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Marvin Gaye 4/1984

Marvin GayeApril 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

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Muddy Waters 4/1983

Muddy WatersApril 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

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Karen Carpenter 2/1983

karen carpenterFebruary 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

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Randy Rhoads 3/1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bob Marley 5/1981

Bob MarleyMay 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

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Mike Bloomfield 2/1981

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

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Bill Haley 2/1981

bill-haleyFebruary 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

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John Lennon 12/1980

LennonDecember 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

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John Bonham 9/1980

John BonhamSeptember 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

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Bon Scott 2/1980

bon scottFebruary 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”.

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Lowell George 6/1979

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

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

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Jacques Brel 10/1978

JACQUES BREL

October 9, 1978 – Jacques Brel was born on April 8th 1929 near Brussels Belgium. He composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French, although he recorded a number of songs in Dutch, which was his original mother’s tongue.

Brel’s songs are not especially well known in the English-speaking world except in translation and through the interpretations of other singers, most famously Scott Walker and Judy Collins. The range of superstars who however have covered his work is amazing.

Others who have sung his work in English include Karen Akers, Marc Almond, Momus/Nick Currie, Beirut, Bellowhead, David Bowie, Ray Charles, John Denver, The Dresden Dolls, Gavin Friday, Alex Harvey, Terry Jacks, Alan Clayson, Barb Jungr, The Kingston Trio, Jack Lukeman, Amanda McBroom, Rod McKuen, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Spencer Moody, Camille O’Sullivan, Dax Riggs, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Laurika Rauch and Dave Van Ronk. Continue reading Jacques Brel 10/1978

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Keith Moon 9/1978

Keith MoonSeptember 7, 1978 – Keith Moon. Keith John Moon was born to working class parents in Wembley, London, England, on the 23rd August, 1946. At the age of 12, he had joined the Sea Cadet Corp and was given his first musical instrument, the bugle. He left school by 15 and was in his first band, The Beachcombers; this was around the summer of 1963. There was rumour that Keith was self-taught, but history says otherwise, he was shown how to play by the late Carlo Little (1938-2005), Carlo was the original drummer in The Rolling Stones and David Sutch’s band, The Savages.

By the age of 18, he had joined a local London band, The High Numbers; this was to consist of what is now known as The Who.

With his own unique style of drumming, rolling the sticks along the skins as to banging the typical beat, he was to become extrovertly charismatic in his life as well as his playing. He was one of the first to play drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed only to keep the back beat. With a desire, more of an obsession, to be the center of attention, this hyperactive, and largely, self destructive personality became his own worst enemy.
With a flair for theatrical and ridiculous behavior, he was the center point and self-publicist for, like it or not, The Who. Continue reading Keith Moon 9/1978

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Terry Kath 1/1978

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

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

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Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977

ronnie-van-zantOctober 20, 1977 – Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948 in West Jacksonville, Florida. As a member of a very musical family, brother Donnie became frontman for 38 Special, another Jacksonville based band and youngest brother Johnny took Roonie’s shoes and hat when Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed in 1987.

Ronnie however was the nucleus founding member and frontman of the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd that formed in 1964.

Friends and schoolmates Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns made up the original band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of students with long hair.

Their fan base grow rapidly throughout 1973, mainly due to their opening slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their debut self titled album produced the hit Freebird, the track achieved the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Continue reading Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977

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Marc Bolan 9/1977

Marc Bolan16 September 1977 – Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld on September 30, 1947, became the well-known singer/songwriter, poet and guitarist frontman of T. Rex or Tyrannosaurus Rex, a 1970s glam rock band. He was killed in an automobile crash in 1977 a mere two weeks before his 30th birthday.

Marc Bolan looked like a rock star. And he usually sang about the usual rock-star things in his songs with T. Rex. He inspired a whole legion of glitter-wearing fans to follow his every word. And on the 1972 single ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ he seemed to have a knack for predicting the future — even foreshadowing his own demise five years later.

Look no further than the opening line of ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ a single-only release that eventually showed up on the same year’s ‘Great Hits’ compilation. ”Life is the same and it always will be / Easy as picking foxes from a tree,” Bolan sings as typically glammy guitars spill out a riff.

Turns out that the license plate on the car that Bolan was killed in on Sept. 16, 1977, was “FOX 661L.” And oh yeah, it was wrapped around a tree.

A famous quote: “I feel there is a curse on rock stars”

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Elvis Presley 8/1977

elvisAugust 16, 1977 – Elvis Aaron Presley, more commonly known as “The King of Rock and Roll,”  is arguably the single most important figure in the global spreading of American 20th century popular music. Besides pop and rock ‘n roll, he brought the blues, black music and gospel to the world. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935, he made his first public performance on October 3rd 1945, in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, dressed as a cowboy. Elvis had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley’s “Old Shep.” He came in fifth, winning $5 and a free ticket to all the Fair rides.

He began his career as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and R&B with a strong back beat. Continue reading Elvis Presley 8/1977

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Freddie King 12/1976

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

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

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Jimmy Reed 8/1976

Jimmy Reed, blues greatAugust 29, 1976 – Mathis Jimmy Reed was born on September 6, 1925 on a plantation in or around the small burg of Dunleith, Mississippi. He stayed around the area until he was 15, learning the basic rudiments of harmonica and guitar from his buddy Eddie Taylor, who was then making a name for himself as a semi-pro musician, working country suppers and juke joints.

Reed moved up to Chicago in 1943, but was quickly drafted into the Navy where he served for two years. After a quick trip back to Mississippi and marriage to his beloved wife Mary (known to blues fans as “Mama Reed”), he relocated to Gary, Indiana, and found work at an Armour Foods meat packing plant while simultaneously breaking into the burgeoning blues scene around Gary and neighboring Chicago. Continue reading Jimmy Reed 8/1976

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Howlin’ Wolf 1/1976

Howlin' WolfJanuary 10, 1976 – Howlin’ Wolf  was born Chester Arthur Burnett on June 10, 1910 in White Station, Mississippi, near West Point. He was named Chester Arthur Burnett, after Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. His physique garnered him the nicknames of Big Foot Chester and Bull Cow as a young man: he was 6 feet 3 inches (191 cm) tall and often weighed close to 275 pounds (125 kg). He explained the origin of the name Howlin’ Wolf: “I got that from my grandfather”, who would often tell him stories about the wolves in that part of the country and warn him that if he misbehaved then the “howling wolves would get him”. Burnett once claimed to have been given his nickname by his idol Jimmie Rodgers. Continue reading Howlin’ Wolf 1/1976

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T-Bone Walker 3/1975

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

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

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

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Mama Cass 7/1974

July 29, 1974 – Mama Cass aka Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19th 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, she performed in a summer stock production of “The Boyfriend” at the Owings Mills Playhouse where she played the French nurse who sings “It’s Nicer, Much Nicer in Nice.” After this experience, even though her family anticipated her to seek a college education in pursuit of a career, Cass forged ahead in the world of performance.

“Elliot adopted the name “Cass” in high school, possibly borrowing it from actress Peggy Cass, as Denny Doherty tells it. She assumed the surname Elliot some time later, in memory of a friend who had died. Elliot attended George Washington High School, along with Jim Morrison of The Doors.
While still attending George Washington High School, Elliot became interested in acting and was cast in a school production of the play The Boy Friend. She left high school shortly before graduation and moved to New York City to further her acting career (as recounted in the lyrics to “Creeque Alley, a nightclub in Charlotte Amalie-St.Thomas Virgin Islands waterfront alley“).

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Duane Allman 10/1971

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

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

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

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Louis Armstrong 7/1971

July 6, 1971 – Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong  was officially born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, eleven months later than he claimed.

Armstrong often stated that he was born on July 4, 1900, a date that has been noted in many biographies. Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date of August 4, 1901 was discovered by researcher Tad Jones through the examination of baptismal records.
Armstrong was born into a poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was the grandson of slaves. He spent his youth in poverty, in a rough neighborhood known as “the Battlefield”, which was part of the Storyville legal prostitution district. His father, William Armstrong (1881–1933), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant and took up with another woman. His mother, Mary “Mayann” Albert (1886–1927), then left Louis and his younger sister, Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987), in the care of his grandmother, Josephine Armstrong, and at times, his Uncle Isaac. At five, he moved back to live with his mother, her relatives and a parade of “step-fathers”. Continue reading Louis Armstrong 7/1971

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Janis Joplin 10/1970

Janis Joplin in SanFranOctober 4, 1970 – Janis Lyn Joplin was truly one of the most remarkable rock and blues performers of the 1960s and the decades following. Born in Port Arthur Texas, on January 19, 1943, she escaped the small town prejudices and took off for the San Francisco counter culture, dominated by Love and Peace and Alcohol and Drugs. Janis unfortunately became a member of the infamous forever 27 Club as she passed on October 4, 1970, just a short 3 weeks after her brief former love interest and famous 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix. She was no. 4 to join the club after Robert Johnson, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix.

Her Texas upbringing put Joplin under the sway of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens, and the authenticity of these voices strongly influenced her decision to become a singer. A self-described “misfit” in high school, she suffered virtual ostracism, but dabbled in folk music with her friends and painted. She briefly attended college in Beaumont and Austin but was more drawn to blues legends and beat poetry than her studies; soon she dropped out and, in 1963, headed for San Francisco, eventually finding herself in the hippie filled Haight Ashbury neighborhood. She met up with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (later of the legendary San Francisco rock outfit Jefferson Airplane) and the pair recorded a suite of songs with Jorma’s wife, Margareta, providing the beat on her typewriter. These tracks – including blues standards like “Trouble in Mind” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” – would later surface as the infamous “Typewriter Tapes” bootleg. Continue reading Janis Joplin 10/1970

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Jimi Hendrix 9/1970

jimi-hendrix-1September 18, 1970 – James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix, was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 and became without discussion one of the top electric guitarists Rock and Roll has produced.

As his mainstream career spanned roughly only 4 years, something can be said for the fact that he was the right man at the right time and in the right place in the socio-cultural explosion of the late 1960s.
His early sixties performing career consisted mostly of the chitlin’ circuit between Clarksville and Nashville in Eastern Tennessee, backing start-ups like Little Richard, Curtis Knight, Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke and even an occasional gig with Roy Orbison. Early 1964 he found himself in the New York Village scene, where his girlfriend Faye got him a number of introductions, one of which got him to play with the Isley Brothers Band. His big break however came in a round about way, when he made it over to London, where he bedazzled the blues rock scene led by the then Superstars likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and became an overnight success. Continue reading Jimi Hendrix 9/1970

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Jim Morrison 7/1970

Jim MorrisonJuly 3, 1971 – Jim Morrison was born James Douglas “Jim” Morrison on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida

Paris, France. July 2, 1971, early evening. Jim Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson went to the cinema to see Pursued, a western starring Robert Mitchum. At another theater, Jim Morrison sat alone, watching a documentary called Death Valley. Across town, at the Rock ’n’ Roll Circus nightclub, Jim Morrison scored some heroin and OD’d in the bathroom. At the same time, Jim Morrison walked the streets of Paris and shot up with some junkies on skid row. Meanwhile, at Orly Airport, Jim Morrison boarded a plane for an unknown destination.

No one knows for sure where the 27-year-old Jim was or what he did that evening, but by the next morning, one thing was certain: He was dead. Continue reading Jim Morrison 7/1970

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Brian Jones 7/1969

brian-jones-with-mick-jaggerJuly 3, 1969 – Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (Rolling Stones) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on 28 February 1942. An attack of croup at the age of four left him with asthma, which lasted for the rest of his life. His middle-class parents, Lewis Blount Jones and Louisa Beatrice Jones (née Simmonds) were of Welsh descent. Brian had two sisters: Pamela, who was born on 3 October 1943 and died on 14 October 1945 of leukemia; and Barbara, born on 22 August 1946.

Both Jones’s parents were interested in music: his mother Louisa was a piano teacher, and in addition to his job as an aeronautical engineer, Lewis Jones played piano and organ and led the choir at the local church.

In 1957 Jones first heard Cannonball Adderley’s music, which inspired his interest in jazz. Jones persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and two years later his parents gave him his first acoustic guitar as a 17th birthday present. Continue reading Brian Jones 7/1969

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Otis Redding 12/1967

Otis ReddingDecember 10, 1967 – Otis Redding was born on Sept 9, 1941 in Dawson, Ga., Otis Redding, Jr. and his family moved to Macon when he was five years old. At an early age he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Otis attended Ballard Hudson High School and participated in the school band. He began to compete in the Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. After winning 15 times straight, he was no longer allowed to compete.

Otis joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers in 1960, and would also sing at the “Teenage Party” talent shows sponsored by local celebrity disc jockey King Bee, Hamp Swain, on Saturday mornings initially at the Roxy Theater and later at the Douglass Theatre in Macon.

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Woody Guthrie 10/1967

Woody GuthrieOctober 1, 1967 – Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie was born on July 14 1912. American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes 100s of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar.

His best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land”, which is regularly sung in American schools. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress. Such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton have acknowledged their debt to Woody as an influence. Continue reading Woody Guthrie 10/1967

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Nat King Cole 2/1965

Nat King ColeFebruary 15, 1965 – Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Cole had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Each of Cole’s brothers would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”. Continue reading Nat King Cole 2/1965

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Alan Freed 1/1965

Alan FreedJanuary 20, 1965 – Alan Freed also known as Moondog, was born on December 15, 1921 in Windber, Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as the “father of rock and roll”, became internationally known for promoting African-American R & B music on the radio in the USA and Europe under the name of Rock and Roll. That is why his inclusion into Rock and Roll Paradise.

In 1933, Freed’s family moved to Salem, Ohio where Freed attended Salem High School, graduating in 1940. While Freed was in high school, he formed a band called the Sultans of Swing in which he played the trombone. Freed’s initial ambition was to be a bandleader; however, an ear infection put an end to this dream.

The Origins of the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Sam Cooke 12/1964

sam-cookeDecember 11, 1964 – Sam Cooke was born on January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale Mississippi. He was the son of Reverend Charles Cook, Sr., (a Baptist minister) and Annie May Cook was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933. He had four brothers and three sisters – Willie, Charles Jr., L.C., David, Mary, Hattie and Agnes. Sam graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1948, where he distinguished himself as an “A” student as well as being voted “most likely to succeed.” During his formative years, Sam, together with his brothers Charles Jr., L.C. and sisters Mary and Hattie, performed as a gospel group “The Singing Children.” At the age of 15, Sam became lead singer of the famous “teenage” gospel group the “Highway QC’s” until he was 19 when he was hand-picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the “Soul Stirrers,” to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as lead singer. Continue reading Sam Cooke 12/1964

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Edith Piaf 10/1963

Edith PiafOctober 11, 1963 – Édith Piaf born Edith Giovanni Gassion on Dec 19, 1915 became a legendary French singer and actress; one of the most popular French singers of the 1940s and ’50s, famous internationally for her husky, mournful voice and her songs of loneliness and despair.

At aged 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public, before going it alone as a street singer at the age of 16.

In 1935 she was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. Louis taught her stage presense and nicknamed her La Môme Piaf …The Waif Sparrow or Little Sparrow as she was only 4ft 8in tall. Continue reading Edith Piaf 10/1963

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Patsy Cline 3/1963

Patsy ClineMarch 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.

Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963

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Eddie Cochran 4/1960

Eddie_CochranApril 17, 1960 – Eddie Cochran was born on October 3rd 1938 in Minnesota but moved with his family to California in the early 1950s. He was involved with music from an early age, playing in the school band and teaching himself to play blues guitar. In 1954, he formed a duet with the guitarist Hank Cochran (no relation), and when they split the following year, Eddie began a song-writing career with Jerry Capehart. His first success came when he performed the song “Twenty Flight Rock” which also later came out in the film The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield. Soon afterwards, Liberty Records signed him to a big recording contract. Like so many of his contemporaries like Elvis and Ricky Nelson, his music career ran parallel with a budding movie career.

His songs have influenced bands and artists such as The Who, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Tom Petty, The Stray Cats, Motörhead, Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Lemmy Kilmister, T. Rex, The White Stripes, Brian Setzer, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, UFO, The Sex Pistols and many more. Continue reading Eddie Cochran 4/1960

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Billie Holiday 7/1959

Billy Holiday -44- drug overdoseJuly 17, 1959 – Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan Goughy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The singer also nicknamed ‘Lady Day’ by her musical partner Lester Day, was a JAZZ/BLUES/SOUL POWERHOUSE, who collapsed at age 44, under her own virtuosity fed by an uncontrollable urge for alcohol and drugs.

Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her. Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician, playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson. Unfortunately for Billie, he was only an infrequent visitor in her life growing up. Sadie married Philip Gough in 1920 and for a few years Billie had a somewhat stable home life. But that marriage ended a few years later, leaving Billie and Sadie to struggle along on their own again. Sometimes Billie was left in the care of other people. Continue reading Billie Holiday 7/1959

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Buddy Holly 2/1959

Buddy Holly Rock and roll paradiseFebruary 3, 1959 – Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936; known as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter, often considered one of the main figures of the rock and roll genre in the mid-1950s.

Buddy Holly was a singer/songwriter whose records, conveying a sense of the wide-open spaces of West Texas and unstoppable joie de vivre, remain vital today.
Buddy Holly learned to play piano and fiddle at an early age, while his older brothers taught him the basics of guitar. A 1949 home recording of “My Two-Timin’ Woman” showcases Holly’s skilled, if prepubescent, singing voice.

Holly’s mother and father, a tailor by trade, both proved to be very supportive of their son’s burgeoning musical talents, generating song ideas and even penning a letter to the editor of Lubbock’s newspaper in defense of rock ‘n’ roll-loving teenagers lambasted in a conservative editorial. Despite his parents’ support, Holly couldn’t have become a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll without engaging in some degree of rebellion. Once a preacher at the local Tabernacle Baptist Church asked him, “What would you do if you had $10?” The young rocker reportedly muttered, “If I had $10, I wouldn’t be here.” Holly had clearly set his sights on something other than growing up to join his brothers in their tiling business. Continue reading Buddy Holly 2/1959

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Django Reinhardt 5/1953

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

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

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Sonny Boy Williamson I 6/1948

sonny-boy-williamson-1June 1, 1948 – “Sonny Boy” Williamson was born John Lee Curtis on March 30, 1914 near Jackson Tennessee. While in his teens he joined Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes, playing with them in Tennessee and Arkansas. In 1934 he settled in Chicago.

Williamson first recorded for Bluebird Records in 1937, and his first recording, “Good Morning, School Girl”, became a standard. He was popular among black audiences throughout the southern United States and in midwestern industrial cities, such as Detroit and Chicago, and his name was synonymous with the blues harmonica for the next decade. Other well-known recordings of his include “Sugar Mama Blues”, “Shake the Boogie”, “You Better Cut That Out”, “Sloppy Drunk”, “Early in the Morning”, “Stop Breaking Down”, and “Hoodoo Hoodoo” (also known as “Hoodoo Man Blues”). In 1947, “Shake the Boogie” made number 4 on Billboard’s Race Records chart. Williamson’s style influenced many blues harmonica performers, including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor. Continue reading Sonny Boy Williamson I 6/1948

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Robert Johnson 8/1938

Blues Legend Robert Johnson with Johnny ShinesAugust 16, 1938 – Robert Leroy Johnson was allegedly born on May 8, 1911, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.

Charles and Harriet Dodds and Gabriel and Lucinda Brown Majors were all born into slavery -Mr. Dodds in North Carolina, all the others in Mississippi. Their children, Charles Dodds, Jr. and Julia Ann Majors, were married in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in February 1889.

Charlie Dodds, Jr. became a successful and well-respected, land-owning farmer, carpenter, and wicker furniture maker, and he and his wife raised six daughters and a son. Illness put an early end to the lives of two of the daughters, and Charlie’s mistress, Serena, gave birth to two sons before a personal vendetta with the prominent Marchetti Brothers forced Dodds to flee Mississippi and take up residence in Memphis around 1907 under the assumed name of Spencer. Continue reading Robert Johnson 8/1938

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Bessie Smith 9/1937

220px-BessiesmithSeptember 26, 1937 – American jazz singer Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 15th, 1894. She was often referred to as “The Empress of the Blues”, and was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as the greatest singers of her era, and, along with Louis Armstrong, she was a major influence on subsequent jazz and blues vocalists.

The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892, a date provided by her mother. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894, a date that appears on all subsequent documents and was observed by the entire Smith family. Census data also contribute to controversy about the size of her family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, while later interviews with Smith’s family and contemporaries did not include these individuals among her siblings. Continue reading Bessie Smith 9/1937

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Jimmie Rodgers 5/1933

country cross over superstarMay 26, 1933 – Jimmie Rodgers was born James Charles Rodgers on September 8, 1897 near Meridian, Mississippi. His work is often categorized as a country music from  the early 20th century, as he was known most widely for his rhythmic yodeling. But his work was much, much more than that. Among the first country music superstars and pioneers, Rodgers was also known as “The Singing Brakeman”, “The Blue Yodeler”, and “The Father of Country Music”. Unfortunately this qualification does very little to support Rodgers’ reputation as a cross over musical giant of early American music.

The Jimmie Rodgers’ music tradition “crosses over several lines of blues, rock and country and we could have added gospel as well. Some of this diversity may not win applause from staunched rockers but it would be sadly inconsistent with Jimmie Rodgers’ openness to multiple influences not to mention him here. While the Blue Yodeler did have a huge “hillbilly” following, his musical appeal was not limited to the sons of Appalachia. Continue reading Jimmie Rodgers 5/1933