march 1958

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March 27th 1958: Khrushchev becomes Soviet Premier

On this day in 1958, Nikita Khrushchev became head of the government of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev served as Premier of the world’s first Communist state from 1958 to 1964. He, along with Lenin and Stalin, are the only Premiers to also have been party leader simultaneously. Under Khrushchev, Russia was partially de-Stalinised, which was a core policy of the Premier who vociferously denounced his predecessor’s dangerous ‘cult of personality’. However, the accession of Khrushchev did not ease the tensions of the Cold War, and during his tenure Russia escalated its space program to compete with the United States in the ‘Space Race’. Russia had successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, but now sought to put a man in space, which they did in 1961. It was also under Khrushchev that the Cold War came the closest to breaking out into fully fledged war, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. Khrushchev was deposed by party colleagues in 1964 and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary of the Communist Party and by Alexei Kosygin as Premier.

A crowd of about 2,000 persons watched the auction on March 30, 1958 of the farm owned by serial killer Ed Gein, where a signficant amount of human remains were discovered. The highest bidder for the land and charred ruins was Enden Schey a Wisconsin real estate broker who said he planned to put the entire 195 acres into pine for timber and pulpwood production.

 Elvis Presley as he walks to his barrack at Ft. Chaffee reception center ~ March 26, 1958 

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Happy Birthday Robert Donat 18th March 1905 - 9th June 1958

Mr Donat is the best film actor - at any rate in star parts - we possess: he is convincing, his voice has a pleasant roughness, and his range is far greater than that of his chief rival for film honours, Mr Laurence Olivier. Mr Donat is sensible, authentic, slow; emotion when it comes has the effect of surprise, like plebian poetry. 

Graham Greene in 1937, reviewing Knight Without Armour. 

Hidden Herstory: Daisy Bates, “The First Lady of Little Rock”

Photo: Photo of Daisy Bates at the Arkansas NAACP office.

Daisy Bates (1914-1999) is our Hidden Herstory of the day, as part of a long legacy of African American Women as organizers. Bates and her husband led several efforts to desegregate Arkansas buses and public schools. She was elected president of the Arkansas NAACP in 1952, and was inspired after Brown v. Board to focus on education. Bates played a significant role in the integration of the Little Rock Central High School in 1957, organizing and mentoring the “Little Rock Nine.” Despite receiving death threats, one through the window of her home, Bates continued. 

She was also a reporter for the largest black newspaper in the state founded by her and her husband, the Arkansas State Press, to publicize racial inequality.

Photo: Photograph of seven of the Little Rock Nine meeting at the home of Daisy Bates, March 1958, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Elmer J. Whiting, III, © Gertrude Samuels.

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On this day in music history: May 12, 1958 - “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 4 weeks, topping the Rhythm And Blues Best Sellers chart for 5 weeks on May 19, 1958, and also topping the Country And Western Best Sellers chart for 3 weeks on June 2, 1958. Written by Felice Bryant and Boudleaux Bryant, it is the second chart topping single for the rock & roll duo from Brownie, KY. Having also penned The Everly Brothers first number one single “Bye Bye Love”, the husband and wife songwriting duo of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant write the ballad “All I Have To Do Is Dream” in only fifteen minutes. The Everlys record the song at RCA Victor Studios in Nashville, TN on March 6, 1958, in just two takes. Legendary guitarist Chet Atkins also plays electric guitar on the track. Released as a single in April of 1958, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #9 on April 28, 1958, it will leap to the top of the chart two weeks later. When it tops the country singles chart on June 2, 1958, it becomes the first record in Billboard chart history to top the pop, R&B, and country charts simultaneously. The single is also backed by the song “Claudette”, written by a then relatively unknown musician named Roy Orbison, inspired by his wife. “Claudette” also charts, peaking at #30 on the pop Best Sellers chart on the same date that “Dream” tops the chart. A rock & roll standard, “All I Have To Do Is Dream” is covered numerous times over the years including versions by actor Richard Chamberlain (#14 Pop), Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell (#27 Pop, #6 Country), and Andy Gibb & Victoria Principal (#51 Pop). The Everly Brothers original version of “All I Have To Do Is Dream” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2004.

Remembering  Robert Donat  on his birthday (18 March 1905 -9 June 1958). He won the Best Actor Oscar for Goodbye, Mr Chips, 1939. He is seen here in a screencap from The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)

“His tragedy was that the promise of his early years was never fulfilled and that he was haunted by agonies of doubt and disappointment”  - David Shipman