Tag Archives: Day In History

Hank Snow ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Happy Birthday to Canadian Country singer Hank Snow, the man who discovered Elvis Presley. He would be blowing out 102 candles had he not died in 1999 at the age of 85.

Clarence Eugene Snow was born “in the sleepy fishing village of Brooklyn,

Queens County, on Nova Scotia’s

beautiful South Shore, just down the tracks from Liverpool“, according to his official web site, which continues:

As a boy, Hank faced many difficulties and shortcomings. He had to face

the trauma of his parents’ divorce at just eight years old and he was

forced to stay with his grandparents. He then had to deal with an abusive

grandmother who forbid him to see his mother. He regularly sneaked out

at night and walked the railroad tracks to Liverpool where his mother

was living. Not willing to return to his grandmother, who would often

beat him for visiting his mom, he would sometimes seek shelter in Liverpool’s

railway station, now home of the Hank Snow Country Music Centre.

He learned guitar from his mother. Running away from home at 12, he worked as a cabin boy on fishing schooners out of Lunenburg and bought his first guitar with his first wages: A T. Eaton Special which set him back $5.95. While onboard the ship he listened to the radio, later imitating the Country singers he heard, especially his hero Jimmie Rodgers.

Once he was back on land Snow continued to practice and improve. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

Soon, Snow was invited to perform in a minstrel show in Bridgewater
to help raise money for charity. “Someone blackened my face with black
polish and put white rings around my eyes and lips,” Snow recalls. When
his turn came in the show, he played a song called “I Went to See My Gal
Last Night.” “My debut was a big success,” Snow writes. “I even got a
standing ovation.”[2]

In March 1933, Snow wrote to Halifax radio station CHNS
asking for an audition. The rejection letter he received only made him
more determined and later that year he visited the station, was given an
audition and hired to do a Saturday evening show that was advertised as
“Clarence Snow and his Guitar.” After a few months, he adopted the name
“The Cowboy Blue Yodeler” in homage to his idol Jimmie Rodgers known as
“America’s Blue Yodeler.” Since Snow’s Saturday show had no sponsor, he
wasn’t paid for his performances, but he did manage to earn money
playing halls and clubs in towns where people had heard him on the
radio. He also played in Halifax theatres before the movies started and
performed, for $10 a week, on a CHNS musical show sponsored by a company
that manufactured a popular laxative. At the urging of the station’s
chief engineer and announcer, he adopted the name Hank because it went
well with cowboy songs and once again, influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, he
became “Hank, The Yodeling Ranger.” Snow also appeared occasionally on
the CBC’s regional network.[2]

Signed to RCA Records Canada in 1936, the radio hook-up brought him greater fame and he started touring across Canada. Eventually radio stations south of the border started playing his records and Snow moved to Nashville, where he had a growing audience. In 1950 Ernest Tubbs invited Snow to perform at the Grand Old Opry. He didn’t go over so big until he wrote his first hit song, I’m Moving On:

Even had he not discovered Elvis, Hank Snow would still be remembered today for his music. However, as the Wiki tells us:

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors to allow a young Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker.
In August 1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow
Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with Presley
but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over the rock
singer’s career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow stated, “I have
worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for
them all except one. Tom Parker (he refuses to recognise the title
Colonel) was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had
dealings with.”

One of my favourite jokes:

If Hank Snow married June Carter, there would be 6 inches of Snow in June.

But I digress. According to his website:

Snow sold over 70 million records in his career that spanned 78’s, 45’s,
extended 45’s, LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes and compact discs.

Throughout his life he recorded over 100 LPs, including everything from hit
parade material to gospel, train songs, instrumentals (alone and with Chet
Atkins), tributes to Jimmie Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers, and
recitations of Robert Service poems. He has always kept a warm spot in his
heart for Nova Scotia, and he paid homage with his album “My Nova Scotia
Home”. He also recorded “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” in honor of the fishermen he
sailed with out of Lunenburg in his early youth.
Every August Liverpool, Nova Scotia, holds a multi-day Hank Snow Tribute. This year’s shindig will happen August 18-21 and tickets are already available. However, as Not Now Silly likes to say: It’s all in the grooves. This is why people still sing and play Hank Snow tunes:

The Gettysburg Address ► Throwback Thursday

On this day in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, considered one of the greatest speeches ever given in English.

A mere 271 words, the Gettysburg Address followed the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery by Edward Everett. That speech must have exhausted the crowd. It lasted more than 2 hours and contained more than 13,600 words.

Lincoln’s short speech lasted only a few minutes, but has gone down in history as one of the greatest of his career.

As the WikiWackyWoo explains, Lincoln was under the weather at the time:

During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg on November 18, Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay
that he was dizzy. In the railroad car the President rode with his
secretary, John G. Nicolay, his assistant secretary, John Hay, the three
members of his Cabinet who accompanied him, William Seward, John Usher and Montgomery Blair,
several foreign officials and others. Hay noted that during the speech
Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful,
almost haggard.’ After the speech, when Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm
train for Washington, D.C., he was feverish and weak, with a severe
headache. A protracted illness followed, which included a vesicular rash
and was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. It thus seems highly likely that Lincoln was in the prodromal period of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg address.[10]

The Hay version of the speech

Yet, there’s no agreed upon text of the speech:

Despite the historical significance of Lincoln’s speech, modern
scholars disagree as to its exact wording, and contemporary
transcriptions published in newspaper accounts of the event and even
handwritten copies by Lincoln himself differ in their wording,
punctuation, and structure.[16][17]
Of these versions, the Bliss version, written well after the speech as a
favor for a friend, is viewed by many as the standard text.[18]
Its text differs, however, from the written versions prepared by
Lincoln before and after his speech. It is the only version to which
Lincoln affixed his signature, and the last he is known to have written.[18]

Here is the text that every grade school child memorized:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation,
or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are
met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a
portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave
their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and
proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate,
we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who
struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or
detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living,
rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who
fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that
these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by
the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Happy Canada Day!!!

I feel the most nostalgic for Canada on Canada Day.

One of the most famous Canadians is Captain Kirk…I mean, William Shatner:

However, he’s not the only famous Canadian. Do you want it in alphabetical order with a great beat?

Only true Canadians watched that video to the very end. Mostly Canadians are known for their sense of humour.

The reason there are so many “I am Canadian” parodies is because that was a famous advertising slogan for beer, the thing against which all Canadian culture is still measured. 
However, as I like to point out to most of my Canadian friends and family: You all had no choice and were born Canadian. I chose Canada. Here I am getting my Canadian citizenship, a very meaningful moment for me.
This is the woman who made us swear to the Queen and all her heirs and assigns.
I should remember her name, but the day was a blur.

I think that was also the last time I was drunk, as my friends plied me with scotch on the rocks all night long at The Ben Wicks because it also happened to be the night of a Munch. Oh, Canada!!!

Happy Birthday ► Mel Kaminsky

Dateline June 28, 1926 – Melvin Kaminski is born in Brooklyn, New York. It will be many years before he changes his name to Mel Brooks and makes the world laugh. Born only in 1926? Feels like Mel Brooks is as old as The Bible.

I’m not sure I believe that birth year. Mel Brooks has offered proof over and over he is at least a 2,000 Year Old Man.

Deep down inside, Mel Brooks wants to be known as a song and dance man. Over the years he’s given us some terrific Musical numbers.

No one in Pop Culture, including Glenn Beck, has made more references to Nazis.

Brooks has also mined Rap more than once, with equally fun results.

And, this is why people call me Hedley Lamarr:

However, my favourite Mel Brooks movie is the little known The Twelve Chairs, which was released in 1970 between The Producers and Blazing Saddles. Here is the whole movie:

Happy Birthday, Mel!!! Thanks!!!

Musical Appreciation ► Georgie Fame

I first heard Georgie Fame as did many other ‘Merkins, as the singer of “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967. It was one of those out-of-the-box hits that always appealed to me. I was unaware of his earlier hits “Yeh Yeh,” which knocked The Beatles off the #1 on the British charts, and “Getaway.” Nor did the name Georgie Fame register with me. Therefore, I was surprised many years later when my boss at Island Records Canada handed me a record to promote. One of the tracks was “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” and I knew every note and nuance, even if I didn’t know the name Georgie Fame. I later learned this was a compilation LP by Georgie Fame. (I’m not sure how that came about. My assumption, which could be wrong, is that Island Records licensed the tracks for markets other than Great Britain.) However, I soon learned “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” was not representative of the music Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (a name that didn’t appear on the sleeve, if memory serves) had been making. I immediately became a fan, precisely because his music is so hard to pigeon-hole, playing Jazz, Ska, R&B, Rock and Roll, Pop, and Standards.

This clip shows a nice bit of Georgie Fame’s history, along with Bonnie & Clyde’s.

Georgie Fame performing his earlier hit “Yeh Yeh” live for a Swinging Sixties tee vee show:

Georgie Fame & Alan Price performing one of their best known songs: Rosetta:

Let’s not forget that Georgie Fame was such a huge fan of Ska, that he started performing it in the ’60s, which only helped popularize the genre throughout the British Colonies. That’s why he can hold his own with Prince Buster and Suggs from Madness, (along with getting his own shout-out:

Presenting a Georgie Fame Jukebox, which includes a few renditions of a song all about him, while you read a short little bio of Georgie Fame:

As always, CRANK IT UP!!!

Born on June 26, 1943 in Leigh, Lancashire, where his father played in an amateur dance band and where music was a intregal part of home life. Early training on the piano led to a love of some of the early rockers like Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Soon he was performing with his own band “The Dominoes.” As the story on the official web site goes:

In July 1959, at a summer holiday camp, Clive was spotted by Rory Blackwell, the resident rock and roll bandleader. Blackwell offered the young singer/pianist a full time job and the teenager happily left his job at the weaving mill. Rory and the Blackjacks departed for London, their hometown, when the summer season ended prematurely and Clive went with them. The promise of lucrative work in the music business didn’t materialize, however, and the band broke up. The determined young man from Leigh opted to stay on in London, but for a time it proved rough going. He tried unsuccessfully to make his way back home, and eventually he had the good fortune of finding “lodging” at The Essex Arms pub in London’s Dockland, where the kindly landlord provided him a room where he could sleep.

In October of that year, the Marty Wilde Show was performing at the Lewisham Gaumont and Rory Blackwell arranged for Clive to audition “live” for impresario Larry Parnes. After walking on stage, without any rehearsal, he sang Jerry Lee Lewis’ High School Confidential and was promptly hired as a backing pianist for the Parnes “stable” of singers. As with all the other young talent Parnes had taken on (such as Billy Fury and Johnny Gentle), he renamed Clive Powell “Georgie Fame,” and the name has stuck to this day. By the age of 16, Georgie had toured Britain extensively, playing alongside Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Tony Sheridan, Freddie Canon, Jerry Keller, Dickie Pride, Joe Brown and many more. During this time, Billy Fury selected four musicians, including Fame, for his personal backing group and the “Blue Flames” were born. At the end of 1961, after a disagreement, the band and Fury parted company.

I was also unaware Fame’s earlier work with Alan Price. Price was already well-known in the world of Pop music. He had hired a young Eric Burton to sing with his “Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo” in 1962, which by 1964 had become The Animals, mining old Blues songs. Price’s arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” was a worldwide hit. Skipping ahead some 7 years, as the Alan Price web site tells us:

He then began a partnership with fellow-blues keyboardist and old chum, Georgie Fame, which gave birth to a hit single, Rosetta (which reached No. 11 in 1971), a highly-rated album (Price And Fame Together), their own television series (The Price Of Fame), and regular appearances on many others.

It was during one of the duo’s road tours that Malcolm MacDowell and Lindsay Anderson approached Alan about composing the music for the legendary cult film, O Lucky Man (in which he also appeared as himself). The phenomenal success of this project earned Price a BAFTA award, an Oscar nomination, and yielded his first US chart album.

Georgie Fame has been performing his own brand of music for more than 50 years. I feel lucky I got see him in a club on Jarvis Street in Toronto years later. Happy Birthday, George. You brought me many years of terrific music.

Today’s Irony ► Malicious Virus Spoils Birthday Celebrations in Oceania

Dateline June 25, 1903 – Future, and futurist, English writer George Orwell is born as Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bihar, India. Today “Orwellian” is an adjective everyone knows. That Big Brother is watching over us was his concept, as was the idea of “Thoughcrime” and “thoughtpolice,” words now used daily.

However, we only know Orwell as a novelist. In his lifetime he was best known as a journalist and Socialist. According to the WickiWackyWoo:

During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism,
in essays, reviews, columns in newspapers and magazines and in his books
of reportage: Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities), The Road to Wigan Pier (describing the living conditions of the poor in northern England, and the class divide generally) and Homage to Catalonia. According to Irving Howe, Orwell was “the best English essayist since Hazlitt, perhaps since Dr Johnson.”[86]

Modern readers are more often introduced to Orwell as a novelist, particularly through his enormously successful titles Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The former is often thought to reflect degeneration in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism; the latter, life under totalitarian rule. Nineteen Eighty-Four is often compared to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; both are powerful dystopian novels warning of a future world where the state machine exerts complete control over social life. In 1984, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451 were honoured with the Prometheus Award for their contributions to dystopian literature. In 2011 he received it again for Animal Farm.

Here’s the supreme irony:

Maybe we already live in a dystopian society and we just don’t recognize it yet. I would have preferred to quote from the official George Orwell site. However, it’s been infected by malware. Clicking on it garners this message:

Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!

However, let’s forget all that unpleasantness and watch this wonderful BBC drama of 1984, broadcast in 1950, just two years after the novel was published. The more things change, the more they stay the same:

And, if you’ve never seen the animated Animal Farm from 1954, here’s a treat for you:

Finally, the late Christopher Hitchen at the 2002 Hay Festival, on his book “Why Orwell Matters.”

Remember: Some animals are more equal than others. Just ask today’s GOP.

A Tribute To Alan Turing ► The Man Who Saved The World

Dateline June 23, 1912 – Alan Turing was born on this day. Who dat? Oh, just the man who saved millions of lives and maybe the world during World War Two by cracking the Nazi U Boat codes and building the Enigma machine. Doesn’t ring a bell yet? Surely you know him. He’s the guy who, in 1936, built the Universal Turing Machine, which used stored programs, making it a direct descendant of whatever device you are reading this on at this exact moment; essentially a modern computer. 
Yet, why have so few people heard about Alan Turing? He died young to start with, at 42, by his own hand after (rumor has it) he ate a poisoned apple in 1954.* But here’s the real reason we don’t know his name: In 1952 Turing was prosecuted as a homosexual, which was a crime at the time. In order to avoid a prison term he agreed to be chemically castrated. However, his security clearances were revoked and he could no longer carry on his work for the government. He committed suicide on my birthday, June 7, 1954. * In 2009 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for Turing’s treatment at the hand of the government, which he called “appalling.”

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him … So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

To honour the centenary of a very important, but almost forgotten, person, Google produced one of it’s most comprehensible doodles ever:

Events are planned all around the world today, and for the next year, which has been dubbed Alan Turing Year. As well, the Science Museum in Kensington opened a year-long exhibit this week called “Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy.” The web site states:

Alan Turing is most widely known for his critical involvement in the codebreaking at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. But Alan Turing was not just a codebreaker.

This British mathematician was also a philosopher and computing pioneer who grappled with the fundamental problems of life itself. His ideas have helped shape the modern world, including early computer programming and even the seeds of artificial intelligence. This exhibition tells the story of Turing and his most important ideas.

At the heart of the exhibition is the Pilot ACE computer, built to Turing’s ground-breaking design. It is the most significant surviving Turing artefact in existence.

It offers a small documentary on Turing’s life and work:

Is there any doubt that had Alan Turing not been labeled homosexual, everyone would know his name today?

* At a conference at Oxford today, Professor Jack Copeland was sheduled to present his theory on why Turing’s death might not have been a suicide after all.

Day In History ► Day In Music ► June 21st

Dr. Goldmark examining creation of a 33 1/3 record.
Pic used by Fair Use, even tho’ Corbus thinks it owns it.
Dateline June 21, 1948 – Dr. Peter Goldmark, of CBS, demonstrated the first 12 inch LP, “Long Playing” record, that spun at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, as opposed to the 10 inch 78 RPM record. You could only shove about three and a half minutes of music on one side of a 78. A symphony or opera issued on 78, would come in an album with any number of platters to spin out the entire length of the piece. In contrast the LP would hold about 28 minutes of music a side. With this the format wars wars ON! RCA refused to pay CBS for the license to press LPs, so it came out with its own format, the 45 RPM disc, 7″ wide with a bigger hole in the middle. The 45 could hold more music than a 78, but not nearly as much as a LP. No one really won this format war. These two systems remained viable formats side-by-side until the digital compact disc, CD, almost put vinyl out of business.
Dateline June 21, 1969: The worst song ever released!!! On this day One Hit Wonders Zager & Evans release the biggest piece of crap in all of recorded music, and that includes “An Evening With Wild Man Fisher.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “In the Year 2525.” REMEMBER: I tried to warn you.

What’s your least favourite song?

Happy Birthday, Moe Howard ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

Dateline June 19, 1897 – Moe Howard, future leader of The Three Stooges, was born Moses Harry Horwitz on this date. He would be joined later in life with older brother Samuel (Shemp) and younger brother Jerome (Curly) at different times in one of the longest-running comedy teams in show bidnezz.

Moe Howard began in vaudeville with “Ted Healy and his Stooges,” along with brother Shemp. Soon Healy hired violinist Larry Fine and the Three Stooges were born, more or less, even tho’ they weren’t called that yet. Shemp made one ‘Stooge’ movie with Healy and quit the Stooges to start a solo career. Moe suggested younger brother Jerome/Curly and, after they managed to get rid of Healy, this was the trio that starting making all those Columbia shorts over the years, starting in 1934, and eventually running to 190 with a few cast changes.

In 1946 Curly had a stroke and was replaced by Shemp, who returned to the act where he started. According to the WikiWackyWoo the three Howard brothers made one movie together: 1949’s Hold That Lion. However, further strokes led to Curly’s death in 1952, the year of my birth. Yet, he was very much alive for my childhood.

Shemp died in 1955, yet appeared in four more Three Stooges movies after that, since there was enough footage in the can, but was eventually replaced by Joe Besser. Columbia sold off the Stooge film library to tee vee through the company Screen Gems and that’s when and where subsequent generations learned how to poke people’s eyes out and hit each other over the head with hammers.

Their tee vee poularity led to Moe forming a new Three Stooge ensemble, replacing Joe Besser with Joe DeRita, or Curly-Joe. This trio made several feature length movies and a few guest appearances until they were reduced to a cartoon with filmed live segments bookending the whole dealie.

When he died Moe Howard left behind an unfinished autobiography that was tentatively entitled I Stooge To Conquer, which I would have loved to have been able to read. For many years I belonged to The Official Three Stooges Fan Club [and recently came across all the newsletters in my file cabinet] and read a great deal about their history. The Three Stooges occupy a very narrow niche in Show Biz: Vaudevillians who transitioned to movies who transitioned to tee vee. There were many comedians, none of them slapstick comics for obvious reasons, who transitioned to radio before taking on tee vee.

Yet, despite my love for all things Stooge, this was the worst idea for a remake ever:

The Three Stooges Movie

A dishonour. Watch a real Three Stooges classic. Moe Howard was imitating Adolph Hitler before Charlie Chaplin.

What’s really crazy is how much of this I knew by heart, only using Der Googlizer to make sure I had the dates right. I did. I’m such a dork.

Another Magical Tee Vee Moment ► I’ve Got A Secret

Dateline June 19, 1952 – I’ve Got A Secret begins a 15 year run on tee vee. 

If it’s not obvious already, the pressure to post almost every day has me looking at the calendar for inspiration. There are many times I am surprised, like now when I realize I am just as old as I’ve Got A Secret. Certainly, I would have guessed before today, it is ancient. No, it’s just me that’s ancient because I remember watching this show for years and years. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Here are some magic moments from I’ve Got A Secret, some new to me, some not:

First and foremost:
We owe it all to this man, without whom none of this would have been possible:

An amazing eyewitness to history:

Groucho Marx takes over the show:

Harpo Marx with Johnny Carson on the panel

Soupy Sales, before he was well known. He had just
taken his local Detroit show to a national network.

The unluckiest drummer in the world:

There really was a Col Sanders and here he was before he was world famous:

Here’s a very young Johnny Carson, with his own secret [begins at 3:09 and follows with Part Two:

This is a special find:
I have always loved the comedian George Kirby.

Another comedian I always loved. Jack E. Leonard was,
in my mind, a much funnier insult comic than Don Rickles.

Many magical tee vee moments were brought to us on I’ve Got A Secret.