88 years ago today, Johnny “Guitar” Watson was born. John Watson Jr. was a super-showman electric guitar player and singer in the style of T-bone Walker, who was musically active for 40 years blending blues, funk, and R&B. His biggest success came through a string of singles in the 70s like A Real Mother For Ya, Gangster of Love, and Aint that a B*&[email protected] READ and listen some more to this hidden gem… (1935)
At just 18 years of age, coastal jazz composer Shorty Rogers had John Watson as part of his Orchestra to perform for the famed ninth Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. It was a year before he saw the Joan Crawford movie Johnny Guitar and took the moniker for his own.
Watson affected a swaggering, yet humorous personality, indulging a taste for flashy clothes and wild showmanship on stage. With the axe, he preferred to “attack it” without the use of a pick. He would pluck the strings so hard to get the stressed sound he wanted that he often had to change strings several times per show.
In 1976 Watson released his most successful album, Ain’t That a Bitch, and got it certified gold. Perhaps the most apropos thing ever written about Watson was in an article by British music magazine The Wire, when in 1998 three years after Watson’s death, the publication included Ain’t That a Bitch in their list of “100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)”, where the staff described it as “the best-sounding funk album of all time,” and “as slinky as Nat King Cole, as sharp and sassy as no one else in recorded history.”
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Norman Rockwell, the iconic American illustrator, was born (1894)
- History’s first embryo transfer from one woman to another resulted in a live birth at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, thanks to Dr. John Buster and his research team (1984)
- Mother Teresa was visited in her home for the sick and dying in Calcutta by the Pope who helped feed the patients; she called it “the happiest day of my life” (1986)
- Retired Air Force Col. Eileen Collins became the first woman astronaut to pilot a Space Shuttle when the NASA Discovery shuttle blasted off (1994)
- The term Open source – to define free software with code structure open to the public, such as Firefox, Android, and Linux, was invented by Christin Peterson (of the Foresight Institute) at a strategy session held in Palo Alto, California (1998)
- The UK singing sensation Adele reached No.1 on the UK album chart within a week of the release of her debut album, ’19’ (2008)
37 years ago today, a group of computer animators started Pixar Animation Studios out of a corporate spin-off from Lucasfilm. Pixar would go on to make their first film Toy Story, 9 years later, and over the following 20 years become the most critically admired animation studio in the world. After being turned down 45 times by 36 venture capitalists, George Lucas eventually found the financial backing for Pixar in one Steve Jobs, who had recently been edged out of Apple. With films like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and Up, Pixar ruled the early 2000s animation space and has picked up 23 Academy Awards. WATCH their 35 years of animation in a special video… (1986)
Pixar had enormous trouble in the early years attracting investment, with mounting losses eventually leading to Jobs becoming the sole owner of the company, and three series of lay-offs which cut the staff down from 100 to just 42. Attempts to sell proprietary computer animation technology that would remove the need to paint 2D images for animated films, weren’t going well. It would eventually be Disney, which would later buy the company, that gave them the much-needed cash to continue operations when they signed a 3-film production deal to the tune of $26 million.
They then created Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2, which together grossed over $1 billion. Pixar’s remarkably consistent success has seen them never receive less than an A- review from CinemaScore, pocket the aforementioned 23 Academy Awards, and surpass in overall quality, the animated offerings of their parent company Disney over the same period.
153 years ago today, with the intention to empower millions of former black slaves, the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, granting voting rights to all men regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.
To close loopholes in the amendment, Congress later enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ensured federal oversight of elections in cities that still discriminated through the use of poll taxes. It also banned literacy tests and similar discriminatory devices, and created legal remedies for people affected by prejudice.
The amendment drew the ire of some in the women’s suffrage movement because it did not give females the right to vote. They would need to protest for a half century more, until 1920 when they finally won the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. (1870)
42 years ago today, Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Norway. Trained as a physician, she served three terms and then became Director-General of the World Health Organization. She is also known for having chaired the Brundtland Commission on sustainable development, after becoming an activist.
Currently 82 years old, she is deputy chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together to resolve conflict, challenge injustice, and address problems around the world. She wrote a memoir, Madam Prime Minister: A Life in Power and Politics. (1981)
(Photo courtesy of The Elders)
And Happy 67th Birthday to Nathan Lane, the comedic actor and writer of stage, film, and television.
Born and raised Irish-Catholic in New Jersey, he renamed himself after the character ‘Nathan Detroit’ from the musical Guys and Dolls because there was already a Joseph Lane registered with Actors Equity. His Catholic high school voted him best actor and he moved to New York City to become a success. He is perhaps best known to non-theater goers for his role as Albert, in the Robin Williams film The Birdcage, or for voice work as Timon in The Lion King.
Lane won Tony Awards for his performances in A Funny Thing That Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Producers. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006, and in 2008 he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. CHECK out his movies, and a children’s book he authored about his bulldog, Naughty Madeline. WATCH an appearance in 2014 with Producers co-star Matthew Broderick… (1956)