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Born on this day, December 31, 1948 - Singer/songwriter Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, MA). Happy Birthday to this Disco and R&B legend on what would have been her 64th Birthday. We love and miss you, Donna!!
On this day in music history: December 31, 1966 - "I'm A Believer" by The Monkees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. Written by Neil Diamond, it is the second chart topping single for "The Pre-Fab Four." Producer Jeff Barry will find the song while also working with Diamond. The track is recorded in New York City on October 15, 1966. The Monkees will record their vocals at RCA Victor, Studio B in Hollywood on October 23rd. Issued as the follow up to the group's first hit, "Last Train To Clarksville," it is an immediate smash. "I'm A Believer" will have an advanced order of 1,051,280 copies, the highest amount for any RCA recording artist since Elvis Presley. Entering the Hot 100 at #44 on December 10th, it will leap frog to the top just three weeks later, with the single going gold only two days after its release and becoming the biggest selling single of 1967. The B-side "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" written and produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart will also chart, peaking at #20 on the Hot 100 on January 14, 1967.
On this day in music history: December 31, 1969 - Jimi Hendrix will debut his new band Band Of Gypsys at the Fillmore East in New York City. The blues rock trio consists of Hendrix on guitar and vocals along with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox (an army buddy of Hendrix's whom he jammed with while both were in the service). The band is formed in the wake of the demise of The Experience with Miles having played with Jimi at Woodstock in August of 1969. Band Of Gypsys are booked to play four shows spread over two nights at the legendary New York City venue which are videotaped and recorded. Playing mostly original material, recordings from the New Years Eve performances will surface as the album Band Of Gypsys (released by Capitol Records in March 1970) to fulfill an earlier contractual agreement Hendrix had with the label. In spite of excellent on stage chemistry between the musicians, the band will be short lived. The band will implode only a month later after a gig at Madison Square Garden where Hendrix gets into a verbal altercation with a woman in the audience and then abruptly leaves the stage two songs into the performance.
On this day in music history: December 31, 1975 - Casablanca Records will throw a lavish release party for the US debut of Donna Summer's new single "Love To Love You Baby" at The Pachyderm disco in New York City. For the occasion Casablanca will have a life size cake of the singer made by Hansen's Cakes in Los Angeles, CA (recreating the image of Summer from the back cover of the album). The cake will be transported to Los Angeles International Airport in a refrigerated ambulance, flown to New York in two first class airline seats (accompanied by Casablanca head of promotion Buck Reingold), then met at the airport in New York by another refrigerated ambulance to the Pierre Hotel and finally to the disco for the party that night. The party is also the night of Donna Summer's 27th birthday.
On this day in music history: December 31, 1978 - The Grateful Dead will headline the final show at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. The famed concert venue owned by rock promoter Bill Graham will also feature The Blues Brothers and New Riders of The Purple Sage as the opening acts on the show. The eight hour concert will be simulcast on local radio station KSAN-FM and the live broadcast is carried on local PBS television station KQED in San Francisco. The concert will conclude with a breakfast at dawn with the audience. The show will be released on CD and DVD as The Closing of Winterland in 2003. Following the closing of the venue, the building will finally be demolished in 1985, with apartment buildings being constructed on the site.
On this day in music history: December 31, 1984 - Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen will lose his left arm in an automobile accident near Sheffield, UK. While on a break from recording Hysteria, the follow up to the bands' multi-platinum album Pyromania, Allen is driving in his Corvette Stingray with girlfriend Miriam Barendsen. The two are on the way to a party at Allen's family home in Sheffield, when a driver in an Alfa Romeo passes them on the road and then prevents them from passing on either side. Allen will become enraged and attempts to pass the car again, when he doesn't see a sharp turn on the road ahead. He will lose control of the car which will become airborne, flying over a stone wall and into a field. Allen will be thrown from the vehicle, during which his left arm is severed by his improperly fastened seat belt. Barendsen, still in the car (which lands upside down), only receives minor injuries, her life being saved by having worn her seat belt. Allen will be rushed to a hospital where his arm is reattached. Unfortunately, infection will set in shortly after, forcing doctors to amputate the arm. After a period of rehabilitation and recovery, Rick Allen will teach himself how to play drums again, using a specially designed electronic drum kit with foot pedals allowing him to trigger drum sounds with his left foot. Allen will rejoin his bandmates and resume recording the album in progress.
On this day in music history: December 31, 1985 - Rock & Roll legend Rick Nelson and six others die in a plane crash near DeKalb, Texas. Nelson and his band are on a brief three city tour playing shows in Orlando, FL and Guntersville, AL before heading to Dallas to play a New Years Eve show aboard a charted vintage Douglas DC-3 airplane with a history of mechanical problems. It is believed that a gas heater aboard the plane will started a fire in the cabin during the flight. According to accounts from the pilot and co-pilot (who both survived the crash), the cabin became engulfed with smoke. While attempting to make an emergency landing, the plane will impact several trees, crash landing two miles from the air strip in DeKalb. Killed in the crash are Nelson, his girlfriend Helen Blair, road manager and soundman Donald Clark Russell, and band members Patrick Woodward, Rick Intveld, Andy Chapin, and Bobby Neal. Following the accident, rumors will circulate that the the fire is caused by members of the entourage who were freebasing cocaine, but this proved to be false. Nelson's remains will be lost in transit when being shipped back to his family in California. A funeral service for friends and family is held at Church of The Hills on January 6, 1986, and he is finally laid to rest privately a few days later at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetary in Los Angeles. Rick Nelson will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 1987.