The mission of the American Treasure Tour blog, as determined by our team of creators and debated over many sleepless nights in dark, dingy conference halls lit by gas lamps, heatless and often sleep deprived, is to inform. That's it. One word. A lot of work to come up with that, but we are prepared to make sacrifices when it comes to achieving our goal. We thought about being more specific about our goal, but an old favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon came on and, well, we got distracted. That all to say we are returning to the Music Room (again) to talk about (another) record on the wall. And today is a big one: the self-named first American release from the Scotland-based pop/disco band ... the Bay City Rollers!
The Longmuir brothers and their friends formed a band they called the Saxons in 1966, but they didn't much like the name. So they got out a map, got a dart, and threw one at the other. The dart landed near Bay City in Michigan, and that's how they became the Bay City Rollers. Things moved slowly for the band as they recorded albums and saw their songs not quite make it. Then, in 1974, things improved. Their song "Remember (Sha La La La)" became a hit and other songs followed. Their success inspired comparisons to the Beatles, and their first North American album (pictured) compiled their earlier songs and went immediately to number one in 1976, including such hits as "Saturday Night" and "Bye Bye Baby." Although more albums were to follow, none matched the success of 1976's Bay City Rollers. Law suits followed and, because of internal tensions and legal restraints, it is unlikely the original members of the band will ever play together again, although many do tour separately and under different names.
Which of the following was NOT a hit for the Bay City Rollers?
a) "Rock 'n Roll Love Letter"
b) "You Made Me Believe In Magic"
c) "Keep On Dancing"
e) "Don't Worry Baby"
Yesterday, we celebrated the opening day in 1904 of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. It turns out we are deep in the heart of world's fair territory, because today is the anniversary of the opening of one of the most famous of the world's fairs ever to occur on American soil: the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. There are a number of reasons for the fame of this fair, not the least of which was the fact that it was in an almost-completely rebuilt Chicago. Much of the city burned down only 21 years before, in the devastating Chicago fire. It proved something of a rebirth for the city, though, with wooden structures replaced by brick and stone, as skyscrapers were also slowly rising about the city. The fair earned the name of the Great White City because of the awe-inspiring buildings, painted uniformly and lit using the controversial alternating current of George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla (as opposed to Thomas Edison's direct current, a story for another time). The first Ferris Wheel ever built dominated the fair's skyline, and numerous other innovations were introduced to the world here, most notably Quaker Oats products, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and the first machines that would elongate (or squish) pennies. We could go on about the importance of the fair, but instead, we will recommend a book for you to read: Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. Please note that it is NOT for the faint of heart. The story of the White City is fascinating, but it is intertwined with the equally true story of one of America's early serial killers, who prowled the fair. Please consider that a warning.
Okay, fine. Since we're in world's fair mode here, let's also talk about the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York which opened today a mere eight years after the Columbian Exposition. This one has a much sadder place in American history not because of the fair itself - it would have been a fine and positive experience if not for the September 6th assassination of President William McKinley by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz at the Temple of Music, within the fair grounds. Ironically, an early version of the x-ray machine was on exhibit at the fair, but McKinley's doctors were extremely leery of the new technology and decided not to use it. McKinley died eight days after he was shot due to gangrene from the wound.
Tall tales are part of what makes the American West so fascinating to people - a frontier country where peaceful Native Americans might be described as "savage Indians," bent on the destruction of innocent pioneers. As often as not, stories were written by eastern publishers about western men and women. Sometimes, those westerners perpetuated the stories and invented new ones to help increase their fame. One such person may have been Martha Jane Canary. Born today in 1852, Martha Jane was a teenager when her parents took her and her five younger brothers and sisters out west. Both parents died along the way, and Martha struggled to make a living, to take care of her kin. She did anything - and everything - she could to survive, before they were old enough for her to take off on her own. By 1876, she had latched onto "Wild Bill" Hickok, the famous gunflighter and gambler, and was already known as "Calamity" Jane herself. There are lots of legends as to how she got the name, some of them invented by Jane herself. But it stuck. Jane's story often incorporates alcohol abuse and mistreatment by others, but it also includes her own generosity and kindness. She may not have been a cultured person, nor especially liked, but she was generally respected. Happy birthday, Calamity Jane!
Another famous American woman celebrates her birthday today: Miss Kathryn Elizabeth Smith, or more famously Kate Smith. Born in 1907, the contralto singer is forever connected with the Irving Berlin song "God Bless America," which she sang at a number of sporting events during her career - most notably for the Philadelphia Flyers intermittently over a number of decades. She also performed on radio and television, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan for her contribution to American music.
An entertainer should in his public performance keep himself out of any controversy, political or otherwise. - Kate Smith
Answer: "Marlina." Although it was released on the 1976 release, this song was not released to any success in the United Kingdom or the United States. We at the blog feel comfortable saying that only the most die-hard Bay City Roller fans would know the answer to this one. So, if you knew it, let us know. We will be endlessly impressed with your knowledge.