1-12-12

Today is the birthday

… of actress Katherine “Scottie” MacGregor, 87. She was the nasty, self-aggrandizing Harriet Oleson on The Little House on the Prairie series.

… of Ray Price. Still for the good times at 86.

When Ray Noble Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, many noted that the honor was long overdue. Such feelings weren’t based so much on the longevity of his career or on the number of major hits he has recorded, for in those regards Price was no different from many other deserving artists awaiting induction. More importantly, Price has been one of country’s great innovators. He changed the sound of country music from the late 1950s forward by developing a rhythmic brand of honky-tonk that has been hugely influential ever since. As steel guitarist Don Helms, a veteran of Hank Williams’s Drifting Cowboys once put it, “Ray Price created an era.”

Country Music Hall of Fame

… of folksinger Glenn Yarbrough. He’s 82.

… of William Lee Golden. The big, bearded member, but not the bass voice, of the Oak Ridge Boys is 73.

… of Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The champ would have been 68 today. He died in November.

… of Cynthia Robinson. She’s dancing to the music at 66 (Sly and the Family Stone).

You might like to hear the horns blowin’,
Cynthia on the throne, yeah!
Cynthia & Jerry got a message they’re sayin':
[Cynthia:] All the squares, go home!

… of Kirstie Alley. She’s 61.

… of the most dangerous man in America, Rush Limbaugh. The audio-terrorist is 61.

… of Howard Stern. He’s 58.

… of broadcast journalist Christiane Amanpour. She’s 54.

… of actor Oliver Platt, 52.

… of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. The billionaire is 48.

… of Naya Rivera of Glee. The high school cheerleader is 25.

Coporal Hayes is the Marine on the left, his hand reaching for the staff.

Ira Hamilton Hayes was born at Sacaton, Arizona, on this date 89 years ago. The Pima Indian was one of six marines immortalized in Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. Hayes did not fair well with the resultant publicity. He died of exposure and alcohol poisoning at age 32. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Tex (Woodward Maurice) Ritter was born on January 12, 1905. It’s his voice singing “Blood on the Saddle” at Disney’s Country Bears Jamboree. John Ritter is a son.

By mid-decade, the enormous success of Gene Autry’s films led other studios to look for their own singing cowboys. One of the first producers to recognize Ritter’s potential was Edward Finney. He signed Ritter and released his first starring film, Song of the Gringo, in November 1936.

Ritter was well suited to the role of singing cowboy. He looked and acted the part and was singing the type of songs he loved best. Unfortunately most of his films were made for Grand National and Monogram, two of the so-called poverty row studios. These studios were smaller than the majors and made their films on limited budgets. Although Ritter’s films never had the production values of films starring Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, he still enjoyed considerable success at the box office.

In 1942, after a decade of recording with little success, Ritter became one of the first artists signed by the newly formed Capitol Records. He soon began scoring major hits with records such as “Jealous Heart,” “ Rye Whiskey,” “I’m Wastin’ My Tears on You,” and “You Will Have to Pay.” Ritter would record for Capitol for the rest of his life.

A different type of film opportunity came to Ritter in 1952, when he was asked to sing the title song of the Gary Cooper–Grace Kelly western High Noon. The song was used as a narrative throughout the film and became Ritter’s signature song. He went on to record a number of other western theme songs throughout the decade.

Country Music Hall of Fame

Jack London was born in San Francisco on this date in 1876. London wrote more than 50 books, including The Call of the Wild and White Fang (1906). His most unforgettable story may be To Build a Fire. London died at age 40.

Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent, 1895

The artist John Singer Sargent was born on January 12, 1856. Sargent created around 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors and is particularly well known for his portraits.

John Hancock was born on this date in 1737. Hancock was President of the Continental Congress of the United States of America in the summer of 1776. He was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence.

John Hancock

John Winthrop, Puritan leader and early Massachusetts governor, most famous for his “city on the hill” metaphor (borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount, of course), was born on January 12, 1588 (1587 OS). Winthrop’s first three wives died, but his fourth outlasted him.