July 30th

Edd “Kookie Kookie lend me your comb” Byrnes is 81 today.

Buddy Guy is 78.

Buddy Guy is one of the titans of the blues, straddling traditional and modern forms, as well as musical generations. He’s worked with Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf, on one hand, and Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Rolling Stones, on the other. There are few notable blues figures that Guy hasn’t brushed up against. He was even an influence on Jimi Hendrix.

Buddy Guy Biography | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Oscar nominee (direction and co-writer, The Last Picture Show) Peter Bogdanovich is 75.

Paul Anka is 73. Anka is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, is 67.

Oscar best actor nominee Laurence Fishburne is 53.

Coach of the American men’s national soccer team, Jürgen Klinsmann is 50.

Lisa Kudrow is 51.

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank is 40.

Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player ever to appear in the major leagues, was born on this date in 1928. Nuxhall pitched 2/3rds of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds on June 10, 1944. He was 15 years, 316 days old. He gave up 5 runs, with 5 walks, 2 hits and a wild pitch. It was 1952 before he again appeared, but he pitched for 15 more seasons. Nuxhall was a longtime Reds broadcaster. He died in 2007.

The Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel was born on this date in 1890.

Casey Stengel’s distinguished 54-year professional career spanned the era from Christy Mathewson to Mickey Mantle. He batted .284 over 14 seasons in the majors and accounted for both Giant victories in the 1923 World Series by hitting home runs. It was as a colorful and successful manager, though, that he earned Hall of Fame recognition. His feat of guiding the Yankees to 10 pennants and seven world titles in a 12-year span ranks as one of the most remarkable managerial accomplishments of all time.

Baseball Hall of Fame

A few Casey-isms:

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”

“Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.”

“He’d (Yogi Berra) fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch.”

One of the most remarkable Americans, Henry Ford, was born on this date in 1863. The following is an excerpt from Mr. Ford’s New York Times obituary in 1947:

Renting a one-story brick shed in Detroit, Mr. Ford spent the year 1902 experimenting with two- cylinder and four-cylinder motors. By that time the public had become interested in the speed possibilities of the automobile, which was no longer regarded as a freak. To capitalize on this interest, he built two racing cars, the “999″ and the “Arrow,” each with a four-cylinder engine developing eighty horsepower. The “999,” with the celebrated Barney Oldfield at its wheel, won every race in which it was entered.

The resulting publicity helped Mr. Ford to organize the Ford Motor Company, which was capitalized at $100,000, although actually only $28,000 in stock was subscribed. From the beginning Mr. Ford held majority control of this company. In 1919 he and his son, Edsel, became its sole owners, when they bought out the minority stockholders for $70,000,000.

In 1903 the Ford Motor Company sold 1,708 two-cylinder, eight horsepower automobiles. …

With this material he began the new era of mass production. He concentrated on a single type of chassis, the celebrated Model T, and specified that “any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.” On Oct. 1, 1908, he began the production of Model T, which sold for $850. The next year he sold 10,600 cars of this model. Cheap and reliable, the car had a tremendous success. In seven years he built and sold 1,000,000 Fords; by 1925 he was producing them at the rate of almost 2,000,000 a year.

He established two cardinal economic policies during this tremendous expansion: the continued cutting of the cost of the product as improved methods of production made it possible, and the payment of higher wages to his employes. By 1926 the cost of the Model T had been cut to $310, although it was vastly superior to the 1908 model. In January, 1914, he established a minimum pay rate of $5 a day for an eight-hour day, thereby creating a national sensation. Up to that time the average wage throughout his works had been $2.40 a nine-hour day.

The entire obituary is really rather fascinating reading.

Douglas Brinkley’s Wheels for the World (2003) is considered a good biography of Ford and the Ford Motor Company.

Vladimir Zworykin was born in Murom, Russia, on this date in 1889. He came to the U.S. in 1919. Zworykin’s television transmitting and receiving method using cathode ray tubes, developed in the 1920s and early 1930s, ranks him as the prime inventor of television.


July 29th

“Professor” Irwin Corey, The World’s Foremost Authority, is 100 today.

Ken Burns is 61.

William Powell was born on this date in 1892. He was nominated for three best actor Academy Awards — The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Life with Father (1947). Powell was Nick Charles and Myrna Loy was Nora Charles in the six Thin Man films.

250px Clara Bow 1927

The “It Girl” Clara Bow was born on this date in 1905. A huge star when movies didn’t talk, her career wound down quickly and unhappily after sound. As with many other silent film stars, it was a new medium that necessitated less physical acting, the reason they had become big stars to begin with. The clip is from It (1927).

Charlie Christian was born on this date in 1916. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 (the fifth group).

Charlie Christian elevated the guitar as a lead instrument on par with the saxophone and trumpet in jazz and popular music. His single-string technique established a solo style that was carried on by such contemporaries as T-Bone Walker and emulated by later disciples like B. B. King and Chuck Berry. Born in Bonham, Texas, on July 29th, 1919, and raised in Oklahoma City, Christian was influenced by country music and jazz, an odd hybrid of influences that can be heard in his recorded works, such as “Seven Come Eleven,” with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Unfortunately, his recording career lasted less than two years, as he was brought down in his prime by tuberculosis, dying on March 2, 1942, in New York. Though his life was short, his hornlike, single-note style, which capitalized on innovations in amplification technology, revolutionized and redefined the role of the electric guitar in popular music. The reverberations from Christian’s pioneering efforts have echoed down the decades, through Western swing, rockabilly and rock and roll to the present day.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer were married 33 years ago today.


The 12th of July

Today is the birthday

… of Bill Cosby. He’s 77.

… of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. She’s 71.

… of Gaius Julius Caesar, born on July 12th around 100 BCE (some say July 13th). Caesar was named for his father, Gaius Julius Caesar III, and he had two sisters, both named Julia. If Caesar was named for a caesarean section, it was an ancestor’s birth, not his. The explanation for the name that Julius Caesar himself seemed to favor was that it came from the Moorish word caesai for elephant.

Caesar, of course, died on March 15, 44 BCE. Caesar never said “Et tu, Brute?” That’s Shakespeare (though not original with him). Some contemporaries said Caesar did say “καὶ σύ, τέκνον,” Greek for “You too, child.” If he said it, it may have been intended as a curse (this will happen to you) as much as a feeling of abandonment by Brutus.

It was Julius Caesar who fixed the calendar at 365 days with a leap day every fourth year. His formula had to be tweaked in 1582 with three less leap years every 400 years, but it stands pretty much as Caesar established it, the Julian Calendar, in 46 BCE.

Henry David Thoreau was born on this date in 1817; George Eastman, the inventor of roll film, in 1854; George Washington Carver in 1864; Jean Hersholt in 1886 and Buckminster Fuller in 1895. Hersholt was in 140 films, most famously as Heidi’s grandfather with Shirley Temple. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named its service award for Hersholt, who was president of the Academy and longtime president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Oscar Hammerstein II was born on July 12th, 1895. Hammerstein won eight Tonys and two Oscars — for “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.”


It Ought to Be a Holiday

Levi Stubbles was born in Detroit 78 years ago today. As Levi Stubbs for more than 40 years he was the lead vocalist of The Four Tops.

The Four Tops were one of soul music’s most popular and long-lived vocal groups. This quartet from Detroit endured for more than 40 years without a single change in personnel. …

The Four Tops consisted of lead singer Levi Stubbs, first tenor Abdul “Duke” Fakir, second tenor Lawrence Payton, and baritone Renaldo “Obie” Benson. Working closely with the in-house songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, the Four Tops cut some of Motown’s most memorable singles during the label’s mid-Sixties zenith. The list of classics recorded by the Four Tops during this fruitful period includes “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette.” Between 1964 and 1988, the Four Tops made Billboard’s Hot 100 chart 45 times and its R&B chart 52 times. Twenty-four of their singles made the Top 40, and seven of those entered the Top 10.

While their career took off at Motown, the Four Tops had a significant prehistory before arriving at the label, having already logged nearly a decade in show business. Stubbs and Fakir attended Pershing High School in Detroit’s North End, while Payton and Benson attended Detroit’s Northern High School. The four young men met at a friend’s birthday party, where they first sang together. …

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It’s Stubbs who sings:

Now if you feel that you can’t go on
Because all of your hope is gone
And your life is filled with much confusion
Until happiness is just an illusion
And your world around is tumbling down
Darling reach out
C’mon girl
Reach on out for me
Reach out for me

You will note it was never Levi Stubbs and the Tops, unlike Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or Diana Ross and the Supremes. Stubbs had the opportunity to lead or go solo, but he stayed loyal to his friends for life. He died in 2008.


Pat Boone

. . . is 80 today.

Boone had grandchildren at the same school NewMexiKen’s children attended nearly 40 years ago. He showed up at “Back to School Night” once or twice, and I have to admit he was about the handsomest, youngest looking grandpa you’d ever see. Of course, he was only 41 or 42.

It’s hard to believe I was ever so young I thought 41 was old enough that someone could “look good” for 41?

Only Elvis sold more records than Pat Boone in the late 1950s.


May 27th

Hubert Humphrey was born in Wallace, South Dakota, on this date in 1911. Humphrey was first elected mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and U.S. Senator in 1948. Senator Humphrey introduced his first bill in 1949; it became law in 1965 and we know it as Medicare. Humphrey became Vice President with the election of President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. After Johnson withdrew from the 1968 campaign, and after Robert Kennedy was killed, Humphrey was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President. He lost to Richard Nixon in one of the closest elections in history. Some commented that with the vote trending as it did, had the election been one or two days later Humphrey would have won.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk is 99 today. Wouk served in the United States Navy during World War II, background for his great novel The Caine Mutiny. Other works include Majorie Morningstar, Youngblood Hawke, and The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Henry Kissinger is 91. They say the good die young.

Lou Gossett Jr. is 78 today. Gossett won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman and an Emmy as the slave Fiddler in Roots.

Roz is 53 today. That’s actress Peri Gilpin of Frasier.

Todd Bridges is 49 today. “Watchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Best-selling mystery author Tony Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, on this date in 1925; he died in Albuquerque in 2008. The Shape Shifter was the 18th and last in Hillerman’s series centered on Navajo Tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Hillerman told us that:

Leaphorn emerged from a young Hutchinson County, Texas, sheriff who I met and came to admire in 1948 when I was a very green ‘crime and violence” reporter for a paper in the high plains of the Panhandle. He was smart, he was honest, he was wise and humane in his use of police powers–my idealistic young idea of what every cop should be but sometimes isn’t. 
. . . 

Jim Chee emerged several books later. I like to claim he was born from an artistic need for a younger, less sophisticated fellow to make the plot of PEOPLE OF DARKNESS make sense–and that is mostly true. Chee is a mixture of a couple of hundred of those idealistic, romantic, reckless youngsters I had been lecturing to at the University of New Mexico, with their yearnings for Miniver Cheever’s “Days of Old” modified into his wish to keep the Navajo Value System healthy in universe of consumerism.

John Cheever was born on this date in 1912.

He wrote for more than 50 years and published more than 200 short stories. He’s known for writing about the world of American suburbia. Even though he was one of the most popular short-story writers of the 20th century, he once said that he only earned “enough money to feed the family and buy a new suit every other year.”

In 1935 he was published in The New Yorker for the first time, and he would continue to write for the magazine for the rest of his life. His stories were collected in books including The Way Some People Live (1943) and The Enormous Radio and Other Stories (1953). The Stories of John Cheever, published in 1978, won the Pulitzer Prize and became one of the few collections of short stories ever to make the New York Times best-seller list.

The Writer’s Almanac (2008)

Cheever died in 1982.

Sam Snead was born on May 27th in 1912. Snead won 82 PGA events; seven majors — three Masters, three PGA Championships and a British Open. Great as he was, he never won the big one.

Vincent Price, an actor noted primarily for his horror and suspense roles, was born 103 years ago today.

Rachel Carson was born on this date in 1907. Carson’s writing, most notably Silent Spring (1962), was instrumental in establishing environmental awareness. Silent Spring lead to a ban on DDT and the creation of the EPA.

Mystery writer Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on this date in 1894.  Hammett departed from the intellectualized mysteries of earlier detective novels (Sherlock Holmes for example) and transformed the genre with his less-than-glamorous realism. He is considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.  

Hammett actually was a detective with Pinkerton for a few years just before World War I. Contracting TB during military service, he realized his health would keep him from resuming as a detective. He turned to writing. He published his first story in 1922, and then about 80 more, many in the popular pulp crime magazine Black Mask. Hammett’s first novel was Red Harvest, published in 1929. His most famous character, Sam Spade, made his appearance in Hammett’s third novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930). (It was the third—and only successful—attempt to turn that novel into a film when Humphrey Bogart played the role in 1941.) The Thin Man (1934) was the last of Hammett’s novels. 

By the early-thirties, Hammett was established and famous. He began a relationship with playwright Lillian Hellman that lasted for 30 years despite his drinking and womanizing. Though both eventually divorced their spouses, they never married. Hammett served in the Army in World War II, enlisting as a private at age 48. His involvement in left-wing politics and unwillingness to testify about it before Congress however, and the continued drinking, diminished his stature. Hammett died in 1961.

James Butler Hickok was born May 27, 1837. As Wild Bill Hickok, he was killed while playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, at age 39. It’s said he was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black (but most doubt the tale).


Hubert Humphrey, Mayor, Senator, Vice President, Typist

Hubert Humphrey was born 103 years ago today. He was, I think, a genuinely great American politician.

Among the many then secret documents I came across at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library when I was an archivist there long ago, was a lengthy single-spaced typewritten memo from Vice President Humphrey to President Johnson. Humphrey had been to Vietnam and wanted to report his observations directly. Because the document was secret I couldn’t keep a copy, but I remember Humphrey being perceptive about what was really happening.

But mostly I remember the P.S. — the Vice President of the United States apologized to the President of the United States for the typing. Humphrey said he’d come into the office on Sunday and no one was available, so he had typed the memo himself.