Singer-songwriter Buck Owens scored 21 No. 1 country hits during his 61-year career, propelling Owens into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. A pioneer of the California-inspired Bakersfield Sound, Owens was equally at home in Nashville, where he co-hosted “Hee-Haw” with Roy Clark from 1969 to 1986. His songs have been covered by the likes of the Beatles, Brad Paisley, and Ben Gibbard, inspiring artists from across the spectrum of rock, pop, and country, a testament to Owens’ incredibly wide appeal. We remember Owens’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1935: John Cazale, U.S. actor who appeared in only five films, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for best picture, is born in Revere, Massachusetts.
1932: Charlie O’Donnell, U.S. radio and TV announcer known best for his longtime work on “Wheel of Fortune,” is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
O’Donnell was a popular radio disc jockey in New York before starting his television career in Philadelphia with Dick Clark on “American Bandstand.” He also served as announcer for Oscar and Emmy telecasts and other game shows including “The Newlywed Game.” His signature phrase “Wheeeeeeel of Fortune,” could be heard on the show from its beginning with host Chuck Woolery in 1975. He worked on the show until 1980, and again from 1988 until his death. Read more
1931: William Goldman, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and “All the President’s Men” (1976), is born in Chicago, Illinois.
An indefatigable performer, Owens played a red, white, and blue guitar with fireball fervor. He and the Buckaroos wore flashy rhinestone suits in an era when flash was as important to country music as fiddles. Among his biggest hits were “Together Again” (also recorded by Emmylou Harris), “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail,” “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” “My Heart Skips a Beat,” and “Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line.” And he was the answer to this music trivia question: What country star had a hit record that was later done by the Beatles? Read more
1927: Porter Wagoner, U.S. country music singer known for his duets with Dolly Parton, is born in West Plains, Missouri.
In 1974, Parton decided she wanted a solo career. As she told Country Music Television in 2011, she and Wagoner had fought often during their years together, with each wanting to set the duo’s course. “So … there was a lot of grief and heartache there, and he just wasn’t listening to my reasoning for my going. …,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, why don’t you do what you do best? Why don’t you just write this song?’ Because I knew at that time I was going to go, no matter what. So I went home and out of a very emotional place in me at that time, I wrote the song, ‘I Will Always Love You.'” Read more
1926: John Derek, U.S. actor and director who was married to actress Bo Derek and helped launch her career, is born in Hollywood, California.
1918: Sid Bernstein, U.S. music promoter who brought bands including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the U.S. in the 1960s, is born in New York, New York.
Bernstein made the Beatles the first rock group to play at the classical Carnegie Hall and arranged their historic 1965 show at Shea Stadium, rock’s first major stadium concert, which set box office records. He also booked such top acts as Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland, and the Rolling Stones. He worked with Garland, Duke Ellington, and Ray Charles, and he promoted Dion, Bobby Darin, and Chubby Checker. Read more
1915: Michael Kidd, U.S. dancer and choreographer of popular films including “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “The Band Wagon,” is born in New York, New York.
To moviegoers, Kidd was known best for the 1954 film “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” in which a bunch of earthy backwoodsmen (some of them really stage dancers) prance exuberantly with their prospective brides. He also directed dances for Danny Kaye in “Knock on Wood,” took Fred Astaire out of his top hat to play a private eye in a Mickey Spillane spoof in “The Band Wagon,” and taught Marlon Brando how to hoof for “Guys and Dolls.” There is no Oscar category for choreography, so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Kidd with a special award in 1997 for “his services in the art of the dance in the art of the screen.” Read more
1910: Jane Wyatt, U.S. actress who won three Emmy awards for her starring performance on “Father Knows Best,” is born in Mahwah, New Jersey.
She appeared in 207 half-hour episodes from 1954 to 1960 and won three Emmys as best actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958 to 1960. The show began as a radio sitcom in 1949; it moved to television in 1954. “Being a family show, we all had to stick around,” she once said. “Even though each show was centered on one of the five members of the family, I always had to be there to deliver such lines as ‘Eat your dinner, dear,’ or ‘How did you do in school today?’ We got along fine, but after the first few years, it’s really difficult to have to face the same people day after day.” Read more
1881: Cecil B. DeMille, U.S. film director who was one of Hollywood’s first great movie makers and is known for films including “The Ten Commandments” and “Samson and Delilah,” is born in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
Watching “The Ten Commandments” today, it’s easy to forget that the film was old-fashioned even in 1956, made by a man in his mid-70s who’d been directing since the silent era. It was his last film, one that nearly killed him to make (he had a heart attack while orchestrating a crowd scene), and it shows. While Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford modernized with “Psycho” and “The Searchers,” DeMille stuck to the hesitant editing and camera movement that marked much early cinema. Many noticed a DeMille narrative formula and mocked it. Read more