For a musical family on the Plains of South Dakota, it was a tragedy that left ashes in the soul – not just that a fire on Nov. 26, 1898, burned down the log house at Oahe Mission north of Pierre, but also that it destroyed the Steinway Grand Piano inside.
It was that same Steinway that had traveled up the Missouri River by steamboat for Nina, the first wife of missionary Thomas L. Riggs, in the early 1870s when the Missouri River country was still Dakota Territory. It supplied just the right tone, full and powerful, to fill that big empty space in the grassland. It helped carry the message of the ancient faith to Dakota and Lakota converts through music.
Very likely it was on the Steinway that Nina taught her first son, Theodore Foster Riggs, what a piano sounded like after he was born in 1874; probably it was a silent reminder of Thomas Riggs’ grief when Nina died in childbirth in August 1878. In spring 1885, when Louisa Irvine Riggs, also with a love for music, moved into the log home at Oahe Mission as the second Mrs. Riggs, the Steinway sat along one wall; and she started to play.
And now, in November 1898, it was burned to cinders…
. 1809 ~ Louis Braille, Inventor of the Braille system which enables the blind to read words and music. When he was only 3, Louise Braille, was permanently blinded in an accident with a leatherworking awl in his father’s saddlemaking shop in Coupvray, France. Several years later, he was admitted to a school for the blind, the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles. Later, as a teacher at the school, he worked at adapting Charles Barbier’s system of writing with points. Ironically, his method centered around using an awl-like stylus to punch marks in paper that could be felt and interpreted by the blind, allowing them to “read” with their fingertips. Braille’s work went unnoticed until after his death, in poverty, in 1852.
1874 ~ Joseph Suk, Czech violinist and composer
More information about Suk
. 1928 ~ NBC radio debuted one of radio’s first variety shows. “The Dodge Victory Hour” starred Will Rogers, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and singer AlJolson. The cost to produce this one show was $67,600.
. 1932 ~ NBC Red presented “The Carnation Contented Hour”. The show continued on network radio for 19 years as a showcase for top singers and musicians.
. 1935 ~ Bert Ambrose and his orchestra recorded the song that became the group’s theme song. It was titled Hors d’oeuvres and was cut in London for Decca Records.
. 1935 ~ Bob Hope was first heard on network radio as part of “The Intimate Revue” with Jane Froman, James Melton and the Al Goodman Orchestra.
. 1936 ~ The first pop music chart based on national sales was published by “Billboard” magazine this day. Joe Venuti, jazz violinist, was at the top of the chart with a little ditty called Stop! Look! Listen!.
1937 ~ Grace Bumbry, American mezzo-soprano
More information about Bumbry
. 1950 ~ RCA Victor announced that it would manufacture long-playing (LP) records. This news came two years after Columbia Records debuted the ‘album’.
. 1954 ~ Elvis Presley strolled into the Memphis Recording Service and put $4 on the counter. He recorded Casual Love and I’ll Never Stand in Your Way, two songs that so impressed record executive Sam Phillips that he had Elvis record his first professional sides for Sun Records the following August.
. 2001 ~ Les Brown, whose Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with SentimentalJourney during America’s big band era of the 1930s and ’40s, died of lung cancer at the age of 88. A conductor-clarinetist whose smooth arrangements of swing melodies transcended changes in musical tastes, Brown was cited in 1996 by the Guinness Book of Records recognized him as the leader of the longest lasting musical organization in pop music history. He started his professional career in 1936, and his Band of Renown was still performing about 60 dates a year as recently as five months ago, often conducted by son Les Brown Jr. Brown formed his Band of Renown in 1936. In the 1940s heyday of swing, Brown never achieved the greatness of TommyDorsey, Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. But the band scored two hit records – Sentimental Journey, with Doris Day as vocalist, and the instrumental I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Sentimental Journey, co-written with Ben Homer and Bud Green, became a theme for soldiers returning home from World War II. “The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les and his band,” Day said. “I loved Les very much, I am going to miss his phone calls.” Brown’s career included a close association with Bob Hope. In 1950, he joined Hope for the first of 18 Christmas tours to entertain American troops at military bases around the world. Day also participated. “The world has lost a great musician,” Hope said. “I have lost my music man, my sideman, my straight man and a special friend.” As the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Brown helped make the Grammy Awards a televised event. He convinced Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to participate in the first telecast.
. 2004 ~ Jake Hess, a four-time Grammy winner who sang with some of the premier quartets in gospel music and influenced the career o fElvis Presley, died. He was 76. Hess, whose career spanned more than 60 years, is best known to contemporary audiences as a regular member of Bill Gaither’s Homecoming Friends, on various Christian and country music cable channels, including TBN and TNN. Hess joined The John Daniel Quartet in 1943 and reached stardom with The Statesmen Quartet. He was founder of The Imperials and sang with The Masters V. Each of these groups is enshrined in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, as is Hess. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. As a teen, Elvis Presley was a regular at Statesmen concerts. Later, Hess was a backup singer on several of Presley’s Grammy-winning albums. When Presley died in 1977, Hess sang at his funeral, as he had at the funeral of country legend Hank Williams in 1953. Peter Guralnick, author of a two-volume biography of Presley, said the rock star always wanted to emulate the voices of Hess and crooner Roy Hamilton.