Today in Entertainment History

On Jan. 1, 1950, Sam Phillips opened his first recording studio, the Memphis Recording Service.

In 1953, country star Hank Williams died of a heart attack brought on by alcohol. The year before, he had been fired from the Grand Ole Opry because of his drinking. Williams was 29.

In 1960, Johnny Cash played his first concert for inmates, at a show at San Quentin Prison in California. Future country star Merle Haggard was in the audience, serving time for burglary.

In 1962, The Beatles failed their first audition in London. Decca Records instead signed Brian Poole and The Tremeloes.

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In 1980, Queen Elizabeth made singer Cliff Richard a member of the Order of the British Empire.

In 1985, VH1 went on the air. Its first video was Marvin Gaye’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In 1992, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians played what was perhaps their smallest New Year’s concert. The crowd consisted of about 100 people on a sidewalk in Hickory, North Carolina. The band’s concert at a local hall had been canceled due to poor ticket sales.

In 1993, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” made its premiere on CBS.

In 1995, Rod Stewart set a new record for the largest attendance for an open-air concert. Three-and-a-half million people turned out for his New Year’s concert in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1997, Bryant Gumbel anchored his last “Today” show broadcast. He was replaced by Matt Lauer.

In 1999, actress Alyssa Milano married singer Cinjun Tate of Remy Zero. She filed for divorce eleven months later.

In 2002, Eric Clapton married Melia McEnery at a church in London. He was 56, she was 25. At the same ceremony, their six-month-old daughter was baptized, along with Clapton’s 16-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

In 2005, Motley Crue singer Vince Neil dropped an expletive while wishing drummer Tommy Lee a happy New Year shortly after midnight during a live broadcast of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Motley Crue later sued NBC, claiming the network banned them to placate the FCC.

In 2008, Eddie Murphy married Tracey Edmonds, the ex-wife of Babyface, in a non-legally binding ceremony on a private island off Bora Bora.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Frank Langella is 81. Singer-guitarist Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish is 77. Comedian Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) is 76. Actor Rick Hurst (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) is 73. Country singer Steve Ripley of The Tractors is 69. Rapper Grandmaster Flash is 61. Actress Renn Woods is 61. Actress Dedee Pfeiffer (“Cybill”) is 55. Actor Morris Chestnut (“The Brothers,” ”The Best Man”) is 50. R-and-B singer Tank is 43. Actress Eden Riegel (“The Young and the Restless”) is 38. Bassist Noah Sierota (sih-ROH’-tah) of Echosmith is 23.

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