Rock guitarist Peter Frampton was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this week. President Ford met Frampton, along with a group of son Steve Ford’s friends, in the Oval Office on September 8, 1976.
-from the Ford Library
"…Pete Seeger, the folk singer. He lives not far from me near Beacon, N. Y., and is loved by many people, young and old, who have enjoyed his music."
-Eleanor Roosevelt, January 15, 1962
Pete Seeger (1919-2014) was one of the Roosevelt Library’s iconic Hudson Valley neighbors. In 2008 Pete performed here as part of our Young Emerging Artists Show, teaching children to better the world through caring and song.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Pete Seeger shared a vision for a more equal world. In 1944, Pete was photographed singing for a racially integrated crowd at the opening of the Washington Labor Canteen, with Eleanor Roosevelt seated front and center.
Violinist Eugene Fodor provided after-dinner entertainment in the East Room of the White House.
Earlier in the year Fodor became the first person from outside of the Soviet Union to share the top honors at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. “He also jogs four miles a day, is a scuba diver, a skier, and rides spirited horses. He obviously shares my enthusiasm for physical exercise,” President Ford observed in his introductory remarks. “I wish I shared even a little of his musicianship.”
Jazz legend Duke Ellington died on this day, May 24, 1974
On April 24, 1969, Ellington celebrated his 70th birthday at the White House where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The medal was presented by President Richard Nixon, who himself had played the piano since childhood. From the President’s remarks:
"When we think of freedom, we think of many things. But Duke Ellington is one who has carried the message of freedom to all the nations of the world through music, through understanding, understanding that reaches over all national boundaries and over all boundaries of prejudice and over all boundaries of language..
In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke.”
Afterwards, the President played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for the Duke while guests at the White House sang along.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974
Happy Birthday Willie Nelson!
“When I was in trouble in the White House or when I wanted to have some deep thoughts, I had a very high quality hi-fi player, and the number one thing I played was Willie Nelson songs. All the good things I did as a president, all the mistakes I made — you can blame half of that on Willie.”
-Jimmy Carter in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine
President Carter on stage at a performance by country western singer, Willie Nelson at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. September 13, 1980. The two remain friends today.
-from the Carter Library
75,000 People Gather on the National Mall to Hear Marian Anderson Sing
On this day, April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson performs from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
When Howard University invited her to perform in Washington, they approached the Daughters of the American Revolution about the use of their auditorium, Constitution Hall. The DAR’s rejection on the basis of Ms. Anderson’s skin color prompted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to publicly resign from the organization.
-from the FDR Library
1941: LBJ decides to run for Senate. His opponent will be W. Lee O’Daniel, better known as “Pappy” O’Daniel.
Pappy was a radio celebrity who became Texas Governor in 1939. Advertising for his company, Hillbillly Flour, he was well known for the slogan “Pass the Biscuits Pappy.” The music for “Beautiful Texas,” one of O’Daniel’s more popular tunes, is featured on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission website.
To learn more about Pappy, his political career, and involvement with Western Swing music, check out these pages from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and Texas State Historical Association.
The two leaders shared a love of jazz, and Havel surprised Clinton with a gift: a tenor saxophone. “It was a time of hope,” Clinton says. “Havel gave me this tenor sax. He told me that under the Communists, Czechoslovakia had to make all the saxophones for the Warsaw Pact. But now, he said, we will have to compete, and I hope we are up to it.” The sax, Havel pointed out, no longer carried a Communist insignia, but rather the symbol of Havel’s movement: OF, for Občanské Fórum or Civic Forum. The O contained a whimsical smiley face, a wry, self-deprecating wink at the pretensions of power.
The Grand Ole Opry House has seen the likes of Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Patsy Cline, and even President Richard Nixon perform on its stage in Nashville, Tennessee. On March 16, 1974, the new Grand Ole Opry House was dedicated. President Richard Nixon spoke at the festivities, which fell on the same date as Mrs. Nixon’s birthday.
At the request of the Grand Ole Opry’s Roy Acuff, aka the King of Country Music, President Nixon played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for the First Lady. Nixon also played “My Wild Irish Rose” and “God Bless America.”
During some onstage banter, Mr. Acuff asked if Nixon was a member of the musician’s union, otherwise the Opry might catch grief from the other performers. Fortunately, Nixon declared he was an honorary member of the union in New York City.
Happy National Piano Month!
My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.
-Harry S. Truman
September is National Piano Month, and Harry S. Truman is one of several Presidents to tickle the ivories!
Because of Truman’s poor eyesight, he couldn’t play sports like baseball or football as other young boys did. Instead, Truman took piano lessons, and took them very seriously. According to his childhood friend Henry Chiles, Harry took lessons almost every day, and could be seen on the street carrying his music portfolio.
Truman’s love of piano continued into his adult years, and he loved to go to the vaudeville theaters to hear musicians play. Among his favorite composers were Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven.
Truman kept a piano in his personal reception room at the Truman Library and would often sit down and play for guests. This photo was taken when comedian Jack Benny came to the Truman Library to film an episode of his television show.
-Another gem courtesy of the Archivists at the Truman Library