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Singer-songwriter Dwight Yoakam is 67 years old today
Dwight Yoakam is 67 years old today.
A singer-songwriter, actor and film director, Yoakam is best known for his work in country music.
Popular since the early 1980s, he has recorded more than 21 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts and sold more than 25 million records.
Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Kentucky, the son of Ruth Ann, a key-punch operator, and David Yoakam, a gas-station owner. He was raised in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Columbus's Northland High School in 1974.
During his high school years, he excelled in both music and drama, regularly securing the lead role in school plays, such as "Charlie" in a stage version of Flowers for Algernon. He honed his skills under the guidance of teacher-mentors Jerry McAfee (music) and Charles Lewis (drama).
Outside of school, Yoakam sang and played guitar with local garage bands, and entertained his friends and classmates with his impersonations, such as Richard Nixon, who, at the time, was heavily embroiled in the Watergate controversy.
Yoakam briefly attended Ohio State University, but dropped out and moved to Nashville in 1977 with the intent of becoming a recording artist. When he began his career, Nashville was oriented toward pop "Urban Cowboy" music, and Yoakam's brand of hip Honky Tonk music was not considered marketable.
Not making much headway in Nashville, Yoakam moved to Los Angeles and worked towards bringing his particular brand of new Honky Tonk or "Hillbilly" music (as he called it) forward into the 1980s.
Writing all his own songs, and continuing to perform mostly outside traditional country music channels, Yoakam did many shows in rock and punk rock clubs around Los Angeles, playing with roots rock or punk rock acts like The Blasters.
Yoakam's recording debut was the self-financed, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., on Oak Records produced by lead-guitarist, Pete Anderson. The recording was later re-released in 1986 by Reprise records, with several additional tracks.
It became Yoakam’s major-label debut LP — Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. The album launched his career. "Honky Tonk Man,” a remake of the Johnny Horton song, and "Guitars, Cadillacs" were hit singles. His stylish video, "Honky Tonk Man," was the first country music video ever played on MTV.
The follow-up album, Hillbilly Deluxe, was just as successful. His third album, Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, included his first #1, a duet with his musical idol, Buck Owens, on "Streets of Bakersfield.”
Johnny Cash once cited Yoakam as his favorite country singer. Chris Isaak called him as good a songwriter that ever put a pen to paper. Time Magazine dubbed Yoakam "A Renaissance Man" and Vanity Fair declared that "Yoakam strides the divide between rock's lust and country's lament."
Along with his bluegrass and honky-tonk roots, Yoakam has written or covered many Elvis Presley-style rockabilly songs, including his covers of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in 1999 and Presley's "Suspicious Minds" in 1992.
Yoakam has also starred in many films, most notably in critically acclaimed performances as an ill-tempered, abusive, live-in boyfriend in Sling Blade (1996), as a psychopathic killer in Panic Room (2002), as a police detective in Hollywood Homicide (2003) and as the sheriff in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005).
Here, Yoakam performs a medley of his hits at the Grand Ole Opry.
Mike Porco, holding bottle, with drinkers at Gerdes Folk City
Mike Porco, original owner and operator of Gerde’s Folk City, was born 109 years ago today.
Porco owned Gerde’s from the time it first opened in January, 1960 until he sold it in 1980. During that time, folk, blues and roots music had a resurgence into American pop culture and later became known as the Folk Revival of the 1960s.
A constellation of recording artists were hired by Porco to play Gerde's Folk City. The most notable was Bob Dylan who in 1961 asked Porco to act as his legal guardian as he signed his very first cabaret card.
In his 2004 autobiography, Chronicles, Dylan referred to Porco as "the Sicilian father that I never had."
In 1961 alone, Porco booked The Weavers, Victoria Spivey, Dave Van Ronk, Odetta, Judy Collins, John Lee Hooker, Peter Yarrow, Danny Kalb, Josh White Jr, Lonnie Johnson, Tom Paxton, Joan Baez, Peter Stampfel, Gil Turner, Jean Redpath, Len Chandler and Jean Ritchie.
Gerdes Folk City became one of the most influential American music clubs, before finally losing its lease in 1987.
"Rolling Stone Book of Lists" called Folk City one of the three top music venues in the world, along with The Cavern and CBGBs.
Porco died on March 11, 1992.
Below is Porco and Bob Dylan.
Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on the Tonight Show, circa 1960s
On this day in 1925 — 98 years ago — Johnny Carson, who became known to most of America as the longtime host of the popular late-night TV program, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, was born in Corning, Iowa.
As host of NBC’s Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, Carson became a bona fide American institution and entertainment icon.
He grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska, served in the U.S. Navy and attended the University of Nebraska. By the early 1950s, Carson was living in California and working in radio and the then-new medium of television. He later moved to New York City, and in 1957 became host of the popular game show, Who Do You Trust?
In 1958, Carson appeared on The Tonight Show as a substitute for the host, Jack Paar. The Tonight Show had originated in 1951 in Los Angeles as a radio program hosted by Steve Allen. In 1954, the program moved to TV and in 1956, Jack Parr replaced Allen as the host.
Carson took over permanent hosting duties from Parr on October 1, 1962. He hosted the show from New York City until 1972, when it relocated to Burbank. Each edition of The Tonight Show began with Carson’s sidekick Ed McMahon announcing, “Heeere’s Johnny!”
Carson, who became known for his relaxed, affable stage presence and dapper appearance, performed an opening monologue of jokes, punctuated by his trademark golf swing. Following the monologue, he would banter with McMahon and the show’s bandleader, Doc Severinsen, and would sometimes perform skits and play characters such as Carnac the Magnificent, an “all-knowing seer,” and the gossipy, Aunt Blabby.
Carson then conducted celebrity interviews. The Tonight Show featured the day’s biggest movie and TV stars, as well as athletes, politicians, singers, comedians and animal acts.
According to his New York Times obituary: “During his reign, Mr. Carson was the most powerful single performer on television. He discovered or promoted new talent like Barbra Streisand and David Letterman; provided a consistent spotlight for show business warhorses like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett; advanced the careers of emerging stars like Woody Allen, Steve Martin and, his successor, Jay Leno. He helped keep older performers like Jimmy Stewart and William Demarest in the public eye.”
In addition to hosting the Tonight Show, Carson served as master of ceremonies for the Academy Awards five times during the late 1970s and 1980s.
After deciding to retire from The Tonight Show, he hosted his final program on May 22, 1992. The comedian Jay Leno took over hosting duties the following day.
After retiring, Carson, who was married four times, stayed out of the public spotlight.
He died of complications from emphysema on January 23, 2005, at the age of 79.
A look at Johnny Carson
Weird Al Yankovic
Image by Michael Blackwell
Weird Al Yankovic is 64 years old today.
A singer-songwriter, musician, parodist, record producer, satirist, music video director, film producer, actor and author, Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts.
Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums (as of 2007), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs and has performed more than 1,000 live shows.
Yankovic's first Top 10 Billboard album (Straight Outta Lynwood) and single ("White & Nerdy") were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career.
Yankovic's success comes in part from his effective use of music video to further parody popular culture, the song's original artist, and the original music videos themselves, scene-for-scene in some cases. He directed later videos himself and went on to direct for other artists including Ben Folds, Hanson, The Black Crowes, and The Presidents of the United States of America.
In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic wrote and starred in the films, UHF (1989) and The Weird Al Show (1997). He has also made guest appearances on many television shows, in addition to starring in Al TV specials on MTV.
Here, Yankovic performs “Bad Hombres, Nasty Women” a parody on one of the Clinton-Trump debates.
Ned Rorem, composer and diarist, wasd born 100 years ago today.
Best known and most praised for his song settings, Rorem won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976.
Born in Richmond, Indiana, Rorem received his early education in Chicago at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the American Conservatory of Music and then Northwestern University. Later, he moved on to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and finally the Juilliard School in New York City.
In 1966, he published The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem, which, with his later diaries, has brought him some notoriety, as he is honest about his and others' sexuality, describing his relationships with Leonard Bernstein, Noël Coward, Samuel Barber, and Virgil Thomson.
Rorem wrote extensively about music as well. These essays are collected in anthologies such as Setting the Tone, Music From the Inside Out and Music and People. His prose is much admired, not least for its barbed observations about such prominent musicians as Pierre Boulez.
Rorem has composed in a chromatic tonal idiom throughout his career, and he is not hesitant to attack the orthodoxies of the avant-garde.
His notable students included Daron Hagen.
Rorem died at age 99 on November 18, 2022.
Michael Crichton was born 81 years ago today.
Crichton, the son of the executive editor of Advertising Age, was raised in Roslyn, Long Island. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, then taught anthropology at Cambridge in England. He returned to Harvard for medical school but wrote potboilers while working on his degree.
By the time he graduated, he had published five novels under the name John Lange, and another under the name, Jeffrey Hudson. Later, he collaborated on novels with his brother, Douglas, under the nom de plume, Michael Douglas.
During his final year of medical school, the 6’9″ Crichton published The Andromeda Strain (1969) and decided to write full time instead of practicing medicine.
Many of his bestselling novels, including The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo and The Great Train Robbery, became films. He directed the film version of his novels Binary (1972) and Westworld (1973).
By 1993, he had four books on the bestseller list and two blockbuster films in the theater (Jurassic Park and Rising Sun). Crichton won the Edgar Award, the mystery writers’ “Oscar,” in 1968 and 1980.
Crichton was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2008. He was undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time of his death. Crichton's physicians and relatives had been expecting him to recover.
He died at age 66 on November 4, 2008, the date of the 2008 presidential election.
Matisse's studio, Collioure, 1905
Painting by Damian Elwes, 2005