Dino Danelli – (The Young Rascals) was born July 23, 1944 into an Italian American family in Jersey City, New Jersey. Danelli trained as a jazz drummer in his early years. Barely a teenager he played with Lionel Hampton and (by 1961) was playing R&B in New Orleans. He returned to New York in 1962 with a band called Ronnie Speeks & the Elrods. Later he also worked at times with such legendary performers as Little Willie John.
Dino was a prodigy from the Jersey City-Hoboken area, making the scene in his early teens, learning from the jazz greats like Krupa and Buddy Rich who played regularly at the Metropole, a very adult Club in New York City where the management took a shine to the young star-in-the-making and set him up with a cot in a dressing room years before he made it big. “They had vision, knew something was going to happen for me.” Young Dino held a daytime gig at the Metropole with a rock and roll band, travelled to New Jersey sometimes at night with his drum kit, performed with Lionel Hampton when he was fifteen years of age. “I was watching these people like a sponge, absorbing it all. I was into music, women, the normal rock and roll vibe, watching the jazz players at night, going down to the Village. Agents would call up say ‘I need three guys, four sets, $25 a man.’ I would pick up guys—we all knew the same songs, people weren’t writing a lot back then—we were playing top 40 and R & B obscurities. One of the guitarists was Jimmy James. He went to England and became Jimi Hendrix.” After a while, Dino went to New Orleans, came back to New York, met Felix Cavaliere, joined him for a gig in Las Vegas, returned to New York and with Gene and Eddie, the Young Rascals were born.-
A clearing house for local Italian musicians in northern New Jersey at the time, was the rock group Joey Dee and the Starliters (global hits with ‘Shout’, where Cornish, Cavaliere and Brigati did ‘internships’. Danelli first met Eddie Brigati (a pickup singer on the local R&B circuit) and Felix Cavaliere (a classically trained pianist) in 1963. Later that year, Danelli and Cavaliere traveled to Las Vegas to try their luck with a casino house band the Scotties and backed up singer Sandu Scott and her Scottys. Sandu Scott was a singer who was going to Las Vegas and coming through New York looking for a back-up band. As Dino recalled, “well Vegas is happening, there’s money in it, let’s go. So, we got aboard and went out there. Right at that time, the Beatles had just broke. We heard that and said we’ve got to do what those guys are doing. This is fabulous.”
“Felix and I had met in New York in late ’63 or ’64. We wanted to work with each other, ’cause we’d heard about each other’s playing. Around those days, word traveled really quick about happening musicians. The circle was quite small. So, he had come to see me play and we hit it off.”
They remained in Vegas until February 1964, but then ventured back to New York City where later in 1964, Danelli teamed with Cavaliere, Brigati and a Canadian-born guitarist named Gene Cornish to form the Young Rascals.
They debuted as the Young Rascals at the Choo Choo Club in Garfield, New Jersey. Before Cavaliere and Brigati began composing original music), Danelli and Cavaliere often scouted new repertory that the group could perform. In a 1988 interview, he cited their trips to record stores as yielding such songs as “Mustang Sally” and “Good Lovin’.” Dino Danelli was with the Young Rascals, later changing their name to Rascals for seven years (1965–1972).
In the beginning we were doing covers. At the time, we weren’t writing at all. We had no originals. “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore” was written by Pam Sawyer and Laurie Burton. They were writing for Motava at that point, I think. They were just freelancing and we found that song. We had thought of trying to start to write, but there were so many things going on. We didn’t sit down and go into studios, like we did later on. Myself and Felix used to go into little record shops, that’s where we found “Good Lovin”. We found 2 or 3 other songs in record shops – “Mustang Sally”, “Temptation Out To Get Me”, all strong songs in our show. Then, after “Good Lovin”, we got into the studio and started writing heavily. It all started to happen then.”
The songwriting partnership between Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati began to flourish. Cavaliere wrote the music and themes, and Brigati, the verses with the former’s help. Their second album, Collections, had four Cavaliere/Brigati songs and two Cornish originals in its eleven tracks.
Between 1966 and 1968 the act embraced soul music, reaching the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 with nine singles, including the #1s “Good Lovin'” (1966), “Groovin'” (1967), and “People Got to Be Free” (1968), as well as big radio hits such as the much-covered “How Can I Be Sure?” (#4 1967) and “A Beautiful Morning” (#3 1968), plus another critical favorite “A Girl Like You” (#10 1967), becoming one of the best known examples of the blue-eyed soul genre, along with the Righteous Brothers. The Young Rascals officially became the Rascals with the release of their third long player, the concept album ‘Once Upon A Dream‘ in 1967 which also launched Dino Danelli as a visual artist.
His visual artistic talent came about in a kind of metaphysical fashion. While Dino was ensconced in his apartment creating, quite literally boxes of dreams, Felix and Eddie were writing songs for the album, the Rascals answer to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The band stayed popular for another couple of years, especially in Canada, but as their musical direction turned more R&B and Jazz, the music world turned to hard rock and metal. During the years the Rascals sold some 40 million records, accumulating 13 Gold and 2 Platinum albums in the process and an induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
By early 1972 it was all over and along with Cornish, Danelli formed the group Bulldog who produced two albums before disbanding in 1975. Danelli joined the Leslie West Band (West) for a short time along with bassist Busta Jones. Danelli and Cornish then joined the group Fotomaker in 1978 (initially with ex-Raspberries member Wally Bryson). By 1980, Danelli joined Steven Van Zandt as a member of Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul. Van Zandt and Springsteen were early fans of the Young Rascals.
“1980 was actually the beginning with Steven. And we didn’t go out and start working ’till the end of 1981. I’m still with Steven actually. We’ve gone to Europe a lot in the last six years. I’m his art director. I do all his graphic work, his album covers, mostly in Europe, ’cause he doesn’t get released here like he gets released in Europe.”
After performing with Cavaliere and Cornish at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert on 14 May 1988, there was a short-lived Rascals reunion tour later that year without Brigati, apparently because of some disagreements between Brigati and Cavaliere. But all four original members came together to perform at their induction by Steven van Zandt,into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and then once again on 24 April 2010, for the Kristen Ann Carr Fund dinner at the Tribeca Grill in Tribeca, New York City. He reunited once again with his bandmates. The Rascals appeared at the Capital Theater in Port Chester, New York for six shows in December 2012 and for fifteen dates at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Broadway (15 April – 5 May 2013). Their production, entitled ‘Once Upon A Dream’, toured North America (Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Detroit, Rochester, and New York City). It was produced by long-time Rascals fans, Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen.
Danelli was also a visual artist, based at DinoDanelliArt.com, and designed album covers for The Rascals and Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul.
Dino Danelli, the first real rock drummer, died from congestive heart failure and other heart related disease on December 15, 2022. Danelli’s friend and band archivist Joe Russo shared the news on the drummer’s official Facebook page, sharing an extensive message about his health issues and “primary challenges” of coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.
“To know Dino, you must understand that art was his life,” Russo wrote. “Art, music and film consumed his mind and his heart. He was an insomniac, sometimes staying awake for days, because he was always writing, reading, painting, drawing, watching films. He was beyond private and for someone who many consider one of the greatest drummers of all time, humble to a fault.”
He has been called “one of the great unappreciated rock drummers in history”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 with the (Young) Rascals.
The End of an Era
Dino Danelli totally changed rock n’ roll drumming. Before him it was the paradiddle musings on guys like Ron Wilson of The Surfaris or Sandy Nelson. Both great, but mainly driven by the snare heavy prominence of high school marching bands. Dino’s twirling was great but his KICK changed everything. Suddenly the ballsy kick heavy drummers from NJ, the Bronx and Long Island followed in his wake. Guys like Carmine Appice, John Barbata and Tom Scarpinato. If you were at any concerts at the NY State World’s Fair in 1964-65 you saw the change. This time around the Brits followed us with heavy kick players like Bonham, Baker and the vastly underrated B.J. Wilson. Every week it seems we are calling it the “end of an era”, but Dino’s passing truly is one. After Dino came Ginger Baker, the drum solo. But Ginger’s dead too. So many of them are already gone, with more on the way. If you didn’t see them, you never will. Rock and roll is a hard mistress. What seems like forever is really just a few years long. When you’re young you think these bands will last forever. But few do. Except for the superstars, the rest go on to straight jobs, or die prematurely. It’s weird, without education or experience so many end up doing manual labor. They were our heroes, and now…
Peter Green – Peter Allen Greenbaum was born into a Jewish family, the youngest of Joe and Ann Greenbaum’s four children, on Oct. 29, 1946, in Bethnal Green, London’s East End. His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Ukraine. Fascism and anti-Semitism were on the rise in England as well as Germany in the years before WWII — thugs threw bricks and bottles through the windows of Jewish homes in the East End. After the war, Peter’s father officially changed the family name to Green. The gift of a cheap guitar by his older brother Len,who had lost interest in learning how to play, put the 10-year-old Green on a musical path. His other brother, Michael, taught him his first guitar chords and by the age of 11 Green was teaching himself. He began playing professionally by the age of 15, while working for a number of east London shipping companies. He first played bass guitar in a band called Bobby Dennis and the Dominoes, which performed pop chart covers and rock ‘n’ roll standards,including Shadows (Cliff Richards’ backing band at times). He later stated that Hank Marvin, lead guitarist for the Shadowd was one of his guitar heroes and he played the Shadows’ song “Midnight” on the 1996 tribute album Twang.
He went on to join a rhythm and blues outfit, the Muskrats, then a band called the Tridents in which he also played bass. It was right around his 20th birthday when he got his first big exposure break, replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers — initially for just 4 gigs in October 1965, after Clapton abruptly took off for a Greek holiday. Continue reading Peter Green – 7/2020
Christine McVie was born Christine Anne Perfect on July 12, 1943, in the Lake District of England to Cyril Perfect, a classical violinist and college music professor and Beatrice (Reece) Perfect, a psychic. Her father encouraged her to start taking classical piano lessons when she was 11. Her focus changed radically four years later when she came across some sheet music for Fats Domino songs. At that moment “It was goodbye Chopin.” “I started playing the boogie bass. I got hooked on the blues. And the songs I write use that left hand. It’s rooted in the blues.”
Christine Perfect studied sculpture at Birmingham Art College and for a while considered becoming an art teacher. At the same time, she briefly played in a duo and had a personal relationship with Welsh guitarist Spencer Davis, who, along with a teenage Steve Winwood, would later find fame in the Spencer Davis Group. She also helped form a band named Shades of Blue with several future members of Chicken Shack.
After graduating from college in 1966, she moved to London and became a window dresser for a department store. As the sixties started swinging, she started performing with bands, eventually falling in with blues group Chicken Shack. Later, she was asked to join Chicken Shack as keyboardist and sometime singer. She wrote two songs for the band’s debut album, “40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready to Serve.” Even though her style never totally fitted with the group’s more raucous sound, the subtler songs she fronted ended up finding the greatest commercial success. She scored a No. 14 British hit with Chicken Shack on a cover of Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” for which she sang lead and Melody Maker readers voted her best female vocalist in both 1969 and 70. While Chicken Shack supported Fleetwood Mac on tour, Christine Perfect fell in love with Mac’s bassist John McVie and they married in 1968. Christine McVie served in Fleetwood Mac during several incarnations that dated to 1971, but she also had uncredited roles playing keyboards and singing backup as far back as the band’s second album, released in 1968. Continue reading Christine McVie – 11/2022
Jerry Lee Lewis was born on Sept. 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana, to Elmo Lewis, a carpenter, and Mamie (Herron) Lewis. When he was a boy, he and two of his cousins, the future evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and the future country singer Mickey Gilley (who died this year), liked to sneak into a local dance hall, Haney’s Big House, to hear top blues acts perform.
He showed an aptitude for the piano, and his father borrowed money to buy him one. “The more he practiced, the surer the left hand and wilder the right hand became,” Mr. Tosches wrote in “Hellfire.”
At 14, he was invited to sit in with a band performing at a local Ford dealership, which was celebrating the arrival of the 1950 models. He played “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” — the tune, a hit for Sticks McGhee in 1949, would be a minor pop hit for Mr. Lewis in 1973 — and he took home nearly $15 when someone passed the hat.
He soon became a regular at clubs in Natchez, just across the Mississippi River, and on the radio station KWKH in Shreveport, La. His deeply worried mother, a Pentecostal Christian, enrolled him in the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas.
17 May 2022 – Vangelis (Greek film composer and keyboards-synthesizer for Aphrodite’s Child). Vangelis was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou on March 29, 1943 in the Greek town of Agria. He was a self-taught musician who became a young piano prodigy. Then he moved to Paris and co-founded with Demis Roussos, the popular prog-rock group Aphrodite’s Child. After several global mega hits the band eventually split and Vangelis got a solo record deal with RCA Records, while still collaborating often with Roussos.
In 1981 he composed the score for Chariots of Fire. Its opening theme, with its uplifting inspirational swell and ornate arrangement, was released as a single and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. His efforts earned him a win for best original score at the Academy Awards.
The success led him to other film work. Notably, he composed the soundtrack for the original Blade Runner, as well as Carl Sagan’s PBS documentary series Cosmos. Outside of composing scores, Vangelis was prolific in his solo career, regularly releasing albums up until 2021’s Juno to Jupiter.
While he was most associated with the synthesizer, the instrument was also a source of frustration for him. “I’ve been using synthesizers for so many years, but they’ve never been designed properly. They create a lot of problems.” he told NPR in 2016. “The computers have completely different logic than the human logic.” So for his 2016 record Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, he built his own synthesizer.
Vangelis had a lifelong interest in space which was reflected in his music — in its breadth and atmosphere. He believed that there was something inherent in humans to want to discover — whether that meant up in the sky or in a studio. For Vangelis, becoming a musician was never a conscious decision. “It’s very difficult not to make music,” Vangelis told NPR in 1977. “It’s as natural as I eat, as I make love. Music is the same.”
Vangelis, who gave the movie Chariots of Fire its signature synth-driven sound, died on the May 17, 2022 in a hospital in Paris, due to heart failure.. He was 79 years old.
Born in Huntsville, Arkansas on January 10, 1935 Ronnie Hawkins made quite the career for himself in Canada (where he became a permanent resident in 1964). A road warrior, he made his rounds across North America and launched the careers of many musicians, including the Band (who backed him as the Hawks from 1961 to 1964), Roy Buchanan, Pat Travers and others.
Musicianship ran in Hawkins’s family; Hawkins’s father, uncles, and cousins had toured the honky-tonk circuit in Arkansas and Oklahoma in the 1930s and 1940s. His uncle Delmar “Skipper” Hawkins, a road musician, had moved to California about 1940 and joined cowboy singing star Roy Rogers’s band, the Sons of the Pioneers. Hawkins’s cousin Delmar Allen “Dale” Hawkins, the earliest white performer to sing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Regal Theater in Chicago, recorded the rhythm and blues song “Suzie Q” in 1957. Beginning at age eleven, Ronnie Hawkins sang at local fairs and before he was a teenager shared a stage with Hank Williams. He recalled that Williams was too drunk to perform, and his band, the Drifting Cowboys invited members of the audience to get on the stage and sing. Hawkins accepted the invitation and sang some Burl Ives songs he knew.
As a teenager Hawkins ran bootleg liquor from Missouri to the dry counties of Oklahoma in his modified Model A Ford, sometimes making three hundred dollars a day. He claimed in later years that he continued the activity until he was nineteen or twenty, and that it was how he made the money to buy into nightclubs. He had already formed his first band, the Hawks, when he graduated from high school in 1952, following which he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas, where in 1956 he dropped out just a few credits short of graduation.
Hawkins then enlisted in the United States Army, but he was required to serve only six months, having already completed ROTC training. Soon after his arrival at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for Army Basic Combat Training, he was having a drink at the Amvets club when an African American quartet began to play their music. Hearing the first notes so stirred him that he jumped onto the stage and started singing. “It sounded like something between the blues and rockabilly… me being a hayseed and those guys playing a lot funkier.” The experience caused Hawkins to realize what kind of music he really wanted to play, and he joined the four black musicians, who renamed themselves the Blackhawks.
The group had been performing a sort of jazz/blues something like Cab Calloway’s music of the 1940s, and Hawkins sought to introduce contemporary influences to their repertoire. With another new member, blues saxophonist A.C. Reed, they created some of the South’s most dynamic music sounds. “Instead of doing a kind of rockabilly that was closer to country music, I was doing rockabilly that was closer to soul music, which was exactly what I liked.” The band encountered prejudice, as many white people in the American South of the 1950s could not accept an integrated band and considered rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues the devil’s music.
The Blackhawks disbanded when his enlistment ended. Hawkins went back to Fayetteville, and two days later he got a call from Sun Records, who wanted him to front the house session band. By the time he got to Memphis, though, the group had already broken up. Nevertheless, he took advantage of the opportunity to cut two demos, Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and Hank Williams’s “A Mansion on the Hill”, but the recordings attracted no attention. The demo session guitarist, Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman, suggested that Hawkins join him at his home in Helena, Arkansas, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta region, a hotbed of blues, rhythm and blues, and country music, an offer which he eagerly accepted.
Immediately upon arriving in Helena, Hawkins and Paulman found Paulman’s brother George (standup bass) and their cousin Willard “Pop” Jones (piano) and formed a band they named The Hawks. Drummer Levon Helm, who had grown up in nearby Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, first played with the group at the Delta Supper Club in early 1957 when George Paulman invited him to sit in with them for their closing set. Helm reminisced years later how Hawkins, accompanied by Luke Paulman, drove his Model A out to the Helm’s cotton farm, arriving in a cloud of dust to talk to Helm’s parents. Helm remembered him as “a big ol’ boy in tight pants, sharp shoes and a pompadour hanging down his forehead.” Helm listened to Hawkins negotiate an agreement with his parents, who insisted that he graduate high school before he could join the Hawks and go to Canada. Helm practiced diligently on a makeshift drum kit to improve his skills, and when he graduated in May, he was good enough to play drum in the band.
Hawkins’s live act included back flips and a “camel walk” that preceded Michael Jackson’s similar moonwalk by three decades. His stage persona gained him the monikers “Rompin’ Ronnie” and “Mr. Dynamo”. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville, where some of rock and roll’s earliest pioneers came to play, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.
With Helm’s graduation from high school, he joined The Hawks and they went to Canada, where the group met success. On April 13, 1959, they auditioned for Morris Levy, owner of Roulette Records in New York. Only four hours later, they entered the studio and recorded their first record tracks. Their first single, “Forty Days”, was a barely disguised knockoff of Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Days” with the song “Mary Lou” by Young Jessie on the B-side; it reached number 26 on the US pop charts, becoming Hawkins’s biggest hit.
After spending nearly three months in Canada, the band returned to the South, with their base in Hawkin’s home town of Fayetteville. The band’s gigs in the southern states were mostly one-nighters or short run performances in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Helm loved to drive, and would drive the band two or three hundred miles to the next show in Hawkin’s old Chevy, which Hawkins eventually replaced with a Cadillac towing a trailer containing their equipment.
Hawkins and the group had begun touring Canada in 1958 as the Ron Hawkins Quartet on the recommendation of Conway Twitty, who told him Canadian audiences wanted to hear rockabilly. Their bassist George Paulman was abusing liquor and pills, so Hawkins left him behind, and they played without a bass on their first tour of Ontario. Their first gig was at the Golden Rail Tavern in Hamilton, Ontario, where, according to booking agent Harold Kudlets, all the bartenders quit when they heard the band’s sound and saw Hawkins’s stunts on stage. In 1959 he performed a number of live shows in the country and signed a five-year contract with Roulette Records. Working out of Toronto, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks cut the LP Ronnie Hawkins in 1959, and with Fred Carter, Jr. taking Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman’s place on lead guitar, they cut another LP, Mr. Dynamo, the next year, both of them recorded on the Roulette label.
He subsequently moved to Canada and in 1964 became a permanent resident. In 2017, he moved from Stoney Lake Manor in Douro-Dummer, where he had resided since 1970, to Peterborough, Ontario. Hawkins was an institution of the Ontario music scene for over 40 years. When he first came to Ontario he played gigs at places like the Grange Tavern in Hamilton, where Conway Twitty got his start, and made it his home base. In Toronto, where the Hawks dominated the local scene, Hawkins opened his own night club, the Hawk’s Nest, on the second floor of the Coq d’or Tavern on Yonge street, playing there for months at a time.
After the move to Canada, The Hawks, with the exception of Hawkins and drummer Levon Helm, dropped out of the band. Their vacancies were filled by Southwest Ontarians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. Young David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian and future lead vocalist of the American group Blood, Sweat, and Tears, said he heard the Hawks when he got out of prison in 1962: “We young musicians would sit there by the bar at the Le Coq d’Or and just hang on every note.” This version of the Hawks, wearing mohair suits and razor-cut hair, were the top group among those who played the Le Coq d’Or, a rowdy establishment at the center of the action on the Yonge Street strip in Toronto. They were able to stay out of most of the bar fights that broke out there almost every night.
Along with Helm, they all left Hawkins in 1964 to form a group which came to be named The Band. They went to work for Bob Dylan in 1965, touring with him for a year, and were his backup band on The Basement Tapes. Hawkins continued to perform and record, and did a few tours in Europe.
In December 1969, Hawkins hosted John Lennon and Yoko Ono for a stay at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, during the couple’s campaign to promote world peace. Lennon signed his erotic “Bag One” lithographs during his stay there. Lennon also did a radio promo for a Hawkins single, a version of The Clovers song,”Down in the Alley”. When their visit ended, Lennon and Ono, with Hawkins and his wife Wanda as part of their entourage, took the CNR Rapido train to Montreal, where they engaged in their Bed-in for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Hawkins later rode with them on a train to Ottawa to see then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Lennon also enlisted Hawkins as a peace ambassador, and Hawkins traveled to the border of China and Hong Kong with journalist Ritchie Yorke bearing an anti-war message.
In the early 1970s, Hawkins noticed guitarist Pat Travers performing in Ontario nightclubs and was so impressed by the young musician that he invited him to play in his band. Travers joined the group, but balked when Hawkins told him he wanted him to play “old ’50s and ’60s rockabilly tunes”. Years later, Travers told an interviewer, “… he wanted me to play them exactly the same, same sound, same picking, same everything. For a 19-, 20-year-old kid, that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. But he said, ‘You can do this, son, and you’ll be better than a hundred guitar players, because this is where it all comes from. You need to know this stuff. It’s like fundamental.’ And he was right”. Travers later had a successful recording career and became an influential guitarist in the 1970s hard rock genre.
In 1975, Bob Dylan cast Hawkins to play the role of “Bob Dylan” in the movie, Renaldo and Clara. The following year, he was a featured performer at the Band’s Thanksgiving Day farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which was documented in the 1978 film The Last Waltz. Robbie Robertson said of it in 2020, “If there was anything wrong that night, it was that the cocaine wasn’t very good.” Hawkins sampled some of the powder and told the other performers that there was so much flour and sugar in it that they would be “sneezing biscuits” for three months afterward. Hawkin’s 1984 LP, Making It Again, garnered him a Juno Award as Canada’s best Country Male Vocalist. In addition to his career as a musician, he become an accomplished actor, hosting his own television show Honky Tonk in the early 1980s and appearing in such films as Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate alongside his friend Kris Kristofferson, and in the action/adventure film Snake Eater. His version of the song “Mary Lou” was used in the 1989 slasher film, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
On January 10, 1995, Hawkins celebrated his 60th birthday by sponsoring a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, which was documented on the album Let It Rock. The concert featured performances by Hawkins, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Band and Larry Gowan. Canadian musician Jeff Healey sat in on guitar as well. Hawkins’s band, the Hawks, or permutations of it, backed the performers. All of the musicians performing that night were collectively dubbed “the Rock ‘n’ Roll Orchestra”.
In 2003, Hawkins was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went into remission, which he attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine. His remarkable remission was featured in the 2012 film Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking.
Hawkins died in the early morning of May 29, 2022, at the age of 87, after the cancer returned. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Wanda, their two sons, Ronnie Hawkins Jr. and country singer Robin Hawkins, who had served as his guitarist since the 1980s, and daughter Leah Hawkins, an aspiring songwriter who had been his backup singer.
A man with an extraordinary sense of humor, he is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada. Also known as “Rompin’ Ronnie”, “Mr. Dynamo” or “The Hawk”, he was one of the key players in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto. He performed all across North America and recorded more than 25 albums. His hit songs include covers of Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Days” (retitled “Forty Days”) and Young Jessie’s “Mary Lou”, a song about a gold digger. Other well-known recordings are a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” (without the question mark), “Hey! Bo Diddley”, and “Susie Q”, which was written by his cousin, rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins. Hawkins was a talent scout and mentor of the musicians he recruited for his band, The Hawks. Roy Buchanan was an early Hawks guitarist on the song “Who Do You Love”. The most successful of his students were those who left to form The Band. Robbie Lane and the Disciples made their name opening for Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks at the Yonge Street bars in Toronto and eventually became his backing band. Others he had recruited later formed Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot, and Skylark. Hawkins was still playing 150 engagements a year in his 60s.
February 19, 2022 – Gary Brooker founding lead singer of the late 1960’s musical sensation Procol Harum was born on May 29, 1945, in London’s Metropolitan Borough of Hackney. His father was a professional musician and Gary followed in his footsteps learning to play piano, cornet and trombone as a child. But his most awesome instrument over the years became his voice.
After high school, he went on to Southend Municipal College to study zoology and botany but dropped out to become a professional musician.In 1962 he founded the Paramounts with his guitarist friend Robin Trower. The band gained respect within the burgeoning 1960s British R&B scene, which yielded the Beatles, the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, the Rolling Stones, and many others. The Rolling Stones, in particular, were Paramounts fans, giving them guest billing on several shows in the early 1960s.
The group found little success with their studio recordings outside of a 1964 cover of “Poison Ivy” that became a minor hit in England. The Paramounts split in 1966, and while Brooker originally planned to retire from performing to work as a songwriter, he met lyricist Keith Reid and forged such a tight working relationship that the pair started a new group: Procol Harum. Guided by an immense musicality of Brooker, Fisher, Trower and Reid their worldhit “A Whiter Shade of Pale” became one of the anthems of 1967’s Summer of Love. “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was inspired by Brooker’s love of classical musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
“About that time, the Jacques Louissier Trio — which had a pianist, bass player and drummer — made an album called Play Bach,” Brooker told Songwriter Universe in 2020. “They were a jazz trio, and they’d start off with a piece of Bach, and they would improvise around it. Louissier had done a fabulous version of what was called ‘Air On a G String’ which was also used in a set of good adverts in Britain. And all those things came together one morning [on ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’] … a bit of Bach and ‘Air On a G String’ going through my head.”
Once he added in Reid’s lyrics, Brooker had a masterpiece on his hands that would reach Number One all over the world and turn Procol Harum in a major band almost overnight. Although the band never managed to land another hit of that magnitude, they maintained a large cult audience and worked steadily throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scoring occasional hits like “Conquistador” and “A Salty Dog.” In 1972, they cut the live album Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that helped bring the band back into the public eye.
While Procol Harum was often referred to as a progressive rock band, Brooker never felt comfortable with that label. “I’ve always rejected the idea of labeling groups or types of music,” he told Vintage Rock in 2019. “I don’t think Procol has ever fit into a particular pigeonhole, as we call them here, you know, in the filing cabinet. You don’t really know what to put them under. They come under ‘P’ — ‘Progressive?’ ‘Psychedelic?’ — and I say, ‘They come under ‘P’ and ‘P’ is for ‘Procol’.”
A Whiter Shade of Pale was issued as their debut record on 12 May 1967. and became one of the most commercially successful singles in history, having sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In the years since, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has become an enduring classic, with more than 1000 known cover versions by other artists, none of them ever matching Brooker’s version. With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics, the music of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was composed by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher, while the lyrics were written by Keith Reid.
Brooker’s melancholic vocals and emotive, eclectic piano playing were a key part of Procol’s musical mix for the entire course of the band’s career. In the early years Brooker, Hammond organist Matthew Fisher and Trower were the guiding musical forces behind the band, but after disparities in style became too much and Fisher and Trower left, Brooker was the clear leader until the band broke up in 1977. Brooker started a solo career and released the album No More Fear of Flying in 1979.
Gifted with a voice that stood out in a massive crowd, it is interesting to realize that Gary Brooker became essential a journeyman, who occasionally came “home” to his roots. After Procol Harum broke up, Brooker first launched his solo career but then began touring and recording with his longtime buddy Eric Clapton. His work can be heard on Clapton’s 1981 LP Another Ticket. Clapton fired the entire band in 1981, but he and Brooker remained good friends afterwards, and were for many years neighbours in the Surrey Hills. Brooker joined Clapton for several one-off benefit gigs over the years. Brooker sang lead vocal on the Alan Parsons Project song “Limelight”, on their 1985 album, Stereotomy. Brooker sang the lead vocal of the song “No News from the Western Frontier”, a single taken from the album Hi-Tec Heroes by the Dutch performer Ad Visser.
A new version of Procol Harum was assembled in 1991 that recorded and toured up until 2019, though they took a pause in 1997 and 1999 so Brooker could tour with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. He also toured as a member of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings on three of their albums.
On 28 September 1996, as the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he organized a charity concert to raise funds for his local church, St Mary and All Saints, in Surrey. The resulting live CD of the concert, Within Our House, originally released on a fan club CD in a limited run of 1000 units, later became a collectable recording. His guests and supporting artists included Dave Bronze, Michael Bywater, Mark Brzezicki and Robbie McIntosh.
Also in 1996, Brooker appeared in the Alan Parker film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Evita starring Madonna, Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas. Playing the part of Juan Atilio Bramuglia, he sang the song “Rainbow Tour” with Peter Polycarpou and Antonio Banderas. Brooker said that his greatest single earning in his career was from his appearance in the film.
On 29 November 2002, he was among musicians and singers participating in the George Harrison tribute concert, Concert for George, at which he sang lead vocals on their version of “Old Brown Shoe”. Brooker contributed to Harrison’s albums All Things Must Pass, Somewhere in England and Gone Troppo.
In April 2005, as the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he played a sell-out charity concert at Guildford Cathedral in aid of the tsunami appeal, playing a mixture of Procol Harum and solo songs and arrangements of classical and spiritual songs. His guests and supporting artists included Andy Fairweather Low and Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann).
A new incarnation of Procol Harum, led by Brooker, continued touring the world, celebrating its 40th anniversary in July 2007 with two days of musical revels at St John’s, Smith Square in London.
On 28 October 2009, Brooker was presented with a BASCA in recognition of his unique contribution to music.
In May 2012, Procol Harum were forced to cancel the remainder of their dates in South Africa after Brooker fractured his skull following a fall in his hotel room in Cape Town. The fall came on Brooker’s 67th birthday. The band was part of the British Invasion Tour of South Africa along with the Moody Blues and 10cc. However, they continued touring until 2019, playing their final gig in Switzerland.
Shine on brightly, Gary, you made us quite insane, AND WE LOVED IT! RIP February 19, 2022
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
March 19, 1982 – Randall “Randy” Rhoads (Quiet Riot/the Blizzard of Ozz) was born in Santa Monica, California on December 6, 1956.
Randy started taking guitar lessons around the age of 6 or 7 at a music school in North Hollywood called Musonia, which was owned by his mother. His first guitar was a Gibson (acoustic) that belonged to Delores Rhoads’ father. Randy and his sister (Kathy) both began folk guitar lessons at the same time with Randy later taking piano lessons (at his mother’s request) so that he could learn to read music. Randy’s piano lessons did not last very long. At the age of 12, Randy became interested in rock guitar. His mother, Delores, had an old semi-acoustic Harmony Rocket, that at that time was almost larger than he was. For almost a year Randy took lessons from Scott Shelly, a guitar teacher at his mother’s school. Scott Shelly eventually went to Randy’s mother explaining that he could not teach him anymore as Randy knew everything that he knew.
When Randy was about 14, he and his brother formed their first band, Violet Fox, named after his mother’s middle name, Violet. With Randy playing rhythm guitar and his brother Doug playing drums, Violet Fox were together about 4 to 5 months. Randy was in various other bands, such as “The Katzenjammer Kids” and “Mildred Pierce”, playing parties in the Burbank area before he formed Quiet Riot in 1976 with longtime friend and bassist Kelly Garni. Randy Rhoads and Kelly Garni (whom Randy taught to play bass guitar) met Kevin DuBrow through a mutual friend from Hollywood.
Around that same time Randy began teaching guitar in his mother’s school during the day and playing with Quiet Riot at night. Originally called “Little Women”, Quiet Riot were quickly becoming one of the biggest acts in the Los Angeles area and eventually obtained a recording contract with CBS/Sony records, releasing two full length l.p.’s and one e.p. in Japan.
Quiet Riots two records, Quiet Riot 1 (1978), which was originally recorded for an American record label,and Quiet Riot 2 (1979), received rave reviews in the Japanese press, claiming them to be the “next big thing”. Unfortunately these recordings were never released in the United States. While there were plans for Quiet Riot to tour Japan, their management turned down the offer and Quiet Riot stayed in the United States continuing to sell out college and high school auditoriums as well as clubs in the Los Angeles area. Randy was very into his look on stage. He would dress excentric, often wearing polka dotted outfits. He would also sit and draw his name in various designs. One of those now famous designs can be seen on Ozzy’s tribute album: the “RR” was Randy’s creation. About 5 months before Randy left Quiet Riot, he went to Karl Sandoval to have a custom guitar made. Several meetings and drawings later they would ultimately create a black and white polka-dot flying “V” guitar that would become synonymous with the name Randy Rhoads. The guitar would cost Randy $738 and was picked up by Randy on September 22,1979. (September 22, 1979 saw Quiet Riot playing at the “Whiskey a go-go” in Los Angeles, California,… so chances are, that was probably the first place he ever played that guitar in front of an audience.)
In late 1979, at the encouragement of a friend (Dana Strum), Randy went to audition for a band being put together by former Black Sabbath lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne. As the story goes: Ozzy had auditioned just about every guitarist in Los Angeles and was about to go home to England, the hopes of a new band washed away. Enter Randy Rhoads. Randy wasn’t completely interested in auditioning, he was happy with his current band and thought that this audition wouldn’t amount to much. Randy walked into Ozzy’s hotel room late one evening with a guitar and a small Fender practice amp, plugged in and started tuning his guitar and began to do a few warm up exercises. Ozzy was so impressed with his warm up that he instantly gave him the job as lead guitarist at the age of 22.
Ozzy began to assemble a band that would (ultimately) record his first two solo albums.
How the band was formed is a story within a story. There are a few variations:
A) With Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, bassist Dana Strum (Slaughter), and drummer Frankie Bannalli (Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P.), the band began to rehearse in Los Angeles, California. However, when it came time to go to England, where Ozzy’s albums would be recorded, the record company could only obtain a work permit for one non-English band member, Randy Rhoads.
B) Drummer Lee Kerslake (who played on both of Ozzy’s solo albums) auditioned and got the position. A few weeks later while in England, Ozzy happened across Bob Daisley. Boasting about this guitar player he’d found, Ozzy convinced Bob to join his band. A few weeks later they began to rehearse for the first album in Los Angeles, California.
C) Ozzy already had a few band members when he met Bob Daisley, who would be the only one to continue on in the band. Randy Rhoads was added shortly thereafter. Lee Kerslake was the last member to join as well as the last drummer to audition. They rehearsed and wrote the first song in England before embarking on a UK tour towards the end of 1980.
Randy was whisked off to England shortly before Thanksgiving of 1979 where, at Ozzy’s home in England, they began to write the “Blizzard of Ozz” album and audition drummers. While the band rehearsed at John Henrys, a rehearsal hall in London, the earliest public performances of Randy Rhoads and Ozzy Osbourne came after they’d complete a song, then go to a local pub to play the song for whoever was there. They played under the name “Law”. One such song – Crazy Train, appeared to get the audience moving, leading them to believe that they “had something”. With ex-Uriah Heap members: Lee Kerslake (drums) and Bob Daisley (bass), the Ozzy Osbourne Band entered Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey, England on March 22, 1980 and began recording for almost a month.
“Blizzard of Ozz” was originally to be mixed by Chris Tsangarides who was fired after one week because Ozzy felt that it “was not happening” with him. Max Norman, Ridge Farm Studio’s resident engineer, was then hired to pick up where Chris left off and would play an integral part of both Ozzy Osbourne studio albums and the live EP, as well as later down the road with “Tribute”. After the finishing touches had been put on “Blizzard of Ozz”, Randy Rhoads returned home to California in May of 1980, where he teamed up one last time with the members of Quiet Riot at the Starwood club in Hollywood for their final show. However, this would not be the last time he played with Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo, who would later join Ozzy Osbourne’s band just before the start of the United States Blizzard of Ozz tour. Once back in England, the Ozzy Osbourne Band surfaced for their first official show on September 12, 1980 when 4,000 fans broke the box office record at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland. “Blizzard of Ozz” went straight into the U.K. charts at number 7 as they toured around the United Kingdom for close to three months playing 34 shows. Sales of Blizzard of Ozz more than doubled with each U.K.town they played.
December of 1980 brought Randy Rhoads back home to California for Christmas. Once again Randy wanted a custom guitar built, this time he went to Grover Jackson of Charvel guitars, about a week before Christmas. With a drawing scribbled on a piece of paper, Randy Rhoads and Grover Jackson created the very first “Jackson” guitar to ever be made. Randy’s white flying V type guitar was yet another guitar that would become synonymous with the Rhoads name. The finished guitar was sent to Randy in England about two months later.
During the months of February and March of 1981, the Osbourne band once again entered Ridge Farm Studios to record their second album titled “Diary of a Madman”. With an impending U.S. tour to follow soon after the recording of “Diary”, the actual recording of the album became rushed. (Randy’s solo on “Little Dolls” was actually a scratch solo and was not intended to be the solo for the finished song.) None of the bandmembers could be present for the mixing of “Diary”, which only furthered their already mixed feelings of the album.
With “Diary of a Madman” already recorded but not yet released, the Osbourne Band began it’s North American tour in support of “Blizzard of Ozz”, beginning in Towson, Maryland on April 22, 1981. Though they did not play on either studio efforts, Tommy Aldrige (drums) and Rudy Sarzo (bass) joined Ozzy’s band in time for the North American tour. They toured across North America from May through September of ’81 playing songs from “Blizzard of Ozz” as well as “Diary of a Madman”, with a few Sabbath songs thrown in to close their shows.
Choosing to headline their tour instead of going on a bigger tour as a support act paid off as “Blizzard of Ozz” went gold (500,000 albums sold) in 100 days, though in some of the smaller cities in the United States, their shows were threatened to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales. In one such city, Providence, Rhode Island, the Ozzy Osbourne Band (along with opening act Def Leppard) was informed by the concerts promoter that (due to poor ticket sales) he did not have enough money to pay either band.
Towards the end of the United States “Blizzard of Ozz” tour, Randy once again went to Grover Jackson to have another custom guitar made. He complained that too many people thought his white Jackson was a flying-V. He wanted something more distinctive. A few weeks later, Randy and Kevin DuBrow went to look at the unfinished guitar that Grover Jackson had begun to work on. Once in the wood shop, Randy and Grover Jackson began drawing on this unfinished guitar for close to an hour before a final design was decided upon. Ultimately they came up with a variation of his white Jackson, only with a more defined look to the upper wing of the guitar. Randy would receive this guitar, the 2nd Jackson ever made, just before the start of the “Diary of a Madman”tour. At the time, there were three guitars being made for Randy. He received the first one, the black custom, as they continued to finish the other two.(Unfortunately, one of the two guitars, that were being built for Randy at the time of his death, was accidentally sold at an NAMM show by Grover Jackson.) The third guitar, which Jackson stopped working on at the time of Randy’s death, was later owned by Rob Lane of Jacksoncharvelworld.com.
Ironically, as with Quiet Riot, Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing would be heard on two full length albums and one EP, while in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The “Mr. Crowley” EP featured live performances of three songs including “You said it all”, a song previously unreleased, recorded in October of 1980 in South Hampton, England, during the United Kingdom “Blizzard” tour. (‘You said it all’ was actually recorded during the band’s sound check, with the crowd noise added at the time of mixing.)
With the release of “Diary of a Madman”, Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldrige set off to Europe in November of 1981 for a tour that would end after only three shows. The tour had to be cancelled after Ozzy collapsed from both mental and physical exhaustion. The entire band went back to the United States so that Ozzy could rest. They would come back a little over a month later with a four month United States tour to start December 30, 1981 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and a single (Flying High Again) that was making it’s way up the charts.
Traveling with a crew of approximately 25 Las Vegas and Broadway technicians, Randy Rhoads went from selling out Los Angeles area clubs with Quiet Riot to selling out the biggest arenas in the United States on one of the most elaborate stage sets with Ozzy Osbourne. When the “Diary” tour began, their first album, “Blizzard of Ozz” was selling at the rate of 6,000 records a week. Backstage opening night in San Francisco, Randy was awarded with Guitar Player Magazine’s Best New Talent Award. He would also later win best new guitarist in England’s Sounds magazine. With that, the band began an exhausting yet memorable tour that seemed to be plagued with problems. Their concerts were boycotted by many cities while others were attended by local S.P.C.A. officials due to claims of animal abuse. Meanwhile “Diary of a Madman” was well on it’s way to platinum status.
With all of this going on around him, Randy Rhoads’ interest for classical guitar was consuming him more each day. Often times Randy would have a classical guitar tutor in each city the band played. It became common knowledge that Randy wanted to quit rock and roll temporarily so that he could attend school to get his masters in classical guitar. Randy also wanted to take advantage of some of the studio session offers he was receiving. There is a rumor that Ozzy once punched him in the face to “knock some sense into him” (literally).
March 18, 1982, the Ozzy Osbourne band played what would be their last show with Randy Rhoads at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. From Knoxville, the band was headed to Orlando, Florida for Saturday’s Rock Super Bowl XIV with Foreigner, Bryan Adams and UFO. On the way to Orlando they were to pass by the home of bus driver Andrew C. Aycock, who lived in Leesburg, Florida, at Flying Baron Estates. Flying Baron Estates consisted of 3 houses with an aircraft hanger and a landing strip, owned by Jerry Calhoun, who along with being a country western musician in his earlier days, leased tour buses and kept them at the Estate. They needed some spare parts for the bus and Andrew Aycock, who had picked up his ex-wife at one of the bands shows, was going to drop her off in Florida.
The bus arrived at Flying Baron Estates in Leesburg at about 8:00 a.m. on the 19th and parked approximately 90 yards away from the landing strip and approximately 15 yards in front of the house that would later serve as the accident site. On the bus were: Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Arden, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldrige, Don Airey, Wanda Aycock, Andrew Aycock, Rachel Youngblood, Randy Rhoads and the bands tour manager. Andrew Aycock and his ex-wife, Wanda,went into Jerry Calhoun’s house to make some coffee while some members of Ozzy Osbourne’s band slept in the bus and others got out and stretched. Being stored inside of the aircraft hanger at Flying Baron Estates, was a red and white 1955 Beechcraft Bonanza F-35 (registration #: N567LT) that belonged to Mike Partin of Kissimmee, Florida. Andrew Aycock, who had driven the groups’ bus all night from Knoxville and who had a pilots license, apparently took the plane without permission and took keyboardist Don Airey and the band’s tour manager up in the plane for a few minutes, at times flying low to the ground. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Andrew Aycock’s medical certificate (3rd class) had expired, thus making his pilots license not valid.
Approximately 9:00 a.m. on the morning of March 19th, Andrew Aycock took Rachel Youngblood and Randy Rhoads up for a few minutes. During this trip the plane began to fly low to the ground, at times below tree level, and “buzzed” the band’s tour bus three times. On the fourth pass (banking to the left in a south-west direction) the planes left wing struck the left side of the bands tour bus (parked facing east) puncturing it in two places approximately halfway down on the right side of the bus. The plane, with the exception of the left wing, was thrown over the bus, hit a nearby pine tree, severing it approximately 10 feet up from the bottom, before it crashed into the garage on the west side of the home owned by Jerry Calhoun. The plane was an estimated 10 feet off the ground traveling at approximately 120 – 150 knots during impact.The house was almost immediately engulfed in flames and destroyed by the crash and ensuing fire, as was the garage and the two vehicles inside, an Oldsmobile and a Ford Granada. Jesse Herndon, who was inside the house during the impact, escaped with no injuries. The largest piece of the plane that was left was a wing section about 6 to 7 feet long. The very wing that caught the side of the tour bus, was deposited just to the north of the bus. The severed pine trees tood between the bus and the house.
Ozzy Osbourne, Tommy Aldrige, Rudy Sarzo and Sharon Arden, who were all asleep on the bus, were awoken by the planes impact and (at first) thought they had been involved in a traffic accident. Wanda Aycock had returned to the bus while keyboardist Don Airey stood outside and witnesses the accident, as did Marylee Morrison, who was riding her horse within sight of the estate. Two men, at the west end of the runway, witnessed the plane buzzing the area when the plane suddenly went out of sight as it crashed.
Once outside of the bus the band members learned of the catastrophic event that had just taken place. The bus was moved approximately 300 feet to the east of the house that was engulfed in flames. The band checked into the Hilco Inn in Leesburg where they mourned the death of Randy and Rachel and would wait for family members to arrive. While Orlando’s Rock Super Bowl XIV scheduled for later that day, was not canceled, the Ozzy Osbourne band would not play and the promoters offered refunds to all ticket holders.
Randy Rhoads died on March 19, 1982 at age 25 but Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing could not be silenced as “Tribute” was released in 1987. Tribute, recorded live, much of it in Cleveland, OH on May 11, 1981 and Randy’s solo in Montreal in July of 1981, continued to earn him recognition as a true guitar virtuoso.
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
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