As my father would say: “Age before beauty.”
On September 11, 1847, the song “Oh! Susanna,” by Stephen Foster, was given its first public performance. It happened in Pittsburgh, PA, at The Eagle Ice Cream Saloon. The performers were a small troupe of singers under the musical direction of Mr. Nelson Kneass, an actor, singer, pianist and banjo player.
According to Stephen Foster biographer Ken Emerson, from his book Doo-Dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture (1997), that event makes September 11, 1847: “a firm date for the birth of pop music as we still recognize it today.”
That’s the first, here’s the second.
On September 11, 1945, Leo Kottke was born in Athens, GA.
At the age of 11, Leo’s mother bought him a cowboy-stenciled guitar to try to cheer him up as he recovered at home from a long and serious bout of mononucleosis. Somehow, while fooling around with the instrument, he discovered the fingering for the E major chord. Within two weeks he was well enough to get out of bed. He later once explained: “The guitar gave me something to do for the rest of my life.”
Leo recorded his first album, 12-String Blues, in 1968 for a small Minnesotan label and his first album for John Fahey’s slightly larger Takoma Records in 1969. That album, 6 & 12-String Guitar, containing 13 steel-string acoustic guitar instrumentals, launched his career and led to his debut album with Capitol Records in 1971.
Leo Kottke, through dozens of subsequent albums and countless (on going) live performances, has been credited with popularizing solo, steel-string acoustic guitar music and establishing it as serious concert material. Writing in an album review in Acoustic Guitar magazine, Jeffery Pepper Rogers wrote that Leo is: “one of acoustic guitar’s most evocative and enduring voices.”
If you’ve never heard Leo Kottke before, the best place to start, in my opinion, is with his Live CD. Released in 1995 and recorded on an Easter Sunday at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO, it captures some of his best guitar pieces and songs in spectacular performances and even features a few of his renowned in-concert stories that make his concerts such hilarious as well as spellbinding events.
Always good for a colorful quote, my favorite from Leo is found in the book Dangerous Curves: The Art of the Guitar (2000). Leo says: “A guitar sounds good even if you drop it on the floor. A beginner can find music in the guitar that has escaped the virtuoso. It’s a magical instrument, constrained by a short range and a peculiar tuning, that produces music beyond the limits of its own nature.”
And last but not least, the third.
On September 4, 1962, the Beatles (21-year-old John Lennon, 20-year-old Paul McCartney, 19-year-old George Harrison and 22-year-old Ringo Starr) entered Abbey Road Studios in London, England, to record the songs for their first record.
Under the direction and guidance of producer George Martin, the Beatles rehearsed and then recorded multiple takes of two songs: “How Do You Do It” by Mitch Murray and “Love Me Do,” a Lennon & McCartney original.
At their next recording session, on September 11, 1962, the Beatles abandoned “How Do you Do It” and recorded two more original songs: “P.S. I Love You” and “Please Please Me.” They also took another stab at “Love Me Do,” but this time with a change.
George Martin had not been happy with Ringo’s drumming on “Love Me Do” at the previous session. So, he brought in 32-year-old Andy White, a well-respected London recording session drummer, to play on the re-recording of the song. The resulting takes produced the version that now stands as the A-side of the Beatles’ first single: “Love Me Do”/”P.S. I Love You”
But the very first run of 45-rpm records released in the UK on October 5, 1962 had the September 4th version with Ringo on drums. Sometime in 1963, Parlophone Records changed the pressings to contain the September 11 version with Andy White on drums. When Please Please Me, the Beatles’ first album came out in the UK, it also contained (and still does on the CD) the September 11 version.
The September 4th version is on the Past Masters, Vol.1 CD.
So, it could be argued that technically, the Beatles first single was recorded on September 4, 1962. But the recording of “Love Me Do” that most of the world knows and loves was recorded on September 11.
Here’s a question for you: besides who’s playing drums, what’s the difference between the two versions?
Leave a comment with your answer!
Information for the section of this post about “Love Me Do” came from the book The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988) by Mark Lewisohn. If you can find it, buy it. This is a must have for any Beatles fan. Highly recommended.