When you hear “a capella” what do you think of? Barbershop quartets? Kitschy vaudeville acts? At one time that was spot-on but these days a capella has a place in pop music alongside the biggest names in pop, hip-hop, rock and R & B. The guys in Straight No Chaser do an amazing job reinventing some of the greatest songs in popular music from Marvin Gaye, Walk the Moon, Weezer, Jason Mraz and so many more.
For anyone who is new to the genre, a capella is singing without instrumental backup. It started out as religious music. The phrase a capella means “in the manner of the church.”
Later, a capella became the realm of barbershop quartets and college glee clubs. Rumor has it, the first college a capella group began at Rensselaer Polytechnic (outside of Albany, NY) in 1873. That original group was very different from the Harvard Callbacks and Tufts University Beelzebubs everyone knows today.
Today’s a capella groups are showing a new generation that a capella can be cool. Shows like Pitch Perfect and The Sing Off have made the genre mainstream. A capella became cool enough for VH1 to take notice and post this article featuring Straight No Chaser.
Check out their videos. Our favorites are “Take Me to Church” (Hozier) and “Can’t Feel My face” (Weeknd). Want to see the real deal? Straight No Chaser will be here at the Music Circus on August 6th and at the Melody Tent on August 7th. Tickets on sale now!
Special thanks to Straight No Chaser for the use of information from their website.
January 15 was a big day in music history, especially on with musicians making TV appearances.
In 1947, Pete Waterman, producer, TV presenter and part of the Stock, Aitken & Waterman team, booked the first ever tour for The Bay City Rollers. He also signed Musical Youth and Nik Kershaw and during the 70’s was promotion consultant for John Travolta. He was one of the most successful pop writers & producers of all time producing Bananarama, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan.
Born on this day in 1948, Ronnie Van Zant, vocalist with Lynyrd Skynyrd who had the 1974 US No. 8 single ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and the 1982 UK No. 21 single ‘Freebird’. Van Zant died in a plane crash between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 20th 1977 along with bandmates Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines. Remaining band members survived, although all were seriously injured.
January 15 was Crazy Day for TV Appearances:
In 1958, The Everly Brothers made their debut on British TV on The Perry Como Show.
In 1967, The Rolling Stones performed on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show and were forced to change their lyrics of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”, after the producers objected to the content of the lyrics. Jagger ostentatiously rolled his eyes at the TV camera while singing the changed lyrics, resulting in host Ed Sullivan announcing that The Rolling Stones would be banned from performing on his show ever again.
In 1972, Elvis Presley reportedly drew the largest audience for a single TV show to that time when he presented a live, worldwide concert from Honolulu, HI.
In 1992, Johnny Cash, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Booker T. & the MG’s, The Isley Brothers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sam & Dave, and The Yardbirds, including guitarist Eric Clapton are inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during a ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Other inductees include guitar maker Leo Fender and songwriter Doc Pomus. On an episode of the TV variety show Entertainment Tonight, pop star Brenda Lee criticized the selections, noting the lack of female talent – such as The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, and Connie Francis. She calls them “the women who pioneered rock and roll” and points out that they’re just as important as the men. Lee’s remarks and others like her do eventually break the “glass ceiling” of rock recognition and Lee herself goes on to be included in several halls of fame recognizing her music talents.
In 1994, Counting Crows are the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, performing “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here.” The appearance sparks sales of their debut album and sends radio stations scrambling to add the songs to their playlists. Despite this breakthrough appearance, the band was never asked back for the show.
Recording, Releases, Awards, Charts and Signing
In 1961, Motown Records signed The Supremes to a worldwide recording contract. Originally founded as the Primettes, they became the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date, America’s most successful vocal group with 12 No.1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. On January 15, 1966 their single “My World is Empty Without You” entered the pop charts. In related news of the Supremes’ storied career, on this day in 1983, Phil Collins had his first UK No.1 single with his version of ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ a hit for The Supremes in 1966. Collins’ version was the first track on the very first Now That’s What I Call Music CD.
On this day in 1968, The Byrds released The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
In 1972, Don McLean’s “American Pie” started a four week run at No.1 in the US singles chart. The song is a recounting of “The Day the Music Died” (a term taken from the song) the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.), and the aftermath. The song was listed as the No.5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century.
Also on January 15, 1972 Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ made its debut on the US singles chart. The group’s third single peaked at No.15 and spent 8 weeks on the chart. The song’s title is a reference to a nameless, black Labrador retriever that wandered around the Headley Grange studios during recording.
In 1976, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was on the UK album chart. The album’s packaging, designed by Storm Thorgerson, featured an opaque black sleeve inside which was hidden the album artwork. Thorgerson had noted that, in the US, Roxy Music’s Country Life was sold in an opaque green cellophane sleeve – censoring the cover image – and he adopted the idea, concealing the artwork for Wish You Were Here in a dark-colored shrink-wrap (making the album art ‘absent’).
Also on this day in 1976, Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon on guitar for Eagles. Just one year later in 1977, The Eagles topped the US album chart with Hotel California, the group’s third US No.1 album. In the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, Don Henley said the song was about “a journey from innocence to experience…that’s all”.
Also on this day in 1977, David Bowie released Low. It the first of three albums produced with the help of Brian Eno in which Bowie explores electronic music. Much of the album is instrumental.
In more news of January 15, 1977, ABBA scored their second UK No.1 album when Arrival went to the top of the charts.
In 1982, The Police kicked off the North American leg of their 119-date Ghost In The Machine world tour at the (old) Boston Garden, supported by The Go-Go’s.
In 1983, Men At Work started a four week run at No.1 in the US singles chart with “Down Under” the Australian group’s second US No.1, also a No.1 in the UK.
In 1992, Garth Brooks’ No Fences and Ropin’ The Wind become the first country albums certified for shipments of 6 million, while his self-titled set goes triple-platinum.
In 2008, The iTunes Music Store reached 4 billion songs sold.
In 2013 Jason Aldean’s “Take A Little Ride” is awarded a platinum single and Bruno Mars released the single “When I Was Your Man” in the U.S.
A big day for the Rolling stones:
Aside from the previously mentioned television fiasco, January 15th marked several other occasions in the long history of the Rolling Stones:
In 1966, their album December’s Children was certified gold.
In 1973, The Rolling Stones announced that they would put on a benefit concert for the people of Managua, Nicaragua. The area had been devastated by an earthquake on December 23rd. Nicaragua is the home of Jagger’s wife, Bianca.
In more recent memory, in 2008, Ronnie Wood was recovering following an operation for a hernia after he sustained the injury during the band’s recent Bigger Bang tour. The 60-year-old guitarist was told to rest for two months after the procedure.
January 15 was not a big day for lawsuits in music history. The only incident occurred in 1964 when Vee Jay records filed a lawsuit against Capitol and Swan Records over manufacturing and distribution rights to Beatles recordings.
In 1982, Harry Wayne Casey, KC of KC and the Sunshine Band, was partially paralyzed in an automobile accident in Miami, FL. His recovery took the better part of a year.
On January 15, 1998, James Brown was admitted to a South Carolina hospital for treatment for an addiction to painkillers at the age of 64. He was released on January 21, 1998.
In 2010, Charlie Daniels was rushed to hospital after suffering a stroke. Daniels recovered and was released from the hospital two days later.
In 2014 Trace Adkins entered a treatment facility for alcohol rehab after getting into a fight with a Trace Adkins impersonator during a country music cruise.
Good Deeds, Politics and Protest:
In 1981, Stevie Wonder led a rally in Washington to get Martin Luther King’s birthday declared an official holiday. He performed his song “Happy Birthday,” written for King, which became a rallying call for the movement.
In 1991, Sean Lennon’s remake of his father’s “Give Peace A Chance” was released to coincide with the United Nation’s midnight deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The lyrics were updated to reflect concerns of the 90s.
In 2005, Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera and Tim McGraw participated in a benefit for victims of a tsunami in Southern Asia.
January 7th was a busy day in music history:
- Paul Revere, of Paul Revere and the Raiders fame, was born on January 7, 1938. Paul Revere of American Revolutionary War fame, was born on January 1, 1735.
- On this day in 1948: Kenny Loggins was born in Everett, Washington, but eventually settled with his family in Alhambra, California. Loggins is a singer, songwriter and one half of Loggins & Messina (1971-76). In 1984, his single “Footlose” from the film of the same name, went to US No.1 & UK No. 6
- In 1959, Kathy Valentine (bassist, guitarist for Go-Go’s) was born in Austin, Texas.
- In 1974, Carly Simon and James Taylor become the parents of their second child, Sarah Martin.
- Also in 1974, John Rich was born in Amarillo, Texas. After a stint with Lonestar, he re-emerged in 2004 as one-half of Big & Rich and as a solo artist. He also wrote hits for other acts, including Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman,” Faith Hill’s “Mississippi Girl” and Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown”
- In 2012, Beyoncé and Jay-Z had their first child: a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter.
Tours and Recording
- 1964, The Beatles recorded a seven-song appearance for the BBC Radio program Saturday Club. They played “All My Loving”, “Money”, “The Hippy Hippy Shake”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Johnny B. Goode”, and “I Wanna Be Your Man”. The show was broadcast on February 15, while the Beatles were in the US.
- In 1970, Led Zeppelin kicked off an 8-date UK tour at Birmingham Town Hall. The set list included: “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, “Dazed And Confused”, “Heartbreaker”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “Thank You”, “Moby Dick”, “How Many More Times”, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Communication Breakdown”.
- 1971, Black Sabbath released Paranoid their second studio album in the US. The album features the band’s best-known signature songs, including the title track, “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”. The album was originally titled War Pigs, but allegedly the record company changed it to Paranoid, fearing backlash from supporters of the ongoing Vietnam War.
- On this day in 1981, The Police played the first night of a North American tour at The University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada during their Zenyatta Mondatta World Tour.
- In 1993, R.E.M. played a Greenpeace Benefit show at the 40 watt Club, Athens, Georgia, for 500 people. The show was recorded on a solar powered mobile recording studio.
- In 1994, Oasis started recording their debut album Definitely Maybe at Monnow Valley Studio in South Wales. When released in August 1994, it became the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK, (being surpassed in 2006 by Arctic Monkeys debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not). The album went on to sell over 12 million copies worldwide.
Charts and Awards
- On January 7, 1950 (yes, 2 weeks after Christmas) Gene Autry’s “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” based on a children’s book written in 1939, hits #1 becoming the first number 1 hit of 1950.
- In 1955, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and his Comets, entered the UK chart for the first time, establishing a foothold for rock and roll in Britain. The original title of the song was ‘We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!’ and is often cited as the biggest-selling vinyl rock and roll single of all-time with sales over 25m.
- In 1978 Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It” works its way to #1 on the Billboard country singles chart and becomes an anthem for disgruntled workers everywhere.
- In 1980, Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door is certified platinum; it was the last Zep album issued while drummer John Bonham is alive.
- A year later in 1981, Eagles Live was certified platinum; it was 13 years until the next Eagles album is released.
- The Dixie Chicks and Alan Jackson each received four nods when the Grammy nominations were announced in 2003.
- At the 35th Annual People’s Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 2009, Carrie Underwood was the night’s big winner, taking home the Favorite Female Singer, Country Song (“Last Name”) and Favorite Star Under 35 Awards. Rascal Flatts also picked up an award for Favorite Group.
- In 2010, According to Nielsen SoundScan’s final 2009 figures, Michael Jackson was the best selling artist of the year, moving 8,286,000 units. Forty years after their break-up, The Beatles were still the best selling group, thanks to their remastered catalog which sold 3,282,000 copies. Digital downloads however, were a different story. Lady Gaga was the queen of downloads, selling 15,297,000 digital tracks. The Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift all finished in the vicinity of 12 million digital units.
- In 2012, Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream became the first album in history to have 7 songs from the same album reach #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. This was official as soon as the single “The One That Got Away” hit #1.
- Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood and Hunter Hayes won country trophies on CBS’ telecast of the People’s Choice Awards in 2015. Taylor Swift claims three pop honors.
News of the weird and other stuff that happened on January 7th
- A tornado ripped through Tupelo, Mississippi in 1946, forcing a ten-year-old Elvis Presley to hide in the cellar with his mother, Gladys.
- In 1987, Elton John underwent throat surgery at a hospital in Sydney, Australia, to remove nodules on his vocal cords. He cancelled his American tour, but was thrilled with the results, later claiming that his voice became stronger and more resonant after the procedure.
- In 1997, Prince appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell show.
- In 2013, Justin Bieber fans were targeted by an online trolling campaign. Members of the image board 4chan claimed to be raising an awareness campaign to encourage the pop star to say ‘no’ to drugs. The campaign’s premise was “cut for Bieber” where fans were encouraged to cut themselves and posts photos of the damage online accompanied by the #CutForBieber tag on Twitter. Several hoax accounts posted results in “response,” but it was felt that no actual Bieber fans fell for the ploy. Earlier in October, a similar troll campaign called “Bald for Bieber” encouraging fans to shave their heads for the pop star based on the false rumor that he had cancer, fizzled out too.
- That same year, in less dramatic news, The Zac Brown Band sang the national anthem before college football’s BCS Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 42-14
In the courts
- In 1962, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” hits #1 — again. A year later in 1963, Chubby Checker got sued by Gary “U.S.” Bonds for copyright infringement to the tune of $100,000, claiming that Checker’s “Dancing Party” is a thinly veiled rewrite of Bonds’ recent hit “Quarter To Three.” The suit was eventually settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum.
- In 1970, Max Yasgur, whose farm in upstate New York played host to the original Woodstock Festival, was sued for $35,000 in property damages by neighboring farmers.
- In 1976, former record exec Kenneth Moss is sentenced to 120 days in the Los Angeles County Jail and four years probation for his role in the accidental overdose death of Average White Band drummer Robbie McIntosh.