Diamond. They toured and gave performances for a short time in the late 1970s.
Slick was initially hired by David Bowie to replace Mick Ronson as lead guitarist for the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974 (the live album, David Live, was culled from this tour).
Slick also played lead guitar on Bowie's Young Americans and Station To Station albums, released in 1975 and 1976 respectively.
It was Slick's powerful playing that made the latter album's, "Stay," an enduring favorite of fans of Bowie and of guitar virtuosity alike.
After running afoul of Bowie's management, Slick was replaced as lead guitarist for the 1976 Station To Station tour by Stacey Heydon.
Slick continued working in the studio with former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but also formed his own solo band, releasing both Razor Sharp and Earl Slick Band in 1976.
Slick performed on Lennon and Ono's album, Double Fantasy.
During the sessions for Double Fantasy, the material for 1984's Milk and Honey was recorded as well. Slick also joined Ono in the studio for her solo album, Season of Glass.
Here, Slick on playing guitar on “Stay” with David Bowie.
Richard Harris was born 93 years ago today.
An Irish actor, singer-songwriter, theatrical producer, film director and writer, Harris had a Top Ten hit with his 1968 recording of Jimmy Webb's song, "MacArthur Park.”
Harris appeared on stage and in many films, and is perhaps best known for his role as King Arthur in the 1967 film, Camelot, and the subsequent 1982 Broadway revival of the show. He is also known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the first two films in the Harry Potter series, his final works.
He played an aristocrat and prisoner in A Man Called Horse (1970), Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000), Saint John in Apocalypse Revelation (2002), gunfighter and Dom Frollo in the 1997 TV movie version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Harris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in August, 2002, after being hospitalized with pneumonia. He died on Oct. 25, 2002 at age 72. His death came two and a half weeks before the American premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
For years, whenever he was in London, Harris resided at the Savoy Hotel. According to the hotel archivist, Susan Scott, as Harris was being taken from the hotel on a stretcher, shortly before his death, he warned the diners, "It was the food!"
Here, Harris performs “MacArthur Park.”
James Whitmore playing South Carolina Governor Robert McNair and Robert Rockwell playing S. C. Attorney General Dan McLeod. The recording was done in Whitmore’s living room.
Photo by Frank Beacham
James Whitmore, actor, was born 102 years ago today.
Whitmore won a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award, and was nominated for two Academy Awards for many great films.
I had a chance to work with Whitmore, who played Gov. Robert McNair in my radio drama, The Orangeburg Massacre.
Ironically, McNair himself, who hated being portrayed at all, respected Whitmore and was a fan of Harry!, his one-man show on Harry Truman, for which Whitmore was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
McNair met with me, probably because he wanted to know more about working with Whitmore than anything else.
In case you didn’t know, The Orangeburg Massacre is the story of the killing of three black S.C. State College students by white highway patrol in Orangeburg, S.C in 1968. McNair and other state officials covered up the murders.
In his later years, Whitmore did commercials for “Miracle Grow” plant food. In his yard, he always posed with beautiful flowers in the ads.
Since we recorded the show at his home in Malibu Canyon, I was amazed to learn that those commercials were actually shot there and the plants in his yard were real. Whitmore, an engaging man, showed me his flowers and told me he really used Miracle Grow on them. It worked, he said.
Whitmore was diagnosed with lung cancer in November, 2008, from which he died at the age of 87 on February 6, 2009 at his Malibu home.
In an 1888 novel — Looking Backward: 2000-1887 — author Edward Bellamy imagined a scene in which a time-traveler from 1887 reacts to a technological advance from the early 21st century that he describes as "an arrangement for providing everybody with music in their homes, perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to every mood, and beginning and ceasing at will."
In Bellamy's imagination, this astonishing feat was accomplished by a vast network of wires connecting individual homes with centrally located concert halls staffed round-the-clock with live performers.
As it turned out, this vision of the year 2000 would come to pass far sooner than Bellamy imagined, and without all the pesky wires.
On this day in 1920 — 103 years ago — Scientific American magazine reported that the rapidly developing medium of radio would soon be used to broadcast music. A revolution in the role of music in everyday life was about to be born.
"It has been well known for some years that by placing a form of telephone transmitter in a concert hall or at any point where music is being played the sound may be carried over telephone wires to an ordinary telephone receiver at a distant point," began the bulletin in the October 1, 1920 issue of the popular science monthly, "but it is only recently that a method of transmitting music by radio has been found possible."
Arguments about radio's origins persist to this day, but its basic workings had been understood for upwards of 20 years at the time of this announcement. It was only in the years immediately following World War I, however, that radio made the transition from scientific curiosity to practical technology.
By late 1919, experiments had begun in Britain, the United States and elsewhere that would lead to the breakthrough use of radio not just as a replacement for the telegraph, but as a communications and entertainment medium.
Some of those experiments were taking place in the laboratory of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., where station WWV was established to test various means of radio transmission.
Relying significantly on amateur radio operators in the local area for feedback on its experiments, the Bureau began successfully testing the transmission of music in late 1919 and early 1920. It was those experiments that led to the public announcement in Scientific American.
"Music can be performed at any place, radiated into the air through an ordinary radio transmitting set and received at any other place, even though hundreds of miles away," the report continued, noting that "the music received can be made as loud as desired by suitable operation of the receiving apparatus."
"Experimental concerts are at present being conducted every Friday evening from 8:30 to 11:00 by the Radio Laboratory of the Bureau of Standards....The possibilities of such centralized radio concerts are great and extremely interesting."