Classics Du Jour


CDJ Today: April 20 in Classic Rock

Mike Portnoy performs with Twisted Sister in 2016
Mike Portnoy with Twisted Sister in 2016. CC BY-SA 3.0. Credit: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi

April 20, 1971 – Five friends at San Rafael High School in California coin the term “4:20” as a euphemism for smoking pot so they could talk about their “activity” in front of their parents. April 20th becomes a popular day to spark one up, as does 4:20 pm… every day.

April 20, 2011 – K.K. Downing, guitarist and founding member of Judas Priest, announces he is leaving the band.

April 20, 1995 –  Eddie Van Halen pleads no contest to trying to board a plane with  a semi-automatic pistol in his carry-on luggage.  He was detained at Burbank Airport, and later fined $300 and given one year’s probation.

April 20, 1968 – Deep Purple make their live debut in Denmark. Originally known as Roundabout, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore renames the band Deep Purple after his grandmother’s favorite song.

April 20, 1993 – Aerosmith release Get A Grip, which goes on to sell over 7 million copies and become their first #1 album. It featured guest performances by Don Henley and Lenny Kravitz.

April 20, 1992 – A Concert For Life, a tribute to the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury, takes place at Wembley Stadium with artists including James Hetfield, Robert Plant, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Slash, Roger Daltrey, Tony Iommi, Axl Rose and David Bowie.

April 20, 2002 – Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic dispute Courtney Love’s ownership rights over Nirvana’s recordings in a Seattle court. They question her mental stability, calling her “irrational, mercurial, self-centered, unmanageable, inconsistent and unpredictable.”

April 20, 1987 – Police in Rhode Island arrest a teen accused of biting the head off a gerbil.  He did it as a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne.  Hey, wasn’t that supposed to be a bat?

April 20, 1981 – John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas is sentenced to 5  years in jail after pleading guilty to drug possession charges.  He later receives only 30 days.

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April 20, 1976 – George Harrison joins his friends in Monty Python for a surprise appearance during their show in New York City. He is costumed as a Canadian Mountie and joins the chorus for “The Lumberjack Song.”

April 20, 1978 – The movie, FM, which will become the basis for the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, makes its debut. Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett both appear in the film.

Classic Rock Birthdays

April 20, 1967 – Mike Portnoy, drummer (Dream Theater, Twisted Sister)
April 20, 1948 – Craig Frost, keyboards (Grand Funk Railroad, Bob Seger)
April 20, 1945 – Jimmy Winston, keyboards (Small Faces)

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Rock Remembrances

April 20, 2021 – Les McKeown, lead singer of the Bay City Rollers, dies from natural causes in London.  He was 65. When McKeown replaced founding lead singer Gordon “Nobby” Clark,  the band became international superstars. Their #1 song in the U.S. was “Saturday Night.”

April 20, 1991 –  Steve Marriott, singer and guitarist of Small Faces and Humble Pie, dies in a fire at his home in Essex, England.  He was 44.  Marriott had been smoking in bed and fell asleep. An autopsy found Valium, alcohol and cocaine in his system.  Marriott was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of Small Faces.

April 20, 2012 – Bert Weedon, inventor of “Play In A Day” guitar guides, dies at the age of 91.  Released in 1957 in Britain, “Play In A Day” sold over two million copies and was a major influence on musicians including Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton, Brian May and John Lennon.

April 20, 1949 – Ben Spector, Phil Spector’s father, commits suicide when Phil is just 9 years old. The elder Spector was 46.  Spector’s song “To Know Him Is To Love Him” comes from the inscription on his father’s headstone.

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