December 15, 2016 ~ Today in Music History

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Christmas Music, Part 15 – The First Noel

• 1910 ~ John Hammond, American jazz critic

• 1922 ~ Alan Freed, American disc jockey

• 1939 ~ One of the most celebrated motion pictures of all time, Gone with the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable was premiered in Atlanta to critical acclaim. The picture ran for close to four hours.

• 1941 ~ A musical standard was recorded this day on Victor Records. Lena Horne sang the torch classic that became her signature: Stormy Weather. “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky. Stormy weather…”

• 1942 ~ Dave Clark, British rock drummer and singer

• 1943 ~ Fats (Thomas Wright) Waller died at the age of 39 from pneumonia.  He was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano

More information about Waller

• 1944 ~ Glenn Miller passed away when his plane disappeared over the English Channel. Major Glenn Miller was on his way to lead his Air Force Band in a Christmas concert.

• 1954 ~ Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter was featured on Walt Disney’s TV series for the first time. Crockett was played by Fess Parker. It wasn’t long before the Davy Crockett craze brought a new number one song to the pop music charts. “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.”

• 1962 ~ The first record album to poke fun at a U.S. President became the #1 LP in the country. Vaughn Meader’s The First Family made the humorist a household word. The album stayed at #1 for three months.

• 1984 ~ Jan Peerce passed away

• 1986 ~ Violinist Isaac Stern arrived in a horse-drawn carriage to cut the ribbon for the renovated Carnegie Hall in New York City.

• 1986 ~ Kenny Rogers cut himself a deal with the Dole Food Company. The singer became the highest-paid celebrity pitchman, ‘doling’ out nice words about pineapple and other Dole products for 17 million dollars.

• 2000 ~ Revered conjunto musician Valerio Longoria, who taught accordion to children in San Antonio for many years, died at the age of 76. Musicians and friends remembered the master accordionist as an innovator and influential stylist of conjunto music, a Texas-based rhythm fueled by the accordion and the bajo sexto, a 12-string Spanish bass guitar. As a teen-ager, Longoria played weddings and parties in Harlingen. In 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and at the end of World War II was stationed in Germany, where he managed to get an accordion and play in nightclubs. In 1945, he moved to San Antonio, where he began recording for Corona Records. Longoria was among the first inductees into the Tejano Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1986 he received the National Heritage Award, the nation’s highest honor for folk artists.

• 2001 ~ Rufus Thomas, a musician whose Bear Cat helped Sun Records get its start and whose Funky Chicken gave a boost to the Stax Label, died at the age of 84. Rufus Thomas was best known for novelty dance recordings like Walking the Dog, Do the Funky Chicken and Push and Pull. He began tap dancing on the streets of Memphis for tips and performed in amateur shows in high school. In the 1940s, Thomas ran his own Beale Street amateur show that attracted B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and many other performers who went on to become famous. In his declining years, Thomas took on the title of Beale Street ambassador and liked to refer to himself as the world’s oldest teen- ager. In 1953, Thomas recorded Bear Cat, an answer to Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and it became Sun Record’s first hit. That was before Elvis Presley arrived on the scene to become Sun’s undisputed star. Thomas complained in later years that Sun’s black artists were pushed aside after Presley’s success. In the 1960s, Thomas became one of the founding performers for Stax Records, which created what came to be known as “the Memphis sound,” with performers like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.

• 2002 ~ John Crosby, founder and longtime former general director of the Santa Fe Opera, died in Rancho Mirage, Calif., after a brief illness. He was 76. Crosby founded the Santa Fe Opera in 1957 and was its general director until his retirement at the end of the 2000 season. After his military service during World War II, Crosby majored in music theory at Yale and studied under composer Paul Hindemith, whom Crosby later brought to Santa Fe for the 1961 U.S. premiere of Hindemith’s opera News of the Day. Crosby also had worked as a Broadway arranger and studied at Columbia University in New York before making his move to found an opera company in Santa Fe. With $200,000 in financing from his father, Crosby purchased a ranch seven miles north of Santa Fe and oversaw construction of a 480-seat, open-air theater. The inaugural performance July 3, 1957, was Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. With the participation of Igor Stravinsky, early Santa Fe seasons gained world attention. Stravinsky brought music to the 1957 through 1963 seasons. His last night as both conductor and general director was Aug. 24, 2000, when he led Richard Strauss’ Elektra. Former President Bush presented Crosby a National Medal of Arts in 1991. He also received an Officer’s Cross of the Federal German Order of Merit in 1992 for his service to German music.

• 2002 ~ Rick Chase, a morning radio personality for KWIN-FM of Stockton, was found dead in his apartment. He was 45. Chase was best known for his work at KMEL-FM in San Francisco from 1986 to 1998. He also worked at KFRC-FM and KITS-FM in the Bay Area, KNVQ-FM in Reno and KZZO-FM in Sacramento. Chase, a 20-year radio veteran known to his listeners for his bombastic on-air personality, had worked at KWIN for two years.

• 2002 ~ Washington, DC Area: The storied history and sweeping skyline of US Airways Arena ended in a billowing cloud of dust Sunday morning as technicians reduced it to rubble with hundreds of pounds of dynamite. Almost 200 people, some of whom grew up watching sports and cultural events at the arena, gathered hundreds of yards away in the chill morning to say goodbye to the piece of 20th-century Washington’s history just outside the Capital Beltway. A shopping center will replace it. The arena began life in 1973 as the Capital Centre, a state-of-the-art architectural gem. In the ensuing decades, it housed the Washington Bullets basketball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team and held concerts by Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Luciano Pavarotti. “I remember seeing the Washington Bullets when they were really good and the Caps when they were really bad, as well as Prince and Tina Turner,” said Stewart Small, who grew up near the arena and now lives in Alexandria, Va. “I know it’s not Ebbets Field, but it had a lot of memories for me.” Crews used about 400 pounds of dynamite at 500 locations to do the job. In just over 15 seconds, the stadium that took 15 months to build caved into a cloud of light brown dust. Some in the crowd cheered, but most were silent. A few were teary-eyed as dust soared above where the 18,000-seat arena had stood. The arena opened Dec. 2, 1973, to a sellout crowd that watched the Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics 98-96. It has had no regular clients since the NBA Bullets, now Wizards, and the NHL Capitals moved to the MCI Center downtown.

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