April 22, 1986: Abuzz

(Pictured: Prince appears at the American Music Awards in January 1986.)

April 22, 1986, is a Tuesday. The nation is abuzz this morning over last night’s syndicated TV special The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, during which a chamber below the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, where Capone had once lived, was opened on live TV. It did not contain cars, bodies, or money as hoped, only dirt and old empty bottles. Thirty-five percent of TV homes in America watched. In Madison, Wisconsin, just after 4AM, 20-year-old convenience store clerk Andrew Nehmer is murdered. Decades from now, a possible suspect will be identified, but the murder will remain unsolved. Western diplomats continue discussions about a further crackdown on Libya, one week after retaliatory American bombing raids on Tripoli and Benghazi. The Libyan government is accused of sponsoring the April 5 terrorist bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by American soldiers, in which two Americans were killed and 79 wounded. President Reagan notifies Congress that the national security emergency regarding Nicaragua, in place since the previous May, will be continued. Tonight, Reagan gives a speech at the Heritage Foundation anniversary dinner. Several states get snow with record cold.

In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy tells Linus about their sister-brother dynamic. Future football player Marshawn Lynch and future actress Amber Heard are born. Cliff Finch, who served as governor of Mississippi from 1976 to 1980, dies of a heart attack at age 59. On TV tonight, ABC’s lineup features Who’s the Boss, Perfect Strangers, Moonlighting and Spenser: For Hire. CBS airs the new family drama Morningstar/Eveningstar, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and The Equalizer. NBC counters with The A-Team, Hunter, and an NBC White Paper news special titled The Japan They Don’t Talk About, which shows how some Japanese manufacturing differs from the industrial powerhouse portrayed in media reports. The Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 122-104 to win their first-round NBA playoff series three games to none. After scoring 63 points in the previous game, Bulls star Michael Jordan scores 19. The Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets also complete first-round sweeps.

The Los Angeles Times carries a feature story on prolific session guitarist Tommy Tedesco. The Grateful Dead play Berkeley, California, and Rush brings the Power Windows tour to Greensboro, South Carolina. Van Halen plays the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago, Stevie Nicks plays Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, and Neil Diamond plays the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” is new in the Billboard Top 10; Stevie’s “I Can’t Wait” holds at #16. Prince tops the Hot 100 with “Kiss”; a song he wrote under an assumed name for the Bangles, “Manic Monday,” is #2. At #99, on its way out of the Hot 100, is “A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E, co-written by Prince. In Macomb, Illinois, the local Top 40 morning-show host plays all of these songs, although his favorites at the moment are “Your Love” by the Outfield and “R. O. C. K. in the U. S. A.” by John Cougar Mellencamp, both of which sound great blasting in the car on warm spring days. Or they will, if spring ever comes to western Illinois.

April 16, 1967: The Happening

(Pictured: Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Syd Barrett, and Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, 1967.)

April 16, 1967, is a Sunday. The top story in the Sunday newspapers regards the massive anti-Vietnam protests held in New York and San Francisco yesterday; in New York, over 300,000 were said to have attended. More mass protests are scheduled for tomorrow, including Washington, D.C. The current edition of Look magazine features an article called “The Student Revolt,” but its cover features Britain’s Prince Philip and Prince Charles. Students are not the only ones angry. In an interview published this weekend, civil rights leader Martin Luther King warns that at least 10 cities “could explode in racial violence this summer.” Today, King delivers a sermon titled, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” Preparations continue for Monday’s launch of the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft, which will land on the moon, take photos, and sample the lunar soil. Future pro football player Chuck Evans is born. The Cincinnati Nature Center opens.

Led by center Wilt Chamberlain’s 38 rebounds, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the San Francisco Warriors 126-95 to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA finals; one week from tomorrow, the 76ers will win the championship. The Chicago White Sox sweep a doubleheader from the Washington Senators; the second game goes 16 innings. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox play 18 innings, with the Yankees finally winning the six-hour game 7-6. The Grateful Dead plays the Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles, Pink Floyd plays Bethnal Green in London, the Buffalo Springfield plays San Francisco, the Yardbirds play Lolland, Denmark, the Duke Ellington Orchestra plays Cleveland, the Beach Boys and Tommy James play Pittsburgh, and the Electric Prunes appear on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Other shows on TV tonight include Lassie, Bonanza, Hey Landlord, and The FBI.

At WLS in Chicago, three Midwestern acts are in the Top 10 of the current Silver Dollar Survey: the Buckinghams and the Cryan’ Shames from Chicago with “Don’t You Care” and “Mr. Unreliable” at #6 and #7 respectively, and 2 of Clubs from Cincinnati with “Walk Tall” at #9. The top song belongs to the Monkees, however, with “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” which knocked last week’s #1 song, “Happy Together” by the Turtles, to #2. “Somethin’ Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra is at #3. “On a Carousel” by the Hollies leaps into the Top Ten at #4. Also hot: “You Got What It Takes” by the Dave Clark Five, “The Happening” by the Supremes, and “Somebody to Love” by the Jefferson Airplane.

A seven-year-old in Wisconsin hears none of this. One day this spring—perhaps in April—his first-grade teacher, fighting off laryngitis, decides to turn over parts of her lessons to some of her students. He teaches a math lesson that involves addition with the number nine. It’s the first teaching he’s ever done, but it won’t be the last.

April 11, 1965: How Dangerous

(Pictured: This is not the tornado that struck my family’s farm on April 11, 1965, although it looms that large in my memory.)

April 11, 1965 was Palm Sunday. Across the middle of the country, it’s the first warm spring day. In an old schoolhouse near his ranch in Texas, President Johnson signs the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s first law federally funding schools. Johnson, who had been a teacher himself as a young man, is joined for the ceremony by his first teacher. In today’s Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown battles the kite-eating tree. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford speaks at a dinner in Chicago and encourages support for the Israel Bonds Program. In his mostly lighthearted speech he compares Israel, “surrounded by a numerically larger and hostile army,” to the Congressional GOP, whom Ford says are similarly outnumbered by the Democrats. A gigantic tornado outbreak strikes the Midwest. Over approximately 11 hours, 47 tornadoes are reported from Iowa to Ohio. Storms in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio come with winds in excess of 200 MPH, and 271 people are killed. The most fatalities occur in Indiana, including 36 in and around Elkhart. Among the first communities to be hit is Monroe, Wisconsin, about 2:00 in the afternoon. The tornado carves a 27-mile path through Green, Rock, and Dane counties, destroying or damaging homes, businesses, and over 400 cars. Forty injuries are reported, but no fatalities. Winds in the Monroe tornado are estimated to have reached over 100 MPH.

A Texas entrepreneur announces the formation of the United States Football League, which will have six franchises in major cities. It is to begin play in the spring of 1966 with its championship game on Memorial Day, but the new professional league will never get off the ground. Conference finals continue in the National Basketball Association. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers take 3-2 leads in their respective series with wins today. In the National Hockey League, the Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Black Hawks 4-2 to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series. Marvin Panch wins the NASCAR Atlanta 500. Baseball’s regular season begins tomorrow; today the Chicago Cubs acquire pitcher Ted Abernathy from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash.

On TV tonight, ABC broadcasts Wagon Train and the sitcom Broadside, about a group of Navy WAVES assigned to a base in the South Pacific. Bonanza anchors NBC’s lineup. On CBS tonight, following Lassie and My Favorite Martian, Ed Sullivan welcomes Gerry and the Pacemakers (who are promoting their movie Ferry Cross the Mersey), Maurice Chevalier, and Soupy Sales among his guests. In London, the Beatles close the annual all-star concert presented by New Musical Express, which features the winners of the magazine’s annual popularity poll. It’s the third year the Beatles have appeared. Also on the bill: the Moody Blues, the Rolling Stones, Them, the Animals, the Kinks, and several other acts.

At WRIT in Milwaukee, several of the acts from the NME show are on the station’s latest survey. “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie and the Dreamers is #1; “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders moves to #2. The hottest record on the chart is “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits, moving from #20 to #3. (Herman’s version of “Silhouettes makes another strong move, from #32 to 20.) Also new in the Top 10 are “Go Now” by the Moody Blues and “The Clapping Song” by Shirley Ellis. Also moving up: “Count Me In” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys (to #22 from #34).

Perspective From the Present: The National Weather Service in Kansas City and local weather bureaus knew about the ripe conditions for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, so at about 10:45AM, they issued a Severe Weather Forecast, which was standard operating procedure at the time. At 1:00, they updated it to say that “one or two tornadoes” might occur, but they identified a huge area of threat—essentially from Madison to Peoria and Cedar Rapids to Chicago, about 50,000 square miles. But by then, tornadoes were already hitting Iowa. (My family and I heard that updated forecast on a Rockford, Illinois, radio station in the car on the way back from our Sunday dinner.) Further alerts were issued as the storms moved across Illinois and Indiana, but the terminology wasn’t clear enough about the urgency of the situation, and as a result, many people were unaware just how dangerous the storms were. In the aftermath, the National Weather Service devised the tornado watch and tornado warning terminology that we use today.

My first baseball glove, which I would get when I started playing organized ball three or four years hence, was a Ted Abernathy autographed model.

April 9, 1983: Let’s Dance

A wedding picture, 1983. All fashion and grooming choices seemed like a good idea at the time.

April 9, 1983, was a Saturday. By joint resolution of Congress, it is National POW/MIA Recognition Day and the last day of National Drug Abuse Education Week. The space shuttle Challenger lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California after its five-day maiden voyage. Rehearsals are held for the Academy Awards, which will be presented Monday night. Newspapers across the country publish a UPI story reporting that the city council of Ottumwa, Iowa, has declared the town to be the “video gaming capital of the world.” In his weekly radio address, President Reagan touts his tax cuts, and warns that “liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives want you to pay more—much more.” Stonyfield Farm produces its first batch of yogurt. There is an avalanche in California’s American River Canyon.

Quarterback John Reaves of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits sets league records for pass attempts and pass completions in a 22-16 overtime win over the Denver Gold. Julio Franco of the Cleveland Indians hits his first major-league home run. Tanya Roberts guest-stars on the pilot episode of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, broadcast on CBS. Stephen Bishop and Oxo are guests on American Bandstand. Joan Rivers hosts Saturday Night Live with musical guest Musical Youth. The Grateful Dead plays the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. In Brooklyn, New York, Metallica does its last show with guitarist Dave Mustaine, who later forms Megadeth. Bob Seger performs in Seattle. Rush wraps up a two-night stand in Montreal. Steve Forbert plays the Lone Star Cafe in New York City. Thin Lizzy plays in Dublin.

On the latest Billboard Hot 100, the top 3 songs are unchanged from the previous week: Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is in its 6th week at the top, followed by Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners zooms to #4 from #11. Jackson’s “Beat It” moves into the Top 10 from #14. The biggest move within the Top 40 is made by Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” jumping from #26 to #16. “Overkill” by Men at Work is new in the Hot 100 all the way up at #28. David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” entered the Top 40 at #29 from #43 the week before, and Duran Duran’s “Rio” is new at #40, up from #58. The oldest record on the chart, in its 21st week on, is “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash. It’s at #86 this week, down from #50.

Perspective From the Present: Yup, that’s our wedding picture at the top of the page, for on April 9, 1983, the Mrs. and I became Mr. and Mrs., getting married in my hometown church. I nursed a slight hangover through much of the day thanks to an impromptu bachelor party two nights before. My parents kept inviting wedding guests to what was supposed to be a small family gathering between the church reception and the dance, and they ended up with 150 people in their house. My ex-college roommate took his tux back to my parents’ house on Sunday, where he summed up the feelings of many guests, and of the bride and groom, when he said to my father, “Let’s do this again sometime, but not right away.”

April 5, 1983: Opening Days

(Pictured: Tom Seaver back on the mound in New York, 1983.)

April 5, 1983, is a Tuesday. Headlines on the morning papers include the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Challenger, launched yesterday on the sixth mission of the shuttle program; the death of actress Gloria Swanson at age 84; and the upset win by North Carolina State over Houston in the finals of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Today, President Reagan vetoes the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Claims Settlement Act, extends the term of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving through the end of the year, and appoints Allen Davis ambassador to Uganda. Chattanooga, Tennessee, sets an all-time record with 3.36 inches of rain, while El Paso, Texas, sets an snowfall record for a single day in April with 6.5 inches. The Board of Commissioners of Orange County, North Carolina, adopts an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of wild animals. The ordinance exempts the teaching and research facilities at the University of North Carolina.

Today is the second day of the new major-league baseball season with nine games scheduled. After 5 1/2 seasons in Cincinnati, pitcher Tom Seaver returns to the New York Mets and outduels Steve Carlton and the Philadelphia Phillies 2-0. John Candelaria of the Pittsburgh Pirates strikes out 10 St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-1 win; it will be the most by any Pirates pitcher on Opening Day until 2013. The defending American League champion Milwaukee Brewers lose to California 3-2; the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos are postponed by bad weather in Chicago; they will open tomorrow. Shows on NBC tonight include The A Team, Remington Steele, and St. Elsewhere. CBS shows the TV movie The Return of the Man from UNCLE. On ABC, it’s Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, and Ryan’s Four, a medical-show pilot starring Tom Skerritt, Lisa Eilbacher, and Tim Daly. It won’t become a regular series.

Danny Rapp, lead singer of Danny & the Juniors, commits suicide in Arizona. Future pro football player Will Buchanon and future pro golfer Brendan Steele are born. Huey Lewis and the News play Austin, Texas, R.E.M. plays Nashville, and the Beach Boys play Halifax, Nova Scotia. Rush plays Buffalo and Prince plays Denver. On the current Cash Box chart, the top five are largely unchanged from the previous week. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson is #1 for the fourth week in a row; “You Are” by Lionel Richie and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club swap #2 and #3 spots; “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran and “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders round out the top 5. There’s one new entry in the Top 10: “Jeopardy” by the Greg Kihn Band. The biggest move within the top 40 is made by Bob Seger’s “Even Now,” moving from #38 to #28; “I Won’t Hold You Back” by Toto is up from #40 to #32, and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” moves from #22 to #15. The hottest record on the entire chart is David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” reaching #34 in its second week on.

In a small one-bedroom apartment in Dubuque, Iowa, a calendar hangs on the kitchen wall. Today, there’s a note: “Opening Day: baseball.” On the upcoming Saturday, April 9, there’s another: “Opening Day: marriage.” The couple sharing the apartment differs on how funny the notes are: the young man thinks they’re hilarious, but his intended bride is less amused by them. Years hence, she will continue to put up with him, with everything that’s funny and everything that isn’t, and he will consider himself very fortunate indeed.

March 22, 1972: Fever

(Pictured: Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner, surrounded.)

March 22, 1972, is a Wednesday. The big headline on the morning papers is Ed Muskie’s Illinois primary win over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern yesterday. Today, Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification. Later today, Hawaii will become the first state to ratify. In Montana, a convention adopts a new state constitution and sends it to the voters. The United States Supreme Court rules in the case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, striking down a Massachusetts law forbidding the sale of contraceptives to unmarried people. It will be considered an important case in establishing a right to privacy. The National Commission on Marihuana [sic] and Drug Abuse issues its report, which recommends relaxing marijuana laws, including the decriminalization of simple possession. The Nixon Administration opposes the commission’s conclusions, and it will not implement its recommendations. Nixon nominates a number of federal judges; the New York Central Railroad closes a number of stations. New York Congressman Ogden Reid announces that because the Republican Party has moved to the right and he can’t support Nixon for reelection in November, he will become a Democrat. An article in the Wall Street Journal announces that Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner plans to launch another magazine, Oui, which will have a “European slant.” In Wisconsin, a law goes into effect lowering the age of adulthood, including the drinking age, from 21 to 18. Future pro athletes Shawn Bradley (basketball), Cory Lidle (baseball), and Elvis Stojko (figure skating) are born.

On TV tonight, guests on the PBS series Soul! are Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. NBC presents a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, and follows it with a repeat of Night Gallery. CBS broadcasts an episode of The Carol Burnett Show; Burnett is also a guest on ABC’s Password this week. ABC’s primetime lineup includes The ABC Comedy Hour, featuring a group of impressionists known as the Kopykats, who include Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena, and Charlie Callas. On ABC after the late local news, Dick Cavett’s guests include Diahann Carroll, Fran Tarkenton, and Michigan Congressman John Conyers. Joe Cocker and Dave Mason play Philadelphia, the Grateful Dead plays New York City, Black Sabbath plays Detroit with opening act Yes, the Mahavishnu Orchestra plays Los Angeles, and Emerson Lake and Palmer play Long Beach, California.

At WISM in Madison, Wisconsin, the new Music Guide comes out tomorrow, with morning DJ Clyde Coffee pictured on the cover. “A Horse With No Name” by America will hold at #1 for another week; “Puppy Love” by Donny Osmond moves up to #2. The biggest mover in the Top 10 is “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex, moving from #8 to #5. Two songs will debut in the Top 10: “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack (#7, up from #14) and “Rockin’ Robin” by Michael Jackson (#8, up from #18). “Jungle Fever” by the Chakachas is up 10 spots, from #27 to #17. Four songs are new in the Top 30: “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Wings, “Betcha By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, and “The Family of Man” by Three Dog Night.

About an hour south of Madison, a sixth-grader is immersed in the second-semester grind of Mr. Schilling’s class at Northside School, with Easter vacation sparkling in the near distance. He’s gone to Northside since the middle of second grade, so the place is as familiar as the weather. Outside the classroom, he’s turned his attention to baseball spring training now that the state basketball tournament is over, but he also obsessively follows the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as they wind down the regular season before their pursuit of a second straight championship. He frequently listens to Bucks games on the radio, and more frequently listens to WLS from Chicago, which has already made clear to him who he is, and what he’s supposed to be.

March 20, 1965: Showdown

(Pictured: Matt Dillon vs. a bad guy, as seen on Gunsmoke.)

March 20, 1965, is a Saturday. Ahmadou Ahidjo is reelected president of Cameroon. In the United States, President Johnson announces that he will call up units of the Alabama National Guard to supervise a third civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery that is set to begin tomorrow. The first march two weeks ago turned violent when state troopers attacked marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. After making the announcement at the Texas White House, Johnson also discusses the situation in Vietnam and announces several federal appointments before taking questions from reporters. NASA continues preparations for tomorrow’s launch of Ranger 9, which will be the last of several probes sent to photograph the moon before intentionally being crashed into it. In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy continues her weeklong battle against Linus’ security blanket. Inventor Leandro Malicay of Los Angeles files a patent application for a coconut shredding device. Fans of the the Chicago Cubs are mourning the death of play-by-play announcer Jack Quinlan, who died in a traffic accident last night in Arizona. He was 38, and had done Cubs games on radio since 1952. Actress Dorothy Malone of Peyton Place is on the cover of TV Guide.

Bonanza tops the primetime lineup on NBC tonight; CBS has episodes of Gilligan’s Island and Gunsmoke. In southern Wisconsin, regular programming on the local ABC affiliate is pre-empted by coverage of the state boys’ basketball tournament. Monroe completes an undefeated season by winning the championship 74-71 over Eau Claire Memorial. In Portland, Oregon, UCLA wins the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship over Michigan 91-80. It’s the second straight NCAA championship for UCLA. In the consolation game between losers of the national semifinals, Princeton beat Wichita State, 118-82. Princeton’s Bill Bradley is named the tournament’s most outstanding player. St. John’s defeats Villanova 55-51 to win the NIT.

Bob Dylan plays Buffalo, New York. The Motortown Revue, starring the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and Stevie Wonder, begins its three-week tour of Europe at Astoria Hall in Finsbury Park, England. Judy Garland wraps up a week of appearances at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami. At WMCA in New York, B. Mitchel Reid does his last show before returning to KWFB in Los Angeles, from which he’d come two years before. “Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Supremes is #1 on the WMCA survey dated March 18; two other Motown songs are also in the Top 10: “Shotgun” by Junior Walker & the All-Stars at #7 and “My Girl” by the Temptations at #9. Three British Invasion stars are in the Top 10 also: the Beatles with “Eight Days a Week” at #3, Freddie and the Dreamers with “I’m Telling You Now” at #4, and Herman’s Hermits with “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” at #5. Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” and Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” are also in the WMCA Top 10.

Perspective From the Present: Although Monroe has won state boys’ and girls’ basketball championships in more recent times, the 1965 team retains a great hold on the imagination of the locals. It was a one-class tournament back then, which meant that Monroe, a town of about 8,000 then, was competing against much bigger schools. (Monroe’s win came in the middle of a stretch in which Milwaukee Lincoln, a school that no longer exists, won four championships in seven years; one of the other schools qualifying for the 1965 tournament was the suburban Milwaukee school Wauwatosa East, my wife’s alma mater.) Thousands of fans greeted the champs when they returned to town on Sunday riding aboard a fire truck. The caravan of cars that greeted them as they came down Highway 69 is fondly remembered around town. Although I have no memory of it, my family was in one of them. Years later, the team picture of the 1965 champions would look down on us in the high school cafeteria every day.

March 19, 1971: Obsession

(Pictured: Vice President Spiro Agnew, famed for saying things his boss, Richard Nixon, could not.)

March 19, 1971, was a Friday. Headline stories in the morning papers around the country include an antiwar protest in Boston outside a hotel yesterday, where Vice-President Spiro Agnew gave a fiery anti-media speech at a Republican fundraiser. A crowd estimated at 3,500 clashed with a group of hard-hats before being pushed back by police. Today, the prime interest rate is adjusted down, from 5.38 percent to 5.25 percent. (It will go back up in April.) In Texas, Amarillo Air Force Base closes. In the current edition of Life, TV critic John Leonard eviscerates the CBS-TV series All in the Family, which premiered in January, calling it “a wretched program” and “insulting.” The Life cover story, written by Norman Mailer, is about the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight of March 8, won by Frazier. Ali is also on the cover of the current Rolling Stone.

In Wisconsin, the state high school basketball tournament continues at the UW Field House. Semifinal games are won by Janesville Parker and Milwaukee Rufus King. Tomorrow, Parker will defeat King 79-68 for the championship. It’s the final one-class tournament; next year, the state’s high schools will be divided into two classes for tournament play. The Illinois tournament opens with four quarterfinals; Thornridge, led by future college star, NBA player, and TV broadcaster Quinn Buckner, defeats Kewanee 63-58, and will win the state crown tomorrow. In college hockey, Minnesota overcomes a 4-1 deficit to beat Harvard 6-5 in overtime and advances to the NCAA national championship game against Boston University. Tomorrow, Boston U will win the title, 4-2.

Shows on ABC tonight include The Partridge Family and The Odd Couple, plus the last original episode of That Girl, ending its run after five seasons. On NBC, The Name of the Game airs its final original episode. A Grateful Dead show scheduled for the former Chicago Coliseum (recently renamed the Syndrome) is scrapped when the venue abruptly closes. Fleetwood Mac plays Detroit and Grand Funk Railroad plays Fort Lauderdale. Led Zeppelin plays Manchester University in England. Sugarloaf, fresh off a post-show gig at the Grammys earlier in the week, continues a lengthy stand at the Whisky in Los Angeles. Keith Jarrett plays Minneapolis and Elvin Bishop plays San Francisco. Released today: The Yes Album and Aqualung by Jethro Tull.

At WLS in Chicago, “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” by the Partridge Family will be knocked from the #1 slot on Monday, when the new survey comes out, by the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones moves to #2, and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye hits #3.The hottest record on the chart is “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, blasting from #30 to #16. Also up big: “Another Day” by Paul McCartney (from #23 to #12) and “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder (from #28 to #17). Among the new songs on the survey are “If” by Bread and “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

An 11-year-old kid in Wisconsin listens to WLS constantly, when he’s not watching sports on TV. He also watches The Partridge Family, and he bought “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” long before it was featured on the March 12 episode of the show. In years to come, he will consider “Just My Imagination” to be among his favorite songs of all time.

Perspective From the Present: I had my very own copy of the WLS survey from that week. A million years later, the songs on it are the sound of an obsession being born. I had already decided, on or around my 11th birthday, that I wanted to do what I heard the jocks on WLS doing.

I still do.

March 18, 1978: Family Reunion

(Pictured: the Bee Gees with brother Andy in Florida, March 1978.)

(Promotional announcement: this is the first of four posts that will appear here in the next five days. Tell your friends.)

March 18, 1978, is a Saturday. Deposed Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Before their annual banquet, members of the fire department in Frostburg, Maryland, ring the firebell 111 times to honor the members who have died fighting fires since the department was founded 100 years ago today. In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Kentucky wins the Mideast Regional final over Michigan State, 52-48. Leon Spinks, who upset Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight boxing championship in February, is stripped of the title for refusing to fight Ken Norton, who is declared champion. Future NBA player Brian Scalabrine and future NHL player Jan Bulis are born; author Leigh Brackett dies, shortly after turning in a script for The Empire Strikes Back. Although she will receive a writing credit, practically none of her words or ideas will make it onto the screen.

Lindsey Wagner of The Bionic Woman is on the cover of TV Guide. This morning, CBS broadcasts the final original episodes of The Robonic Stooges, an animated kids’ show reimagining Larry, Moe, and Curly as crime-fighting robots of the future. Tonight, CBS airs the final episode of Kojak. On NBC, Jill Clayburgh hosts Saturday Night Live with musical guest Eddie Money, whose debut single “Baby Hold On” is in its fourth week on the Billboard Hot 100.

A 15-year-old girl in Illinois buys a copy of the Bee Gees’ Children of the World; looking at the cover, her father declares that the Bee Gees look “like long-haired hippie gangsters.” On the latest Hot 100, the long-haired hippie gangsters hold down the top two spots with “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive.” Samantha Sang is next with “Emotion,” a song the Bee Gees wrote, produced, and sing on; Andy Gibb’s “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” a former #1 song, is at #5. (The lone interloper at the family reunion is Eric Clapton, whose “Lay Down Sally” has sneaked up to #4.) If that isn’t enough, the Bee Gees’ former #1 hit “How Deep Is Your Love” is hanging on at #35 in its 26th week on the Hot 100.

The Jerry Garcia Band plays Washington, D.C., U2 plays Limerick, Ireland, and Yes plays Los Angeles. The second California Jam concert is held in Ontario, California. Headliners include Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Heart, Foreigner, Santana, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Rubicon, and Bob Welch, who brings out surprise guests Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood. Nearly 300,000 fans show up, but critics focus on the generally substandard quality of the performances and the extravagance of the backstage amenities some performers demand, from pinball machines for amusement to plates of M&Ms with the yellow ones removed.

In Wisconsin, a young music geek misses all of this. He’s gone to the state basketball tournament to watch the Class A finals, although not before catching hell from his parents when they discover him trying to sneak a bottle of his favorite liquor along. For some reason, they let him go anyway.

March 6, 1981: I Have the Skill

(Pictured: Walter Cronkite and his family arrive at a party celebrating his final evening news broadcast on March 6, 1981.)

(When this blog began in January, I promised to write entirely new, never-before-seen posts for it once in a while. This is the first one.)

March 6, 1981, is a Friday. President Reagan holds an afternoon news conference. The reporters asking questions were chosen after Reagan drew names from a jelly-bean jar the previous day, but there are no limits on the questions he can be asked. He takes questions on the political situation in El Salvador, his economic recovery program, and his proposed cuts in social welfare programs.  Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas asks him if his stance on the right to life means he is opposed to contraception. He responds, “No, I am not.” In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally writes a report for school. Future actress Ellen Muth is born, and George Franconero Jr. is shot to death in front of his home in North Caldwell, New Jersey, in a suspected mob hit. Franconero, a disbarred lawyer and the brother of singer Connie Francis, was cooperating with the FBI in an investigation of organized crime.

After 19 years, Walter Cronkite anchors the CBS Evening News for the final time. He tells the audience, “I’ll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years.” CBS has placed full-page ads in newspapers around the country touting that assignment: a trip to Moscow as part of a five-hour special report on America’s defenses and the new series Walter Cronkite’s Universe. In Platteville, Wisconsin, several young college broadcasters have a little party to watch the last Cronkite show. CBS primetime features The Incredible Hulk and two episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. NBC lines up Harper Valley PTA, The Brady Brides, Nero Wolfe (a detective drama starring William Conrad and Lee Horsley) and NBC Magazine. ABC has Benson, I’m a Big Girl Now, and Long Journey Back, a 1978 made-for TV movie starring Mike Connors, Cloris Leachman, and Stephanie Zimbalist, about the aftermath of a real-life bus/train crash that took place in 1972.

With less than one week to go in the regular college basketball season, undefeated Oregon State remains ranked #1, with once-beaten DePaul at #2. A column in the Chicago Tribune suggests that TV commentator Billy Packer is likely done after NBC loses the NCAA tournament to CBS in 1982. (Packer will move smoothly from NBC to CBS and remain one of its lead college basketball voices until 2008.)

The Grateful Dead plays Pittsburgh and Queen plays Rosario, Argentina. Duran Duran continues its first headlining tour of the UK in Cardiff, Wales. The Boomtown Rats play Toronto, and U2 plays the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, a show that will be widely bootlegged and eventually get an official release in 2004. Ted Nugent plays Portland, Oregon, and Kansas plays in Wichita with Loverboy opening. At D93 in Dubuque, Iowa, “The Best of Times” by Styx takes over the #1 spot from John Lennon’s “Woman,” which falls to #3. “Smokey Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap sits between them at #2. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Hello Again” by Neil Diamond at #7 and “Hearts on Fire” by Randy Meisner at #10. They replace “Don’t You Know What Love Is” by Touch, which is down from #6 to #14, and whatever was #9 the previous week, which has fallen off the survey entirely. The biggest movers are all up four spots; in addition to “Hello Again,” they include “What Kind of Fool” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, ” “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton, and “Just Between You and Me” by April Wine.

Perspective From the Present: I had been working part-time at D93 and its AM sister, KDTH, for nearly two years by March 1981. D93 racked up enormous audience shares, although the numbers were somewhat illusory: its lone Top 40 competition in town was an AM station. D93, which was completely automated with no live jocks, had developed a modest reputation for breaking hits, although that rep came at the cost of playing lots of relative stiffs. The generic pop-rocker “Don’t You Know What Love Is,” the much more interesting “I Have the Skill” by the Sherbs, and the pointless Roy Orbison cover “Running Scared” by the Fools all made the Hot 100. But “Come to My Arms” by Graf, an attempt to clone the Doobie Brothers that’s pretty terrible, did not. Taken all together, D93’s music mix looks pretty weird, but it didn’t sound much weirder than what any other Top 40 station would have been playing in the spring of 1981.