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.