One Day in Your Life: July 31, 1976
I have always thought of July 31 as the high point of the summer. 1976 was my favorite summer. And so that naturally leads to this:
July 31, 1976, is a Saturday. Elvis Presley, on his last tour, plays Hampton Roads, Virginia. Eric Clapton plays London. Jethro Tull plays Tampa, Florida. Barry Manilow plays Philadelphia, where health officials are struggling to figure out what mysterious disease sickened over 200 people and killed 34 during an American Legion bicentennial gathering a few days earlier. It's been nicknamed "legionnaire's disease." The Montreal Olympics are coming to an end, as an East German marathoner wins the gold in the final event of the games, and six athletes, five Romanians and a Russian, defect to Canada. The Green Bay Packers play the earliest preseason game in their history, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-16. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the first game in their history, losing to the Los Angeles Rams, 26-3. Future pro football player Marty Booker is born. In Colorado, a foot of rain falls in the mountains, causing a flood in Big Thompson Canyon that kills 150 people. NBC airs the first-season finale of its new weekend late-night show, NBC's Saturday Night, hosted by Kris Kristofferson. (His wife, Rita Coolidge, is the musical guest.) Sketches include "Samurai General Practitioner" and "Gynecologist Blind Date," with Kristofferson and Jane Curtin. Other TV programs on the air that night include the syndicated soap Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and The Invasion of Johnson County, a western starring Bill Bixby. NASA releases a photo taken by the Viking Mars probe before it landed on July 20. It seems to show a face on the Martian surface, but NASA says it's merely a rock formation and nothing mysterious. A UFO is sighted in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Louisiana adopts petrified palm wood as its official state fossil.
On the Billboard singles chart dated July 31, "Kiss and Say Goodbye" by the Manhattans is spending its second week at Number One; "Love Is Alive" by Gary Wright is Number Two; Starbuck's "Moonlight Feels Right" is at Number Three; Number Four is "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. The Beatles and the Beach Boys are back-to-back at Numbers 7 and 8, with "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Rock and Roll Music," the first time both bands have been in the Top 10 at the same time since 1967. New in the Top 40 are "Say You Love Me" by Fleetwood Mac, "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry, "Who'd She Coo" by the Ohio Players, "Shake Your Booty" by KC and the Sunshine Band, and War's "Summer." Two versions of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" are bubbling under the Top 40--one is the 1967 original, the other is a new recording from the hit movie of the same name. New on the Hot 100 that week: "Still the One" by Orleans and "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. George Benson's Breezin' tops the album chart.
And I probably drove my 1974 AMC Hornet somewhere that night, with the radio on, of course. It was a Saturday, after all.