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!

The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language. – Unknown

Neil Innes turns 69 today. For more than forty years he has been acclaimed as a songwriter, musician, and performer, acclaimed by allmusic.com as “the most important figure in British musical comedy since the heyday of vaudeville.” He’s been on both sides of a plagiarism lawsuit – he has to credit John Lennon and Paul McCartney as co-writers of Rutles songs, while the Oasis song “Whatever” is now required by law to credit Innes due to lifting the opening of his “How Sweet To Be an Idiot.” So Innes has talent to burn and no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity to boot, but in the United States he remains relatively unknown. For all his accomplishments, Innes may be one of those whose peculiar talents simply aren’t appreciated as much on this side of the Atlantic. This is best described as “America’s loss.”
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It’s unsettling to think what might have become (or not become) of rock music if not for one man in Memphis and his modest recording studio. The talent that Sam Phillips welcomed into his Memphis Recording Service in the early 1950s was legendary and included B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker and Ike Turner. These early blues and R&B artists gave Phillips and his fledgling label, Sun Records, some minor notoriety that would soon attract rock, country and rockabilly upstarts such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and of course, Elvis Presley. His willingness to produce raw-sounding records featuring reverb and distortion caused some to say Phillips didn’t know what he was doing, and others to praise his unique genius. Perhaps Phillips’ biggest stroke of genius was seeing the potential in the young Presley boy that just kept hanging around. Pairing Elvis with guitarist Scotty Moore and Bill Black on bass in the summer of 1954 initially led to a lackluster session until, after a break, Elvis began goofing around with Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right.” Instantly Phillips knew he was hearing something special – the white artist with the “negro” sound that he had been seeking. Continue reading »

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