50 years ago today, the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was recorded for BBC television. The wildly popular cult comedy series ran for four seasons in the UK and is famous for sketches such as, Dead Parrot, Spam, The Spanish Inquisition, Ministry of Silly Walks, and Lumberjack Song.

The six troupe members were highly educated: the founders, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge University; Terry Jones and Michael Palin are Oxford graduates; and American-born member Terry Gilliam graduated from Occidental. Their comedy is often pointedly intellectual, with numerous erudite references to literary figures and philosophers—like the football match between famous philosophers from Greece and Germany. WATCH that sketch, and a great highlight reel below, and learn more… (1969)

Five years after it debuted in the UK, the Dallas PBS station KERA became the first U.S. TV station to broadcast episodes of the Flying Circus, and is often credited with introducing to American audiences the grab bag of animation and skits that always included the phrase “And, now, for something completely different”.

The ‘Pythons’ have reunited for several live stage performances over the years, which are on DVD—including a farewell show in London in 2014, running for ten nights—and several of the members went on to star in Hollywood films like A Fish Called Wanda (with Cleese and Palin) and Terry Gilliam became a director (Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Fisher King, co-starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges).

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Brazil gained its independence from Portugal and celebrates on this day (1822)
  • TV pioneer Philo Farnsworth succeeded in transmitting an image electronically with his image dissector (video camera tube), and called it television—with 300 patents, he made many crucial contributions to the development of all-electronic television at his Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, in Fort Wayne, Indiana (1927)
  • Desmond Tutu became first black leader of South Africa Anglican Church (1986)
  • Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first Afghan in space, returned aboard a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft after 9 days on the Mir space station (1988)

And, on this day in 1915, Illinois cartoonist and illustrator Johnny Gruelle patented his Raggedy Ann doll.

He had originally drawn a face for his daughter on a dusty, faceless rag doll she found in the attic. He named the doll Raggedy Ann, and Marcella played with her so much, that he figured other children would like one too. Three years later he published Raggedy Ann Stories and later created a series of popular books and dolls, adding Raggedy Andy as a playmate.

Also, on this day in 1936, Buddy Holly was born into poverty in a musical family in Lubbock, Texas. In just 18 months, from his first #1 hit song, “That’ll Be The Day,” to when he died in a tragic plane crash at age 22, the prolific singer-songwriter topped the charts with more than a dozen Top 40 hits worldwide.Buddy Holly publicity photo 1958

Unlike his hero, Elvis Presley, Holly was an innovator for writing his own material and experimenting with double tracking and orchestration. He also pioneered and popularized the now-standard use of two guitars, bass, and drums by rock bands.

His influence was felt in Britain where he became the major musical influence for The Beatles and Stones. Teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney saw Holly for the first time on English television in 1958, and began studying Holly’s records–like Peggy Sue, Everyday, and Not Fade Away– and learned his performance style and lyricism. They even took their insect-inspired band name from Holly’s band, The Crickets (and McCartney later bought the publishing rights to Holly’s song catalogue).

Don McLean’s popular 1971 ballad “American Pie” and its lyric, “The Day the Music Died,” was inspired by Holly’s death and the day of the plane crash.

Buddy Holly Glasses at crash site -Dsapery CC
This sculpture marks the spot, photo by Dsapery, CC license

Holly chartered a four-seat airplane in Mason City, Iowa, for himself and his band because their tour bus had no heat and kept breaking down in the frigid Midwest winter. The plane crashed in inclement weather and Holly was killed on February 3, 1959.

One of the Everly Brothers  advised Holly to replace his old-fashioned glasses with a trending horn-rimmed model. When the plane crashed, the wreckage was strewn across the snow-covered ground and while his other belongings were recovered immediately, there was no record of his signature glasses being found. They were presumed lost until, in March 1980, they were discovered misplaced in a county courthouse storage area. They had been found after the snow had melted the following spring, and were returned to Holly’s widow a year later.

Photo by Jim Summaria in 1977, CC license

And, on this day in 1968, the members of Led Zeppelin—Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham—made their live debut in the outskirts of Copenhagen for 1,200 youngsters at the Egegard School. Afterward, a local review stated: “Their performance and their music were absolutely flawless.” They became one of the most innovative, influential, and successful rock bands in history, selling 200-300 million LPs sold worldwide. The band’s fourth album, with the song “Stairway to Heaven“, is among the most popular and influential works in rock music. Every one of their 9 studio albums reached Billboard’s top 10, and six hit #1. WATCH a short bio video…

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