1952 – Ahmet Ertegun begins recording his newest signing, 21-year-old Ray Charles, at Atlantic Records on West 56th St in New York City. Ertegun had purchased the singer’s contract from the Swingtime label for $2,500.
1962 – Unhappy with drummer Pete Best’s role in The Beatles, Brian Epstein and the other three members decide to sack him. Best plays his last gig the following night at The Cavern in Liverpool. Ringo Starr, who is nearing the end of a three-month engagement with Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, receives a call from John Lennon asking him to join the band. Ringo gives Rory Storm three days’ notice and makes his first appearance with the Fab Four on August 18.
1969 – The Grateful Dead release Aoxomoxoa.
1961 – Bob Dylan is paid $50 for his first recording when he plays harmonica on the title track of Harry Belafonte’s “The Midnight Special.”
1960 – Eddie Cochran is killed when the taxi he is traveling in crashes into a lamppost on Rowden Hill in Chippenham, England. Songwriter Sharon Sheeley and singer Gene Vincent survive the crash. Cochran was 21.
1936 – The SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America), now known as the Barbershop Harmony Society, is founded.
1956 – Leo Fender patents the successor to his popular “Telecaster” model of electric guitar, this time called the “Stratocaster.”
1945 – Billboard magazine begins listing a top albums chart. The first #1 was The Nat King Cole Trio.
Not all of the musical performances on New Year’s eve devolved into disaster; Sleater-Kinney paid tribute to David Bowie & George Michael at San Francisco’s Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, while Paul McCartney teamed up with The Killers in St. Barts for a rendition of “Helter Skelter.” Watch Sleater-Kinney’s performance here, and check out McCartney and The Killers’ performances below.