• 1655 ~ Bartolomeo Cristofori, Italian instrument maker, inventor of the piano. He was credited with designing the first pianoforte, which he called “the harpsichord that plays soft and loud”.
More information about Cristofori
• 1886 ~ The first practical phonograph, better known as the gramophone, was patented.
• 1920 ~ The Symphony Society of New York presented a concert at the Paris Opera House. It was the first American orchestra to make a European tour.
• 1928 ~ Maynard Ferguson, Canadian jazz trumpeter and bandleader
• 1930 ~ Roberta Peters (Peterman), American soprano, Metropolitan Opera, Jewish Cultural Achievement Awards in Performing Arts in 1997.
• 1931 ~ Ed Cassidy, Drummer
• 1945 ~ June Christy sang with the Stan Kenton band on one of the most famous of all big band hits, Tampico.
• 1951 ~ Jackie (Sigmund) Jackson, Singer with The Jackson Five
• 1956 ~ Gene Vincent and his group, The Blue Caps, recorded Be-Bop-A Lula for Capitol Records in Los Angeles. Interesting note: Vincent had written the tune only three days before he auditioned in a record company talent search that won him first place. The record was rush-released just two days later and became a rock and roll classic.
• 1959 ~ Randy Travis (Traywick), Singer
• 1996 ~ Alanis Morissette started a six-week run at No.1 on the UK album chart with Jagged Little Pill. The record produced six successful singles, including ‘You Oughta Know’, ‘Ironic’, ‘You Learn’, ‘Hand in My Pocket’, and ‘Head over Feet’. Do you have a favorite track from the album?
• 1951 ~ In Britain, the King and Queen inaugurated the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank and also opened the Festival Hall.
• 1956 ~ Most Happy Fella, a musical by Frank Loesser, opened at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. The show, an adaptation of They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard, ran for 676 performances on Broadway.
• 1960 ~ The play, The Fantasticks, opened at the Sullivan Playhouse in New York City. It would later become the longest-running off-Broadway play.
• 1971 ~ NPR, National Public Radio, the U.S. national, non-commercial radio network, was born.
• 1997 ~ Narciso Yepes, famous Spanish classical guitarist, died.
• 2001 ~ Legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins died at the age of 64. Higgins was one of the most recorded figures in the history of jazz, performing with John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Milt Jackson, Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny, Lee Morgan, Art Pepper and Joshua Redman, among others. He played with pianist Cedar Walton and was involved with the first edition of bassist Charlie Haden’s innovative Quartet West. Higgins came to prominence in the 1950s with saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s free jazz group, which included Haden and trumpeter Don Cherry. Higgins’ drumming laid the foundation for the group’s free jazz flights of fancy. That group sparked a decade of innovation in jazz that was carried on by the Coleman Quartet, Coltrane, George Russell, Charles Mingus and Albert Ayler, among others. Higgins’ ability to adapt his sense of swing to any genre made him one of the most in-demand drummers of the past four decades. Higgins helped found World Stage, a storefront performance space and teaching venue in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park. He was also on the jazz faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. Higgins was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master’s Fellowship in 1997.
• 2002 ~ Yevgeny Svetlanov, a renowned Russian pianist, composer and former chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater, died. He was 73. He was born in Moscow in 1928. He graduated from the Gnesinykh Musical- Pedagogical Institute and from the Moscow Conservatory. For several years he was conductor and chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre. From 1965 on he was artistic director and chief conductor of the State Symphonic Orchestra of USSR. He composed several symphonies, symphonic poems, chamber music works, and vocal-instrumental works. Svetlanov was the chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater from 1963 to 1965, when he was named artistic director and chief conductor of the Soviet State Symphony. He was named a People’s Artist of the Soviet Union in 1968 and was awarded the Lenin prize in 1972 and the Order of Lenin 1978. He was given the Soviet State prize for creative achievement in 1983. Svetlanov was born in the Soviet Union in 1928. In 1951, he graduated from the Gnesin Institute of Music. Svetlanov graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1955 as a pianist, composer and conductor.
• 1960 ~ Harry Belafonte presented his second Carnegie Hall concert in New York City.
• 1965 ~ Ed Sullivan had said he would not have this British rock group on his CBS- TV Sunday night show again. This night, however, Ed softened up — and allowed Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to make a second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
• 1985 ~ Larry Clinton passed away. He was a trumpeter who became a prominent American bandleader and arranger.
• 2001 ~ Robert McKinley “Uncle Bob” Douglas, a renowned mountain fiddler who debuted at the Grand Ole Opry at age 100 last year, died of pneumonia. He was 101. He was scheduled to receive the state’s highest arts award, the Governor’s Folklife Heritage Award, on May 15 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Douglas, a retired steamfitter who never pursued a lucrative commercial career, won the Smithsonian Institution’s national fiddling contest in 1975 and performed at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville.
• 2003 ~ George Wyle, 87, who wrote the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island,” the Christmas classic “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and more than 400 other songs, died. “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” which he wrote with the show’s creator and producer, Sherwood Schwartz, became one of the most popular television theme songs. The show debuted on CBS in 1964 and ran until 1967, and its reruns have remained popular. The New York native moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to write and conduct music for “The Alan Young Radio Show.” He went on to work as choral director for television shows including “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Jerry Lewis Show” and “The Andy Williams Show.” He also handled music for specials by magician David Copperfield and Carol Channing and for the People’s Choice Awards presentations.
• 1904 ~ Czech composer Antonin Dvorák, noted for his ninth symphony, “From the New World”, died.
• 1909 ~ Kate Smith, American singer of popular music, God Bless America, When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain
• 1928 ~ Sonny James (James Loden), The Southern Gentleman, singer
• 1931 ~ Singer Kate Smith began her long and illustrious radio career with CBS on this, her birthday. The 22-year-old Smith started out with no sponsors and a paycheck of just $10 a week for the nationally broadcast daily program. However, within 30 days, her salary increased to a more respectable $1,500 a week!
• 1939 ~ Judy Collins, American guitarist, songwriter and singer of folk and popular music
• 1939 ~ The two-part Sy Oliver arrangement of Lonesome Road was recorded by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Listening carefully, one might note that the lead trombone is not that of Tommy Dorsey, but of Dave Jacobs, instead.
• 1945 ~ Rita Coolidge, American rhythm-and-blues and country music singer
• 1967 ~ Elvis Presley got hitched to a girl he had dated since his army days in West Germany. Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu married in Las Vegas, NV. The wedding cake, incidentally, cost $3,500. The marriage lasted until 1973.
• 1970 ~ Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin combined for the first time on Elton’s first American album simply titled, Elton John. The LP contained Elton’s first hit, Your Song, which made it to the top ten on the music charts in December.
• 1975 ~ Willie Nelson released his iconic album, “Red Headed Stranger”.
• 2001 ~ Fred Alley, a 38-year-old performer and playwright who was due to receive an award this month from Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, collapsed while jogging and died. Alley and Milwaukee native James Valcq co-wrote a stage musical version of the film “The Spitfire Grill,” which won the Academy of Arts and Letters 2001 Richard Rodgers Production Award in February. The award, which was to be presented later this month in New York, included a $100,000 grant that is being used to partially finance an off-Broadway production of the show. “The Spitfire Grill” had a successful run last fall at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey. Alley also co-wrote with James Kaplan “The Bachelors” and “Guys on Ice,” both musicals.
• 2003 ~ Barry White, American soul singer, suffered a stroke while being treated for kidney failure. The singer died two months later on July 4th, 2003.
• 2005 ~ Bruce Springsteen went to No.1 on the UK album chart with ‘Devils & Dust’ the American singer-songwriters sixth UK No.1.
• 2015 ~ Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars gave The Gap Band a writing credit on their huge hit ‘Uptown Funk’, due to its similarities with their 1979 track ‘Oops Up Side Your Head’. ‘Uptown Funk’, which had topped the UK chart for seven weeks and the US chart for 14, originally had six songwriters but was now credited to The Gap Band as well.
. 1900 ~ Train engineer Casey Jones was killed when trying to save the Cannonball Express as it highballed its way through Vaughn, MS. The famous song about Jones is based on this train accident.
. 1903 ~ Victor Records made its first Red Seal recording this day. The premiere disk featured Ada Crossley, an opera contralto.
. 1916 ~ Robert Shaw, American conductor, Robert Shaw Chorale; music director of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
. 1923 ~ Percy Heath, Jazz musician: bass: founder of Modern Jazz Quartet, The Heath Brothers
. 1933 ~ Willie Nelson, American country music singer, songwriter and guitarist
. 1940 ~ Jimmy Dorsey and his band recorded the bandleader’s signature song, Contrasts, for Decca Records. The song went on to become one of the most familiar big band themes of the era.
. 1941 ~ Johnny Farina, Musician: rhythm guitar with Santo & Johnny
. 1943 ~ Bobby Vee (Velline), Singer
. 1944 ~ Richard Schoff, Singer with The Sandpipers
. 1953 ~ Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle became a team this day at Capitol Records in Hollywood. Sinatra’s new musical style, under Riddle’s direction, brought the crooner to the top of the record world for the second time in his illustrious career.
. 1953 ~ Merrill Osmond, Singer with The Osmonds: Alan, Donny, Jay, Marie, Wayne, Jimmy
. 1954 ~ Darius Milhaud’s Fourth Concerto for piano and orchestra premiered in Haifa
. 1956 ~ Richard Farina, folk singer: Reflections in a Crystal Wind
. 1983 ~ Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) passed away. He was an American blues musician.
. 1987 ~ Three more compact discs of music by The Beatles went on sale for the first time. The discs were Help!, Rubber Soul and Revolver. All became hits again for the Fab Four.
. 2000 ~ Bill Woods, a bandleader who helped Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and other country music stars launch their careers, died. He was 76. In the 1950s, Woods ran The Blackboard country music club in Bakersfield. The club attracted many country music stars and helped develop what became known as the Bakersfield Sound. Woods also could play many instruments, including piano, guitar, fiddle, drums, and the banjo.
. 2001 ~ Herman “Rock” Johnston, a musician known for his innovative work on steel drums, died of prostate cancer. He was 63. Johnston gained acclaim in the early 1960s with an innovation that stretched the musical range of the instrument from 24 to 36 notes. During his career, the Trinidad native appeared at the United Nations, Lincoln Center and Radio City Musical Hall in New York City, and with the Boston Symphony at its summer festival in Tanglewood. His repertoire spanned rock, spiritual, classical, show tunes and Caribbean folk music.
. 2003 ~ Bill Napier, a clarinetist who rose to prominence with the premier San Francisco jazz bands of the 1940s and 50s, died. He was 76. Napier helped create a catchy West Coast style with a Dixieland sound and a San Francisco vibe. He played with jazz stars including trombonist Turk Murphy, Lu Watters and Bob Scobey’s Frisco Jazz Band. Though he took some lessons, Napier essentially taught himself to play. His talent, and his love of music brought him to an eclectic mix of venues – from cable car turnabouts to halftime of Harlem Globetrotters’ games to Silicon Valley soirees at the height of the dot-com boom. His last show was December 30, 2002.
. 2015 ~ Ben E. King [Benjamin Earl Nelson], American soul singer (Stand by Me), died at the age of 76
.2016 ~ Phil Ryan, Welsh keyboardist and composer (Man, Pete Brown), died at the age of 69
1879 ~ Sir Thomas Beecham, English conductor. Founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1947 and did much to promote the works of Delius, Sibelius and Richard Strauss.
Read quotes by and about Beecham
. 1895 ~ Sir Malcolm Sargent, English conductor, born. He was in charge of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 1942 until 1948 and of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1950 until 1957.
. 1913 ~ Donald Mills, Singer with The Mills Brothers.
. 1925 ~ Danny Davis (George Nowland), Grammy Award-winning bandleader with Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass. Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1969, Country Music Awards Instrumental Group of the Year 1969 to 1974
. 1936 ~ Zubin Mehta, Indian conductor, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and violinist
. 1936 ~ April Stevens (Carol Lo Tempio), Singer
. 1943 ~ Duane Allen, Singer with the Oak Ridge Boys
. 1947 ~ Tommy James (Jackson), Singer with Tommy James and The Shondells
. 1949 ~ Francis Rossi, Musician, guitar and singer with Status Quo
. 1968 ~ Hair made its way from Greenwich Village to Broadway. The show certainly opened eyes. It was the first time that actors appeared nude in a Broadway musical. Hair ran for 1,844 shows on and off Broadway. It was even more successful in its London run later. Big songs from the show: Hair (The Cowsills) and Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The 5th Dimension).
. 1969 ~ Sir Duke, Duke Ellington, celebrated his 70th birthday. He was honored with the presentation of the Medal of Freedom, the U.S. government’s highest civilian honor.
. 2001 ~ Opera diva Rita Nellie Hunter, a powerful soprano celebrated for her fine Wagnerian performances, died at the age of 67. Hunter, originally from Wallasey, England, was best remembered as the quintessential Brunnhilde of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, which she performed in London, New York, Germany and Sydney. Hunter’s agile voice led her through performances of Verdi’s “Aida,” and “Macbeth,” Puccini’s “Turandot” and Strauss’ challenging “Elektra.” Despite her remarkable voice, Hunter did not reach international stardom. Her physical size, at a time when the opera was seeking slimmer performers, and the fact that she sang roles primarily in English, kept her from achieving global fame. Hunter married tenor John Darnley Thomas in 1960, and after his death in 1994, took over management of his Singing Academy in Sydney.
. 1870 ~ Hermann Suter, Swiss composer and conductor
. 1871 ~ Louise Homer, American opera singer, contralto at the NY Metropolitan Opera House
. 1873 ~ Harold Bauer, English/US pianist
. 1892 ~ John Jacob Niles, Composer
. 1917 ~ “Papa” John Creach, Singer
. 1920 ~ Nan Merriman, American mezzo-soprano
. 1940 ~ Pennsylvania 6-5000, the classic Glenn Miller signature song, was recorded on Bluebird Records.
. 1940 ~ Luisa Tetrazzini, Italian soprano, died.
. 1941 ~ Ann-Margaret, Entertainer
. 1950 ~ Jay Leno, TV personality
. 1987 ~ For the first time, a compact disc of an album was released before its vinyl counterpart. The Art of Excellence by Tony Bennett, his first recorded work in a decade, went on sale.
. 2001 ~ Evelyn Kuenneke, a Berlin singer and cabaret artist whose tune Sing Nightingale Sing was a hit among German soldiers during World War II, died of lung cancer at the age of 79. Kuenneke started out as a dancer at Berlin’s State Opera in the late 1930s. When the Nazis banned her from appearing in cabaret shows under her artist name Evelyn King in 1939, she turned to movies and pop songs that also took her on the wartime military entertainment circuit. With the war started by Adolf Hitler in full fury, Kuenneke scored her biggest success in 1941 with Sing Nightingale Sing, a nostalgia-laced ditty set to a slow swing beat. She continued her career after the war with pop recordings and films, dropping out of the public eye in the 1960s but staging a comeback in the 1970s. Since then, she regularly appeared on stage in small productions or variety shows until a few months ago. Born Dec. 15, 1921 in Berlin, Kuenneke was the daughter of German operetta composer Eduard Kuenneke and the opera singer Katarina Krapotkin.
. 2002 ~ Noel Da Costa, a composer and professor at Rutgers University, died. He was 82. Da Costa also wrote music that drew from African folk music. His piece, Primal Rites, was performed in 1983 by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra under John Williams, with Max Roach as the soloist. Born in Nigeria, Da Costa’s family moved to Harlem as a young boy. He attended Queens College and Columbia University. He won a Fulbright Scholarship to study music with Luigi Dallapiccola in Florence, Italy. Da Costa joined the faculty of Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J. in 1970 after teaching for the city universities of New York. He retired from Rutgers last year.
. 2007 ~ Tommy Newsom, American saxophonist and bandleader (Tonight Show), died at the age of 78
. 1867 ~ Charles Gounod’s opera “Romeo et Juliette” was first performed, in Paris.
. 1894 ~ Nicholas Slonimsky, Russian-born American musicologist, musical lexicographer and composer
. 1871 ~ Sigismond Thalberg died. He was a composer and one of the most famous virtuoso pianists of the 19th century.
. 1915 ~ Alexander Scriabin, Russian composer (Prometheus) and pianist, died at the age of 43
. 1931 ~ Igor Oistrakh, Violinist
. 1932 ~ Maxine (Ella) Brown, Singer
. 1933 ~ Calvin Newborn, Jazz/blues guitarist, brother of piano wizard Phineas Newborn Jr.
. 1938 ~ Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra recorded I Hadn’t Anyone ’til You for Victor Records. Jack Leonard was featured as vocalist.
. 1941 ~ Judith Blegan, American soprano
. 1944 ~ Cuba Gooding, Singer
. 1947 ~ Pete Ham, Musician, guitar, piano, singer
. 1948 ~ Kate Pierson, Musician, organ, singer with the B-52s
. 1959 ~ Sheena Easton, Singer
. 1959 ~ Lloyd Price’s song, Personality, was released. Price had 10 songs that made it on the nation’s pop music charts in the 1950s through early 1960s.
. 1959 ~ Louis Lortie, French Canadian concert pianist
. 1970 ~ Mariah Carey, Singer
. 1976 ~ Maxine Nightingale received a gold record for the single, Right Back Where We Started From. Nightingale was in the productions of Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and Savages in the early ’70s. Right Back Where We Started From was a number two hit for two weeks in 1976.
. 1981 ~ Former Beatle Ringo Starr married Barbara Bach at the Marylebone Registry Office in London. Paul McCartney and wife Linda, George Harrison and Harry Nilsson were in attendance.
. 2002 ~ Classical violinist Guila Bustabo died at the age of 86. Bustabo, born in Manitowoc, Wis., in 1916, toured Europe and Asia, performing under such conductors as Herbert von Karajan and Wilhelm Furtwangler. Bustabo studied at the Juilliard School in New York before moving to Paris. During her career, she recorded concertos by Beethoven and Bruch with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Bustabo was arrested in Paris after World War II, accused of being a Nazi sympathizer because she played under conductor Willem Mengelberg. Mengelberg had been affiliated with musical associations sanctioned by the Nazi Party. The accusation against Bustabo was eventually dropped.
. 1942 ~ Bobby Rydell, American rock-and-roll singer and drummer
. 1970 ~ The musical, Company, opened on Broadway. It ran for 705 performances at the Alvin Theatre in New York City. Company starred Elaine Stritch.
. 1975 ~ On top of the Billboard popular music chart was B.J. Thomas, with the longest title ever for a number one song. (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song was number one for one week, though it took that long just to say the title.
. 1978 ~ An updated version of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper appeared on television. In the lead role (his first TV special), was former Beatle, Ringo Starr. He sang new versions of Act Naturally, Yellow Submarine and With a Little Help from My Friends.
. 1984 ~ Count Basie (William Basie), U.S. jazz pianist and big band leader who led his orchestra from 1937, died.
. 1991 ~ Carmine Coppola, American composer and conductor (The Godfather Part II), and father of Francis Ford Coppola, died at the age of 80
. 1991 ~ Leo Arnaud, French-American composer (Bugler’s Dream), died at the age of 86
. 1997 ~ Gene [Eugene] Ames, singer (Ames Brothers), died of cancer at the age of 73
. 2018 ~ Charles Neville, American vocalist and saxophonist (Neville Brothers), died of pancreatic cancer died at the age of 79
. 1933 ~ Jerry Leiber, Record producer with Mike Stoller
. 1945 ~ Stu Cook, Bass with Creedence Clearwater Revival
. 1945 ~ Bjorn Ulvaeus, Musician, guitar, singer with Abba
. 1946 ~ The popular Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra recorded Cement Mixer for Majestic records, tapes and CDs this day. Well, not tapes and CDs. We were still listening to 78s back then … thick, heavy ones, at that.
. 1952 ~ Ketil Bjørnstad, Norwegian pianist
. 1956 ~ The rock ‘n roll legend, Elvis Presley’sHeartbreak Hotel went No.1.
. 1970 ~ DJs around the U.S. played the new number one song, ABC, quite often, as the Jackson 5 reached the number one spot in pop music for two weeks. ABC was the second of four number one songs in a row for the group from Gary, IN. I Want You Back was their first. ABC was one of 23 hits for Michael, Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Marlon. ABC was knocked out of first place by The Guess Who and their hit, American Woman.
. 1973 ~ The group, The Sweet, received a gold record for the hit Little Willy. The English rocker band recorded four hits in addition to their first million-seller, Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run, Action and Love is like Oxygen. Little Willy was a top-three hit, while the group’s other gold record winner, Fox on the Run made it to the top five.
. 2000 ~ David Merrick, one of Broadway’s most flamboyant and successful theatrical producers who created “Gypsy,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “42nd Street,” died in London at the age of 88. During his long career as arguably Broadway’s most successful producer, Merrick won all the major theatrical awards, including 10 Tony Awards just for “Hello, Dolly!” He was best-known for his musicals but he produced many non-musicals as well.
. 2007 ~ Bobby “Boris” Pickett, American singer-songwriter (Monster Mash), died from leukemia at the age of 69