1956: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins recorded some gospel standards together at Sun Records studios in Memphis, Tennessee in what became known as "The Million Dollar Quartet". What made the recordings so special is that they weren't planned. Perkins was in the studio to record new material, including a reworked version of "Matchbox". Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, had asked piano madman Jerry Lee Lewis to play the piano on the Perkins session to add some zest to the recording. Sometime that afternoon, Elvis, a former Sun artist who had switched to RCA, dropped by the studio. Presley was the hottest star in the business, having reached #1 five times in the last year. Presley and Phillips talked in the control room before Elvis went into the studio. Cash also dropped by, and soon, the jam session began. Phillips left the tapes running in order to "capture the moment". The session, however, would not be released for 25 years.
Dion was one step away...
1961: "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean remained on top for the fifth week. "Runaround Sue" by Dion was second followed by "Please Mr. Postman" from the Marvelettes, which moved from 8 to 3.
1962: The Beatles made their London television debut when they performed "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" at Wembley Studios for the program Tuesday Rendezvous, broadcast on the ITV station Associated-Rediffusion.
1964: The Beatles released the album Beatles for Sale in the U.K.
1965: A hot new song was racing up the charts--"The Sound Of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel was up from 65 to 34.
1965: The Byrds landed at #1 with their classic "Turn! Turn! Turn!". The Supremes fell after two weeks with "I Hear A Symphony". Len Barry's "1-2-3" was third with the 4 Seasons at #4 with "Let's Hang On". The rest of the Top 10: "I Got You (I Feel Good)" from James Brown, Fontella Bass and "Rescue Me", the instrumental "A Taste Of Honey" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Marvin Gaye remained in the #8 position with "Ain't That Peculiar", the Shangri-Las entered the Top 10 with "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" and the Dave Clark Five moved from 16-10 with "Over And Over".
1967: Jimmy Gilmer ("Sugar Shack") and the Fireballs released quite a different-sounding single this time around with "Bottle Of Wine".
1971: The Montreux Casino in Switzerland was destroyed by fire during a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Deep Purple were in town and witnessed the fire from across the lake. They wrote the song "Smoke On The Water" about the incident. (Note: some websites incorrectly report that the incident took place on December 3. According to the official website for Frank Zappa, as well as numerous reputable sources, the correct date is December 4.
1971: "American Pie" by Don McLean debuted on the singles chart.
1971: Led Zeppelin owned the top U.K. album with Four Symbols.
1971: Santana III was #1 on the Album chart for a fourth week with Cat Stevens providing the closest competition with Teaser and the Firecat. The Soundtrack to "Shaft" was third followed by Sly & the Family Stone with There's a Riot Goin' On. Stanley, Idaho's Carole King moved back up with Tapestry. The rest of the Top 10: Imagine from John Lennon, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, Led Zeppelin IV moved from 36 to 8 in its second week, Every Picture Tells a Story from Rod Stewart and Harmony by Three Dog Night was #10.
1971: "Family Affair" by Sly & the Family Stone took over the #1 position on the R&B chart.
1971: Sly & the Family Stone also achieved the #1 song with "Family Affair". The "Theme From 'Shaft'" by Isaac Hayes surrendered, while Bread's "Baby I'm-A Want You" was third. The Chi-Lites wouldn't budge with "Have You Seen Her" and Cher's former #1 "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" was #5. The rest of the Top 10: Michael Jackson and "Got To Be There", Three Dog Night moved from 14-7 with "An Old Fashioned Love Song", Les Crane saw "Desiderata" at #8, Aretha Franklin was "Rock Steady" at 9 and John Lennon's classic "Imagine" was #10.
1972: Melvin Lastie, who played trumpet for Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke & Dr. John, died in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1975: Patsy Collins, the bodyguard for Deep Purple, fell six floors down an elevator shaft in the hotel where the group was staying in Jakarta, Indonesia. Collins was still conscious and demanded a taxi take him to a hospital but he died en route and his body was never recovered.
1976: Although most wouldn't become familiar with him until later, on this date Robert Palmer debuted on the chart with his first hit--"Man Smart, Woman Smarter".
1976: Tommy Bolin, briefly with the James Gang and guitarist of Deep Purple, died from drugs in Miami, Florida at age 25.
1976: The great Boz Scaggs had another hit from Silk Degrees as "What Can I Say" moved from 72 to 60.
A performance so great that it changed the title of a song...
1976: Rod Stewart registered a fourth week at #1 with "Tonight's The Night (Gonna' Be Alright)". "Rubberband Man" by the Spinners was second with "Love So Right" by the Bee Gees remaining third for the third week. The Captain & Tennille held on to 4 with "Muskrat Love" and Gordon Lightfoot's big hit "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" was #5. The rest of a great Top 10: Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. with "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)" made its move (14-6), "Beth" by Kiss was #7, Boston checked in with "More Than A Feeling", Barry Devorzon & Perry Botkin, Jr. were at #9 with "Nadia's Theme" and Firefall landed a Top 10 song with "You Are The Woman".
1976: Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder was #1 on the Album chart for the eighth straight week, topping A Night on the Town by Rod Stewart and the debut from Boston. Spirit from Earth, Wind & Fire was #4 while the Soundtrack to "The Song Remains the Same" by Led Zeppelin fell in just its fifth week. The rest of the Top 10: Elton John's Blue Moves, Peter Frampton and Frampton Comes Alive!, the Steve Miller Band coasted up to 8 with Fly Like An Eagle, The Pretender by Jackson Browne was #9 and the fine album A New World Record by ELO entered the Top 10.
1979: It's all about paying dues. U2 performed at the Hope and Anchor in Islington, London before a crowd of nine.
1980: Prince kicked off a tour at Shea's in Buffalo, New York.
1980: The surviving members of Led Zeppelin announced that they would not re-form following the death of drummer John Bonham.
1982: The John Lennon Collection was the #1 album in the U.K.
1982: Business As Usual from Men At Work was the #1 album for the fourth straight week. Built for Speed by the Stray Cats was second with the self-titled Lionel Richie album third and Joe Jackson's Night and Day in the fourth position. The rest of the Top 10: ...Famous Last Words... from Supertramp, H2O by Hall & Oates at #6, The Nylon Curtain from Billy Joel at #7, Marvin Gaye's Midnight Love moved from 15 to 8, Neil Diamond was still at 9 with Heartlight but Pat Benatar shot up from 23 to 10 with Get Nervous.
1982: Lionel Richie's first solo release--"Truly" was #1 for the third week on the Adult Contemporary chart.
1988: Roy Orbison performed for the final time in Highland Heights, Ohio. He died two days later.
1991: Popular Paula Abdul was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.
1991: Van Halen performed for free in Dallas, Texas. The show made good on Sammy Hagar's promise to make it up to the crowd 3 1/2 years earlier when he lost his voice during a concert.
1993: Frank Zappa died at the age of 52 from prostate cancer in Los Angeles. (Note: several websites say that Zappa died from pancreatic cancer--the newspapers 'The New York Times' and 'The Orlando Sentinel' and the books 'Prostate Cancer' by Scott D. Cramer and Edward Alcamo and 'No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa' by David Walley' all state that Zappa died from prostate cancer.)
1993: Meat Loaf had the #1 song for the fifth week with "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)". Janet Jackson was close with "Again" and Ace of Base remained third with "All That She Wants". Salt N' Pepa had the #4 song--"Shoop".
2001: Gene Simmons of Kiss released the book Kiss and Make-Up.
2002: Whitney Houston said in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's Primeline that drinking and drugs nearly killed her.
2003: Radiohead wrapped up a tour at The Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.
2005: Tony Bennett and Tina Turner received Kennedy Center honors in Washington, D.C.
2005: "Stickwitchu" by the Pussycat Dolls was #1 in the U.K.
2010: Paul McCartney received Kennedy Center honors in Washington, D.C.
2015: Coldplay released the album A Head Full of Dreams.
Born This Day:
1910: Alex North, composer of the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey and numerous other musical scores, and writer of the music for "Unchained Melody", was born in Chester, Pennsylvania; died September 8, 1991 of cancer in Los Angeles.
1940: Freddy Cannon ("Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" from 1959) was born in Revere, Massachusetts. (Note: several websites report that Freddy was born in Swampscott, Massachusetts, but that is in direct conflict with the official Freddy Cannon website as well as the book 'Lyrics and How They Inspire Me' by Nathan Catchpole, which say that Cannon was born in Revere.)
1942: Bob Mosley, bass guitarist of Moby Grape, was born in Paradise Valley, California.
1944: Dennis Wilson, drummer of the Beach Boys, was born in Hawthorne, California; died December 28, 1983 when he drowned in Marina Del Ray, California. (Note: some websites claim Wilson was born in Inglewood (no credible ones), but the official Beach Boys website, the newspapers 'The New York Times' and "The Examiner", as well as the books 'The Tombstone Tourist' by Scott Stanton all report that Dennis was born in Hawthorne.)
1944: Chris Hillman, founding member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, bassist of the Byrds and a member of McGuinn, Clark & Hillman, was born in Los Angeles.
1948: Johnny Lyon (Southside Johnny) of Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, was born in Neptune, New Jersey. (Note: some websites report that Johnny was born in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. He was born in Nepturne, then grew up in Ocean Grove, according to 'NJ.com'.)
1951: Gary Rossington, founding member, guitarist and drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was born in Jacksonville, Florida.
1959: Bob Griffin, bass guitarist of the BoDeans, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1969: Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) was born in Brooklyn, New York. ('New York Radio' host Troy Torain says that Carter is the same age as him, 50 years old, but that has not been corroborated.)