On this day in music history: July 5, 1969 - The Rolling Stones perform a free concert in Hyde Park in London before a crowd of over 250,000 fans, paying tribute to former band mate Brian Jones who died just two days earlier. The band’s hour long set is filmed by Granada Television and shown on UK TV. The band also use the occasion to publicly introduce Jones’ replacement, guitarist Mick Taylor. The band also perform their new single “Honky Tonk Women” for the first time publicly at this show. The Stones also debut the songs “Midnight Rambler” and “Love In Vain” from the then unreleased “Let It Bleed” album as well as “Give Me A Drink” which surfaces on “Exile On Main Street” three years later.
On this day in music history: May 23, 1975 - “Red Headed Stranger”, the eighteenth album by Willie Nelson is released. Produced by Willie Nelson, it is recorded at Autumn Sound Studios in Garland, TX in January 1975. Well established as a country songwriting legend penning classics like “Crazy”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Hello Walls” and “The Party’s Over”, Willie Nelson’s midas touch as a writer does not transfer to him as a recording artist. Nelson grows frustrated of trying conform to Nashville’s formulaic approach, and decides to retire from music in 1972. He returns to his home state of Texas and settles in Austin. The city’s vibrant music scene inspires him anew. Revamping his musical persona, he becomes a pioneer of the “Outlaw” movement which includes contemporaries like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard. Rooted firmly in honky tonk music and rockabilly, it is a direct reaction to the slick “Nashville Sound”. Forming a new band that he dubs “The Family”, Nelson signs with Atlantic Records and records the album “Shotgun Willie” in 1973. It helps establish his new sound as well as the follow up “Phases And Stages in 1974. The acclaim those albums receive lead to him signing Columbia Records who offer complete creative control. Willie decides record a "concept album” centering around a fugitive on the run from the law after killing his unfaithful wife and her lover. He titles it “Red Headed Stranger” making reference to “The Tale Of The Red Headed Stranger”, a song he used to perform during his days as a radio DJ. Looking to work without any outside interference, Willie records in a small studio in Garland, TX. Armed with his battered and road weary Martin classical guitar named “Trigger” and spare instrumentation from his band, it is recorded in only five days for under $25,000. When the finished record is handed in to CBS, the label is initially skeptical about its chances for success. That doubt is immediately quelled with the release of the first single, a cover of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” (#1 Country #21 Pop), written by country music legend Fred Rose. Nelson’s performance turns it into an instant classic. “Stranger” finally establishes Willie Nelson as a country music superstar, winning him his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male in 1976. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2000, including four bonus tracks. It is also reissued on vinyl in 2008 Sony Legacy, by Music On Vinyl in 2009 and as a 180 gram pressing in 2011 by Impex Records. Regarded as an important and iconic country music album, it is selected for preservation by National Recording Registry of the Library Of Congress in 2010. “Red Headed Stranger” spends five weeks at number one (non-consecutive) on the Billboard Country album chart, peaking at number twenty eight on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.