Music History

Remembering Kit Kamien

Kit Kamien at the recording studio (Source: Kit Kamien and the Backroom Players)

“I personally want to try and change the stereotype of what somebody in a wheelchair is like… I want to be judged not on my disabilities but on my abilities. I think people get frightened by the wheelchair… It’s a powerful visual symbol, but it’s not a symbol of defeat. It’s a tool I use to help me accomplish my goals. Just by climbing into the wheelchair, I don’t have to surrender my sexuality, my sensuality, my good sense of humor, or anything," said Kit Kamien, a Bethesda musician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26, to The Washington Post in 1987.

Mystic Nobles in the District

Shriners Parade, Washington, D.C. Nile, Seattle, Wash., 5/6/23 i.e., 6/5/23. District of Columbia United States Washington D.C. Washington D.C, 1923. [June 5] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016826905/.

In June of 1923, Washington, D.C. prepared for thousands of men to descend upon the city for the 49th  annual session of the Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In other words, the Shriners were coming to town. Over the course of June 5, 6, and 7, the city would become a sea of fezzes as thousands of Shriners took part in a number of different events throughout the city, including a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, a massive concert at American League Park, and even an open invitation to overtake the White House by the President himself.

"Skyrockets in Flight:" Starland Vocal Band Launched from D.C.

The Starland Vocal Band in 1977, the same year they won 2 grammys for their 1976 debut album, which included the song "Afternoon Delight." (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The soundtrack of the summer of 1976 was a special one. Just after the USA celebrated its Bicentennial, one unlikely song, with its folksy style and airtight harmonization, soared past the countless disco tunes to the number 1 spot on the Billboard charts. No matter how you feel about it, “Afternoon Delight” was perhaps the perfect way to celebrate our independence. With lyrics referencing “skyrockets in flight,” the song (and the band behind it) has a very strong connection to the Nation’s Capital.  

It all started in 1974, when musicians Bill Danoff and Margot Chapman stopped at Clyde’s in Georgetown for a meal...  

An Evening at the White House with Johnny Cash

The Nixons and the Cashes pose for a photo on the evening that Cash performed at the White House. Image Source: National Archives.

April 17, 1970 was a big day for the United States—President Richard Nixon even described it as the “proudest day of [his] life and in the life of the country.” That afternoon, the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and made it to safety. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But the day wasn’t over yet. That evening, President Nixon would sit in the East Room of the White House for another cultural milestone: a legendary performance by country music star Johnny Cash.

Washington's "Official" Song

From left to right, Jimmie Dodd and his wife, Ruth, are presented with a record of "Washington" by James H. Simon.

What songs come to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Maybe Go-go music, or patriotic Sousa marches? Then of course there’s the “official” song, that instantly recognizable classic— “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd (Yes, the composer is the same grown man who went on to lead the Mouseketeers in the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955).

Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

When Autumn in D.C. Felt Like an Appalachian Spring

The Martha Graham Dance Company performs “Appalachian Spring” on the stage of the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on Oct. 30, 1944. The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division. https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2014/10/documenting-dance-the-making-of-appalachian-spring/

On the evening of October 30, 1944, hundreds of people filled the seats of the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress for the 10th  annual festival of chamber music. In the last performance of the night, the audience was transported to rural, 1800’s Pennsylvania through Aaron Copland’s musical masterpiece, Appalachian Spring. The ballet, featuring choreography by renowned American dancer, Martha Graham, enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive premiere that night, and became the most well-known piece of music commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge—the “patron saint of American music.”

Rare Essence Go-Goes On

Rare Essence Logo (Source: DC Library's Go-Go Archive)

“There ain’t no party like an R.E. party, cause an R.E. party don’t stop.” Rare Essence, known around the DMV as “the most wickedest band alive,” has been one of the region’s most popular go-go acts for over 40  years despite several setbacks which could have easily ended the party.  

WHFS Sells Out the Deejay

WHFS deejays Damian Einstein (far right) and Weasel (front) pose with musician Jesse Colin Young (second from right) and an unidentfied record executive (far left) at WHFS headquarters in Annapolis, MD in 1983.  (Photo source: Handout photo/Steve King).

On June 11, 1989, 8,000 WHFS 99.1 listeners crowded into the parking lot in front of Joe’s Record Paradise in Wheaton, Maryland for an eight hour concert to protest, station owner, Duchossois Inc.’s, decision to remove Damian Einstein from the airways.  Damian introduced the DMV to the newest music before it exploded on the national scene, and his sudden absence from the airways shocked WHFS’s most loyal fans who feared that Duchossois intended to move on from the progressive rock format. Centered on the freewheeling deejay, the progressive rock format defined WHFS defined the station since 1968. 

Fans were right to be concerned.  Over the course of the next decade, WHFS ditched the deejay for “gold-throated “on-air personalities who aired songs from corporately manufactured playlists.  While these changes initially earned the station a score of new fans, by the end of the decade, it was clear that WHFS lost the loyal support of their “bumper-stickered fans” who felt as if they lost a friend.    

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