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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

December 3, 1927

Today is the first Tuesday Timeline entry for the final month of 2013, and as it so happens, it coincides with the third day of “THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR”. And, I will be the first one to admit that finding holiday themed topics for Tuesday Timeline entries has been a really big challenge. But, somehow I managed to make it work for today.

(Now I just have to find Christmas themed entries for December 10, December 17, and December 24.)

Anyway, I offered up a little bit of a clue as to what today's Tuesday Timeline entry happens to be all about in yesterday's blog. Before we get to work exposing the secrets behind that clue as well as talking about the topic itself, we've gotta start things off right, just as we do on this and every Tuesday.

It's time to take a look at the events that shaped the world...and the common thread is that all of these events took place on December 3.

So, on this date in...

1818 – Illinois becomes the twenty-first state admitted into the United States of America

1854 – Eureka Stockade – More than twenty Australian gold miners are killed by state troopers in an uprising over mining licenses

1901 – Theodore Roosevelt delivers a speech to the House of Representatives asking Congress to curb the power of trusts – a speech that had no fewer than 20,000 words

1910 – Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show

1919 – The Quebec Bridge opens to traffic following twenty years of planning and construction

1927 – Laurel and Hardy release their first film, “Putting Pants on Phillip”

1951 – John and Greg Rice are born, and until John's 2005 death, the duo were known as the shortest living male twins in the world

1960 - “Camelot”, the musical, debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway

1964 – Over eight hundred students of the University of California, Berkeley, are arrested following the takeover and sit-in of the campus administration building in protest of the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on UC property

1967 – The world's very first human heart transplant is performed in Cape Town, South Africa

1970 – British Trade Commissioner James Cross is released after being held hostage for sixty days by a Quebec-based terrorist group

1973 – Pioneer 10 sends back the first close-up shots of the planet Jupiter

1976 – An assassination attempt is made on Jamaican singer Bob Marley, who survives and plays a concert just two days later

1979 – In Cincinnati, Ohio, eleven people suffocate to death while trying to find seats at Riverfront Coliseum just before a concert by The Who is set to start

1984 – Bhopal Disaster – a methyl isocyanate leak from a pesticide plant leads to the deaths of over 3,800 people, and sicken as many as six hundred thousand more in what is easily considered to be one of the world's costliest industrial accidents.

1992 – The world's first text message is sent by a test engineer for Sema Group

1994 – American AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser passes away at the age of 47

1997 – At least 121 nations (except The United States, Russia, and The People's Republic of China) sign “The Ottawa Treaty” - a treaty designed to prohibit the manufacturing and deployment of anti-personnel landmines

1999 – Actress Madeline Kahn passes away at the age of 57 from ovarian cancer

2002 – Actor Glenn Quinn, best known for playing the role of Mark Healy on “Roseanne” dies of a drug overdose at the age of just 32

2012 – Typhoon Bopha makes landfall over the Philippines, killing 475 people

Some interesting facts, don't you think?

Now let's wish the following people a very happy birthday! Happy birthday to Phyllis Curtin, Jean-Luc Godard, Jaye P. Morgan, Nicolas Coster, Ozzy Osbourne, Heather Menzies, Mickey Thomas (Jefferson Starship), Don Barnes, Benny Hinn, Steven Culp, Daryl Hannah, Julianne Moore, Scott Ian (Anthrax), Steve Harris, Andrew Stanton, Katarina Witt, Brendan Fraser, Montell Jordan, Lu Parker, Vernon White, Bucky Lasek, Holly Marie Combs, MC Frontalot, Mickey Avalon, Malinda Williams, Troy Evans, Trina, Daniel Bedingfield, Rainbow Sun Francks, Anna Chlumsky, Brian Bonsall, Amanda Seyfried, Michael Angarano, and Jake T. Austin.

So, which date are we going to take a look at today?

Well, we're actually going to be going back to the date in which Laurel & Hardy released their very first film. December 3, 1927.

But, we're not going to be talking about a movie starring a couple of silent film stars in this Tuesday Timeline. Instead, we'll be discussing a person who made his claim to fame as a true blue crooner. His career spanned several decades, and he was the host of a variety show that ran for almost a decade.

And, it is here where that clue I posted yesterday comes into play. Here, I'll post it again to refresh your memory.

No, the theme of the blog is not Staples, or “back to school ads”. But take a listen at the song that plays in the background. You know, the one that goes “It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? Well, the version that the Staples commercial used was a cover version, and to be honest, several artists have performed this song over the course of the last fifty years. But admittedly, it's this version (reportedly the original version at that), that happens to be my favourite interpretation.

ARTIST: Andy Williams
SONG: It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
ALBUM: The Andy Williams Christmas Album
DATE RELEASED: October 14, 1963

Now, here's an interesting fact about the song. Believe it or not, it wasn't intended to be released as a single when Andy Williams set about recording a Christmas album (the first of eight he would eventually do). Columbia Records instead released Williams' version of “White Christmas” as the promotional single instead.  Somehow though, this classic song found its way into households and record stores all over the world, and the album itself reached the pole position on the Christmas album charts in 1963, 1964, and 1965, and stayed on the charts right up until 1973!

So, what does this song have to do with the actual Tuesday Timeline date?  It's quite simple.  For it was on this date eighty-six years ago today that the man who made this song famous was born!

Howard Andrew Williams was born in the small town of Wall Lake, Iowa, the son of Jay Emerson and Florence Williams.  He was the youngest of four boys, and graduated from University High School in West Los Angeles.

Now, does anyone want to take a guess as to how Andy Williams began his singing career...or at the very least, how he made the decision that he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment - when he was a child, he performed in a choir at a Presbyterian church.  Williams also performed on several radio stations with his brothers (as a quartet known as "The Williams Brothers") in several different states, including his home state of Iowa, California, Ohio, and Illinois.

(I suppose that it's kind of a moot point to mention that the Williams family moved around a lot.)

It wouldn't be until 1953 that Andy would begin singing professionally as a solo artist.  Prior to that, Andy and his brothers were signed by MGM to sing on the film soundtracks of such films as "The Harvey Girls" and "Good News" after being discovered and hired by Kay Thompson, then the head of the MGM vocal department.

TRIVIA:  According to Andy Williams' autobiography, "Moon River and Me", it was revealled that Andy and Kay had a relationship together.  At the time the relationship began, Williams was nineteen, and Thompson was nearly forty!  And, who said that "cougars" were a millennial thing?

Now, back to Andy's music career, as stated before, Williams began his professional singing career in 1953, but the problem was that his first six singles did not chart at all.  It wasn't really anybody's fault.  After all, we all know that Andy Williams had a lot of just took a while for him to make his mark.

Fortunately that time came just one year later, when Steve Allen asked him to perform on his talk show "Tonight With Steve Allen".  Williams quickly became a regular performer on that television series, and shortly after that switched record labels from RCA Victor to Cadence Records.  Now, Cadence Records was a considerably small label.  In fact, I suppose you could say that it could be considered an independent label by today's standards.  However, Williams made the most of it, and it proved to be an advantageous decision.  After all, his third single released with Cadence Records - "Canadian Sunset" - became a Top 10 hit in 1956!

More hits soon followed.  1957's "Butterfly" became Williams' one and only #1 hit on the Billboard charts, "Are You Sincere?" hit the #3 position in 1958, and by 1960, Williams had already been considered to be one of the most popular vocalists in the entire United States of America.  I wouldn't quite say that he was quite as popular as...say...Elvis Presley, but he certainly did have his entourage of loyal fans who salivated over him and his music.  And, why wouldn't they?  Andy Williams, after all, had a really unique voice.  After all, you heard an example of it up above!

Now, where many artists such as Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey achieve a lot of their success to single releases, Andy Williams success came from album sales.  Guess how many gold records he achieved over his entire career?  Go on, guess!  Five?  Ten?

How about EIGHTEEN gold records between 1956 and 1973?  How is that for successful?

And, that's not all.  Did you know that one of Andy Williams' biggest hits was one that he actually never got credit for?  Here, I'll set the story up.

Back in 1962, Andy Williams was asked to sing a song from the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" at that year's Academy Award ceremony, which was written by the duo of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.  Here's that song below.

Now, many of you would be correct in assuming that "Moon River" would be Andy Williams' signature song.  And, the song ended up winning an Academy Award that very night.  But here's where things get tricky.  Because Andy Williams' version of "Moon River" was technically never released as a single, it was ineligible to enter the Top 40 charts.  But, don't feel too bad for Williams.  After all, lightning did strike twice when another composition by Mancini/Mercer ("Days of Wine and Roses") also won the Academy Award after Williams performed it.

And, of course, we cannot forget the variety show that Andy put on for nearly ten years.  When "The Andy Williams Show" debuted in 1962, nobody expected it to last until 1971.  But it did, and it was because of Andy's show that we were introduced to some really big talent over the years.  In fact, perhaps one of the biggest discoveries that Williams had on his show were a group of brothers from Utah known as the Osmond Brothers!

(So, the next time you ever see Donny and Marie on your television set, you can either thank - or blame - Andy Williams...well, depending on if you like them or not.  For the record, I'm okay with them.)

Having had experience hosting a variety show, Andy Williams also put on annual Christmas specials right around this time.  By all accounts, the Christmas specials began right around the same time he began hosting his show, and continued to air annually until 1974.  After an eight-year hiatus, the specials resumed in the early 1980s, and continued well into the 1990s.

And, here's a little extra piece of trivia.  As of right now, Andy Williams' record for hosting the Grammy Awards has never been broken.  He has been the only person to host the ceremony for a consecutive seven years in a row between 1971 and 1977.  And, to top off his general coolness, he actually defended John Lennon when Richard Nixon attempted to get the former Beatle deported!  

In Andy's later years, he still kept performing well into his eighties, citing that continuing to sing at concerts kept him young.  And, he certainly did keep performing as long as he could.  In May of 1992, Williams decided to open up his own theatre in Branson, Missouri, which he christened with the name "The Moon River Theatre", and over the next two decades, several performers appeared on Andy's stage, including Glen Campbell, Ann-Margret, Charo, Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop, Phyllis Diller, Pat Benatar, and David Copperfield, amongst others.

In fact, the theatre itself appeared on several episodes of the soap opera, "As The World Turns" in the summer of 2007, in which Williams himself made a guest appearance.

Sadly, all good things have to come to an end.  And, for Williams, the end came on September 25, 2012.  After being diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2011, Williams underwent chemotherapy in order to fight the cancer, and by July of 2012, it had been announced that Williams had come back to Branson (after moving to Los Angeles to be closer to the hospital where he was undergoing the cancer treatment), and Williams was actually looking forward to performing in Branson that fall.

Sadly, his death at the age of 84 prevented him from doing that.

However, even though Andy Williams has been gone for a whole year, his music still remains a part of people's playlists and record collections, and his music will likely still be heard at holiday parties yet to come.

After all, they didn't call him "Mr. Christmas" for nothing.

And, that wraps up our Tuesday Timeline, and our third day of the advent calendar.  What's on tap for day #4?  Well, I don't know yet.  I figure that I'd let the Clue cards tell the future on that one.

One more note before I leave this topic for today, even though it has nothing to do with today's topic, I do want to send my condolences to the family and friends of actor Paul Walker, who was killed in a car accident in California on the afternoon of November 30, 2013.  

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