Happy Birthday to Outlaw Country Superstar Willie Nelson!
Born on April 29, 1933, Willie Nelson is among country music and indeed all of music’s biggest superstars. Nelson has made a tremendous mark upon music as both a country singer as well as a songwriter. In fact, long before he was a famous performer, he was writing hits for some of country’s biggest stars, like “Crazy” for Patsy Cline and “Night Life” for Ray Price. As a solo artist, Nelson scored critical success with his transitional 1973 album Shotgun Willie and then both critical and major commercial victory with his albums Red Headed Stranger in 1975 and Stardurst in 1978.
Along with figures such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson became one of the big stars of the subgenre known as Outlaw Country, which flouted the traditional rules of country music and what was known as “The Nashville Sound” and carved out a new road to country musical greatness. After Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson was a crossover star, not just a country music icon but one recognizable in all of popular music. His music was never just confined to country either, as he touched on a range of genres and styles including rock and roll, traditional pop, jazz, folk, and blues. In addition to his music career, Willie Nelson is an actor, author, political activist, and a poet. Happy 83rd year young, Willie Nelson. You’ve had a remarkable career and music wouldn’t be the same without you.
Here’s the rundown of what happened this week in rock history:
Born This Week in Rock History
4/29/1933 – Willie Nelson
4/29/1935 – Otis Rush
4/30/1896 – Rev. Gary Davis
5/1/1930 – Little Walter
5/2/1950 – Lou Gramm (foreigner, Lead Vocals)
5/3/1919 – Pete Seeger
5/3/ 1933 – James Brown
5/5/1898 – Blind Willie McTell
5/5/1948 – Bill Ward (Black Sabbath, drums)
Died This Week in Rock History
4/30/1983 – Muddy Waters
5/4/1987 – Paul Butterfield (Paul Butterfield Blues Band)
5/5/1972 – Rev. Gary Davis
Music releases and the top of the charts…
4/30/1966 – The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” hits #1 – the song would later be a Grateful Dead concert staple
4/30/1966 – Aftermath by The Rolling Stones hits #1 in the U.K.
4/30/1977 – The Steve Miller Band, “Jet Airliner” was released
5/1/1956 – Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” hits #1 – This would be a very influential track in rock history, and Willie Nelson’s version with Leon Russell also went to #1 on the country charts
5/1/1972 – The Rolling Stones, “Brown Sugar” was released
5/1/1976 – Led Zeppelin’s Presence – an underrated album according to blues titan Joe Bonamassa – tops the charts
5/2/1963 – The Beatles’ “From Me To You” reaches #1 in the U.K., their first single to do so
5/2/1977 – Eric Clapton, “Wonderful Tonight” was released
5/4/1963 – The Beach Boys’ LP Surfin’ USA enters the charts
5/5/1969 – Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising” was released
This Week in Rock History:
4/30/1957 – Elvis Presley records the song “Jailhouse Rock” which would be the first song ever to debut at #1 on the UK charts.
4/30/1970 – Allman Brothers tour manager Twiggs Lyndon is arrested for stabbing a club manager to death over a contract dispute. Incredibly, Lyndon gets off by pleading temporary insanity caused by being the tour manager for the Allman Brothers.
4/30/1976 – The Who’s Keith Moon pays $100 to nine different New York cabdrivers to block off a full city block, allowing the drummer to throw all his furniture through the hotel room window and onto the street. Hey, a fare’s a fare!
4/30/1977 – Led Zeppelin break the single-act attendance record for a concert when 76,229 fans pay to see them at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI, breaking the previous record set by the Who, also set at the Silverdome
4/30/1980 – The film “McVicar” receives its premiere in London. McVicar is played by none other than Roger Daltrey of The Who.
4/30/1988 – For the first time since its release 11 years earlier, Pink Floyd’s landmark LP Dark Side Of The Moon leaves the Billboard charts, only to return a few months later.
4/30/1991 – Geffen’s DGC label signs a young band called Nirvana to a $290,000 contract. That worked out pretty well.
5/1/1955 – A St. Louis guitarist named Chuck Berry is signed to Chess Records in Chicago after bluesman Muddy Waters recommends him to the label.
5/1/1969 – Bob Dylan guest stars on ABC-TV’s The Johnny Cash Show, featuring the two icons collaborating on three Dylan songs: “I Threw It All Away,” “Living The Blues,” and “Girl From The North Country.”
5/1/1975 – The Rolling Stones announce their upcoming tour by being driven down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, performing “Brown Sugar” on the back of a flatbed truck.
5/1/1979 – Elton John performs in Israel, the first Western pop act to do so.
5/1/1999 – An exhibition of Paul McCartney’s art, called The Paintings of Paul McCartney, began at the Lyz Art Forum in Siegen, Germany. The exhibit contained 70 McCartney paintings, including one titled “Bowie Spewing” which depicted a young David Bowie, um, spewing.
5/2/1969 – Pink Floyd performs a show at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in England. The show would be recorded and released as the live album Ummagumma.
5/2/1972 – A young aspiring rock musician named Bruce Springsteen auditions for a CBS Records A&R man, John Hammond, in Hammond’s office in New York. Hammond was so excited by the short set that he arranged for another audition to be held in New York that night at the Gaslight Club for other executives of Columbia to attends. Anyway, Bruce got the job and eventually would even become “The Boss.”
5/2/1991 – Nirvana begins recording what would become a slightly successful album, 1991’s Nevermind.
5/2/2005 – After 36 years, Cream reunites at London’s Royal Albert Hall for a four-night stint.
5/2/2007 – 1,876 guitarists gather in Wroclaw, Poland, to set a new Guinness World Record by simultaneously performing “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix.
5/2/2006 – Keith Richards is released from a New Zealand hospital after getting a concussion by falling out of a coconut tree. No, really, he fell out of a coconut tree.
5/3/1968 – Jimi Hendrix records a pretty awesome song called “Voodoo Chile.”
5/3/1971 – Led Zeppelin began their European tour in Copenhagen, playing to 4,000 fans. The show is special for being the only known performance of the song “Four Sticks.” It also featured the live debut of “Misty Mountain Hop.” Cool show!
5/3/1976 – Paul McCartney opens his first tour with his new band as the massively successful Wings Over America tour begins in Ft. Worth, TX: May 3, 1976
5/3/2006 – XM Satellite Radio aired the first Bob Dylan radio show. On the show, the impressive DJ played tracks by Prince, Wilco, L.L. Cool J, and Blur, among others.
5/4/1970 – The US National Guard opens fire on a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four unarmed students and wounding eleven more. After seeing the photos later that week in Life magazine, Neil Young immediately writes the song “Ohio,” which Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young will record the next day. Twenty-five years later to the day, Peter Paul and Mary play a commemorative concert at the university, performing Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
5/5/1963 – George Harrison tells the head of A&R at Decca Records, Dick Rowe, who had previously turned down Harrison’s own band The Beatles, to go see another band called The Rolling Stones, and Mr. Rowe goes. The band was soon signed to Decca.
5/5/1968 – Buffalo Springfield breaks up.
5/5/1973 – Led Zeppelin breaks all previous concert records when they pack Tampa Stadium full of 56,800 fans.
That’s all for This Week in Rock History. Which event do you think is the most important? Most interesting? Any other events we didn’t mention that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook or send us a Tweet.