35 years ago today, retired Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot (who was shot down a decade earlier) Joseph Kittinger set off alone as the first man to cross the Atlantic in a gas-powered balloon, setting a world aerospace record. Four days later, after having traveled 3543 miles (5703km) through the middle layers of the stratosphere, he had become the first man to fully witness the curvature of the earth—on a mission that was seen by its designers as a stepping stone to space. He also previously set a world record for the highest skydive from a height greater than 19 miles. (1984)

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The Boston Light became the first lighthouse lit in the United States: in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, in what was the American colonies, it is and still staffed by the Coast Guard in a keeper/tour guide role (1716)
  • The first televised episode of the comic strip The Archies aired, featuring a 5-piece band that rose to fame with the real-life pop hit Sugar Sugar—produced by Don Kirshner, who also brought us The Monkees (1968)
  • The Waltons TV program premiered on American television (based on a book by Earl Hamner, Jr.) about a a family in rural Virginia coping with the Great Depression (1972)
  • The first American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was canonized by Pope Paul VI (1975)
  • The film Quadrophenia was released, based on The Who’s 1973 rock opera album of the same name (1979)
  • The Golden Girls sitcom, starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, debuted on NBC (1985)
  • Historic National Prayer Service held in Canada on Parliament Hill for victims of the September 11 attacks, the largest vigil ever held in the nation’s capital (2001)
  • The first observation of gravitational waves was made, by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations, a discovery that won the Noble Prize in Physics (2015)

And, on this date in 1955, after frustrating sessions in a recording studio, Little Richard and his producer went to a bar for lunch. Richard started playing the piano like crazy, singing a loud, racy version of ‘Tutti Frutti,’ a song he had written and composed for live club gigs years earlier.

With its opening cry of ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom,’ the producer knew it would be a hit. Richard completed the song in three takes and it became his first #1 hit. Some call this song “the record that changed the world” and “the birth of rock and roll”, with its loud vocal style emphasizing power, and its distinctive beat and rhythm, combining elements of boogie, gospel and blues. David Bowie credits Little Richard as his most important musical inspiration. –Photo from 2007 by Annableker, CC

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