Drummer Charlie Watts, who has died at 80, provided the foundation which underpinned the music of the Rolling Stones for 58 years.
A jazz aficionado, Watts vied with Bill Wyman for the title of least charismatic member of the band; he eschewed the limelight and rarely gave interviews. And he famously described life with the Stones as five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around.
Charles Robert Watts was born on 2 June 1941 at the University College Hospital in London and raised in Kingsbury, now part of the London Borough of Brent.
He came from a working-class background. His father was a lorry driver and Watts was brought up in a pre-fabricated house to which the family had moved after German bombs destroyed hundreds of houses in the area.
A childhood friend once described how Watts had an early interest in jazz and recalled listening to 78s in Charlie’s bedroom by artists such as Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker.He first played with the Jo Jones Seven on the North London pub circuit
At school he developed an interest in and a talent for art and he went on to study at Harrow Art School before finding a job as a graphic designer with a local advertising agency.
But his love of music continued to be the dominating force in his life. His parents bought him a drum kit when he was 13 and he played along to his collection of jazz records.
He began drumming in local clubs and pubs and, in 1961 was heard by Alexis Korner who offered him a job in his band, Blues Incorporated, an outfit that became a vital part of the development of British rock music.
Also playing with Blues Incorporated was a guitarist named Brian Jones who introduced Watts to the fledgling Rolling Stones whose original drummer, Tony Chapman, had quit the band. The result of that meeting according to Watts was “four decades of seeing Mick’s bum running around in front of me.”
Watt’s skill and experience was invaluable. Together with Bill Wyman he provided a counterpoint to the guitars of Richards and Jones and the preening performance of Mick Jagger.
Early Stone’s concerts often descended into mayhem as eager female fans climbed onto the stage to embrace their heroes. Watts often found himself trying to maintain a beat with a couple of girls hanging on to his arms
As well as his musical ability, his graphic design experience also proved useful. He came up with the sleeve for the 1967 album, Between the Buttons, and helped create the stage sets which became an increasingly important feature of the band’s tours.
Watts also came up with the idea of promoting their 1975 tour of the US by having the band play Brown Sugar on the back of a lorry as it drove down the street in Manhattan. He had remembered New Orleans jazz bands using the same technique and it was later copied by other groups including AC/DC and U2.
His lifestyle while on the road was in direct contrast to that of other band members. He famously rejected the charms of the hordes of groupies that dogged the band on all their tours, remaining faithful to his wife Shirley, who he had married in 1964.
However in the mid-1980s, during what he put down to a mid-life crisis, Watts went off the rails with drink and drugs, leading to heroin addiction.
“It got so bad,” he later quipped, ” that even Keith Richards, bless him, told me to get it together.”
At the same time his wife was battling her own alcoholism. and his daughter, Seraphina, had became something of a “wild child” and was expelled from the prestigious Millfield public school for smoking cannabis.
Getty ImagesHe maintained his love of jazz with The Charlie Watts Orchestra
Watts’s relations with Mick Jagger, too, had reached an all-time low.
On one famous occasion, in an Amsterdam hotel in 1984, a drunken Mick Jagger reportedly woke Watts up by bellowing down the phone “Where’s my drummer?”
Watts responded by going round to the singer’s room, hitting him with a left hook, saying “Don’t ever call me ‘your drummer’ again, you’re my f***ing singer.”
The crisis lasted two years and it was Shirley, above all, who helped him get through it.
Estimated to have been worth £80 million, as a result of the enduring popularity of the Stones, Charlie Watts lived with his wife on a farm in Devon where they bred Arabian horses.
He also became something of an expert on antique silver and collected everything from American Civil War memorabilia to old classic cars. The last was curious since he didn’t drive.
Between his regular Stones tours, Charlie Watts indulged his love of jazz. Though he always enjoyed drumming with a rock band and loved his work with the Stones, jazz gave him, as he put it, “more freedom to move around”.
Back in art college, he’d completed an illustrated biography of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, entitled Ode To A High Flying Bird.
In 1990, he used the book as the basis for a musical tribute to the man they called the Bird on an album by the Charlie Watts Quintet. It featured several of his jazz musician friends, including saxophonist Pete King.
Watts played and recorded with various incarnations of big bands. At one gig, at Ronnie Scott’s, he had a 25-piece on stage including three drummers.
Always well turned out – he had featured in several lists of best dressed men – Watts kept his feet firmly on the ground throughout his career with one of the world’s most enduring bands.
The Rolling Stones became a by-word for rock and roll excess, but for Watts, playing with the Stones did not become the ego trip that drove Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Said Charlie about his outlook on life, “I’m not really a rockstar,” he explained, pointing out how he only truly cared about making music.
“I don’t have all the trappings of that. I’ve never been interested in doing interviews or being seen,” Charlie continued, jokingly adding, “Having said that, I do have four vintage cars and can’t drive the bloody things.”
Rest In Peace Charlie. Heaven admits another legend
Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September 1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been making records for a year.
But Little Richard, delving deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his very life, raised the energy level several notches and created something not quite like any music that had been heard before — something new, thrilling and more than a little dangerous. As the rock historian Richie Unterberger put it, “He was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”
Art Rupe of Specialty Records, the label for which he recorded his biggest hits, called Little Richard “dynamic, completely uninhibited, unpredictable, wild.”
“Tutti Frutti” rocketed up the charts and was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” and other records now acknowledged as classics. His live performances were electrifying.
“He’d just burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience,” the record producer and arranger H.B. Barnum, who played saxophone with Little Richard early in his career, recalled in “The Life and Times of Little Richard” (1984), an authorized biography by Charles White. “He’d be on the stage, he’d be off the stage, he’d be jumping and yelling, screaming, whipping the audience on.”
An Immeasurable Influence
Rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, but Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage: gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup. He was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen. Offstage, he characterized himself variously as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual.”
His influence as a performer was immeasurable. It could be seen and heard in the flamboyant showmanship of James Brown, who idolized him (and used some of his musicians when Little Richard began a long hiatus from performing in 1957), and of Prince, whose ambisexual image owed a major debt to his.
Presley recorded his songs. The Beatles adopted his trademark sound, an octave-leaping exultation: “Woooo!” (Paul McCartney said that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” which he later recorded with the Beatles.) Bob Dylan wrote in his high school yearbook that his ambition was “to join Little Richard.”
Little Richard’s impact was social as well.
“I’ve always thought that rock ’n’ roll brought the races together,” Mr. White quoted him as saying. “Especially being from the South, where you see the barriers, having all these people who we thought hated us showing all this love.”
Mr. Barnum told Mr. White that “they still had the audiences segregated” at concerts in the South in those days, but that when Little Richard performed, “most times, before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”
If uniting black and white audiences was a point of pride for Little Richard, it was a cause of concern for others, especially in the South. The White Citizens Council of North Alabama issued a denunciation of rock ’n’ roll largely because it brought “people of both races together.” And with many radio stations under pressure to keep black music off the air, Pat Boone’s cleaned-up, toned-down version of “Tutti Frutti” was a bigger hit than Little Richard’s original. (He also had a hit with “Long Tall Sally.”)
Still, it seemed that nothing could stop Little Richard’s drive to the top — until he stopped it himself.
He was at the height of his fame when he left the United States in late September 1957 to begin a tour in Australia. As he told the story, he was exhausted, under intense pressure from the Internal Revenue Service and furious at the low royalty rate he was receiving from Specialty. Without anyone to advise him, he had signed a contract that gave him half a cent for every record he sold. “Tutti Frutti” had sold half a million copies but had netted him only $25,000.
One night in early October, before 40,000 fans at an outdoor arena in Sydney, he had an epiphany.
“That night Russia sent off that very first Sputnik,” he told Mr. White, referring to the first satellite sent into space. “It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads. It shook my mind. It really shook my mind. I got up from the piano and said, ‘This is it. I am through. I am leaving show business to go back to God.’”
He had one last Top 10 hit: “Good Golly Miss Molly,” recorded in 1956 but not released until early 1958. By then, he had left rock ’n’ roll behind.
He became a traveling evangelist. He entered Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Ala., a Seventh-day Adventist school, to study for the ministry. He cut his hair, got married and began recording gospel music.
For the rest of his life, he would be torn between the gravity of the pulpit and the pull of the stage.
“Although I sing rock ’n’ roll, God still loves me,” he said in 2009. “I’m a rock ’n’ roll singer, but I’m still a Christian.”
He was lured back to the stage in 1962, and over the next two years he played to wild acclaim in England, Germany and France. Among his opening acts were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, then at the start of their careers.
He went on to tour relentlessly in the United States, with a band that at one time included Jimi Hendrix on guitar. By the end of the 1960s, sold-out performances in Las Vegas and triumphant appearances at rock festivals in Atlantic City and Toronto were sending a clear message: Little Richard was back to stay. But he wasn’t.
‘I Lost My Reasoning’
By his own account, alcohol and cocaine began to sap his soul (“I lost my reasoning,” he would later say), and in 1977, he once again turned from rock ’n’ roll to God. He became a Bible salesman, began recording religious songs again and, for the second time, disappeared from the spotlight.
He did not stay away forever. The publication of his biography in 1984 signaled his return to the public eye, and he began performing again.
By now, he was as much a personality as a musician. In 1986 he played a prominent role as a record producer in Paul Mazursky’s hit movie “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” On television, he appeared on talk, variety, comedy and awards shows. He officiated at celebrity weddings and preached at celebrity funerals.
He could still raise the roof in concert. In December 1992, he stole the show at a rock ’n’ roll revival concert at Wembley Arena in London. “I’m 60 years old today,” he told the audience, “and I still look remarkable.”
He continued to look remarkable — with the help of wigs and thick pancake makeup — as he toured intermittently into the 21st century. But age eventually took its toll.
By 2007, he was walking onstage with the aid of two canes. In 2012, he abruptly ended a performance at the Howard Theater in Washington, telling the crowd, “I can’t hardly breathe.” A year later, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he was retiring.
“I am done, in a sense,” he said. “I don’t feel like doing anything right now.”
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga., on Dec. 5, 1932, the third of 12 children born to Charles and Leva Mae (Stewart) Penniman. His father was a brick mason who sold moonshine on the side. An uncle, a cousin and a grandfather were preachers, and as a boy he attended Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist and Holiness churches and aspired to be a singing evangelist. An early influence was the gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first performers to combine a religious message with the urgency of R&B.
By the time he was in his teens, Richard’s ambition had taken a detour. He left home and began performing with traveling medicine and minstrel shows, part of a 19th-century tradition that was dying out. By 1948, billed as Little Richard — the name was a reference to his youth and not his physical stature — he was a cross-dressing performer with a minstrel troupe called Sugarfoot Sam From Alabam, which had been touring for decades.
In 1951, while singing alongside strippers, comics and drag queens on the Decataur Street strip in Atlanta, he recorded his first songs. The records were generic R&B, with no distinct style, and attracted almost no attention.
Around this time, he met two performers whose look and sound would have a profound impact on his own: Billy Wright and S.Q. Reeder, who performed and recorded as Esquerita. They were both accomplished pianists, flashy dressers, flamboyant entertainers and as openly gay as it was possible to be in the South in the 1950s.
Little Richard acknowledged his debt to Esquerita, who he said gave him some piano-playing tips, and Mr. Wright, whom he once called “the most fantastic entertainer I had ever seen.” But however much he borrowed from either man, the music and persona that emerged were his own.
His break came in 1955, when Mr. Rupe signed him to Specialty and arranged for him to record with local musicians in New Orleans. During a break at that session, he began singing a raucous but obscene song that Mr. Rupe thought had the potential to capture the nascent teenage record-buying audience. Mr. Rupe enlisted a New Orleans songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, to clean up the lyrics; the song became “Tutti Frutti”; and a rock ’n’ roll star was born.
By the time he stopped performing, Little Richard was in both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (he was inducted in the Hall’s first year) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. “Tutti Frutti” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2010.
If Little Richard ever doubted that he deserved all the honors he received, he never admitted it. “A lot of people call me the architect of rock ’n’ roll,” he once said. “I don’t call myself that, but I believe it’s true.”
June 6, 2019 – Dr. John was born Malcolm John Rebennack in New Orleans on November 20, 1941, and early on got the nickname “Mac.”
When he was about 13 years old, Rebennack met blues pianist Professor Longhair (Roy Byrd) and soon began performing with him. At age 16, Rebennack quit high school to focus on playing music. He performed with several local New Orleans bands including Mac Rebennack and the Skyliners, Frankie Ford and the Thunderbirds, and Jerry Byrne and the Loafers. He had a regional hit with a Bo Diddley-influenced instrumental called “Storm Warning” on Rex Records in 1959.
Rebennack became involved in illegal activities in New Orleans in the early sixties, using and selling narcotics and running a brothel. He was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to two years in a federal prison at Fort Worth, Texas. When his sentence ended in 1965, he moved to Los Angeles, adopted the stage name of Dr. John, and collaborated with other New Orleans transplants. He became a “Wrecking Crew” session piano player appearing on works for a variety of artists including Sonny & Cher, Canned Heat on their albums Living the Blues (1968) and Future Blues (1970), and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on Freak Out! (1966).
Dr. John solo recordings include his debut LP, Gris-Gris (1968), Babylon (1969), Remedies (1970) and The Sun, Moon, and Herbs (1971) and Gumbo (1972). His 1973 release, In the Right Place, produced by Allen Toussaint, included his Top Ten hit “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
For the next three decades, Mac, as friends called him, collaborated with about everyone in rock and blues. Jagger and Richards, Springsteen, John Fogerty, Doc Pomus, Jason Isbell, Irma Thomas and so many more.
In the Movies, Dr. John appears in the Band’s opus, The Last Waltz and the sequel Blues Brothers 2000. Dr. John appears as himself in the second season of NCIS: New Orleans, playing his hit “Right Place, Wrong Time”.
He was the inspiration for Jim Henson’s Muppet character, Dr. Teeth and won 6 Grammy Awards and became a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
Dr. John, legendary New Orleans musician, died from a heart attack on June 6, 2019 at age 77.
Tony Joe White – October 24, 2018 was born on July 23, 1943, in Oak Grove, Louisiana as the youngest of seven children who grew up on a cotton farm. He first began performing music at school dances, and after graduating from high school he performed in night clubs in Texas and Louisiana.
As a singer-songwriter and guitarist, he became best known for his 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie” and for “Rainy Night in Georgia”, which he wrote but was first made popular by Brook Benton in 1970. He also wrote “Steamy Windows” and “Undercover Agent for the Blues”, both hits for Tina Turner in 1989; those two songs came by way of Turner’s producer at the time, Mark Knopfler, who was a friend of White. “Polk Salad Annie” was also recorded by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones.
In 1967, White signed with Monument Records, which operated from a recording studio in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and produced a variety of sounds, including rock and roll, country and western, and rhythm and blues. Billy Swan was his producer.
Over the next three years, White released four singles with no commercial success in the U.S., although “Soul Francisco” was a hit in France. “Polk Salad Annie” had been released for nine months and written off as a failure by his record label, when it finally entered the U.S. charts in July 1969. It climbed to the Top Ten by early August, and eventually reached No. 8, becoming White’s biggest hit.
White’s first album, 1969’s Black and White, was recorded with Muscle Shoals/Nashville musicians David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, and Jerry Carrigan, and featured “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” and “Polk Salad Annie”, along with a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”. “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” was covered by Dusty Springfield and released as a single, later added to reissues of her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis.
Three more singles quickly followed, all minor hits, and White toured with Steppenwolf, Anne Murray, Sly & the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other major rock acts of the 1970s, playing in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and England.
In 1973, White appeared in the film Catch My Soul, a rock-opera adaption of Shakespeare’s Othello. White played and sang four and composed seven songs for the musical.
In late September 1973, White was recruited by record producer Huey Meaux to sit in on the legendary Memphis sessions that became Jerry Lee Lewis’s landmark Southern Roots album.By all accounts, these sessions were a three-day, around-the-clock party, which not only reunited the original MGs (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MGs fame) for the first time in three years, but also featured Carl Perkins, Mark Lindsay (of Paul Revere & the Raiders), and Wayne Jackson plus The Memphis Horns.
From 1976 to 1983, White released three more albums, each on a different label. Trying to combine his own swamp-rock sound with the popular disco music at the time, the results were not met with success and White gave up his career as a singer and concentrated on writing songs. During this time frame, he collaborated with American expat Joe Dassin on his only English-language album, Home Made Ice Cream, and its French-language counterpart Blue Country.
In 1989, White produced one non-single track on Tina Turner’s Foreign Affair album, the rest of the album was produced by Dan Hartman. Playing a variety of instruments on the album, he also wrote four songs, including the title song and the hit single “Steamy Windows”. As a result of this he became managed by Roger Davies, who was Turner’s manager at the time, and he obtained a new contract with Polydor.
The resulting album, 1991’s Closer to the Truth, was a commercial successand put White back in the spotlight. He released two more albums for Polydor; The Path of a Decent Groove and Lake Placid Blues which was co-produced by Roger Davies.
In the 1990s, White toured Germany and France with Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton, and in 1992 he played the Montreux Festival.
In 1996, Tina Turner released the song “On Silent Wings” written by White.
In 2000, Hip-O Records released One Hot July in the U.S., giving White his first new major-label domestic release in 17 years. The critically acclaimed The Beginningappeared on Swamp Records in 2001, followed by Heroines, featuring several duets with female vocalists including Jessi Colter, Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Michelle White, on Sanctuary in 2004, and a live Austin City Limits concert, Live from Austin, TX, on New West Records in 2006. In 2004, White was the featured guest artist in an episode of the Legends Rock TV Show and Concert Series, produced by Megabien Entertainment.
In 2007, White released another live recording, Take Home the Swamp, as well as the compilation Introduction to Tony Joe White. Elkie Brooks recorded one of White’s songs, “Out of The Rain”, on her 2005 Electric Lady album. On July 14, 2006, in Magny-Cours, France, White performed as a warm-up act for Roger Waters’ The Dark Side of the Moon concert. White’s album, entitled Uncovered, was released in September 2006 and featured collaborations with Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, and J.J. Cale.
The song “Elements and Things” from the 1969 album …Continued features prominently during the horse-racing scenes in the 2012 HBO television series “Luck”.
In 2013, White signed to Yep Roc Records and released Hoodoo.Mother Jones called the album “Steamy, Irresistible” and No Depression noted Tony Joe White is “the real king of the swamp.” He also made his Live…with Jools Holland debut in London, playing songs from Hoodoo.
On October 15, 2014, White appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman alongside the Foo Fighters to perform “Polk Salad Annie”. Pointing to White, Letterman told his TV audience, “Holy cow! … If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass. And I mean that.”
In May 2016, Tony Joe White released Rain Crow on Yep Roc Records. The lead track “Hoochie Woman” was co-written with his wife, Leann. The track “Conjure Child” is a follow up to an earlier song, “Conjure Woman.
The album Bad Mouthin’ was released in September 2018 again on Yep Roc Records. The album contains six self-penned songs and five blues standards written by, amongst others, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker. On the album White also performs a cover of the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel”. White plays acoustic and electric guitar on the album which was produced by his son Jody White and has a signature Tony Joe White laid back sound.
White died of a heart attack on October 24, 2018, at the age of 75
December 5, 2017 – Johnny Halliday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris. His father was Belgian and his mother French. took his stage name from A cousin-in-law from Oklahoma, USA who performed as Lee Halliday called Smet “Johnny” and became a father figure, introducing him to American music. And the name Johnny Halliday was born. Continue reading Johnny Halliday 12/2017
November 18, 2017 – Malcolm Young (AC/DC) was born on January 6, 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland, into a rather large musical family. When he was 10 years old, the family decided to move to Australia, after surviving the worst winter on record in Scotland and TV spot that offered assisted travel for families for a different life in Australia. In late June of 1963, 15 members of the family flew to a new life in “Down Under”, including his older brother George and younger brother Angus.
Malcolm later described the family’s musical background as, “All the males in our family played, Stevie, the oldest played accordion, Alex and John were the first couple to play guitar, and being older, it was sort of passed down to George, then myself, then Angus.”
October 24, 20017 – Antoine Dominique Fats Domino was born on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of eight in a Louisiana Creole family. At age 9, he started to learn piano, taught by his brother-in-law, jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett. By age 14, Domino was performing in New Orleans bars.
In 1947, Billy Diamond, a New Orleans bandleader, accepted an invitation to hear the young pianist perform at a backyard barbecue. Domino played well enough that Diamond asked him to join his band, the Solid Senders, at the Hideaway Club in New Orleans, where he would earn $3 a week playing the piano. Diamond nicknamed him “Fats”, for three reasons: Domino reminded him of the renowned pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon, and young Domino’s ferocious appetite.
October 17, 2017 – Gord Downie was born February 6, 1964 in Amherstview, Ontario, and raised in Kingston, Ontario, along with his two brothers Mike and Patrick. He was the son of Lorna (Neal) and Edgar Charles Downie, a traveling salesman. In Kingston, he befriended the musicians who would become The Tragically Hip, while attending the downtown Kingston high school Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
Downie formed the Tragically Hip with Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair in 1983. Saxophone player Davis Manning left the band and guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986. Originally, the band started off playing cover songs in bars and quickly became famous once MCA Records president Bruce Dickinson saw them performing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and offered them a record deal. Continue reading Gord Downie 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Tom Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville Florida. Growing up in the town that houses the University of Florida, music became the young Petty’s refuge from a domineering, abusive father who despised Tom’s sensitivity and creative tendencies—but would later glom on to his son’s rock-star fame for status. In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley’s film Follow That Dream in nearby Ocala, and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot. He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday, he was greeted by his friend Keith Harben, and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis 45s.
September 3, 2017 – Walter Becker (Steely Dan) was born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York. Becker was raised by his father and grandmother, after his parents separated when he was a young boy and his mother, who was British, moved back to England. They lived in Queens and as of the age of five in Scarsdale, New York. Becker’s father sold paper-cutting machinery for a company which had offices in Manhattan.
He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan in the class of 1967. After starting out on saxophone, he switched to guitar and received instruction in blues technique from neighbor Randy Wolfe, better known as Randy California of the psychedelic westcoast sensation “Spirit”, a nickname he got from Jimi Hendrix while playing with him in New York in the mid sixties.
May 27, 2017 – Gregory LeNoir “Gregg” Allman was born December 8th, 1947 in Nashville, TN, a little more than a year after his older brother Duane. In 1949, his dad offered a hitchhiker a ride home and was subsequently shot and killed. After that tragedy his mother Geraldine moved to Nashville with her two sons, and she never remarried. Lacking money to support her two sons, she enrolled in college to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). State laws at the time required students to live on-campus and as a consequence, Gregg and his older brother Duane were sent to Castle Heights Military Academy in nearby Lebanon. A young Gregg interpreted these actions as evidence of his mother’s dislike for him, though he later came to understand the reality: “She was actually sacrificing everything she possibly could—she was working around the clock, getting by just by a hair, so as to not send us to an orphanage, which would have been a living hell.”Continue reading Gregg Allman 5/2017
May 17, 2017 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964 in Seattle, Washington, where he was also raised. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Cornell was a loner; he tried to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music but during his early teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression and almost never left the house. His first favorite band were the Beatles. A noteworthy rumor later was that Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor’s house. Continue reading Chris Cornell 5/2017
May 1, 2018 – Bruce Hampton (born Gustav Valentine Berglund III was born on April 30, 1947 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hampton first popped onto the music scene in 1967s, fronting the avant garde, Delta blues-influenced Hampton Grease Band in Atlanta Georgia. The band became a staple on the infamous Peachtree Street Strip, which rivaled Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco as a hippie hub. The Grease Band soon became known for its over-the-top performances. A good portion of this came from Hampton himself, who liberally broke rules with boundary-pushing sensibilities years before punk rock and Andy Kaufman. Continue reading Col. Bruce Hampton 5/2017
April 15, 2017 – Allan Holdsworth was born on August 6, 1946 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Holdsworth was originally taught music by his father, who was a pianist. First a saxophone player, he gravitated to the guitar at the age of 17 and caught on quickly. Entirely self-taught, his protean, virtuosic style became a source of amazement even to his more famous peers. He began working professionally as a musician in his early 20s, inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Jimmy Raney, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass and John Coltrane. Continue reading Allan Holdsworth 4/2017
April 5, 2017 – Paul O’Neill (Trans Siberian Orchestra) was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City on February 23, 1956.
The second born child in a household with ten children he was raised in a home filled with art and literature. “Back then, in the 60s, it was OK to be smart and artistic,” he said. “I loved books. I loved music. I loved Broadway — and I had it right down the street, y’know? It really was a special, magical time.” He learned to play guitar and became a rock fan and began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. Continue reading Paul O’Neill 4/2017
March 18, 2017 – Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was born on October 18, 1926 in St. Louis Missouri. Chuck was the fourth child in a family of six. He grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood known as The Ville, an area where many middle-class people lived at the time. His father, Henry, was a contractor and deacon of a nearby Baptist church; his mother, Martha, was a certified public school principal. His upbringing allowed him to pursue his interest in music from an early age. He gave his first public performance in 1941 while still a student at Sumner High School.
In 1944, while still a student at Sumner High School, he was arrested for armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends.Continue reading Chuck Berry 3/2017
February 12, 2017 – Al Jarreau was born Alwin Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the fifth in a family of 6 children.
His father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.
Jarreau went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Moving to San Franciso during the 1967 summer of love, Jarreau worked as a rehabilitation counselor and moonlighted with a jazz trio headed by George Duke. In San Francisco, Al’s natural musical gifts began to shape his future and by the late 60s, he knew without a doubt that he would make singing his life. He joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez to “spell” up-and-coming comics John Belushi, Bette Midler, Robert Klein, David Brenner, Jimmie Walker and others at the famed comedy venue, THE IMPROV and soon the duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito night club called Gatsby’s. This success contributed to Jarreau’s decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career.Continue reading Al Jarreau 2/2017
December 7, 2016 – Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born on 10 November 1947 in Poole, Dorset near Bournemouth, England. Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor called Don Strike.
first learned to play guitar at age 12. After 12 months of guitar lessons, Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows but his instructor “wouldn’t have any of it.” After he left school, Lake worked as a draughtsman for a short period of time before he joined The Shame, where he is featured on their single “Don’t Go Away Little Girl”, written by Janis Ian. Lake then became a member of The Gods, which he described as “a very poor training college”.
November 7, 2016 – Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on September 21, 1934 and raised in the English-speaking Westmount area. His father, who had a clothing store passed away when Leonard was 9.
In high school he was involved with the student council and studied music and poetry. He became especially interested in the poetry of Federico García Lorca, after whom he named his daughter (Lorca) with artist/photographer Suzanne Elrod.
Even though poetry and writing were his first interests, he learned to play the guitar as a teenager and formed a country–folk group called The Buckskin Boys. Although he initially played a regular acoustic guitar, he soon switched to playing a classical guitar after meeting a young Spanish flamenco guitar player who taught him “a few chords and some flamenco.” Continue reading Leonard Cohen 11/2016
April 21, 2016 – Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor, Prince became a superstar between 1978 and 1990 and beyond. He was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Prince developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. Continue reading Prince 4/2016
January 18, 2016 – Glenn Frey was born on Nov. 6, 1948 in Detroit and was raised in nearby Royal Oak. He grew up on both the Motown sounds and harder-edged rock of his hometown. He played in a succession of local bands in the city and first connected with Bob Seger when Frey’s band, the Mushrooms, convinced Seger to write a song for them. Frey can also be heard singing extremely loud backing vocals (particularly on the first chorus) on Seger’s first hit and Frey’s first recorded appearance, 1968’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”
But it wasn’t long before warmer climes called and Frey followed then-girlfriend Joan Silwin to Los Angeles. Her sister Alexandra was a member of Honey Ltd., a girl group associated with Nancy Sinatra producer Lee Hazelwood, and she introduced Frey to her friend John David Souther.
2016 – David Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947 in South London, England. Bowie developed an early interest in music although his attempts to succeed as a pop star during much of the 1960s were frustrated. Bowie’s first hit song, “Space Oddity”, reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969.
After a three-year period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie’s impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture”. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one facet of a career marked by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation. Continue reading David Bowie 1/2016
May 14, 2015 – Riley BB King was born on September 16, 1925. Little new can be said about BB King, who passed away in his sleep at age 89 on May 14, 2015 at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was the King of the iconic living bluesmen of all time, the legendary BB King.
A Kennedy Center honoree, a 15-time Grammy winner and a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, has a museum bearing his name and landed the number six spot on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists.”
He was born in Indianola, Mississippi and acquired the moniker BB King from his Memphis Days when he gained guitar wizardry as Beale Street Blues Boy.Continue reading BB King 5/2015
November 6, 2014 – Manitas de Plata was born Ricardo Baliardo on August 7th 1921 in a gypsy caravan in the Mediterranean city of Sète in southern France. He became world famous as Manitas de Plata, the French gitano flamenco virtuoso guitarist, arguably second only to Django Reinhardt
He initially became famous by playing each year at the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Gypsy pilgrimage in the Camargue, where he was recorded live by Deben Bhattacharya and only agreed to play in public ten years after the death of Django Reinhardt.
He recorded his first official album in the chapel of Arles in France, in 1963, for the Phillips label. Upon hearing him play at Arles in 1964, Pablo Picasso is said to have exclaimed “that man is of greater worth than I am!” and proceeded to draw on the guitar. Continue reading Manitas de Plata 11/2014
October 25, 2014 –Jack Bruce, probably best known as songwriter/singer and bass player for 1960s Super Group Cream, was born in Glasgow/Scotland on May 14, 1943.
His parents travelled extensively in Canada and the U.S.A. and Jack attended 14 different schools, finishing his formal education at Bellahouston Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, to which he won a scholarship for cello and composition. He left the Academy and his homeland at the age of 16, because of poverty and discouraged by his professors’ lack of interest in his ideas.
Jack travelled to Italy and then England, playing double-bass in dance bands and jazz groups, and joined his first important band in 1962 in London. This was Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. with whom Charlie Watts, later to join the Rolling Stones, was their drummer. Jack left Alexis in 1963 to form a group with organist Graham Bond, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Ginger Baker. This group became the seminal Graham Bond Organisation after McLaughlin left, and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith joined. Jack was compelled by Ginger Baker to leave this band after three years, because his playing was “too busy”!
Jack turned down Marvin Gaye’s offer to join his U.S.-based band because of his impending first marriage. He then joined John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, where he first met Eric Clapton, followed by Manfred Mann in an ill-advised attempt at commercialism. It was Ginger Baker who initially asked Jack to form a trio with Eric Clapton. Eric insisted that Jack would be the singer.
Cream went on to sell 35 million albums in just over two years and was awarded the first ever platinum disc for Wheels of Fire. Jack wrote and sang most of the songs, including “I Feel Free”, “White Room”, “Politician” and perhaps the world’s most performed guitar riff, in “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Cream split in November 1968 at the height of their popularity; Jack felt that he had strayed too far from his ideals and wanted to re-discover his musical and social roots. Continue reading Jack Bruce 10/2014
July 16, 2014 – Legendary blues musician Johnny Winter died in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 16th, 2014 at age 70. There are plenty of reasons why that’s notable — Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, releasing a string of popular and fiery albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies, becoming an arena-level concert draw in the process — but it’s the barest facts that remain the most inspiring.
Johnny Dawson Winter, who was born on February 23rd, 1944 in little Beaumont, Texas, afflicted with albinism and 20/400 eyesight in one eye and 20/600 in the other, made an iconic life for himself by playing the blues.
Feb 25, 2014- Paco de Lucia was born Francisco Gustavo Sánchez Gomes on December 21, 1947 in Algeciras, Southern Spain. He was the youngest of the five children of flamenco guitarist Antonio Sánchez Pecino and Portuguese mother Lúcia Gomes; his brothers include flamenco singer Pepe de Lucía and flamenco guitarist Ramón de Algeciras (deceased).
Playing in the streets as a young boy, there were many Pacos and Pablos in Algeciras, and as he wanted to honor his Portuguese mother Lucia Gomes, he adopted the stage name Paco de Lucía. In 1958, at age 11, Paco made his first public appearance on Radio Algeciras.
His father Antonio received guitar lessons from the hand of a cousin of Melchor de Marchena: Manuel Fernández (aka Titi de Marchena), a guitarist who arrived in Algeciras in the 1920s and established a school there. Antonio introduced Paco to the guitar at a young age and was extremely strict in his upbringing from the age of 5, forcing him to practice up to 12 hours a day, every day, to ensure that he could find success as a professional musician. Continue reading Paco de Lucia 2/2014
January 27, 2014 –Pete Seeger was born May 3, 1917 born in Midtown Manhattan, New York. Seeger was born into a traditionally pacifistic and highly musical family, which was typically for the era politically translated into communist tendencies. His dad Charles Seeger was hired to establish the music department at the University of California, Berkeley, but was forced to resign in 1918 because of his outspoken pacifism during World War I. His parents divorced when he was seven.
He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, collected and transcribed rural American folk music, as did folklorists like John and Alan Lomax.
He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.
Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted as saying in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”Continue reading Pete Seeger 1/2014
January 3, 2014 –Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family. His father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.
Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7, through early high school, in Shenandoah before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.
October 27, 2013 –Lou Reed was born Lewis Allan Reed into a Jewish family in Brooklyn , New York.
Although he acknowledged that he was Jewish, he always added, “My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”
Reed attended Atkinson Elementary School in Freeport on Long Island and went on to Freeport Junior High School, notorious for its gangs. As a teenager, he suffered panic attacks, became socially awkward and “possessed a fragile temperament” but was highly focused on things that he liked – principally music.
Reed resumed his education at Syracuse University in 1960, studying journalism, film directing, and creative writing. He was a platoon leader in ROTC and was later expelled from the program for holding an unloaded gun to his superior’s head. In 1961, he began hosting a late-night radio program on WAER called Excursions On A Wobbly Rail. Named after a song by pianist Cecil Taylor, the program typically featured doo wop, rhythm and blues, and jazz, particularly the free jazz developed in the mid-1950s. Continue reading Lou Reed 10/2013
May 20, 2013 – Ray Manzarek Jr. was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating sound. His evocative keyboard playing fused rock, jazz, blues, classical and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new, and his restless artistic explorations continued unabated for the rest of his life.
He was born on February 12, 1939 to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven.
March 30, 2013 – Philip “Phil” Ramone was born January 5th 1934 in South Africa but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child in South Africa, he was a musical prodigy, beginning to play the violin at age three and performing for Princess Elizabeth at age ten. In the late 1940s he trained as a classical violinist at the Juilliard School, and opened his own recording studio before he was 20. He became a naturalized citizen of the USA on December 14th 1953.
A very talented recording engineer, record producer, violinist and composer, he co-founded A & R Recording, Inc. a recording studio with business partner Jack Arnold in 1958.
His early work in producing and engineering was with jazz artists, working on John Coltrane records and acting as engineer for the landmark Getz/Gilberto album in 1964, for which he won his first Grammy. He transitioned during the 1960s to working with folk-rock, pop-rock, and R&B acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, first primarily as an engineer, and later as a producer. Continue reading Phil Ramone 3/2013
March 6, 2013 – Alvin Lee,(Ten Years After) born Graham Anthony Barnes on Dec. 19, 1944, was a truly inspired blues rock guitarist-vocalist, whose performance with Ten Years After during Woodstock 1969, catapulted him into superstardom. The song “I’m Going Home” became legendary and his speed earned him the title “The Fastest Guitarist in the West”. A lifelong search for freedom resulted in more than 20 albums of superb blues rock. Ten Years After would ultimately tour the US twenty-eight times in seven years – more than any other UK band.
He was born in Nottingham and attended the Margaret Glen-Bott School in Wollaton. He began playing guitar at the age of 13 and in 1960, Lee along with Leo Lyons formed the core of the band Ten Years After. Influenced by his parents’ collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that sparked his interest.
He began to play professionally in 1962, in a band named the Jaybirds, they began that year to perform in the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. After a couple of name changes by 1966 they had finally decided on the name Ten Years After.
July 16, 2012 – John Douglas “Jon” Lord ( Deep Purple/Whitesnake) was born in Leicester, England on June 9th 1941 and retained a strong bond with the city throughout his life. His father was an amateur saxophone musician and encouraged Lord from an early age. There was an old upright piano in the house and Jon showed an early interest in the instrument so his parents enrolled him for formal piano lessons when he was seven. At nine he found another teacher, Frederick All, who gave recitals for the BBC and played the church organ. “He was a marvelous teacher”, says Lord. “He could impart a love of music to his students as well as teaching them to play it. He taught me to enjoy music and to want to play well.” Those influences were a recurring trademark in Jon’s work.
He attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys between 1952 and 1958 and then worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office for two years, but was fired for taking too much time off work.
Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and “Brother” Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy”), as well as the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis and performers like Buddy Holly, whom he saw perform at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester in March 1958.
Lord moved to London in 1959–60, intent on an acting career and enrolling at the Central School of Speech and Drama, in London’s Swiss Cottage. Following a celebrated student rebellion he became a founder of Drama Centre London, from where he graduated in 1964. From here on his life became a Who’s Who in the early London years of the British Invasion and beyond.
Small acting parts followed, and Lord continued playing the piano and the organ in nightclubs and as a session musician to earn a living. He started his band career in London in 1960 with the jazz ensemble The Bill Ashton Combo. Ashton became a key figure in jazz education in Britain, creating what later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Between 1960 and 1963, Lord and Ashton both moved on to Red Bludd’s Bluesicians (also known as The Don Wilson Quartet), the latter of which featured the singer Arthur “Art” Wood, brother of guitarist Ronnie Wood. Wood had previously sung with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and was a junior figure in the British blues movement.
In this period, Lord altered the spelling of his name from his birth name “John” to “Jon” and his session credits included playing the keyboards in “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks number one hit of 1964, however in a Guitar World interview Ray Davies of The Kinks stated it was actually Arthur Greenslade playing piano on that particular track.
Following the break-up of Redd Bludd’s Bluesicians in late 1963, Wood, Lord, and the drummer Red Dunnage put together a new band, The Art Wood Combo. This also included Derek Griffiths (guitar) and Malcolm Pool (bass guitar). Dunnage left in December 1964 to be replaced by Keef Hartley, who had previously replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. This band, later known as “The Artwoods”, focused on the organ as the bluesy, rhythmic core of their sound, in common with the contemporary bands The Spencer Davis Group (Steve Winwood on organ) and The Animals (with Alan Price). They made appearances on the BBC’s Saturday Club radio show and on such TV programs as Ready Steady Go!. It also performed abroad, and it appeared on the first Ready Steady Goes Live, promoting its first single the Lead Belly song “Sweet Mary” — but significant commercial success eluded it. Its only charting single was “I Take What I Want”, which reached number 28 on 8 May 1966.
The jazz-blues organ style of black R&B organ players in the 1950s and 1960s, using the trademark blues-organ sound of the Hammond organ (B3 and C3 models) and combining it with the Leslie speaker system (the well-known Hammond-Leslie speaker combination), were seminal influences on Lord. Lord also stated later that he was heavily influenced by the organ-based progressive rock played by Vanilla Fudge after seeing that band perform in Great Britain in 1967, and earlier by the personal direction he received from British organ pioneer Graham Bond.
The Artwoods regrouped in 1967 as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre“. This was an attempt to cash in on the 1930s gangster craze set off by the American film Bonnie and Clyde. Hartley left the band in 1967 to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Lord next founded the “Santa Barbera Machine Head”, featuring Art’s brother, Ronnie Wood, writing and recording three powerful keyboard-driven instrumental tracks, giving a preview of the future style of Deep Purple. Soon thereafter, Lord went on to cover for the keyboard player Billy Day in “The Flower Pot Men”, where he met the bass guitarist Nick Simper along with drummer Carlo Little and guitarist Ged Peck. Lord and Simper then toured with this band in 1967 to promote its hit single “Let’s Go To San Francisco”, but the two men never recorded with this band.
In early 1967, through his roommate Chris Curtis of the Searchers, Lord met businessman Tony Edwards who was looking to invest in the music business alongside partners Ron Hire and John Coletta (HEC Enterprises). Session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was called in and he met Lord for the first time, but Chris Curtis’s erratic behaviour led the trio nowhere. Edwards was impressed enough by Jon Lord to ask him to form a band after Curtis faded out. Simper was contacted, and Blackmore was recalled from Hamburg. Although top British player Bobby Woodman was the first choice as drummer, during the auditions for a singer, Rod Evans of “The Maze” came in with his own drummer, Ian Paice. Blackmore, who had been impressed by Paice’s drumming when he met him in 1967, set up an audition for Paice as well. The band was called the “Roundabout” at first and began rehearsals at Deeves Hall in Hertfordshire. By March 1968, this became the “Mark 1” line-up of “Deep Purple”: Lord, Simper, Blackmore, Paice, and Evans. Lord also helped form the band “Boz” with some of its recordings being produced by Derek Lawrence. “Boz” included Boz Burrell (later of King Crimson and Bad Company), Blackmore (guitar), Paice (drums), Chas Hodges (bass).
Lord pushed the Hammond-Leslie sound through Marshall amplification, creating a growling, heavy, mechanical sound which allowed Lord to compete with Blackmore as a soloist, with an organ that sounded as prominent as the lead guitar. Said one reviewer, “many have tried to imitate [Lord’s] style, and all failed.” Said Lord himself, “There’s a way of playing a Hammond that’s different. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that you can play a Hammond with a piano technique. Well, you can, but it sounds like you are playing a Hammond with a piano technique. Really, you have to learn how to play an organ. It’s a legato technique; it’s a technique to achieve legato on a non-legato instrument.”
In early Deep Purple recordings, Lord had appeared to be the leader of the band. Despite the cover songs “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” becoming hits in North America, Deep Purple never made chart success in the UK until the Concerto for Group and Orchestra album (1970). Lord’s willingness later to play many of the key rhythm parts gave Blackmore the freedom to let loose both live and on record.
On Deep Purple’s second and third albums, Lord began indulging his ambition to fuse rock with classical music. An early example of this is the song “Anthem” from the album The Book of Taliesyn (1968), but a more prominent example is the song “April” from the band’s self-titled third album (1969). The song is recorded in three parts: 1. Lord and Blackmore only, on keyboards and acoustic guitar, respectively; 2. an orchestral arrangement complete with strings; and 3. the full rock band with vocals. Lord’s ambition enhanced his reputation among fellow musicians, but caused tension within the group.
Simper later said, “The reason the music lacked direction was Jon Lord fucked everything up with his classical ideas.” Blackmore agreed to go along with Lord’s experimentation, provided he was given his head on the next band album.
The resulting Concerto For Group and Orchestra (in 1969) was one of rock’s earliest attempts to fuse two distinct musical idioms. Performed live at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 September 1969 (with new band members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, Evans and Simper having been fired), it was recorded by the BBC and later released as an album. The Concerto gave Deep Purple its first highly publicised taste of mainstream fame and gave Lord the confidence to believe that his experiment and his compositional skill had a future
Purple began work on Deep Purple in Rock, released by their new label Harvest in 1970 and now recognised as one of hard rock’s key early works. Lord and Blackmore competed to out-dazzle each other, often in classical-style, midsection ‘call and answer’ improvisation (on tracks like “Speed King”), something they employed to great effect live. Ian Gillan said that Lord provided the idea on the main organ riff for “Child in Time” although the riff was also based on It’s a Beautiful Day’s 1969 psychedelic hit song “Bombay Calling”. Lord’s experimental solo on “Hard Lovin’ Man” (complete with police-siren interpolation) from this album was his personal favourite among his Deep Purple studio performances.
Deep Purple released another six studio albums between 1971 (Fireball) and 1975 (Come Taste the Band). Gillan and Glover left in 1973 and Blackmore in 1975, and the band disintegrated in 1976. The highlights of Lord’s Purple work in the period include the 1972 album Machine Head (featuring his rhythmic underpinnings on “Smoke on the Water” and “Space Truckin'”, plus the organ solos on “Highway Star”, “Pictures of Home” and “Lazy”), the sonic bombast of the Made in Japan live album (1972), an extended, effect-laden solo on “Rat Bat Blue” from the Who Do We Think We Are album (1973), and his overall playing on the Burn album from 1974.
Roger Glover would later describe Lord as a true “Zen-archer soloist”, someone whose best keyboard improvisation often came at the first attempt. Lord’s strict reliance on the Hammond C3 organ sound, as opposed to the synthesizer experimentation of his contemporaries, places him firmly in the jazz-blues category as a band musician and far from the progressive-rock sound of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. Lord rarely ventured into the synthesizer territory on Purple albums, often limiting his experimentation to the use of the ring modulator with the Hammond, to give live performances on tracks like Space Truckin’ a distinctive ‘spacy’ sound. Instances of his Deep Purple synthesizer use (he became an endorser of the ARP Oyssey) include “‘A’ 200”, the final track from Burn, and “Love Child” on the Come Taste the Band album.
In early 1973 Lord stated: “We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven.”
Lord continued to focus on his classical aspirations alongside his Deep Purple career. The BBC, buoyed by the success of the Concerto, commissioned him to write another piece and the resulting “Gemini Suite” was performed by Deep Purple and the Light Music Society under Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall in September 1970, and then in Munich with the Kammerorchester conducted by Eberhard Schoener in January 1972. It then became the basis for Lord’s first solo album, Gemini Suite, released in November 1972, with vocals by Yvonne Elliman and Tony Ashton and with the London Symphony Orchestra backing a band that included Albert Lee on guitar.(Ritchie Blackmore had played the guitar at the first live performance of the Gemini Suite in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the studio version, which led to the involvement of Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Tony Ashton).
In March 1974, Lord and Paice had collaborated with friend Tony Ashton on First of the Big Bands, credited to ‘Ashton & Lord’ and featuring a rich array of session talent, including Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd saxophonist/sessioner, Dick Parry. They performed much of the set live at the London Palladium in September 1974.
This formed the basis of Lord’s first post-Deep Purple project Paice Ashton Lord, which lasted only a year and spawned a single album, Malice in Wonderland in 1977, recorded at Musicland Studios Musicland Studios at the Arabella Hotel in Munich. He created an informal group of friends and collaborators including Ashton, Paice, Bernie Marsden, Boz Burrell and later, Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs, Simon Kirke and others. Over the same period, Lord guested on albums by Maggie Bell, Nazareth and even folk artist Richard Digance. Eager to pay off a huge tax bill upon his return the UK in the late-1970s (Purple’s excesses included their own tour jet and a home Lord rented in Malibu from actress Ann-Margret and where he wrote the Sarabande album), Lord joined former Deep Purple band member David Coverdale’s new band, Whitesnake in August 1978 (Lord’s job in Whitesnake was largely limited to adding color or, in his own words, a ‘halo’ to round out a blues-rock sound that already accommodated two lead guitarists, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody.
A number of singles such as “Here I Go Again”, “Wine, Women and Song”, “She’s a Woman” and “Till the Day I Die” entered the UK chart, taking the now 40-something Lord onto Top of the Pops with regularity between 1980 and 1983. He later expressed frustration that he was a poorly paid hired-hand, but fans saw little of this discord and Whitesnake’s commercial success kept him at the forefront of readers’ polls as heavy rock’s foremost keyboard maestro. His dissatisfaction (and Coverdale’s eagerness to revamp the band’s line-up and lower the average age to help crack the US market) smoothed the way for the reformation of Deep Purple Mk II in 1984.
During his tenure in Whitesnake, Lord had the opportunity to record two distinctly different solo albums and was later commissioned by producer Patrick Gamble for Central Television to write the soundtrack for their 1984 TV series, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, based on the book by Edith Holden, with an orchestra conducted by Alfred Ralston and with a distinctly gentle, pastoral series of themes composed by Lord. Lord became firmly established as a member of UK rock’s “Oxfordshire mansion aristocracy” – with a home, Burntwood Hall, set in 23.5 acres at Goring-on-Thames, complete with its own cricket pitch and a hand-painted Challen baby grand piano, previously owned by Shirley Bassey. He was asked to guest on albums by friends George Harrison (Gone Troppo from 1982) and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (1984’s About Face), Cozy Powell (Octopus in 1983) and to play on an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the Willows. He composed and produced the score for White Fire (1984), which consisted largely of two songs performed by Limelight. In 1985 he made a brief appearance as a member of The Singing Rebel’s band (which also featured Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais-scripted film Water (1985) (Handmade Films).
In the 1980s he was also a member of an all-star band called Olympic Rock & Blues Circus fronted by Pete York and featuring a rotating line-up of the likes of Miller Anderson, Tony Ashton, Brian Auger, Zoot Money, Colin Hodgkinson, Chris Farlowe and many others. Olympic Rock & Blues Circus toured primarily in Germany between 1981 and 1989. Some musicians, including Lord, took part in York’s TV musical extravaganza Superdrumming between 1987 and 1989.
Lord’s re-emergence with Deep Purple in 1984 resulted in huge audiences for the reformed Mk II line-up, including 1985s second largest grossing tour in the US and an appearance in front of 80,000 rain-soaked fans headlining Knebworth on 22 June 1985, all to support the Perfect Strangers album. Playing with a rejuvenated Mk. II Purple line-up (including spells at a health farm to get the band including Lord into shape) and being onstage and in the studio with Blackmore, gave Lord the chance to push himself once again. His ‘rubato’ classical opening sequence to the album’s opener, “Knocking at Your Back Door” (complete with F-Minor to G polychordal harmony sequence), gave Lord the chance to do his most powerful work for years, including the song “Perfect Strangers”. Further Deep Purple albums followed, often of varying quality, and by the late-1990s, Lord was clearly keen to explore new avenues for his musical career.
In 1997, he created perhaps his most personal work to date, Pictured Within, released in 1998 with a European tour to support it. Lord’s mother Miriam had died in August 1995 and the album is a deeply affecting piece, inflected at all stages by Lord’s sense of grief. Recorded largely in Lord’s home-away-from-home, the city of Cologne, the album’s themes are Elgarian and alpine in equal measure. Lord signed to Virgin Classics to release it, and perhaps saw it as the first stage in his eventual departure from Purple to embark on a low-key and altogether more gentle solo career. One song from Pictured Within, entitled “Wait A While” was later covered by Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø on her 2003/2004 album My Heart. Lord finally retired from Deep Purple amicably in 2002, preceded by a knee injury that eventually resolved itself without surgery. He said subsequently, “Leaving Deep Purple was just as traumatic as I had always suspected it would be and more so – if you see what I mean”. He even dedicated a song to it on 2004’s solo effort, Beyond the Notes, called “De Profundis”. The album was recorded in Bonn with producer Mario Argandoña between June and July 2004.
Lord slowly built a small, but distinct position and fan base for himself in Europe. He collaborated with former ABBA superstar and family friend, Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad,) on the 2004 track, “The Sun Will Shine Again” (with lyrics by Sam Brown) and performed with her across Europe. He subsequently also performed European concerts to première the 2007-scheduled Boom of the Tingling Strings orchestral piece.
In 2003 he also returned to his beloved R-n-B/blues heritage to record an album of standards in Sydney, with Australia’s Jimmy Barnes, entitled Live in the Basement, by Jon Lord and the Hoochie Coochie Men, showing himself to be one of British rock music’s most eclectic and talented instrumentalists. Lord was also happy to support the Sam Buxton Sunflower Jam Healing Trust and in September 2006, performed at a star-studded event to support the charity led by Ian Paice’s wife, Jacky (twin sister of Lord’s wife Vicky). Featured artists on stage with Lord included Paul Weller, Robert Plant, Phil Manzanera, Ian Paice and Bernie Marsden.
In July 2011, Lord performed his final live concert appearance, the Sunflower Jam at the Royal Albert Hall, where he premiered his joint composition with Rick Wakeman. At that point, they had begun informal discussion on recording an album together. Up until 2011, Lord had also been working on material with the recently formed rock supergroup WhoCares, also featuring singer Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, guitarist Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, second guitarist Mikko Lindström from HIM, bassist Jason Newsted formerly from Metallica and drummer Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, specifically the composition “Out of My Mind,” in addition to new compositions with Steve Balsamo and a Hammond Organ Concerto. Lord subsequently cancelled a performance of his Durham Concerto in Hagen, Germany, for what his website said was a continuation of his medical treatment (the concert, scheduled for 6 July 2012, would have been his return to live performance after treatment).
Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra was effectively recommissioned by him, recorded in Liverpool and at Abbey Road Studios across 2011 and under post-production in 2012 with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performing, conducted by long-time collaborator, conductor Paul Mann. The recording was at completion at the time of Lord’s death, with Lord having been able to review the final master recordings. The album and DVD were subsequently released in 2012.
In July 2011, Lord was found to be suffering from pancreatic cancer. After treatment in both England and in Israel, he died on 16 July 2012 at the London Clinic after suffering from a pulmonary embolism. He was 71.
• On 11 November 2010, he was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of Stevenson College in Edinburgh, Scotland. On 15 July 2011, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree at De Montfort Hall by the University of Leicester. Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 8 April 2016 as a member of Deep Purple.
• Lars Ulrich, founding member and drummer in Metallica commented, “Ever since my father took me to see them in 1973 in Copenhagen, at the impressionable age of 9, Deep Purple has been the most constant, continuous and inspiring musical presence in my life. They have meant more to me than any other band in existence, and have had an enormous part in shaping who I am. We can all be guilty of lightly throwing adjectives like ‘unique,’ ‘one-of-a-kind’ and ‘pioneering’ around when we want to describe our heroes and the people who’ve moved us, but there are no more fitting words than those right now and there simply was no musician like Jon Lord in the history of hard rock. Nobody. Period. There was nobody that played like him. There was nobody that sounded like him. There was nobody that wrote like him. There was nobody that looked like him. There was nobody more articulate, gentlemanly, warm, or fucking cooler that ever played keyboards or got anywhere near a keyboard. What he did was all his own.”
• Former keyboard player of rock band Yes, Rick Wakeman, who was a friend of Lord’s, said he was “a great fan” and added “We were going to write and record an album before he became ill. His contribution to music and to classic rock was immeasurable and I will miss him terribly.” In mid-2013, Wakeman presented a BBC One East Midlands-produced TV program about Lord and his connection to the town of his birth.
• Singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad (ABBA), who described Jon Lord as her “dearest friend”, paid him tribute at the 2013 edition of Zermatt Unplugged, the annual music festival which both he and she served as patrons. “He was graceful, intelligent, polite, with a strong integrity,” she said. “He had a strong empathy and a great deal of humor for his own and other people’s weaknesses.”
• Keyboardist Keith Emerson said of Lord’s death, “Jon left us now but his music and inspiration will live forever. I am deeply saddened by his departure.” In a later interview in November 2013, he added, “In the early years I remember being quite jealous of Jon Lord – may he rest in peace. In September 1969 I heard he was debuting his “Concerto For Group & Orchestra” at the Royal Albert Hall, with none other than Malcolm Arnold conducting. Wow! I had to go along and see that. Jon and I ribbed each other, we were pretty much pals, but I walked away and thought: ‘Shit, in a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to be recording The Nice’s Five Bridges Suite … not at the Albert Hall but at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon!’ A much more prosaic venue. Later, Jon wanted me to play on his solo album, Gemini Suite, but that was around the time ELP were breaking big and we were touring. He was a lovely guy, a real gentleman.”
• A concert tribute to Lord took place on 4 April 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall. Performers and presenters included Deep Purple, Bruce Dickinson, Alfie Boe, Jeremy Irons, Joe Brown, Glenn Hughes, Miller Anderson and Steve Balsamo.
• In December 2012 the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, joined the campaign to honor Lord with a blue plaque at his childhood home at 120 Averill Road, where he lived until he was twenty, saying it would be “an important reminder of the city’s contribution to the world of contemporary music.”
• Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple in April 2016
May 17, 2012 – Donna Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. Summer was one of seven children. She was raised in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. Her father was a butcher and her mother was a schoolteacher.
She began singing at a young age in the church. Summer’s performance debut occurred at church when she was eight years old, replacing a vocalist who failed to show up. In her early teens, she formed several musical groups imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. She attended Boston’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School where she performed in school musicals and was considered popular.
In 1967, just weeks before graduation, Donna left for New York where she joined the psychedelic blues rock band Crow as lead singer. It was a move influenced by Janis Joplin’s life story that she dropped out of school, she later stated. After they were passed on by a record label that was only interested in the band’s lead singer, the band broke up and Summer stayed in New York to audition for a role in the counterculture musical, Hair. She landed the part of Sheila and agreed to take the role in the Munich production of the show, moving to Munich, Germany after getting her parents’ reluctant but not needed approval. Continue reading Donna Summer 5/2012
April 19, 2012 – Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm was born on May 26, 1940 in Elaine, Arkansas. Helm grew up in Turkey Scratch, a hamlet west of Helena, Arkansas. His parents, Nell and Diamond Helm, cotton farmers and also great lovers of music, encouraged their children to play and sing. Young Lavon (as he was christened) began playing the guitar at the age of eight and also played drums during his formative years. He saw Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys at the age of six and decided then to become a musician.
Arkansas in the 1940s and 50s stood at the confluence of a variety of musical styles—blues, country and R&B—that later became known as rock and roll. Helm was influenced by all these styles, which he heard on the Grand Ole Opry on radio station WSM and R&B on radio station WLAC out of Nashville, Tennessee. He also saw traveling shows such as F.S. Walcott’s Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels that featured top African-American artists of the time. Continue reading Levon Helm 4/2012
February 11, 2012 – Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 9, 1963. Much has been publicized about her childhood and music influences including prominent gospel and soul singers in her family, such as her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother Aretha Franklin. She began singing with New Jersey church’s junior gospel choir at age 11. She spent some of her early teenage years touring nightclubs with her mother Ciss, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with Cissy. In 1977, aged 14, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band’s single “Life’s a Party”.
Personal Note: I moved to the US in 1980 and was living in Bloomfield, New Jersey, while my then girlfriend and later 2nd wife was working for TV 47, which aired from the downtown Newark Theatre building, where I first heard Whitney Houston in February 1981. She was a mezzo-soprano with incredible voice flexibility, later commonly referred to as “The Voice” in reference to her exceptional vocal talent.
Few pop singers have been gifted with a voice as glorious as Whitney Houston’s, and even fewer have treated their talent with the frustrating indifference she did toward the end of her life. She sold more records and received more awards than almost any other female pop star of the 20th century, but spent most of her last years mired in a drug addiction that sapped her will to sing and left her in a shambolic state. Continue reading Whitney Houston 2/2012
January 20, 2012 – Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25th 1938 in Los Angeles, California, but due to her 14 year old mother Dorothy Hawkins, being often absent, Etta lived with a series of caregivers, most notably ‘Sarge’ and ‘Mama’ Lu. Her father was long gone, and young James Etta never knew for sure who he was, although she recalled her mother telling her that he was the celebrated pool player Rudolf Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats.
She sang at the church from the age of 5 and at home was beaten and forced by Sarge to sing in the early hours at drunken poker games. She began singing at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles at 5 and turned to secular music as a teenager, forming a vocal group with two friends. In 1950 after Mama Lu died, Etta’s real mother took her to the Fillmore, in San Francisco.
Within a couple of years, Etta inspired by doo-wop, formed a girl group, called the Creolettes. Johnny Otis took the group under his wing, helping them sign to Modern Records and changing their name to the Peaches and gave Etta her stage name, reversing Jamesetta into Etta James. Continue reading Etta James 1/2012
February 6, 2011 –Gary Moore, who wrote and played “Still Got the Blues for You” and “Parisienne Walkways” into a daily highlight in my musical playlist, passed away on February 6, 2011 at age 58, while on vacation in Spain, reportedly after a night of excessive drinking and partying.
Gary Moore was a guitar talent that only comes around a couple of times in a generation. Jimi, Eric, Gary, Duane and Hughie Thomasson are the five that fill my High Five, as I’m witnessing our generation extending a welcome to those who learned from the great ones, like Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Sheppard and now show their talent to a new generation.
Robert William Gary Moore was born on 4 April 1952 and grew up on Castleview Road opposite Stormont Parliament Buildings, off the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland as one of five children of Bobby, a promoter, and Winnie, a housewife. He left the city as a teenager, because of troubles in his family – his parents parted a year later – just as The Troubles – political violence, were starting in Northern Ireland.
August 12, 2009 – Les Paul( birth name Lester William Polfus) was born on June 9th 1915 in in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
By at least one account, Paul’s early musical ability wasn’t superb. “Your boy, Lester, will never learn music,” one teacher wrote his mother. But nobody could dissuade him from trying, and as a young boy he taught himself the harmonica, guitar and banjo.
By his teen years, Paul was playing in country bands around the Midwest. He also played live on St. Louis radio stations, calling himself the Rhubarb Red.
Coupled with Paul’s interest in playing instruments was a love for modifying them. At the age of nine he built his first crystal radio. At 10 he built a harmonica holder out of a coat hanger, and then later constructed his own amplified guitar. Continue reading Les Paul 8/2009
June 25, 2009 – Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana as the seventh of nine children. His siblings are Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy and Janet. His father Joseph Jackson, who physically and emotionally abused Michael as a child, often performed in an R&B band called The Falcons. Michael was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness by his mother.
In 1964, he and his brother Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers, a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine, as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine, respectively. Soon he began performing backup vocals and dancing; then at the age of eight, he and Jermaine assumed lead vocals, and the group’s name was changed to The Jackson 5. They extensively toured the Midwest from 1966 to 1968 and frequently performed at a string of black clubs and venues collectively known as the “chitlin’ circuit”, where they often opened for stripteases and other adult acts.
June 2, 2008 – Bo Diddley was bornEllas Otha Bates, later becoming Ellas McDaniel on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the South Side of Chicago, where he dropped the Otha and became Ellas McDaniel.
As he grew into a teenager he became an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, studying the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra playing violin, in which he performed until the age of 18. Around that age he became more interested in the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal church and took up the guitar. Continue reading Bo Diddley 6/2008
March 2, 2008 –Jeff Healey was one of the finest, most underrated, blues rock guitarists/vocalist of his generation. Due to cancer his eyes were surgically removed when he was one year old, which was probably a major reason for starting to play guitar at age 3 in a very unconventional way- flat on his lap. That way he could use 4 fingers plus his thumb to create amazing solos. Even though he broke into the public limelight as a result of being the “house band” in Patrick Swayze’s 1989 movie Roadhouse, it really was Stevie Ray Vaughn and fellow blues guitarist Albert Collins, who discovered Healey in a spontaneous Toronto Canada jam session.
February, 26, 2008 – George Allen ”Buddy” Miles, Jr. (Band of Gypsies) was born on September 5, 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska. Buddy’s father played upright bass for the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon and by age 12, Miles Jr. had joined Miles Sr. in his touring band, The Bebops. In 1964, at the age of 16, Miles met Jimi Hendrix at a show in Montreal, Canada, where both were performing as sidemen for other artists.
“He was playing in the Isley Brothers band and I was with Ruby & The Romantics,” Miles remembered, adding: “He had his hair in a pony-tail with long sideburns. Even though he was shy, I could tell this guy was different. He looked rather strange, because everybody was wearing uniforms and he was eating his guitar, doing flip-flops and wearing chains.”Continue reading Buddy Miles 2/2008
December 16, 2007 – Daniel Grayling “Dan” Fogelberg was born on August 13, 1951 in Peoria, Illinois into a musical family; his father being a high school band director and his mother a classically trained pianist.
So it comes as no surprise Dan’s first instrument, at a very early age, was the piano but he soon took an interest in the Hawaiian slide guitar and when his grandfather presented him with one, he spent hour upon hour teaching himself the skills.
This, combined with his admiration for The Beatles, he taught himself electric guitar and by the age of 13 he had joined his first band, a Beatles cover band, The Clan. This stint was followed by a band called The Coachmen, which in 1967 released two singles “Maybe Time Will Let Me Forget” and “Don’t Want To Lose Her”.
With his third band Frankie and the Aliens he started touring with covering the blues masters .. such as Muddy Waters and the rock of Cream.
September 9, 2007 – Hughie Thomasson (The Outlaws) Born Hugh Edward Thomasson Jr., Hughie Thomasson joined a fledgling Tampa-area bar band named the Outlaws in the late ’60s. With David Dix on drums, Thomasson quickly made a name for himself as a no-nonsense guitar master. The group disbanded, but Thomasson reformed the Outlaws in 1972 with guitarist Henry Paul, drummer Monte Yoho and bassist Frank O’Keefe. (Paul later enjoyed a successful country career as a member of BlackHawk) Guitarist Billy Jones joined in 1973, completing the guitar army rock approach.
Known as the Florida Guitar Army for their triple-lead guitar attack, the Outlaws were the first group signed by former Columbia Records head Clive Davis when he formed Arista Records. He flew to Columbus, Ga., in 1974 to see the Outlaws perform with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Columbus Civic Center and went to the Ramada Inn after the show and made an offer.
January 13, 2007 –Michael Leonard Brecker was born on March 29th 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Michael Brecker was exposed to jazz at an early age by his father, an amateur jazz pianist. Among the generation of jazz musicians that saw rock music not as the enemy but as a viable musical option, Brecker began studying clarinet, then moved to alto saxophone in school, eventually settling on the tenor saxophone as his primary instrument. After only a year at Indiana University, Michael Brecker moved to New York City in 1970 where he carved out a niche for himself as a dynamic and exciting jazz soloist.
He first made his mark at age 21 as a member of the jazz/rock band Dreams – a band that included his older brother Randy, trombonist Barry Rogers, drummer Billy Cobham, Jeff Kent and Doug Lubahn. Dreams was short-lived, lasting only a year, but influential (Miles Davis was seen at some gigs prior to his recording “Jack Johnson”).
December 25, 2006 – James Brown Jr. Nearly stillborn, then revived by an aunt in a country shack in the piney woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, Brown became somebody who was determined to be Somebody. James Brown rose from extreme poverty to become the ‘The Godfather of Soul‘.
His parents were 16-year-old Susie (1917–2003) and 22-year-old Joseph “Joe” Gardner Brown (1911–1993), extremely poor, living in a small wooden shack.
They later relocated to Augusta, Georgia, when Brown was four or five. Brown’s family first settled at one of his aunts’ brothels and later moved into a house shared with another aunt. Brown’s mother later left the family after a contentious marriage and moved to New York. Brown spent long stretches of time on his own, hanging out in the streets and hustling to get by. Still he managed to stay in school until sixth grade. Continue reading James Brown 12/2006
November 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
July 6, 2006 – Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett (Pink Floyd) was born on January 6th 1946 in Cambridge, England. His parents were Dr. Max and Mrs. Win Barrett). Roger was the fourth of five children, the others being Alan, Don, Ruth and Rosemary. The young Roger was actively encouraged in his music and art by his parents – at the age of seven he won a piano duet competition with his sister – and he was to be successful in poetry contests while at high school.
Max died when Roger was 15 and his diary entry that day consisted of one single line: “Dear Dad died today.” The loss cost him dearly. Three days later he wrote to his girlfriend Libby that “I could write a book about his merits – perhaps I will some time.” Continue reading Syd Barrett 7/2006
November 16, 2005 – Milton Lee “Roger” Ridley Jr. also known as “Buh-Buh”, “Ajax” and “Big Man” was born April 30th 1948 and called home from labor to reward on November 16, 2005. Roger was a street performer with a voice that could have made millions, but he decided early on that he was in the “JOY” business when it came to sharing his music and thus, just 6 months before his untimely passing, he became the beaming landmark inspiration for Playing For Change, which has turned into a global force for children’s music education and peace.
This video explains why Roger Ridley is a Legend in my book:
June 10, 2004 – Ray Charles Robinson was born September 23, 1930 and became an American singer-songwriter, musician and composer sometimes referred to as “The Genius”.
Ray Charles, a Grammy-winning bluesman/crooner who blended gospel and blues in such crowd-pleasers as “What’d I Say” and heartfelt ballads like “Georgia on My Mind” died from liver failure on Thursday, June 10, 2004 at age 73.
Charles died at his Beverly Hills home surrounded by family and friends, said spokesman Jerry Digney.
Charles last public appearance was alongside Clint Eastwood on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer’s studios, built 40 years ago in central Los Angeles, as a historic landmark. Continue reading Ray Charles 6/2004
September 12, 2003 – J.R. “Johnny” Cash was born February 26, 1932 and became one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, baritone and spare, percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound.
Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.
Born in Kingsland, Arkansas, he was given the name “J.R.” because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. When he enlisted in the US Air Force, the military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R. Cash as his legal name. Continue reading Johnny Cash 9/2003
July 4, 2003 – Barry White was born as Barry Eugene Carter in Galveston, Texas on September 12, 1944, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. White was the older of two children. His brother Darryl was 13 months younger than Barry. He grew up listening to his mother’s classical music collection and first took to the piano, emulating what he heard on the records.
White has often been credited with playing piano, at age eleven, on Jesse Belvin’s 1956 hit single, “Goodnight My Love.” However, in a 1995 interview with Larry Katz of the Boston Herald, White denied writing or arranging the song. He believed the story was an exaggeration by journalists. Continue reading Barry White 7/2003
April 21, 2003 – Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in South Carolina. The sixth child of a preacher mom, she wanted to become a concert pianist. She began playing piano at age three.
Her concert debut, a classical recital, was given when she was 12. Simone later said that during this performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. She said that she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front, and that the incident strongly contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement. Continue reading Nina Simone 4/2003
January 12, 2003 – Maurice Ernest Gibb (the BeeGees) was born in Douglas, Isle of Man on 22 December 1949, as the fraternal twin of Robin Gibb, and was the younger of the two by 35 minutes. At that time, he had one sister, Lesley, and one other older brother, Barry.
In January 1955, the Gibbs moved back to Manchester, England. Around 1955, Gibb and his brothers were heard harmonizing by their parents. Also in 1955, he started his music career when he joined the skiffle/rock and roll group the Rattlesnakes with his brothers and two friends, Paul Frost and Kenny Horrocks, who were their neighbours. The group’s first major appearance was on 28 December 1957 when they performed at a local Gaumont cinema where children were invited to sing between films. They had planned to sing along to a 78 rpm record which Lesley had just been given as a Christmas present, but on the way Gibb and his brother Robin dropped and broke it, so they sang live. The audience were pleased by their singing, which reportedly may have been the song “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers.
Jimmy Dewar (12 October 1942 – 16 May 2002) was a Scottish musician best known as the bassist and vocalist for Robin Trower and Stone the Crows, the latter having its beginnings as the resident band at Burns Howff in Glasgow. He was educated at St. Gerards Senior Secondary School in Glasgow.
There was a strong Scottish music scene in Glasgow in the early 1960s, serving great talents to the burgeoning birth of rock and roll. Alex Harvey, Lulu, Maggie Bell, Frankie Miller, Jimmy Dewar and others. Strangely, Jimmy’s musical career was not to begin with his vocal talents, but as guitar player with Lulu and the Lovers in the early 60’s. Dewar had started out playing in a local band called the ‘Gleneagles’ in the early sixties but his career began with Lulu and the Luvvers in 1963. From there he joined a band called ‘Sock ‘Em JB’ which included the legendary Scottish rock vocalist Frankie Miller.
In 1967 Jimmy joined a band called ‘Power’ with Maggie Bell, which later turned into ‘Stone The Crows’ with Jimmy and Maggie on vocal duty, managed by Peter Grant, who also toured the world with Led Zeppelin.
Maggie Bell took him on board with the legendary “Stone the Crows” and the shy man’s voice was soon exposed on classics like “The touch of your loving hand”. Another young singer had exploded onto the music scene, but the best was yet to come. Living in London with his wife Martha and their young family, he was approached by Frankie Miller. The two Glasgow buddies were having a small refreshment when out of the blue Frankie told Jimmy that “there might be a job going” with some guitar player called Robin Trower, that the music industry insiders were raving about. “What kind of job?” asked Jimmy. Frankie laughed and said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe playing bass, maybe singing”. Jimmy applied and got both jobs.
Dewars career reached its zenith with Robin Trower, the legendary British rock power trio, especially after the 1974 release of the album Bridge of Sighs, which put Trower in the global limelight as one of rock’s guitar legends, while Jimmy Dewar found recognition as one of the best white soul vocalists on the planet.
Trower had joined Gary Brooker’s band Procol Harum following the global success of their debut single “A Whiter Shade of Pale” in 1967, remaining with them until 1971 and appearing on the group’s first five albums. But the fact that Procol Harum was heavily keyboard focused, made Trower committed to find that right combination of artists that would help inspire him to write and play to his potential as a guitarist. He tried with the band ‘Jude’ with Frankie Miller, ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker and Jimmy Dewars on bass. This wasn’t working for anyone. The outfit did not record and Trower soon split, taking only Jimmy Dewar with him. The rest is history!
Dewar made his mark as an acclaimed blue eyed soul singer, performing in front of sold-out stadiums and concert halls at the crest of the 1970s classic rock era. The Scot had a rich, powerful voice, with a soulful timbre, and has been regarded by critics as one of the most under-rated rock vocalists. His vocal sound was deep, gritty, and resonating, his style shows the influence of Ray Charles and Otis Redding. Like Paul Rodgers and Frankie Miller, his voice evoked a bluesy, soul-inspired sound. For a while The Robin Trower Band became the hottest thing on the planet and introduced “Stadium Rock” to the U.S.A. Frankie was right! The R.T.B. were the first band to sell tickets by the hundreds of thousands. Gold and Platinum albums were thrown at them like frizbees. Amongst James Dewars biggest fans were Frankie Miller, Billy Connolly, Donny Hathaway, Rod Stewart, not forgetting Maggie Bell and Lulu herself.
Dewar recorded his one solo album, “Stumbledown Romancer”, during the 1970s, at the height of his career, but it was not released until two decades later. He collaborated primarily with longtime Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher on the album, with the title track relating a hard-luck story …
…Stumbledown Romancer I never made the grade Never on the dance-floor when the music played Always moving on when I should have stayed…
The famous Scottish screenwriter, Peter McDougall, still talks of his first experience of meeting Jimmy. When having a drink with Frankie, Peter noticed that the man standing next to him was clothed in snakeskin trousers, cowboy boots and not much else. “Who’s that?” Peter asked. Frankie replied “That’s James Dewar”. Peter howled, “ Well, I want to be one of them!”
It says it all. Everyone from Metallica to the Stereophonics were influenced by the voice of the Scotsman. Jimmy’s honeyed voice and effortlessly dead-on phrasing have received – all true – let’s not overlook that Jimmy’s voice was the soundtrack for the moment when countless people fell in love, much the way Elvis or Sinatra once were. Although it might make a few of us blush, I know I’m not the only person to have indelible, crystal-clear memories of making love while wrapped in the warming coccon of “Bluebird” and “For Earth Below” and “About To Begin” and “Little Girl”. And that’s not a nudge-of-the-elbow and a lascivious-wink type of comment but simply the highest praise I know to give an artist.
Jimmy had a stroke in 1987 that left him needing constant care. He died 15 years later on May 16, 2002 of a stroke after years of disability resulting from a rare medical condition, CADASIL, which caused a series of strokes.
Some day – maybe even right this moment – some kid who doesn’t know who the heck “Jimmy Dewar'” is, is going to plunk on a vintage Trower album on a whim, hear that voice riding atop Robin’s licks; vistas are going to open up wide and that kid’s world will never be the same again. This is the blessing inside the sadness – that every time that happens, Jimmy will be alive, strong and healthy.
Widely-regarded as one of the most underrated rock vocalists, the late singer for The Robin Trower Band had a rich, soulful and resonating voice as can be heard on all tracks of the break through album “Bridge of Sighs”. and in my opinion one of the all time best rock albums.
21 January 2002 – Peggy Lee was bornNorma Deloris Engstrom on May 26th 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh of eight children. Her father was Swedish-American and her mother was Norwegian-American. Her mother died when Peggy was just a four year old toddler. Afterwards, her father married her step-mother Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic but loving father did little to stop it. As a teenager she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home to escape the abuse of her step-mother.
Lee first sang professionally over radio in Valley City, North Dakota. She later had her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her a salary in food. Both during and after her high school years, Lee sang for small sums on local radio stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy in Fargo, North Dakota, changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee. Miss Lee left home and traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 17. Continue reading Peggy Lee 1/2002
December 18, 2001 – Gilbert Bécaud was born François Silly in Toulon France on October 24, 1927 and became one of France’s most beloved and successful singer, composer and actor. He learned to play the piano at a young age, and then went to the Conservatoire in Nice.
In 1942, not even 16 years old, he left school to join the French Resistance during WorldWar II.
He began songwriting in 1948, after meeting Maurice Vidalin, who inspired him to write his early compositions. He began writing for Marie Bizet; Bécaud, Bizet and Vidalin became a successful trio, and their partnership lasted until 1950. Continue reading Gilbert Bécaud 12/2001
November 29, 2001 – George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool England. Harrison was not born into wealth and by his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student, and what little interest he did have in his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock and roll. As Harrison would later describe it, he had an “epiphany” of sorts at the age 12 or 13 while riding a bike around his neighborhood and getting his first whiff of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was playing from a nearby house. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. Continue reading George Harrison 11/2001
June 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
June 21, 2001 – John Lee Hooker was born on August 22, 1912, in Tutwiler or Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Hooker children were home-schooled. Since they were only permitted to listen to religious songs, the spirituals sung in church were their earliest exposure to music. In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom he would later credit for his distinctive playing style).
Moore was his first significant blues influence. He was a local blues guitarist, who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana, to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time. Continue reading John Lee Hooker 6/2001
March 2, 1999 – Dusty Springfield was bornMary O’Brien on April 16th 1939 in West Hampstead, North London, England. She was given the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy. Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage her to guess the musical piece. She listened to a wide range of music, including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. At the age of twelve, she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” at a local record shop in Ealing. Continue reading Dusty Springfield 3/1999
May 14, 1998 – Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915
American singer and actor; arguably the most important popular music figure of the 20th century, his only real rival for the title being Elvis Presley. He began his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, he became a successful solo artist in the early to mid-40s, being the idol of the “bobby soxers.”
His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1954 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums, In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy. Continue reading Frank Sinatra 5/1998
October 12, 1997 – John Denver, was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr in Roswell, New Mexico on December 31st 1943. At the age of 12, he received a 1910 Gibson acoustic jazz guitar from his grandmother and he taught himself to play it well enough to play locally as a teenager in groups such as the folk-music group “The Alpine Trio”.
John went on to become one of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s in terms of record sales, he recorded and released around 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed himself.
He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Songs such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso” attained worldwide popularity.
September 13, 1996 – Tupac Amaru Shakur or Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor with a net worth of US$40 Million mostly earned since he died. He started his career as a roadie, backup dancer and became one of the best-selling music artist in history, who sold over 75 million of his albums worldwide as of 2010. He ranked at number two in the list of The Greatest MCs of All Time and Rolling Stone named him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time. He made his debut in the film, “Nothing But Trouble” in 1991. Five years later he was dead.
Shakur was shot several times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane on September 7, 1996. He died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996. Continue reading Tupac Shakur 9/1996
August 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.
July 1, 1995 – Wolfman Jack was born Robert Weston Smith on January 21st 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.
He got his big break when he became a “gofer” at Paramount and began his radio career in 1960 at WYOU in Newport News, Virginia, where he developed his first radio name, Daddy Jules, a tribute to the influence that black DJs had on him in his formative years such as Dr. Jive, Jockey Jack, Professor Bob and Sugar Daddy. He was a fan of disc jockey Alan Freed, the ultimate deejay of New York radio, who helped to turn African-American rhythm and blues into Caucasian rock and roll music. Freed originally called himself the Moondog after New York City street musician Moondog. Freed both adopted this name and used a recorded howl to give his early broadcasts a unique character. Continue reading Wolfman Jack 7/1995
June 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
April 5, 1994 – Kurt Cobain. (Nirvana) A very talented and very troubled rock grunge frontman, Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the early 1990s with his band, Nirvana. He committed suicide at his Seattle home in 1994. Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1988, he started the grunge band Nirvana. Nirvana made the leap to a major label in 1991, signing with Geffen Records. Cobain also began using heroin around this time. Nirvana’s highly acclaimed album In Utero was released in 1993.
December 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
Nov 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
December 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.
January 29, 1992 – Willie Dixon was born July 1st 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother Daisy often rhymed the things she said, a habit her son imitated. At the age of seven, young Dixon became an admirer of a band that featured pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He sang his first song at Springfield Baptist Church at the age of four. Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as an early teenager.
He later learned how to sing harmony from local carpenter Leo Phelps. Dixon sang bass in Phelps’ group The Jubilee Singers, a local gospel quartet that regularly appeared on the Vicksburg radio station WQBC. Dixon began adapting poems he was writing as songs, and even sold some tunes to local music groups. By the time he was a teenager, Dixon was writing songs and selling copies to the local bands. With his bass voice, Dixon later joined a group organized by Phelps, the Union Jubilee Singers, who appeared on local radio. Continue reading Willie Dixon 1/1992
November 24, 1991 – Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th 1946 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. He spent time in a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where he studied piano and it was not long before this charismatic young man joined his first band, the Hectics. He was of Indian Parsi descent and his early childhood was in India, which gave him the title “Britain’s first Asian rock star.“
After moving to London with his family in the 1960s, Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art where he befriended a number of musicians including future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. Following graduation, he joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London, as well as had a job at Heathrow Airport. In April 1970, he joined with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called SmileIn 1969, Mercury joined up with a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining forces with Taylor and May in the early 70s. They met up with bassist John Deacon in 1971, and the quartet—who Mercury dubbed Queen—played their first gig together in June of that year.Continue reading Freddie Mercury 11/1991
April 20, 1991 – Steve Marriott (Small Faces and Humble Pie) was born in London on January 30th 1947. He started singing and performing, by busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money. His father Bill was an accomplished pub pianist and the life and soul of many an ‘East End’ night. Bill bought Marriott a ukulele and harmonica which Marriott taught himself to play. Marriott showed an early interest in singing and performing, busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money and winning talent contests during the family’s annual holiday to Jaywick Holiday camp near Clacton-on-Sea.
At the age of 12, he formed his first band with school friends Nigel Chapin and Robin Andrews, called ‘The Wheels’, later the ‘Coronation Kids’.
In 1960, his father Bill spotted an advertisement in a London newspaper for a new Artful Dodger replacement to appear in Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at the New Theatre (now called the Noël Coward Theatre) in London’s West End, and without telling his son, applied for him to audition. At the age of thirteen, Marriott auditioned for the role. He sang two songs, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, and “Oh, Boy!” by Buddy Holly. Bart was impressed with Marriott’s vocal abilities and hired him. Marriott stayed with the show for a total of twelve months, playing various boys’ roles during his time there, for which he was paid £8 a week. Marriott was also chosen to provide lead vocals for the Artful Dodger songs “Consider Yourself”, “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” which appear on the official album to the stage show, released by World Record Club and recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. In 1961 the Marriott family moved from Strone Road to a brand new council flat in Daines Close, Manor Park. Continue reading Steve Marriott 4/1991
March 21, 1991 – Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender was a Greek-American inventor, born on August 10th 1909. He founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, now known as Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and later founded MusicMan and G&L Musical Products (G&L Guitars). His guitar, bass, and amplifier designs from the 1950s continue to dominate popular music more than half a century later.
When designing “The Strat”, he asked his customers what new features they would want on the Telecaster. The large number of replies, along with the continued popularity of the Telecaster, caused him to leave the Telecaster as it was and to design a new, upscale solid body guitar to be sold alongside the basic Telecaster instead. Continue reading Leo Fender 3/1991
August 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
December 6, 1988 –Roy Kelton Orbison was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas to Nadine and Orbie Lee. He formed his first band at age 13. The singer-songwriter dropped out of college to pursue music. He signed with Monument Records and recorded such ballads as “Only the Lonely” and “It’s Over.”
Born to a working-class Texan family, Orbison grew up immersed in musical styles ranging from rockabilly and country to zydeco, Tex-Mex and the blues. His dad gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and he wrote his first song, “A Vow of Love,” in 1944 while staying at his grandmothers. In 1945 he entered and won a contest on KVWC in Vernon and this led to his own radio show singing the same songs every Saturday. By the time Roy was 13 he had formed his own band “The Wink Westerners”. The band appeared weekly on KERB radio in Kermit, Texas. Roy graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in 1955 to study history and English. Continue reading Roy Orbison 12/1988
September 21, 1987 – John Francis Anthony Pastorius III aka Jaco Pastorius changed the way the bass was played. Born in Pennsylvania on December 1, 1951, Jaco’s family moved south and he grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he first took on the drums. Being a direct descendant of poet Francis Daniel Pastorius, who drafted the first protest against slavery in the US in 1688!, artistry ran in the family. His dad was a big band leader and singer.
During his formative years drums, like his dad, but a football injury made him move to bass. Upright bass at first but after his bass cracked because of the ocean front humidity in Florida he bought an electric bass. Continue reading Jaco Pastorius 9/1987
September 11, 1987 – Winston Hubert McIntosh better known as Peter Tosh/Stepping Razor was a Jamaican guitarist and singer in the original Wailers of Bob Marley & the Wailers fame. Born in Petersfield on October 19th 1944, he became a pioneer reggae musician, as the original guitarist for The Wailers and he is actaully considered as one of the originators of the choppy, syncopated reggae guitar style, and as trailblazer for the Rastafari movement and the fight to legalize cannabis.
He was a target for the police and underwent many beatings. In the early 60s Winston met Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer through his vocal teacher, Joe Higgs. Continue reading Peter Tosh 9/1987
July 25, 1984 – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 in Ariton, Alabama. She was introduced to music in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a singer. She and her six siblings began to sing at early ages. Her mother died young, and Willie Mae left school and got a job washing and cleaning spittoons in a local tavern. In 1940 she left home and, with the help of Diamond Teeth Mary, joined Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue and was soon billed as the “New Bessie Smith”. Her musical education started in the church but continued through her observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, whom she deeply admired.
Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948. “A new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and Los Angeles, full of brass horns, jumpy rhythms, and wisecracking lyrics.” Continue reading Big Mama Thornton 7/1984
April 1, 1984 – Marvin Pentz Gay was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C., he later added the “e” due to childhood teasing and to appear more professional (akin to his childhood idol Sam Cooke’s addition of an “e”). His father , Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr., was an ordained minister in the House of God, a small, conservative sect spun off from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church, borrowing some elements of Pentecostalism and Orthodox Judaism, has very strict codes of conduct and does not celebrate any holidays. Gaye got his start singing in the church choir and later learned to play the piano and drums to escape from his physically abusive father. Continue reading Marvin Gaye 4/1984
April 30, 1983 – Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He taught himself harmonica as a child. He later took up guitar, eagerly absorbing the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson and Son House and went on to become known as “the Father of Chicago blues”.
Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Grant gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age, because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. He later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. Continue reading Muddy Waters 4/1983
February 4, 1983 – Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2nd 1950. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching and later, in the early 1970s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.
In 1964 when Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked and after admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez (who idolized famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play the drums instead. Continue reading Karen Carpenter 2/1983
May 11, 1981 – Bob Nesta Marley – One of the world’s best-selling artists of all time with sales totaling to over 100 million albums and singles, Bob Marley is a true legend. So much so that even 37 years after his death, his name recognition is higher than his landsman Usain Bolt, the three times Olympic Gold Medallist and fastest man in the world. (Bob was know to also be a very fast runner and great soccer player.)
The singer-songwriter, musician and guitarist achieved international fame starting out with his group the Wailers in 1963. The band lasted 11 years before disbanding and Marley began his solo career that gathered a quick following. He was known for infusing his spirituality into his hits like “No Woman, No Cry”, “Is This Love” and “Three Little Birds” to create true musical poetry. Continue reading Bob Marley 5/1981
Feb 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
February 9, 1981 – Bill Haley was born on July 6th 1925. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan, but because of the Great Depression on the Detroit area, his father moved the family to Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. For six years Bill was a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, leading his own band The Saddlemen all through this period and in 1951 they made their first recordings. They renamed themselves Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets on Labour Day 1952.
Bill Haley and his Comets were there before Presley, Holly and Berry, playing rock & roll before it even had a name, and is credited by many for being the first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s. Their hit song “Rock Around the Clock” went around the world for many decades. Continue reading Bill Haley 2/1981
December 8, 1980 – John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 at Liverpool’s Oxford Hospital. His father Alfred abandoned him and his mother Julia when John was three years old. Shortly thereafter, Julia gave up custody of John to her sister Mimi and her husband George, who then would raise him. As he entered his teens it became clear that John had a higher intellect than others his age. He hated school but was part of the school’s newspaper staff and he would contribute to it with his own illustrated short stories. Those short stories showed off just some of his emerging talent.
He also had a love for music. As a child he had learned how to play the harmonica from his Uncle George. In the early ’50s, the new sound of rock ‘n roll was taking over and he decided he wanted to be a part of it. After talking his Aunt Mimi into buying him a guitar, John taught himself how to play it after applying the banjo chords his mother had previously showed him. His interest in the guitar took over everything else in his life. In 1955, at the age of 15, he formed his own band and called them The Quarryman, named after the school he attended. It was in this band that he would meet Paul McCartney and George Harrison and the Beatles would form from it. Continue reading John Lennon 12/1980
September 25, 1980 – John Henry “Bonzo, The Beast” Bonham was a natural phenomenon on the drums. All the accolades surrounding this man’s drumming point at one thing: He was and probably forever will be the best rock drummer of all time. Hard to accept that Vodka killed him; well 40 shots of the stuff made him vomit and then choke and did not only end his life, but also the best Rock Band that ever existed: Led Zeppelin.
Born in Redditch, UK on May 31, 1948, he started to learn drumming at the age of 5 and in 1964, he joined his first semi-professional band, Terry Webb and the Spiders. He also played in other Birmingham bands, The Nicky James Movement and The Senators, who released a fairly successful single “She’s a Mod,” in 1964. John then took up drumming full-time. Two years later, he joined A Way of Life, before he joined a blues group called Crawling King Snakes, whose lead singer was a young Robert Plant. Continue reading John Bonham 9/1980
February 19, 1980 – Bon Scott was born July 9, 1946 in Kirriemuir, Scotland, and moved to Melbourne, Australia with his family in 1952 at the age of six. In 1956, the family moved to Fremantle, Western Australia, and Scott joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band, learning the drums. Scott attended North Fremantle Primary School and later John Curtin College of the Arts until he dropped out at the age of 15 and spent a short time in Fremantle Prison’s assessment centre and nine months at the Riverbank Juvenile Institution relating to charges of giving a false name and address to the police, having escaped legal custody, having unlawful carnal knowledge and stealing twelve gallons of petrol.
He attempted to join the Australian Army, but was rejected for being deemed “socially maladjusted.”
Scott’s vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard. After working as a postman, bartender and truck packer, Scott started his first band, The Spektors, in 1966 as drummer and occasional lead singer. One year later the Spektors merged with another local band, the Winstons, and formed The Valentines, in which Scott was co-lead singer with Vince Lovegrove. The Valentines recorded several songs written by George Young of The Easybeats. “Every Day I Have to Cry” (a song originally written and sung by Arthur Alexander) made the local top 5. In 1970, after gaining a place on the National Top 30 with their single “Juliette”, the Valentines disbanded due to artistic differences after a much-publicized drug scandal.
Scott moved to Adelaide in 1970 and joined the progressive rock band Fraternity. Fraternity released Livestock and Flaming Galah before touring the UK in 1973, where they changed their name to “Fang”. During this time they played support slots for Status Quo and Geordie. During this time, on 24 January 1972, Scott married Irene Thornton.
In 1973, just after returning to Australia from the tour of the UK, Fraternity went on hiatus. Scott took a day job at the Wallaroo fertiliser plant and began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a loose collective of musicians helmed by Peter Head (né Beagley) from Headband, who explained, “Headband and Fraternity were in the same management stable and we both split about the same time so the logical thing was to take members from both bands and create a new one … the purpose of the band was for songwriters to relate to each other and experiment with songs, so it was a hotbed of creativity”. Other ex-Fraternity members also played with the band as did Glen Shorrock pre-Little River Band. During this time, Head also helped Scott with his original compositions.
Vince Lovegrove said “Bon would go to Peter’s home after a day (of literally) shovelling shit, and show him musical ideas he had had during his day’s work. Bon’s knowledge of the guitar was limited, so Peter began teaching him how to bridge chords and construct a song. One of the songs from these sessions was a ballad called “Clarissa”, about a local Adelaide girl. Another was the country-tinged Bin Up in the Hills Too Long, which for me was a sign of things to come with Bon’s lyrics; simple, clever, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek …”
“About 11 pm on 3 May 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike.” Scott suffered serious injuries from the ensuing motorcycle accident, spending three days in a coma and a further 18 days in the hospital. Vince Lovegrove and his wife, by then running a booking/management agency, gave Scott odd jobs, such as putting up posters and painting the office during his recovery, and shortly after introduced him to AC/DC who were on the lookout for a new lead singer.
“There was a young, dinky little glam band from Sydney that we both loved called AC/DC … Before another AC/DC visit, George Young phoned me and said the band was looking for a new singer. I immediately told him that the best guy for the job was Bon. George responded by saying Bon’s accident would not allow him to perform, and that maybe he was too old. Nevertheless I had a meeting with Malcolm and Angus, and suggested Bon as their new singer. They asked me to bring him out to the Pooraka Hotel that night, and to come backstage after the show. When he watched the band, Bon was impressed, and he immediately wanted to join them, but thought they may be a bit too inexperienced and too young. After the show, backstage, Bon expressed his doubts about them being “able to rock”. The two Young brothers told Bon he was “too old to rock”. The upshot was that they had a jam session that night in the home of Bon’s former mentor, Bruce Howe, and at the end of the session, at dawn, it was obvious that AC/DC had found a new singer. And Bon had found a new band.”
Bon replaced Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC in September 1974, he performed on AC/DC’s first 7 albums from High Voltage in 1975 to Highway to Hell released in 1979. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the U.S. top 100, eventually reaching #17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts.
During rehearsing sessions in London for the album “BLACK ON BLACK, Scott passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (later known as the KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance, who found him the next afternoon lifeless.
Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980 at age 33. Although there are many conspiracy theories surrounding his death, mostly based on inconsistent reporting, the coroner’s report stated that he had “drunk himself to death”, suffocating on his own vomit. The official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure”.
June 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
October 9, 1978 – Jacques Brel was born on April 8th 1929 near Brussels Belgium. He composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French, although he recorded a number of songs in Dutch, which was his original mother’s tongue.
Brel’s songs are not especially well known in the English-speaking world except in translation and through the interpretations of other singers, most famously Scott Walker and Judy Collins. The range of superstars who however have covered his work is amazing.
Others who have sung his work in English include Karen Akers, Marc Almond, Momus/Nick Currie, Beirut, Bellowhead, David Bowie, Ray Charles, John Denver, The Dresden Dolls, Gavin Friday, Alex Harvey, Terry Jacks, Alan Clayson, Barb Jungr, The Kingston Trio, Jack Lukeman, Amanda McBroom, Rod McKuen, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Spencer Moody, Camille O’Sullivan, Dax Riggs, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Laurika Rauch and Dave Van Ronk. Continue reading Jacques Brel 10/1978
September 7, 1978 – Keith Moon. Keith John Moon was born to working class parents in Wembley, London, England, on the 23rd August, 1946. At the age of 12, he had joined the Sea Cadet Corp and was given his first musical instrument, the bugle. He left school by 15 and was in his first band, The Beachcombers; this was around the summer of 1963. There was rumour that Keith was self-taught, but history says otherwise, he was shown how to play by the late Carlo Little (1938-2005), Carlo was the original drummer in The Rolling Stones and David Sutch’s band, The Savages.
By the age of 18, he had joined a local London band, The High Numbers; this was to consist of what is now known as The Who.
With his own unique style of drumming, rolling the sticks along the skins as to banging the typical beat, he was to become extrovertly charismatic in his life as well as his playing. He was one of the first to play drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed only to keep the back beat. With a desire, more of an obsession, to be the center of attention, this hyperactive, and largely, self destructive personality became his own worst enemy.
With a flair for theatrical and ridiculous behavior, he was the center point and self-publicist for, like it or not, The Who. Continue reading Keith Moon 9/1978
January 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.
October 20, 1977 – Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948 in West Jacksonville, Florida. As a member of a very musical family, brother Donnie became frontman for 38 Special, another Jacksonville based band and youngest brother Johnny took Roonie’s shoes and hat when Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed in 1987.
Ronnie however was the nucleus founding member and frontman of the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd that formed in 1964.
Friends and schoolmates Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns made up the original band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of students with long hair.
Their fan base grow rapidly throughout 1973, mainly due to their opening slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their debut self titled album produced the hit Freebird, the track achieved the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Continue reading Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977
16 September 1977 – Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld on September 30, 1947, became the well-known singer/songwriter, poet and guitarist frontman of T. Rex or Tyrannosaurus Rex, a 1970s glam rock band. He was killed in an automobile crash in 1977 a mere two weeks before his 30th birthday.
Marc Bolan looked like a rock star. And he usually sang about the usual rock-star things in his songs with T. Rex. He inspired a whole legion of glitter-wearing fans to follow his every word. And on the 1972 single ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ he seemed to have a knack for predicting the future — even foreshadowing his own demise five years later.
Look no further than the opening line of ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ a single-only release that eventually showed up on the same year’s ‘Great Hits’ compilation. ”Life is the same and it always will be / Easy as picking foxes from a tree,” Bolan sings as typically glammy guitars spill out a riff.
Turns out that the license plate on the car that Bolan was killed in on Sept. 16, 1977, was “FOX 661L.” And oh yeah, it was wrapped around a tree.
A famous quote: “I feel there is a curse on rock stars”
August 16, 1977 – Elvis Aaron Presley, more commonly known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” is arguably the single most important figure in the global spreading of American 20th century popular music. Besides pop and rock ‘n roll, he brought the blues, black music and gospel to the world. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935, he made his first public performance on October 3rd 1945, in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, dressed as a cowboy. Elvis had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley’s “Old Shep.” He came in fifth, winning $5 and a free ticket to all the Fair rides.
December 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
August 29, 1976 – Mathis Jimmy Reed was born on September 6, 1925 on a plantation in or around the small burg of Dunleith, Mississippi. He stayed around the area until he was 15, learning the basic rudiments of harmonica and guitar from his buddy Eddie Taylor, who was then making a name for himself as a semi-pro musician, working country suppers and juke joints.
Reed moved up to Chicago in 1943, but was quickly drafted into the Navy where he served for two years. After a quick trip back to Mississippi and marriage to his beloved wife Mary (known to blues fans as “Mama Reed”), he relocated to Gary, Indiana, and found work at an Armour Foods meat packing plant while simultaneously breaking into the burgeoning blues scene around Gary and neighboring Chicago. Continue reading Jimmy Reed 8/1976
Buy the 2017 Tribute Book
Rock-n-Roll Music by The Beatles in Paris 1965
R.I.P. NEIL PEART – RUSH
R.I.P. JOHN PRINE
R.I.P. BILL WITHERS
R.I.P. LITTLE RICHARD
R.I.P. CHARLIE DANIELS
R.I.P. PETER GREEN – FLEETWOOD MAC
R.I.P. EDDIE VAN HALEN
2018 VIDEO TRIBUTES
R.I.P. Ed King – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama 1974
Aretha Franklin Singing The Weight with Duane Allman on Slide 1967
R.I.P.Mike Harrison – Spooky Tooth – Wrong Time 1968
R.I.P.Dolores o’Riordan – The Cranberries – Linger
R.I.P. France Gall Poupée de cire, Poupé de son 1965
R.I.P. Ray Thomas – The Moody Blues – Nights in White Satin 1967