Chet Atkins was instrumental in creating the Nashville sound, transforming country music in the 1950s from honky-tonk to the smoother, more polished, and popular style that dominated the charts after 1958. We remember Atkins’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Chet Atkins was instrumental in creating the Nashville sound, transforming country music in the 1950s from honky-tonk to the smoother, more polished, and popular style that dominated the charts after 1958. As a recording artist, he won nine Country Music Association awards for instrumentalist of the year, earning the nickname Mr. Guitar. As a producer, he worked with legends like Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Elvis Presley, and many more. He was also honored with induction into the Musicians, Rock & Roll, and Country Music halls of fame. We remember Atkins’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2014: Bob Hastings, U.S. actor who played Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter on “McHale’s Navy,” dies of prostate cancer at 89.
Hastings won fans on “McHale’s Navy” as Lieutenant Carpenter, a bumbling yes man. Other memorable roles were on “All in the Family” and “General Hospital.” The Brooklyn-born Hastings began his career at age 11 on radio dramas. He branched into TV in its infancy, snagging a role on “Captain Video and His Video Rangers” in 1949. Other early acting jobs included a recurring role on the military comedy “The Phil Silvers Show.” Read more
2014: Paul Mazursky, U.S. film director and screenwriter whose movies include “An Unmarried Woman” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” dies at 84.
Mazursky and his writing partner Larry Tucker first triumphed with the script for “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” a clever takeoff on the emerging sexual freedom of the late 1960s. Warner Bros. turned it down for fear of its racy subject, but Columbia scooped it up and accepted Mazursky’s proviso that he would direct the film. Natalie Wood and Robert Culp portrayed Carol and Bob, a well-off couple who seek open lives. Dyan Cannon and Elliott Gould played Alice and Ted, who hesitate but acquiesce in Carol and Bob’s invitation to wife-swapping. In the end, the quartet bow to the old morality, and the wife-swapping remains unconsummated. Read more
2009: Harve Presnell, U.S. actor and singer who had a long career, appearing in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 1964 and later “Fargo” and “Saving Private Ryan,” dies of pancreatic cancer at 75.
In the 1964 film version of “Molly Brown,” Presnell played opposite Debbie Reynolds, who had the title role. According to the Internet Movie Database, he was a 1965 Golden Globe winner – along with George Segal and Topol – for most promising male newcomer. In 1969, Presnell co-starred with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in the film musical “Paint Your Wagon.” As Rotten Luck Willie, Presnell sang songs that included the beautiful “They Call the Wind Maria.” Read more
2003: Robert McCloskey, U.S. children’s book author known best for his book “Make Way for Ducklings,” which has sold over 2 million copies, dies at 88.
2003: Buddy Hackett, U.S. actor and comedian whose movie appearances included “The Music Man” and “The Love Bug,” dies at 78.
Hackett got his start as a stand-up comedian, performing in upstate New York’s borscht circuit nightclubs before he was even out of high school. His success there led him down to the big city, where he performed in larger and more famous clubs, and even on Broadway. TV roles followed, with an early starring role on “Stanley,” one of the last live TV sitcoms. Read more
2001: Joe Henderson, U.S. jazz saxophonist who recorded for Blue Note Records and played with many jazz greats, including Herbie Hancock and Woody Shaw, dies at 64.
2001: Chet Atkins, U.S. guitarist known as Mr. Guitar, who was elected to the Country Music and Rock and Roll halls of fame and won 14 Grammy awards, dies at 77 after being diagnosed with cancer.
In 1955, Atkins had a hit of his own with a version of “Mister Sandman.” As rock music took off and country waned, he was put in charge of RCA’s country music division and began creating what was to become known as the Nashville sound – a slicker, more pop-oriented production style that ditched the traditional fiddles and steel guitars in favor of lush string sections and multitracked vocals. Read more
1995: Phyllis Hyman, U.S. singer-songwriter and actress who had a No. 1 rhythm and blues hit with “Don’t Wanna Change the World” in 1991, takes her own life at 45.
1995: Gale Gordon, U.S. character actor remembered for his regular roles opposite Lucille Ball as Theodore J. Mooney on “The Lucy Show” and as Harrison Otis Carter on “Here’s Lucy,” dies of lung cancer at 89.
He didn’t have a broad acting career beyond his Spanky stardom; he found it difficult to break away from the iconic character and hard to get back into the biz after a stint in the Air Force. But his vast number of appearances in the groundbreaking “Our Gang” series added up to many more credits than most actors generate in decadeslong careers – and McFarland did it in just 10 years. Read more
1987: King Donovan, U.S. actor who appeared in the original movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and the TV series “The Bob Cummings Show,” dies of cancer at 69.
1985: James A. Dewar, U.S. baker who invented a cream-filled spongecake that he named the Twinkie while working as a plant manager for the Continental Baking Co. in Chicago, dies at 88.
1984: Lillian Hellman, U.S. playwright and screenwriter known for the play “The Little Foxes” and the screenplay “The North Star,” dies of a heart attack at 79.
1983: Mary Livingstone, U.S. comedienne and actress who was the wife of Jack Benny and played a large role on his popular radio show, dies of heart disease at 78.
1976: Firpo Marberry, U.S. Major League Baseball pitcher and the first player to record over 100 saves in a career in which he played mostly for the Washington Senators, dies at 77.
1974: Alberta Williams King, U.S. mother of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is shot and killed at 69 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church – six years after her son’s assassination.
1971: Herbert Biberman, U.S. director and screenwriter known best as one of the Hollywood 10 who were cited for contempt of Congress and jailed for refusing to testify about their possible involvement with the Communist Party, dies at 71.
1965: Bessie Barriscale, U.S. film actress who was a star of the silent era in the 1910s, dies at 80.