March 13, 2003 – Sammy Samwell was born Ian Ralph Sawmill on January 19th 1937.
Not many residents in Sacramento, California knew that a British rock legend walked among them for two decades prior to his death. He was a gentle soul, a music-biz lifer, and the twinkle in his eye belied more rock influence than most players here could conjure up in a lifetime.
Imagine being a pivotal player in rock ’n’ roll in 1958—that was just a handful of years after Jackie Brenston made the very first rock ’n’ roll song, “Rocket 88,” and one year after Elvis was drafted. It was when guitarist Samwell, then 21, penned “Move It” for his band’s lead singer, Cliff Richard, the first British rock star.
In 1999, that shakin’-all-over ditty was voted one of the top 10 rock ’n’ roll records of all time by BBC Radio. In America, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tapped it as one of 500 songs that shaped the genre. Most importantly, John Lennon called “Move It” the most influential British record ever made.
February 23, 2003 – Howie Epstein (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) was born July 21st 1955 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father, Sam, was a top local record producer who worked with various rock and roll and soul groups in the 1950s and ’60s. Howie often visited the music studios, watching his father work and occasionally making recordings under his dad’s watchful eye at a very young age. “I would go into the bars with my father to check out the bands he was thinking of working with,” Epstein recalls, “and a couple of times he let me use groups he was working with as back-up musicians for stuff I’d record.”
April 24, 2002 – Lisa Nicole Lopes, nicknamed Left Eye by her music pals was born on May 27, 1971 in Philadelphia. Her dad was from the Cape Verde Islands, a multi talented musician with a disciplinarian character. By age 10, she formed the musical trio The Lopes Kids with her siblings, with whom she sang gospel songs at local churches.
At the age of 19, having heard of an open casting call for a new girl group through her boyfriend at the time, Lopes moved to Atlanta to audition. TLC started as a female trio called 2nd Nature. The group was renamed TLC, derived from the first initials of its then three members: Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. Things did not work out with Crystal Jones, and TLC’s manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid brought in Rozonda Thomas as a third member of the group. To keep the “initial” theme of the band’s name, Rozonda needed a name starting with C, and so became Chilli, a name chosen by Lopes.
February 1, 2002 – Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was born December 28, 1925 in the city of Ulm, Germany. (The German PEGGY LEE)
In 1940, she began studying acting. Even before the fall of the Third Reich, she appeared in several films, but most of them were only released after the war. To avoid being raped by Soviet soldiers, she dressed like a young man and was sent to a camp for prisoners of war. She escaped and returned to war-shattered Berlin where she played her first parts on stage. The first German movie after World War II, Murderers Among Us (1946), made her a star. David O. Selznick invited her to Hollywood and offered her a contract – with two conditions: Hildegard Knef should change her name into Gilda Christian and should pretend to be Austrian instead of German. In America she appeared on Broadway as “Ninotchka” in the Cole Porter musical, Silk Stockings.
She refused both of Selznick’s conditions and returned to Germany. In 1951, she provoked one of the greatest scandals in German film history when she appeared naked on the screen in the movie Sunderin (1951). The Roman Catholic Church protested vehemently against that film, but Hildegard just commented: “I can’t understand all that tumult – five years after Auschwitz!”
21 January 2002 – Peggy Lee was bornNorma Deloris Engstrom on May 26th 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh of eight children. Her father was Swedish-American and her mother was Norwegian-American. Her mother died when Peggy was just a four year old toddler. Afterwards, her father married her step-mother Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic but loving father did little to stop it. As a teenager she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home to escape the abuse of her step-mother.
Lee first sang professionally over radio in Valley City, North Dakota. She later had her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her a salary in food. Both during and after her high school years, Lee sang for small sums on local radio stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy in Fargo, North Dakota, changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee. Miss Lee left home and traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 17. Continue reading Peggy Lee 1/2002
August 25, 2001 -Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) died in a small plane crash after take off in the Bahamas, ending a very promising career in music and acting. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan.Born Aaliyah Haughton in Brooklyn, N.Y., she made her stage debut as an orphan in a production of “Annie” at the age of 6. Her uncle was married to soul singer Gladys Knight, who invited Aaliyah to perform with her during a five-night stint in Las Vegas at age 11.
At the age of 10, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight, who was married to her uncle.
Aaliyah’s song “Try Again” earned her a Grammy nomination this year for her best female R&B vocalist. In 1996, she released her second album and the single “If Your Girl Only Knew” went double platinum.
Aaliyah made her feature acting debut in 2000 with “Romeo Must Die” and also was signed on to appear in two sequels to the high-tech thriller “The Matrix.” She also starred in the title role of the latest Anne Rice vampire thriller, “The Queen of the Damned.”
January 20, 2000 – Ray Jones was born October 22nd 1939 in Liverpool, England. In 1963 Brian Epstein signed The Dakotas to be a backing band for Billy J. Kramer. Billy had been friends with John Lennon for some time and John gave the group a demo of a new song, “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, which they perfected whilst working in Hamburg at the Star Club. On returning to Britain, the song was recorded at Abbey Road studios, with producer George Martin. It stormed up the charts and reached No.2 in the spring of 1963.
This was followed by a No.1 hit “Bad to Me” c/w “I Call Your Name”, and was awarded a gold disc, followed by another hit with “I’ll Keep You Satisfied”. In addition to backing Billy J on his hits, the group itself is perhaps best known for their instrumental single called “The Cruel Sea”, which reached No.18 in the UK charts in July 1963.
Ray Jones had joined the band as bassist replacing Ian Fraser and Mike Maxfield joined the band in February 1962 as lead guitarist replacing Bryn Jones after being with a Manchester band called the Coasters. The group first backed Pete MacLaine (February 1962 – January 1963). However, Brian Epstein, who was managing Billy J. Kramer, made the Dakotas an offer to become Kramer’s backing band, which they accepted. Epstein insisted the name was Billy J Kramer with The Dakotas, not “and”. The group and Billy J Kramer then went to Hamburg to perfect their act.
In addition to backing Kramer on his hits, the group itself is perhaps best known for their instrumental single called “The Cruel Sea”, a composition of Maxfield that reached No.18 in the UK charts in July 1963. The track was re-titled “The Cruel Surf” in the U.S., and was subsequently covered by The Ventures.
The band released by “Magic Carpet” by George Martin in September 1963. It was not a hit. Their next single, “Oyeh” (November 1964), was not a chart success either.
After a row with Epstein, Ray Jones left the group in July 1964. Robin MacDonald moved to bass to make way for a new lead guitarist, Mick Green from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.
Ray Jones never went back into professional music and died from an undisclosed cause on January 20, 2000 at age 60.
April 17, 1998 – Linda Louise, Lady McCartney (Wings) was born Linda Eastman on September 24, 1941 in New York City. Prior to marrying Paul, she was a professional photographer of celebrities and contemporary musicians, with her work published in music industry magazines. Her photos were also published in the book, Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, in 1992.
April 6, 1998 – Wendy Williams was born on May 28, 1949 in Webster, New York. She studied clarinet at the Community Music School program of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and later was a clarinetist in her high school’s concert band. At the age of six, she appeared tap-dancing on the Howdy Doody show as a member of the “Peanut Gallery”.
She had her first run-in with the law at the age of 15, when she was arrested for sun bathing nude. Williams attended R. L. Thomas High School in Webster at least partway through the tenth grade, but left school before graduating. Her schoolmates and teachers recalled Williams as a “shy and pretty girl, an average student who played in the junior high band, paid attention to her hair and clothes, and who spoke so softly you had to lean toward her to hear her.
December 16, 1997 – Nicolette Larson was born on July 17th 1952 in Helena, Montana. Her father’s employment with the U.S. Treasury Department forced frequent relocation on Larson’s family, not an easy task for a family of eight. The Larsons moved every couple of years and the young Nicolette was exposed to every genre of music from soul to pop via country. She especially liked Hank Williams and her singing was undoubtedly influenced by Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, but her peripatetic childhood and varied taste would later be reflected in albums containing Tamla Motown material alongside songs by Sam Cooke, Burt Bacharah and Jackson Browne.
October 12, 1997 – John Denver, was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr in Roswell, New Mexico on December 31st 1943. At the age of 12, he received a 1910 Gibson acoustic jazz guitar from his grandmother and he taught himself to play it well enough to play locally as a teenager in groups such as the folk-music group “The Alpine Trio”.
John went on to become one of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s in terms of record sales, he recorded and released around 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed himself.
He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Songs such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso” attained worldwide popularity.
April 8, 1997 – Laura Nyro was born October 18th 1947 in The Bronx, New York. Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, the daughter of Gilda (née Mirsky) Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura had a younger brother, Jan Nigro, who became a well-known children’s musician. Laura was of Russian Jewish, Polish, and Italian ancestry.
As a child, Nyro taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskills, where her father played trumpet at resorts.
March 10, 1997 – LaVern Baker was born Delores LaVern Baker on November 11, 1929 in Chicago. She began singing gospel as a child, but she was familiar with more secular styles, as well. Her aunt, Merline Baker, was better known as Memphis Minnie, a blues singer and guitarist. LaVern was blessed with a powerful voice, which she put to use as a teenager singing in nightclubs under the stage name Little Miss Sharecropper. She wore a straw hat and a dress made of patches.
November 2, 1996 – Eva Marie Cassidy was born on February 2, 1963 in Washington DC.
She died at the age of 33 following a three-month battle with bone cancer. She was, for sure, a diamond, no longer in the rough but not yet in the proper setting that would showcase a voice so pure, so strong, so passionate that it should have found a home just about anywhere.
Cassidy didn’t have any concept of target audiences or musical distinctions. She could sing anything — folk, blues, pop, jazz, R&B, gospel — and make it sound like it was the only music that mattered.
February 12, 1995 – Philip Kramer (Iron Butterfly) was born on July 12th 1952 in Youngstown, Ohio.
For a short period between 1974 and 1977, he was bassist for Iron Butterfly in their third reincarnation. Even though he was a solid bass thumper, his story on this rock and roll website only appears because his death was a longtime mystery with many stories of paranoia, related to his science career. During and after his music career he studied for and got a night school degree in aerospace engineering, after which he worked on the MX missile guidance system for a contractor of the US Department of Defense.
With the arrival of the Internet and the Worldwide Web he switched fields and studied fractal compression, facial recognition systems, and advanced communications. In 1990 he co-founded Total Multimedia Inc. with Randy Jackson, brother of Michael Jackson, to develop data compression techniques for CD-ROMs.
July 6, 1993 – Mia Zapata (The Gits) entered this world August 25, 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also was raised. As the story goes, Mia’s father was distantly related to Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican revolution.
She grew up a smart and sensitive kid with a natural connection to music and performing. Influenced by rock as well as jazz, blues and R&B singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke, Mia learned how to play the guitar and the piano by age nine.
July 26, 1992 – MaryWells was born in Detroit on May 13, 1943. When she was three years old, she contracted spinal meningitis and had to remain in bed for two years. Wells also suffered from tuberculosis as a young woman. Her family was poor, and at the age of 12 she began to help her mother with housecleaning work. “Daywork they called it,” Wells was quoted as saying in Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. “And it was damn cold on hallway linoleum. Misery is Detroit linoleum in January–with a half-froze bucket of Spic-and-Span.”
May 1, 1992 – Sharon Redd was born October 19, 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia
Her parents were Gene Redd and Katherine Redd. Gene Redd was a producer and musical director at King Records, and her stepfather performed with Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Her brother Gene Redd Jr. was a songwriter and producer for Kool & the Gang and BMP. Her sister Pennye Ford is also a singer with two albums to her credit and known for her work as the main singer for Snap!
March 17, 1990 – Ric Grech (Blind Faith) was bornRichard Roman Grechko in Bordeaux, France’s famous wine area on November 1st 1946. He was educated at Corpus Christi RC School, Leicester, after attending Sacred Heart Primary School, where he played violin in the school orchestra.
He originally gained notice in the UK as the bass guitar player for the progressive rock group Family. He joined the band when it was a largely blues-based live act in Leicester known as the Farinas. He became their bassist in 1965, replacing Tim Kirchin. Family released their first single, “Scene Through The Eye of a Lens,” in September 1967 on the Liberty label in the UK, which got the band signed to Reprise Records. The group’s 1968 debut album Music in a Doll’s House was an underground hit that highlighted the songwriting talents of Roger Chapman and John “Charlie” Whitney as well as Chapman’s piercing voice, but Grech also stood out with his rhythmic, thundering bass work on songs such as “Old Songs New Songs” and “See Through Windows,” along with his adeptness on cello and violin.
July 17, 1988 – Nico (Velvet Underground) was bornChrista Päffgen in Cologne, Germany on October 16, 1938. When she was two years old, she moved with her mother and grandfather to the Spreewald forest outside of Berlin to escape the World War II bombardments of Cologne. Her father Hermann, born into a dynasty of Colognian master brewers, was enlisted as a soldier during the war and sustained head injuries that caused severe brain damage and ended his life in a psychiatric institution.
In 1946, Nico and her mother relocated to ravage-torn downtown Berlin, where Nico worked as a seamstress. She attended school until the age 13 and began selling lingerie in the exclusive department store KaDeWe, eventually getting modeling jobs in Berlin. At five feet ten inches and with chiseled features and porcelain skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model as a teenager.
At the age of 15, while working as a temp for the U.S. Air Force, Nico was raped by an American sergeant. The sergeant was court-martialed and Nico gave evidence for the prosecution at his trial. Nico’s song “Secret Side” from the album The End makes oblique references to the rape.
She was discovered at 16 by the photographer Herbert Tobias while both were working at a KaDeWe fashion show in Berlin. He gave her the name Nico after her ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nikos Papatakis, and she used it for the rest of her life. She soon moved to Paris and began working for Vogue, Tempo, Vie Nuove, Mascotte Spettacolo, Camera, Elle, and other fashion magazines. At age 17, she was contracted by Coco Chanel to promote their products, but she fled to New York City and abandoned the job. Through her travels, she learned to speak English, Spanish, and French.
After appearing in several television advertisements, Nico got a small role in Alberto Lattuada’s film La Tempesta (1958). She also appeared in Rudolph Maté’s For the First Time, with Mario Lanza, later that year.
In 1959, she was invited to the set of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, where she attracted the attention of the acclaimed director, who gave her a minor role in the film as herself. By this time, she was living in New York and taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg.
She appears as the cover model on jazz pianist Bill Evans’ 1962 album, Moon Beams. After splitting her time between New York and Paris, she got the lead role in Jacques Poitrenaud’s Strip-Tease (1963). She recorded the title track, which was written by Serge Gainsbourg but not released until 2001, when it was included in the compilation Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg. In 1962, Nico gave birth to her son, Christian Aaron “Ari” Päffgen, commonly held to have been fathered by French actor Alain Delon. Delon always denied his paternity even though the child was raised mostly by Delon’s mother and her husband and eventually was adopted by them, taking their surname, Boulogne.
Nico’s first performances as a singer took place in December 1963 at New York’s Blue Angel nightclub, where she sang standards such as “My Funny Valentine”.
In 1965, Nico met the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and recorded her first single, “I’m Not Sayin'” with the B-side “The Last Mile”, produced by Jimmy Page for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label. Actor Ben Carruthers introduced her to Bob Dylan in Paris that summer. In 1967 Nico recorded his song “I’ll Keep It with Mine” for her first album, Chelsea Girl. Dylan had written the tune for Judy Collins in 1964, according to her own liner notes from the Geffen Records’ album Judy Collins Sings Dylan (she was the first artist to release the song, in 1965).
After being introduced by Brian Jones, she began working in New York with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on their experimental films, including Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset and Imitation of Christ.
When Warhol began managing the Velvet Underground he proposed that the group take on Nico as a “chanteuse”. They consented reluctantly, for both personal and musical reasons. The group became the centerpiece of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia performance featuring music, light, film and dance. Nico sang lead vocals on three songs (“Femme Fatale”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”), and backing vocal on “Sunday Morning”, on the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). Nico’s tenure with the Velvet Underground was marked by personal and musical difficulties. Violist and bassist John Cale has written that Nico’s long preparations in the dressing room and pre-performance good luck ritual (burning a candle) would often hold up a performance, which especially irritated band front man Lou Reed. Nico’s partial deafness in one ear also would sometimes cause her to veer off key, for which she was ridiculed by other band members. The album went on to become a classic, ranked 13th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, though it was poorly received at the time of its release.
Immediately following her musical work with the Velvet Underground, Nico began work as a solo artist, performing regularly at The Dom in New York City. At these shows, she was accompanied by a revolving cast of guitarists, including members of the Velvet Underground, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jackson Browne.
For her debut album, 1967’s Chelsea Girl, she recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, among others. Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison contributed to the album, with Nico, Reed and Cale co-writing one song, “It Was a Pleasure Then.” Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album, which influenced artists such as Leonard Cohen, with strings and flute arrangements by producer Tom Wilson. Nico was not satisfied with it and had little say in its production. She said in 1981: “I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! … They added strings, and— I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.” In California, Nico spent time with Jim Morrison of the Doors. Morrison encouraged her to write her own songs.
For The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico wrote the lyrics and music. Accompaniment mainly centered around Nico’s harmonium, while John Cale added an array of folk and classical instruments, and arranged the album. The harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album has a classical-cum-European folk sound.
A promotional film for the song “Evening of Light” was filmed by Francois de Menil. This video featured the now red-haired Nico and Iggy Pop of the Stooges.
Returning to live performance in the early 1970s, Nico (accompanying herself on harmonium) gave concerts in Amsterdam as well as London, where she and John Cale opened for Pink Floyd. 1972 saw a one-off live reunion of Nico, Cale and Lou Reed at the Bataclan in Paris.
Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s, Desertshore (1970) and The End… (1974). She wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. Cale produced and played most of the other instruments on both albums. The End… featured Brian Eno on synthesizer and Phil Manzanera on guitar, both from Roxy Music. She appeared at the Rainbow Theatre, in London, with Cale, Eno, and Kevin Ayers. The album June 1, 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a version of the Doors’ “The End”, which was the catalyst for The End… later that year.
Between 1970 and 1979, Nico made about seven films with French director Philippe Garrel. She met Garrel in 1969 and contributed the song “The Falconer” to his film Le Lit de la Vierge. Soon after, she was living with Garrel and became a central figure in his cinematic and personal circles. Nico’s first acting appearance with Garrel occurred in his 1972 film, La Cicatrice Intérieure. Nico also supplied the music for this film and collaborated closely with the director. She also appeared in the Garrel films Anathor (1972); the silent Jean Seberg feature Les Hautes Solitudes, released in 1974; Un ange passe (1975); Le Berceau de cristal (1976), starring Pierre Clémenti, Nico and Anita Pallenberg; and Voyage au jardin des morts (1978). His 1991 film J’entends Plus la Guitare is dedicated to Nico.
On 13 December 1974, Nico opened for Tangerine Dream’s infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in Reims, France. The promoter had so greatly oversold tickets for the show that members of the audience couldn’t move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall.
Around this time, Nico became involved with Berliner musician Lutz Ulbrich (Lüül), guitarist for Ash Ra Tempel. Ulbrich would accompany Nico on guitar at many of her subsequent concerts through the rest of the decade. Also in this time period, Nico let her hair return to its natural color of brown and took to dressing mostly in black. This would be her public image from then on.
Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster.
In February 1978, Nico performed at the Canet Roc ’78 festival in Catalonia. Also performing at this event were Blondie, Kevin Ayers, and Ultravox. She made a vocal contribution to Neuronium’s second album, Vuelo Químico, as she was at the studio, by chance, while it was being recorded in Barcelona in 1978 by Michel Huygen, Carlos Guirao and Albert Gimenez. She read excerpts from Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe. She said that she was deeply moved by the music, so she couldn’t help but make a contribution. During the same year, Nico briefly toured as supporting act for Siouxsie and the Banshees, one of many post-punk bands who admired Nico. In Paris, Patti Smith bought a new harmonium for Nico after her original was stolen. Other fans of Nico included John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols), Dave Vanian (of the Damned), and Tommy Gear (of the Screamers).
Nico returned to New York in 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGB (accompanied by John Cale and Lutz Ulbrich) was reviewed positively in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Squat Theatre and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler guitar. They played together on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest. At some shows, she was accompanied on guitar by Cheetah Chrome (the Dead Boys).
In France, Nico was introduced to photographer Antoine Giacomoni. Giacomoni’s photos of Nico would be used for her next album, and would eventually be featured in a book (Nico: Photographies, Horizon Illimite, Paris, 2002). Through Antoine Giacomoni, she met Corsican bassist Philippe Quilichini. Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981 produced by Philippe Quilichini. Mahamad Hadi aka Mad Sheer Khan played oriental rock guitar parts and wrote all the oriental production. It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale, featuring a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. For this album, in addition to originals like “Genghis Khan” and “Sixty Forty”, Nico recorded covers of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and David Bowie’s “Heroes”. Drama of Exile was released twice, in two different versions, the second appearing in 1983.
After relocating to Manchester, England, in the early ’80s, Nico acquired a manager, Alan Wise, and began working with a variety of backing bands for her many live performances. These bands included Blue Orchids, the Bedlamites and the Faction.
In 1981, Nico released the Philippe Quilichini-produced single “Saeta”/”Vegas” on Flicknife Records. The following year saw another single, “Procession” produced by Martin Hannett and featuring the Invisible Girls. Included on the “Procession” single was a new version of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”.
At this time, Nico was often cited as an influence on the gothic rock scene, admired by such artists as Peter Murphy of Bauhaus as well as Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees, whose foreboding vocals are influenced by Nico’s distinct dark style of singing. At Salford University in 1982, Nico would join Bauhaus for a performance of “I’m Waiting for the Man”. That same year, Nico’s supporting acts included the Sisters of Mercy and Gene Loves Jezebel. The Marble Index has frequently been cited as the first goth album, while Nico’s dark lyrics, music and persona were also influential.
In September 1982, Nico performed at the Deeside Leisure Centre for the Futurama Festival. The line-up for this show also included the Damned, Dead or Alive, Southern Death Cult, Danse Society, and Gene Loves Jezebel.
The live compilations 1982 Tour Diary and En Personne En Europe were released in November 1982 on the 1/2 Records cassette label in France; the ROIR cassette label reissued the former under the revised title “Do Or Die!” in 1983. These releases were followed by more live performances throughout Europe over the next few years.
She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with the Faction (James Young and Graham Dids). Produced by John Cale, it featured Nico’s version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song “My Funny Valentine”. The album’s closing song was an updated version of “König”, which she had previously recorded for La cicatrice interieure. This was the only song on the album to feature only Nico’s voice and harmonium. A music video for “My Heart Is Empty” was filmed at The Fridge in Brixton.
The next few years saw frequent live performances by Nico, with tours of Europe, Japan and Australia (usually with the Faction or the Bedlamites). A number of Nico’s performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982’s Heroine, Nico Live in Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988. The double live album Behind the Iron Curtain was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made from recordings of concerts in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and other cities, and was released before her death in 1988.
A duet called “Your Kisses Burn” with singer Marc Almond was her last studio recording (about a month before her death). It was released a few months after her death on Almond’s album The Stars We Are.
Nico’s final recording was of her last concert, ‘Fata Morgana’, at the Berlin Planetarium on 6 June 1988. This was a special event created by Lutz Ulbrich and featured a number of new compositions by Nico and the Faction. As an encore, Nico performed a song from The End…, “You Forget To Answer”. A CD of this concert was released in 1994 and again in 2012.
Nico saw herself as part of a tradition of bohemian artists, which she traced back to the Romanticism of the early 19th century. She led a nomadic life, living in different countries. Apart from Germany, where she grew up, and Spain, where she died, Nico lived in Italy and France in the 1950s, spent most of the 1960s in the US, and lived in London in the early 1960s and again in the 1980s, when she moved between London and Manchester.
During the final years of her life, she was based around the Prestwich and Salford area of Greater Manchester. Although she was still struggling with addiction, she became interested in music again. For a few months in the 1980s, she shared an apartment in Brixton, London, with punk poet John Cooper Clarke.
On 17 July 1988, while on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with her son Ari, Nico had a heart attack while riding a bicycle, and she hit her head as she fell. A passing taxi driver found her unconscious, and he had difficulty getting her admitted to local hospitals. She was misdiagnosed as suffering from heat exposure, and died at eight o’clock that evening. X-rays later revealed a severe cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of her death.
In the late morning of July 17, 1988, my mother told me she needed to go downtown to buy marijuana. She sat down in front of the mirror and wrapped a black scarf around her head. My mother stared at the mirror and took great care to wrap the scarf appropriately. Down the hill on her bike: “I’ll be back soon.” She left in the early afternoon on the hottest day of the year. – Ari Boulogne
One of the most fascinating figures of rock’s fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the ’60s. The paradox of her career was that she herself never attained the fame of her peers, pursuing a distinctly individualistic and uncompromising musical career that was uncommercial, but wholly admirable and influential.
She’s more than just another dour (if shockingly beautiful) face and a terrifying, Germanic drone-voice, but even haters admit that goth rock — everything good and bad about it — begins with the late Christa Paffgen (1938-1988), known to the world as Nico. Starting out as a European model and all-around rock scenester before dropping like a bomb(shell) into Andy Warhol’s Factory, Nico ended up in the Velvet Underground, sticking around long enough to write herself into history as the scary blond chanteuse on The Velvet Underground & Nico before embarking on a solo career. She gained a rep as the ice queen to end them all (allegedly breaking up with Lou Reed by telling him, “I can no longer sleep with Jews.”). She had a son by Alain Delon, lived for years with a monster heroin habit, and made a couple of the creepiest rock albums ever recorded. She died falling off a bike, in 1988. All in all, an epic life, at least for a while.
The woman, as unpleasant as her rep might be, made some pretty sui generis music, and everything between 1967 and 1974 is worth a spin if you like your (non)rock remote, arty, and colder than a Valkyrie’s armored tit. Unfortunately, the shelves now sag with exploitative death-tripping compilations of live shows, remixes, limited-edition outtakes, and other bullshit that all but the most devout of fans should avoid on principle alone.
Chelsea Girl, her solo debut, is sort of the first great lost Velvets album. Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison play on various songs and between them wrote five, including the oddly sweet “Little Sister,” “It Was a Pleasure Then,” and the haunting title track. (Think of it as an early version of “Walk on the Wild Side.”) The music is folk rock as only the Velvets could have imagined it: strings, a wandering flute, minimalist guitar thrum, and little else. Other highlights are by Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, including the old-before-his-time genius of Browne’s “These Days” and “The Fairest of the Seasons.” A lovely debut, and not too scary. (The Reed tunes have been added to the deluxe reissue of VU and Nico.)
The Marble Index, on the other hand, is where the difficult listening starts, and it’s pretty amazing for it. The songs, Nico compositions all, are spare melodic frames that Cale, perhaps feeding on post-Velvets rage and feeling a bit anti-American, gives a stark, high-church-of-art feel to, adding droning harmonium, flashes of percussion, and generally creating one seriously dislocating vibe. “Ari’s Song,” dedicated to her son, might be the least-comforting lullaby ever recorded. Totally uncompromised, deeply European art music that stands in total contrast to the American roots music that was obsessing folks like, say, Dylan and the Band.
Desertshore is essentially Marble Index II: Teutonic Boogaloo, somehow even starker than Index. Cale again relies on the harmonium for musical weight, layering it into towering, droning waves. Nico still sounds pretty much like death chilled over, but that’s kind of her thing, and it’s still quite beautiful if you’re the type who drinks his Celine straight.
The End is as strange and removed an album as the ’70s could have spawned. Produced again by Cale (complete with some vocals and about a billion instruments by him) and featuring Roxy Music’s Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera. Guitar and piano textures flicker in and out, muffled instrumental screams flicker in and out, and over it all is Nico’s stately manner. The only thing preventing this obelisk from unreservedly rolling into the avant-rock canon is her wretched yet brilliantly revealing taste in covers. Nico closes the album with a reading of the Doors’ “The End” so straight-faced and melodramatic as to render Jim Morrison’s by-that-time already overwrought Freudian bullshit totally comic. Far less cute (though somehow not as annoying) is a monolithic, droning take on “Das Lied der Deutschen” (or “Deutschland Uber Alles”). Perhaps The End is Nico’s most totally idiosyncratic album: creepy, morally suspect, and occasionally inadvertently funny as hell; it fit her like a velvet glove cast in onyx. (The Classic Years draws on all of these albums for a very handy sampler.)
Fascinating, then, that when she returned to rock in 1981, she dismissed her earlier work as “really boring” (a sentiment many might totally agree with). It was the perfect time for the ice queen to thaw, as bands like Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Sisters of Mercy were stealing her moves. So, no surprise that Drama of Exile pairs her with a thin new-wave band that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on, say, Rough Trade. The tighter material is strange after so much ambience, but her lyrics are still intriguing reflections on the doom of it, all and her taste in covers has gotten much better: She tries to slay the father (or ex-boyfriend) on VU’s “Waiting for the Man,” and Bowie’s “Heroes” gets a charged, jumpy makeover, and, yes, her accent sells it brilliantly. (Maybe the Wallflowers should have tried doing the German version . . . uh, never mind.) Camera Obscura, from 1985, is her final studio album and only available as an import.
Before the CD era, Do or Die was the closest thing to a hits package Nico’s cult ever got, a set of live tunes from various shows, many with the live band from her 1982 European tour. But thanks to that same CD era, there are a bunch of somewhat exploitative and totally inessential live albums that fall in and out of print, most of them available on import. Each has some nice moments, but there’s a lot of studio product to get through before anyone needs to dig this deep. Live Heroes drones through six songs, including the Bowie tune and “My Funny Valentine.” Chelsea Girls/Live is a brutally misleading title for an set of live ’80s synth stuff. Icon appends the interesting “Vegas/Saeta” 7-inch with some Drama of Exile outtakes and some live material. Solid. Fata Morgana is, as you might expect, from 1988, as she moved back to drones. Nico died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 18, 1988. The goth nation has yet to declare this cruel day some sort of holiday, but it’s only a matter or time.
April 10, 1986 -Linda Creed- Epstein was born on December 6th 1948 in Philadelphia and raised in the city’s Mt. Airy section. She started singing while attending Germantown High School. After graduation, she started singing on the Philadelphia night-club scene and eventually went to New York to get her “big break.” When that didn’t happen, she called her father for help in coming back home and she composed “I’m Coming Home” based on that experience. Linda’s big break actually came in 1970, when UK singer Dusty Springfield recorded her song “Free Girl”. That same year, she teamed up with songwriter and producer Thom Bell. Their first songwriting collaboration, “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”, became a Top 40 pop hit for the Stylistics.
July 25, 1984 – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 in Ariton, Alabama. She was introduced to music in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a singer. She and her six siblings began to sing at early ages. Her mother died young, and Willie Mae left school and got a job washing and cleaning spittoons in a local tavern. In 1940 she left home and, with the help of Diamond Teeth Mary, joined Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue and was soon billed as the “New Bessie Smith”. Her musical education started in the church but continued through her observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, whom she deeply admired.
Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948. “A new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and Los Angeles, full of brass horns, jumpy rhythms, and wisecracking lyrics.” Continue reading Big Mama Thornton 7/1984
July 12, 1983 – Chris Wood (Traffic) was born June 24th 1944 in Birmingham, England, the son of Stephen, an engineer, and Muriel Gordon, a missionary’s daughter born and raised in China.
He had a sister, Stephanie Angela, 3 years younger than he. Chris showed an interest in music and painting from an early age. His father related, “He stood by the record player changing records since he was this tall“.
Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he commenced playing at the age of 15, he began to play locally with other Birmingham musicians who would later find international fame in music: Christine Perfect (later Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame), Carl Palmer (ELP) , Stan Webb, and Mike Kellie(Spooky Tooth). Wood played with Perfect in 1964 in the band Shades of Blue and with Kellie during 1965-1966 in the band Locomotive.
April 30, 1983 – Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He taught himself harmonica as a child. He later took up guitar, eagerly absorbing the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson and Son House and went on to become known as “the Father of Chicago blues”.
Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Grant gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age, because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. He later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. Continue reading Muddy Waters 4/1983
February 4, 1983 – Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2nd 1950. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching and later, in the early 1970s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.
In 1964 when Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked and after admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez (who idolized famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play the drums instead. Continue reading Karen Carpenter 2/1983
January 29, 1983 – Luke Kelly was born in Dublin on either the 16th of November or 16th of December 1940. The confusion arises because his mother says November and his birth certificate December. In the main Luke has always taken his mother’s word for it, for he reasons that she was there at the time. The family was a large close one. Luke’s father, another Luke, worked for Jacobs the biscuit people and had a great love of soccer – a love he passed on to his son.
Luke was educated at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s (the patron saint of Dublin) School in the North Strand area. He left school when he was thirteen and did a variety of jobs before coming, via the Isle of Man, to work in England.
The first folk club he came across was in Newcastle upon Tyne in early 1960. He started memorizing songs and brought a banjo to play sessions in McReady’s pub. The folk revival was under way in England, at the centre of it was Ewan MacColl who scripted a radio program called Ballads and Blues. The skiffle craze had also injected a certain energy into folk singing. Luke started busking and returned to Dublin in 1962.
That same year Luke along with Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna formed “The Ronnie Drew Group”, playing regularly in O’Donoghue’s Pub. They changed their name due to Drew’s unhappiness with the name, coinciding with the fact that Kelly was reading Dubliners by James Joyce at the time.
In 1964 Luke Kelly left the group for nearly two years, he went back to London and became involved in Ewan MacColl’s “gathering”. The Critics, as it was called, was formed to explore folk traditions and help young singers. He greatly admired MacColl and saw his time with The Critics as an apprenticeship. Back with The Dubliners, Luke was more of the balladeer in the band, and he played chords on the five-string banjo and sang many defining versions of traditional songs like “The Black Velvet Band”, “Whiskey in the Jar”, “Home Boys Home”.
Kelly was keenly political, a member of the Communist Party and a fundraiser for Amnesty International. Sheahan points to his generosity as one of his defining characteristics. He remembers an occasion when Kelly’s wife, the actress Deirdre O’Connell, had returned from a furniture auction with a table. By coincidence, Sheahan’s wife had picked up a set of chairs at auction similar to the table, and he joked about the coincidence to Kelly. “Before I could say anything, he had the table out the door and strapped to the roof of my car. He had no great commitment to material possessions.”
On June 30th 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House, Luke collapsed on the stage, a brain tumor was diagnosed. He continued to tour with the Dubliners after enduring an operation, but his health sadly deteriorated further.
The Ballybough Bridge in the north inner city of Dublin has been renamed the “Luke Kelly Bridge” and in November 2004, the Dublin city council voted unanimously to erect a bronze statue of Luke (On his autumn tour in 1983 he came off the stage, ill, in Traun, Austria and again in Mannheim, Germany. He had to cancel the tour of southern Germany and after a short stay in hospital in Heidelberg was flown back to Dublin. After an operation he spent Christmas with his family but was taken into hospital in the New Year, where this time he sadly died on January 29, 1983 at age 43.
The Dubliners were less a group than a meitheal. In the old peasant pattern the meitheal came together to do a job — and that was it. The Dubliners were all individualists — Luke and Ronnie and Ciaran and John and Barney were leaves from different trees blown together by the wind that changed the world of music a generation ago. What they had most in common was artistic honesty. Luke’s ambition was to express ‘the song of his loneliness1. He succeeded as much as a mortal can -and in doing so he became an immortal.
January 25, 1983 – Lamar Williams born on January 14th 1949 in Newton, Mississippi. From an early age he was immersed in music, courtesy of his father-who was a gospel singer in a group called the Deep South-and an uncle in Michigan who liked jazz.
“What really got me into music,” he recalled at one time, “was a trip I made once to visit my uncle. He was a jazz head, and used to listen to just about everything. He had a little plastic flute, and I remember one day I picked it up and tried to play along with some records. After a while, I got to where I was doing it, and liking it.”
A self taught musician, Williams remembered some of the problems he confronted when first attempting to master the bass.
January 28, 1983 – Billy Fury was born Ronald Wycherley on April 17, 1940 in Liverpool.
In the early days of British rock & roll, there were dozens of contenders for stardom: Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, and Marty Wilde were among the players who rose to the challenge for at least a few years. Billy Fury, by contrast, was the real article from day one, and never really surrendered the title. He was also the most prodigiously talented of his generation of British rock ‘n roll singers, a songwriter of considerable ability, and a decent actor as well.
He was born Ronald Wycherley, in Liverpool. A sickly child, he experienced his first bout of rheumatic fever at age six, the beginning of chronic health problems that would take his life before age 45. At 11, he started music lessons, taking up the piano, and he got his first guitar at age 14. By 1955, the skiffle boom had begun in England and Wycherley was leading his own local group, while earning money working on a tugboat and then as a stevedore. By 1958, Wycherley was playing locally and had won a talent competition, and was writing his own songs.
Wycherley was discovered by impressario Larry Parnes on October 1, 1958, in a story that quickly assumed the status of legend among the British youth of the period. He attended a performance of The Larry Parnes Extravaganza, on which one of the featured performers was Marty Wilde, a hot young rock ‘n roll star who was already well known from his appearances on the television series Oh Boy! Wycherley got backstage to offer his own songs to Wilde in the hope that he might perform them — instead, he was seen and heard by Parnes and booked into the show that night. The applause that Wycherley received earned him a permanent spot on the tour and Parnes as his agent.
In keeping with Larry Parnes’ established proceedure of giving his singers stage names derived from distinctive emotions and attributes -Marty Wilde, Johnny Gentle, Vince Eager — Ronald Wycherley became Billy Fury. His early performances were so suggestive by English standards that he was forced to restrain himself from his more overtly sexual stage moves when a curtain was brought down on one of his shows.
Billy Fury’s recording career began early in 1959 with “Maybe Tomorrow,” a song that he wrote himself and which charted soon after its release. He made his television debut soon after, in a televised play called “Strictly For Sparrows,” and he was soon a fixture on musical showcases such as Oh Boy! He revealed himself a talented singer, and perhaps the closest that England came to producing its own Elvis Presley, capable of dark, brooding, intensely sexual performances such as “Baby How I Cried” (another original) but also of turning in gentle, vulnerable ballads.
His mix of rough-hewn good looks and unassuming masculinity, coupled with an underlying vulnerability, all presented with a good voice and some serious musical talent, helped turn Fury into a major rock ‘n roll star in short order. He was one of the very few English rock ‘n rollers of the period who could (and did, on stage and on television) stand alongside the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent with no apology or excuse for being there, and Cochran intended to arrange an American tour for Fury, which never came about because of the car crash that took Cochran’s life at the end of that British tour.
After a string of hit singles, Fury cut his debut album, The Sound of Fury, in early 1960. Released in April of that year, The Sound of Fury was the best rock ‘n roll long-player (albeit only a 10-inch platter) ever to come out of England up to that time. Fury was singing in a killer rockabilly type voice and was backed by some of England’s best rock ‘n roll musicians, including guitarist Joe Brown, one of the few serious rockabilly players in England, and drummer Andy White, who later played on the original release version of the Beatles debut single “Love Me Do.” The album sold well and has been re-released a half-dozen times since, including a CD version in the early 1990’s, and among its strongest adherents is Keith Richards, who, in a 1970’s interview, declared The Sound of Fury one of the greatest rock ‘n roll albums of its era and one he swore by.
Fury’s early 1960’s recordings took on a more sophisticated air as, in keeping with the trends of the times, he moved toward more of a pop-rock sound, similar to Elvis Presley’s film material. He was still a strong singer, however, and never had to fall back on the lure of novelty tunes or romantic pop to sell records. What’s more, on stage he had a very compelling and popular act, backed variously by the Beat Boys and then the Blue Flames (who eventually got a keyboard player turned singer named Georgie Fame in their their line-up, and became his band). In 1960, Decca Records made a decision to soften Fury’s sound, at least on his singles. “Talkin’ In My Sleep” and “Don’t Worry” backed by the Four Kestrels were two results of this change, but they still come off as decent rock ‘n roll. It was the orchestrated “Halfway To Paradise” in 1961 that began his brief assault of the top of the charts, hitting No. 3, and followed a few months later by the No. 2 charting “Jealousy,” and the No. 5 charting “I’d Never Find Another You.” One of his self-penned B-sides of this era, “Fury’s Tune,” however, was an even better representation of Fury at his most intense and charismatic, a dark, brooding, fiercely seductive performance that was a match for the best work of Elvis Presley.
By 1962, Fury was the top rock ‘n roll attraction in England, backed by the best band of the era — the legendary Tornados, of “Telstar” fame -and appearing on television regularly, and even giving a real acting performance in the feature film Play It Cool. The Beatles even tried (and failed) an audition to back Fury on a tour during this period. Actually as the story goes: After jettisoning his band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Parnes held auditions in Liverpool for a new group. Among those who auditioned were the Beatles, who at this time were still calling themselves the Silver Beetles. They were offered the job for £20 a week on condition that they sacked their bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. John Lennon refused and the band left after Lennon had secured Fury’s autograph. The Tornados were recruited as Fury’s backing band and toured and recorded with him from January 1962 to August 1963. The Puppets were another band that backed Billy on a couple of gigs for 12 months.
In that same timeframe he also ventured to America, making little impact (as was the case with virtually every English rock ‘n roller) but getting to meet Elvis Presley on the set of the film Girls Girls Girls. In 1963, Fury was in a seeming unassailable position. By the time, his one-time rivals Cliff Richard and his backing group the Shadows had shifted their focus to a much softer, more romantic brand of rock ‘n roll, leaving Fury as the only harder rocking music idol of the era. His records sold well enough to justify the release of two full LPs including the live recording We Want Billy. He also got a new, seemingly permanent backing band in the guise of the Gamblers, who provided him with the support he needed to make his records and concerts among the best of the period.
Only the arrival of his fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles on the top of the charts ended Fury’s dominance of the teen music scene in England. They weren’t that different as personalities — a look at Fury’s performance in the movie Play It Cool will even bring to mind images of Ringo Starr, who grew up in the same part of Liverpool — except that The Beatles were more guileless and less calculated in the way they presented themselves, and they played a harder, different brand of music, less focused on pop and more on American r&b of the period.
Fury continued to chart records into 1964, and was considered hip and viable enough to justify appearances on programs like Ready! Steady! Go! In the summer of that year, he starred in a semi-autobiographical movie, I’ve Got A Horse, and he got a television show of his own late that year. He continued to get good reviews for an exciting show into 1965, but by then the handwriting was on the wall — his records seldom charted better than the mid-20’s or lower. Additionally, Fury’s health began to deteriorate, which took him off the road, where he was at his best.
In 1966, he left Decca Records and signed a five-year contract with EMI’s Parlophone Records, during which he would see some very modest success but nothing like the frenzied stardom of his first seven years in music.
Fury underwent heart surgery in 1970 and another in 1971, and resumed performing the following year. By the mid-1970’s, there was a rock ‘n roll revival going on in England that saw the re-release of The Sound of Fury LP and other parts of his catalog, and he toured England successfully with his one-time idol Marty Wilde. When he wasn’t performing, Fury looked after his other interests, which included wildlife preservation.
A 1976 heart operation brought an end to Fury’s musical career, except for occasional recording and television appearances. In 1978, Fury re-recorded his classic songs for K-Tel, and in the early 1980’s re-cut his old hits yet again for Polydor (which, by that time, owned Decca Records). A single, “Be Mine Tonight,” just missed the British charts in 1981.
On March 4 of the following year, Fury collapsed and nearly died while working on his farm. He went back on tour that summer and managed to place the singles “Love Or Money” and “Devil Or Angel” on the English charts that same season. Plans for a new album and a national tour were made, but on January 27, 1983, he was found unconscious in his home, and he died that same day in hospital.
Amid numerous tributes and memorials, a posthumous single, “Forget Him,” charted in England later that year. Billy Fury remains perhaps the most fondly remembered of England’s early rock ‘n roll stars. In contrast to Cliff Richard, he never changed his sound, and he also – despite a strong dedication to animal rights and conservation — never mixed his personal beliefs and his music in a public way. Numerous reissues and releases of previously unreleased material by Fury have continued to appear in the compact disc era, most recently the 40th Anniversary Anthology double CD set and Beat Goes On’s two-on-one CD of We Want Billy and Billy.
He went on to have 29 chart hits including Wondrous Place; A Thousand Stars; Don’t Worry; Halfway to Paradise; Jealousy; In Summer; Like I’ve Never Been Gone; When Will You Say I Love You; I’d Never Find Another You; Last Night Was Made for Love and Once Upon a Dream.
He also appeared in the films I’ve Gotta Horse and That’ll Be The Day. Billy had been suffering from rheumatic fever, as his health was slowly deteriorating and in ’76 he underwent heart surgery and again later.
In 1980 he was declared bankrupt, this forced him out of retirement, against medical advice he went back to work. His last public appearance was at the Sunnyside, Northampton, in Dec 1982. He recorded a live performance for the television show Unforgettable featuring six of his old hits.
Billy Fury died two and a half months short of his 43rd birthday on January 28, 1983 from a heart attack.
April 21, 1978 – Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny (Fairport Convention) was born on 6 January 1947. Known as Sandy Denny, she was one of my favorite sixties’ British folk rock singers. She was the lead singer for the folk rock band Fairport Convention in 1968 and 69, but besides that she was a fabulous songwriter, notably her most famous song was ‘Who knows Where the Time Goes’, which has been covered by a myriad of artists since, most famously, 10,000 Maniacs, Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Eva Cassidy, Nina Simone, Sinéad O’Connor, to name a few.
December 4, 1976 – Thomas Richard “Tommy” Bolin was born August 1, 1951 in Sioux City, Iowa from a Swedish father and a Syrian mother.
In his own words:
“I was five or six at the time, I think, and I used to watch this show on TV called Caravan of Stars. I saw Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins. After seeing them perform I knew that was what I wanted to do. I actually started on drums when I was thirteen and played them for two years. Then I went to guitar for a year, played keyboards for a year and a half, and went back to guitar. It was just the right instrument. You’re in direct contact with the music you’re making by having the strings under your fingers. It’s not mechanical like a piano. My first guitar was a used Silvertone, the one that had the amplifier in the case. When I bought it, I had a choice between it or this black Les Paul for 75.00. I took the Silvertone. That was my first mistake.”
April 9, 1976 – Phil Ochs was born on December 19, 1940 in El Paso, Texas.
Being a 1960s protest singer-songwriter he wrote hundreds of songs and released eight albums. Politically, Phil described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.
He performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.
July 29, 1974 – Mama Cass aka Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19th 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, she performed in a summer stock production of “The Boyfriend” at the Owings Mills Playhouse where she played the French nurse who sings “It’s Nicer, Much Nicer in Nice.” After this experience, even though her family anticipated her to seek a college education in pursuit of a career, Cass forged ahead in the world of performance.
“Elliot adopted the name “Cass” in high school, possibly borrowing it from actress Peggy Cass, as Denny Doherty tells it. She assumed the surname Elliot some time later, in memory of a friend who had died. Elliot attended George Washington High School, along with Jim Morrison of The Doors. While still attending George Washington High School, Elliot became interested in acting and was cast in a school production of the play The Boy Friend. She left high school shortly before graduation and moved to New York City to further her acting career (as recounted in the lyrics to “Creeque Alley, a nightclub in Charlotte Amalie-St.Thomas Virgin Islands waterfront alley“).
June 13, 1972 – Clyde McPhatter (the Drifters) was born on November 15, 1932 in the tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina.
His high-pitched tenor voice was steeped in the gospel music he sang in much of his younger life.
Starting at the age of five, he sang in his father’s church gospel choir along with his three brothers and three sisters. When he was ten, Clyde was the soprano-voiced soloist for the choir. In 1945, Rev. McPhatter moved his family to Teaneck, New Jersey, where Clyde attended Chelsior High School. He worked part-time as a grocery store clerk, and was eventually promoted to shift manager upon graduating high school. The family then relocated to New York City, where Clyde formed the gospel group The Mount Lebanon Singers.
October 4, 1970 – Janis Lyn Joplin was truly one of the most remarkable rock and blues performers of the 1960s and the decades following. Born in Port Arthur Texas, on January 19, 1943, she escaped the small town prejudices and took off for the San Francisco counter culture, dominated by Love and Peace and Alcohol and Drugs. Janis unfortunately became a member of the infamous forever 27 Club as she passed on October 4, 1970, just a short 3 weeks after her brief former love interest and famous 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix. She was no. 4 to join the club after Robert Johnson, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix.
Her Texas upbringing put Joplin under the sway of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens, and the authenticity of these voices strongly influenced her decision to become a singer. A self-described “misfit” in high school, she suffered virtual ostracism, but dabbled in folk music with her friends and painted. She briefly attended college in Beaumont and Austin but was more drawn to blues legends and beat poetry than her studies; soon she dropped out and, in 1963, headed for San Francisco, eventually finding herself in the hippie filled Haight Ashbury neighborhood. She met up with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (later of the legendary San Francisco rock outfit Jefferson Airplane) and the pair recorded a suite of songs with Jorma’s wife, Margareta, providing the beat on her typewriter. These tracks – including blues standards like “Trouble in Mind” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” – would later surface as the infamous “Typewriter Tapes” bootleg.Continue reading Janis Joplin 10/1970
March 16, 1970 – Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery on April 29, 1945. was an American recording artist, best known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, most notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye.
Before turning 16, Terrell signed under the Wand subsidiary of Scepter Records after being discovered by Luther Dixon, recording the ballad, “If You See Bill”, under the name Tammy Montgomery and doing demos for The Shirelles. After another single, Terrell left the label and, after being introduced to James Brown, signed a contract with him and began singing backup for his Revue concert tours. In 1963, she recorded the song “I Cried”. Released on Brown’s Try Me Records, it became her first charting single, reaching No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100.
July 3, 1969 – Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (Rolling Stones) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on 28 February 1942. An attack of croup at the age of four left him with asthma, which lasted for the rest of his life. His middle-class parents, Lewis Blount Jones and Louisa Beatrice Jones (née Simmonds) were of Welsh descent. Brian had two sisters: Pamela, who was born on 3 October 1943 and died on 14 October 1945 of leukemia; and Barbara, born on 22 August 1946.
Both Jones’s parents were interested in music: his mother Louisa was a piano teacher, and in addition to his job as an aeronautical engineer, Lewis Jones played piano and organ and led the choir at the local church.
In 1957 Jones first heard Cannonball Adderley’s music, which inspired his interest in jazz. Jones persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and two years later his parents gave him his first acoustic guitar as a 17th birthday present.Continue reading Brian Jones 7/1969
July 18, 1966 – Bobby Fuller was born on October 22nd 1942 in Baytown, Texas. As a small child to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he remained until 1956, when he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas. His father got a job at El Paso Natural Gas at that time. It was the same year that Elvis Presley became popular, and Bobby Fuller became mesmerized by the new rock and roll star. Fuller soon adopted the style of fellow Texan Buddy Holly, fronting a four-man combo and often using original material.
During the early 1960s, he played in clubs and bars in El Paso, and he recorded on independent record labels in Texas with a constantly changing line-up. The only constant band members were Fuller and his younger brother, Randy Fuller (born on January 29, 1944, in Hobbs, New Mexico) on bass. Most of these independent releases (except two songs recorded at the studio of Norman Petty in Clovis), and an excursion to Yucca Records, also in New Mexico, were recorded in the Fullers’ own home studio, with Fuller acting as the producer. He even built a primitive echo chamber in the back yard. The quality of the recordings, using a couple of microphones and a mixing board purchased from a local radio station, was so impressive that he offered the use of his “studio” to local acts for free so he could hone his production skills.
May 20, 1964 – Rudy Lewis was born Charles Rudolph Harrell on August 23, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lewis began his singing career in gospel music. He was one of only two males to have sung with the Clara Ward Singers and sang with the gospel group right up to the day before he auditioned for George Treadwell at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater where he was hired on the spot. Lewis joined the Drifters as lead vocalist, replacing departed group member Ben E. King, and ended up performing most of King’s repertoire live in concert.
Lewis was the lead vocalist for a string of hits: “Please Stay”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Up On The Roof” and “On Broadway”. He also featured on other tracks such as: “Another Night With The Boys”, “Beautiful Music”, “Jackpot”, “Let The Music Play”, “Loneliness Or Happiness”, “Mexican Divorce”, “Only In America”, “Rat Race”, “She Never Talked To Me That Way”, “Somebody New Dancing With You”, “Stranger On The Shore”, “Vaya Con Dios” and “What To Do”.
December 14, 1963 – Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, but moved to Chicago as a child. She sang gospel music in church and played piano, directing her church choir in her teens and being a member of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers. She sang lead with the first female gospel singers formed by Ms. Martin, who was co-founder of the Gospel Singers Convention.
After winning a talent contest at the age of 15 at Chicago’s Regal Theater where she sang “I Can’t Face the Music”, she began performing in clubs. By 1941–42 she was performing in such Chicago clubs as Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Hotel (with Fats Waller). She was playing at the Three Deuces, a jazz club, when a friend took her to hear Billie Holiday at the Garrick Stage Bar. Club owner Joe Sherman was so impressed with her singing of “I Understand”, backed by the Cats and the Fiddle, who were appearing in the Garrick’s upstairs room, that he hired her. During her year at the Garrick – she sang upstairs while Holiday performed in the downstairs room – she acquired the name by which she became known.
October 11, 1963 – Édith Piaf born Edith Giovanni Gassion on Dec 19, 1915 became a legendary French singer and actress; one of the most popular French singers of the 1940s and ’50s, famous internationally for her husky, mournful voice and her songs of loneliness and despair.
At aged 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public, before going it alone as a street singer at the age of 16.
In 1935 she was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. Louis taught her stage presense and nicknamed her La Môme Piaf …The Waif Sparrow or Little Sparrow as she was only 4ft 8in tall. Continue reading Edith Piaf 10/1963
March 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.
Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963
May 26, 1933 –Jimmie Rodgers was born James Charles Rodgers on September 8, 1897 near Meridian, Mississippi. His work is often categorized as a country music from the early 20th century, as he was known most widely for his rhythmic yodeling. But his work was much, much more than that. Among the first country music superstars and pioneers, Rodgers was also known as “The Singing Brakeman”, “The Blue Yodeler”, and “The Father of Country Music”. Unfortunately this qualification does very little to support Rodgers’ reputation as a cross over musical giant of early American music.
The Jimmie Rodgers’ music tradition “crosses over several lines of blues, rock and country and we could have added gospel as well. Some of this diversity may not win applause from staunched rockers but it would be sadly inconsistent with Jimmie Rodgers’ openness to multiple influences not to mention him here. While the Blue Yodeler did have a huge “hillbilly” following, his musical appeal was not limited to the sons of Appalachia.Continue reading Jimmie Rodgers 5/1933
Rock and Roll is laced with legal horror stories and bad, greedy management, especially in the early days. Even well versed, supposedly smart artists like the Rolling Stones got taken by one of their managers -Allan Klein- for much of their early songwriting credits. The story of Jan and Dean is one of legal abuse. Divide and control is the favorite manipulation tested on creative forces, as they are being side-tracked by contracts and one-sided agreements. Creative people are always in the hands of shady movers and shakers if they want to make it; unfortunately few of these movers and shakers have decency, while most are greedy and criminally dishonest.Continue reading Jan and Dean: An Early Rock and Roll Story
2016 Was a Tough Year for Rock and Roll Superstars. We lost at least a handful of Superstars, such as David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince early in the year and Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and George Michael in the last two months of the year. Throughout the rest of the year we had to say goodbye to a list of high profiled musicians and singers such as Jefferson Airplane’s founder/guitarist Paul Kantner who died on the same day and at the same age as the band’s original female singer Signe Toly !
Guitar great Joe Bonamassa pays tribute to the some of the guitar heroes who were never given their due in their own time, but whose influence is still being felt by the in-the-know six-stringers that have followed. There are more, some of whom I’ve added at the end of Joe’s TEN. Of course there are many more in a big wide world, where Billboard and Rolling Stone Magazine are not daily menu items, and the only outlet of talent search is youTube, Vimeo or Daily Motion. Send us you selection and we will update and expose wherever we can. Enjoy
The opening track of the Super Session album is a great showcase for Mike Bloomfield, who played a Les Paul and was a traditional Chicago-style blues player. He’s never referred to in the same breath as Beck, Page or Clapton but his playing was fantastic. People laud the Super Session album, but the stuff he did with Buddy Miles in The Electric Flag is also incredible. The problem was that, like a lot of guys from that era, Mike was too self- destructive. By the end of his career he seemed set on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHFPVOEKEfA
He’s a great songwriter, but tends to be undervalued for his talent as a guitar player. He’s the flip-side of the guy we’ve just been talking about, Mike Bloomfield. Stills is known mainly as an acoustic guitar player, which does him a disservice. Stills and Bloomfield are both on Al Kooper’s Super Session album , but unfortunately Side A [featuring Bloomfield] tends to get more attention than Side B [which Stills played on]. Last summer, when I did an all-acoustic tour, I wanted my guitar to sound like Stephen Stills’s. But he also likes to play that old Gretsch [electric] guitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f8z1NAzMlI
To some, The Band’s Robbie Robertson is better-known as a songwriter, an activist and an inductee to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – when he really should be praised as a guitar player. Robbie has an absolutely beautiful style. He’s almost like a soul player. Life Is A Carnival was on The Band’s fourth album, Cahoots, and it’s in the movie The Last Waltz. What he does is deceptive – it looks simple but involves some tricky chords. Once, just for fun, I tried to figure them out. It took hours to really get them right. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9tYdvrFgk
My introduction to Tommy Bolin was not via his spell with Deep Purple, I knew him first through his playing with [fusion drummer] Billy Cobham. I bought Cobham’s Spectrum album, and when I heard its title song it absolutely floored me. In many ways, Bolin was in a no-win situation when he replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. A challenge like that would overshadow just about anyone. But if that’s all you know him for, then there’s an embarrassment of other riches out there just waiting to be discovered. I’m picking Stratus from that same Cobham album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1rX9E8NuRw
Bill Nelson is definitely under the radar as far as guitar players go. This song, which appeared on the Be-Bop Deluxe album Futurama, is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve just spent hours looking for some good YouTube footage of it – that’s when my ADD really kicks in – and there’s some great film of his [solo] band The Gentlemen Rocketeers playing Sister Seagull, but very little of Be-Bop Deluxe. But if I’ve learned anything during my time, it’s that the artist’s favourite songs and those of the fans are always different. However, I love this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEsqJ-7iCsc
You could never describe Ry Cooder as a complete unknown, but he’s not one of those guys whose name comes up at the pub during those discussions about the greatest musicians. He’s just not hip enough. But, along with Rory Gallagher, Ry is my all-time favorite slide guitar player. To really understand his appeal you should see him playing Feelin’ Bad Blues in a scene at the end of the movie Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio. That’s how I was turned on to him as a kid. What Ry did there is the deepest, most soulful slide playing that I’ve ever heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDceJ2m07r0
Danny Gatton (1994)
Danny Gatton is now dead, unfortunately, but he was always the guy with the coolest Telecaster – a real player’s player. He came from Washington DC and could play blues, jazz, rock, country and rockabilly. Nitpickin’ is from a record called Unfinished Business, and it really sums up his style as a player. I was lucky enough to have been mentored by Danny when I was a much younger musician. He’d always let me sit in with him. There’s some real neat YouTube of our first encounter when I was only 12 years old. He was a special guy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7R4mwOOyEQ
This San Franciscan guy has the voice of BB King and the chops of Albert King. He’s an absolute blinder of a guitar player and singer, but here’s the unbelievable thing: he plays to about 50 fucking people a night. I don’t go to gigs as a rule, but he recently played this small club in the Valley [in Los Angeles]. We walked in and I thought: “Where is everyone?” But he played great. His vibrato is superb and his records are consistently good – it’s not like he made one great album and then couldn’t follow it up. I just don’t understand it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOGptJyMsvI
Sonny may call if he reads this, going: “Hey, I do well.” But any press is good press, right? Native Stepson comes from an album of his called South Of I-10, which features Mark Knopfler. Now, I’ve played guitar for the last 32 years. I’m not an original player, but one of my talents is watching and listening to others and figuring out what they do. With Sonny Landreth I have no concept of where he comes from. He’s a beautiful player and a great singer, and South Of I-10 is a lovely fusion of American and Creole. I can’t recommend it highly enough. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSuhsbePdM
Chris Whitley (2005)
Back in 2000, I opened for Chris at a shithole venue in Indianapolis. Until then I’d never heard of him. He was playing as a solo act – just him alone. We did fairly okay with our power-trio show to maybe 80 people, but then he went on and absolutely flattened the place. He sounded like four guys playing… and that’s before getting into the lyrics, which were like Dylan. He played for 75 minutes without saying a word and then walked off stage. No encore was needed. Indian Summer is from his album Dirt Floor. But you really needed to see him live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiKKyCsiR6Y
Some of my personal additions:
Paul Kossof – Free
Peter Green – Fleetwood Mac
Jan Akkerman – Focus
Jimmy Thackery -The Nighthawks
Robin Trower – Procol Harum
Rock and Roll or better yet its predecessor Mr. Blues, needs a Three King Day for Albert, Freddie and B.B to commemorate the fact that without these three there would not have been Rock and Roll.
There is no denying that all of the great blues and rock guitarists have been heavily influenced by one, two or all three of these gentlemen, in their climb to become rock-n-roll superstars.
B.B. King (9/16/1925 – 5/14/2015)
Albert King (4/23/1923 – 12/21/1992)
Freddie King (9/3/1934 – 12/28/1976)
Many blues players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix have been influenced by B.B. King.
Otis Rush, Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix and Gary Moore were influenced by Albert King. Younger blues players like Joe Bonamassa, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and John Mayer have been influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and a slew of British guitar wizards who were in turn strongly influenced by one or all of the Kings.
Guitar players like Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Lonnie Mack, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton were influenced by Freddie King.
You wanna see why I say that, than watch this 1973 video of Freddie King in Sweden. You’ll know why!
The phrase “he is a legend in his own time” implies strongly that the origin of the word legend lies in the past. Whether it’s unverifiable history, a story passed on for ages, a myth or a much revered person inspiring what over time becomes a legend, no-one can really become a legend in his own time, unless they completely remove themselves from society like Howard Hughes. Yet you can leave it to us to take a word out of its original context and start watering it down to un-inspiring proportions, where everyone gets the predicate “legendary”.
The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted three true legends this year, 3 men that made a huge impact on Rock and Roll:
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Paul Butterfield and Lou Reed. Stevie Ray took the blues and especially the Texas version of blues to a new level, Paul Butterfield made the blues “white” and introduced the world in the process to some of the best musicians around such as Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield, Amos Garrett and David Sanborn. He introduced Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Otis Rush to the mid sixties Chicago rock/blues scene and took the fear away of white musicians in America and England not to sound authentic when playing the blues.
And Lou Reed, after already having been inducted with the Velvet Underground in 1996, added a rare personal induction for his “uncompromising stance in the service of his artistic vision” — often following commercial breakthroughs with daring, experimental projects that initially confounded both fans and critics only to gain recognition decades later.
The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, N.W.A, Sting, and Chic were among acts on the ballot that did not make cut this year.
The ones that did are:
Green Day, Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, Bill Withers and Ringo Starr for a lifetime achievement Award.
A voting body of more than 700 artists, historians and members of the music industry chose the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performer inductees. To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first single or album at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. The 2015 nominees had to release their first recording no later than 1989.
The four piece band was the early rock and roll success formula. Lead Singer, guitar, bass and drums was the standard outfit, often with a lead singer playing rhythm guitar and/or harmonica. Shortly after rock and roll started to make an impact a fifth person on keyboards was added, sometimes replacing the need for a rhythm guitar.
In the beginning the formats were depending on 2 factors:
The financial split and the stage space available in clubs and venues. In order to perfect their chops most starting bands went “on the circuit”. In the southern US that was called the Chitlin’ Circuit. In Europe it was called the rock and roll circuit. Geographically calibrated, the venues offered weekly entertainment and the bands made sure to build an audience for the next go-around usually 8 to 10 weeks later.
Many of the early rock and blues venues had no entertainment budget and loosely allocated a percentage of the tap for the band. Obviously smaller outfits had a better share. The better and more all around the guitarist was, the less members the band needed. Also the space allotted for equipment was a major factor. Bands needing huge equipment space were in lesser demand. A typical back line was amps and speaker box for each of the guitars (sometimes lead and rhythm guitar doubled up on one amplifier), standard drum kit, and a voice amplifier with echo abilities for the voices. No PA systems or Mixers. No FX pedal boards for guitars. One distortion pedal and after 1967 a Wah-Wah and that was basically it. Keyboards were of the 61 key type version and much later were taken up to 88 keys. Space was limited.
Rock-n-Roll Divas are bad-ass. Some were destined to be legend material no matter how long or short their career; others grew as rock and roll took them into directions far beyond their dreams and capacity to cope with the fame and fortune. Rock and Roll in its true roots, does not accommodate the normal female psyche, as it has no place for drama.
The women in rock and roll are usually tough as nails on stage and soft as whipped cream in the confinements of their own minds.
Probably more than any qualifying grouping of musical genres, it can be said Southern Rock has a devastating propensity to find Rock and Roll Paradise much earlier in life. Absolute greats like Duane Allman and Ronnie vanZant bit the dust in their twenties, while many others like Hughie Thomasson, Billy Powell, Duane Roland, Billy Jones, Frankie and Dan Toler and many more were also plucked long before their legitimate expiration dates. Motorcycles, airplanes, or plane old drugs and alcohol, it seems that hard living is a mandatory exercise in Southern Rock culture.
Here is a not even complete listing of those southern rockers who checked out early.
You may think that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I believe that there is a plan in place for the innocence of music. I believe that music does overcome all obstacle. I believe that people like Roger Ridley, the original inspiration behind the fabulous organization that is Playing for Change did not live in vain. He shared his wonderful talent and voice for the mere reward of change, but his legacy lies in the words he said when asked why he was not on the big stages of the world: I’m in the Joy Business.
I think joy transcends life and I believe there is a concert stage in the hereafter that features music in eternity. Because really good music never bores. It inspires. That’s why the Main Stage of Rock and Roll Paradise has a new show every time One of the Gifted Ones transpires, and from time to time there is a headliner addition that blows the show out of the park.
Every time one of my music heroes passes, I’m slightly torn between sadness and envy. Sadness for all the obvious reasons that come with living and dying and envy because there is another Superstar Jam Concert in Rock and Roll Paradise, that I will not (yet) be able to attend. You may think that’s a strange desire, to go to a concert of dead musicians, but music has been my life since I picked up my first guitar in 1963. I grew up with the tunes of all the GREAT that are now moving on to a new performance platform.
I don’t want to call that place heaven, because I’m not religiously indoctrinated enough to believe that life-after-death has any resemblance with what organized religions want me to believe. Music is and has always been my language and message and all these magnificent performers have contributed more to peace on earth than any religion ever has done.
Many of them started in a time when agents and record companies meant little more than a necessary evil; in a time when contracts were handshakes, without batteries of lawyers to pick words apart and re-formulate them into a language musicians could not understand and consequently got screwed; some so badly that they took their own lives, others died in poverty,
Whether suicide, overdose, medical mishap, accident, natural cause, life’s diseases, these giants left me inspired and indelibly stamped with their music and creativity.