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On this day in 1933 — 90 years ago — eager motorists parked their cars on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater in Camden, New Jersey
On this day in 1933 — 90 years ago — eager motorists parked their automobiles on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater, located on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey.
Park-In Theaters — the term "drive-in" came to be widely used only later — was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead, a movie fan and a sales manager at his father's company, Whiz Auto Products, in Camden.
Reportedly inspired by his mother's struggle to sit comfortably in traditional movie theater seats, Hollingshead came up with the idea of an open-air theater where patrons watched movies in the comfort of their own automobiles.
He then experimented in the driveway of his own house with different projection and sound techniques, mounting a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, pinning a screen to some trees and placing a radio behind the screen for sound.
He also tested ways to guard against rain and other inclement weather, and devised the ideal spacing arrangement for a number of cars so that all would have a view of the screen. The young entrepreneur received a patent for the concept in May, 1933 and opened Park-In Theaters, Inc. less than a month later, with an initial investment of $30,000.
Advertising it as entertainment for the whole family, Hollingshead charged 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person, with no group paying more than one dollar. The idea caught on, and after Hollingshead's patent was overturned in 1949, drive-in theaters began popping up all over the country.
One of the largest was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York, which featured parking space for 2,500 cars, a kid's playground and a full service restaurant — all on a 28-acre lot.
Drive-in theaters showed mostly B-movies — that is, not Hollywood's finest fare — but some theaters featured the same movies that played in regular theaters.
The initially poor sound quality — Hollingshead had mounted three speakers manufactured by RCA Victor near the screen — improved. Later technology made it possible for each car to play the movie's soundtrack through its FM radio.
The popularity of the drive-in spiked after World War II and reached its heyday in the late 1950s to mid-60s, with some 5,000 theaters across the country. Drive-ins became an icon of American culture, and a typical weekend destination not just for parents and children but also for teenage couples seeking some privacy.
Since then, however, the rising price of real estate, especially in suburban areas, combined with the growing numbers of walk-in theaters and the rise of video rentals to curb the growth of the drive-in industry.
Before the Coronavirus hit, only 500 drive-in theaters survived in the United States. Now, as social distancing becomes a way of life, they are coming back with a vengeance.
Ed Sullivan with the Rolling Stones
Sunday nights, 8:00 pm, CBS.
Ask almost any American born in the 1950s or earlier what television program ran in that time slot on that network, and they'll probably know the answer: The Ed Sullivan Show.
For more than two decades, Sullivan's variety show was the premiere television showcase for entertainers of all stripes — including borscht-belt comedians, plate-spinning vaudeville throwbacks and, most significantly, some of the biggest and most current names in rock and roll.
Twenty-three years after its 1948 premiere, The Ed Sullivan Show had its final broadcast on this day in 1971 — 52 years ago.
In its first eight years of existence, there was no such thing as rock and roll to be featured on the program originally called Toast of the Town. Yet even its first broadcast made music history when Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II gave the world its first taste of the score from their upcoming musical, South Pacific.
Over the years, live performances of new and current Broadway shows were featured regularly on Ed Sullivan, including Julie Andrews singing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" from My Fair Lady and Richard Burton singing "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" from Camelot.
Classical and opera performers also made frequent appearances, but of course The Ed Sullivan Show is now remembered most for providing so many iconic moments in the history of televised rock and roll.
Elvis Presley's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in September, 1956, was actually one of his most restrained and least thrilling. It was notable, however, given Ed Sullivan's assertion earlier that year that he'd never allow "The King" on his show.
By the time the Beatles rolled around, Sullivan was far more comfortable with the hysteria young Elvis had caused.
In fact, it was Ed Sullivan personally witnessing Beatlemania up close at London's Heathrow airport in 1963 that led the Beatles being booked for their historic February, 1964 American television debut.
Through the rest of the 60s, The Ed Sullivan Show continued to host the day's biggest rock acts: The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas and Janis Joplin.
Gladys Knight and the Pips were the musical guests on the final episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, which was cancelled shortly after its rerun broadcast on this day in 1971.
Gary U.S. Bonds is 84 years old today.
Born Gary Levone Anderson in Jacksonville, Florida, Bonds is a rhythm and blues and rock and roll singer. He is also a prolific songwriter.
Bonds lived in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1950s when he began singing publicly in church and with a group called the Turks. He joined record producer Frank Guida's small Legrand Records label where Guida chose Anderson's stage name, U.S. Bonds, in hopes that it would be confused with a public service announcement advertising the sale of government bonds and thereby garner more radio airplay.
His first three singles and first album, Dance 'Til Quarter to Three, were released under the "U.S. Bonds" name, but people mistook it for the name of a group. To avoid confusion, subsequent releases, including his second album, Twist Up Calypso, were made under the name Gary (U.S.) Bonds. The parentheses were discarded in the 1980s.
Bonds' first hit was the song "New Orleans" (reached #6), which was followed by "Not Me," a flop for Bonds but later a hit for The Orlons, and then by his only #1 hit, "Quarter to Three" in June, 1961. "Quarter To Three" sold one million records.
Subsequent hits, under his modified name, included "School Is Out" (#5), "Dear Lady Twist" (#9), "School Is In" (#28) and "Twist, Twist, Señora" (#10) in the early 1960s.
In a 1963 tour of Europe, he headlined above The Beatles. His hits often featured solos by the saxophonist, Gene Barge. In the early 1980s, Bonds had a career resurgence with two albums, Dedication, and On the Line, collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and the E Street Band.
He also had hits including, "This Little Girl," his comeback hit in 1981, which reached #11 on the pop chart and #5 on the mainstream rock chart, "Jolé Blon" and "Out of Work.”
Bonds continues to release albums and perform. Here, he performs “Quarter to Three”
Holly Near is 74 years old today.
Near is a singer-songwriter, actor, teacher and activist for social change. After starting high school in 1963, Near began singing with the Freedom Singers, a folk group modeled on The Weavers.
In 1968, she enrolled in the Theatre Arts program at UCLA. That year, she attended her first Vietnam War peace vigil and joined Another Mother for Peace.
Near's professional career began in 1969 with a part on the television show, The Mod Squad, which was followed by appearances in other shows, such as Room 222, All in the Family and The Partridge Family. She also appeared in films such as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Minnie and Moskowitz.
She was briefly a member of the musical comedy troupe, "First National Nothing," and appeared on the troupe's only album, If You Sit Real Still and Hold My Hand, You Will Hear Absolutely Nothing (Columbia Records - LP C 30006).
In 1970, Near was a cast member of the Broadway musical, Hair. Following the Kent State shootings in May of that year, the entire cast staged a silent vigil in protest. The song, "It Could Have Been Me" (which was released on A Live Album, 1974), was her heartfelt response to the shootings.
In 1971, she joined the FTA (Free The Army) Tour, an anti-Vietnam War road show of music, comedy and plays, organized by antiwar activist, Fred Gardner, and actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.
In 1972, Near founded an independent record label, Redwood Records (now defunct), to produce and promote music by "politically conscious artists from around the world.”
During her long career in folk and protest music, Near has worked with a wide array of musicians, including Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Mercedes Sosa, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Meg (Shambhavi) Christian, Cris Williamson, Linda Tillery, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Harry Belafonte and the Chilean exile group, Inti-Illimani.
Near has been recognized many times for her work for social change, including honors from the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, the National Organization for Women, NARAS, Ms. Magazine (Woman of the Year) and the Legends of Women's Music Award.
Near continues an active tour schedule. She is still active as a performer and composer, and now issues CDs through her website that include tracks from her out-of-print albums.
Here, Near performs “Singing For Our Lives” at the March for Women’s Lives
Levi Stubbs, the baritone singer who was lead vocalist for the Four Tops, was born 87 years ago today.
Stubbs was also a voice artist, portraying villainous characters in films and animated television series, most famously having provided the voice of the alien plant, Audrey II, in the musical horror film, Little Shop of Horrors. He also voiced Mother Brain in Captain N: The Game Master. Stubbs was admired by his peers for his impressive vocal range.
Born in Detroit, Stubbs attended Pershing High School where he met Abdul "Duke" Fakir. He began his professional singing career with friends Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton — forming a singing group called The Four Aims in 1954.
Two years later, after signing with Chess Records, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The name change was meant to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers. The Four Tops began as a supper-club act before signing to Motown Records in 1963. By the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits.
The most popular of their songs (all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals) include "Baby I Need Your Loving," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "It's the Same Old Song," "Reach Out I'll Be There,""Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," "Still Water (Love)," "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" as well as the late hit, "Loco In Acapulco."
Although Stubbs was a natural baritone, most Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency.
Despite being the most prominent member of the group, Stubbs refused to have separate billing (in contrast to other Motown acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Diana Ross and the Supremes), and he also turned down several offers for a solo career, out of loyalty to his bandmates.
Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Payton died in 1997. At that point, Theo Peoples replaced Payton. The Four Tops have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
In 2000, Theo Peoples replaced Stubbs as lead singer after Stubbs suffered a stroke and had to quit touring. Ronnie McNeir took the place that Payton originally held. Benson died on July 1, 2005, leaving Duke Fakir as the only surviving member of The Four Tops' original lineup.
Stubbs was diagnosed with cancer in 1995. He died in his sleep on October 17, 2008 at his home in Detroit.
Here, the Four Tops perform “When She Was My Girl,” 1981
James Meredith grimaces in pain as he pulls himself across Highway 51 after being shot in Hernando, Mississippi.
Photo by Jack Thornell
James H. Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, was shot on this day in 1966 — 57 years ago — by a sniper shortly after beginning a lone civil rights march through the South.
Known as the "March Against Fear," Meredith had been walking from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the South.
A former serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, Meredith applied and was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the registrar learned of his race.
A federal court ordered "Ole Miss" to admit him, but when he tried to register on September 20, 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett.
On September 28, the governor was found guilty of civil contempt and was ordered to cease his interference with desegregation at the university or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. Two days later, Meredith was escorted onto the Ole Miss campus by U.S. Marshals — setting off riots that resulted in the deaths of two students. He returned the next day and began classes.
In 1963, Meredith, who was a transfer student from all-black Jackson State College, graduated with a degree in political science.
Three years later, Meredith returned to the public eye when he began his March Against Fear. On June 6, just one day into the march, he was sent to a hospital by a sniper's bullet. Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael, arrived to continue the march on his behalf.
It was during the March Against Fear that Carmichael, who was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first spoke publicly of "Black Power" — his concept of militant African American nationalism.
James Meredith later recovered and rejoined the march he had originated, and on June 26 the marchers successfully reached Jackson, Mississippi.
Steve Vai is 63 years old today.
A guitarist, composer, singer, songwriter and producer, Vai was born and raised on Long Island. He has sold over 15 million records.
Vai started his music career in 1978 at the age of 18 as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa, and joined his band from 1980 to 1983. He embarked on a solo career in 1983 and has released eight solo albums to date.
Vai has recorded and toured with Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake, as well as having recorded with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Spinal Tap and Ozzy Osbourne. He has toured with live-only acts G3, Zappa Plays Zappa, the Experience Hendrix tour, as well as headlining international tours.
Vai has been described as a "highly individualistic player" and part of a generation of "heavy rock and metal virtuosi who came to the fore in the 1980s.”
The launch of the Ibanez JEM guitar developed and co-designed by Vai was described as the "exact moment the entire guitar landscape was reshaped.” He also designed the first commercially produced seven-string guitar, the Ibanez Universe, which was used by nu metal artists in the 1990s.
Backstage before a concert in May, 2007, the Dixie Cups wait. There are sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins and Athelgra Neville.
Photo by Frank Beacham
"Chapel of Love,” a song written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, was made famous by The Dixie Cups in 1964 — 59 years ago.
It held the #1 spot on the Hot 100 chart for three weeks and was the debut release of the new Red Bird Records run by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller along with George Goldner. The song was originally recorded by The Blossoms in April, 1963, but was never released.
The song tells of the happiness and excitement the narrator feels on her wedding day, for she and her love are going to the "chapel of love," and "we'll never be lonely anymore."
The Dixie Cups have been going strong now for more than a half century.
Muddy Waters and his wife, Geneva, in Chicago, 1951
Photo by Art Shay
Here’s Shay’s story on this photograph:
“Time magazine had sent me to the south side club in which (Waters) was performing. I arrived early as usual and there he was, strumming his guitar and cuddling his woman in the hallway. Slivers of dying winter light came down across the pair from some blessed window giving me barely enough natural light. He strummed a greeting using my name letter by letter.”