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On this day in music history: February 18, 1956 - "Rock and Roll Waltz" by Kay Starr hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for one week. Written by Dick Ware and Shorty Allen, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studios in New York City. The song will be the biggest hit for the Oklahoma pop vocalist born Katherine La Verne Starks. Starr will get her big break singing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1939 when she is only 17 years old. Recently signed to RCA Victor after several years with Capitol Records, the head of A&R at RCA will present the song to the singer. At first she does not like it, feeling that it is more like a novelty record than the type of material she was used to performing. But she will consent to record it, completing it during a round of sessions at the label's New York recording studio. To her surprise, the record will be an immediate hit. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #21 on January 7, 1956, it will leap to the top six weeks later. "Rock and Roll Waltz" will sell over a million copies earning a Gold disc for Kay Starr. Starr will also become the first female vocalist of the rock era to have a number one single (also RCA Victor's first chart topper of the rock era), and is the first song to have the term "rock and roll" mentioned in it.
On this day in music history: February 18, 1967 - "Kind of a Drag" by The Buckinghams hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Written Jim Holvay and Gary Beisber, it is the biggest single for the Chicago based pop band. Formed in 1965, they are originally known as The Pulsations, becoming regulars on a local Chicago music show called the All Time Hits Show. When someone on the program suggests that they change their name, they will change it to The Buckinghams. Signed by local label USA Records, the track is recorded at Chess Studios. Released in late 1966, the record will take off quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on December 31, 1966, it will shoot to the top of the chart seven weeks later. Shortly after the single tops the chart, the band will be quickly snatched up by Columbia Records and paired with producer James William Guercio (Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears). The Buckinghams will score four more top 20 hits while on Columbia including "Don't You Care" (#6 Pop), "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (#5 Pop), and "Susan" (#11 Pop), though "Kind of a Drag" will remain their most successful single.
On this day in music history: February 18, 1974 - The self-titled debut album by KISS is released. Produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, it is recorded at Bell Sound Studios in New York City from October through November of 1973. The majority of the material is written by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley while both are in the pre-KISS band Wicked Lester. The band will record their debut release in just thirteen days. The album's cover photo taken by famed photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors) will pose the band members against a black background, inspired by the cover shot of Meet The Beatles/With The Beatles. One of the first releases on the fledging Casablanca label (then distributed by Warner Bros Records), the album will generate only one chart single, "Kissin' Time" (#83 Pop), with the album initially selling only 75,000 copies. However, many of the songs including "Cold Gin," "Firehouse," "Strutter," "Nothin' To Lose," "Deuce," "100,000 Years," and "Black Diamond" will become fan favorites and staples of their live performances. KISS will peak at #87 on the Billboard Top 200 and will later be certified Gold by the RIAA on June 8, 1977.
On this day in music history: February 18, 1987 - The single "Sign 'O' The Times" by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is the first single and title track from the artists' ninth album. Prince will write the introspective song in early 1986, reflecting on numerous topics dominating the news at that time including poverty, drug abuse, gang violence, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, and the AIDS crisis. He'll begin working on the song at Sunset Sound in Hollywood in March of 1986, performing nearly all of the songs' instrumentation on a Fairlight CMI synthesizer. Rather than programming his own sounds into the keyboard, Prince will use the stock settings already programmed in it. He will also record his vocals at the studio, with engineer Susan Rogers setting up the board and a microphone for him in the control room. Prince will then show the engineer out of the room, locking the door behind him and tracking his vocals entirely on his own. Released six weeks in advance of the Sign 'O' The Times album, the song is backed with the non LP B-side "La, La, La, He, He, Hee" co-written with singer Sheena Easton. The picture sleeve for the single features photos of background singer and dancer Cat Glover on the front and back, though when the record is first release, an erroneous rumor will circulate saying that it is actually Prince in drag on the front (covering his face with a large heart cutout). "Sign 'O' The Times" will spend 3 weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart beginning on April 11, 1987 and peak at #3 on the Hot 100 on April 25th.