Christmas Countdown: Good King Wenceslas
1644 ~ Antonio Stradivari, Italian, most celebrated of all violin makers, died on this date.
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• 1778 ~ Joseph Grimaldi, Clown: ‘greatest clown in history’, ‘king of pantomime’, Joey the Clown; singer, dancer, acrobat, his character was part of the plot for the movie “Her Alibi”. He died in 1837.
• 1786 ~ Baron Karl von Weber, Opera composer
• 1788 ~ Camille Pleyel, Austrian piano builder/composer
1869 ~ Edward Alexander MacDowell, American composer and pianist
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• 1869 ~ Louis Moreau Gottschalk, American pianist and composer, dies at 40
• 1892 ~ Premiere of The Nutcracker ballet by Tchaikovsky. This traditional Christmas ballet is so popular that its annual performances keeps many opera companies afloat. Act 1 tells a story of how little Clara aids her magical Christmas gift (a Nutcracker in the form of a soldier) defeat an army of mice. As a reward, he takes her to his magic kingdom and introduces her to a variety of subjects in a colorful stream of character dances. Tchaikovsky’s supply of themes is endless and he constantly provides brilliant orchestration.
• 1919 ~ Anita O’Day (Colton), American jazz singer
• 1920 ~ Conductor Arturo Toscanini made his first recording for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey.
• 1934 ~ Willie Smith sang with Jimmy Lunceford and his orchestra on Rhythm is Our Business on Decca Records
• 1941 ~ Sam Andrew, Guitarist with Big Brother and the Holding Company
• 1943 ~ Keith Richards, British rock guitarist and singer with The Rolling Stones
• 1948 ~ Bryan ‘Chas’ Chandler, Bass with the Animals
• 1961 ~ The Tokens celebrated their first #1 hit single. The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) was a chart-topper for four weeks in a row.
• 1972 ~ Helen Reddy received a gold record for the song that became an anthem for women’s liberation, I Am Woman. The song had reached number one on December 9, 1972.
• 1975 ~ Rod Stewart announced that he was leaving the group, Faces, and was going solo in a deal with Warner Brothers.
• 1981 ~ Rod Stewart gave a concert at the Los Angeles Forum, which was televised to 23 countries and carried by FM radio stations in the US to an audience of about 35 million.
• 1982 ~ Daryl Hall and John Oates reached the #1 spot on the music charts for the fifth time with Maneater. The song stayed in the top spot for four weeks, making it Hall and Oates’ most popular hit.
• 2001 ~ Eddie Baker, whose efforts to create a jazz hall of fame planted the seeds for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, died after complications from heart surgery. He was 71. Baker, a trumpeter and pianist, had led the New Breed Jazz Orchestra since the 1960s, forming close relationships with many top jazz artists. He began calling for a jazz hall of fame as early as the 1970s. He held what he hoped would be the first annual induction to the International Jazz Hall of Fame in 1985 at the Music Hall. But attendance was low, despite a star-studded roster of talent that included the Count Basie Orchestra, George Benson and Woody Herman. He maintained the hall of fame on paper, even though it never had a physical home. Through the years, Baker suggested building a jazz hall in several spots in Kansas City, including the 18th and Vine district and Union Station. His push generated interest in the project, but the American Jazz Museum opened under a different name in 1997 without his involvement. He also was an original member of the Kansas City Jazz Commission, which organized pub crawls and promoted jazz in the 1980s, and he helped organize the Elder Statesmen of Jazz, a service organization of older musicians.
• 2004 ~ Legendary British saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, who played with a list of musicians that reads like a who’s who of the international jazz and rock music scene, has died.