Today in 1938, CBS (radio, obviously, because there was no TV yet) broadcasted The Mercury Theater on the Air production of “The War of the Worlds,” from H.G. Wells’ novel.
Some number of listeners who missed the opening (such as those listening to the NBC Red Network’s “Chase and Sanborn” show with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen who changed the channel when Nelson Eddy started signing) thought the simulated news bulletins were actual news bulletins about the Martian invasion, or an invasion by Nazi Germany. Half an hour into the broadcast, the CBS switchboard lit up, and police arrived at the studios. As he had planned, Welles concluded the broadcast by calling it the equivalent “of dressing up in a sheet, jumping out of a bush and saying, ‘Boo!'”
Then, the actors and producer John Houseman (before he became a law school professor and pitchman for Smith Barney) were locked into a storeroom while CBS executives grabbed every copy of the script. And then the reporters showed up.
At WGAR radio in Cleveland, host Jack Paar (yes, that Jack Paar) reassured callers that Martians were not actually invading. Paar was immediately accused of covering up the news.
The number one album and single today in 1971:
A low, low moment in rock history: Today in 1978, NBC-TV broadcast “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park”:
(The entire movie, believe it or don’t, can be viewed on YouTube.)
Birthdays start with Eddie Holland, part of the Motown Holland–Dozier–Holland writing team:
Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Starship and, believe it or don’t, Sesame Street:
Otis Williams of the Temptations:
Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles: