Category: 50’s

Emmy Award winning actress Valerie Harper (b…

Emmy Award winning actress Valerie Harper (born Valerie Kathryn Harper in Suffern, NY) – August 22, 1939 – August 30, 2019, RIP

Born on this day: August 29, 1924 – Jazz vocal…

Born on this day: August 29, 1924 – Jazz vocal icon Dinah Washington (born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, AL). Happy Birthday to this legendary vocalist on what would have been her 95th Birthday.

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On this day in music history: August 24, 1959 …

On this day in music history: August 24, 1959 – “The Three Bells” by The Browns hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the Country singles chart for 10 weeks on August 31, 1959. Written by Jean Villard, Bert Reisfield and Dick Manning, it is the biggest hit for the country music family trio from Pine Bluff, AR. The group consisting of sisters Maxine, Bonnie and their brother Jim Ed Brown, they begin singing together professionally while still in high school. After becoming regulars on the popular Louisiana Hayride television show. The group are signed to RCA Victor in 1956 and have success on the country charts, though with Jim Ed having been drafted into the Army in 1957, they find it difficult to maintain career momentum and tell RCA of their plans to disband the group. They have one more session at RCA’s Nashville studio recording the song “The Three Bells”. Based on the French song “Les Trois Cloches” written in 1945, it is first popularized by the legendary Edith Piaf. Songwriters Bert Reisfield and Dick Manning writes English lyrics for the song in 1948, which is recorded by The Melody Maids. The Browns version produced by guitarist Chet Atkins, is recorded at RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville. The track is the first big hit engineered and mixed by Bill Porter who becomes a legend in Nashville for his technical genius, and mastery of capturing instruments and vocals on tape with the correct balance and room ambiance. Before Porters arrival in March of 1959, the acoustics of Studio B were problematic, often causing unwanted frequency response. Porter solves the issue by installing fiberglass acoustic panels cut into triangles and suspending them from the ceiling. Then carefully placing microphones, vocalists and musicians in those parts of the room to create the desired sound. Released in June of 1959, the country vocal trios version is an immediate smash, crossing over to the pop singles chart. Entering the Hot 100 at #63 on July 27, 1959, it leaps to the top of the chart just four weeks later. The single receives Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Group or Vocal Performance. Jim Ed Brown re-records the song in 1969 as a solo artist, two years after the group breaks up, peaking at #29 on the country singles chart. “Bells” is covered by a number of different artists including Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Sha Na Na, Chet Atkins, and Alison Krauss & Union Station. “The Three Bells” is also featured in two episodes of “The Sopranos” TV series during the shows sixth season in 2006. First in the episode titled “The Fleshy Part Of The Thigh” and again in another episode titled “Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request…”. “The Three Bells” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 18, 1958 …

On this day in music history: August 18, 1958 – “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” by Domenico Modugno hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno, it is the biggest hit for the Italian born singer, songwriter and filmmaker. The idea for “Volare” comes from fellow songwriter Franco Migliacci, who is inspired by a pair of paintings by Russian-French impressionist artist Marc Chagall. The song describes an abstract dream of a man painting himself blue and flying through the air. Migliacci and Modugno write the song originally titled “Sogno in blu” (dream in blue) before changing it to “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” with volare being the Italian word meaning “to fly”, and the latter translating to “in the sky, painted blue. The song is entered in the Sanremo Music Festival in January of 1958, with it receiving its first public performance. "Volare” wins the contest, leading to it being Italy’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Though it only places third in the competition, the attention generated at Eurovision will convince Modugno to record it. Originally released on the Fonit Cetra label, the song is an instant smash, selling over a million copies in Italy alone. “Volare” is licensed to Decca Records in the US, and takes a similar trajectory. Entering the Hot 100 at #54 on August 4, 1958, it pole vaults to the top of the chart two weeks later, becoming only the second single to top the newly established chart. The only song in the Italian language to hit the top of the US charts, “Volare” is a sensation with American music fans. At the first Grammy Awards ceremony in May of 1959, “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” wins three Grammy Awards including Best Male Vocal Performance, and the first to win Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. A pop standard, “Volare” is covered many times, and is referenced numerous times in movies and television. Singer Sergio Franchi sings  the song in commercials for the Plymouth Volaré in the 70’s. Actor Kevin Kline sings a brief snippet of it in “A Fish Called Wanda”, and Vitamin C recording a cover for the “Lizzie McGuire Movie” soundtrack. “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 18, 1956 …

On this day in music history: August 18, 1956 – “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 11 weeks. Written by Otis Blackwell / Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller,  it is third chart topping single for Presley. Penned by songwriter Otis Blackwell (“Great Balls Of Fire”, “All Shook Up”, “Return To Sender”), “Cruel” is recorded at RCA Studios in New York on July 2, 1956, with the master version being the twenty eighth take. The flip side “Hound Dog”, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952 for R&B legend Big Mama Thornton, is recorded by Presley during the same session. A big fan of Big Mama’s version as well as the answer record “Bear Cat” by Rufus Thomas, Presley decides to record “Hound Dog” after an ill fated performance engagement in Las Vegas. While playing an  two week stint in Las Vegas during the Spring of 1956, Elvis sees the lounge act Freddie Bell And The Bellboys performing a comedy burlesque cover of “Hound Dog” in their show. Liking their arrangement, Presley decides to record himself. Elvis and his band along with vocal group The Jordanaires record thirty one takes of the song before finally capturing the master take. The single is released eleven days later on July 13, 1956, and is an immediate smash. Technically the B-side of the single, it is listed along with “Hound Dog” beginning the week of August 11, 1956 when the it reaches #2, then topping the chart the following week. The double A-sided singles run at the top of the charts is unprecedented in the rock era. The record remains unbroken until 1992 when “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men holds the number one spot for 13 weeks beginning on August 15, 1992, thirty six years to the week that Presley hits number one. “Cruel” returns to the Billboard top ten thirty two years later, when Cheap Trick’s cover version peaks at #4 on October 8, 1988. “Don’t Be Cruel” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.

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On this day in music history: August 17, 1959 …

On this day in music history: August 17, 1959 – “Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, it is recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City on March 2, 1959 and April 22, 1959. Recorded in two sessions six weeks apart, it features Davis backed by musicians John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly. The songs are created by Miles giving the musicians chord changes based on musical modes rather than traditional chord progressions, then improvising on those changes. The original LP release of “Kind Of Blue” is a source of confusion among musicians and fans for years when the three tracks (“So What”, Freddie Freeloader", and “Blue In Green”) on the first side of the album are a quarter tone sharper than originally played. The problem turns out to have been caused by one of the two tape machines recording the session running slower than the other. The album is not reissued with the songs at the correct pitch until 1992. All reissues from that time on are mastered using the back up 3-track session tapes cut during the initial recording session. The album goes on to become one of the most popular and influential jazz recordings of all time. Having taken over thirty years for the album to sell over million copies, its sales explode during the peak of the CD boom, tripling in sales during the 90’s and 2000’s. For the album’s 50th anniversary, Sony Music releases a three disc edition featuring the original album along with alternate takes of “Flamenco Sketches” and “Freddie Freeloader” (w/ the false start), along with in studio dialog recorded during the sessions. The second disc includes live recordings featuring the sextet, with the third disc being a DVD featuring a documentary about the development and recording of the landmark album along with the rarely seen television program “The Sound Of Miles Davis” originally aired on April 2, 1959. The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1992, and in 2002 is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress.“Kind Of Blue” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 13, 1952 …

On this day in music history: August 13, 1952 – “Hound Dog” by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton is recorded. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the biggest hit for the Alabama born Rhythm & Blues singer. Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA, the track features legendary R&B bandleader Johnny Otis (featured on drums) along with members of his band. Otis (“Willie And The Hand Jive”) co-produces the record with Leiber and Stoller. Released on Houston, TX based Peacock Records in March 1953, the single is an instant smash, spending  seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B Best Sellers chart selling nearly two million copies. Four years and one week to the day that the original version is recorded, Elvis Presley’s cover version of the song hits number one on the Pop chart. In time, “Hound Dog” is regarded as one of the most important and influential rhythm and blues songs in music history. Big Mama Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2013.

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Author, educator and Nobel Laureate Toni Mor…

Author, educator and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, OH) – February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019, RIP

On this day in music history: August 5, 1957 -…

On this day in music history: August 5, 1957 – “American Bandstand” makes its national television debut on the ABC television network. Hosted by former radio DJ and music entrepreneur Dick Clark, the show is originally broadcast on local Philadelphia, PA channel WFIL-TV Channel 6 in 1952 with original host Bob Horn (1952 – 1956), co-host Lee Stewart (1952 – 1955) and Tony Mammarella (1956 only). Clark becomes the shows permanent host from 1956 to 1989 (returning briefly in 2002). The show moves from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 1964, beginning color broadcasts in September of 1967. 3,000 episodes (though only 883 episodes still survive) of the show are taped over its fifty year history.

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On this day in music history: August 4, 1958 -…

On this day in music history: August 4, 1958 – “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Sharon Sheeley, it is the first chart topping single for the teenaged star of the hit television series “The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet”. Barely a year into his recording career, eighteen year old Ricky Nelson has already scored nine top 40 chart entries since making his debut with the double sided hit “A Teenage Romance” (#2 Pop) and “I’m Walkin’” (#4 Pop). Songwriter Sharon Sheeley (girlfriend of musician Eddie Cochran) writes “Fool” after the break up of her relationship with Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. The track is initially released as part of a four song 7" EP, when it begins to receive airplay. Imperial Records head Lew Chudd has the song rush released as a single in June of 1958, against Nelson’s wishes. Since the singer has the right to approve of artwork used on his records, he does not grant permission for the single to be packaged with a picture sleeve (his only Imperial single released without a picture sleeve) to show his disapproval. The song is also the first number one single on the newly dubbed “Hot 100” chart, previously known as the Best Sellers chart. “Poor Little Fool” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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