Today in Music History for Feb. 17:
In 1904, Puccini's opera "Madame Butterfly" made its premiere at La Scala in Milan. It was booed off the stage.
In 1936, bluegrass pioneers Bill and Charlie Monroe made their first recordings.
In 1940, singer Gene Pitney was born in Hartford, Conn. He first gained fame as a songwriter, penning "Hello Mary Lou" for Rick Nelson and "He's a Rebel" for "The Crystals." In 1961, Pitney went into the recording studio himself, playing and overdubbing every instrument and multi-tracking his vocals. The result was his first hit, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away." Gene Pitney had more than 20 chart singles during the '60s, including "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and "It Hurts to Be in Love." He died on April 5, 2006.
In 1960, Elvis Presley received his first gold album for "Elvis," which included such songs as "Rip It Up," "Old Shep" and "Ready Teddy."
In 1965, "The Tennessee Waltz" was declared Tennessee's state song.
In 1969, Bob Dylan began recording at Columbia Studios in Nashville with Johnny Cash. Few of the tracks laid down were ever released officially, although a bootleg album "The Dylan-Cash Session" made its appearance.
In 1970, singer Joni Mitchell announced that her concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London would be her last public appearance. It wasn't. She was back to doing shows within the year.
In 1971, James Taylor made his prime-time TV debut on "The Johnny Cash Show." Taylor sang "Fire and Rain" and "Carolina on My Mind."
In 1972, "Pink Floyd" premiered "Dark Side of the Moon" in concert at London's Rainbow Theatre. When the album of the same title was released a year later, it made "Pink Floyd" one of rock's biggest acts. "Dark Side of the Moon" has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. In 1980, it became the longest-charting rock LP in Billboard's history at 303 consecutive weeks and remained on the chart until 1988 after 741 weeks. (As Feb. 1, 2018, it stands at 937 total weeks. Since the inception of the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Album chart in 1991, "Dark Side of the Moon" has been on that chart for 1,201 weeks.)
In 1976, the "Eagles" album, "Their Greatest Hits" was released. It would eventually sell more than 29 million copies in the U.S., second only to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
In 1976, the rock musical "Rockabye Hamlet," by Canadian composer Cliff Jones, opened at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. An adaptation of Shakespeare's play, it closed after only seven performances.
In 1979, British political rockers "The Clash" played their first U.S. show at the Palladium in New York.
In 1982, pianist Thelonious Monk, one of the pioneers of the bop movement in jazz, died of a stroke in New York at the age of 64. Monk began playing in Harlem clubs in the late 1930s. He gained attention in the early '40s playing jam sessions at Minton's and the Uptown House where the style of jazz known as bop was born. Monk's playing and performing style were eccentric -- he often did a little dance on stage while his quartet played. Thelonious Monk was also a talented composer. Many of his tunes -- such as "'Round Midnight," "Straight, No Chaser" and "In Walked Bud" -- are considered jazz standards.
In 1983, Linda Ronstadt, Nicolette Larson, Chaka Khan, Dave Mason and Helen Reddy were the hosts of a skating party in Los Angeles to raise campaign funds for California Governor Jerry Brown's presidential campaign.
In 1987, Sylvester Stewart, who rose to stardom in the 1960s as leader of "Sly and the Family Stone," was arrested in Los Angeles for failing to appear in courts in California and Florida. Stewart failed to appear in a narcotics case in Los Angeles and was alleged to have violated probation after a cocaine-related arrest in Fort Myers, Fla.
In 1988, Bryan Tucker of Hollywood, Fla., a 12-year-old fan of heavy metal rockers "Motley Crue," set his legs on fire while trying to imitate a stunt shown in the group's "Live Wire" video. The boy suffered burns to over 10 per cent of his body after pouring rubbing alcohol on his jeans and torching them. He put the flames out in a filled bathtub. "Motley Crue" offered its condolences -- saying their stunts should not be tried at home.
In 1988, Jim Reid, singer for the "Jesus and Mary Chain," was given an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to assaulting two fans with a microphone at a Toronto concert. The two had been chanting "boring" during the show. Reid apologized to the fans and donated $1,000 in their names to the Salvation Army.
In 1992, one teenager died and about 50 were hurt at a "New Kids on the Block" concert in Seoul, South Korea. The show was halted after fans began pushing against people in the front row. The concert resumed after the injured were removed.
In 1993, white rapper Marky Mark apologized for two incidents of racial violence during his teen years.
In 1996, bluesman Brownie McGhee, famed for his decades-long partnership with Sonny Terry, died of cancer in Oakland, Calif. He was 80.
In 1997, Ronnie DeVoe of the R&B group "New Edition" was charged with inciting a riot and intoxication after a confrontation with police at a hotel in Louisville, Ky.
In 1998, Bob Merrill, who garnered Oscar, Grammy and Tony nominations for his show lyrics, shot himself in the head while sitting in his car outside his Los Angeles home. He was 77 and in poor health. Merrill's lyrics for "Funny Girl" captured a Tony nomination in 1964 and an Oscar nod for the movie version four years later.
In 2010, actress Kathryn Grayson, whose beauty and lilting soprano voice brightened such popular MGM musicals of the 1940s and '50s as "Anchors Aweigh," "Show Boat" and "Kiss Me Kate," died at her Los Angeles home. She was 88.
In 2012, Michael Davis, the bassist of the revolutionary Detroit rock band "MC5," died after a month-long hospitalization for liver disease. He was 68. The original "MC5" rose to prominence from 1964-72, making waves with incendiary anti-establishment lyrics and a blistering early-punk sound.
In 2013, Mindy McCready, who hit the top of the country charts in 1996 with "Guys Do It All the Time" before personal problems sidetracked her career, died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. She was 37. Her death came days after she left a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program. She was found on the porch of her Arkansas home where her musician boyfriend David Wilson also committed suicide a month earlier.
In 2013, "Pearl Jam's" "Ten" surpassed the 10-million copies sold threshold in the U.S., the 22nd album to hit that mark since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.
In 2014, guitarist Bob Casale of Devo, best known for its 1980 hit "Whip It," died of heart failure at the age of 61.
(The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Press