February 26th

Today should be a national holiday. February 26 is the birthday of Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, Jackie Gleason, John Harvey Kellogg and Buffalo Bill.

Fats Domino

It’s the birthday of Antoine “Fats” Domino. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is 87.

Fats Domino may not have been the most flamboyant rock and roller of the Fifties, but he was certainly the figure most rooted in the worlds of blues, rhythm & blues and the various strains of jazz that gave rise to rock and roll. With his boogie-woogie piano playing and drawling, Creole-inflected vocals, Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. help put his native New Orleans on the map during the early rock and roll era. He was, in fact, a key figure in the transition from rhythm & blues to rock and roll – a transition so subtle, especially in his case, that the line between these two nominally different forms of music blurred to insignificance.

Born in the Big Easy in 1928, pianist, singer and songwriter Fats Domino ultimately sold more records (65 million) than any Fifties-era rocker except Elvis Presley. Between 1950 and 1963, he made Billboard’s pop chart 63 times and its R&B chart 59 times. Incredible as it may seem, Fats Domino scored more hit records than Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly put together. His best-known songs include “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin’.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It’s the birthday of Mitch Ryder. He’s 70 today. No report on the ages of the Detroit Wheels.

It’s the birthday of Michael Bolton. The singer is 62. The former Initech computer programmer’s age isn’t known.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was born on this date in 1932.

To millions of fans, Johnny Cash is “the Man in Black,” a country-music legend who sings in an authoritative baritone about the travails of working men and the downtrodden in this country. Lesser known is the fact that Johnny Cash was present at the birth of rock and roll by virtue of being one of the earliest signees to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records back in 1955. Cash was part of an elite club of rock and roll pioneers at Sun that included Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. The four were collectively referred to as “the Million Dollar Quartet” after an impromptu gathering and jam session at the Sun recording studio on December 4, 1956. What Cash and his group, the Tennessee Two, brought to the “Sun Sound” was a spartan mix of guitar, standup bass and vocals that served as an early example of rockabilly. Cash recorded a string of rockabilly hits for Sun that included “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line.” The latter was first of more than a dozen Number One country hits for Cash and also marked his first appearance on the national pop singles charts.

Straddling the country, folk and rockabilly idioms, Johnny Cash has crafted more than 400 plainspoken story-songs that describe and address the lives of coal miners, sharecroppers, Native Americans, prisoners, cowboys, renegades and family men.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Betty Hutton was born on this date in 1921. She was Annie Oakley in the eponymous 1950 film, and the trapeze artist who saves the circus in The Greatest Show on Earth, still a fun movie to watch.

Jackie Gleason was born in Brooklyn 99 years ago today (1916). One of the greats of early TV, known primarily now for his portrayal of bus driver Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners. He was in a number of films and received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor in The Hustler. Gleason also won a Tony Award. “And away we go” was one of Gleason’s stock lines. It is also the inscription at his grave site.

Grover Alexander Plaque

Grover Cleveland Alexander was born on this date in 1887.

Upon Alexander’s death in 1950, famed sportswriter Grantland Rice penned that the winner of 373 big league games was the most cunning, the smartest, and the best control pitcher that baseball had ever seen, adding, “Above everything else, Alex had one terrific feature to his pitching – he knew just what the batter didn’t want – and he put it there to the half-inch.”

National Baseball Hall of Fame

Alexander was portrayed by Ronald Reagan in the 1952 film “The Winning Team.”

John Harvey Kellogg was born on this date in 1852.

When he became a physician Dr. Kellogg determined to devote himself to the problems of health, and after taking over the sanitarium he put into effect his own ideas. Soon he had developed the sanitarium to an unprecedented degree, and he launched the business of manufacturing health foods. He gained recognition as the originator of health foods and coffee and tea substitutes, ideas which led to the establishment of huge cereal companies besides his own, in which his brother, W. K. Kellogg, produced the cornflakes he invented. His name became a household word.

The New York Times

There might have been something to it. Kellogg lived to be 91.

Buffalo Bill

And William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was born on this date in 1846.

In a life that was part legend and part fabrication, William F. Cody came to embody the spirit of the West for millions, transmuting his own experience into a national myth of frontier life that still endures today.

All the while Cody was earning a reputation for skill and bravery in real life, he was also becoming a national folk hero, thanks to the exploits of his alter ego, “Buffalo Bill,” in the dime novels of Ned Buntline (pen name of the writer E. Z. C. Judson). Beginning in 1869, Buntline created a Buffalo Bill who ranked with Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and Kit Carson in the popular imagination, and who was, like them, a mixture of incredible fact and romantic fiction.

Cody’s own theatrical genius revealed itself in 1883, when he organized Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, an outdoor extravaganza that dramatized some of the most picturesque elements of frontier life: a buffalo hunt with real buffalos, an Indian attack on the Deadwood stage with real Indians, a Pony Express ride, and at the climax, a tableau presentation of Custer’s Last Stand in which some Lakota who had actually fought in the battle played a part. Half circus and half history lesson, mixing sentimentality with sensationalism, the show proved an enormous success, touring the country for three decades and playing to enthusiastic crowds across Europe.

In later years Buffalo Bill’s Wild West would star the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, the first “King of the Cowboys,” Buck Taylor, and for one season, “the slayer of General Custer,” Chief Sitting Bull. Cody even added an international flavor by assembling a “Congress of Rough Riders of the World” that included cossacks, lancers and other Old World cavalrymen along with the vaqueros, cowboys and Indians of the American West.

Above from PBS – THE WEST.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

… was so designated 96 years ago today (February 26, 1919).

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is more than a great chasm carved over millennia through the rocks of the Colorado Plateau. It is more than an awe-inspiring view. It is more than a pleasuring ground for those who explore the roads, hike the trails, or float the currents of the turbulent Colorado River.

This canyon is a gift that transcends what we experience. Its beauty and size humble us. Its timelessness provokes a comparison to our short existence. In its vast spaces we may find solace from our hectic lives. The Grand Canyon we visit today is a gift from past generations.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

… was so designated on this date in 1929.

Grand Teton

Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park protects spectacular mountain scenery and a diverse collection of wildlife. The central feature of the park — the Teton Range — is a 40-mile-long mountain front rising from the valley floor some 6,000 feet. The towering Tetons were formed from earthquakes that occurred over the past 13 million years along a fault line. The jagged range includes its signature peak — Grand Teton, 13,770 feet (4,198 m) — and at least twelve pinnacles over 12,000 feet (3,658 m). Seven morainal lakes adorn the base of the range, and more than 100 alpine lakes dot the backcountry.

Elk, moose, mule deer, bison and pronghorn, are commonly found in the park. Black bears roam the forests and canyons, while grizzlies range throughout more remote portions of the park. More than 300 species of birds can be observed, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons and trumpeter swans.

Grand Teton National Park

Lafayette National Park (Maine)

… was designated on this date in 1919. It became Acadia National Park in 1929.

Acadia

Located on the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park encompasses over 47,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds, and ocean shoreline. Such diverse habitats create striking scenery and make the park a haven for wildlife and plants.

Entwined with the natural diversity of Acadia is the story of people. Evidence suggests native people first lived here at least 5,000 years ago. Subsequent centuries brought explorers from far lands, settlers of European descent, and, arising directly from the beauty of the landscape, tourism and preservation.

Attracted by the paintings and written works of the “rusticators,” artists who portrayed the beauty of Mount Desert Island in their works, the affluent of the turn of the century flocked to the area. Though they came in search of social and recreational activities, these early conservationists had much to do with preserving the landscape we know today. George B. Dorr, the park’s first superintendent, came from this social strata. He devoted 43 years of his life, energy, and family fortune to preserving the Acadia landscape. Thanks to the foresight of Dorr and others like him, Acadia became the first national park established east of the Mississippi.

Acadia National Park

Mount McKinley National Park (Alaska)

… now Denali National Park & Preserve, was established 98 years ago today (February 26, 1917).

Denali

Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,320′ Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await.