May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

(Pictured: Paul McCartney and Wings, 1974.)

(This post, like others in the category An Entirely New Day, is brand-new and has never appeared anywhere else.)

May 26, 1974, is a Sunday. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. President Nixon is spending a second consecutive weekend at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. A wire service story observes that six months ago, aides would have discouraged him from taking back-to-back weekends off, fearing bad press, but Nixon has reportedly adopted a “let it happen” attitude, given the impeachment hearings now taking place in Congress. Investigators in California have intensified their search for a man they believe can lead them to Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army cohorts, who have been on the run since six SLA members were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17th. At a funeral home in New York City, mourners have been filing past the casket of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, who died on Friday. His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Treasury Department and U.S. Mint say 32 million pennies are “missing.” The director of the Mint says the shortage is because people keep pennies “in dresser drawers, pickle jars, piggy banks,” although a Treasury official blames simple neglect of the unpopular coin. The shortage of pennies has prompted some stores to round prices to the nearest nickel and others to make change with one-cent postage stamps. Still others are rewarding customers who pay with pennies. Osco Drug Stores in the Chicago area have a weekend special on Schlitz beer, at $1.15 for a six-pack. Fifths of selected brands of bourbon, vodka, rum, and gin are $2.98 each. JC Penney Auto Centers have a closeout special on a FM stereo/8-track tape deck for your car, originally $119.95, now $79.88. Automobile air conditioning units are also on sale, starting at $159.88 plus installation.

The best-selling fiction book this week is Watership Down by Richard Adams; Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, an oral history-style biography of Harry S Truman, is the nonfiction best-seller. In her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Joyce Brothers writes about sexuality among older adults. “The young think sex is their prerogative and therefore resist the notion that their grandparents can not only have but enjoy sex.” In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, dueling for the top of the American League East, continue a weekend series. The Brewers won yesterday, 9-2, to reclaim first, which the Sox had taken with a win on Friday night. A. J. Foyt has the pole position for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. New safety measures are in place after the fiery 1973 crash involving driver Swede Savage, who died about a month later; activities leading up to the race were curtailed in response to the ongoing gasoline shortage.

On TV tonight, ABC has its traditional tape-delayed broadcast of the Indy 500, which is won by Johnny Rutherford. The CBS lineup includes Apple’s Way (a family drama from the creator of The Waltons), Mannix, and Barnaby Jones; on NBC it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Columbo, and a news special on cancer. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs are unchanged from the week before: “The Streak,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Band on the Run.” Three new songs move into the Top 10: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient, and “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. They replace Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, and Mike Oldfield’s Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells.” The biggest mover on the station’s chart is “Be Thankful for What You Got” by William DeVaughn, up eight spots to #18.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere about the smoky fire we had in our house sometime in the spring of 1974, possibly in May, and maybe even on Sunday the 26th, although I no longer remember precisely when. It was and was not a remarkable disruption in our lives; my brother and I were displaced from our bedrooms for the whole summer amidst the repainting of the house upstairs and down, but I merely moved my hanging-out space to our furnished basement. With a radio, a TV, and a couch, I had everything I needed.

Many of “the young” Dr. Joyce Brothers wrote about in 1974 are grandparents now, and another generation of grandchildren is skeeved out at the idea of Nana and Papa getting it on. But they are, kids. They are. Possibly even as you’re reading this.

May 2, 1967: Name of the Game

(Pictured: Frank and Nancy Sinatra in the studio, 1967.)

(Late correction below.)

May 2, 1967, was a Tuesday. Armed members of a militant group known as the Black Panthers interrupt a session of the California House of Representatives, which is debating a bill, supported by the National Rifle Association, that would forbid the carrying of loaded firearms in public places. The Panthers argue that blacks need to be armed to protect themselves against oppressive policing. Police stop more Panthers outside the capitol and confiscate 15 weapons. Remarkably, nobody is arrested. Elvis and Priscilla Presley spend their first full day as husband and wife after marrying yesterday in Las Vegas. Also yesterday, police in Chicago foiled an attempted airplane robbery that would have netted the two thieves a bag of stocks and bonds worth two million dollars. Also in Chicago, the combination of a strike by milk truck drivers and a lockout by dairies leads to milk shortages in the city. A UFO is spotted over Montezuma, Iowa. Martin Luther King speaks at Unionville High School in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia. Organizers ask him not to talk about Vietnam, or about controversial congressman Adam Clayton Powell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs win hockey’s Stanley Cup, beating Montreal 3-1 to take the series 4-2. It’s the fourth Cup in six seasons for the Leafs; 50 years later, they will not have won another. On a busy day of major-league baseball, the Cincinnati Reds lose to the Cardinals in St. Louis, 5-0, but still have the majors’ best record at 15-and-6. In the American League, the Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics split a doubleheader. Both games end up 1-o. The CBS TV lineup tonight includes Daktari, The Red Skelton Hour, Petticoat Junction, and on an edition of CBS Reports, “The National Science Test.” CBS runs ads in newspapers with a form viewers can use to answer the questions that will be presented on the show. On NBC, it’s The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Occasional Wife, and the movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which will later be turned into a weekly series. ABC airs episodes of Combat!, The Invaders, Peyton Place, and The Fugitive.

The Beach Boys open a tour of Ireland in Dublin. Carl Wilson misses the show, apparently due to illness. having been arrested for draft evasion in New York last week. He’s released on bond today, and will rejoin the band later in the week. Sam and Dave perform in Stockholm, Sweden. A short-lived club, the Rock Garden, closes in San Francisco. During its five weeks of operation, it hosted shows by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Love, the Grateful Dead, the Steve Miller Blues Band, the Buffalo Springfield, and Country Joe and the Fish. It later becomes a Latin jazz club and a soul-music club. Club-goers in Chicago can hear jazz singer Barbara McNair at the College Inn and the Mongo Santamaria Septet at the London House. In London, England, Nancy Sinatra records the theme song for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. It appears in the movie, although the version of the song released as a single will be recorded later, in Los Angeles.

At WABC in New York, Nancy’s duet with her father, “Something Stupid,” hits #1 on the new All-American survey. Last week’s #1, “Happy Together” by the Turtles, falls to #2. “The Happening” by the Supremes is at #3, just ahead of a new entry in the Top 10, “I Got Rhythm” by the Happenings (#4), and “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals (#5). Also new in the Top 10: “Close Your Eyes” by Peaches and Herb. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin is new on the survey at #14. “Respect” was a WABC Pick Hit last week. This week’s Pick Hit is “The Congressional Record” by the Hardly Worthit Players. One of the players, Bill Minkin, had charted twice earlier in the year as Senator Bobby with novelty versions of “Wild Thing” and “Mellow Yellow.”

Perspective From the Present: Even though this blog featured a 1967 post just a couple of weeks ago, there’s no harm in going back to that particular well so soon. Every day, it seems, we learn about something else that’s been part of our lives for exactly half-a-century. The world we live in today was born during the 1960s, and that fact comes home day by day, anniversary by anniversary.

(Correction to Carl Wilson story, about which my original sources were unclear, courtesy of the new Twitter feature Peace and Love, tweeting the summer of 1967 from a Wisconsin perspective, curated by our friend Jeff Ash.)

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.