On this day in 1942: Charlotte-born John Scott Trotter conducts the orchestra for Bing Crosby’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The record will sell more than 30 million copies — the best-selling single in history.
Trotter, the roly-poly son of a wholesale grocery salesman, launched his career as pianist and arranger in fellow Charlottean Hal Kemp‘s band at Chapel Hill. In 1936 he left for California, where he began his long association with Crosby by scoring the movie “Pennies From Heaven.”
On this day in 1942: In Hollywood, Roy Acuff records “The Wreck on the Highway,” based on a real-life accident in Rockingham.
The melancholy song will become a country-music classic and a staple of Acuff’s long career, but it was first recorded (as “Crash on the Highway” or “I Didn’t Hear Anybody Pray”) in Charlotte in 1938 by the Dixon Brothers.
Many years later the Rev. Dorsey Dixon Jr. will recall: “My father wrote this song in 1936, when the ’36 Fords came out with a V-8 engine and began to kill people all over the nation. The wreck took place at the Triangle Filling Station. . . . Dad went down and seen the wreck, seen the whiskey, blood and glass on the floor of the car.”
Dixon and his brother Howard, both long-time millworkers, specialized in what have been referred to as “did-wrong-and-got-caught songs.” In the 1930s the Dixon Brothers often performed on WBT radio under the sponsorship of Crazy Water Crystals and made several records at RCA Victor’s makeshift Charlotte studio.
“….There is one arena in which [Lebron] James has topped the man he wants to dethrone as the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time…. James has become the moral leader of the NBA….
“There’s absolutely zero chance that Michael Jordan would ever endorse a wildcat strike [such as the one proposed against Donald Sterling]. He’s always been incredibly careful not to say anything that might interfere with the massive marketing apparatus that he built or could in any way give the perception that the entire totality of his being wasn’t focused on destroying any and all opponents in his path on the court.
“In 1990, he was asked to support the progressive black mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt, who was challenging an icon of racial animosity in Jesse Helms. As Nike’s chief pitchman, Jordan famously refused to give his endorsement because ‘Republicans buy sneakers too.’ ”
— From “LeBron James Is a Better Leader Than Michael Jordan Ever Was” by Robert Silverman in the Daily Beast (May 15)
Surely, “Republicans buy sneakers too” remains Jordan’s most memorable quote. (Alas, there’s not much competition.) But did he really say it?
“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
– From Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Since being published in the first half of the twentieth century, the titles of Thomas Wolfe’s novels Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again have appeared thousands of times in all things Wolfe-related. The two iconic phrases, however, appear a surprising number of times in ways having nothing to do with Thomas Wolfe or his writings. They are found in cartoons, newspaper headlines, advertisements, magazine covers, children’s toys, etc. Below are a few examples from the Aldo P. Magi Collection on Thomas Wolfe of how Wolfe’s words have been used over the past 100 years. And while you’re browsing, consider joining lovers of all things Wolfe when they gather for the 36th annual meeting of the Thomas Wolfe Society in Chapel Hill on Friday.
“Look Homeward, Lassie,” View-Master reels, 1965
You Can’t Blow Home Again by Herb Payson, New York: Hearst Books/William Morrow and Company, 1984
“Look Homeward Angels,” Charlie’s Angels 10th Anniversary, People, 20 October 1986
“Look homeward, Angelenos,” The Herald Sun, 30 January 1994
“Sometimes, you can go home again.” Providence, aired on NBC, 1999-2002
“Much is different between Massachusetts and North Carolina — our geography, our industries, our crops and our problems. You have sent us your hurricanes — and taken our textiles mills in exchange.
“Much is different — but much more is the same. Our borders and your borders extend back to the Atlantic. Our history and your history extend back to the earliest days of this nation — indeed the earliest days of this continent’s settlement. Our universities and your universities are noted throughout the land. We take pride in the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock — but they were preceded by the English colony on Roanoke Island in 1585. We take pride in our native sons who helped draft the Declaration of Independence — but they were preceded by the Mecklenburg Declaration and the Halifax Resolution for Independence. We had the Boston Tea Party — you had the Edenton Tea Party….”
— From remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, North Carolina Democratic Club Dinner, Washington, D.C., March 21, 1959
“How Much Does It Cost to Book Your Favorite Band?” asks Priceonomics (May 16) — and by golly it has the answers, thanks to a booking-agency list provided by an anonymous source. These numbers don’t include expenses and seem only ballpark-reliable, but of course the North Carolinians caught my eye….
James Taylor: $1 million plus
Avett Brothers: $175,000 to $250,000
Clay Aiken: $85,000 to $100,000 plus [stump speech included?]
Kellie Pickler: $60,000 to $80,000
Ben Folds: $40,000 to $50,000
Charlie Daniels Band: $40,000 to $50,000
George Clinton: $20,000 to $25,000
“Kasell got his first radio gig when he was 16; he hosted a late-night, easy-listening music show on WGBR in Goldsboro, N.C., playing romantic songs and waxing poetic about young lovers all through the evening. (You’ll want to click the listen link at the top of this page to hear a clip of that!)
“Once he got a job on-air, only one thing kept him off: He was drafted in the 1950s. After his Army service, WGBR welcomed Kasell back by giving him his very own morning drive-time music program, ‘The Carl Kasell Show.’ ”
— From ” ‘I’ve Enjoyed Every Minute Of It’: Carl Kasell On His 60 Years In Radio” at NPR (May 16)
Let’s hope Kasell finds his final appearance as official judge and scorekeeper of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” almost as memorable as his tour of Wilson Library.
“In the late 1940s, when the Red Sox were in Washington to play the Senators, Williams received a telegram from a doctor in North Carolina who was attending a dying boy. The doctor said the boy talked about him constantly and wondered if Williams could send him an autographed ball to give him a lift. Ted flew down [to Raleigh] to deliver the ball in person and returned to Washington that night.”
— From “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” by Ben Bradlee Jr. (2013)
According to Bradlee, the often-cantankerous Williams made at least three such long-distance deliveries, always avoiding publicity about his generosity.
John Blythe has detailed Williams’ earlier stay in Chapel Hill for Pre-Flight School.