Formed: late 1966 in London, England Years Active: 1966 through 1968 Group’s Main Members: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce (passed in 2015), Ginger Baker
Over a cup of tea at his mother-in-law’s flat, Jack Bruce agreed to let ‘bygones be bygones’ with Ginger Baker and the three of them got together for the first rehearsal in Ginger’s ground floor maisonette at 154 Braemar Avenue, Neasden in North West London, just a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium where English football history was very soon to be made. It was an auspicious summer. Continue reading Cream: The First Power Trio in Rock
Formed: 1965 in Jacksonville, Florida Years Active: 1965 through 1977 and 1987 to present Group’s Main Members: Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Ed King, Artimus Pyle, Steve Gaines
Members that passed away: Ronnie Van Zant (1977), Steve Gaines (1977), Allen Collins (1990), Leon Wilkeson (2001), Billy Powell (2009), Bob Burns (2015)
Born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, Bob Marley helped introduce reggae music to the world and remains one of the genre’s most beloved artists to this day. The son of a black teenage mother and much older, later absent white father, he spent his early years in St. Ann Parish, in the rural village known as Nine Miles.
Lou Reed died late in 2013, a year that made me realize that the line in the Who’s epic ‘My Generation” (Hope I die before I get old) was no longer an option in my aging process. Even though we, the Baby Boomers, kept telling ourselves that 60 was the new 30, the mortality factor became real as an ever-increasing number of music legends that had paved the soundtrack of our lives, were picking up their roots to move to that big stage in the sky. Continue reading Lou Reed Inspired This Website
Considered by many the best white female rock/blues singer of all time, Janis Joplin’s career was a short wild ride. Born and raised in the conservative town of Port Arthur, Texas, Janis was an outcast. Too wild and totally different then her peers in high school, she was mainly shunned by them. But she had a special, very powerful voice even at an early age and therefore decided to become a singer. Continue reading Janis Joplin’s Life in a Nutshell
“I lost somebody who I thought was my eternal love. When he died I felt we’d had a marriage. We’d lived our vows. We’d done it for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. You could never have let go of Freddie unless he died – and even then it was difficult.” – Mary Austin
Jimi Hendrix Shooting Star – RIP Sep 18, 1970 If there ever was a shooting star, it was Jimi Hendrix. In the four short years that he ruled the world of guitar virtuosity, he did more with the electric guitar than any other guitarist before or after him ever would. He could get feedback to come out of his Fender Strat in ways nobody else could, and there truly hasn’t been a greater creative player as he built his solos around chord progressions, either. Continue reading Jimi Hendrix – The Shooting Star
December 30, 2017 – Lord Luther McDaniels, lead singer of vocal group the 4 Deuces, was born in Panola County, Texas in 1938. He never knew his father, who was killed in an accident soon after Luther was born. Mostly raised by his grandmother, he joined the Mitchell Brothers gospel group when he was about 11 or 12. While Luther had no musical training, he still traveled with the group all over East Texas, appearing in many gospel group “battles.” Around the end of World War 2, his mother remarried and moved to Salinas, California, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco (his new stepfather was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, only a few miles away). Luther went to California, decided he didn’t like it, went back to Texas, decided California wasn’t that bad, and returned to California to stay, settling in the fertile Salinas Valley south of the Bay Area, a region often referred to as America’s Salad Bowl. Continue reading Lord Luther McDaniels 12/2017
December 13, 2017 – Warrel Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore) was born on March 7, 1961 as Warrel G. Baker in Seattle, Washington.
Warell, who first came to fame as the high-pitched singer of Serpent’s Knight, was famed for his vocal range and had originally trained for five years as an opera singer and utilized a very broad vocal range, spanning from notes as low as the G♯ below low C, or G♯1, to notes as high as the B♭ below soprano C, or B♭5. While his high head voice style vocals were much more prominent in the older Sanctuary albums, there were instances where he utilized it in Nevermore as well. Later in his career, Dane became more notable for his distinctively deep, dramatic voice. He cited Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Doors as his musical influences and Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson as his main vocal inspirations. Continue reading Warrel Dane 12/2017
December 12, 2017 – Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens) was born October 12, 1955 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where he actually lived his entire life. As a youngster, he was inspired by the pop music emanating from his transistor radio in the ‘60s and the hit tunes being written by his musical idols Buddy Holly, The Beatles, and The Beau Brummels among others.
He began playing music with several local bands in the early 1970s, but got serious around 1975 when he joined three classmates from nearby Cateret High School – guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken and formed the Smithereens. That lineup would remain in place for nearly 25 years. Continue reading Pat DiNizio 12/2017
December 8, 2017 – Vincent Nguini (Guitarist For Paul Simon) was born in Obala, Cameroon, West Africa in July 1952. Music and the understanding of it was the driving force behind his life’s ambitions from very early on.
He traveled around Africa in the early and mid-1970s, learning many regional guitar styles, before relocating to Paris in 1978. In Paris, long a recording center for music from French-speaking Africa, he studied music and did studio work with many African musicians. He joined the band of the Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, who had an international hit in 1972 with “Soul Makossa,” and soon became its musical director. Continue reading Vincent Nguini 12/2017
December 5, 2017 – Johnny Halliday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris. His father was Belgian and his mother French. took his stage name from A cousin-in-law from Oklahoma, USA who performed as Lee Halliday called Smet “Johnny” and became a father figure, introducing him to American music. And the name Johnny Halliday was born. Continue reading Johnny Halliday 12/2017
November 30, 2017 – Zé Pedro (Xutos & Pontapés) was born José Amaro dos Santos Reis on September 14, 1956 in Lisbon Portugal.
Times were difficult as Portugal suffered under a right wing dictatorship and personal freedom was of no consequence. Dictator Salazar is firmly in power and crushes anything that does not fit his agenda without mercy: including the arrival of rock and roll. Using his heavy handed censorship and ubiquitous secret police to quell any type of opposition, life in Portugal was a far cry from today’s laid back holiday atmosphere.
But rock and roll was driving the culture in much of the western world and Portuguese youth were no different.
In 1977 twenty year old Zé Pedro manages to visit the First European Punk Rock Festival in Mont de Marsan in the Southwest of France and comes back a changed young man. Continue reading Zé Pedro 11/2017
November 29, 2017 – Robert Bilbo Walker Jr. was born on February 19, 1937, on the Borden Plantation in Clarksdale, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.
Walker was named after his father, Robert “Bilbo” Walker Sr., who was also nicknamed “Bilbo” — that’s how Walker Jr. acquired the nickname, which he hates. As he explains in the liner notes to Promised Land, people in his Clarksdale home would distinguish between his father and him by referring to them as Big Bilbo and Little Junior Bilbo. Later, after he began making a name for himself in Delta juke joints, Walker was called Chuck Berry Jr. Walker was a completely self-taught musician who played piano, guitar, and drums. He got his musical education thanks to his father, who would have “Little Junior Bilbo” playing piano behind a curtain at country juke joints around his native Clarksdale. Continue reading Robert Bilbo Walker 11/2017
November 27, 2017 – Robert Lee (Pops) Popwell (the Young Rascals) was born on the 29th of December 1950 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Popwell started his career in the ’60s. He quickly got work in the jazz and R&B worlds.
As a member of the house band The Macon Rhythm Section (with Johnny Sandlin, Pete Carr, Paul Hornsby and Jim Hawkins) for the Capricorn Records Studio in Macon Georgia, from 1968 he recorded with Doris Duke, Hubert Laws, Deryll Inman, The Atlanta Disco Band, Johnny Jenkins, and Livingston Taylor. Continue reading Robert Lee (Pops) Popwell 11/2017
November 24, 2017 – Mitch Margo (The Tokens) was born on May 25, 1947 in New York City. He began singing a cappella at age 9 alongside his brother Phil.
Young Margo learned to play piano in those early days, but over the years established himself as a multi-instrumentalist, also playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion.
Margo was a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn when he and his brother joined the Linc-Tones, also featuring Neal Sedaka, Hank Mendress and original member Tokens founder Jay Siegel, who soon renamed themselves the Tokens and recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” while Mitch was just 14 years old. Continue reading Mitch Margo 11/2017
November 22, 2017 – Tommy Keene was born on June 30, 1958 in Evanston, Illinois and raised and graduated from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland (class of 1976), (which was also the alma mater of fellow musician Nils Lofgren). Keene played drums in one version of Lofgren’s early bands but moved to guitar later when he attended the University of Maryland.
Keene launched his career in the late-‘70s as a guitarist with a series of Washington D.C.-area combos including the Rage and the Razz, before hitting the national scene as a solo act in 1982 with the release of his debut Strange Alliance. He actually first received critical acclaim with his The Razz, who released several local independent singles.Continue reading Tommy Keene 11/2017
November 21, 2017 – David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) was born on April 12, 1950 in New York, New York with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was singer/actor Jack Cassidy and his mother actress Evelyn Ward.
As his parents were frequently touring on the road, he spent his early years being raised by his maternal grandparents in a middle-class neighborhood in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1956, he found out from neighbors’ children that his parents had been divorced for over two years and had not told him. David’s parents had decided because he was at such a young age, it would be better for his emotional stability to not discuss it at that time. They were gone often with theater productions and home life remained the same. Many years later, after his father’s death, he found out that his father was bi-sexual with many homosexual encounters.Continue reading David Cassidy 11/2017
November 21, 2017 – Wayne Cochran (The CC Riders) was born Talvin Wayne Cochran near Macon, Georgia, and grew up in roughly the same environs his idol James Brown and friend Otis Redding had, be it on the other side of the tracks.
After getting his start with various rock’n’roll outfits, in 1959 Cochran cut his first disc and the next five years would witness a succession of releases, most of which only made regional noise at best. One item however, would ultimately become Cochran’s greatest success, though in someone else’s hands. His lightly morbid but undeniably catchy original ‘Last Kiss’ hit the top of the charts in the summer of 1964 in a faithful treatment by Texans J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers. This classic “death disc” has since been covered by many, not least Pearl Jam, so at least the healthy royalties from whose versions, would come as an unforeseen blessing for Cochran in later years.
November 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017
November 19, 2017 – Della Reese, was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931 in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit Michigan. At six years old, Reese began singing in church. From this experience, she became an avid gospel singer. On weekends in the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies independently to watch the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lena Horne portray glamorous lives on screen. Afterwards, Reese would act out the scenes from the films. In 1944, she began her career directing the young people’s choir, after she had nurtured acting plus her obvious musical talent. She was often chosen, on radio, as a regular singer.Delloreese entered Detroit’s popular Cass Technical High School (where she attended the same year as Edna Rae Gillooly, later known as Ellen Burstyn). She also continued with her touring with Jackson. At the age of 13, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. With higher grades, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school in 1947, at only 15. Continue reading Della Reese 11/2017
November 18, 2017 – Malcolm Young (AC/DC) was born on January 6, 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland, into a rater large musical family. When he was 10 years old, the family decided to move to Australia, after surviving the worst winter on record in Scotland and TV spot that offered assisted travel for families for a different life in Australia. In late June of 1963, 15 members of the family flew to a new life in “Down Under”, including his older brother George and younger brother Angus.
November 16, 2017 – DikMik (Hawkwind) was born Michael Davies in 1943 in Richmond, England.
In 1969, DikMik Davies and friend Nik Turner signed on as roadies for the group that Dave Brock, a childhood friend of theirs, had formed with guitarist Mick Slattery, bassist John Harrison and drummer Terry Ollis.
It was the time of early psychedelics and electronic music and DikMik’s interest in the burgeoning genre of electronic music had led to him being offered a slot in the psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind, before even their first gig of .
Gatecrashing a local talent night at the All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, they were so disorganised as to not even have a name, opting for “Group X” at the last minute, nor any songs, choosing to play an extended 20-minute jam on The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel was in the audience and was impressed enough to tell event organizer, Douglas Smith, to keep an eye on them. Continue reading DikMik 11/2017
November 12, 2017 – Chad Hanks (American Head Charge) was born in 1971 in Los Angeles, California.
With vocalist friend Cameron Heacock he formed American Head Charge in 1997 after they met in 1995 in rehab in Minneapolis and emerged as major players from the late ’90s nu-metal boom. The success of their 1999 indie debut, Trepanation, caught the ear of mega-producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers), who signed the band to his American Recordings label and got the group out to his allegedly haunted Los Angeles mansion to record 2001’s “The War of Art.” Metal magazines Kerang and Rough Edge each gave the album four-star reviews (out of five), and VH1 picked it as one of the “12 Most Underrated Albums of Nü Metal.” Continue reading Chad Hanks 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Chuck Mosley (Faith No More) was born December 26, 1959 in Hollywood, California, but raised in South Central Los Angeles and Venice. He was adopted at a very early age, as talked about in the Faith No More biography book, “The Real Story.” In a 2013 interview, Mosley said “My Parents met at some kind of socialist/communist get-together in the ’50s. They were interracial – my mom was Jewish and my dad was black and Native American. So that was something controversial in itself. My dad had a daughter and my mom had two daughters, and all they were missing was a boy, so they went out and adopted one, and it was me.”
Mosley first met Billy Gould in 1977, going to a The Zeros, Johnny Navotnee and Bags show. He then went on to play keyboards in Billy’s first band, The Animated, in 1979. In 1984 he joined Haircuts That Kill, a post-punk band from the San Francisco area, which lasted up until Mosley’s joining of Faith No More. He joined Faith No More in 1985 replacing, among others, Courtney Love (Hole) who had a brief stint as lead singer. AllMusic states that Mosley’s “out of tune” vocals for Faith No More are “an acquired taste to most.” Continue reading Chuck Mosley 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Fred Cole was born August 28, 1948 in Tacoma, Washington and he moved with his mother to Las Vegas where he attended high school. Here he began his recording career in 1964, with his band, the Lords, at the Teenbeat Club, releasing a single titled “Ain’t Got No Self-Respect. “His next single, from 1965, was a promo-only called “Poverty Shack” b/w “Rover,” with a band named Deep Soul Cole.
In 1966 Cole’s band The Weeds gained notice in garage rock circles, and their only single, a 60s punk track called It’s Your Time (b/w Little Girl, Teenbeat Club Records), has become a collectors’ favorite. The A-side appeared on one of the Nuggets anthologies. The band was promised an opening slot on a Yardbirds bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco, but on their arrival found that the venue hadn’t heard of them. Continue reading Fred Cole 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Hans Vermeulen (Sandy Coast) was born on September 18, 1947 in Voorburg, the Hague in the Netherlands. He grew up in what was to become the birthplace of Nederpop, which produced bands like Golden earring (Radar Love) and Shocking Blue (Venus), Q 65, Rob Hoeke and many others.
He scored hits like I See Your Face Again , Capital Punishment and my favorite True Love That’s a Wonder with his first group Sandy Coast which he had formed in 1961.
When the first run of late sixties rock and roll ran dry, Sandy Coast disbanded in the early seventies, and did not reform until 1981, with a big comeback hit. In 1975 Vermeulen founded Rainbow Train, a open door clearing house formation for musicians, in which he sang with his then-wife Dianne Marchal . In those years he made impact as a much in demand EMI producer for popular Dutch singers like Margriet Eshuijs (Lucifer) and Anita Meyer. For Meyer he wrote in 1976 the number 1 hit The Alternative Way, on which he also sang and for Eshuijs he produced the still today hugely popular “House for Sale” hit.Continue reading Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017
November 7, 2017 – Paul Buckmaster born on June 13, 1946 in London England.
At age four, Buckmaster started attending a small private school in London called the London Violoncello School, and continued studying cello under several private teachers until he was ten. In 1957, his mother, a concert pianist took him and his two siblings to Naples, where he auditioned with cello professor Willy La Volpe, to be assessed as eligible for a scholarship. After Paul’s attending classes over a two-month period, La Volpe determined that Paul was eligible for an Italian State scholarship, and for the next four years, he studied there eight months per year. This was a radically formative period, in which he deepened his love for the music of J. S. Bach, studying the unaccompanied cellos suites. It was during this period in Italy that Paul discovered his love for jazz. He then won a scholarship to study the cello at the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated with a performance diploma in 1967.Continue reading Paul Buckmaster 11/2017
November 7, 2017 – Pentti “Whitey” Glan was born on July 8, 1946 in Finland , just after World War II had come to an end and tensions with Russia were high. The family moved to Toronto Canada soon after.
Whitey Glan’s first serious band was the Canadian soul band The Rogues (later called Mandala) which he formed with keyboardist Josef Chirowski and bassist Don Elliot; they had worked together in other teenage bands like Whitey & The Roulettes. Mandala had their first hit single with “Opportunity” with original singer George Oliver, recorded at Chess Records.
In 1966 Glan played several shows with Mandala in Ontario and recorded the first two demo songs of his career (“I Can’t Hold Out No Longer” and “I’ll Make It Up To You”). Roy Kenner had replaced George Oliver. When they played their first shows in the USA they performed at the Whiskey A Go Go. They recorded their only album Soul Crusade in 1968 which produced a hit single (“Loveitis”) but they disbanded in 1969 after several line-up changes and poor album sales. Continue reading Whitey Glan 11/2017
November 5, 2017 – Robert Knight, born Robert Peebles on April 24, 1945 grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just south of Nashville’s Music scene. Knight made his professional vocal debut with the Paramounts, a quintet consisting of school friends. Signed to Dot Records in 1960, they recorded “Free Me” in 1961, a US R&B hit single that was somewhat noteworthy as it outsold a rival version by Johnny Preston.Continue reading Robert Knight 11/2017
October 24, 20017 – Antoine Dominique Fats Domino was born on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of eight in a Louisiana Creole family. At age 9, he started to learn piano, taught by his brother-in-law, jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett. By age 14, Domino was performing in New Orleans bars. Continue reading Fats Domino 10/2017
October 22, 2017 – Scott Putesky (Marilyn Manson) aka Daisy Berkowitz was born on April 28, 1968 in Los Angeles, California.
After his high school years Putesky moved to Ft.Lauderdale and enrolled in a Graphic Design College. Putesky and Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson) met at a Fort Lauderdale club called The Reunion Room and later at a local after-party in December 1989. The two started creating the concept of Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids poking fun at American media hypocrisy and its obsessions with serial killers and beautiful women. (Marilyn Monroe vs Charles Manson and Daisy Duke vs David Berkowitz)
Putesky, who had at this point developed his own poetry but not yet worked lyrics into his music, began to meet up with Warner and brainstorm character and show/event ideas, after Warner asked for help starting a band as a creative outlet for his poetry writing. Continue reading Scott Putesky 10/2017
October 23, 2017 – George Young (with his bandmate and songwriting partner Harry Vanda-right in the picture) – Easybeats was born on November 6, 1946 in Glasgow Schotland. The lower middle class Young family were all musicians, but when the worst winter on record in Schotland arrived in post Christmas into January 1963, the family split as a result of 15 family members taking the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, including almost 16 year old George. Continue reading George Young 10/2017
October 21, 2017 – Martin Eric Ain was born Martin Stricker in the USA from Swiss parents on July 18, 1967. His mother was a Catholic religion teacher. She taught the catechism. Ain figured that most probably, the reason for him joining up with the arch rebel — Satan himself! — was because that was the most powerful force to oppose his mother.
I remember that traumatic experience being in a church, and there was this life-sized cross with this tormented human figure nailed, its limbs twisted and turned. I must have been about 5 or 6. That was really bizarre, having all those people around me being solemn in a way, but then, on the other hand, really getting joyous toward the end of that ritual about this person dying. And then going to the front of the church and coming back having devoured part of the body of that person. As a child, you take something like that quite literally, you know? And it was never really explained to me in a way that seemed really logical. I had nightmares. For me, religion didn’t have a redemptive quality. It didn’t help me to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a negative, oppressive kind of thing. Christ was a symbol of utter failure and absolute totalitarian control.
October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.
A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.
In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent. Continue reading Phil Miller 10/2017
October 18, 2017 – Eamonn Campbell was born on November 29, 1946 in Drogheda in County Louth, but later moved to Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin. He heard Elvis’ That’s All Right for the first time when he was 10; got his first guitar when he was 11 and taught himself how to play it in the next several year.
He had his first gig at 14 and never really looked back, even though there were early plans to take up accounting. In 1964, he graduated high school with the intention of becoming an accountant. “But his accountant’s brain told him he’d make much more money out of gigging.” So instead he would go on to play for bands such as The Viceroys, The Checkmates and The Delta Boys. He also played locally with the The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and he first met The Dubliners when both acts toured England together in 1967. Over the years that followed he got into production and often sat in with the Dubliners, which had formed in 1962. Continue reading Eamonn Campbell 10/2017
October 17, 2017 – Gord Downie was born February 6, 1964 in Amherstview, Ontario, and raised in Kingston, Ontario, along with his two brothers Mike and Patrick. He was the son of Lorna (Neal) and Edgar Charles Downie, a traveling salesman. In Kingston, he befriended the musicians who would become The Tragically Hip, while attending the downtown Kingston high school Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
Downie formed the Tragically Hip with Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair in 1983. Saxophone player Davis Manning left the band and guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986. Originally, the band started off playing cover songs in bars and quickly became famous once MCA Records president Bruce Dickinson saw them performing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and offered them a record deal. Continue reading Gord Downie 10/2017
October 8, 2017 – Grady Tate was born on January 14, 1932 in Hayti, Durham, North Carolina. In 1963 he moved to New York City, where he became the drummer in Quincy Jones’s band.
Grady Tate’s drumming helped to define a particular hard bop, soul jazz and organ trio sound during the mid-1960s and beyond. His slick, layered and intense sound is instantly recognizable for its understated style in which he integrates his trademark subtle nuances with sharp, crisp “on top of the beat” timing (in comparison to playing slightly before, or slightly after the beat). The Grady Tate sound can be heard prominently on many of the classic Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery albums recorded on the Verve label in the 1960s. Continue reading Grady Tate 10/2017
October 7, 2017 – Jimmy Beaumont (The Skyliners) was born on October 21, 1940 in the Knoxville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. While in his teens he formed the bebop group the Crescents. Joe Rock, a promo man working with Beaumont’s group, one day jotted down the lyrics to a song as he sat in his car at a series of stoplights, lamenting that his girlfriend was leaving for flight attendant school on the West Coast.
Rock took the lyrics to Jimmy Beaumont, who wrote a melody just as quickly as Rock wrote the words to a magical, tearful ballad that soon topped the Cashbox R&B chart and went to No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart: the title …..“Since I Don’t Have You.”
“I had been listening to all the doo-wop groups from that period — The Platters, The Moonglows. I guess just from listening the melody just came out of me,” Beaumont told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette years later.
Thirteen labels rejected the song as a demo, but the record was released in late December 1958. In short order it went to No. 1 in Pittsburgh, prompting an invitation to “American Bandstand.” Continue reading Jimmy Beaumont 10/2017
October 4, 2017 – Alvin DeGuzman (The Icarus Line) was born in Manila in the Philippines on December 3, 1978.
When he was 4 years old the family moved to the US.He attended Holy Family School in South Pasadena and graduated from Loyola High School in Los Angeles in 1997. He also attended Cal Poly Pomona.
Alvin was a talented musician and passionate artist. While in High School he became a founding member of the indie punk rock band The Icarus Line, where he played the guitar both left and right handed, and also played bass and keys. The Icarus Line was the successor to high school friend Joe Cardamone’s first musical effort named “Kanker Sores”. Continue reading Alvin DeGuzman 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Skip Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger in Franklin Park Illinois in 1946. He graduated East Leyden High School in 1963. When it comes to rock music being the sound track to our boomer generation, there are certain songs that stand out and stay a perennial anthem such as Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Wear some flowers in your hair), Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans and the song Skip Haynes wrote and performed about Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.
Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger, but a club manager told him early in his career there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for that. Since his grandfather called him Skippy, he decided to take the name Skip Haynes. Continue reading Skip Haynes 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Tom Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville Florida. Growing up in the town that houses the University of Florida, music became the young Petty’s refuge from a domineering, abusive father who despised Tom’s sensitivity and creative tendencies—but would later glom on to his son’s rock-star fame for status. Continue reading Tom Petty 10/2017
September 27, 2017 – CeDell Davis was born June 9, 1927 in Helena, Arkansas, where his family worked on the local E.M. Hood plantation. He enjoyed music from a young age, playing harmonica and guitar with his childhood friends.
When he was 10, he contracted severe polio which left him little control over his left hand and restricted use of his right. He had been playing guitar prior to his polio and decided to continue in spite of his handicap, which led to his development of the “knife” method. Davis played guitar using a table knife in his fretting hand in a manner similar to slide guitar. Like Sister Rosetta Tharpe before him or Joni Mitchell after, he developed his own logic when it came to tuning the guitar, a style that Robert Palmer wrote, “resulted in a welter of metal-stress harmonic transients and a singular tonal plasticity.” Continue reading CeDell Davis 9/2017
September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017
September 18, 2017 – Mark Selby was born in September 2, 1961. Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Selby spent his youth harvesting wheat and playing in bands throughout the Midwest before moving to Hays, Kansas to attend Fort Hays University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music.
He was musically gifted in three ways: as a songwriter, a singer with a soulful voice and a guitarist with some impressive chops. His future as a blues rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer started in Germany, where he signed as a solo artist to ZYX Records. Continue reading Mark Selby 9/2017
September 17, 2017 – Laudir de Oliveira was born January 6, 1940 in Rio de Janeiro. de Oliveira started out as a percussionist in Brazil, working with Sergio Mendes and Marcos Valle. He moved to the United States in 1968 and caught the eye of rock musicians and producers. Credited simply as “Laudir”, he also appeared on Joe Cocker’s 1969 debut album, playing on his hit single “Feelin’ Alright”.
In 1973, Chicago invited de Oliveira to play on their album “Chicago VI.” After playing on the albums Chicago VI and Chicago VII as a sideman, de Oliveira officially joined the band in 1975. Continue reading Laudir de Oliveira 9/2017
September 13, 2017 – GrantHart (Hüsker Dü) was born in St. Paul, MN on March 18, 1961 and at the age of 10, he inherited his older brother’s drum set and records, after he was killed by a drunk driver. Hart described his family as a “typical American dysfunctional family. Not very abusive, though. Nothing really to complain about.” He soon began playing in a number of makeshift bands throughout high school. Continue reading Grant Hart 9/2017
September 12, 2017 – Jessi Zazu (Those Darlins) was born Jessi Zazu Wariner in Nashville Tennessee in 1989.
When Jessi Zazu was just a little girl, her mother Kathy says, she would wrap her fingers around the neck of a guitar and strain to play. She would not give up. Though she was the tiniest creature in her remarkable family of drawers, painters, players and all-around makers, Jessi knew she was destined to make a sound that was bigger than all of them. F*** the laws of physics. She was going to play that guitar like ringing a bell. The indie rock band that she fronted from 2006 to 2016 called Those Darlins, was hugely popular for its unique style that mixed genres like garage rock and punk with bluegrass and country. Continue reading Jessi Zazu 9/2017
August 20, 1931 – Frank Capp was born Francis W. Cappuccio on August 20, 1931 in Worcester, Massachusetts. His uncles worked at Walberg and Auge, a percussion accessory manufacturer. One of them brought a pair of drumsticks home when he was four or five years old. He started banging on the furniture with the sticks, and I ultimately became a drummer. At age 14 he worked in the same music manufacturer shop which got him to the next phase of drumming. And when his dad later bought him his first Slingerland kit, he started a high school dance band and drumming became his life.
At age 19 he was recommended by a mutual friend and began playing with Stan Kenton in California starting in 1951 and remained with Kenton for a couple of years.This auspicious beginning was followed by a career as one of the hardest-working studio players in Los Angeles and as a drummer sought after by some of the world’s biggest singing stars and bandleaders—accomplishments that have almost been eclipsed by his success as a musical contractor. Continue reading Frank Capp 9/2017
September 11, 2017 – Virgil Howe was born on September 23, 1975 in London, England, the second son to Yes founding member/ guitarist Steve Howe. He played on several of his father’s projects: he performed on keys, alongside his brother Dylan Howe on drums, for the Steve Howe solo albums The Grand Scheme of Things (1993) and Spectrum (2005). He was in Steve Howe’s Remedy band, who released an album Elements (2003), toured the UK and then released a live DVD. He wrote and performed on a piece on his father’s 2011 release Time. He also plays drums on 11 tracks of Steve Howe’s Anthology 2: Groups and Collaborations that were largely recorded in the 1980s. Under the name The Verge, Virgil Howe produced the Yes Remixes album, released 2003.
Nexus, due November 2017, is a joint album by Virgil & Steve Howe, due on InsideOut. Father Steve described the album: “Most of the credit goes to Virgil on this; it’s Virgil’s bed and melodies but I’ve come in to add a little bit more.” Continue reading Virgil Howe 9/2017
September 5, 2017 – Rick Stevens (Tower of Power) was born Donald Stevenson on February 23, 1941 in Port Arthur, Texas, but didn’t stay there long, as a few years later his parents moved to Reno, Nevada. Rick first sang in public at the tender age of four, when his family set him up on a chair in front of the congregation at their church.
While growing up Rick was greatly influenced by his uncle, singer Ivory Joe Hunter, who was his mother’s younger brother. There was always a great deal of excitement when Uncle Ivory Joe came to visit on breaks from touring around the country with his band. Rick decided early on that he wanted to be a singer, just like his uncle. Ivory Joe was a not only a ground-breaking performer in what at the time was referred to by the record labels as “race music”, he was also a prolific songwriter with hundreds of songs to his credit.
Elvis Presley invited Ivory Joe to Graceland in 1957, and they spent the day singing together, including Ivory Joe’s hit “I Almost Lost My Mind”, among other songs. Hunter commented, “He is very spiritually minded … he showed me every courtesy, and I think he’s one of the greatest”. Elvis recorded five songs written by Ivory Joe: “My Wish Came True” (Top 20), “I Will be True”, “It’s Still Here”, “I Need You So”, and “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” (Top 20).
Like many musically talented teenagers in the late 1950’s Rick was interested in doo-wop, and he joined a singing group called the “Magnificent Marcels”. In the early 1960’s Rick performed in nightclubs around Reno, where he was known as “Mr. Twister”.
Having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-60’s Rick continued his singing career, fronting various bands that played in local nightclubs. Rick’s bands included “Rick and the Ravens”, and “The Rick Stevens Four” (or Five, depending on how many people were in the band).
Rick joined “Four of a Kind” in 1966, initially in San Francisco, later moving with the band to Seattle. After a short time, Rick moved back to the Bay Area and joined a band called “Stuff”, in which one of the other members was Willie James Fulton (guitar and vocals). Rick and Willie James left “Stuff” and joined Tower of Power at about the same time as drummer David Garibaldi in 1969 and later replaced Rufus Miller as lead vocalist after Rick sang the diamond hit, “Sparkling in the Sand” on Tower of Power’s first album, EAST BAY GREASE. (The only song on that album that made any impact). The next Tower of Power album to hit the charts was BUMP CITY in 1972, and that record features Rick’s signature song, “You’re Still a Young Man”. The album also includes other hits such as “Down to the Night Club” and “You Got to Funkafize”.
Although he is not credited on the third album, the self-titled record, TOWER OF POWER, Rick initially sang all the lead vocals. He also contributed background vocals, which were retained on the record when it was released. The album features several hits such as, “What is Hip”, “Soul Vaccination”, and “Get Your Feet Back on the Ground”, and of course, “So Very Hard to Go”. Rick’s increasing drug dependency lead to Lenny Williams taking over lead vocals, as Rick left the band in 1973 to pursue other avenues of his musical career. After leaving Tower of Power, Rick joined a Bay Area band called “Brass Horizon”, a popular band with a big horn section.
The Stanford Daily – February 25, 1975
Former Tower Singer Heads Brass Horizon By JOAN E. HINMAN
SAN FRANCISCO – Quick – name Tower of Power’s two biggest hits. Maybe you said “So Very Hard To Go”, the single off Tower’s third album. But if you’re a deranged purist, you named “Sparkling In The Sand”, from East Bay Grease, and “You’re Still A Young Man”, the monster hit off Bump City in 1971.
It was “You’re Still A Young Man” that established Tower as national stars, removing them from the realm of San Francisco funk forever. The song’s amazing success can be explained in two words — Rick Stevens. Stevens emerged as Tower’s lead singer after the success of “Sparkling In The Sand”, the only song on the band’s first album on which he sang lead…
… the excellent set performed by Stevens and his new band, Brass Horizon, Saturday at Yellow Brick Road marks the return of one of the finest vocalists ever to hit the City. The new band, Brass Horizon, is every bit as tight and biting as the famed Tower brass…
…Stevens proved that his voice can still get down and growl on dance tunes, as well as sweep up to carry the pure melody of “You’re Still A Young Man”. … the fine Rick Stevens stage presence that on past occasions made Winterland feel as homey as a living room was evident Saturday. Smiling and jiving with the “mamas” on the dance floor, Stevens was clearly back in the atmosphere he likes best—putting out get-down, good time music.
Then in 1976 it gets quiet around Rick Stevens for the next 36 years as he is sentenced to life in prison for a triple homicide in a drug deal gone wrong. Addicted to drugs he had shot and killed 3 men in a botched deal.
In 2012 Stevens was released on parole. He then formed Rick Stevens & Love Power, which regularly played in Northern California. He also occasionally sat in with Tower of Power, including an appearance at a January 2017 benefit concert for former band members that were hit by a train in Oakland’s Jack London Square.
Rick Stevens passed away on September 5, 2017 after a short battle with liver cancer.
“Rick Stevens went to heaven today to be with the Lord whom he loved with all his heart. Rick was an extremely soulful singer and entertainer who had an engaging personality and a strong faith which he shared with all he came in contact with,” Tower of Power founder Emilio Castillo wrote on the band’s Facebook page.“We loved him and we’ll miss him. I have faith that I’ll see him in heaven someday and together we’ll worship and glorify God together for eternity. Rick is there right now enjoying it!!!”
September 5, 2017 – Holger Czukay was born on March 24, 1938 in the Free City of Danzig (since 1945 Gdańsk, Poland), from which his family was expelled after World War II. Due to the turmoil of the war, Czukay’s primary education was limited. One pivotal early experience, however, was working, when still a teenager, at a radio repair-shop, where he became fond of the aural qualities of radio broadcasts (anticipating his use of shortwave radio broadcasts as musical elements) and became familiar with the rudiments of electrical repair and engineering.
Czukay studied music under Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963 to 1966 and then worked for a while as a music teacher. Initially Czukay had little interest in rock music, but this changed, when a student played him the Beatles’ 1967 song “I Am the Walrus”, a 1967 psychedelic rock single with an unusual musical structure and blasts of AM radio noise. This opened his ears to music by rock experimentalists such as The Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa. Continue reading Holger Czukay 9/2017
September 4, 2017 – Earl Lindo was born Earl Wilberforce “Wire” Lindo on January 7, 1953 in Kingston, Jamaica. His nickname “wire” over time became “Wya”.
While attending Excelsior High School in the late sixties, he played bass and classical piano, before he became interested in the jazz sounds of Lee Dorsey and Jimmy Smith. With Barry Biggs, Mikey “Boo” Richards, and Ernest Wilson he then played in the Astronauts. Continue reading Earl Lindo 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Dave Hlubek was born on August 28, 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 5 or 6, Hlubek and his family moved to the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, where he attended Waikiki Elementary School. From there, Hlubek’s father was transferred and the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, then to Mountain View, and finally settling in San Jose. It was the South Bay that Dave called home during the next few years, before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, around 1965. There he attended and graduated from Forrest High School.
Hlubek, founded the band Molly Hatchet in 1971. Vocalist Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, along with Steve Holland, guitarist in 1974. Duane Roland, Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump completed the line up in 1976. Continue reading Dave Hlubek 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Walter Becker (Steely Dan) was born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York. Becker was raised by his father and grandmother, after his parents separated when he was a young boy and his mother, who was British, moved back to England. They lived in Queens and as of the age of five in Scarsdale, New York. Becker’s father sold paper-cutting machinery for a company which had offices in Manhattan. Continue reading Walter Becker 9/2017
September 1, 2017 – Mick Softley was born in 1939 in the countryside of Essex, near Epping Forest.
His mother was of Irish origin (from County Cork) and his father had East Anglian tinker roots, going back to a few generations. Softley first took up trombone in school and became interested in traditional jazz. He was later persuaded to become a singer by one of his school teachers, and this led to him listening to Big Bill Broonzy and promptly changed his attitude to music, to the extent of him buying a mail-order guitar and some tutorial books and teaching himself to play.
By 1959, Mick Softley had left his job and home and spent time traveling around Europe on his motorbike, with a friend, Mick Rippingale. He ended up in Paris, where he came into the company of musicians such as Clive Palmer, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Wizz Jones. Here he improved his guitar skills and spent time busking with friends until his return to England in the early 1960s. Continue reading Mick Softley 9/2017
September 1, 2017 – Hedley Jones (the Wailers) was born on November 12, 1917 in near Linstead, Jamaica, the son of David and Hettie Jones, and started making music as a child. He made his own cello at the age of 14, as well as a banjo. In 1935 he moved to Kingston, where he heard Marcus Garvey speak, and worked as a tailor, cabinet maker, bus conductor, repairing sewing machines, radios and gramophones. He said: “I was what people called a jack of all trades. I could fix everything.” His main work was as a proofreader, with the Gleaner and Jamaica Times.
He also played banjo in a Hawaiian jazz band, before forming his own Hedley Jones Sextet. Inspired by the recordings of Charlie Christian, but unable to afford an imported guitar, he built himself a solid-bodied electric guitar, and was featured with it on the front page of The Gleaner in September 1940, at about the same time that Les Paul was doing similar pioneering work in the US. Jones continued to build guitars for other Jamaican musicians in the years that followed. Continue reading Hedley Jones 9/2017
August 28, 2017 – Sonny Burgess was born Albert Austin Burgess on May 28, 1929 on a farm near Newport, Arkansas to Albert and Esta Burgess. He graduated from Newport High School in 1948.
Burgess, Kern Kennedy, Johnny Ray Hubbard, and Gerald Jackson formed a boogie-woogie band they called the Rocky Road Ramblers and played boogie woogie music in dance halls and bars around Newport.
In 1954, following a stint in the US Army (1951–53), Burgess re-formed the band, calling them the Moonlighters after the Silver Moon Club in Newport, where they performed regularly. After advice from record producer Sam Phillips, the group expanded to form the Pacers. Continue reading Sonny Burgess 8/2017
August 28, 2017 – Melissa Bell (Soul II Soul) was born Melissa Cecelia Ewen Bell on March 5, 1964 in London, England. Her Jamaican heritage included musical pedigree. From the age of four, music filled every corner of Melissa’s life: she could play the piano, was constantly singing, and even ran her own “radio station” from the upstairs window of the house, calling out to passers-by and begging them to stop and listen. It was when Melissa saw the 14-year-old Lena Zavaroni performing on Opportunity Knocks Continue reading Melissa Bell 8/2017
August 24, 2017 – Jamaican Ska Authentic Winston Samuels (McInnis), a living legend in Jamaican Music, was born in Kingston, Jamaica to proud parents Winston D. McInnis and Mavis Davis-McInnis in 1944. From the time he was born he loved to sing. As a matter of fact his mother, Mavis would have Sunday family discussions followed by songs of worship. There was such harmony in the household that it drew other tenants who loved to listen to him. Continue reading Winston Samuels 8/2017
August 8, 2017 – Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas. He was the seventh son of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry. He received his first guitar when he was four years old. Learning the instrument from various relatives, especially Uncle Boo, he played consistently throughout his childhood, eventually gravitating toward jazz players like Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt. While he was learning guitar, he also sang in a local church, where he developed his vocal skills. By the time he was 14, he had begun performing with a number of country bands in the Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico area, including his uncle’s group, the Dick Bills Band. When he was 18, he formed his own country band, the Western Wranglers, and began touring the South with the group. Four years later in 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a session musician.Continue reading Glen Campbell 8/2017
August 1, 2017– Goldy McJohn (Steppenwolf) was born John Raymond Goadsby in Toronto, Canada on May 2, 1945. He was raised by middle class parents in Toronto, Canada. They put him into piano lessons at a young age and with this foundation he became a pioneer in the use of the electronic organ in rock and roll. “I was classically trained,” said Goldy. He also stated that no one else in rock and roll was doing was he was at the time. “I played on a Lowrey,” he said. And this is part of what he said gave songs such as “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” their unique sound. “I was up at 4 a.m. daily to practice from the age of seven until…I got stupid,” Goldy said. While school in general was not his thing, (he was suspended from high school for three months,) he always did exceptionally well in music. “I got 100 in music, which brought my average up to maybe 14,” Goldy said. His parents could not afford private school that could have catered more to the needs of a student like him.Continue reading Goldy McJohn 8/2017
July 25, 2017 – Michael Johnson was born on August 8, 1944 in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver. He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State University to study music but his college career was truncated when he won an international talent contest two years later. First prize included a deal with Epic Records. Epic released the song “Hills”, written and sung by Johnson, as a single. Johnson began extensive touring of clubs and colleges, finding a receptive audience everywhere he went.
Wishing to hone his instrumental skills, he set off for Barcelona, Spain in 1966, to the Liceu Conservatory, studying with the eminent classical guitarists, Graciano Tarragó and Renata Tarragó. Upon his return to the States in late 1967, he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient.Continue reading Michael Johnson 7/2017
July 21, 2017 – Kenny Shields was born in 1947 in the farming community of Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Canada. His passion for music and entertaining emerged at the age of six when he entered and won an amateur talent show. While continuing his interest in music and singing, upon graduation from secondary school he moved to Saskatoon to attend university but was immediately recruited by the city’s premiere band – Witness Incorporated.
Kenny’s lifelong dream began to take shape as the band built a loyal fan base across the country, scoring with a string of national radio hits including “I’ll Forget Her Tomorrow”, “Jezebel” and “Harlem Lady, all featuring Kenny’s unmistakable vocals. After touring with such legendary artists as Roy Orbison and Cream, tragedy struck in 1970 when Shields was critically injured in an automobile accident that sidetracked him from music for several years. Continue reading Kenny Shields 7/2017
July 20, 2017 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was born on 20 March 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. The son of a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases, Bennington had a troubled youth. “Growing up, for me, was very scary and very lonely,” he told Metal Hammer magazine in 2014. “I started getting molested when I was about seven or eight,” he said, describing the abuser as an older friend. “I was getting beaten up and being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. It destroyed my self-confidence. Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience,” he told the magazine.
His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he went to live with his father, whom he described as “not emotionally very stable then”, adding that “there was no-one I could turn to”. Soon after his parents divorced he began abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
After years of intense drug use as a teenager, he got sober and moved to Los Angeles, where he successfully auditioned to join Linkin Park.
An early line-up of Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, surfed the popular wave of nu-metal, Rolling Stone magazine writes. The album’s canny mix of pop, hip-hop, and melodic alt-rock drove it to sales of more than 11 million copies early on, making it the top-selling rock record of the ’00s. Given the rapid changes to the music industry in the immediate aftermath of Hybrid Theory, it’s plausible to suggest that no rock record will ever come close to achieving those sorts of sales figures ever again. The album single-handedly initiated Bennington into a small (now rapidly shrinking) fraternity of arena-rock vocalists — Bennington was one of the few guys on the planet with the qualifications to front a big-time rock band.
Hybrid Theory eventually sold more than 30 million albums and became one of the top-selling albums since the start of this millennium.
The angst-ridden vocals of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington helped lead the group to global critical acclaim.
The frontman’s brooding charisma – added to the group’s blend of rap, metal and electronic music – spawned a string of chart-topping hits.
Later in the 2000s, as the band’s success took off, he again began using drugs before returning to sobriety, telling Spin Magazine in 2009: “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic.
“It’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass.
“It’s cool to be a part of recovery.
“Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another,” he added.
The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards.
Linkin Park had a string of hits including Faint, Numb, What I’ve done, In The End and Crawling, and collaborated with rapper Jay-Z.
Their latest music video for the song ‘Talking to Myself’ was released on the same day this father of six took his life. Another coincidence of his day of departure: Sound Garden’s Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May, would have turned 53. Bennington and Cornell were close for many years. The two had toured together and joined each other onstage, and Bennington even performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s private Los Angeles funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26. He was also the Godfather to Cornell’s son Christopher.
Upon hearing the horrible news of Cornell’s death, the night before Linkin Park’s Kimmel tribute, Bennington posted a heart-wrenching open letter to Cornell, writing:
“I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with their song ‘Rocky Raccoon’ playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept.
“I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.
“I just watched a video of you singing ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. Send me love to your wife and children, friends, and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
With All My Love
In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also sang for the Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 replacing Scott Weiland, for his side project Dead by Sunrise, and Kings of Chaos.
Bennington leaves six children from two marriages and an early relationship as he moves on to another life at 41.
For millennials, who were in their teens when Linkin Park’s blockbuster debut Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Bennington looms as a defining rock star of the era. A singer capable of both piercing bombast and pained sensitivity, Bennington’s nimble tenor initially played off the rapping of Mike Shinoda, but over time his versatility and soulfulness made him the band’s primary frontman. For kids who found solace in Linkin Park’s music, Bennington was the band member they were most likely to connect with.
July 14, 2017 – David Z (Zablidowski) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1979.
He formed his first band, Legend, as a freshman at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School and attended Brooklyn College.
“I was in music class at FDR and spotted a few kids with long hair and we formed a band,” David Z said, adding that his older brother Pauli joined the band six months later.
They played at city nightclubs and bars, but the band fell apart shortly after high school. Then, the Z brothers approached drummer Joey Cassata to join their band. Z02 was born. David by that time had already joined the early incarnations of TSO (Trans Siberian Orchestra) as they started performing their Christmas shows. This exposure opened many doors for him. In 2004, the guys, who where in their early and middle 20s, scraped together money to release their first album, and soon were touring with the likes of Kiss, Stone Temple Pilots, Poison and Alice Cooper on the VH1 Rock the Nation tour. Continue reading David Z(ablidowski) 7/2017
July 13, 2017 – Simon Holmes (The Hummingbirds) was born on March 28, 1963 in the southern beachside suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The family lived in Bentleigh, before shifting to Turramurra in 1967, before going overseas for three years, in upstate New York, where Holmes started school at Myers Corner. The family then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. He spent part of his childhood in Canberra, attending the AME School: an alternative education institution and then Hawker College. Holmes moved to Sydney in the early 1980s. He started studying anthropology and archaeology at the University of Sydney, but left after two years. Continue reading Simon Holmes 7/2017
July 12, 2017 – Ray Phiri (Paul Simon) was born March 23, 1947 near Nelspruit in the then Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga Province, in South Africa to a Malawian immigrant worker and South African guitarist nicknamed “Just Now” Phiri. His stepfather, who was from Malawi, played guitar but gave it up after losing three fingers in an accident. Mr. Phiri took that guitar and largely taught himself to play. He moved to Johannesburg in 1967 to work as a musician.
July 9, 2017 – Erik Cartwright (FOGHAT) was born on July 10, 1950 in New York City and grew up in Minisink Hills, Pennsylvania. A 1968 graduate of East Stroudsburg High School, he became one of the area’s prominent rock guitarists, alongside his friend G.E. Smith. Erik’s first gig as a professional musician was with the band Dooley in Allentown, PA.
In 1970-1971 he studied at the famous Berklee School of music before His early guitar work is featured on singer Dan Hartman’s It Hurts to Be in Love (1981). His first album as a co-leader was the self-titled debut of Tears (1979), with Nils Lofgren on piano. Right after he had just recorded the Tears album the invitation to join Foghat, and replace original lead guitarist Rod Price, came. Continue reading Erik Cartwright 7/2017
July 6, 2017 – Melvyn “Deacon” Jones was born December 12, 1943 in Richmond Indiana. By the time he was a teenager, Deacon was proficient on trumpet and performed with his brother Harold in the high school band. Harold Jones later became a famed jazz drummer.
After graduating in 1962, Jones was a founding member of Baby Huey and the Babysitters with Johnny Ross and James Ramey. After paying a few dues in the Gary area, Deacon and the band set up shop in Chicago where they played five nights a week for five years, according to USA Today. During that time, Jones managed to further his musical education at the prestigious American Conservatory of Music.Continue reading Melvyn Deacon Jones 7/2017
June 3o, 2017 – Nic Ritter (Warbringer) was born Nicholas Dieter Ritter on April 13, 1981 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
There is very little published about Nic Ritter beyond the little over 2 years that he played drums for Southern California metal trash band “Warbringer” and another short stint in 2008 with the band Prototype.
July 4, 2017 – John Blackwell was born on September 9, 1973 and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, and started playing drums at age 3. He learned from his father, John Blackwell Sr., a drummer himself, who played with Mary Wells, King Curtis, Joe Simon, J.J. Jackson, The Drifters, The Spinners, and others. Blackwell stated that he experienced synesthesia since he was a child, seeing colors for musical notes, and was identified as having perfect pitch while in high school.
As a teenager, Blackwell played in both his high-school jazz and marching bands. He began playing in jazz clubs at age 13. At 17, he landed his first professional gig backing jazz singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine. After high school, he attended Berklee College of Music and worked steadily in local Boston jazz clubs. He left Berklee in 1995 to play with the funk band Cameo, a gig which lasted for three years.Continue reading John Blackwell 7/2017
June 27, 2017 – Dave Rosser (Afghan Whigs) was born David Clark Rosser in St.Louis, Missouri on August 3, 1966. Raised in Gadsden, Alabama is where he first learned to play guitar and started what became a lifelong passion. After high school, David attended college and eventually moved to Memphis, where he worked in the family business for a short time. His calling as a career musician was apparent, and it led him to Auburn, Alabama, then finally to New Orleans in 1992.
He adopted New Orleans as his beloved city, and here his career took shape. He spent many years with the band Metal Rose, played throughout the French Quarter, and did studio work with many area musicians.Continue reading Dave Rosser 6/2017
June 25, 2017 – Jimmy Nalls (Sea Level) was born James Albert Nalls III on May 31, 1951 in Washington DC. In 1970, he moved from the suburbs of his home in Arlington, Virginia, to New York City to play with Australian folk singer Gary Shearston and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. Jimmy Nalls quickly became an in-demand session guitarist at New York’s famed Record Plant studio, and played with several musicians and bands with ties to then up-and-coming Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia, such as singer/songwriter Alex Taylor’s band while Taylor was a Capricorn Records label mate of the Allmans’.
It was during this period that Nalls first worked with future Allmans keyboardist Chuck Leavell, an association that would prove fruitful for both musicians after the Allmans’ 1976 split. As a result, Nalls moved to Macon in 1976 and joined three musicians who’d just parted ways with the Allman Brothers Band – keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson. Leavell decided to start a new group after the Allman Brothers Band folded, enlisting Nalls for the band he’d dubbed Sea Level — a play on C. Leavell. Continue reading Jimmy Nalls 6/2017
June 19, 2017 – Noel Neal (James Cotton Band) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1963. The Neal family from Baton Rouge is known nationwide as a blues family with numerous performers, Kenny probably being the most famous one.
Neal journeyed to Chicago early on where he played with James Cotton for over 30 years, touring and recording for the late Chicago blues star and harmonica virtuoso James Cotton, who also recently passed on March 16 of this year. He also recorded with his late father, Raful Neal, and his brother, Kenny Neal.Continue reading Noel Neal 6/2017
June 17, 2017 – Sonny Knight was born in 1948 in Mississippi and around 1955 moved to Minnesota with his grandmother. He grew up in the Rondo suburb of St.Paul where he was exposed to the urban music of the era such as bepop, soul and r&b.
At age 17 in 1965 he recorded his first (and only) 45rpm single as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols, titled “Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”. Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.
It was not until after retiring from long-haul trucking that Sonny Knight came back to music. The following interview perfectly describes this talented soul musician’s rebirth in his sixties; sadly cut way too short by cancer.
The Twin Cities music community was dealt a hard blow this weekend with the passing of Sonny Knight, an endlessly charismatic and powerful soul singer whose history on local stages dates all the way back to the early 1960s. From cutting his first 45 as Little Sonny Knight back in 1965 to recording his final album with the Lakers this past fall, Sonny’s experiences span almost the entire time that soul music has been captured on tape in the state of Minnesota.
One of the things that’s managed to comfort me since learning about Sonny’s passing has been remembering back to all of the times I was able to speak with him about his memories and hear his stories. I’ve gotten a chance to interview Sonny several times over the past four years, here in the Current’s studios and also while researching my book about the Twin Cities funk and soul scene and the roots of the Minneapolis Sound. Today, I’d like to share a deep-diving, career-spanning interview that I conducted with Sonny in the spring of 2015 as part of my book research; though small portions will appear in the text of the book, the majority of it has been sitting unpublished in my notes until now.
When I asked Sonny to do the interview, he suggested that we meet at the entrance to the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, so we could walk through the rows of carefully preserved houses and contemplate the ways our society chooses to preserve some histories and forget others. Sonny was deeply thoughtful like that — and kind, too. He would greet me with a hug every time I saw him, and kept making sure I was getting what I needed for this interview and every other one we did together.
As we sat on a park bench and looked down the row of old railroad houses, Sonny walked me through his life story, touching on many of the different musical projects he’s been involved with over the years and sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way. Sometimes while telling a story, he couldn’t help but break out into song. At times I had to pinch myself that such a sweet soul man was quietly serenading me there on that bench as we watched the birds fly overhead and squirrels run past.
The interview is a long one — we ended up talking for nearly two hours — but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving anything out. I hope you’ll find it as enlightening as I did.
Andrea Swensson: I was curious, first of all, how you ended up in Minnesota. You moved here with your grandmother?
Sonny Knight: Yeah. It was back in the ‘50s. I would say it must have been about ’55 that I moved from Mississippi up to here, and that was with my grandmother. It was a good thing. I enjoyed leaving Mississippi. It gives you more room to grow up here.
What were some of the differences you noticed right away when you got here?
One of the things, being a kid, was you come from down south, you come from red clay. The dirt is red. And then you come up here, it’s black dirt and big old black ants and stuff like that. The day-to-day living, the neighborhoods, it was everybody in the neighborhood; it’s not just one color of people in the neighborhood.
What area of St. Paul did you live in?
Pretty much over I would say like the Selby-Dale area, between University and Selby, in that area there.
When I have heard stories about Rondo I get the sense that everybody knew everybody, like it was kind of a small town within a city. Did you get to know your neighbors well?
The only part of Rondo that I knew back in that day would consist of between Western and Dale Street, more or less. That was like what I knew of the black town of Rondo, and Rondo would be like 94, kinda like down right there on 94. [There were] a lot of juke joints and different things, and business was going along over there on Rondo. I went to school at McKinley grade school, which was near Mackubin and Concordia — which used to be Mackubin and Rondo, back in the day.
When you started getting interested in music, did you go out to any of the clubs around there?
Nah, I didn’t do too much clubbing or anything like that. When I started singing with these cats, I just got into some of the halls that they would rent — these were the only things that I could basically get into. I remember playing some gigs at the University of Minnesota for some sorority house deals back in the day, but not really into the clubs. I could go into The Western Lounge, which was on Western and St. Anthony over there, and they had the best Coney Island – oh my god. You could get maybe seven of them for a dollar. At that point in time I did manage to see – what was his name – a blues guy. Jimmy Reed. I did get to see him up there in the Western Lounge. But I really couldn’t get into the other places. I was too young.
If you didn’t have access to see much live music, what made you wanna do it? What was your inspiration?
Television. You look at Elvis Presley up on television doing what he does, and I guess if music is in you, that’s gonna be what you wanna do. And then gospel – going to church with my grandmother, you see these gospel cats playing guitars and you know you can see the spirit is moving somebody, and they’re just jammin’ and they’re doin’ what they’re doin’. So yeah, there was something in music that way. Then I’d listen to the phonograph. My aunt had gospel records. She had old Sam Cooke records, Otis Redding. So that kind of got music in me, and then the doo-wop days – you’re hanging out the guys and you’re [starts singing “there goes my baby”], like sitting here in the park or something like that, and cats get together and they start singing. So it was those things, too, that got me going. Cats like Herman Jones [of the Exciters], he used to live kinda across the street kitty corner from me down on Central and Arundel back in the day.
Did you know him well?
Yeah, I knew him back in the days. People started putting bands together at that point in time that I had joined The Bluejays, and then I started noticing the other bands that were out and about playing and doing different things. Then I graduated from that into other bands — Soul Sensation, which ended up turning into Haze.
I noticed that on the 45 you recorded back in the ‘60s, it said “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” Is that different from The Bluejays?
The Cymbals was these other three guys that came along and did just the background singing on that song that I had, so they put “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” But the band was The Bluejays. That’s who I was with, and these guys, The Cymbals, they came in, they laid down the tracks, but we never did go out and perform together.
How did you meet your Bluejays bandmates?
It was back in the day where you could get these little reel-to-reel recorders for about $20, so my aunt got me one and I was messin’ around with it at home, and I got to singing on it. And then a friend of mine that I went to school with came by my house, and I was playing it for him and he heard it and said, “That sounds cool, man. That you singin’?” “Yeah, that’s me.” “You can sing!” Blah blah blah, and next thing you know, “Hey, man, you oughtta come and check out my brother’s band.” So we checked it out and they had me audition for the band, and then next thing you know I got the job. But I was auditioning against another cat that was kind of a rough dude in the neighborhood, and I’m like is this cat gonna beat my butt because I beat him out or what? But, no, it worked out real cool. I ended up with them guys and we started playing little things here and there, and that gave me a little more experience into playing, understanding singing, getting out a little bit more into the music world.
What years were you active in that group?
I’m gonna say ’64 maybe, because I joined the military in ’66. I had just turned 18 then. So I’m gonna say about ’64.
And then you made the record in ’65?
Yeah. Then everybody went military-bound, more or less, and done their thing, and that was the end of the band. Then I got out of the military and I ended up with Haze and started doing things with him.
What year did you come back?
Got back in ’69.
So you were gone about three years. What would you say changed about the music scene in that time?
What changed? It went from doo-wop to more like Sly and The Family Stone — [starts singing “Dance to the Music”] — Woodstock, Joan Baez, all this other stuff started happening then, kind of a changing of things. Everybody was revolutionaries and right on, peace and flower power.
I know there was a lot going on with the venues in the late ‘60s too — black music venues trying to move into downtown and then getting shut down.
I don’t like to say things about people and things, but I guess it’s what it is. Mostly white cats got the good gigs at different clubs and things like that. Our case, there was like basement parties you start off playing at — whatever things you could get into, which we called like a chitlin circuit, where it was mostly black people playing.
The chitlin circuit — how would you describe that?
Lower class places where black folks go, not really paying a lot of monies for anything. It’s like what’s left of the hog. This is what you get. It’s not the big ham or the bacon or anything like that. It’s the chitlins of that, so the lower class, in the bowels of everything. Those were the kind of places that we were playing. And then to get a crossover of things going on, at that point in time the Commodores, Earth, Wind and Fire and different things like that was coming on. That was more of a crossover of music, and a lot of people of all colors were into those kinds of music, and then boom, up popped disco and stuff like that. I think I’m moving a little too fast here.
I definitely want to talk about Haze before we get to disco. So you came back in about ’69. Did you jump right back into music?
Yeah, I got back and Haze was doing a thing underneath the name of Soul Sensation, at that point in time. And I ended up rehearsing and playing a little bit with them, not really doing a whole lot, but just dibbling and dabbling into the music game, and that’s when I left and moved to the Bay area. I got out in ’69, so messed around here until like the later part of ’70, ’71, then I moved to the Bay.
How long were you there?
And it was a totally different band when you came back.
Yeah, they had released an album, and they had this song “I Do Love My Lady,” which had hit the charts and was doing pretty doggone good. So their singer, when I got back from California, was no longer with them – Chita – I ended up taking his place. They accepted me back into it, and I just dived right into it, and it was just amazing watching them write collectively, and just kinda come together, put things together. The camaraderie of the brothers, and how everybody kinda got along, and the magic that it had, it was growing. It was just amazing, and I was really proud to be a part of it. They had more of a crossover than a lot of the other predominantly black bands that was out happening. They played more white clubs and different things — Purple Barn way out in Burnsville, and other places around.
Why did they appeal to more of a mixed audience, do you think?
I would say because all they did was a lot of original music; because maybe they had their album out and their song was on the Billboard charts. The album probably had a lot to do with it. I don’t know, because the cats ended up with The Jackson Five at the auditorium at St. Paul and all kind of stuff like that, so they had that magic. They had that fire that was goin’ on.
Was there radio here in town that would play Haze?
KUXL would play Haze. When we left to go to the East Coast, I believe it was KMOJ at that point in time, and they would be playing some of the stuff that Haze had goin’ on.
What kind of venues do you remember playing with Haze?
One of the main ones I remember that we used to have a lot of fun at was the Jockey Lounge. Jockey Lounge was down on West 7th Street just before you get ready to cross that bridge to go towards the airport, in that little shopping mall to your right, right there. And it would be packed each and every time we would play there. And they would bring in some other acts from Michigan, guys that was really hot, playin’ some good stuff. I enjoyed playing there with them, and when we went out to the East Coast we played D.C., Philadelphia and some other venues around the Philadelphia area, and did some recording in Philly. And there was the memorable days of going to California together on an old school bus, and getting out there and things not being quite what it was supposed to be —and actually were starving, trying to make ends meet. I think out of that we ended up getting a job in Lake Tahoe at Harris’s Casino. We went through a lot together – different things – traveling about here and there and stuff like that.
Was it common at that time for bands to go to California to try to connect with the bigger music industry?
Yeah. That was why I went out there, because I was listening to Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, stuff like that. And it seems like California is the place you oughta be. So I loaded up and moved to Oakland. I played with a band out there called Herbie Mem’s East Bay Band. Through Herbie I got to meet a lot of good people. I met Freddie Hubbard, Pharaoh Sanders, Larry Graham — when Larry was putting together Graham Central Station. It started out as Hot Chocolate. Sometimes in the parks and places that we would play, his band would come there and play too. That was his wife’s band, and he was managing the band. Through our drummer, I got to meet Larry and got to know him a little bit out there, and then when he took the bass player that he had in the band out and put himself there and started calling it Graham Central Station, next thing I know the San Francisco papers started writing about Graham Central Station, Larry Graham, and it took off. I go, I must be in the right place.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, that’s when a lot of the freeways were going in here. What impact did you see? I’m curious if there were any music venues closed, or any impact on the music community from the highways going in?
Yeah. It pretty much took out the Rondo scene — what old Rondo was. Sometimes that’s the sad part about up here. They tear down everything that has anything. They took out a lot of good businesses, and people kind of scattered. They’re still scattering way out to suburbia and somewhere now instead of the inner city, and then that part of the inner city — a lot of people started moving from suburbia back into the city and reclaiming those parts of Rondo, like on Selby and Dale. They used to have the Old Louisiana Restaurant there. They still got one there, but it’s nothing like what the old one used to be. The mom and pop variety stores, drug stores and different things like that, are all gone to the new modern convenience of one drugstore to serve them all or what have you. Ace Hardware now instead of mom and pop’s hardware. So a lot of things are missing and gone. People scatter.
One thing I’m really interested in, zooming out into the big picture, is musicians who influence each other over time. I’m wondering if you have any memories of either people that came up before you that you learned from in the community, or if there were young kids coming out to your shows that then started their own bands, who were learning from what you guys were doing in Haze.
I don’t know too much about people learning from us and me, but there was some cats that influenced me — like the Amazers, which was a local group with Napoleon Crayton singing the lead. That guy’s voice was phenomenal. At that point in time, what am I, 14, 15 years old? Listening to this cat singing this song, which was almost like a gospel song, “It’s You For Me,” it just makes you wanna cry it felt so good.
Other cats — like I got to meet and know Willie Weeks. Willie Weeks played with the Mystics, then he went on to play with Donnie Hathaway, Three Dog Night and all these people, and Wynonna Judd. I remember Willie back in the day; big influence. I remember Al Jarreau coming through here. I think Al Jarreau was living over in Milwaukee or something at that point in time, and I remember he came through here. Rockie Robbins, who also played with the Mystics back in the day — he also did a recording, and then the next thing you know he was on the Johnny Carson Show. So I’m like wow, look at these cats. And then Prince jumps out and starts doing his thing. This was pretty much during the time that I was with Haze, that he was evolving. And then The Time coming up and doing their thing – Alexander O’Neal and everybody getting in. And then I kinda started wondering what happened to me. Where did things go? So many cats that did so many good things as far as what was happening musically around, and it was a pretty cool thing.
Were you friends with these younger bands, Prince and The Time?
We’re friends by association in music. I never really talked a lot to Prince or anything like that. I just remember one time that we were playing at The Thunderbird Motel, which used to be out on 494, and his band was over on one side of the room of the hotel there, and our band, Haze, was on the other thing playing in another room somewhere. So that’s what I knew of him.
When would you say things wrapped up with Haze?
Whenever that thing came out in City Pages, about Haze being rediscovered and this lady found the record in the dumpster. That was pretty much the end of it right there. The rebirth of it, trying to bring it back — Google trying to come in and work with us, and cats couldn’t get it together. As time went by, they’d either grown bitter or just grew apart, I guess. That was the last time, because the conga player, Michael Lopez, came back up. He was living in Florida, so they flew him back in for this reunion deal with everybody being back together here, and he came up and we did this one little thing over at 7th Street Entry for Google. We recorded that, and then Michael went back down to Florida, and we was looking to see if things would come back together, but it just didn’t. And Michael died of pancreatic cancer. So that was that. Chita died of course a long time ago. What was that, maybe four or five years ago? Four years ago?
I think that was 2010.
Somewhere back there. So that was pretty much the end of Haze right there. We ended this thing. I’m going, like, wow man, we got a chance to come back and do it, and it was good to see everybody. I’m not a very religious person, and these cats were like whatever the lord wants us to do, blah blah blah — wait to see what He wants us to do. I’m like, man, that ain’t working for me. If the lord is gonna give you something, he sends you something down here and you said no I don’t want that, I’m waiting for this — then next thing you know there ain’t nothin’ else comin’ by for you to wait for. I was saying we need to jump on board, start letting people know we’re here and start putting some kind of show together. Let’s start doing it. And then there’s one group of guys over here saying let’s do this, and the other group of guys saying no we’re gonna do it like this. Now they’re split; and that’s what happened. I’m gonna move on. So I just went on and looking other places, and I ran into a couple of bands — people that wanted to do something and wanted to add me into it for their agenda. I was very unhappy going down that road. I guess that’s another story.
What do you mean by that? What was going on?
I’ve always believed if I’m gonna be a part of the band I’m gonna be a good soldier because I know military like that. So if I’m in the band I’m in the band, all the way, to be the best that we can be, to make the band shine and do what we do. Being in other people’s bands, I had to realize that this is their band. This is not yours. This is theirs, so they wanna do it that way, nothin’ you can do but do it that way or quit and go home. So I learned how to stick and stay. And then I learned how to try and shine whenever it was spotlight time; you get to sing the lead on this song. OK, sing your song, boom. And I tried to put everything I had into it so people could say there’s something about that guy there. I don’t know. It got to be frustrating at times dealing with people that had their own agendas. I was living like that until The Lakers came along.
I wanted to ask you about joining into the reunited Valdons – had you seen them back in the ‘70s?
Yeah, I knew of them back in the day when I was with Haze. That difference right there with them cats was they was playing a lot of cover stuff and pretty much doing things to more of a black audience instead of a crossover. They’d come out more suited up, whereas Haze would come out with stuff that we made up in our heads and had a seamstress put together, with polyester and gigantic bellbottoms; we were like Earth, Wind and Fire, whereas these cats would come out looking like The Temptations or The Stylistics or somebody of that era. Monroe Wright came to me at one point maybe 20-some years ago – he had came back from California and said he wanted to put together this group doing some Mills Brothers and Ink Spots stuff, and they called it The Bachelors. So himself, me and Maurice Young, we started doing that. I guess they used to do that way out there in California, so coming back here, we started doing that again, and for 20-some years we did that and played different venues, and that’s how I ended up getting this little spot to sing with the Valdons on that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing. That’s how that came about.
Tell me about meeting Eric Foss. How did he come into your life?
Twin Cities Funk and Soul. Like I said, I was playing with Monroe as The Bachelors, and Eric had approached them because they had had a record out with Napoleon Crayton, and Napoleon was part of the Valdons as well. So they wanted me to fill in because Big Bill, who normally would’ve been doing that, was not able to do it. He was sick. So I said yeah, I’ll do that. I went and sat in with them, and they flew Cliff [Curtis] in, who was one of the Cymbals on my first 45. Flew him in from California because he was a Valdon back in the day, and we went down to The Current and did that little thing at MPR. And that’s how I met Eric, at that point then, when they started putting that show together at the Cedar Cultural Center. Prophets of Peace, their singer wasn’t able to do anything either, so Tony Scott asked me if I would sing one or two of their songs. I said yeah, I’d be glad to. So I ended up kinda like all over the place – I’m a Valdon, I’m a Prophet of the Peace.
So through that, and playing a couple of times at First Avenue as that Twin Cities Funk and Soul, Eric said we’re gonna put a band together behind you – you – like “That guy!” Plus, me bugging him all the time when I came home from the gym — because [Secret Stash] was right in between the gym and my house, so [I’d] stop by. I said, man, where’s this thing going? What are you, a new company or what? What’s going on with that? Can I get in on the ground level here, too? Things started growing. He and I started working on some songs, and it turned out to be The Lakers and doing what we’re doing now.
Then [the Valdons] made decisions to go and do other things. I’m going nah, I’m not gonna do that, no. For me, I didn’t want somebody else running my life like that. I wanted to have some kind of control. With Eric, it was like, it’s cool. I didn’t look at them like young cats or younger than me or anything. I just looked at them as another human being, and we’re all trying to make something work here. And I admired their energy as far as making that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing work. I’ve been learning from them cats ever since. Pretty special guys.
What do you think it is about right now, that all of this attention has been turned back to this kind of vintage soul sound? Even when you listen to pop music now, people are trying to channel that sound.
I don’t know. Music to me is weird. Stuff has been there and been around forever, and then somebody comes along and picks it up and now all of a sudden it’s like, this is cool stuff! Some people forget about it, but it’s still there till someone comes and picks it up, brushes it off, and says, what if I put another little twist like this? It’s still the same old thing, but with a new twist.
That’s interesting to me, I guess because I didn’t experience it first hand as it was happening, but you can really see how the music evolves and people are learning from the people that came before them, adding their own thing to it.
That’s the thing, too. That’s life itself, I guess; you get mesmerized with living life from day to day. And next thing you know – I didn’t know that person never saw that, and I lived that first hand. Wow. Where did the time go? What happened? I thought these people knew all about this. Well, yeah, through reading books and things of learning that way, but yeah, I got to see that first hand. Damn, I’m ancient. I start picking on myself.
You’re not ancient. I think you’re about the same age as my dad.
Wow. We’re ancient.
You’re both looking really good.
That’s a good thing – blessed that way, and that’s why I try to go to the gym. I don’t know – mom and dad gave me some good genes to put on or something, and everything worked out pretty good, but I can say it’s amazing that you see so much stuff and you don’t really realize that some people ain’t even saw that or know about that.
I want to hear about the First Avenue release show for I’m Still Here, because I get the sense that that might be one of the biggest crowds that you’ve ever performed for. What were you thinking when you came out on stage and saw all those people so excited about your album coming out?
I didn’t think that they were that excited about my album or anything else like that. I wasn’t even thinking about my album. I was just scared to death.
When I came out on stage, I had no idea how many people was really out there. Because when I first came in there wasn’t a whole big crowd of people, and as they started filling in I still didn’t see it until it was time for me to come out. When it was my turn to come up on stage, I was like OK. I just lost it and went into acting, into form – what I gotta do. How do I make you move? You must be here to move, groove, do something. That’s where my focus goes. How do you make it work? How do you get people liking it? And once the motion started movin’, then it got kinda easy. I got into it and it was do or die. Just do whatever you can do. This is your show. This is your song. Don’t worry about it. Just go. And it turned out I guess to be pretty good. I was just up there having some fun.
I think it’s so cool, not only that you’re performing this music that has such a rich history, but the show is just nonstop and the energy is nonstop; you don’t see many people onstage like that. It’s like, wow.
That is wow, because I know sometimes up there the show will be moving so fast, and then it’s jumping around, the dancing, it’s like, I better pace myself here because it’s right out of one song into another song, and I’m trying to catch my breath. But it just tells me that if I’m kinda choking a little bit I need to get back in, get the cardio all pumped up a little bit more to keep the drive going, because that’s what people want. They want that energy. They wanna see that. They want that drive. You wanna get them to move. You don’t want people to just go get a beer or something and walk away. You want them to stay there. You want them to be a part of your show, have them jump up and down, because we can see from the stage and see people going like this [moves hand up and down].
That must be really cool to watch.
Yeah. The first time I did it was over at the Little Lake Festival, and I said, “I’m gonna call off a number when the band’s gonna hit, and when the band hits it I wanna see you guys jump and get your cardio in. Can you get it?” “Yeah!” “You got it?” “Yeah!” So now and then we’ll go and get people jumping up and down. They kinda like that. We played down in St. Peter last Saturday and we had them jumping down there. The love that the people’s been showing wherever we go has just been amazing. I guess maybe we must be doing something right, which is a blessing to get something like that going.
This whole thing is a blessing for me – being where I’m at, age-wise, each and every day that I get is a blessing. Today, to do the interview with you is another blessing – to wake up and continue down that path that we’re trying to go. I appreciate it. I appreciate waking up, life – appreciate this neighborhood being the way that it is. It’s just so much now that I feel there is to live for, versus what I went through coming up to get to this point. Did I think I would get here? Maybe yes and maybe no. It didn’t really matter. You just get beat down with so much.
It’s kinda like that guy in North Korea before he escaped. He was born in prison and he thought the guards were the high-power great people because they were guards, and they had all this freedom. He knew nothing about the outside until he escaped and got away. It’s kinda like I feel. Certain people had more power and could play in different places. I never knew anything like what I’m knowing now, that freedom of wow, there we are playing. You’re Sonny Knight. You get to come in. Your name is out there in front of the band and that’s you. You get to sit here. This is your green room. This is what’s for you. Never had that and never thought I would get that. I thought that was for the other big people. This is cool. How did this happen? I keep asking myself how did that happen. Must be doing something right. What is it? I don’t know.
It sounds like you do know, though, because you’ve seen bands that didn’t make the right choices and you have a very realistic way of looking at things.
Yeah, and again, I think it just comes back around to being humble and patient and putting in work. You think well I’m this, I’m that, I’m Sonny Knight, I’m supposed to get this – don’t mean nothin’. I’m just another person that’s still trying to make it in this world, and what I got is what I got. And I stay true to what I got because life is too precious. There’s so much energy – people walking, squirrels moving, birds flying – that’s all energy. And to be here and to sit here and enjoy that for this moment in this time now – you can’t ask for more. Tomorrow might bring you some better things, but tomorrow ain’t even here. Right now I got right now. I got this interview right now. It feels good just to be in the moment, and I try to stay in the moment.
The other good thing I think happened for me is I took money out of the equation. Where’s my money? I need to get paid for this and if I’m not getting paid for this then I can’t do this is I’m not gonna get paid. I believe enough in it to keep working this. It’ll come. Whatever’s gonna be. Que sera sera. Hey, let’s make a song of that. So when I took money out of the equation everything got really kinda cool. I mellowed out and I know that the longer I live the more I’ll understand life.
Some people are happy just going and visiting and being with their family, cutting the grass and doing that. Don’t want no more. Other people want the moon and the stars, and then they try to go after the moon and stars and then somehow get unhappy it ain’t comin’ as fast as they thought it should. I think some people fall by the wayside with that. I know I did – expecting and pursuing and thinking things should be this way or that way and it wasn’t. So I’m just grateful. I’m just hoping I have the energy to continue doing what I’m doing now for at least another 20 years. My son came to Lake Harriet bandshell and caught the show over there and he was like wow, you really inspired me – motivated me to wanna go out and become a musician. That’s really cool.
I’m just keeping it real. I’m a human being. I’m not a superstar. I’m not nobody. Prince is a human being. All these cats are. Ain’t nobody no more than you or I, but yet they’re in a position to be held like the Queen is the Queen. I don’t know. You wanna leave this world in a good way, and we all going to leave this world. You wanna get things right. And that’s kinda like how I try to live – just doing things right. I’m still here trying to make it work.
I love that song – “I’m Still Here.”
It’s a good song. It’s a real good song and I don’t know where it was coming from when we started doing it, but the fact that I’m still here to be able to sing my song and do it – that’s what matters. To be able to see my grandkids grow up – that’s what matters. My first grandchild – I have two grandkids – when my first one was born I looked at her and I thought how pure and how innocent everything is for her right now. There’s nothing she’s done that anybody can say or touch – she’s pure.
So to still be here, I guess it means like what are you gonna do with your life? Who are you? Now that you’re still here, we’re all still here, that energy is still here, drawing and just knowing what you can do – making positive things is what I’m hoping, that we can end up making people feel and do good. That’s why – hey, let’s jump.
Sadly Sonny Knight passed away on June 17, 2017 from the devastations of cancer. He was 69.
June 2, 2017 – Aamir Zaki was born on April 8, 1968 in Saudi Arabia from Pakistani parents.
Music was part of his home education with both parents sharing classical, jazz, blues and rock with their children. Aamir became an instant admirer of Rhandy Rhoads, metal guitar virtuoso with Ozzy Osborne.
Playing guitar since the age of 14, he became known for his melodic phrasing, feel, and tone.
The first mainstream musician to recognise Zaki as a teenage prodigy was Alamgir, who got in touch with him to tour India, Dubai, England and the U.S.A. After touring Zaki played on two of Alamgir’s albums. “Keh De Na” and “Albela Rahi” were two hit singles with young Zaki’s guitar sound and image, he played a self built Flying V guitar, inspired by his love for Randy Rhoads.
Post-Alamgir, Aamir Zaki formed three rock groups. “The Barbarians”, “Axe Attack” and “Scratch”. Axe Attack was the only band that made an original album called The Bomb, whose title track was about the Bohri Bazaar bomb blast. It was the first English album recorded in Pakistan and perhaps for that reason, all music companies refused to release it. However, some years later, the rhythm guitarist, Nadeem Ishtiaq took it to Australia where the songs made it to the radio and were well received. Back in Pakistan, the album lay forgotten. Zaki continued with his songwriting and started playing session guitar.
Zaki got married at the age of twenty two and divorced at twenty four. The next year Zaki toured extensively with Vital Signs and Awaz.
He became globally known for his short stint with the band the Vital Signs in 1994, when he toured the globe with the group. He also played with the band on their fourth album before being asked to leave.
He then released his debut solo album Signature in 1995, from which the song Mera Pyaar became a massive hit and Zaki was awarded a gold disc by Soundcraft UK for it. Signature was primarily an instrumental album with two English and one Urdu song. His second CD release Rough Cut was an English album, with a Tabla and six string bass Rhythm section, featuring Hadiqa Kiyani on vocals.
Signature was an independent release, and he put his own money into releasing this high-risk venture. The first CD batch was made in England, and Sonic released Signature in Pakistan. The album was an immediate success, and for the first time in the region, guitar instrumentals made it into the households through FM radio
Zaki had a cult following by this time. He played his original English and Urdu songs live, much before they appeared on the screen. He played at the Karajazz Festival and many a time at Café Blue (Karachi, Pakistan) that marvellous haunt for live music lovers, that witnessed the powerful synergy between Zaki, Gumby, and Khalid Khan, regularly. It was here that his listeners turned up week after week to hear him play. His bass playing shone on these occasions. Zaki played the bass like the guitar and the sounds he elicited from it are unlike anything heard before.
The musician, who made his overdue debut on Coke Studio in 2014, was last seen in action performing at the two-day long I Am Karachi Music Festival. He recently collaborated with Saleem Javed, reworking the singer’s classic Tum Mere Ho.
Widely considered the most influential guitarist in the country’s history, Zaki was known both for his musical genius and volatile temperament. Even so, according to most of his colleagues, he has left a void that is not only difficult, but perhaps even impossible to fill.
“I must say that he was the most talented guitarist I ever came across in Pakistan. Not just as a musician, but even as a person, he was likeable and humble,” fellow Vital Signs alumni and guitarist Asad Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
“He was a great teacher as well, who inspired so many people. He inspired them to just pick up an instrument and play, and when someone like him goes away, it doesn’t really feel good. It’s a loss for the music industry but more than that, for people in general, because he was one of a kind. He is someone who will be missed but celebrated.”
Calling him the most influential guitarist in Pakistan, Fuzon band member Imran Momina, also known as Emu, regretted not having worked with Zaki one last time. “We have been honoured to play with him several times. He was such a great mentor and a great person to hang out with as well, and it’s just sad to hear this news,” he said. “I have one regret because I wanted to work with him one more time on a project and it just couldn’t happen. Sadly, he succumbed to illness and other factors in life.”
Aamir Zaki passed away on June 2, 2017 due to heart failure after a prolonged illness. He was 49.
May 27, 2017 – Gregory LeNoir “Gregg” Allman was born December 8th, 1947 in Nashville, TN, a little more than a year after his older brother Duane. In 1949, his dad offered a hitchhiker a ride home and was subsequently shot and killed. After that tragedy his mother Geraldine moved to Nashville with her two sons, and she never remarried. Lacking money to support her two sons, she enrolled in college to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). State laws at the time required students to live on-campus and as a consequence, Gregg and his older brother Duane were sent to Castle Heights Military Academy in nearby Lebanon. A young Gregg interpreted these actions as evidence of his mother’s dislike for him, though he later came to understand the reality: “She was actually sacrificing everything she possibly could—she was working around the clock, getting by just by a hair, so as to not send us to an orphanage, which would have been a living hell.”Continue reading Gregg Allman 5/2017
May 21, 2017 – Jimmy LaFave was born July 12, 1955 in Willis Point, Texas where he was also raised. Music was his destiny from very early on, but he started his journey on drums.
Some years later he moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma and played in the school band but at age 15 LaFave switched to guitar and began writing and singing his own songs in a band called The Night Tribe.
After graduating from high school LaFave played music at night while working during the day. He had a job as the manager of a music club called Up Your Alley and during this period recorded the albums Down Under in 1979 and Broken Line in 1981. Continue reading Jimmy LaFave 5/2017
May 21, 2017 – Curtis Womack (The Valentinos) was born on October 22, 1942 in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.A. He was second oldest of the five Womack Brothers (Friendly, Curtis, Bobby, Harry, Cecil), and started singing together with his siblings at their father’s church in Cleveland. In 1954, they formally were named Curtis Womack and the Womack brothers with Curtis and, occasionally, Bobby singing lead. Continue reading Curtis Womack 5/2017
May 21, 2017 – Kenny Cordray was born on July 21, 1954 in Dallas Texas and moved to Houston, Texas in 1966 where he learned to play guitar on British invasion songs from the Animals and Them (Gloria etc).
In 1968 he went to see a gig of the Children where the guitar player didn’t show up. He sat in and soon signed up.
Subsequently Cordray became the lead guitarist for THE CHILDREN under the ATCO label and later on ODE records produced by Lou Adler. He co-wrote the ZZ-Top hit song “Francine,” which peaked at 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, with Steve Perron for ZZ Top’s album “Rio Grande Mud.” Continue reading Kenny Cordray 5/2017
May 17, 2017 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964 in Seattle, Washington, where he was also raised. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Cornell was a loner; he tried to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music but during his early teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression and almost never left the house. His first favorite band were the Beatles. A noteworthy rumor later was that Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor’s house. Continue reading Chris Cornell 5/2017
May 13, 2017 – Jimmy Copley was born in London on December 29, 1953.
Jimmy started playing drums at the age of 5 years old, accompanying his Mother’s (Nina) Jazz piano at parties. Jimmy turned professional joining the band ‘Spreadeagle’ who had just signed to Charisma Records and performed live, opening for various headlining acts such as ‘Genesis’, ‘Lindisfarne’ and ‘Audience’. Jim recorded the Spreadeagle album ‘The Piece of Paper, produced by Kinks and Who producer: Shel Talmy. Continue reading Jimmy Copley 5/2017
May 11, 2017 – Corki Casey O’Dell was born Vivian J. Ray Casey on May 13, 1936 in Phoenix, Arizona where she grew up as teenage guitarists with the likes of Lee Hazlewood, Sanford Clark and Duane Eddy.
In 1956, she joined then-husband, guitarist Al Casey, playing rhythm guitar on Sanford Clark’s country, pop and R&B hit “The Fool,” which would later be recorded by Elvis Presley, among others. The tune was penned by songwriter-producer Lee Hazelwood, who would use O’Dell on several of the sessions he produced. Continue reading Corki Casey O’Dell 5/2017
9 May 2017 – Robert Miles was born Roberto Concina on 3 November 1969 in Fleurier Switzerland to an Italian military family stationed there. He did not return to Italian soil until the age of ten, settling in the town of Fagagna. Raised primarily on the classic American soul sound of the 1970s, Miles began studying piano as a teen, and at 13 began DJ’ing local house parties. By the late ’80s he was regularly spinning hardcore trance sets at Venice area clubs under the name Robert Milani, eventually adopting the name Miles as symbolic of the musical journey awaiting him. In time, he assembled a basic studio system comprising a sampler, mixer, keyboard, and 32-track digital board, accepting production work with the Italian label Metromaxx. In 1990, he used his savings to establish his own recording studio and a pirate radio station. Continue reading Robert Miles 5/2017
May 5, 2017 – Clive Brooks was born on December 28, 1949 in Bow, East London where he was also raised.
Answering a Melody Maker ad in early 1968, Brooks joined Uriel, a blues-rock group in the style of Hendrix / Cream / blues / psychedelic group original formed by three City of London School pupils Dave Stewart (keyboards), Mont Campbell (bass and lead vocals) and Steve Hillage (guitar and vocals). The band re-grouped later under the name Arzachel and released one album in 1969, after they had already changed musical direction.Continue reading Clive Brooks 5/2017
May 3, 2017 – Casey Jones (Albert Collins/Johnny Winter) was born July 26, 1939 in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi and raised in Greenville. As a kid he played with the Coleman High School band, but claimed he learned more about drumming from Little Milton’s drummer Lonnie Haynes, than from the band director
In 1956 at age 17, his sister Atlean and her husband Otis Luke enticed him with the promise of a drum kit and entry into the musician’s union, if he would move to Chicago to live with them. True to his word, they went to Frank’s Drum Shop on Wabash Ave and from there on Casey Jones played drums in Otis’s band. His first gig with Otis Luke & the Rhythm Bombers in 1956 made him $5.Continue reading Casey Jones 5/2017