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Sneaky Pete Kleinow 1/2007

Sneaky Pete KleinowJanuary 6, 2007 – Sneaky Pete Kleinow  was born on August 20th 1934 in South Bend, Indiana. He became intrigued by the steel guitar, particularly the Hawaiian stylings of Jerry Byrd, and he took up the instrument when he was 17. He worked repairing roads, but he would play in club bands at night. One band decided that everyone should have nicknames and, for Kleinow, “Sneaky” stuck.

In 1960, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote jingles, and worked as a special effects artist and stop motion animator for movies and television, including the Gumby and Davey and Goliath series. He did special effects for the film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) and the cult TV show The Outer Limits.

His first date as a session musician was on the Ventures‘ “Blue Star” in 1965. He played in clubs around Los Angeles and sat in with Bakersfield Sound-oriented combos and early country-rock aggregations playing the pedal steel guitar. This is where he became acquainted with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons of The Byrds, helping the group to replicate their newly country-oriented sound onstage with banjoist Doug Dillard and, early in 1968, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons told him of their plans to relaunch the rock band the Byrds in a country music setting.

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April Lawton 11/2006

April LawtonNovember 23, 2006 – April Lawton (Ramatan) was born on July 30th 1948 on Long Island New York. As guitar virtuoso, singer, and composer she came to notice in the early 70s as the lead guitarist of the criminally underrated rock band  Ramatam, which also included former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera and the former Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell. With Jimi just dead, she was hailed as the female Jimi Hendrix by many, and her style was a mix of Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Alan Holdsworth. When Pinera and Mitchell left after the self titled debut album, she stayed with Ramatam for “In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns”, in my opinion one of the most incredibly versatile albums ever recorded. Continue reading April Lawton 11/2006

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Johnny Jenkins 6/2006

johnny-jenkinsJune 26, 2006 – Johnny Jenkins was born the son of a day laborer on March 5, 1939 east of Macon, Georgia in a rural area called Swift Creek. On the battery powered radio, he was drawn to hillbilly music and first heard the sounds of blues and classic R&B artists like Bill Doggett, Bullmoose Jackson, and others.

Jenkins built his first guitar out of a cigar box and rubber bands when he was nine, and began playing at a gas station for tips. He played it left-handed and upside down (like Hendrix), and this practice continued after his older sister bought him a real guitar a couple of years later. He left school in seventh grade to take care of his ailing mother and by 16 had turned to music full time.

He started out with a small blues band called the Pinetoppers that played the college circuit and first heard Redding at a talent show at a Macon theater. At one college event with the Pinetoppers, he met Walden, a white student at Macon’s Mercer University who was attracted to black rhythm-and-blues music. Besides working as Mr. Jenkins’s manager, Walden co-founded the legendary Southern rock label Capricorn Records, which produced Jenkins two albums “Ton-Ton Macoute!” and “Blessed Blues.”

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Charles Smith 6/2006

claydes-charles-smithJune 20, 2006 – Claydes “Charles” Smith (Kool & the Gang) was born on September 6, 1948 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was introduced to jazz guitar by his father at age 13, when in 1961, his father bought him a Kay Electric guitar at a pawnshop for $32.

Thomas Smith was so keen for his son to have a career in music that, in 1963, he financed the recording of the first single by Claydes & the Rhythms, the group the boy had formed with his schoolfriends George Brown (drums) and Richard Westfield (keyboards), although the end product – “I Can’t Go On Without You” – only served as a calling card for the embryonic band.

Claydes Smith left Lincoln High School in New Jersey in 1965 and, with Brown and Westfield, eventually joined forces with the Jazziacs, a group comprising the brothers Robert “Kool” Bell (bass) and Ronald Bell (saxophones, flute, keyboards), Robert ‘Spike’ Mickens (trumpet) and Dennis Thomas (alto sax), to become the Soul Town Revue.

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Duane Roland 6/2006

duane-rolandJune 19, 2006 – Duane Roland was born on December 3rd 1953 in Jeffersonville, Indiana and moved to Florida at the age of 7. Music was evident in the Roland home – Duane’s dad was an occasional guitarist, and his mom was a concert pianist. Duane originally played drums in his first band, at high school, before gravitating to the guitar.

On his decision to become a serious musician he said: “I was at the “West Palm Beach Music Festival” and the line up was Johnny Winter, Vanilla Fudge,Janis Joplin, King Krimson and the Rolling Stones. It had rained and I was laying on a piece of  plastic. King Krimson was late so Johnny Winter, Janis Joplin and The Vanilla Fudge got up and jammed and I came straight up off that plastic and said, “That’s what I wanna do! I watched Johnny play and that was it for me.”

Duane originally tried to put a band together with Banner Thomas, and Bruce Crump but it didn’t really work. He made his name in Florida as a guitarist with The Ball Brothers Band. When The Ball Brothers split, Duane filled in for Dave Hlubek with Molly Hatchet when Dave was unable to make a gig. He was in!! The band had originally formed around Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 and taken their name from a 17th century prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients with a hatchet.

Molly Hatchet was formed in 1971 by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland. Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, Duane Roland, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump in 1975. When they finally got their recording contract with Epic they got some help and advice from Ronnie Van Zant, who was originally suppose to produce the album, but was unable to due to the tragic plane crash in ’77. Because of this the band’s debut was not released until late 1978. Fortunately for the band, this late delivery did little to deter their popularity. By the time their second record was released, the band had became enormously popular and stayed that way for many years despite the departure of vocalist/frontman Danny Joe Brown. Brown left the band in 1980 due to health problems stemming from diabetes. Others have stated that the band worked hard on the road, and drank just as hard, which was the reason that Brown had to go. Brown returned to the band in ’83 for a successful tour and the release of “No Guts No Glory”.

Duane began performing with Molly Hatchet fulltime in 1975, and he remained with the band through various personnel changes until he left in 1990. (the only exception being when he quit the band for ONE DAY during a summer tour in 1983!!)

They recorded and released their first album, “Molly Hatchet” in 1978, followed by “Flirtin’ with Disaster” in 1979. They toured behind the album building a larger fan base. He recorded seven albums with the band and is is credited with co-writing some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Bloody Reunion” and “Boogie No More”.  During his stay, he was famous for his ability to nail his lead spots in just one take. He was actually the only member of the classic lineup to appear on all seven albums. The only song he didn’t perform on was “Cheatin’ Woman”. He also co-wrote a great deal of classic Molly Hatchet music. Duane appeared on the 1989 album “Junkyard” by the band of the same name.

At the time he left in 1990, he was the owner of the Molly Hatchet brand. The agreement in the band had always been that the last man standing got the name.

Duane then quit music for almost a decade and ran a company in the field of office machine repairs and later became a call centre supervisor with an Internet company.

Duane was the only Hatchet original to not play in the Dixie Jam Band during Jammin’ for DJB. Riff West (the shows organiser) sites “legal difficulties” as the reason Duane did not perform. He did however, lend his talents by added his guitar tracks in the studio.

In 2002, Duane’s employer was bought out, and unemployment beckoned. He was also suffering problems with his hip, which he had replaced in late 2002. During his recuperation, the news broke that Jimmy Farrar had joined the SRA, and it wasn’t long before Jimmy was trying to bring Duane out again. He was on leave from the the Southern Rock Allstars to recuperate from a hip operation when in November 2004, Riff West confirmed that the rumours of a reunion of sorts were true. Riff, Bruce Crump, Steve Holland, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Jimmy Farrar were rehearsing. Dave Hlubek dropped out of the project in January 2005 however…so the new band were the remaining five and Bruce’s bandmate from Daddy-Oh, guitarist Linne Disse. They named themselves after their classic song…”Gator Country Band” and kicked off their career in style opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd on March 12, 2005 in Orlando, FLA. Gator Country, included many of the founding members of Molly Hatchet

Duane Roland sadly passed away at his home in St. Augustine, Florida on Monday June 19, 2006. He was 53, and his death was apparently from “natural causes”.

“He had a heart as big as Texas and a talent twice that big,” said singer Jimmy Farrar, who performed with Roland in all three bands. “Not only was he a colleague but he was one of the best friends I ever had and he will be sorely missed.”

Drummer Bruce Crump said Roland was the anchor of Molly Hatchet during the 1980s, a time when the band’s lineup was constantly changing. “During all that time, Duane was the constant,” said Crump. “I can’t imagine playing Molly Hatchet music without Duane Roland. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

“…then the Allman Brothers came along and made the sound heavier and started churning out these 15-minute songs. Next, Lynyrd Skynyrd came along and refined that sound: made it more powerful and crunchier. Then you had Marshall Tucker and Grinderswitch and they added a country flavor to it and then came Molly Hatchet and we were the first to put a metal edge to it. That was the evolution of the things that were taking place then.”
– Dave Hlubek

 

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Farka Touré 3/2006

Ali Farka ToureMarch 7, 2006 – Farka Touré  was born Ali Ibrahim Touré in 1939 in the village of Kanau, on the banks of the Niger River in the cercle of Gourma Rharous in the northwestern Malian region of Tombouctou.

His family moved to the nearby village of Niafunké when he was still an infant. He was the tenth son of his mother but the only one to survive past infancy. “The name I was given was Ali Ibrahim, but it’s a custom in Africa to give a child a strange nickname if you have had other children who have died”, Touré was quoted as saying in a biography on his Record Label, World Circuit Records. His nickname, “Farka”, chosen by his parents, means “donkey”, an animal admired for its tenacity and stubbornness: “Let me make one thing clear. I’m the donkey that nobody climbs on!” He was descended from the ancient military force known as the Arma, and was ethnically tied to the Songrai (Songhai) and Peul peoples of northern Mali.

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Chris Whitley 11/2005

Chris WhitleyNovember 20, 2005 – Christopher Becker Whitley was born August 31, 1960, in Houston, Texas to a restless, artistic couple: His mother was a sculptress and painter; his father worked as an art director in a series of advertising jobs. As a family, they traveled through the Southwest, with many of the images the young boy absorbed finding their way later into songs. He once described his parents’ music taste as formed “by race radio in the South.” The real deal — Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf — seeped into their son’s soul, eventually leading to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Chris’s parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he moved with his mother to a small cabin in Vermont. It was there that he learned to play guitar. Hearing Johnny Winter’s “Dallas” was the seed for what would develop as Chris’s keening instrumental style.

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Link Wray 11/2005

Link WaryNovember 5, 2005 – Link Wray (Frederic Lincoln) was born in Dunn, North Carolina on May 2nd, 1929. Link’s family was very poor.  As Link has said, “Elvis came from welfare, I came from below welfare.”  Link’s mom was Shawnee Indian sporting his interest in music when Link was 8.  He was sitting on the porch trying to play guitar when an old black guitar player named HAMBONE walked by and taught him the sound of the blues.  Link has said as soon as HAMBONE started playing bottleneck slide guitar, he was hooked.  He knew what he wanted to do. At age 13, Link’s family moved to Portsmouth, Virginia.

Link’s first band was in the late 40’s with his brothers Vernon and Doug, playing Western Swing. As Link put it, “rock and roll before it was rock and roll.”

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Gatemouth Brown 9/2005

Clarence Gatemouth BrownSeptember 10, 2005 – Gatemouth Brown was born Clarence Brown on April 18, 1924 in Vinton, Louisiana. He learned to play an impressive array of instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. His professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio, Texas. He was nicknamed the “Gatemouth” by a high school instructor who told him of having a “voice like a gate”.

For more than 50 years he performed his unique blend of blues, R&B, country, jazz, and Cajun music being a virtuoso on guitar, violin, harmonica, mandolin, viola, and even drums, Gatemouth has influenced performers as diverse as Albert Collins, Frank Zappa, Lonnie Brooks, Eric Clapton, and Joe Louis Walker.

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown started playing fiddle by age 5. At 10, he taught himself an odd guitar picking style he used all his life, dragging his long, bony fingers over the strings.

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Rod Price 3/2005

Rod PriceMarch 22, 2005 – Rod Price (Foghat) was born November 22, 1947. At the age of 21, Price joined the British blues band Black Cat Bones, replacing legendary Free alumni Paul Kossoff, which recorded one album, Barbed Wire Sandwich. The album was released at the end of 1969, when British blues was being supplanted by rock, and though artistically successful it was a commercial failure.

The band dissolved, and Price joined Foghat when the group was first formed in London in 1971. He played on the band’s first ten albums, released from 1972 through to 1980. His signature slide playing ability helped propel the band to being one of the most successful rock groups in the United States during the 1970s. His slide playing was featured distinctly on Foghat songs “Drivin’ Wheel”, “Stone Blue”, and the group’s biggest hit, “Slow Ride“, which was a top 20 hit in 1976. Price’s final performance with Foghat before he left for the first time was at the Philadelphia Spectrum on 16 November 1980. He was replaced by guitarist Erik Cartwright.

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Dimebag Darrell 12/2004

Dimebag Darrell1December 8, 2004 – Dimebagg Darrell Lance Abbott was born on August 20, 1966 and took up the guitar when he was twelve, with his first being a Hondo Les Paul along with a small amplifier. Upon winning a series of local guitar competitions, most notably held at the Agora Theatre and Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, Abbott was awarded a Dean ML.

At age 15 Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. The band mainly reflected their early influences in those days with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest.

While the majority of acclaimed hard rock guitarists of the early ’90s focused primarily on songwriting rather than shredding away, there were a few exceptions to the rule, like Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell. Continue reading Dimebag Darrell 12/2004

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Johnny Ramone 9/2004

Johnny_Ramone_-_Hollywood_Forever_Cemetery_1September 15, 2004 – Johnny Ramone was born John William Cummings on October 8, 1948 and died of prostrate cancer at age 55. He was the rhythm guitarist, songwriter for the Ramones, a New York rock band that held Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status.

A rebel in a rebel’s world, Johnny was raised Queens, N.Y., where as a teenager, he played in a band called the Tangerine Puppets with future Ramones drummer Tamás Erdélyi aka Tommy Ramone. Influenced by the likes of the Stooges and MC5, in 1974 he co-founded “The Ramones”, often regarded as the first punk rock group, with Tommy Ramone, Joey Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone. They went on to perform 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years. The Ramones were a major influence on the punk rock movement in the US and the UK, though they achieved only minor commercial success. Their only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold was the compilation album Ramones Mania.

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Niki Sullivan 4/2004

NikiSullivan-1958April 6, 2004 – Niki Sullivan (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) was born June 23rd 1937 in South Gate, California. During the summer of 1956, the 19-year-old Sullivan first met Holly, by way of his high school friend Jerry Allison, at a jam session in Lubbock, Texas. Holly was impressed by his guitar-playing talents and offered him the chance to join both of them, as well as Joe B. Mauldin in a band. Sullivan readily accepted the offer, and thus the Crickets were born.

While trying to record “Peggy Sue” after many unsatisfactory takes, Sullivan ended up kneeling next to Holly while he played, and when cued flipped a switch on Holly’s Stratocaster, allowing him to break into the now-famous rhythm guitar solo. He also helped sing on back up and arrange the music to “Not Fade Away” (which he helped write), “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, “That’ll Be the Day” and “Maybe Baby”. It was around this period that he also wrote and produced the single “Look to the Future,” which was recorded by Gary Tollett and The Picks, who often did back-up vocals for the Crickets.

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John McGeoch 3/2004

John McGeochMarch 4, 2004 – John McGeoch (Siouxsie and the Banshees) was born August 25th 1955 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

He acquired his first guitar when he was 12 and first learned to play guitar playing British blues songs, including the repertoire of Hendrix and Clapton. In 1970 he played in a local band called The Slugband. In 1971 he moved to London with his family, and in 1975 he began to attend Manchester Polytechnic, where he studied art.

McGeoch had a degree in fine art and an ongoing interest in photography, painting and drawing. He provided some of the cover art for his future band The Armoury Show, years later.

He also played with a number of bands of the post-punk era, including Magazine; Visage and Public Image Ltd.

After joining Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1980, McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success.

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Erik Brann 7/2003

July 25, 2003 – Erik Brann or Braunn was born Rick Davis on August 11th 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts. At 6 while being a resident in Boston, Massachusetts, Erik was accepted as a child into the prodigy program  for violin at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. By age 7 he was performing in concerts as violinist. In his early teens he moved to guitar and California with his parents. Starting on the guitar in 1963 Erik studied with local L.A. legends Milt Norman and Duke Miller. The latter noted that every time he gave the precocious Braunn a lesson, Erik would come back with a song he had written around the lesson. Not one to interfere with a budding George Gershwin, Miller encouraged the habit. While in high school, Erik also studied acting from the now renown Robert Carelli and won several awards for Elizabethan Comedy, Shakespeare, and a First Place Award for his lead role in “Dino” at the USC Dramatic Acting Festival. This was followed by another first place in the Elizabethan Comedy “A Shoemakers Holiday” at UCLA.

He recorded an album with his first band “The Paper Fortress” at the age of fourteen before he joined Iron Butterfly’s second line up at the age of sixteen. He was the last of over forty guitarists to audition and was accepted on the spot.

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Kevin MacMichael 12/2002

Kevin MacMichaelDecember 31, 2002 – Kevin Scott MacMichael  (the Cutting Crew) was born on November 7, 1951 in New Brunswick, Canada. Coming from a musical background, his father played drums and his mother was a teacher, Kevin picked up the guitar while in school and began his life-long passion for playing this instrument and the Beatles. He must’ve been quite inspired, as he apparently then learned how to play over 200 Beatles songs on guitar! (212 to be exact).

He began his career playing in local bands on the East Coast of Canada in the late 1970’s, notably Chalice and in 1978 the band Spice. Spice featured another guitarist Floyd King, who Kevin would continue to collaborate with over the years. They released a few singles that are very difficult to find now, including “Prisoner of Love” and “Beautiful You”.

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Zal Yanovsky 12/2002

Zal YanovskyDecember 13, 2002 –  Zalman Zal Yanovsky (The Lovin’ Spoonful) was born on December 19, 1944 near Toronto, Canada. His father was a political cartoonist. Mostly self-taught, he began his musical career playing folk music coffee houses in Toronto. He lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a short time before returning to Canada. He then teamed with fellow Canadian Denny Doherty in the Halifax Three and both later joined Cass Elliot in the Mugwumps, a group made famous by Doherty’s and Cass’s later group the Mamas and the Papas in the song “Creeque Alley” which referred to an alley way in Charlotte Amalie on St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

In the Greenwich Village folk rock scene he was known as one of the early rock n roll performers to wear a cowboy hat, and fringed “Davy Crockett” style clothing, setting the trend followed by such 1960s performers as Sonny Bono, Johnny Rivers and David Crosby.

It was at this time he met John Sebastian and they formed the Lovin’ Spoonful with Steve Boone and Joe Butler, taking their name from a line in Mississippi John Hurt’s Coffee Blues. The band became an immediate smash with their first single, “Do You Believe in Magic?” a Top Ten hit in 1965, which led off a remarkable string of hits that established the Lovin’ Spoonful as one of the few American bands that could challenge the chart dominance of the Beatles and their British Invasion contemporaries.

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Michael Houser 8/2002

Michael Houser of Widespread PanicAugust 10, 2002 – Michael Houser (Widespread Panic) was born on January 6, 1962 in Boone, North Carolina. He graduated from Hixson High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and became a founding member of Widespread Panic in 1986 while attending the University of Georgia with John Bell. Michael’s nickname was “Panic” due to his then frequent panic attacks, and this moniker later became the inspiration for the band’s name.

Widespread Panic’s large rhythm section, and John Bell’s virtuosity as a rhythm guitarist, allowed Michael to pursue an atmospheric lead guitar style that often lingered behind the primary melodies. His predominant use of the Ernie Ball volume pedal caused him to spend most of his performance time balanced on one leg, which would eventually lead to circulation problems causing his left leg to become numb. In 1996, during an acoustic tour through Colorado, known as the “Sit and Ski” tour, he was reminded of how much more comfortable and accurate his playing was while he was seated. Subsequently, Houser returned to playing all shows seated in 1997. He used a volume pedal for sonic effect, rather than just for volume control.

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Paul Samson 8/2002

August 9, 2002 – Paul Samson was born Paul Sanson on June 4, 1953 in Norwich, England.

In 1976 Paul Samson replaced Bernie Tormé in London-based band Scrapyard, joining bassist John McCoy and drummer Roger Hunt. The band name was changed to McCoy, and they built up a busy gigging schedule, whilst also independently playing various sessions. Eventually, McCoy left to join Atomic Rooster. His replacement was the band’s sound engineer and a close friend of Paul Samson’s, Chris Aylmer. Aylmer suggested a name change to Samson, and recommended a young drummer, Clive Burr, whom he had previously played with in the band Maya. Burr joined, and Samson was born, although for a time Paul Samson used bassist Bill Pickard and drummer Paul Gunn on odd gigs when Aylmer and Burr were honoring previous commitments.

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Chet Atkins 6/2001

chet-atkinsJune 30, 2001 – Chester Burton “Chet” Atkins was born on June 20th 1924 in Luttrell, Tennessee, near Clinch Mountain. Even though by many considered instrumental in bringing Country music mainstream with the Nashville Sound, Chet’s guitar virtuosity (he also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele) was recognized with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which makes him eligible in this website’s line-up.

His parents divorced when he was six, after which he was raised by his mother. He was the youngest of three boys and a girl. He started out on the ukulele, later moving on to the fiddle, but traded his brother Lowell an old pistol and some chores for a guitar when he was nine. He stated in his 1974 autobiography, “We were so poor and everybody around us was so poor that it was the forties before anyone even knew there had been a depression.” Continue reading Chet Atkins 6/2001

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Brian Pendleton 5/2001

May 16, 2001 – Brian Pendleton (The Pretty Things) was born on 13th April 1944 in Wolverhampton, to Raymond and Kathleen Pendleton (nee Brownsword); Raymond and Kathleen had married early in 1942. Brian was born in Wolverhampton Road in the Heath Town district of the city, at an address that no longer exists. When he was still a baby the Pendletons moved to Dartford in Kent and his younger sister was born in 1950.

The teenage Brian attended Dartford Grammar School. He was in the year below future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor and superstar-to-be Mick Jagger. Although Brian and Dick would recognize each other at a later date (Dick certainly remembered Brian from school) it seems that as they were in different years they didn’t speak much, it is a playground truth that those pupils in the years below were not generally considered worthy of attention and this is doubtless still the case today! English schools divide their pupils into groups called ‘houses’ which are usually named after a person of local historic significance and represented by a color. Brian was a member of the house called Daeth, possibly in honor of a local (Dartford) family; it’s color was yellow. Peter Pike was in the same year as Brian and recalls that he was a reserved character but could from time to time be funny and lively.

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John Fahey 2/2001

John FaheyFebruary 22, 2001 – John Aloysius Fahey was born on February 28, 1939 in Washington DC. Both his father, Aloysius John Fahey, and his mother, Jane (née Cooper), played the piano. In 1945, the family moved to the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland, where his father lived until his death in 1994. On weekends, the family attended performances of top country and bluegrass groups of the day, but it was hearing Bill Monroe’s version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 7” on the radio that ignited the young Fahey’s passion for music.

In 1952, after being impressed by guitarist Frank Hovington, whom he met while on a fishing trip, he purchased his first guitar for $17 from the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. Along with his budding interest in guitar, Fahey was attracted to record collecting. While his tastes ran mainly in the bluegrass and country vein, Fahey discovered his love of early blues upon hearing Blind Willie Johnson‘s “Praise God I’m Satisfied” on a record-collecting trip to Baltimore with his friend and mentor, the musicologist Richard K. Spottswood. Much later, Fahey compared the experience to a religious conversion and remained a devout blues disciple until his death.

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Alan Caddy 8/2000

guitar wizard alan caddy with the tornadoesAugust 16, 2000 – Alan Caddy (Johnny Kidd & the Pirates/The Tornadoes) was born on February 2nd 1940 in Chelsea, London.

Alan Caddy’s father was a dance band drummer who also ran his own jazz club. At the Emanuel School in Battersea, the young Caddy was head chorister and leader of the school orchestra. Naturally talented as a treble, he regularly sang at Westminster Cathedral and he studied the violin at the Royal Academy of Music. But he was enthralled by the emergent skiffle and rock’n’roll, and switched to the guitar.
He left school at 17 and played guitar in his spare time, moving through several amateur and semi-professional groups in the Battersea area. One of those bands was the Five Nutters, a skiffle outfit that he joined in 1957, who were based in Willesden and played five nights a week at their own club, known as the KKK. They added a new singer that year, one Frederick Heath, who later started billing himself as Johnny Kidd — and in short order, they were Johnny Kidd & the Pirates.

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Colin Manley 4/1999

colin manleyApril 9, 1999 – Colin William Manley was born 16 April 1942, in Old Swan, Liverpool, Lancashire which uniquely qualified him in age and geographically to become part of the British Invasion. In 1958 as guitarist and vocalist together with Don Andrew he founded the The Remo Quartet, changing their name to the Remo Four in the summer of 1959. Andrew and Manley were in the same class at school (Liverpool Institute for Boys) as Paul McCartney.

They played a mix of vocal harmony material (à la The Everly Brothers), and instrumental numbers in the manner of The Shadows, The Ventures, and Chet Atkins. In the early 1960s Colin was considered the best technical guitar player in Liverpool by his peeps. He could play and replicate anything and was a joy to watch. 

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Jimmie Rogers 12/1997

jimmie rogers - blues guitaristDecember 19, 1997 – Jimmie Rogers was born Jay Arthur Lane in Ruleville, Mississippi on June 3, 1924. Raised in Atlanta, St.Louis and Memphis, he adopted his stepfather’s surname Rogers. He learned to play the harmonica with his childhood friend Snooky Pryor and as a teenager he took up the guitar.

Big Bill Broonzy, Joe Willie Wilkins, and Robert Lockwood all influenced him, the latter two when he passed through Helena.
He started playing professionally in his late teens with Robert Lockwood Jr. in East St. Louis, Illinois .

Rogers then moved to Chicago in the mid-1940s. By 1946, he had recorded as a harmonica player and singer for the Harlem record label, run by J. Mayo Williams. Rogers’s name however did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of Memphis Slim and His Houserockers.

In that same year he began playing professionally, gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, and Broonzy.

Rogers was playing harp with guitarist Blue Smitty when Muddy Waters joined them. When Smitty split, Little Walter was welcomed into the configuration and Rogers switched over to second guitar and as a direct consequence the entire post-war Chicago blues genre felt the stylistic earthquake that instantly followed.

Rogers made his recorded debut as a leader in 1947 for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo, but then saw his efforts for Regal and Apollo go unissued. Those labels’ monumental errors in judgment were the gain of Leonard Chess, who recognized the comparatively smooth-voiced Rogers’ potential as a blues star in his own right. (He first played with Muddy Waters on an Aristocrat 78 in 1949 and remained his indispensable rhythm guitarist on wax into 1955.)

With Walter and bassist Big Crawford laying down support, Rogers’ debut Chess single in 1950, “That’s All Right,” has earned standard status after countless covers, but his version still reigns supreme.
Rogers’ artistic quality was remarkably high while at Chess. “The World Is in a Tangle,” “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” “Back Door Friend,” “Left Me with a Broken Heart,” “Act Like You Love Me,” and the 1954 rockers “Sloppy Drunk” and “Chicago Bound” are essential early-’50s Chicago blues.

In 1955, Rogers left Muddy Waters to venture out as a bandleader, cutting another gem, “You’re the One,” for Chess. He made his only appearance on Billboard’s R&B charts in early 1957 with the driving “Walking by Myself,” which boasted a stunning harp solo from Big Walter Horton (a last-second stand-in for no-show Good Rockin’ Charles). The tune itself was an adaptation of a T-Bone Walker tune, “Why Not,” that Rogers had played rhythm guitar on when Walker cut it for Atlantic.

By 1957, blues was losing favor at Chess, the label reaping the rewards of rock and roll via Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Rogers’ platters slowed to a trickle, though his 1959 Chess farewell, “Rock This House,” ranked with his most exciting outings (Reggie Boyd’s light-fingered guitar wasn’t the least of its charms).

In the early 1960s Rogers briefly worked as a member of Howling Wolf’s band, before quitting the music business altogether for almost a decade. He worked as a taxicab driver and owned a clothing store, which burned down in the 1968 Chicago riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rogers gradually began performing in public again, and in 1971, when fashions made him somewhat popular in Europe, he began occasionally touring and recording, including a 1977 session with Waters. By 1982, Rogers was again a full-time solo artist. He continued touring and recording albums until his death.

He returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell’s Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more fine albums – notably Ludella, a 1990 set for Antone’s – but Rogers never fattened his discography as much as some of his contemporaries did.

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.

Rogers died on December 19, 1997 from colon cancer. At the time of his death, he was working on an all-star project featuring contributions from Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; upon its completion, the disc was issued posthumously in early 1999 under the title Blues, Blues, Blues.

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Kurt Winter 12/1997

Kurt WinterDecember 14, 1997 – Kurt Winter was born Kurt Frank Winter in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on April 2, 1946. He attended Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute. Winter commenced the development of his music career with a number of Winnipeg bands, including Gettysbyrg Address (1967, with later Guess Who bass player Bill Wallace), The Fifth (1968, with drummer Vance Masters) and Brother (late 1969, with Wallace and Masters). Brother was regarded as Winnipeg’s first supergroup, playing all original material, the live shows of which were greatly admired by vocalist Burton Cummings.

He was not involved in the writing of “American Woman”, the Guess Who’s international superhit in 1969.

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Glen Buxton 10/1997

Glen_BuxtonOctober 19, 1997 – Glen Edward Buxton was born on November 10, 1947. He became an American guitarist for the original Alice Cooper band. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Buxton number 90 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. In 2011, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Alice Cooper band.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Buxton moved to Phoenix, Arizona and in 1964, while attending Cortez High School, made his debut in a rock band called The Earwigs. It was composed of fellow high school students Dennis Dunaway and Vincent Furnier (Alice Cooper). They were popular, and changed their name to The Spiders in 1965 and later to The Nazz in 1967. In 1968, to avoid legal entanglements with the Todd Rundgren-led Nazz, Buxton’s band changed their name to Alice Cooper.

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Luther Allison 8/1997

luther allison, blues giantAugust 12, 1997 – Luther Allison (blues great) was born on August 17, 1939 in Widener, Arkansas. He was the 14th of 15 children, the son of cotton farmers. His parents moved to Chicago when he was in his early teens, but he had a solid awareness of blues before he left Arkansas, as he played organ in the church and learned to sing gospel in Widener as well. Allison recalled that his earliest awareness of blues came via the family radio in Arkansas, which his dad would play at night. Allison recalls listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and B.B. King on the King Biscuit Show on Memphis’ WDIA. Although he was a talented baseball player and had begun to learn the shoemaking trade in Chicago after high school, it wasn’t long before Allison began to focus more of his attention on playing blues guitar. Allison had been hanging out in blues clubs all through high school, and with his brother’s encouragement, he honed his string-bending skills and powerful, soul-filled vocal technique.

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Randy California 1/1997

Randy California 1979January 2, 1997 – Randy Craig Wolfe aka Randy California was born on 20 February, 1951.

Jimi Hendrix gave him the name Randy California, to distinguish him from Randy Texas, who also played in Jimi’s backing band the Blue Flames, during his 1966 New York stint. His real name was Randy Craig Wolfe and he was lead guitarist and one of the founders of the Psychedelic Rock Band “Spirit” who gained worldwide recognition for songs like “Fresh Garabage”, “Mechanical World” and ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’ which introduced us to Mr. Skin.

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Jim Ellison 6/1996

June 20, 1996 – James ‘Jim’ Ellison (Material Issue) was born on April 18, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. As a teenager Jim was inspired by the likes of David Bowie, the Who, and Sweet to seriously take up guitar playing. Then while attending Chicago’s Columbia Art College he formed the powerpop band Material Issue in an effort to form a group that would merge the pop hooks of the Beatles, Cheap Trick and Big Star with a modern rock edge.

He soon got his wish, as he hooked up with fellow students Ted Ansani (bass, vocals) and Mike Zelenko (drums), forming Material Issue in 1986. With the group causing a local buzz from the get-go, Ellison also formed his own independent record label around this time, Big Block Records, which he ran out of his bedroom in Addison, Illinois.  Continue reading Jim Ellison 6/1996

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Johnny Watson 5/1996

johnny-guitar-watsonMay 17, 1996 – Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was born on February 3rd 1935 in Houston Texas. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught his son the instrument. But young Watson was immediately attracted to the sound of the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as played by T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

His grandfather, a preacher, was also musical. “My grandfather used to sing while he’d play guitar in church, man,” Watson reflected many years later. When Johnny was 11, his grandfather offered to give him a guitar if, and only if, the boy didn’t play any of the “devil’s music”. Watson agreed, but later said “that was the first thing I did, play the devil’s music”. A musical prodigy, he played with Texas bluesmen Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland.

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Jerry Garcia 8/1995

Jerry Garcia300August 9, 1995 – Jerry Garcia was the frontman/guitarist for the most famous psychedelic jamband in the history of Rock and Roll: the Grateful Dead.

Jerome John Garcia is born on August 1, 1942 in San Francisco, CA to Jose Ramon “Joe” Garcia and Ruth Marie “Bobbie” Garcia, joining older brother Clifford “Tiff” Ramon. “My father played woodwinds, clarinet mainly. He was a jazz musician.”

In 1947 a wood chopping accident with his older brother at the Garcia family cabin causes Jerry to lose much of the middle finger on his right hand at the age of five. That winter, Jerry’s father drowns while on a fishing trip.

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Rory Gallagher 6/1995

rory-gallagher-stadium-1981-ch-018June 14, 1995 – William Rory Gallagher was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal on March 2, 1948 and raised in Cork. His father was employed constructing a hydro electric power plant on the nearby Erne river.

Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. He was a very talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, UK at the age of 47. Continue reading Rory Gallagher 6/1995

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Fred “Sonic” Smith 11/1994

fredsonicsmithNovember 4, 1994 – Fred “Sonic” Smith was born on September 13, 1949 in West Virginia, but raised in Detroit.

As a teenager, he lived for music with speed, energy with a rebellious attitude and formed a rock group Smith’s Vibratones, before joining up with his old school pal, Wayne Kramer to form MC5, short for Motor City Five. This influential band released 3 albums before their break up in 1972, Kick Out the Jams in 1969, Back in the USA in 1970, and High Time in 1971. After the band broke up Fred went on to form Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, which released one single, “City Slang”.

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Danny Gatton 10/1994

danny+gattonOctober 4, 1994 – Danny Gatton was without a shadow of a doubt the most underrated guitar virtuoso the US ever produced…so far. He fused rockabilly, blues, rock, jazz, and country to create his own distinctive style at a mind boggling speed.

Born in Washington DC on September 4, 1945, he began his career playing in bands while still a teenager and began to attract wider interest in the 1970s while playing guitar and banjo for the group Liz Meyer & Friends. He made his name as a performer the 1980s, both as a solo performer and with his Redneck Jazz Explosion, in which he would trade licks with virtuoso pedal steel player Buddy Emmons over a tight bass-drums rhythm which drew from blues, country, bebop and rockabilly influences.

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Frank Zappa 12/1993

Frank ZappaDecember 4, 1993 – Frank Vincent Zappa was born on December 21, 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland with an Italian, Sicilian, Greek and Arab ancestry. With his dad employed as chemist/mathematician in the Defense industry, the family often moved to the extent that he attended at least 6 high schools. He began to play drums at the age of 12, and was playing in R&B groups by high school,

Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde composers such as Varèse, Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern, as well as R&B and doo-wop groups (particularly local pachuco groups), and modern jazz. His own heterogeneous ethnic background and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles in the sixties, were crucial in the forming of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards “mainstream” social, political, religious and musical movements. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco. Television also exerted a strong influence, as demonstrated by quotations from show themes and advertising jingles found in his later works. Continue reading Frank Zappa 12/1993

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Albert Collins 11/1993

Albert CollinsNov 24, 1993 – Albert Collins was born on October 1, 1932  in Leona Texas. The blues guitar came to him through his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins, who lived in the same town and often played on family gatherings. Although initially a student of piano, he became the bluesmaster who played an altered tuning. Collins tuned his guitar to an open F minor chord (FCFAbCF), and then added a capo at the 5th, 6th or 7th fret. At the age of twelve, he made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing “Boogie Chillen'” by John Lee Hooker.

In the early days Collins worked as a paint mixer and truck driver to make ends meet. In 1971, when he was 39 years old, Collins worked in construction, since he couldn’t make a proper living from his music. One of the construction jobs he worked on was a remodeling job for Neil Diamond. This type of work carried on right up until the late 1970s. It was his wife Gwen that talked him into returning to music. Continue reading Albert Collins 11/1993

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Criss Oliva 10/1993

criss_olivaOctober 17, 1993 – Christopher “Criss” Michael Oliva was lead guitarist and co-founder of the heavy metal band Savatage, born in Pompton Plains, NJ on April 3rd 1963. In 1976 the Oliva family moved to Dunedin, Florida and it was here that Criss and his brother Jon formed a band Avatar, in 1978.

But in 1983 as success was looming on the horizon, they had to change their name and decided on Savatage. Under that name they released their first two albums, Sirens in 1983 and The Dungeons Are Calling in 1985. Savatage continued to flourish, releasing a further 6 albums after signing with Atlantic Records in 1985.

The band toured relentlessly, with Criss winning critical acclaim, his biggest dream was for Savatage’s 1991 album Streets: A Rock Opera to achieve platinum status. Streets was Savatage’s biggest mainstream success, and Criss enjoyed the exposure the record gave the band, allowing new fans to be found for their music.

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Mick Ronson 4/1993

Mick_Ronson_&_Ian_HunterApril 29, 1993 – Mick Ronson was born May 26, 1946 in  in Kingston upon Hull, England. As a child he was trained classically to play piano, recorder, violin, and (later) the harmonium. He initially wanted to be a cellist, but moved to guitar upon discovering the music of Duane Eddy, whose sound on the bass notes of his guitar sounded to Ronson similar to that of the cello.

He moved to London in 1965, after having outplayed the local bands.

After several attempts through the ’60s of making it in London, he got his break in early 1970, when he joined David Bowie’s new backing band called The Hype. The Hype played their first gig at The Roundhouse on 22 February 1970.

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Eddie Hazel 12/1992

eddiehazelDec 23, 1992 – Eddie Hazel was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 10, 1950 but grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey because his mother, Grace Cook, wanted her son to grow up in an environment without the pressures of drugs and crime that she felt pervaded New York City. Hazel occupied himself from a young age by playing a guitar, given to him as a Christmas present by his older brother. Hazel also sang in church. At age 12 he participated in backyard jams, which resulted in Nelson McGee and Hazel forming the Wonders who played around Plainfield in the mid sixties. By early 1967 Hazel’s reputation on guitar had taken him to work with producer George Blackwell in Newark.

In 1967  The Parliaments, a Plainfield-based doo wop band headed by George Clinton, had a hit record with “(I Wanna) Testify“. Clinton recruited a backing band for a tour, hiring Nelson as bassist, who in turn recommended Hazel as guitarist.

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Albert King 12/1992

Albert KingDecember 21, 1992 – Albert King was born Albert Nelson on April 25th 1923 in Indianola, Mississippi, the same town where B.B. King grew up. However, on his Social Security application in 1942, his birthplace was entered as “Aboden, Miss.,” likely based on his pronunciation of Aberdeen. King, who gave his birth date as April 25, 1923, was raised primarily in Arkansas. As a child, he sang with his family’s gospel group at a church where his father played the guitar. When King was eight, his family moved to Forrest City, Arkansas and he would pick cotton on plantations in the area. Around that same time, King bought his first guitar, paying only $1.25. His first inspiration was T-Bone Walker.

King began working as a professional musician when he joined a group called In the Groove Boys in Osceola, Arkansas, in the late Forties. Continue reading Albert King 12/1992

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Stefanie Sargent 6/1992

June 27, 1992 – Stefanie Sargent (7 Year Bitch) was born in Seattle, Washington on June 1, 1968. Raised in Seattle (she graduated the Summit K-12 Alternative School at age 16).

She then worked various jobs – making pizza in particular – traveled up and down the West Coast and played music. She became a familiar figure in the Seattle music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after and became well recognized as the original guitarist for 7 Year Bitch.

She first played with Selene Vigil-Wilk (vocals), Valerie Agnew (drums) and Lisa Orth (guitar) in the band Barbie’s Dream Car. When their bassist left for Europe they recruited Elizabeth Davis, and changed the name of the band to 7 Year Bitch. Lisa Orth was no longer in the band at this point, and Stefanie became the sole guitarist for 7 Year Bitch. Their first concert was a benefit at the OK hotel with the Gits, DC Beggars and several other bands.

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Ollie Halsall 5/1992

ollie-halsallMay 29, 1992 – Ollie Halsall was born Peter John Halsall on March 14th 1949 in Southport, England.

Halsall started out playing drums and the vibraphone (an instrument on which he became extraordinarily proficient) before taking up the guitar in 1967. By 1970, as a member of the cult-favorite band, Patto, he had evolved into one of the world’s most sensational players. That he never got that recognition can only be explained by the fact that the world had a number of top players already in the marketing line up and there was only so much promotional effort made available by the record companies.

Other guitar gods that didn’t make the Super Stardom Line Up of those early days- but should have- were in my opinion Jan Akkerman from the Dutch prog band Focus, Eddie Hazel with Parliament-Funkadelic who died 7 months after Ollie, Chicago’s Terry Kath, Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player at the time, and April Lawton from Ramatam.

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Johnny Shines 4/1992

Johnny ShinesApril 20, 1992 – Johnny Ned Shines was born April 26th 1915 in Frayser, Tennessee and grew up in Memphis from the age of six. Part of a musical family, he learned guitar from his mother, and as a youth he played for tips on the streets and local “jukes” of Memphis with several friends, inspired by the likes of Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, and the young Howlin’ Wolf. In 1932, he moved to Hughes, AR, to work as a sharecropper, keeping up his musical activities on the side; in 1935, he decided to try and make it as a professional musician.

Shines had first met Robert Johnson in Memphis in 1934 when he was 19, and he began accompanying Johnson, who was 23, on his wanderings around the Southern juke-joint circuit, playing wherever they could find gigs; the two made their way as far north as Windsor, Ontario, where they appeared on a radio program. After around three years on the road together – which made Shines one of Johnson’s most intimate associates, – the two split up in Arkansas in 1937, and never saw each other again before Johnson’s death in 1938.

In his early days, Shines was one of the top slide guitarists in Delta blues, with his own distinctive, energized style; one that may have echoed Johnson’s spirit and influence, but was never a mere imitation.

After splitting up with Johnson, Shines continued to play around the South for a few years, and in 1941 decided to make his way north in hopes of finding work in Canada, and from there catching a boat to Africa. Instead, when he stopped in Chicago, his cousin immediately offered him a job in construction, and Shines wound up staying. He started making the rounds of the local blues club scene, and in 1946 he made his first-ever recordings; four tracks for Columbia that the label declined to release. In 1950, he resurfaced on Chess, cutting sides that were rarely released (and, when they were, often appeared under the name “Shoe Shine Johnny”). Meanwhile, Shines was finding work supporting other artists at live shows and recording sessions.

From 1952-1953, he laid down some storming sides for the JOB label, which constitute some of his finest work ever (some featured Big Walter Horton on harmonica). They went underappreciated commercially, however, and Shines returned to his supporting roles. In 1958, fed up with the musicians’ union over a financial dispute, Shines quit the music business, pawned all of his equipment, and made his living solely with the construction job he’d kept all the while.

Shines did, however, stay plugged into the local blues scene by working as a photographer at live events, selling photos to patrons as souvenirs. Eventually, he was sought out by blues historians, and talked into recording for Vanguard’s now-classic Chicago/The Blues/Today! series; his appearance on the third volume in 1966 rejuvenated his career.

Shines next cut sessions for Testament (1966’s Master of the Modern Blues, Vol. 1, a couple with Big Walter Horton, and more) and Blue Horizon (1968’s Last Night’s Dream), which effectively introduced him to much of the listening public. The reception was much greater this time around, and Shines hit the road, first with Horton and Willie Dixon as the Chicago All-Stars, then leading his own band. In the meantime, his daughter died unexpectedly, leaving Shines to raise his grandchildren; concerned about bringing them up in an urban environment, he moved the whole family down to Tuscaloosa, AL.

He was vastly under-recorded during his prime years, even quitting the music business for a time, but when rediscovered in the late ’60s, he recorded and toured steadily for quite some time. During the early ’70s, Shines recorded for Biograph and Advent, among others, and enjoyed one of his most acclaimed releases with 1975’s more Delta-styled Too Wet to Plow (for Tomato). He also taught guitar locally in Tuscaloosa in between touring engagements. Despite his own generally high-quality work, Shines was a fascinating figure to many white blues fans simply because of the mythology surrounding Robert Johnson, and he was interviewed repeatedly about his experiences with Johnson to the exclusion of discussing his own music and contemporary career; which understandably frustrated him after a while. However, that didn’t stop him from rediscovering his roots in acoustic Delta blues, or including many of Johnson’s classic songs in his own repertoire; in fact, during the late ’70s, Shines toured and recorded often with Robert Jr. Lockwood, a teaming that owed much to Johnson’s legacy if ever there was one. Unfortunately, in 1980, Shines suffered a stroke that greatly affected his guitar playing, which would never return to its former glories, his voice however remained a powerfully emotive instrument, and helped by some of his students, he continued to tour America and Europe.

In the early ’90s, Shines appeared in the documentary film Searching for Robert Johnson, and he also cut one last album with Snooky Pryor, 1991’s Back to the Country, which won a Handy Award. Shines’ health was failing, however, and he passed away on April 20, 1992, in a Tuscaloosa hospital.

He may have been best known as a traveling companion of Robert Johnson, but his own contributions to the blues have often been unfairly shortchanged, simply because Johnson’s cross roads legend casts such a long shadow.

He died from heart complications on April 20, 1992 at the age of 76.

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Steve Clark 1/1991

Steve ClarkJanuary 8, 1991 – Stephen Maynard Steve Clark  was born on April 23rd 1960 in Sheffield, England. From a very early age, he showed an interest in music with one such example being his attendance at a concert held by Cliff Richard and the Shadows aged 6. At 11, he received his first guitar from his father, a taxi driver, on the condition that he learned to play. Clark studied classical guitar for a year before one day he discovered Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin at a friend’s house.

When Clark left school his first employer was an engineering firm called GEC Traction where he worked as a lathe operator under a 4 year apprentice contract while first playing in a local band, Electric Chicken. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard’s original guitarist/founder). Clark asked for a spot in the band and joined Def Leppard in January 1978. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” without accompaniment. It was Steve who threatened to quit, right as they started out, unless the band stopped rehearsing and actually went out and played. Singer Joe Elliot went out and scored them a gig that paid the princely sum of £5.

While a guitarist for Def Leppard, he contributed substantially to the band’s music and lyrics. Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed as “The Riffmaster” according to the band’s lead vocalist Joe Elliott in VH1’s Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard’s Hysteria. When Willis was asked to leave (ironically for drinking), guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band.

Steve Clark made some telling contributions to the success of a band that has gone on to sell 100 million albums. He contributed both music and lyrics for the bands first four albums including the worldwide hit albums Pyromania and Hysteria. Musically, according to the other band members in interviews, he was more likely to contribute riffs and guitar parts, although he did write all the music for some of the bands songs, including ‘wasted’ on the bands debut album On through the night.

Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the “Terror Twins,” in recognition of their talents and friendship.

Part of their success as a duo was attributed by Collen (on the BBC’s Classic Albums show) to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, often both playing lead or both doing rhythm within the same song. Lead singer Joe Elliott told the same program that Clark was not a technician, he was a guitarist who wore his instrument a few notches too low, and his style was a key part of the band’s chemistry. Elliott referred to Clark as the “creative one” and Collen as a “total utter technician”.

Whereas Collen quit drinking alcohol during the 1980s in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Clark never managed to escape his addiction to alcohol.

And as time went on all was not well with Steve Clark the person, despite the money, fame and travelling the world. He developed a drink problem, and suffered it seems with bouts of depression. Not a happy drunk either according to many, this would often push him over the edge with his mood swings. He began to suffer with shakes when trying to play because of his alcohol abuse, which upset him, and he would storm off and have a drink, taking things full circle. Rehab was attempted and failed, and as a last resort Clark was given, unofficially, six months off the band. He never went back.

The night before his death Clark promised girlfriend Janie Dean he was only popping out for ten minutes and definitely wasn’t drinking. Four hours later he arrives back to their Chelsea ad smashed with one of his drinking buddies in tow. Dean had pleaded with him not to drink and take prescription drugs, which he was taking for cracked ribs, the result of one of his other drunken nights out.

The next morning on January 8, 1991, Janie Dean showed an interior decorator around their plush London pad, not knowing that her boyfriend, Def Leppard’s Steve Clark was lying dead on the Sofa. She hadn’t bothered to wake him as after he rolled up drunk the night before. After all ‘nothing woke him after a night on the drink’ she later commented. A couple of hours later she realized the horrific truth, finding him blue in the face with blood coming out of his mouth. Screaming ‘wake up’, it was left to the interior decorator, still in the house, confirmed he was dead. Steve Clark then became, sadly, probably Sheffield biggest Rock n Roll casualty.

His autopsy report stated that he had died from an overdose of codeine and Valium, morphine and a blood alcohol level of .30, three times the British legal driving limit. There was no evidence of suicidal intent.

He had already contributed to half of the songs on the band’s 1992 album Adrenalize prior to his death, which was released in 1992.

 Steve Clark was 30 years 8 months 16 days old when he died on 8 January 1991.

In 2011, Collen revealed in an online series of web videos that both he and Clark began working on what would become the song, “White Lightning”, during the recording sessions for the 1992 album, Adrenalize. Completed after Clark’s death, the song ironically described in great detail the effects of Clark’s alcohol and drug addictions.

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Allen Collins 10/1990

Allen Collins 300October 20, 1990 – Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was one of three lead guitar players in the Southern Rock guitar army Lynyrd Skynyrd. He survived the tragic crash that killed Ronnie van Zant and Stevie Gaines, but succumbed to chronic pneumonia 13 years later. Collins, just 12 years old joined Ronnie van Zant and Gary Rossington to form Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964. Even though his life was littered by personal tragedies and illness, he gained super stardom recognition for co-writing many of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s monster hit songs, including Freebird, That Smell and Gimme Three Steps.

Lynyrd Skynyrd History.com says the following about Allen Collins:

Long considered one of rock’s premier guitarists, Allen Collins served as heart to Ronnie VanZant’s soul in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Allen’s unique, firy guitar playing and powerful songwriting helped insure Lynyrd Skynyrd’s place in rock and roll history.

Born at St. Lukes Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on July 19, 1952, Allen (delivered by Doctor Owens) weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Allen’s mother, Eva remembers her son as full of energy and enthusiasm — even before Allen could walk he moved constantly. From his earliest days Allen loved cars — especially race cars — and his favorite summer activity was going to Jacksonville Raceway every Saturday night to watch Leroy Yarborough race. The Collins family first started attending the races when Allen was eight years old and Allen, sitting as high in the stands as possible, would laugh and holler as he pretended to be racing his own car. This early fascination lasted throughout Allen’s life — he later collected an entire fleet of collectible and performance cars that was one of his proudest possessions.

In 1963, Allen lived in Jacksonville’s Cedar Hills area when an older friend received a guitar for his birthday. Allen was hooked. Allen’s parents had recently divorced and times were tough for Allen, his sister and mother. His mother, already working all day at the cigar factory, took a second job at Woolworths in the evenings. As soon as she had saved enough money, she surprised Allen by taking him down to Sears and ordered his first Silvertone guitar and amplifier. Despite no training aside from a few tips from his step-mother and friend, Allen picked up the guitar easily and quickly formed his first band — The Mods.

Together with singer Ronnie VanZant and guitarist Gary Rossington, Allen Collins formed the nucleus of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1964 by learning what they could from each other and listening to the radio. This early band, first called My Backyard, then the Noble Five also included drummer Bob Burns and bassist Larry Junstrum. Finding a place to practice proved difficult and the choices were limited to the carport at Bob’s house, Ronnie’s backyard, where they were sure to get a full meal or Allen’s living room which usually included Eva’s famous cakes and candies. After several years of practicing, performing and personnel changes, Skynyrd, like any decent group of fledgling rock stars, started gigging the notorious one-nighters.

In 1970, Allen married Kathy Johns. Allen included his band mates in his wedding party, but Kathy worried that their long haired appearance would disturb her parents. Solving the problem required everyone tucking their rock and roll image under wigs for the wedding ceremony. The wedding reception played host to a piece of rock and roll history – one of the first public performances of “Freebird” complete with the trademark extended guitar jam at the end. Allen’s family grew with the birth of his daughter Amie followed quickly by Allison. Times were very difficult since Allen’s musical career barely brought in enough to support the young family. Despite coming close several times, Lynyrd Skynyrd just kept missing that elusive big break.

In 1973, however, things finally started coming together for Lynyrd Skynyrd. During a week-long stint at Funochio’s in Atlanta, the band was discovered by the renown Al Kooper. After signing a record deal with MCA subsidiary Sounds of the South, Skynyrd entered the studio with Kooper producing. The result — Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd — started the band on its rise to fame with standards like ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Simple Man’, and the incendiary, guitar-driven classic, ‘Freebird’.

Gold and platinum albums followed a string of hit songs like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Saturday Night Special’, ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’, ‘What’s Your Name?’, and ‘That Smell’. Over the four years Skynyrd recorded, the memories gradually turned into legends. Opening the Who tour. “Skynning” Europe alive. 1975’s Torture Tour. Steve Gaines. One More From The Road. The Knebworth Fair ’76.

By October 20, 1977, Skynyrd’s songs had become radio staples. Their latest album, Street Survivors, had just been released to critical and popular acclaim. Their ambitious new tour, just days underway, saw sellout crowds. Then it all fell away at 6000 feet above a Mississippi swamp.
At 6:42 PM, the pilot of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered Convair 240 airplane radioed that the craft was dangerously low on fuel. Less than ten minutes later, the plane crashed into a densely wooded thicket in the middle of a swamp. The crash, which killed Ronnie VanZant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, road manager Dean Kilpatrick and seriously injured the rest of the band and crew, shattered Skynyrd’s fast rising star as it cut a 500 foot path through the swamp. Lynyrd Skynyrd had met a sudden, tragic end.

After several years of recovery, the crash survivors felt the time was right for another try. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins had performed at a few special jams, and slowly began planning a new band. Over the next few weeks they signed on Skynyrd survivors Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson and other local musicians, although the choice of a lead vocalist for the new band remained a perplexing one. Realizing any singer would be faced with inevitable comparisons with Ronnie VanZant, Allen and Gary chose Dale Krantz, a gutsy, whiskey-voiced female backup singer from .38 Special. This change set the Rossington Collins band apart as they entered the 1980s.

The Rossington-Collins Band debuted in June 1980 with the Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere album. Kicked by such songs as ‘Getaway” and ‘Don’t Misunderstand Me’ the album sold more than a million copies and the band toured to enthusiastic, sellout crowds. However the band’s 1981 follow-up effort stumbled in the marketplace despite being well-received critically.

Tragedy struck Allen’s life again just as the Rossington Collins Band started. During the first days of the stressful debut concert tour, Allen’s wife Kathy passed away forcing the tour’s cancellation. Coupled with the lingering effects of losing his friends in the plane crash, Kathy’s death devastated Allen. However, the pull of creating music was too strong for Allen to walk away from. Even when Gary Rossington and Dale Krantz quit the Rossington Collins Band, Allen continued on forming the Allen Collins Band in 1983. Allen originally wanted the name Horsepower for his band, but shortly after completing the new album’s artwork they learned that name was already used. Their one release, Here, There and Back, met with considerable fan approval, but little support from MCA Records which dropped the band shortly after the album’s release.

Once again tragedy struck Allen in 1986. Driving near his home in Jacksonville, Allen crashed his car in an accident which killed his girlfriend and left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The injuries also limited the use of his upper body and arms. He later plead no contest to DUI manslaughter.

During the 1987 Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute tour Allen served as musical director — selecting the set lists, arranging the songs and setting the stage. However, remaining on the sidelines while his band took center stage proved painful for the guitarist. Part of Allen’s sentence from his car wreck, called for him to use his fame and influence to warn kids of the dangers of drunk driving. Allen used the Tribute tour to go on stage and let his fans know the reason why he couldn’t play with Skynyrd — a powerful, sobering message few fans will forget.

In 1989, Allen developed pneumonia as a result of decreased lung capacity from the paralyzation. He entered the hospital in September where he passed away on January 23, 1990.

Allen Collins – Rossington Collins Band One Good Man

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Stevie Ray Vaughan 8/1990

Stevie_Ray_Vaughan_And_Double_Trouble-Texas_Flood_(1999)-Interior_TraseraAugust 27, 1990 – Stephen “Stevie” Ray Vaughan was born October 3, 1954 in Dallas Texas, Stevie grew up in the musical shadow of his older brother Jimmie, but he had a knack for guitar playing that went far beyond prodigy or natural talent.

He was three-and-a-half years younger than his brother Jimmie (born 1951)(Fabulous Thunderbirds). Their dad, Big Jim secured a job as an asbestos worker, an occupation that involved rigorous manual effort. The family moved frequently, living in other states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma before ultimately moving to the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. A shy and insecure boy, Vaughan was deeply affected by his childhood experiences. His father struggled with alcohol abuse, and often terrorized his family and friends with his bad temper. In later years, Vaughan recalled that he had been a victim of Big Jim’s violence. Continue reading Stevie Ray Vaughan 8/1990

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John Cipollina 5/1989

john-cipollinaMay 29, 1989 – John Cipollina. He and his twin sister Michaela were born August 24, 1943 in Berkely, California, into what he described as a musical family. (There is also another sister, Antonia, and a brother, Mario who was the bass player in Huey Lewis and the News.) Cipollina’s mother, Evelyn, was an opera singer, a protege of the classical pianist Jose Iturbi, who became the twins’ godfather. Cipollina was born with chronic asthma and had to be held upright to fall asleep. (It was a condition that would not prevent him from becoming a chain smoker, however.) In his infancy, he lived in San Salvador and Guatemala, moving to Mill Valley, California, when he was six.

Naturally, the first instrument Cipollina was taught to play was the piano, as early as the age of two, but he began to be attracted to the guitar in his early teens. He recalled riding in the car with his mother and hearing Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” on the radio. “I look over at my mother and I go, ‘What’s that?’” he said, “and she goes, ‘It’s an electric guitar.’” Cipollina had heard acoustic guitars and amplified guitars, but never an electric guitar, and never the single note lines of Mickey Baker. “I really identified with it,” Cipollina said. “I thought, ‘You just said the ‘F word,’ without saying any words. Nobody in my family could bend a note on a keyboard. I thought, ‘God, that’s really cool!’”

Before long, Cipollina was absorbing the playing of Scotty Moore, James Burton and Link Wray, though at his parent’s insistence, he took classical lessons for a short time. “I drove this guy nuts,” he said of his instructor, “because everything I wanted to do, he didn’t want me to do. Then after I had thoroughly snowed my parents, I went out and got an electric guitar and completely forsaked everything else.”

Cipollina was in his first band, the Penetrators, by 1959. “It was more of a gang than a band,” he said. The gang played the popular rock’n’roll of the time – Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino – at high school dances.

But as the ‘50s gave way to the early ‘60s, rock faded in favor of folk music. Cipollina, now about to turn 20, and in a band called the Deacons, didn’t change his style. “Folk music was hip and cool and avant-garde,” he said “and I’m still a rocker. I’m still punking around. I’ve still got my long shirt on and I got my dark glasses.” Along with his black Dan-Electro guitar, it wasn’t a look that went down well at hootenannies.

Cipollina took up playing what he called the “steak and lobster” circuit, handling requests for “Girl From Ipanema,” while, in the daylight hours, trying to become a real estate salesman. Meanwhile, his living arrangements had become unusual. “I hung out with a bunch of crazy flamenco guitar players in a troupe,” he said. “I was living in a huge ferry boat with 11 other people and we were paying a little under $3 a month rent – we were still late on the rent!”

In 1964, Cipollina finally began to run into people who wanted to play rock’n’roll many of them coming out of the folk movement. There was Chet Powers (who changed his name to Dino Valenti and, later, Jessy Oris Farrow), a budding songwriter who wrote “Get Together” and was managed by disc jockey and record company owner Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue. And there was Jim Murray, a harmonica player who learned guitar.

It was Valenti who organized the group. “I can remember everything Dino said,” Cipollina recalled. “We were all going to have wireless guitars. We were going to have leather jackets made with hooks that we could hook these wireless instruments right into. And we were going to have these chicks, backup rhythm sections, that were going to dress like American Indians with real short little dresses on and they were going to have tambourines and the clappers in the tambourines wer going to be silver coins. And I’m sitting there going, ‘This guy is going to happen and we’re going to set the world on its ear.’” The next day, Valenti was arrested for possession of marijuana. He would spend the better part of the next two years in jail.

As Valenti went into jail, David Freiberg, a folk guitarist friend of his, who had been in a band with Paul Kanter and David Crosby, got out. “We were to take care of this guy Freiberg,” Cipollina said, and though they had never met before, Freiberg was added to the group. The band also added Skip Spence on guitar, and began to rehearse at Marty Balin’s club, the Marix. Balin, in search of a drummer for the band he was organizing, soon to be called Jefferson Airplane, convinced Spence to switch instruments and groups.

It was this odd circumstance, however, that led to the gelling of Cipollina’s band, since Balin, to make up for the theft, suggested they contact drummer Greg Elmore and guitarist-singer Gary Duncan, formerly of a group called the Brogues. This new version of the band had its first paying gig in December 1965, playing for the Christmas party of the comedy troupe the Committee.

The band gained financial backing from the Committee’s management, which in turn was working with Bill Graham, then part of the Mime Troup, and so Quicksilver Messenger Service became one of the early bands featured at the San Francisco dances that Graham promoted in 1966.

How the name Quicksilver Messenger Service came about

“Jim Murray and David Freiberg came up with the name,” said Cipollina. “Me and Feiberg were born on the same day, and Gary and Greg were born the same day; we were all Virgos and Murray was Gemini. And Virgos and Geminis are all ruled by the planet Mercury. Another name for Mercury is Quicksilver. Quicksilver is the messenger of the gods, and Virog is the servant. So Freiberg says, ‘Oh, Quicksilver Messenger Service.’”

By this time, of course, Valenti was finally out of jail, but according to Cipollina, he passed on rejoining the group he had started unless Elmore and Duncan were dropped. The band declined.

The quintet of Cipollina, Murray, Freiberg, Duncan, and Elmore became one of the top San Francisco bands, headlining over such contemporaries as the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms in 1966 and 1967, and even playing at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. But unlike the other bands, Quicksilver delayed signing a record contract.

“We didn’t want to sign,” said Cipollina, explaining that, early on, the group had gotten a bad taste in its mouth about record companies since it felt it had not received support from Donahue and his Autumn Records, and had then been rejected by other companies. By 1966 and 1967, when the major labels were coming to San Francisco with their checkbooks, “we didn’t need them,” Cipollina said. “We had no use for them, and we were unsigned. And we were making more money. We would make double the money of the guys who had the record contract.

“We watched everybody else. We watched the Dead, who used to be a fairly funny band, and they were happy-go-lucky, groovin’ kind of guys. And we’d come by and we’d see them getting’ real serious and talking about having to pay back the company. And we watched Jefferson Airplane. They got a record contract and they were just hustling all of the time. Somebody gives you a whole bunch of money one day, and the next day you owe all this money back.”

Reasonable as this sounds, it meant that Quicksilver was not heard on record until after the first blush of publicity and notoriety about San Francisco and the Summer of Love had already passed. They never had the chance to ride that wave to national popularity, as Jefferson Airplane did in the summer of 1967, and, as it turned out, they didn’t stick around long enough to build a loyal mass following, as the Dead did.

The group finally signed to Capitol Records in the fall of 1967, at which time Murray quit. He did stay around long enough to work on the first recording sessions, which produced two songs used on the soundtrack for the film Revolution, issued in March 1968.

It was as a quartet, however, that Quicksilver recorded their first album at the end of 1967. “The first album was the easiest because we didn’t know any better,” Cipollina said. “We didn’t know what constituted making an album. I had lots of trouble in the old days. In those days, when you would record, they had a huge red light, a hundred-watt lightbulb sitting on a floor stand, that would light up ominously when the record button was on. Besides, they had a sign outside that said, ‘Recording. Do Not Open This Door.’ And every time that red light would go on, I would just freeze up. It took me a couple of days to convince these guys, ‘You gotta just get rid of that light, man! I don’t want to know what’s going on!’”

Released in May 1968, Quicksilver Messenger Service featured “Pride Of Man,” a former folk song written by Hamilton Camp (since reclaimed for folkies by the Washington Squares) and a 12-minute song by Duncan and Freiberg called “The Fool.” Rolling Stone, the arbiter of all things from San Francisco at the time, pronounced the album too derivative of the Electric Flag, though it was complimentary toward Cipollina’s playing. The album entered the Billboard charts on June 22, and reached #63, staying in the charts for 25 weeks, a better showing than the Grateful Dead’s Anthem Of The Sun, but far below Jefferson Airplane’s Top 10 Crown Of Creation, and Big Brother And The Holding Company’s chart-topping Cheap Thrills.

Cipollina’s remarks indicate a vast preference for playing live over studio work, a common opinion among San Francisco musicians of the time. Accordingly, the band’s second album, Happy Trails, was recorded live in the fall of 1968. “Live recording was easy,” Cipollina said. “The second album was live, and it was a piece of cake. I think it was probably the best album we ever did, for that reason.”

But there were other problems. “The band started to fall apart during that one,” Cipollina said. “Gary Duncan quit the band as soon as we started recording it, which took a lot of the fire out of the band.” Surprisingly, Duncan hooked up with Valenti, who had released a solo album in 1968.

Happy Trails was released in the spring of 1969. It entered the charts on March 29 and rose to #27, far better than the first album (and roughly the same showing as the band’s next three albums would have). It has come to be remembered as the band’s best work. Even critic Dave Marsh, who is dismissive of Quicksilver, was impressed. “The group made only one noteworthy record, Happy Trails,” he wrote in The Rolling Stone Record Guide in 1979, “which catches them live, at their peak, on versions of ‘Who Do You Love’ and ‘Mona.’ Both tracks feature guitar extravaganzas by John Cipollina that are among the best instrumental work any San Francisco band did.”

Unfortunately, Quicksilver was not able to capitalize on their popular and critical success. “After we did the Happy Trails album, we took a year off,” Cipollina said. “This is when trios were happening, but we were not a power trio. Elmore could cover. Elmore loves trios. But Freiberg is not a trio bass player and I’m not a trio guitar player. ‘Cause, like a trio guitar player’s gotta use all six strings, which is something I’ve never gotten around to doing.”

To fill out the sound, Quicksilver surprisingly added keyboards. “I wanted a piano player.” Cipollina explained. “Quicksilver was the only band I had ever played in without keyboards. And I decided that we wanted (British session ace) Nicky Hopkins, even though I had never met the guy. I didn’t know anything about him; I decided that’s who we needed and the band went along with it. Nicky and I became real good friends and we ended up doing the third album, Shady Grove.” The album was recorded I the fall of 1969 and issued at the start of the new year.

Rolling Stone approved of the new sound. “The old Quicksilver was immediate, instrumentally flashing and frenzied,” wrote Gary Von Tersch. “The Quicksilver on Shady Grove has had its collective head turned around by Nicky Hopkins. The result is a more precise, more lyrical, and more textured Quicksilver.” It was also a short-lived Quicksilver, at least in this exact configuration.

“Quicksilver was slated to play at the New Year’s gig at Winterland, ’69-70,” Cipollina said, “but by this time we were a little hesitant, because we had no singer other than David and we really had trouble writing songs. It took us a year to get the material for Shady Grove together. And of course the company wanted us to do more and more originals and we had more and more trouble doing that.

“When we got Nicky, now we had a full sound, but we didn’t really have the singers. Who comes back in town but Dino and Gary, and they heard our record. Everybody thought that we hated each other, so we said, ‘Let’s prove ‘em wrong. Let’s all go down there as friends.’ And Dino, of course, was always meant to be an original member of the band, and never was, and we thought, ‘How cool to go down and do a show. We’ll just blow everybody out.’ It was a one-shot thing. We went down, and we played the New Year’s show with us and the Dead, and we did so good that before the night was over, Graham had hired us to play at the Fillmore East the following week. And the Dead were setting up a tour and they asked us to come as a headliner. And it just seemed like a natural. So, out of that one gig, Dino and Gary were back in the band.”

This happy state of affairs lasted five months, until May 1970, when the band went to Hawaii and cut what turned out to be its next two albums, Just For Love and What About Me, albums dominated by the songs of Valenti (or Jesse Farrow, as he was called for contractual reasons).

“We started having differences,” Cipollina said. “First of all, I found out that the difference between a four-piece band and a six-piece band is I had less and less to do. And due to the music that we were doing, which was more folk-oriented than I was used to and very simple, there was less and less playing for me to do. So I just sat around and did less playing.”

Cipollina found other places to play. “Nicky turned me on to doing sessions,” he said, “which was not a cool thing. Being in the band was kind of like being married. And playing with somebody else was like cheating on your spouse. I can remember coming in one day after I had done a Brewer and Shipley track. I came into rehearsal and I got the cold stares and the cold shoulders. And finally, somebody said, ‘So you played with Brewer and Shipley!’ Like, ‘How could you,’ you know? ‘You’re sleeping on the couch tonight!’

“I got it put to me that, ‘Well, do you wanna play in a band, or do you wanna do sessions?’ I left Quicksilver (officially) October 5, 1970. Nicky and I left about May. That’s when the showdown came. But then we had obligations, so I ended up doing two more national tours up till October.”

Just For Love had been released in the summer of 1970, and What About Me came out at the start of the new year. Feiberg left the band in 1971 to join Paul Kanter and Grace Slick. Valenti, Duncan and Elmore carried on as Quicksilver for two more albums.

As for Cipollina, “I ended up doing about four years in the studio where basically that was all I did,” he said. “In fact, there was a magazine I read some place that quoted me, I was like at one time the busiest session man in San Francisco. Which is real misleading, anyway, ‘cause San Francisco isn’t that big of a recording town. But I was the busiest session man; I was working every day.”

Cipollina also put together a new band, Copperhead, that featured, at various times, Jim McPearson on keyboards, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Pete Sears on bass and keyboards, Gary Phlippet on guitar, keyboards and vocals, and Dave Weber on drums. “I started looking for new directions, because I was so burned out at that time with the San Francisco bands,” Cipollina said. “At first, we were all fighting for individuality, and we fought so hard that we were stereotyped. I thought, man, if I see another pair of Levis with patches on the knees, and if I see another guitar with an STP sticker on it, I’m gonna puke. I started looking for something fresh.

“We were an early punk band. In fact, the term ‘punk rock’ was coined for one of the early reviews that Copperhead got, late ’70, early ’71. It was a San Francisco critic, in disdain, who said, well it’s not really San Francisco rock, and it’s not really hard rock, its’ kind of punk rock. And I thought, that looks good, that’s us. We did have a real bad attitude which I was really proud of. It might not have been commercial, but it was definitely more professional.”

Copperhead never got a chance to find out how commercial it might be. The group released an album on Columbia Records in May 1973, the same month that label president Clive Davis, who had signed them, was fired. “They’re cleaning out (Davis’s) desk,” Cipollina said, “and they find this contract for $1,350,000, and they went, ‘Who are these guys?’ So they killed the act. They printed, as far as I know, 60,000 units and that was just accidentally. And then they stopped it. And that was it. In fact, we talked to some booking agents and I found out later that CBS threatened them. They said, ‘If you book Copperhead we’ll take off every CBS act you got.’ They made sure we didn’t work. So by ’74 we just kind of drifted; there was no sense in it.”

But Copperhead was far from Cipollina’s only project at the time. He had met Terry Dolan shortly after his breakup with Quicksilver, and played in Dolan’s band, Terry and the Pirates, until his death. “I got my first time running in with Terry and my last session I did with Quicksilver back in 1970,” Cipollina said. “Nicky had already left Quicksilver and he was producing this guy Terry Dolan. I had just left PHR (Pacific High Recording) studios. We were doing the last overdubs on the What About Me album. And then I ended up going to Wally Heider’s studio.

“I remember I got in a jam with (Jerry) Garcia and Jorma (Kaukonen) and a bunch of bozos. It was just one of those things you do when you don’t want to go home, you know? It was about four in the morning and I’m almost ready to go home now. I got a call from Nicky saying, ‘Hey, come on over, man, I’m over at Lone State Recorders. You ought to come over here, it’s a lot of fun. I’m doing a session. We’d really like you to put a track down or two.’ So I went over there and that’s how I ran into Terry. And then he kept doing sessions and then somewhere along the line, I guess it was after Copperhead, or during Copperhead, he decided to do some gigs. They were real easy and it was a lot of fun. After Copperhead, I ended up playing a lot in Terry and the Pirates. And then of course I went and did the Man thing.”

Man, a Welsh band led by Mickey Jones, Terry Williams and Deke Leonard, had been heavily influenced by Cipollina. “They came to San Francisco and they were big fans and they wanted to meet me,” he said. “So I went in and I met them and they immediately accused me of not being me. I didn’t live up to their expectations at all. They said, ‘Aw, you can’t be him. How tall are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m five-nine.’ And they said, ‘Everybody knows Cipollina’s at least six-two to six-four.’ I said, ‘Bullshit.’ They said, ‘We’ve seen pictures of Quicksilver. He’s a big, tall guy.’ And I actually showed them my license.

“I had never had anybody accuse me of not being me before. It was weird. Deke Leonard said, ‘Well, if you’re Cipollina, here, play something like him. And I don’t know how ‘he’ plays, you know? So we did a jam and I guess I passed.” Cipollina played with the band at the Winterland in San Francisco, and agreed to return with them to England. He appeared on their Maximum Darkness album, released in 1975. but the association was short-circuited by a call from home.

“We were just about to go to Spain,” Cipollina said, “and I got a call from the States saying, ‘Hey, we got Quicksilver back together.’ Before I’d left, somebody had asked me if I would ever play with Quicksilver again. And I was very explicit. I said, ‘Yes, but only if it was the original musicians and you got everybody to agree with it.’ So I went back and did the Quicksilver reunion (Solid Silver), and then did two tours coast to coast with the band.” The album, which came out in the fall of 1975, was only a moderate seller, peaking at #89, and the Quicksilver reunion proved a temporary affair.

Still working with Dolan and doing sessions, Cipollina moved on to a new band project, organized in a typically offhand way. “I had gotten involved at a party with a bunch of L.A. bigwigs and we were all under the influences of whatever,” he said. “We were quite egotistical, including myself. And somebody said, ‘Do you write songs?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I write, sure, you bet!’ ‘Well do you got any new material?’ ‘You bet! I just spit ‘em out, man, like gum.’ And they said, ‘Well, God, we gotta get you in the studio, love to hear your stuff.’ So, three years later, they finally said, ‘Come on, are you gonna go in or not?’ And at the time I had a couple of tunes that I had written and I was ready to put down and I had to pull a band together.

“So I got members of the last three bands that I had worked with, who were Quicksilver, Copperhead, and Terry and the Pirates. And I put Raven together in the beginning of ’76. I went in the studio and cut a bunch of my stuff and we had so much fun in the studio, we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, let’s do some gigs. Come on, what do you say?’ And that’s how Raven started, and then it just got to be crazy. We only did about four gigs.”

Though recorded in 1976, the resulting Raven album would not be released until 1980, and then on the German Line Records label. Cipollina sold the Raven album to Line while on a tour of Germany with Nick Gravenites, the blues-rock singer, who had produced and played with Quicksilver. It was one of many tours he would undertake with Gravenites, another association that lasted until his death.

Along with his work with Dolan and Gravenites, Cipollina continued to do extensive studio work throughout the 1980s, and to play in San Francisco-based bands in a bewildering profusion. Bands like Thunder and Lightning and Problem Child, with whom Cipollina frequently played on the Bay Area club circuit, never recorded. But other bands, such as the Ghosts, the post-Grateful Dead band led by Keith and Donna Godchaux, did make records. The Ghosts metamorphosed into the Heart of Gold Band after Keith Godchaux’s death and, eventually, into Zero, which issued an album on Relix Records in 1987. Another major affiliation for Cipollian was the Dinosaurs, a band consisting of former members of various San Francisco bands, including former Country Joe And The Fish guitarist Barry Melton, that eventually issued an album on Relix in 1988.

Despite this activity, Cipollina was in declining health. He was sidelined for three months in 1988 due to respiratory problems. When traveling, he reportedly used wheelchairs in airports because he couldn’t walk long distances. The steroids prescribed by doctors for his disease weakened his hip bones, forcing him to use crutches offstage, and he usually sat while playing. Of course, performing in smoke-filled clubs was bad for his health, but he refused to stop playing, even completing a tour of Greece with Gravenites this spring. On Monday, May 29, 1989 he was rushed to Marin General Hospital after an asthma attack. He died in the later evening hours.

Cipollina was cremated and his ashes were spread on Mt. Tamalpais in San Francisco on June 1. He had been scheduled to play with Thunder and Lightning at the Chi Chi Club in San Francisco on June 2, and Gravenites and his band Animal Mind, joined by Mario Cipollina and Greg Elmore, played a tribute show instead. But no one in the room could have played guitar like John Cipollina. No one ever did. Rolling Stone Magazine rated him nr. 32 on the list of best guitar players.

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Roy Buchanan 8/1988

Roy Buchanan Guitar virtuosoAugust 14, 1988 – Leroy “Roy” Buchanan was born on September 23rd 1939 in Ozark, Arkansas and was raised there and in Pixley, California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas and a farm laborer in California.

His first musical memories were of racially mixed revival meetings he attended with his mother Minnie. “Gospel,” he recalled, “that’s how I first got into black music.” He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while learning to play his instrument (though he later claimed his aptitude derived from being “half-wolf”). He initially showed talent on steel guitar before switching to guitar in the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis’s rhythm and blues revue.

In 1958, Buchanan made his recording debut with Dale Hawkins, including playing the solo on “My Babe” for Chicago’s Chess Records. Two years later, during a tour through Toronto, Buchanan left Dale Hawkins to play for his cousin Ronnie Hawkins and tutor Ronnie’s guitar player, Robbie Robertson. Buchanan plays bass on the Ronnie Hawkins single, “Who Do You Love?”. Buchanan soon returned to the U.S. and Ronnie Hawkins’ group later gained fame as The Band.

By the dawn of the ’60s, Buchanan had relocated once more, this time to Canada, where he signed on with rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. The bass player of Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks, studied guitar with Buchanan during his tenure with the band. Upon Buchanan’s exit, the bassist-turned-guitarist would become the leader of the group, which would eventually become popular roots rockers the Band: Robbie Robertson.

In 1961 he released “Mule Train Stomp”, his first single for Swan, featuring rich guitar tones. Buchanan’s 1962 recording with drummer Bobby Gregg, nicknamed “Potato Peeler,” first introduced the trademark Buchanan “pinch” harmonic. An effort to cash in on the British Invasion caught Buchanan with the British Walkers. Buchanan spent the ’60s as a sideman with obscure acts, as well as working as a session guitarist for such varied artists as pop idol Freddy Cannon, country artist Merle Kilgore, and drummer Bobby Gregg, among others, before Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C., area in the mid- to late ’60s and founded his own outfit, the Snakestretchers. Despite not having appeared on any recordings of his own, word of Buchanan’s exceptional playing skills began to spread among musicians as he received accolades from the likes of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Merle Haggard, as well as supposedly being invited to join the Rolling Stones at one point (which he turned down).In the mid-1960s, Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C. area, playing for Danny Denver’s band for many years while acquiring a reputation as “...one of the very finest rock guitarists around”.

Reputedly Jimi Hendrix would not take up the challenge of a ‘pick-off’ with Roy. The facts behind that claim are that in March 1968 a photographer friend, John Gossage gave Buchanan tickets to a concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Washington Hilton. Buchanan reportedly was dismayed to find his own trademark sounds, like the wah-wah that he’d painstakingly produced with his hands and his Telecaster, was created by electronic pedals. He could never attempt Hendrix’s stage show, and this realization refocused him on his own quintessentially American roots-style guitar picking.

Gossage recalls how Roy was very impressed by the Hendrix 1967 debut album Are You Experienced?, which was why he made sure to give Roy a ticket to the early show at the Hilton. Gossage went backstage to take photos and tried to convince Jimi to go and see Roy at the Silver Dollar that night after the show, but Jimi seemed more interested in hanging out with the young lady who was backstage with him. Gossage confirms Hendrix never showed up at the Silver Dollar, but he did talk to Roy about seeing the Hilton show. That same night at the Silver Dollar, Roy did several Hendrix numbers and “from that point on, had nothing but good things to say about Hendrix”. He later released recordings of the Hendrix composition “If 6 Was 9” and the Hendrix hit “Hey Joe” (written by Billy Roberts).

At the end of the 1960s, with a growing family, Buchanan left the professional music industry for a while to learn a trade and trained as a hairdresser. In the early ’70s, Roy Buchanan performed extensively in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area with the Danny Denver Band, which had a large following in the area. He became widely appreciated as a solo act in the DC area at this time.

Buchanan’s life changed in 1971, when he gained national notice as the result of an hour-long PBS television documentary. Entitled Introducing Roy Buchanan, and sometimes mistakenly called The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, it earned a record deal with Polydor Records and praise from John Lennon and Merle Haggard, besides an alleged invitation to join the Rolling Stones which he turned down and which gave him the nickname “the man who tumbled the stones down”. In 1977 he appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits during Season 2. Buchanan spent the remainder of the decade issuing solo albums, including such guitar classics as his 1972 self-titled debut (which contained one of Buchanan’s best-known tracks, “The Messiah Will Come Again”), 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For, and 1975’s Live Stock, before switching to Atlantic for several releases. But by the ’80s, Buchanan had grown disillusioned by the music business due to the record company’s attempts to mold him into a more mainstream artist, which led to a four-year exile from music between 1981 and 1985.

Buchanan vowed never to enter a studio again unless he could record his own music his own way. Four years later, Alligator Records coaxed Buchanan back into the studio.

His first album for Alligator, When a Guitar Plays the Blues, was released in the spring of 1985. It was the first time he had total artistic freedom in the studio. The album entered Billboard’s pop charts and remained on the charts for 13 weeks.  His second Alligator LP, Dancing on the Edge (with vocals on three tracks by Delbert McClinton), was released in the fall of 1986. The album also charted, on the Billboard album chart for 8 weeks. He released the twelfth and last album of his career, Hot Wires, in 1987.

Although playing a number of guitars, he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster guitar nicknamed “Nancy”, the one he used to produce his trebly signature tone

But just as his career seemed to be on the upswing once more, tragedy struck on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was picked up by police in Fairfax, VA, for public intoxication. Shortly after being arrested and placed in a holding cell, a policeman performed a routine check on Buchanan and was shocked to discover that he had hung himself in his cell. Buchanan’s stature as one of blues-rock’s all-time great guitarists grew even greater after his tragic death, resulting in such posthumous collections as Sweet Dreams: The Anthology, Guitar on Fire: The Atlantic Sessions, Deluxe Edition, and 20th Century Masters and the live When a Telecaster Plays the Blues, which appeared in 2009. He was 48 at the time of his death.

Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, Arlen Roth, and Jeff Beck. Beck dedicated his version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from Blow by Blow to him. His work is said to “stretch the limits of the electric guitar,” and he is praised for “his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock ‘n’ roll.” Danny Gatton, who was also features as “the World’s Greatest Unknown Guitar Player”, committed suicide in 1994.

In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of “Sweet Dreams,” from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the “50 Greatest Tones of All Time.” In the same year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers’ poll. Roy is the subject of Freddy Blohm’s song “King of a Small Room.”

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Hillel Slovak 6/1988

hillel-slovakJune 25, 1988 – Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) was born on April 13, 1962 in Haifa, Israel. His family, holocaust survivors, emigrated to America when Hillel was four settling in Queens, New York, then in 1967 relocated to Southern California.

As a child, Slovak developed an interest in art, and would often spend time painting with his mother, Esther. He attended Laurel Elementary School in West Hollywood and Bancroft Jr. High School in Hollywood, where he met future bandmates Jack Irons and Michael “Flea” Balzary. Slovak received his first guitar at age 13 as a bar mitzvah present, and would often play the instrument into the late hours of the night. During this time, he was highly influenced by hard rock music such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Kiss.

As a freshman at Fairfax High School, Slovak formed a band with Irons on drums and two other high school friends, Alain Johannes and Todd Strassman. They called their band Chain Reaction, then changed the name to Anthem after their first gig. After one of the group’s shows, Slovak met audience member Anthony Kiedis, and invited him to his house for a snack. Kiedis later described the experience in his autobiography Scar Tissue: “Within a few minutes of hanging out with Hillel, I sensed that he was absolutely different from most of the people I’d spent time with…He understood a lot about music, he was a great visual artist, and he had a sense of self and a calm about him that were just riveting.” Slovak, Kiedis and Flea became best friends and often used LSD, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine recreationally.

The original bassist for Anthem, which renamed to Anthym, was deemed unsatisfactory, so Slovak began teaching Flea to play bass. Following several months of commitment to the instrument, Flea developed proficiency and a strong musical chemistry with Slovak. When Strassman saw Flea playing Anthym songs on his equipment he quit the band, with Flea quickly replacing him. Shortly afterwards Anthym entered a local Battle of the Bands contest and won second place. Anthym started to play at local nightclubs, despite the fact that the members were all underage. After graduating from high school, the band changed their name to What Is This?. Flea left Anthym around this time to accept an offer of playing bass in the prominent L.A. punk band Fear. What Is This? continued on and performed many shows along the California coast.

They next dubbed themselves “Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem”, before changing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slovak, Flea, Kiedis, and Irons started Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1982, which became popular in the Los Angeles area, playing various shows around the city.

However, Slovak quit the band to focus on What is This?, a side project which had gotten a record deal, leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers to record their debut album without him. He rejoined the Chili Peppers in 1985, and recorded the albums Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan with the band.

Hillel’s work was one of the major contributing factors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early sound. He was also a huge influence on a young John Frusciante, who would later replace him as guitarist in the band.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers quickly gathered a following in L.A. with a high-energy stage act that caused quite a stir when the bandmembers would hit the stage in nothing but a sock strategically covering a certain part of their anatomy. But on a darker note, it was around this time that Slovak began to experiment with heroin. After Slovak and Irons decided to return to the Peppers full-time, the result became the 1985 George Clinton-produced Freaky Styley.

While it didn’t exactly storm the charts, the album and its subsequent tour made the Peppers popular with the alternative/college rock crowd. 1987 saw the Peppers issue their best and most focused work, Uplift Mofo Party Plan, which inched the band even closer to mainstream success, as the album appeared on the lower reaches of the Billboard album chart.

What should have been an exciting time for Slovak and the band turned to tragedy on June 25, 1988, when Slovak died from a heroin overdose. Devastated, the band contemplated disbanding, but Kiedis and Flea decided to carry on (Irons opted to bow out) — with Slovak-disciple John Frusciante filling the late guitarist’s shoes, and another newcomer, Chad Smith, taking over the drum spot. 1989’s Mother’s Milk was dedicated to Slovak and included one of his paintings as part of the album artwork (as well as one of the last tracks Slovak ever recorded with the Peppers — an incendiary cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”). He was 26.

The album was a surprise hit, which led to the band becoming one of rock’s top dogs by the ’90s. Slovak was also the subject of the Peppers songs “Knock Me Down” (from Mother’s Milk) and “My Lovely Man” (off 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik), while the 1994 odds and ends release Out in L.A. collected early Peppers demos, many of which prominently featured the guitar wizardry of Slovak. Hillel Slovak’s younger brother, James, published the book Behind the Sun: The Diary and Art of Hillel Slovak in 1999 and accepted the honors in 2012, when the band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Jesse Ed Davis 6/1988

jesse-ed-davisJune 22, 1988 – Jesse Edwin Davis  was born on September 21, 1944 in Norman, Oklahoma. His father, Jesse Ed Davis II, was Muscogee Creek and Seminole while his mother’s side was Kiowa. He graduated from Northeast High School in 1962. He earned a degree in literature from the University of Oklahoma before beginning his musical career touring with Conway Twitty in the early ’60s. Eventually the guitarist moved to California, joining bluesman Taj Mahal and playing guitar and piano on his first three albums. It was with Mahal that Davis was able to showcase his skill and range, playing slide, lead, and rhythm, country, and even jazz guitar, also making an appearance with the band as a musical guest in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

The period backing Mahal was the closest Davis came to being in a band full-time, and after Mahal’s 1969 album Giant Step, he went on to work closely with ex-Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, playing guitar on several of their solo albums. He released his first solo album the self-titled album Jesse Davis in 1971. Davis also began doing session work for such diverse acts as David Cassidy, Albert King, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Keith Moon, Jackson Browne, Steve Miller, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and others. In addition, he also released three solo albums featuring industry friends such as Leon Russell and Eric Clapton.

Prone to addictions, Davis disappeared from the music industry for a time, spending much of the ’80s dealing with alcohol and drug addiction.  Davis resurfaced playing in the Graffiti Band in late 1986, which coupled his music with the poetry of American Indian activist John Trudell. The kind of expert, tasteful playing that Davis always brought to an album is sorely missed among the acts he worked with.

Jesse Ed Davis was perhaps the most versatile session guitarist of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Whether it was blues, country, or rock, Davis’ tasteful guitar playing was featured on albums by such giants as Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, and John Lee Hooker, among others. It is Davis’ weeping slide heard on Clapton’s “Hello Old Friend” (from No Reason to Cry), and on both Rock n’ Roll and Walls & Bridges, it is Davis who supplied the bulk of the guitar work for ex-Beatle Lennon.

In the Spring of ’87, The Graffiti Band performed with Taj Mahal at the Palomino Club, and George Harrison, Bob Dylan and John Fogerty rose from the audience to join Jesse and Taj Mahal in an unrehearsed set which included Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” and Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” and “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Peggy Sue”, “Honey Don’t”, “Matchbox”, and “Gone, Gone, Gone”.

He tragically died of a suspected drug overdose on June 22, 1988 at the age of 43.

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Hollywood Fats 12/1986

Hollywood FatsDecember 8, 1986 – Hollywood Fats was born Michael Leonard Mann in Los Angeles on March 17, 1954. He started playing guitar at the age of 10. While in his teens, his mother would drive him to various clubs in South Central Los Angeles to jam with well-known blues musicians when they came to town. Hollywood Fats’ father was a doctor and his siblings went on to become doctors and lawyers. He gigged with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells who gave him the nickname.

Hollywood Fats toured with James Harman, Jimmy Witherspoon, J. B. Hutto, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Albert King.
During the 1970s and 1980s he worked with the blues harmonica player and singer James Harman. He played on a number of his records including Extra Napkin’s, Mo’ Na’Kins, Please, Those Dangerous Gentlemans and Live in ’85. Other guitarists with whom he played included Junior Watson, Kid Ramos and Dave Alvin.
Hollywood Fats was invited to be a sideman to Muddy Waters and later met the harmonica player Al Blake. Blake had just moved to Los Angeles from Oklahoma. In 1974, Hollywood Fats and Blake formed a band consisting of pianist Fred Kaplan, Richard Innes on drums and Canned Heat bassist Larry Taylor called the Hollywood Fats Band.

For a King Biscuit Flower Hour concert on September 7, 1979, which was later to be released on record, Hollywood Fats played the lead guitar in Canned Heat.

The Hollywood Fats Band released a self-titled album in 1979, the only album under their name. The band broke up not long after and Hollywood Fats continued to play with Harman’s band, and The Blasters in 1986 replacing Dave Alvin. Hollywood Fats also played with a non-blues band called Dino’s Revenge from 1985 through 1986. He recorded three songs with Dino’s Revenge as well as playing several live performances. The band consisted of Marshall Rohner of T.S.O.L. as well as Kevan Hill, Butch Azevedo and Steven Ameche all of The Twisters.

The Fats Band always rehearsed at Alley Studios in North Hollywood where this informal, yet very important and now rare recording was made. Fats tragically died at the young age of 32, one week after this rehearsal date, thus cutting short an already brilliant career that had he lived, was destined for true legend.Upon his death Guitar Player Magazine wrote in a tribute to him that he was the greatest blues guitar player to come along in the last 25 years.
The show the band was rehearsing for was the annual Southern California Blues Society’s Christmas party held at the Music Machine on Pico Blvd in west Los Angeles.
The night of the show was a joyous occasion and there were many big time music celebrities in the audience. Among them was Lee Allen, the legendary New Orleans saxophone player, heard playing on so many great rock and roll classics by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Kris Kenner.,etc. Lee played with The Fats Band that night. The band was on fire sounding better than ever with great hopes for the future-but it was not to be. Dreams and aspirations were soon shattered after a night of celebration. Hollywood Fats departed this world in the early morning hours of the following day on December 8, 1986 as the result of a heroin overdose at the age of 32.

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Cliff Burton 9/1986

Cliff burtonSeptember 27, 1986 – Clifford Lee “Cliff” Burton was born on February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, California; best known for his time with metal band Metallica. He is widely considered to have been one of the most influential metal bassists of all time. He made heavy use of distortion and effects, heard on his signature piece, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”.

He began playing bass at age 13, practicing up to six hours per day, even after he joined Metallica. Cliff formed his first band “EZ-Street”, taking its name from a Bay Area topless bar. Other members of EZ Street included future Faith No More guitarist “Big” Jim Martin and future Faith No More and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Mike Bordin.

Cliff and Martin continued their musical collaboration after becoming students at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. Their second band, “Agents of Misfortune”, entered the Hayward Area Recreation Department’s “Battle of the Bands” contest in 1981. Their audition was recorded on video and features some of the earliest footage of Cliff’s trademark playing style. The video also shows his playing some parts of what would soon be two Metallica songs: his signature bass solo, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”, and the chromatic intro to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

He joined his first major band, Trauma, in 1982, after which he was invited to join Metallica, his first recording with Metallica was the Megaforce Demo. He recorded Metallica’s first 3 albums Kill ‘Em All-1983, Ride the Lightning-1984, and Master of Puppets-1986, before his tragic untimely death.

Cliff’s final performance was in Stockholm, Sweden on September 26th 1986. Tragically Cliff was crushed to death after the band’s tour bus crashed on the road between Stockholm and Copenhagen, killing him instantly.

Burton was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica on April 4, 2009. He was selected as the ninth greatest bassist of all time in an online reader poll organized by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2011.

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Dennes Boon 12/1985

dennes boon - the minutemenDecember 22, 1985 – Dennes Boon or “D” Boon (Minutemen) was born on April 1, 1958 in San Pedro, California and was best known as the guitarist and vocalist of the American punk rock trio Minutemen. In 1985 he was killed in a traffic crash at the age of 27.

His father, a navy veteran, worked installing radios in Buick cars, and the Boons lived in former World War II barracks that had been converted into public housing. As a teenager, Boon began painting and signed his works “D. Boon”, partly because “D” was his slang for cannabis, partly after Daniel Boone, but mostly because it was similar to E. Bloom, Blue Öyster Cult’s vocalist and guitarist. Continue reading Dennes Boon 12/1985

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Gordon Huntley 3/1985

gordonhMarch 7, 1985 – Gordon Huntley (Southern Comfort) was born in 1930. Nicknamed The Governor, he played steel pedal with the Hawaiian Serenaders on a triple neck Fender lap steel. In 1959 he progressed  on to ‘pedal’ steel by adding a pedal to his guitar made out of a tractor accelerator pedal and bicycle brake cable.

He started his long career out on the road with Felix Mendelssohn & his Hawaiian Serenaders, and by the late 50’s before pedals were standard in the UK, Gordon was playing a triple-neck Fender non-pedal guitar.

Later he took over from Jeff Newman in his band ‘The Westernaires’, made up of U.S. Servicemen when Jeff returned to the States in 1963. By this time he had built himself one pedal onto his steel! Soon after he got himself his first model, a six pedal. Around this time Gordon also teamed up with Nigel Dennis (a Newbury solicitor)  to manufacture Denley steel guitars (DENnis-huntLEY) however they were not without problems when Gordon lent on it at a gig and a leg sheared off!

By 1970 Gordon had joined to Ian Mathews’ Southern Comfort and was able to buy his first ZB Custom from friend Eric Snowball of ‘The Steel Mill’ in Maidstone, Kent, using the royalties from the single ‘Woodstock’ (which reached N0 1 in the UK charts that year). The group debuted with Frog City, in 1971, which was followed up by self-titled release and Stir Don’t Shake in 1972. Gordon played on all Southern Comforts albums and singles.

The beautiful velvet tones of his steel on their No.1 hit ‘Woodstock’ was probably an introduction and inspiration to many guitarists and future pedal steel guitarists.

From then on his steel sound could be heard on recordings by names such as  Iain Matthews, Elton John, Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart, Clodagh Rogers, Barbara Dickson, The Pretty Things, Pilot,Marc Ellington, Bridget Saint Paul, Cliff Richard, Pete Green, Demis Roussos, John Renbourn, Al Jones, Fairport Convention and many others. Gordon was known as the Father of British Pedal Steel guitaring.As well as all the bands he has been a member of he became a much in-demand session player in both the studio and out on the road, which he preferred,

Gordon died at the age of 55 on March 7, 1985 from complications of cancer.

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Jimmy Nolen 12/1983

Jimmy NolenDecember 18, 1983 – Jimmy ‘Chank’ Nolen was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 3rd 1934.

He started learning the violin at aged 6, then began teaching himself guitar at 14, inspired by T-Bone Walker. Singer Jimmy Wilson saw him in a Tulsa club and took him back to Los Angeles, where Nolen began his recording career backing trumpeter Monte Easter and Chuck Higgins and in the autumn of 1956, he recorded three sessions for Federal, from which six singles were released to little effect. During this time, he also started working with Johnny Otis, playing on many sessions for Otis’ Dig label and recording some sides under his own name for John Fullbright’s Elko label.

He remained with Otis for a couple of years and played on ‘Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me’ and ‘Willie And The Hand Jive’. He was the principal composer behind Otis’ hit “Willie And The Hand Jive.” He remained in Otis’ band until 1959 when he formed his own group, The Jimmy Nolen Band.

In that same year Nolen signed with Specialty Records subsidiary Fidelity, from which just one single emerged. Much of the early 60s was spent backing harmonica player George Smith before joining James Brown’s band, where in February 1965 his guitar licks became the defining element of ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’. Jimmy soon became known for his distinctive “chicken scratch” lead guitar playing in James’ bands.

In 1970, when Brown’s back up band became tired of his antics and refusal to pay them properly, Nolen started to tour with Maceo Parker’s group Maceo & All the King’s Men, only to return to The James Brown Band two years later. Jimmy stayed with James until his [Jimmy’s] death. Known as the inventor of the ‘Chicken Scratch’ and thus the father of funk guitar, Nolen’s career ended suddenly on Dec 18, 1983 with a fatal heart attack while the band was on tour in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Randy Rhoads 3/1982

Randy RhoadsMarch 19, 1982 – Randall “Randy” Rhoads (Quiet Riot/the Blizzard of Ozz) was born in Santa Monica, California on December 6, 1956.

Randy started taking guitar lessons around the age of 6 or 7 at a music school in North Hollywood called Musonia, which was owned by his mother. His first guitar was a Gibson (acoustic) that belonged to Delores Rhoads’ father. Randy and his sister (Kathy) both began folk guitar lessons at the same time with Randy later taking piano lessons (at his mother’s request) so that he could learn to read music. Randy’s piano lessons did not last very long. At the age of 12, Randy became interested in rock guitar. His mother, Delores, had an old semi-acoustic Harmony Rocket, that at that time was almost larger than he was. For almost a year Randy took lessons from Scott Shelly, a guitar teacher at his mother’s school. Scott Shelly eventually went to Randy’s mother explaining that he could not teach him anymore as Randy knew everything that he knew.

When Randy was about 14, he and his brother formed their first band, Violet Fox, named after his mother’s middle name, Violet. With Randy playing rhythm guitar and his brother Doug playing drums, Violet Fox were together about 4 to 5 months. Randy was in various other bands, such as “The Katzenjammer Kids” and “Mildred Pierce”, playing parties in the Burbank area before he formed Quiet Riot in 1976 with longtime friend and bassist Kelly Garni. Randy Rhoads and Kelly Garni (whom Randy taught to play bass guitar) met Kevin DuBrow through a mutual friend from Hollywood.

Around that same time Randy began teaching guitar in his mother’s school during the day and playing with Quiet Riot at night. Originally called “Little Women”, Quiet Riot were quickly becoming one of the biggest acts in the Los Angeles area and eventually obtained a recording contract with CBS/Sony records, releasing two full length l.p.’s and one e.p. in Japan.

Quiet Riots two records, Quiet Riot 1 (1978), which was originally recorded for an American record label,and Quiet Riot 2 (1979), received rave reviews in the Japanese press, claiming them to be the “next big thing”. Unfortunately these recordings were never released in the United States. While there were plans for Quiet Riot to tour Japan, their management turned down the offer and Quiet Riot stayed in the United States continuing to sell out college and high school auditoriums as well as clubs in the Los Angeles area. Randy was very into his look on stage. He would dress excentric, often wearing polka dotted outfits. He would also sit and draw his name in various designs. One of those now famous designs can be seen on Ozzy’s tribute album: the “RR” was Randy’s creation. About 5 months before Randy left Quiet Riot, he went to Karl Sandoval to have a custom guitar made. Several meetings and drawings later they would ultimately create a black and white polka-dot flying “V” guitar that would become synonymous with the name Randy Rhoads. The guitar would cost Randy $738 and was picked up by Randy on September 22,1979. (September 22, 1979 saw Quiet Riot playing at the “Whiskey a go-go” in Los Angeles, California,… so chances are, that was probably the first place he ever played that guitar in front of an audience.)

In late 1979, at the encouragement of a friend (Dana Strum), Randy went to audition for a band being put together by former Black Sabbath lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne. As the story goes: Ozzy had auditioned just about every guitarist in Los Angeles and was about to go home to England, the hopes of a new band washed away. Enter Randy Rhoads. Randy wasn’t completely interested in auditioning, he was happy with his current band and thought that this audition wouldn’t amount to much. Randy walked into Ozzy’s hotel room late one evening with a guitar and a small Fender practice amp, plugged in and started tuning his guitar and began to do a few warm up exercises. Ozzy was so impressed with his warm up that he instantly gave him the job as lead guitarist at the age of 22.

Ozzy began to assemble a band that would (ultimately) record his first two solo albums.

How the band was formed is a story within a story. There are a few variations:

A) With Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, bassist Dana Strum (Slaughter), and drummer Frankie Bannalli (Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P.), the band began to rehearse in Los Angeles, California. However, when it came time to go to England, where Ozzy’s albums would be recorded, the record company could only obtain a work permit for one non-English band member, Randy Rhoads.

B) Drummer Lee Kerslake (who played on both of Ozzy’s solo albums) auditioned and got the position. A few weeks later while in England, Ozzy happened across Bob Daisley. Boasting about this guitar player he’d found, Ozzy convinced Bob to join his band. A few weeks later they began to rehearse for the first album in Los Angeles, California.

C) Ozzy already had a few band members when he met Bob Daisley, who would be the only one to continue on in the band. Randy Rhoads was added shortly thereafter. Lee Kerslake was the last member to join as well as the last drummer to audition. They rehearsed and wrote the first song in England before embarking on a UK tour towards the end of 1980.

Randy was whisked off to England shortly before Thanksgiving of 1979 where, at Ozzy’s home in England, they began to write the “Blizzard of Ozz” album and audition drummers. While the band rehearsed at John Henrys, a rehearsal hall in London, the earliest public performances of Randy Rhoads and Ozzy Osbourne came after they’d complete a song, then go to a local pub to play the song for whoever was there. They played under the name “Law”. One such song – Crazy Train, appeared to get the audience moving, leading them to believe that they “had something”. With ex-Uriah Heap members: Lee Kerslake (drums) and Bob Daisley (bass), the Ozzy Osbourne Band entered Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey, England on March 22, 1980 and began recording for almost a month.

“Blizzard of Ozz” was originally to be mixed by Chris Tsangarides who was fired after one week because Ozzy felt that it “was not happening” with him. Max Norman, Ridge Farm Studio’s resident engineer, was then hired to pick up where Chris left off and would play an integral part of both Ozzy Osbourne studio albums and the live EP, as well as later down the road with “Tribute”. After the finishing touches had been put on “Blizzard of Ozz”, Randy Rhoads returned home to California in May of 1980, where he teamed up one last time with the members of Quiet Riot at the Starwood club in Hollywood for their final show. However, this would not be the last time he played with Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo, who would later join Ozzy Osbourne’s band just before the start of the United States Blizzard of Ozz tour. Once back in England, the Ozzy Osbourne Band surfaced for their first official show on September 12, 1980 when 4,000 fans broke the box office record at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland. “Blizzard of Ozz” went straight into the U.K. charts at number 7 as they toured around the United Kingdom for close to three months playing 34 shows. Sales of Blizzard of Ozz more than doubled with each U.K.town they played.

December of 1980 brought Randy Rhoads back home to California for Christmas. Once again Randy wanted a custom guitar built, this time he went to Grover Jackson of Charvel guitars, about a week before Christmas. With a drawing scribbled on a piece of paper, Randy Rhoads and Grover Jackson created the very first “Jackson” guitar to ever be made. Randy’s white flying V type guitar was yet another guitar that would become synonymous with the Rhoads name. The finished guitar was sent to Randy in England about two months later.

During the months of February and March of 1981, the Osbourne band once again entered Ridge Farm Studios to record their second album titled “Diary of a Madman”. With an impending U.S. tour to follow soon after the recording of “Diary”, the actual recording of the album became rushed. (Randy’s solo on “Little Dolls” was actually a scratch solo and was not intended to be the solo for the finished song.) None of the bandmembers could be present for the mixing of “Diary”, which only furthered their already mixed feelings of the album.

With “Diary of a Madman” already recorded but not yet released, the Osbourne Band began it’s North American tour in support of “Blizzard of Ozz”, beginning in Towson, Maryland on April 22, 1981. Though they did not play on either studio efforts, Tommy Aldrige (drums) and Rudy Sarzo (bass) joined Ozzy’s band in time for the North American tour. They toured across North America from May through September of ’81 playing songs from “Blizzard of Ozz” as well as “Diary of a Madman”, with a few Sabbath songs thrown in to close their shows.

Choosing to headline their tour instead of going on a bigger tour as a support act paid off as “Blizzard of Ozz” went gold (500,000 albums sold) in 100 days, though in some of the smaller cities in the United States, their shows were threatened to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales. In one such city, Providence, Rhode Island, the Ozzy Osbourne Band (along with opening act Def Leppard) was informed by the concerts promoter that (due to poor ticket sales) he did not have enough money to pay either band.

Towards the end of the United States “Blizzard of Ozz” tour, Randy once again went to Grover Jackson to have another custom guitar made. He complained that too many people thought his white Jackson was a flying-V. He wanted something more distinctive. A few weeks later, Randy and Kevin DuBrow went to look at the unfinished guitar that Grover Jackson had begun to work on. Once in the wood shop, Randy and Grover Jackson began drawing on this unfinished guitar for close to an hour before a final design was decided upon. Ultimately they came up with a variation of his white Jackson, only with a more defined look to the upper wing of the guitar. Randy would receive this guitar, the 2nd Jackson ever made, just before the start of the “Diary of a Madman”tour. At the time, there were three guitars being made for Randy. He received the first one, the black custom, as they continued to finish the other two.(Unfortunately, one of the two guitars, that were being built for Randy at the time of his death, was accidentally sold at an NAMM show by Grover Jackson.) The third guitar, which Jackson stopped working on at the time of Randy’s death, was later owned by Rob Lane of Jacksoncharvelworld.com.

Ironically, as with Quiet Riot, Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing would be heard on two full length albums and one EP, while in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The “Mr. Crowley” EP featured live performances of three songs including “You said it all”, a song previously unreleased, recorded in October of 1980 in South Hampton, England, during the United Kingdom “Blizzard” tour. (‘You said it all’ was actually recorded during the band’s sound check, with the crowd noise added at the time of mixing.)

With the release of “Diary of a Madman”, Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldrige set off to Europe in November of 1981 for a tour that would end after only three shows. The tour had to be cancelled after Ozzy collapsed from both mental and physical exhaustion. The entire band went back to the United States so that Ozzy could rest. They would come back a little over a month later with a four month United States tour to start December 30, 1981 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and a single (Flying High Again) that was making it’s way up the charts.

Traveling with a crew of approximately 25 Las Vegas and Broadway technicians, Randy Rhoads went from selling out Los Angeles area clubs with Quiet Riot to selling out the biggest arenas in the United States on one of the most elaborate stage sets with Ozzy Osbourne. When the “Diary” tour began, their first album, “Blizzard of Ozz” was selling at the rate of 6,000 records a week. Backstage opening night in San Francisco, Randy was awarded with Guitar Player Magazine’s Best New Talent Award. He would also later win best new guitarist in England’s Sounds magazine. With that, the band began an exhausting yet memorable tour that seemed to be plagued with problems. Their concerts were boycotted by many cities while others were attended by local S.P.C.A. officials due to claims of animal abuse. Meanwhile “Diary of a Madman” was well on it’s way to platinum status.

With all of this going on around him, Randy Rhoads’ interest for classical guitar was consuming him more each day. Often times Randy would have a classical guitar tutor in each city the band played. It became common knowledge that Randy wanted to quit rock and roll temporarily so that he could attend school to get his masters in classical guitar. Randy also wanted to take advantage of some of the studio session offers he was receiving. There is a rumor that Ozzy once punched him in the face to “knock some sense into him” (literally).

March 18, 1982, the Ozzy Osbourne band played what would be their last show with Randy Rhoads at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. From Knoxville, the band was headed to Orlando, Florida for Saturday’s Rock Super Bowl XIV with Foreigner, Bryan Adams and UFO. On the way to Orlando they were to pass by the home of bus driver Andrew C. Aycock, who lived in Leesburg, Florida, at Flying Baron Estates. Flying Baron Estates consisted of 3 houses with an aircraft hanger and a landing strip, owned by Jerry Calhoun, who along with being a country western musician in his earlier days, leased tour buses and kept them at the Estate. They needed some spare parts for the bus and Andrew Aycock, who had picked up his ex-wife at one of the bands shows, was going to drop her off in Florida.

The bus arrived at Flying Baron Estates in Leesburg at about 8:00 a.m. on the 19th and parked approximately 90 yards away from the landing strip and approximately 15 yards in front of the house that would later serve as the accident site. On the bus were: Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Arden, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldrige, Don Airey, Wanda Aycock, Andrew Aycock, Rachel Youngblood, Randy Rhoads and the bands tour manager. Andrew Aycock and his ex-wife, Wanda,went into Jerry Calhoun’s house to make some coffee while some members of Ozzy Osbourne’s band slept in the bus and others got out and stretched. Being stored inside of the aircraft hanger at Flying Baron Estates, was a red and white 1955 Beechcraft Bonanza F-35 (registration #: N567LT) that belonged to Mike Partin of Kissimmee, Florida. Andrew Aycock, who had driven the groups’ bus all night from Knoxville and who had a pilots license, apparently took the plane without permission and took keyboardist Don Airey and the band’s tour manager up in the plane for a few minutes, at times flying low to the ground. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Andrew Aycock’s medical certificate (3rd class) had expired, thus making his pilots license not valid.

Approximately 9:00 a.m. on the morning of March 19th, Andrew Aycock took Rachel Youngblood and Randy Rhoads up for a few minutes. During this trip the plane began to fly low to the ground, at times below tree level, and “buzzed” the band’s tour bus three times. On the fourth pass (banking to the left in a south-west direction) the planes left wing struck the left side of the bands tour bus (parked facing east) puncturing it in two places approximately halfway down on the right side of the bus. The plane, with the exception of the left wing, was thrown over the bus, hit a nearby pine tree, severing it approximately 10 feet up from the bottom, before it crashed into the garage on the west side of the home owned by Jerry Calhoun. The plane was an estimated 10 feet off the ground traveling at approximately 120 – 150 knots during impact.The house was almost immediately engulfed in flames and destroyed by the crash and ensuing fire, as was the garage and the two vehicles inside, an Oldsmobile and a Ford Granada. Jesse Herndon, who was inside the house during the impact, escaped with no injuries. The largest piece of the plane that was left was a wing section about 6 to 7 feet long. The very wing that caught the side of the tour bus, was deposited just to the north of the bus. The severed pine trees tood between the bus and the house.

Ozzy Osbourne, Tommy Aldrige, Rudy Sarzo and Sharon Arden, who were all asleep on the bus, were awoken by the planes impact and (at first) thought they had been involved in a traffic accident. Wanda Aycock had returned to the bus while keyboardist Don Airey stood outside and witnesses the accident, as did Marylee Morrison, who was riding her horse within sight of the estate. Two men, at the west end of the runway, witnessed the plane buzzing the area when the plane suddenly went out of sight as it crashed.

Once outside of the bus the band members learned of the catastrophic event that had just taken place. The bus was moved approximately 300 feet to the east of the house that was engulfed in flames. The band checked into the Hilco Inn in Leesburg where they mourned the death of Randy and Rachel and would wait for family members to arrive. While Orlando’s Rock Super Bowl XIV scheduled for later that day, was not canceled, the Ozzy Osbourne band would not play and the promoters offered refunds to all ticket holders.

Randy Rhoads died on March 19, 1982 at age 25 but Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing could not be silenced as “Tribute” was released in 1987. Tribute, recorded live, much of it in Cleveland, OH on May 11, 1981 and Randy’s solo in Montreal in July of 1981, continued to earn him recognition as a guitar virtuoso.

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Lightnin Hopkins 1/1982

Lightnin HopkinsJanuary 29, 1982 – Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins  was born Sam John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas on March 15, 1912. Hopkins’ childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. That day, Hopkins felt the blues was “in him” and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger “Texas” Alexander.

Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded. Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings. In the mid-1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm for an unknown offense. In the late 1930s, Hopkins moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there.

By the early 1940s, he was back in Centerville working as a farm hand.
Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston’s Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles-based label Aladdin Records. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”.

Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. In the late 1940s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. He occasionally traveled to the Mid-West and Eastern United States for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between eight hundred and a thousand songs in his career. He performed regularly at nightclubs in and around Houston, particularly in Dowling St. where he had first been discovered. He recorded his hits “T-Model Blues” and “Tim Moore’s Farm” at SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid to late 1950s, his prodigious output of quality recordings had gained him a following among African Americans and blues aficionados.

In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by Mack McCormick, who hoped to bring him to the attention of the broader musical audience, which was caught up in the folk revival. McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. Hopkins debuted at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960, appearing alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger performing the spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep”. In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song “Mojo Hand” in 1960.

In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally. He toured extensively in the United States[3] and played a six-city tour of Japan in 1978.
Houston’s poet-in-residence for 35 years, Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman.

His distinctive style often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly – with occasional slaps of the guitar – the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion and lead would be created. He influenced many guitarists including Jimi Hendrix. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career,

On January 29, 1982 he lost his battle with esophageal cancer  at age 70.

Obituary

Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins, one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players, died Saturday in Houston, where he made his home. He would have been 70 years old next month. 

A contemporary of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, he was one of the last of the original blues artists. Mr. Hopkins began to sing the blues as a child in his native Texas. He started to sing professionally in the 1930’s, gaining recognition beyond his home state with an intense style that he used to phrase his songs of suffering and death. In his dark and supple voice, he would evoke his past as a field hand and rambler to the accompaniment of highly imaginative guitar work. 

His instrument often became a second voice to discourse with, or to end his vocal phrases. It also enhanced his reputation for flair, wit and improvisational skill. A Spontaneous Style 

On his guitar, Mr. Hopkins would alternate ominous single-note runs on the high strings with a hard-driving bass in irregular rhythms that matched his spontaneous, conversational lyrics. 

His recordings and fame had preceded the lean, lanky minstrel when he first ventured North in 1960 for a concert in Carnegie Hall and appearances at the Village Gate. 

The Carnegie Hall concert was a benefit hootenanny that also featured the young Joan Baez. Mr. Hopkins performed his frequently bitter and sardonic, introspective and autobiographical songs, and also swapped verses with Pete Seeger and Bill McAdoo, a young folk singer from Detroit. 

But his art was best suited for the more intimate surroundings of a club like the Village Gate, where he sang of unfulfilled love and unappreciated devotion. ”The blues form may seem simple and limiting,” reported Robert Shelton in his review in The New York Times, ”but at the hands of a master his sentiments burgeoned into a subtle exploration of moods.” 

Mr. Hopkins returned to the Village Gate in 1962 for a joint appearance with Sabicas, the Spanish flamenco guitarist. Playing out his moody, subjectively ruminating songs on a $65 guitar, he added an unusually light-hearted number, ”Happy Blues for John Glenn,” after having watched the television reports on the astronaut’s orbital flight around the world. Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ 

By that time, M r. Hopkins, a regular on Hou ston’s Dowling Street, had recorded more than 200 singles and 10 alb ums in 42 years of singing. 

He appeared in 1970 in a short film, ”Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ Hopkins,” a tribute to his musicianship, a study of his brand of music, as well as a celebration of his way of life. 

Mr. Hopkins was at Carnegie Hall again, in 1979, for a four-hour Boogie ‘n Blues concert and appeared for the last time in New York the following year for a three-night stand at Tramps on East 15th Street. 

Sam Hopkins was born March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Tex., a small cotton town, north of Houston, surrounded by red-clay country. At 8, he made his first guitar and had his brother teach him basic guitar blues, enough to get him started as a musician. 

He left school about that time to travel in Texas, sometimes as a hobo and occasionally working as a farmhand; he also did other odd jobs and played the guitar at county fairs and picnics. During those ramblings, he encountered Blind Lemon Alexander, the most popular Texas blues singer at the time, and his cousin, Texas Alexander, who sang but didn’t play the guitar; he took young Sam on as accompanist. 

It became a lasting association. Mr. Hopkins and Texas Alexander, a singer with a voice like barbed wire, worked theaters and both could still be heard together on Houston street corners and city buses in the early 1950’s. ‘Rediscovered’ in 50’s 

Mr. Hopkins had returned to Houston in 1945 after years of wandering around the South. Ten years later – he had become well known throughout Texas by then – the country blues were at a low as popular music and he fell into obscurity. 

But a musicologist, Sam Charters, ”rediscovered” him in the late 1950’s and introduced him to a new generation of blues fans, this time across the country. 

”The last of the blues is almost gone,” Mr. Hopkins noted just a few years ago when he had his national fame well in place, ”and the ones who doin’ it now got to either get a record or sit ’round me and learn my stuff, ’cause that all that they can go by.’

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Tampa
Red
3/1981

Tampa RedMarch 19, 1981 – Tampa Red aka Hudson Whittaker or Hudson Woodbridge was born on January 8th 1904 in Smithville, Georgia.

When his parents died he moved to his aunts in Tampa, Florida. He is best known as an accomplished and influential blues guitarist who had a unique single-string slide style. His songwriting and his silky, polished “bottleneck” technique later influenced other leading Chicago blues guitarists, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Mose Allison and many others.

In the 1920s, having already perfected his slide technique, he moved to Chicago, and began his career as a musician, adopting the name ‘Tampa Red’. His big break was being hired to accompany Ma Rainey and he began recording in 1928 with “It’s Tight Like That”, in a bawdy and humorous style that became known as “hokum”.

In a career spanning over 30 years he recorded pop, R&B and hokum records. His best known recordings include ‘Anna Lou Blues’, ‘Black Angel Blues’, ‘Crying Won’t Help You’, and ‘Love Her with a Feeling'”. By the 1940s he was playing electric guitar and in 1942 “Let Me Play With Your Poodle” was a No.4 ranking hit on Billboard’s new “Harlem Hit Parade”, forerunner of the R&B chart.  In 1949 his recording “When Things Go Wrong with You (It Hurts Me Too)” was another R&B hit.

Out of the dozens of fine slide guitarists who recorded blues, only a handful — Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson, for example — left a clear imprint on tradition by creating a recognizable and widely imitated instrumental style. Tampa Red was another influential musical model. During his heyday in the ’20s and ’30s, he was billed as “The Guitar Wizard,” and his stunning slide work on electric or National steel guitar shows why he earned the title. His 30-year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions “Anna Lou Blues,” “Black Angel Blues,” “Crying Won’t Help You,” “It Hurts Me Too,” and “Love Her with a Feeling”). Early in Red’s career, he teamed up with pianist, songwriter, and latter-day gospel composer Georgia Tom Dorsey, collaborating on double-entendre classics like “Tight Like That.”

Listeners who only know Tampa Red’s hokum material are missing the deeper side of one of the mainstays of Chicago blues. His peers included Big Bill Broonzy, with whom he shared a special friendship. Members of Lester Melrose’s musical mafia and drinking buddies, they once managed to sleep through both games of a Chicago White Sox doubleheader. Sadly he became an alcoholic after his wife’s death in 1953 and he blamed his latter-day health problems on an inability to refuse a drink.

During Red’s prime however, his musical venues ran the gamut of blues institutions: down-home jukes, the streets, the vaudeville theater circuit, and the Chicago club scene. Due to his polish and theater experience, he is often described as a city musician or urban artist in contrast to many of his more limited musical contemporaries. Furthermore, his house served as the blues community’s rehearsal hall and an informal booking agency. According to the testimony of Broonzy and Big Joe Williams, Red cared for other musicians by offering them a meal and a place to stay and generally easing their transition from country to city life.

Tampa Red played a National Resonator Guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available before amplification, acquiring one in the first year they were available.

He tragically died destitute in Chicago on March 19, 1981 at age 77.

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Mike Bloomfield 2/1981

Michael BloomfieldFeb 15, 1981 – Michael Bernard ‘Mike’ Bloomfield was born on July 28th, 1943, in Chicago, on the wrong side of the blues. His father, Harold, ran Bloomfield Industries, a successful restaurant-supply firm. The older of two sons, Michael rebelled against school, discipline and his family’s wealth, seeking solace and purpose in the music coming from the city’s black neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
A grandfather, Max, owned a pawnshop, and Bloomfield got his first guitar there. Born left-handed, he forced himself to play the other way around. “That’s how strong-willed he was,” says Goldberg. “When he loved something so much, he just did it.”
Hanging out at the pawnshop, Bloomfield also “got a certain empathy, for people on the skids, on the down and out, looking for $5,” Gravenites says. “He got to know that kind of life.Continue reading Mike Bloomfield 2/1981

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Jimmy McCulloch 9/1979

jimmy mccullough27 September 1979 – James ‘Jimmy’ McCulloch was born 4 June 1953. From the age of 11, the year he picked up a guitar for the first time, he played in a band called The Jaygars which later changed it’s name to ‘One in a Million’, the Glasgow psychedelic band. Being a protegé of Pete Townshend of the Who and Hank Marvin of the Shadow, proved recognition of his tremendous talents when at age 11 he picked up the guitar and started convincingly imitating Django Reinhardt.

He rose to fame in 1969, just 16 years old, when he played with Andy Thunderclap Newman recording the mega hit “Something in the Air”. The band disbanded in 1971 and in October he was touring with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.

In 1972 at 18, Jimmy joined the blues rock band Stone the Crows, replacing Les Harvey who died from getting electrocuted on stage. He helped the band to complete their Ontinuous Performance album, playing on the tracks, “Sunset Cowboy” and “Good Time Girl”. That band gave it up in 1973 and Jimmy did some session work in Blue and played guitar on Brian Joseph Friel’s first album, under the pseudonym ‘The Phantom’, after which in 1974, he joined Paul McCartney’s Wings playing lead guitar. He was also the composer of the anti-drug song “Medicine Jar” on the Wings album Venus and Mars, and the similar “Wino Junko” on Wings at the Speed of Sound album.

While in Wings he also formed his own band, White Line, with his brother Jack on drums and Dave Clarke on bass, keyboards and vocals.

In September 1977, McCulloch left Wings to join the reformed Small Faces during the latter band’s 9-date tour of England that month. He played guitar on the Small Faces’ album, 78 in the Shade. In early 1978, McCulloch started a band called Wild Horses with Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain and Kenney Jones, which he had left that spring. In 1979, McCulloch joined the credited super group The Dukes with singer Miller Anderson, Ronnie Leahy on keyboards and bassist Charles Tumahai. His last recorded song, “Heartbreaker”, appeared on their only album, The Dukes.

On 27 September 1979, McCulloch was found dead by his brother in his flat in Maida Vale, North West London. Autopsy found that McCulloch died from a heroin overdose. He was 26.

A melodic, heavily blues-infused guitarist, McCulloch’s rig normally consisted of a Gibson SG and a Gibson Les Paul and he occasionally played bass guitar when McCartney was playing piano or acoustic guitar.

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Lowell George 6/1979

Lowell GeorgeJune 29, 1979 – Lowell Thomas George (Little Feat) was born on April 13th 1945 in Hollywood, California, the son of Willard H. George, a furrier who raised chinchillas and supplied furs to the movie studios.

George’s first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended future bandmate Paul Barrere as well as future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton’s acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era with contempt, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann & Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as “Willin'”) to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years. Continue reading Lowell George 6/1979

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Terry Kath 1/1978

Terry KathJanuary 23, 1978 – Jan Terry Alan Kath was Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player. Born on January 31, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois, he became best known as the original guitarist, co-lead singer and founding member of the rock band Chicago. He has been praised by the band for his guitar skills and Ray Charles-influenced vocal style.

Growing up in a musical family, Kath took up a variety of instruments in his teens, including the drums and banjo. He acquired a guitar and amplifier when he was in the ninth grade, and his early influences included the Ventures, Dick Dale and Howard Roberts. He later became influenced by George Benson, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.He played bass in a number of bands in the mid-1960s, before settling on the guitar when forming the group that would become Chicago. Unlike several other Chicago members who received formal music training, Kath was mostly self-taught and enjoyed jamming. In a 1971 interview for Guitar Player, he said he had tried professional lessons but abandoned them, adding “all I wanted to do was play those rock and roll chords”.

His guitar playing was an important component of the group’s sound from the start of their career, and he sang lead on several of the group’s singles. He used a number of different guitars, but eventually became identified with the Fender Telecaster fitted with a humbucker pickup and decorated with numerous stickers.

A true innovator, Kath experimented endlessly with amps, guitars and equipment. While he possessed a rudimentary awareness of musical composition, he mostly just played by ear. Other band members were in awe of his ability to hear something once and play it back. Legend has it that Jimi Hendrix, with whom Chicago toured in the early days, idolized Kath, telling Parazaider, “Your guitar player is better than me”. Listening to Kath’s early recorded soloing on such tunes as “South California Purples”, “Poem ’58”, “Listen” and “25 or 6 to 4”, you’d be hard pressed to say Hendrix was wrong. Chicago’s producer Guercio has said that Kath could have been a monster as a solo artist.

That Kath never received the recognition due him as a guitar hero is old news now, but it irked him during his lifetime. Band-mate James Pankow recalls a tour in England where Kath publicly gave the crowd the finger for comparing him unfavorably to noted greats like Eric Clapton and Page. Listening today, aficionados are amazed at Kath’s picking and, while a bit dependent upon the wah-pedal, his creativity is still dazzling. He was capable of handling all genres, including jazz, country, metal, blues, and flat-out rock.

As a composer, Kath was much more hit than miss. Though Chicago never scored on the charts with a Kath single, the tunes he wrote were generally killer. Some, like “O Thank You, Great Spirit” and “Take It on Uptown” rival anything Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Page ever came up with. And Kath sang rings around them all. Blessed with a soulful, husky voice, Kath belted and whooped his way through such classics as “Make Me Smile” while possessing the ability to go smooth when the need arose (“Wishing You Were Here”, “Colour My World”, “Brand New Love Affair, Part 1”). In his personal life, Kath reportedly sensed that he wouldn’t live long (he died a few days before reaching 32). He has been famously described as down-to-earth and a great guy, but a risk-taker. It’s interesting to note that all Chicago band-mates, from James Pankow to Robert Lamm to Peter Cetera, describe themselves as having been very close to Terry (Lamm has called him his best friend). This indicates that Kath could make himself comfortable with a variety of personalities. Kath was into fast cars, motorcycles and guns. He was also into a variety of drugs, though reports indicate he wasn’t addicted. He loved to eat and fought a constant battle with his waistline (until he seemingly gave up near the end of his life, growing truly fat). He experimented with a wide variety of hairstyles and facial hair throughout his career and had a fondness for wearing professional hockey (NHL and WHL) team jerseys. He was 28 when he married 19-year-old Camelia Kath Ortiz in 1974; they had a daughter, Michelle, in 1976.

Kath’s death on January 23, 1978 is a watershed in rock history, but some confusion remains about what actually happened to him. Contemporaneous newspaper reports indicate that he accidentally shot himself with a 9mm automatic at roadie Don Johnson’s house after a party in front of Camelia. Later interviews with band members such as James Pankow indicate that Kath was alone with Johnson at the kitchen table and no party had taken place. Supposedly, Kath was displaying the gun when Johnson told him to be careful. Kath then is supposed to have put the gun to his head, saying either, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, see?” or, “What do you think I’m gonna do, shoot myself?” before pulling the trigger. Whatever actually happened, Kath’s death doesn’t seem to have been a suicide, in spite of Pankow’s acknowledgment that Kath had been “bumming” over a fight with Camelia (or Cetera’s assertion that Kath was unhappy in Chicago and would have been the first to leave had he lived).

He died on January 23, 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 31. The bereavement triggered Chicago to consider disbanding, but they ultimately decided to resume as is signified by their memorial song “Alive Again.” To commemorate his musicianship, they later issued the 1997 album, The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath.

Katz daughter Michelle started a Kickstarter funding to produce a documentary on her father’s life which will be coming out in 2016.

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Stevie Gaines 10/1977

Steve-Gaines-smilingOctober 20, 1977 – Stevie Gaines joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in May of 1976 and 17 months later he died with lead singer Ronnie van Zant and his sister Cassie in a chartered airplane crash in Mississippi. It was a chart breaking 17 months. The world had lost a guitar player whose skills were so outstanding that the entire band would “all be in his shadow one day”according to lead singer Ronnie vanZant.

Gaines was born September 14, 1949 in Seneca, Missouri, and raised in Miami, Oklahoma. When Steve was 15 years old, he saw The Beatles live in Kansas City. After being driven home from the concert, he pestered his father enough to buy him his first guitar. His first band, The Ravens (a local High School rock band that Steve’s friends formed), made its first recording at the famous Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

In the 1970s Steve played with bands Rio Smokehouse, The Band Detroit with Rusty Day (originally an offshoot of The Detroit Wheels) and Crawdad (a band that Steve had started around 1974). In 1975, he recorded several songs with Crawdad at Capricorn studios in Macon, Georgia which were released by MCA in 1988 as One in the Sun (when the present day Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band began touring) and is listed as his only official solo album.

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Freddie King 12/1976

Freddie KingDecember 29, 1976 – Freddie King was born September 3, 1934 in Gilmer, Texas. His mother told him that her father (who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. So she mother and his uncle Leon began teaching him to play guitar at the age of six.

His first guitar was a Silvertone acoustic. His most prized guitar at that time was his Roy Roger acoustic. In a interview years later he recalled going to the general store to order it. The store owner asked him if his mother knew he was trying to order a guitar on her store account. Freddie replied ” no”. The store owner told him to get permission. His mother said “no”. She told him, “if you want a new guitar you will have to work for it.” He stated that he picked cotton just long enough to earn the money to purchase a Roger’s guitar. Continue reading Freddie King 12/1976

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Tommy Bolin 12/1976

guitarist tommy bolinDecember 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.”

Continue reading Tommy Bolin 12/1976

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Duster Bennett 3/1976

Duster Bennett with John MayallMarch 26, 1976 – Duster Bennett was born Anthony Bennett in in Welshpool, Powys, Mid Wales on September 23rd 1946.  As a kid he was very interested in the blues and developed as an exceptional blues singer and multi-musician.

After moving to London, he became a session musician in the early 60s. His first solo album (one of five before his death) “Smiling Like I’m Happy” saw him playing as a one-man blues band whose virtuosity and co-ordination on drums, his Les Paul Goldtop guitar and harmonica was as riveting as it was unique, while he was backed by girlfriend Stella Sutton, the first and original Fleetwood Mac singer, on three tracks. His live sets combined his own compositions with Jimmy Reed-style blues standards often aided by friends Peter Green and Top Topham.

Emerging in the late 1960s from the art school music scene of Kingston-upon-Thames and Guildford, Bennett was a one-man blues band, in the style of bluesmen such as Joe Hill Lewis.

Between 1968 and 1970 he was played frequently on John Peel’s Top Gear, toured and eventually joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as band member/solo act on a US tour in 1970. In the 1970s he drifted off into more mainstream material.

His haunting track Jumping at Shadows, was first covered by Fleetwood Mac and revived in 1992 by Gary Moore, who covered it in his “After Hours” album.

After performing with Memphis Slim, he died in a fatal road accident; tired at the wheel, his van collided with a truck on March 26, 1976. He was 29.

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Snake Boy Johnson 3/1976

luther johnsonMarch 18, 1976 – Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson was born Lucious Brinson August 30, 1934 in Davisboro, GA.

He was raised on a farm where he taught himself to play guitar.

After service in the US Army up to 1953, Johnson played guitar with a local gospel group called the Milwaukee Supreme Angels. However, he gradually moved towards blues and set up his own trio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before relocating to Chicago, Illinois in the early 1960s.

He backed Elmore James prior to his death, and in 1964, released a solo single on the Chess Records label entitled “The Twirl”, billed as Little Luther. He then joined Muddy Waters’ backing band in 1966. Johnson worked with various musicians over this period, including Chicago Bob Nelson, before recording his debut album, Come on Home in 1969.

In 1970, Johnson moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and found work on the blues festival and college circuits for the next few years. Black & Blue Records released Johnson’s Born in Georgia in 1972, and this was followed by Chicken Shack (1974), Lonesome in My Bedroom (1975), and the final album issued in his lifetime, Get Down to the Nitty Gritty (1976).

Johnson died of cancer in Boston in March 1976, aged 41.

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Paul Kossof 3/1976

Paul-Kossoff March 19, 1976 – Paul Francis Kossoff (Free) was born September 14, 1950 in Hampstead, London. He was gifted with the performance gene from birth. His father, David, was a well-regarded film and television actor who would go on to win Most Promising Newcomer to Film at the 1955 BAFTA award ceremony.

Kossoff took to music early, commencing classical guitar lessons at age 10. “My dad said that if Paul wanted to play guitar, which he did of course, he had to learn to do it properly,” recalled Paul’s brother Simon in an interview with Gibson. “He went to a teacher in Golders Green, in North London, who taught him to read music, but he was partially dyslexic and wasn’t actually reading the music—he was mirroring her and remembering everything. He definitely had an innate talent for guitar.”

As much as Kossoff loved the guitar, the classical lessons grated on him, and he gave them up after a few years. His guitar sabbatical was short lived, however. Kossoff caught a performance by Eric Clapton at a John Mayall gig in 1965, and after seeing what Clapton was doing with the blues, his passion for the guitar was reignited. He resumed lessons, this time with noted session musician Colin Falconer.

Clapton became a looming figure in the young guitarist’s mind, and Kossoff went out of his way to emulate Slowhand. Kossoff’s first electric guitar was a cheap gold knockoff model made by the Italian manufacturer Eko that simply wouldn’t do. Looking to upgrade, Kossoff took a job at the venerable London music shop Selmer’s, where he came face to face with some of the day’s leading players.

While manning the floor one day, he happened to meet a hot new prospect fresh off the plane from America: Jimi Hendrix. “He had an odd look about him and smelled strange,” Kossoff recalled in interview with Steven Rosen for Guitar Player in 1976. “He started playing some chord stuff like in ‘Little Wing,’ and the salesman looked at him and couldn’t believe it. Just seeing him really freaked me out. I just loved him to death. He was my hero.”

Kossoff was eventually able to purchase his first Gibson guitar. “I got myself a Gibson Les Paul Junior, which was the cheapest Gibson around at the time,” he said. “Then I had this obsession about getting a ‘real’ Les Paul after seeing Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton play them.” The real Les Paul he eventually acquired was a black 1954 Custom equipped with dual P-90 pickups, an instrument allegedly owned and played by Clapton himself. The guitar became his prized possession, and he spent hours bent over it, mastering the many blues licks and solos he’d come to love.

In the 1960s, England was up to its eyeballs in white-boy blues bands. This was the golden age of the guitar player, when people like Clapton, Beck, and Page became recognized names the world over. But for every Cream, Yardbirds, or Led Zeppelin, there were scores of other groups working the same circuit, trying their damndest to break through. Free was such a band.

Paul-Kossoff-with-Simon-KirkeBetween Paul Rodgers’ wailing, Simon Kirke’s tremendous backbeat, and the steady bass lines of Andy Fraser, Free had more than enough talent. BUT they had another weapon: Paul Kossoff, a player who brought it all together and elevated their music into the stratosphere.

Kossoff didn’t have the dexterity of Clapton, the finesse of Beck, or the bombast of Page, but he had an innate knowledge of how to do more with less, an instinct to make each note matter musically and emotionally.

He started playing in the mid 1960s, his first professional band was Black Cat Bones with drummer Simon Kirke. The band did many supporting shows for Fleetwood Mac. Paul spent hours jamming with Mac founder Peter Green and discussing blues music. Black Cat Bones also played with touring blues piano player Champion Jack Dupree. Both Paul and Simon played on Dupree’s album When You Feel the Feeling.

Paul and Simon next teamed up with Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser to form Free in 1968 with a debut album Tons Of Sobs, followed by their self-titled album in 1969. Their third album, Fire and Water in 1970, produced the massive hit “All Right Now”, with a tour of UK, Europe and Japan. The band split later that year after a 4th album.

Paul and Simon then teamed up with Texan keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick and Japanese bass player Tetsu Yamauchi to release the 1971 album Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit. Free reformed and released the album Free At Last in 1972. Fraser decided to quit, so Tetsu and Rabbit were drafted in for Free’s 1973 album Heartbreaker after which the group disbanded. Paul then accompanied John Martyn on a 1975 tour before assembling a group called Back Street Crawler releasing two albums: The Band Plays On in 1975 and Second Street in 1976.

Kossof’s guitar playing was also much in demand for session work and he contributed solos on several albums including: Jim Capaldi’s Oh How We Danced (1972), Martha Veléz’s Friends and Angels (1969); Blondel’s Mulgrave Street (1974); Uncle Dog’s Old Hat (1972), Michael Gately’s Gately’s Cafe (1971) and Mike Vernon’s 1971 album Bring It Back Home.

He also played on four demos by Ken Hensley, which were eventually released on the 1994 album entitled From Time To Time and three tracks which appear on the CD-only issue of John Martyn’s Live At Leeds album from 1975. An unreleased guitar solo also surfaced in 2006 on the title track to the album All One by David Elliot who recorded with Paul in the 70s. Paul was ranked 51st in Rolling Stone magazine list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Sadly, Kossoff died from a drug-related heart attack on March 19, 1976 at age 25 during a flight from L.A. to New York, robbing the world of a unique talent. His memory lives on through his music and through the longtime anti-substance abuse efforts of the Paul Kossoff Foundation.

Live Free, Play Hard
Vocalist Paul Rodgers and Kossoff ran in the same circles and had met many times, but hadn’t yet played together. When they finally did in 1968, it was a transformative experience. “The first official time I met him I was playing in a blues club called the Fickle Pickle in Finsbury Park,” Rodgers told Premier Guitar in a recent interview. “I had a blues band at the time called Brown Sugar. We used to do two 45-minute spots with a break in between. Koss came up for the second set and said, ‘I’d like to come for a jam.’ I said, ‘Have you got a guitar with you?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got my Les Paul in the car.’

So he brought his guitar in and we jammed—a really heart-stopping jam. We did ‘Stormy Monday Blues,’ B.B. King, and a couple of other things, and it was like time stood still. It was such an amazing thing that when we came off stage I said to him, ‘Man, we have to form a band.’ The seeds of Free were born right there.”

The members of Free were remarkably young when they formed the group. Kossoff was 17, Rodgers and Kirke were 18, and bassist Andy Fraser was a mere 15. Despite this, each member already had a taste for the road after serving in other bands.

“We used to listen to Albert King and B.B. King—especially B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign—and we’d say that the two of us made one of them.” — Free vocalist Paul Rodgers

What bound Free more than anything else—especially Kossoff and Rodgers—was their unconditional love of the blues. “We used to listen to Albert King and B.B. King—especially B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign—and we’d say that the two of us made one of them,” Rodgers recalls with a laugh. “The way B.B. or Albert would play and then answer themselves, we kind of picked up on that and consciously tried to emulate that and incorporate it into the music we did.”

Still without a band name, the quartet booked their first show at a modest club in London, where one of the kings of the nascent British Blues scene offered to help them out. “Alexis Korner had a band called Free at Last,” Simon Kirke said in The Beat Goes On and On. “When he saw us at the Nag’s Head in Battersea after our first rehearsal he suggested that, but we kind of whittled it down to Free.”

With a little help from Korner, Free inked a deal with Island Records. Their first album, Ton of Sobs, was in the canwithin six months of the band’s formation. For the sessions, Kossoff brought out a duo of Les Pauls, including a now-fabled late-era sunburst model, which was later stripped and painted black, as well as a black three-pickup custom. Along with the likes of Clapton, Page, and Keith Richards, Kossoff did much to popularize the defunct ’burst line of Les Pauls.

Tons of Sobs was recorded on a modest budget of £800 and was in some respects a recorded version of the band’s live set. “In those days, and particularly for the first album, we didn’t do what became the normal and block out a studio for a month at a time,” Rodgers recalls. “When we went in, we’d drop in, do a couple of tracks, and we’d have some band from South Ealing or somewhere peeping in the door going, ‘Are you guys finished yet?’”

After completing their first album, Free went on the road to try and make a name for themselves. Dwarfed by a column of Marshall stacks—Super Lead heads and 4×12 cabinets with bass speakers installed—Kossoff managed to make up for his diminutive height through sheer volume.

In addition to lead guitar duties, Kossoff was given another important task. “None of the rest of the band members had a driving license,” explains Rodgers. “Paul had started young and he had one, so he got the gig of driving us. He would drive us two or three hundred miles, do a couple of shows, and drive back. I used to sit in the front with him just to keep him awake.”

Not long after Tons of Sobs was released, the band was back in the studio working on its second record, the self-titled Free. This time the group was produced by the president of the label, Chris Blackwell. Things were much tighter, with the main songwriting duo of Rodgers and Fraser imposing a stricter framework.

Like the band’s debut, Free didn’t do much on the charts. Almost immediately after they finished recording, the group resumed its breakneck touring schedule, supporting the supergroup Blind Faith on its only American tour. Kossoff and Clapton became quite close, discussing the finer points of their respective techniques and even trading a couple of guitars. Clapton exchanged a 1959 Gibson Les Paul for Kossoff’s mid-’50s Custom. It was on this tour that Clapton supposedly tried to cop Kossoff’s famed vibrato technique, a tale confirmed by Rodgers. “I wasn’t privy to the actual conversation, but they did talk vibrato, that’s for sure,” he says.

As the ’60s gave way to the ’70s, Free reached a tipping point. They’d recorded two albums, experienced modest success, and performed a truly staggering number of live shows. But the band began to wonder where they would ever actually make it.

Then in June of 1970, Fire and Water hit the shelves with the force of an atomic blast. The record became Free’s breakthrough, led by the single “All Right Now,” which reached No. 2 on the U.K. charts and No. 4 in America. Just two months later, Free played the biggest gig of their career in front of an estimated 600,000 people as part of England’s Isle of Wight Festival.

With greater success came new tensions. Feeling pressure to prove that their success wasn’t a fluke, the band rushed to record its next album, Highway. Compared to Fire and Water, Highway was a commercial disappointment, only reaching No. 41 on the U.K. charts and 190 in America. Meanwhile, Kossoff, depressed by the death of his hero Jimi Hendrix, began self-medicating with Quaaludes.

When Free decided to call it quits in 1971, Kossoff took it harder than anyone. “What I think we lacked was management,” posits Rodgers. “We lacked an older, wiser head to say, ‘Okay you guys, you’re under a lot of stress, you’ve done too many shows, you have this huge success all of a sudden, you need to take a break.’ We didn’t do that of course, and we just kind of exploded apart. We had been together for such a long time, living so close, seeking success, and when we finally reached it, there was so much pressure.”

After the breakup Kossoff collaborated with Free bandmate Kirke, along with Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick to release Kossoff/ Kirke/Tetsu/Rabbit. By this time Kossoff was in bad shape, as was apparent to all who knew him. “It was such a shame—he seemed to go down so fast,” recalls Rodgers. “I was mortified that the split-up of the band had affected him so deeply. He was almost gone to us at that point, because he was sort of off in this other world. It was such a shame because we all loved him so much, and we immediately dropped everything we were doing to try and put the band back together again so that we could put Koss back together.”

Heartbroken
The band managed to record a few albums during its brief resurgence: 1971’s Free Live and the studio efforts Free at Last and Heartbreaker in ’72 and ’73, respectively. Their tours, however, were hampered by Kossoff’s unreliability. The band called it quits for good in 1973.

Rodgers says the group was never able to recover from the turmoil of the earlier dissolution. “Splitting up was big news. It was official, and it was headline news: ‘Free Splits Up.’ All of a sudden, the spell was broken between us, and when we got back together again it just wasn’t the same. It was hard to rekindle what we had prior to all that.”

Kossoff immediately began working on his first solo record, Back Street Crawler, which featured guest appearances by his former Free bandmates as well as Alan White of Yes. The record was widely acclaimed but didn’t live up to the popularity of Free’s music. Kossoff then formed a band named Back Street Crawler and released The Band Plays On in 1975.

As the years wore on, Kossoff’s drug dependency worsened. “The big problem with Koss was he couldn’t say no, and there were always people ready to take advantage,” Back Street Crawler manager Mike Green explained in an interview with Get Ready To Rock. “We were recording the first Back Street Crawler album at Olympic Studios, and every night I had to search everywhere, including the toilets, to make sure nobody had left any little presents for him. But no matter how thoroughly you searched there were times when he would still manage to get out of it. He wasn’t addicted to anything in particular—he would take anything he could get his hands on.”

Back Street Crawler embarked on a headlining tour of the U.K. in 1975, but it was cancelled midway through when Kossoff developed a debilitating stomach ulcer. While getting treatment, Kossoff suffered a massive heart attack. It took the doctors 30 minutes to revive him.

Once out of the hospital, Kossoff went back on the road with his band, which subsequently recorded another album titled 2nd Street in 1976. In his weakened state, Kossoff was no longer able to perform to the level everyone expected, so most of guitar parts were played by session guitarist W.G. “Snuffy” Walden.

All Right Now
Shortly after the release of 2nd Street, Back Street Crawler undertook a U.S. tour, which was again hampered by Kossoff’s condition. A bright spot occurred when Kossoff bumped into his former Free bandmates Kirke and Rodgers, now members of the supergroup Bad Company. “He was in town playing with his group when we were in LA,” remembers Rogers. “We went to visit him and had a big jam. I didn’t realize that he was in such bad shape at that point, because he seemed together. They told me afterwards that he pulled himself together for that night. That was the last time I saw him.”

On March 19, 1976, Kossoff boarded a plane in L.A. bound for New York, but he reach his destination. Midflight, Kossoff experienced a cerebral and pulmonary edema and died at the age of 25. “I was on tour with Bad Company when I heard the news,” says Rodgers. “It was just devastating.” Kossoff was laid to rest at Golders Green Crematorium, his headstone marked with a simple epitaph: “All Right Now.”

Kossoff’s father David set up the Paul Kossoff Foundation to raise awareness about substance abuse. Rodgers purchased one of Kossoff’s ’59 Gibson Les Pauls and later auctioned the instrument, donating the proceeds to the Foundation.

Gibson honored Kossoff in 2012 with a limited run of replicas of his later Free-era/Back Street Crawler Les Paul, debuted at NAMM by blues/rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa. “I inadvertently introduced Arthur Ram [current owner of the Paul Kossoff guitar] and Pat Foley [Head of Gibson Artist Relations] at a gig in Newcastle in 2009,” Bonamassa says. “I was just happy to help get the name Paul Kossoff out there.”

Paul Kossoff wasn’t the flashiest guitar player on the planet, and in the years since his passing, his name has been dwarfed by those of some of his contemporaries. He may not have been the fastest shredder, but he’s certainly among those legendary players who become one with the instrument. “One of the great things about Koss was that he played every note like his life depended on it,” declared Rodgers. “He was so passionate about his playing.” That passion shone through on record as well as onstage. It’s what set Paul Kossoff apart, and is the reason he should never be forgotten.

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T-Bone Walker 3/1975

T-Bone WalkerMarch 16, 1975 – T-Bone Walker was born Aaron Thibeaux Walker on May 28, 1910 in Linden, Texas. American blues guitarist, pianist and singer/ songwriter.

In the early 1920s, as a teenager learned his craft amongst the street-strolling stringbands of Dallas. Walker’s parents were both musicians. His stepfather, Marco Washington, taught him to play the guitar, ukulele, banjo, violin, mandolin, and piano.

Walker left school at the age of 10, and by 15 he was a professional performer on the blues circuit. Initially, he was Blind Lemon Jefferson’s protégé and would guide him around town for his gigs and by 1929, Walker made his recording debut with Columbia Records billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone, releasing the single “Wichita Falls Blues”/”Trinity River Blues”.  Continue reading T-Bone Walker 3/1975

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Clarence White 7/1973

July 14, 1973 – Clarence White was born Clarence LeBlanc on June 7th 1944 in Lewiston, Maine. The LeBlanc family, later changing their surname to White, were of French-Canadian ancestry and hailed from New Brunswick, Canada. Clarence’s father, Eric LeBlanc, Sr., played guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmonica, ensuring that his offspring grew up surrounded by music. A child prodigy, Clarence began playing guitar at the age of six. At such a young age he was barely able to hold the instrument and as a result, he briefly switched to ukulele, awaiting a time when his young hands would be big enough to confidently grapple with the guitar.

In 1954, when Clarence was ten, the White family relocated to Burbank, California and soon after, Clarence joined his brothers Roland and Eric Jr. (who played mandolin and banjo respectively) in a trio called Three Little Country Boys. The family group was occasionally augmented by sister Joanne on double bass. Although they initially started out playing contemporary country music, the group soon switched to a purely bluegrass repertoire, as a result of Roland White’s burgeoning interest in the genre. Early on, the group won a talent contest on radio station KXLA in Pasadena and by 1957, they had managed to attract the interest of country guitarist Joe Maphis. With Maphis’s help, the Three Little Country Boys made several appearances on the popular television program Town Hall Party.

In 1957, banjoist Billy Ray Latham and Dobro player LeRoy Mack were added to the line-up, with the band renaming themselves the Country Boys soon after. By 1961, the quartet had become well known enough to appear twice on the The Andy Griffith Show. That same year the Country Boys also added Roger Bush on double bass, as a replacement for Eric White, Jr., who had left the band to get married. Between 1959 and 1962, the Country Boys released three singles on the Sundown, Republic and Briar International record labels.

In September 1962, the Country Boys recorded their debut album ‘The New Sound of Bluegrass America’ released in early 1963 and changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels. Around this time, Clarence’s flatpicking guitar style was becoming a much more prominent part of the group’s music.

After meeting while attending a performance by Doc Watson at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles, Clarence began to explore the possibilities of the acoustic guitar’s role in bluegrass music. At that time, the guitar was largely regarded as a rhythm instrument in bluegrass, with only a few performers, such as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Don Reno, exploring its potential for soloing. White soon began to integrate elements of Watson’s playing style, including the use of open strings and syncopation, into his own flatpicking guitar technique. His breathtaking speed and virtuosity on the instrument was largely responsible for making the guitar a lead instrument within bluegrass. In addition to being accomplished musicians, the Kentucky Colonels’ music often featured close harmony vocals.

Following the release of their debut album, the Kentucky Colonels played a multitude of live appearances throughout California and the United States, including an appearance at the prestigious Monterey Folk Festival in May 1963. Between these bookings with the Colonels, White also made a guest appearance on Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman’s New Dimensions in Banjo & Bluegrass album, which would be re-released in 1973 as the soundtrack album to the film Deliverance (with Weissberg and Steve Mandell’s version of “Dueling Banjos” added to the album’s track listing).

In 1964 the Kentucky Colonels were signed to World Pacific Records by producer Jim Dickson, who would later became the manager of folk rock band The Byrds and by the close of the year, the Kentucky Colonels were considered by fans and critics to be one of the best bluegrass groups in the United States.

Although they were now a successful bluegrass recording act, it was becoming increasingly hard for the Kentucky Colonels to make a living playing bluegrass. The American folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which had helped facilitate the Colonels’ commercial success, had been dealt a serious blow in 1964 by the popularity of the pop and beat music of the British Invasion. However, it wasn’t until mid-1965, with the release of The Byrds’ folk rock single “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, that the folk revival’s popularity began to seriously wane. Before long, many young folk performers and some bluegrass acts were switching to electric instrumentation. The Kentucky Colonels followed suit, plugging in with electric instruments and hiring a drummer in mid-1965, in order to keep a concert booking as a country dance band at a bowling alley. The band added fiddle player Scotty Stoneman to their line-up in mid-1965, as a replacement for Sloan, but some months later, the Kentucky Colonels dissolved as a band after playing their final show on October 31, 1965.

As 1965 turned into 1966, White met Gene Parsons and Gib Guilbeau at a recording session for the Gosdin Brothers and shortly after, he began to perform live with the duo in local California clubs, as well as doing regular session work on their records, which were released under the moniker of Cajun Gib and Gene.

1966 also saw White begin playing with a country group called Trio, which featured drummer Bart Haney and former Kentucky Colonel Roger Bush on bass. In autumn of that year, as a result of his friendship with Gilbeau, Parsons and the Gosdin Brothers, White was asked to provide lead guitar to ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s debut solo album, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. White also briefly joined Clark’s touring band shortly thereafter.

During the Clark album sessions, White reconnected with mandolin player and bassist Chris Hillman, who he had known during the early 1960s as a member of the bluegrass combo The Hillmen. At the time Hillman was  a member of The Byrds and in December 1966, he invited White to contribute countrified lead guitar playing to his songs “Time Between” and “The Girl with no Name”, which both appeared on The Byrds‘ Younger Than Yesterday album.

Together with Gene Parsons, he invented the B-Bender, a guitar accessory that enables a player to mechanically bend the B-string up a whole tone and emulate the sound of a pedal steel guitar. 

The country-oriented nature of the songs was something of a stylistic departure for the group and can be seen as an early indicator of the experimentation with country music that would color The Byrds’ subsequent work. White also contributed guitar to the band’s follow-up album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and to their landmark 1968 country rock release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Early in 1968, White joined Nashville West, which also featured Gene Parsons, Gib Gilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Glen D. Hardin, and Wayne Moore. Nashville West recorded an album for Sierra Records, but the record didn’t appear until 1978.

Finally White was invited to join the Byrds in the fall of 1968 as Roger McGuinn was rebuilding the Byrds’ lineup after the departure of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Clarence White fit into the revamped Byrds’ country-rock direction. He played on the group’s untitled album, which spawned the single “Chestnut Mare.” While he was with the band, he continued to work as a session musician, playing on Randy Newman’s 12 Songs (1970), Joe Cocker’s eponymous 1969 album, and the Everly Brothers’ Stories Would Could Tell (1971), and others, appearing on recordings by Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Jackson Browne.

Once the Byrds disbanded in 1973, Clarence White continued his session work and joined bluegrass supergroup Muleskinner, which also featured David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Guerin, Bill Keith, John Kahn, and Richard Greene. Muleskinner only released one album, which appeared later in 1973.

After the Muleskinner record was finished, White played a few dates with the Kentucky Colonels and began working on a solo album. He had only completed four tracks when he was killed by a drunken driver shortly after 2am on July 14, 1973, while he and his brother Roland were loading equipment onto a van, following a spur-of-the moment reunion gig of the Colonels. He was just 29.

• His guitar playing was sort of like a combination of Jerry Garcia, Roy Buchanan, and James Burton. He plays with the melody of Jerry, the tone and brilliance of Roy, and the conciseness and sweetness of James.

• White was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

• Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 52 in its 2015 line-up of the 100 Most Influential Guitar Players in Rock and Roll.

Clarence White helped shape two genres: His acoustic flatpicking, first displayed as a teenager when he and his brother formed the Kentucky Colonels band, was key in making the guitar a lead instrument in bluegrass. Later, he set the stage for country rock and transferred that dynamic precision and melodic symmetry to the electric guitar. A top session man in the Sixties, he played on the Byrds’ 1968 landmark, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. After he joined the band later that year, White brought a full-bodied rock elation to his California-inflected Nashville chops. “He never played anything that sounded vaguely weak,” said the Byrds’ leader, Roger McGuinn. “He was always driving… into the music.” White had returned to bluegrass with the acclaimed Muleskinner album when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. He was 29. “Clarence was immersed in hard country and bluegrass,” said Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. “He incorporated those elements into rock & roll, and it totally blew people’s minds.”

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Duane Allman 10/1971

duane allmanOctober 29, 1971  – Duane “Skydog” Allman was born November 20th 1946 in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, Duane was motivated to take up the guitar by the example of his younger brother, Gregg. In the twelve years that followed until his sadly untimely passing, he left a great body of work and a legacy as one of the best rock guitar players ever.

He and his brother Gregg played in several bands while in school before forming the Escorts which eventually became the Allman Joys. In 1965, the Allman Joys went on the road, performing throughout the Southeast and eventually based themselves in Nashville and St. Louis.

After a short stint with The Hour Glass, he was hired by FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1966 when he was just 19, to play on an album with Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude album. Continue reading Duane Allman 10/1971

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Earl Hooker 4/1970

earl hookerApril 21, 1970 – Earl Zebedee Hooker was born on January 15, 1929 in rural Quitman County, Mississippi, outside of Clarksdale. In 1930, his parents moved the family to Chicago as part of the Great Migration of blacks out of the rural South in the early 20th century.

His family was musically inclined (John Lee Hooker was a cousin), and Earl heard music played at home at an early age. About age ten, he started playing the guitar. He was self-taught and picked up what he could from those around him. He developed proficiency on the guitar but showed no interest in singing. He had pronounced stuttering, which afflicted him all his life. Hooker contracted tuberculosis when he was young. The disease did not become critical until the mid-1950s, but it required periodic hospital visits beginning at an early age.

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Elmore James 5/1963

elmore-jamesMay 24, 1963 – Elmore James was born Elmore Brooks on January 27, 1918 in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James, before playing with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, and the legendary Robert Johnson.

James was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). Continue reading Elmore James 5/1963

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Guitar Slim 2/1959

Eddie Guitar Slim JonesFebruary 7, 1959 – Guitar Slim was born Eddie Jones on December 10, 1926 in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother died when he was five, and his grandmother raised him, as he spent his teen years in the cotton fields. He spent his free time at the local juke joints and started sitting in as a singer or dancer; he was good enough to be nicknamed “Limber Leg.”

After returning from World War II military service, he started playing clubs around New Orleans, Louisiana. Bandleader Willie D. Warren introduced him to the guitar, and he was particularly influenced by T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. About 1950 he adopted the stage name ‘Guitar Slim’ and started becoming known for his wild stage act.

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Danny Cedrone 6/1954

danny-cedroneJune 17, 1954 – Donato Joseph “Danny” Cedrone was born on June 20th 1920 Born in Jamesville, New York. He began his musical career in the 1940s, but he came into his own in the early 1950s, first as a session guitarist hired by what was then a country and western musical group based out of Chester, Pennsylvania called Bill Haley and His Saddlemen.

In 1951, Danny played lead on their recording of “Rocket 88” which is considered one of the first acknowledged rock and roll recordings. At this time he also formed his own group, The Esquire Boys recording hits such as “Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie”.

He never joined Haley’s group as a full-time member. In 1952, he played lead guitar on Haley’s version of “Rock the Joint”, and his swift guitar solo, which combined a jazz-influenced first half followed by a lightning-fast down-scale run, was a highlight of the recording. He worked with Haley’s group in 1954, by which time it had been renamed The Comets.

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Django Reinhardt 5/1953

django-reinhardtMay 16, 1953 – Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt  was born on January 23, 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, into a French family of Manouche Romani descent. His father was named Jean Eugene Weiss, but used the alias “Jean-Baptiste Reinhard” on the birth certificate to hide from French military conscription. His mother, Laurence Reinhardt, was a dancer.

The birth certificate refers to: « Jean Reinhart, son of Jean Baptiste Reinhart, artist, and Laurence Reinhart, housewife, domiciled in Paris. Reinhardt’s nickname “Django”, in Romani means “I awake.” Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani encampments close to Paris, where he started playing violin, banjo, and guitar. His family made cane furniture for a living, but its members included several keen amateur musicians. Continue reading Django Reinhardt 5/1953

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Lead Belly 12/1949

Lead BellyDecember 6, 1949 – Lead Belly was born Huddie William Ledbetter sometime around January 20, 1888/89 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. The 1900 United States Census lists “Hudy Ledbetter” as 12 years old, born January 1888; and the 1910 and 1930 censuses also give his age as corresponding to a birth in 1888. The 1940 census lists his age as 51 with information supplied by wife, Martha. However, in April 1942, Ledbetter filled out his World War II draft registration with a birth date of January 23, 1889, and a birthplace of Freeport, Louisiana. His grave marker has the date on his draft registration.

His life was as colorful as the confusion on dates. He was notable for his clear, forceful singing and his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar. Pre-dating blues, he was an early example of a folksinger whose background had brought him into direct contact with the oral tradition by which folk music was handed down on the Southern Plantations. Continue reading Lead Belly 12/1949