They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Well, old Willie just keeps on truckin’, doesn’t he? A singer, songwriter, actor, political activist and truck stop owner, Willie Nelson turns 78 years old today. He achieved songwriting success in the late ’50s writing songs for Ray Price (“Night Life”), Faron Young (“Hello Walls”) and perhaps the most famous country song of all time, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. He broke through as a performer in 1975 with the release of his album Red Headed Stranger and cover of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Continue reading »

More myth than man, Robert Johnson influenced countless musicians with his brand of haunting country blues. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton all cite Johnson as a key influence in their musical development, and four of his songs (“Sweet Home Chicago”, “Cross Road Blues”, “Hellhound on My Trail” and ”Love in Vain”) appear on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of songs that shaped rock and roll. Pretty impressive for a guy who recorded under 30 songs over 2 sessions in 1936-37 and died at 27 – yes, he started that trend too.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, Big Head Todd and The Monsters have augmented their lineup with an all-star cast of blues musicians to record 100 years of Robert Johnson. B.B. King, Honeyboy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin (guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf) all turn up, among others. The result is toe-tapping, but ultimately somewhat unsatisfying. Continue reading »

The story of the modern Veterans Day begins in 1953 at a Kansas shoe store. Up until then, every November 11th Americans celebrated Armistice Day, a holiday commemorating the signing of the treaty that ended World War I. By the 1950s though, with a second World War come and gone, folks were less keen on remembering a peace that – oh yeah – didn’t work so well.

Enter Alfred King. The shoe salesman in Emporia, Kansas (2000 Census population: 26,760) had a son fight in World War II and decided that veterans, who didn’t die (after all, they had Memorial Day), deserved celebrating more than a failed treaty. He campaigned tirelessly to change the holiday, starting at home; in 1953, Emporia became the first town in America to celebrate Veterans Day. The idea caught on and, with help from a local congressman, the issue moved to Washington. On October 8, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. All thanks to one small-town shoe salesman. Continue reading »

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