October 9, 1978 – Jacques Brel was born on April 8th 1929 near Brussels Belgium. He composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French, although he recorded a number of songs in Dutch, which was his original mother’s tongue.
Brel’s songs are not especially well known in the English-speaking world except in translation and through the interpretations of other singers, most famously Scott Walker and Judy Collins. The range of superstars who however have covered his work is amazing.
Others who have sung his work in English include Karen Akers, Marc Almond, Momus/Nick Currie, Beirut, Bellowhead, David Bowie, Ray Charles, John Denver, The Dresden Dolls, Gavin Friday, Alex Harvey, Terry Jacks, Alan Clayson, Barb Jungr, The Kingston Trio, Jack Lukeman, Amanda McBroom, Rod McKuen, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Spencer Moody, Camille O’Sullivan, Dax Riggs, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Laurika Rauch and Dave Van Ronk. Continue reading Jacques Brel 10/1978
September 7, 1978 – Keith Moon. Keith John Moon was born to working class parents in Wembley, London, England, on the 23rd August, 1946. At the age of 12, he had joined the Sea Cadet Corp and was given his first musical instrument, the bugle. He left school by 15 and was in his first band, The Beachcombers; this was around the summer of 1963. There was rumour that Keith was self-taught, but history says otherwise, he was shown how to play by the late Carlo Little (1938-2005), Carlo was the original drummer in The Rolling Stones and David Sutch’s band, The Savages.
By the age of 18, he had joined a local London band, The High Numbers; this was to consist of what is now known as The Who.
With his own unique style of drumming, rolling the sticks along the skins as to banging the typical beat, he was to become extrovertly charismatic in his life as well as his playing. He was one of the first to play drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed only to keep the back beat. With a desire, more of an obsession, to be the center of attention, this hyperactive, and largely, self destructive personality became his own worst enemy.
With a flair for theatrical and ridiculous behavior, he was the center point and self-publicist for, like it or not, The Who. Continue reading Keith Moon 9/1978
January 23, 1978 – Jan Terry Alan Kath was Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player. Born on January 31, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois, he became best known as the original guitarist, co-lead singer and founding member of the rock band Chicago. He has been praised by the band for his guitar skills and Ray Charles-influenced vocal style.
Growing up in a musical family, Kath took up a variety of instruments in his teens, including the drums and banjo. He acquired a guitar and amplifier when he was in the ninth grade, and his early influences included the Ventures, Dick Dale and Howard Roberts. He later became influenced by George Benson, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.He played bass in a number of bands in the mid-1960s, before settling on the guitar when forming the group that would become Chicago. Unlike several other Chicago members who received formal music training, Kath was mostly self-taught and enjoyed jamming. In a 1971 interview for Guitar Player, he said he had tried professional lessons but abandoned them, adding “all I wanted to do was play those rock and roll chords”.
His guitar playing was an important component of the group’s sound from the start of their career, and he sang lead on several of the group’s singles. He used a number of different guitars, but eventually became identified with the Fender Telecaster fitted with a humbucker pickup and decorated with numerous stickers.
A true innovator, Kath experimented endlessly with amps, guitars and equipment. While he possessed a rudimentary awareness of musical composition, he mostly just played by ear. Other band members were in awe of his ability to hear something once and play it back. Legend has it that Jimi Hendrix, with whom Chicago toured in the early days, idolized Kath, telling Parazaider, “Your guitar player is better than me”. Listening to Kath’s early recorded soloing on such tunes as “South California Purples”, “Poem ’58”, “Listen” and “25 or 6 to 4”, you’d be hard pressed to say Hendrix was wrong. Chicago’s producer Guercio has said that Kath could have been a monster as a solo artist.
That Kath never received the recognition due him as a guitar hero is old news now, but it irked him during his lifetime. Band-mate James Pankow recalls a tour in England where Kath publicly gave the crowd the finger for comparing him unfavorably to noted greats like Eric Clapton and Page. Listening today, aficionados are amazed at Kath’s picking and, while a bit dependent upon the wah-pedal, his creativity is still dazzling. He was capable of handling all genres, including jazz, country, metal, blues, and flat-out rock.
As a composer, Kath was much more hit than miss. Though Chicago never scored on the charts with a Kath single, the tunes he wrote were generally killer. Some, like “O Thank You, Great Spirit” and “Take It on Uptown” rival anything Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Page ever came up with. And Kath sang rings around them all. Blessed with a soulful, husky voice, Kath belted and whooped his way through such classics as “Make Me Smile” while possessing the ability to go smooth when the need arose (“Wishing You Were Here”, “Colour My World”, “Brand New Love Affair, Part 1”). In his personal life, Kath reportedly sensed that he wouldn’t live long (he died a few days before reaching 32). He has been famously described as down-to-earth and a great guy, but a risk-taker. It’s interesting to note that all Chicago band-mates, from James Pankow to Robert Lamm to Peter Cetera, describe themselves as having been very close to Terry (Lamm has called him his best friend). This indicates that Kath could make himself comfortable with a variety of personalities. Kath was into fast cars, motorcycles and guns. He was also into a variety of drugs, though reports indicate he wasn’t addicted. He loved to eat and fought a constant battle with his waistline (until he seemingly gave up near the end of his life, growing truly fat). He experimented with a wide variety of hairstyles and facial hair throughout his career and had a fondness for wearing professional hockey (NHL and WHL) team jerseys. He was 28 when he married 19-year-old Camelia Kath Ortiz in 1974; they had a daughter, Michelle, in 1976.
Kath’s death on January 23, 1978 is a watershed in rock history, but some confusion remains about what actually happened to him. Contemporaneous newspaper reports indicate that he accidentally shot himself with a 9mm automatic at roadie Don Johnson’s house after a party in front of Camelia. Later interviews with band members such as James Pankow indicate that Kath was alone with Johnson at the kitchen table and no party had taken place. Supposedly, Kath was displaying the gun when Johnson told him to be careful. Kath then is supposed to have put the gun to his head, saying either, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, see?” or, “What do you think I’m gonna do, shoot myself?” before pulling the trigger. Whatever actually happened, Kath’s death doesn’t seem to have been a suicide, in spite of Pankow’s acknowledgment that Kath had been “bumming” over a fight with Camelia (or Cetera’s assertion that Kath was unhappy in Chicago and would have been the first to leave had he lived).
He died on January 23, 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 31. The bereavement triggered Chicago to consider disbanding, but they ultimately decided to resume as is signified by their memorial song “Alive Again.” To commemorate his musicianship, they later issued the 1997 album, The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath.
Katz daughter Michelle started a Kickstarter funding to produce a documentary on her father’s life which will be coming out in 2016.
October 20, 1977 – Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948 in West Jacksonville, Florida. As a member of a very musical family, brother Donnie became frontman for 38 Special, another Jacksonville based band and youngest brother Johnny took Roonie’s shoes and hat when Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed in 1987.
Ronnie however was the nucleus founding member and frontman of the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd that formed in 1964.
Friends and schoolmates Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns made up the original band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of students with long hair.
Their fan base grow rapidly throughout 1973, mainly due to their opening slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their debut self titled album produced the hit Freebird, the track achieved the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Continue reading Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977
16 September 1977 – Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld on September 30, 1947, became the well-known singer/songwriter, poet and guitarist frontman of T. Rex or Tyrannosaurus Rex, a 1970s glam rock band. He was killed in an automobile crash in 1977 a mere two weeks before his 30th birthday.
Marc Bolan looked like a rock star. And he usually sang about the usual rock-star things in his songs with T. Rex. He inspired a whole legion of glitter-wearing fans to follow his every word. And on the 1972 single ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ he seemed to have a knack for predicting the future — even foreshadowing his own demise five years later.
Look no further than the opening line of ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ a single-only release that eventually showed up on the same year’s ‘Great Hits’ compilation. ”Life is the same and it always will be / Easy as picking foxes from a tree,” Bolan sings as typically glammy guitars spill out a riff.
Turns out that the license plate on the car that Bolan was killed in on Sept. 16, 1977, was “FOX 661L.” And oh yeah, it was wrapped around a tree.
A famous quote: “I feel there is a curse on rock stars”
August 16, 1977 – Elvis Aaron Presley, more commonly known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” is arguably the single most important figure in the global spreading of American 20th century popular music. Besides pop and rock ‘n roll, he brought the blues, black music and gospel to the world. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935, he made his first public performance on October 3rd 1945, in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, dressed as a cowboy. Elvis had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley’s “Old Shep.” He came in fifth, winning $5 and a free ticket to all the Fair rides.
December 29, 1976 – Freddie King was born September 3, 1934 in Gilmer, Texas. His mother told him that her father (who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. So she mother and his uncle Leon began teaching him to play guitar at the age of six.
His first guitar was a Silvertone acoustic. His most prized guitar at that time was his Roy Roger acoustic. In a interview years later he recalled going to the general store to order it. The store owner asked him if his mother knew he was trying to order a guitar on her store account. Freddie replied ” no”. The store owner told him to get permission. His mother said “no”. She told him, “if you want a new guitar you will have to work for it.” He stated that he picked cotton just long enough to earn the money to purchase a Roger’s guitar. Continue reading Freddie King 12/1976
August 29, 1976 – Mathis Jimmy Reed was born on September 6, 1925 on a plantation in or around the small burg of Dunleith, Mississippi. He stayed around the area until he was 15, learning the basic rudiments of harmonica and guitar from his buddy Eddie Taylor, who was then making a name for himself as a semi-pro musician, working country suppers and juke joints.
Reed moved up to Chicago in 1943, but was quickly drafted into the Navy where he served for two years. After a quick trip back to Mississippi and marriage to his beloved wife Mary (known to blues fans as “Mama Reed”), he relocated to Gary, Indiana, and found work at an Armour Foods meat packing plant while simultaneously breaking into the burgeoning blues scene around Gary and neighboring Chicago. Continue reading Jimmy Reed 8/1976
January 10, 1976 – Howlin’ Wolf wasborn 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
March 16, 1975 – T-Bone Walker was bornAaron 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
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“).
October 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
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
October 4, 1970 – Janis Lyn Joplin was truly one of the most remarkable rock and blues performers of the 1960s and the decades following. Born in Port Arthur Texas, on January 19, 1943, she escaped the small town prejudices and took off for the San Francisco counter culture, dominated by Love and Peace and Alcohol and Drugs. Janis unfortunately became a member of the infamous forever 27 Club as she passed on October 4, 1970, just a short 3 weeks after her brief former love interest and famous 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix. She was no. 4 to join the club after Robert Johnson, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix.
Her Texas upbringing put Joplin under the sway of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens, and the authenticity of these voices strongly influenced her decision to become a singer. A self-described “misfit” in high school, she suffered virtual ostracism, but dabbled in folk music with her friends and painted. She briefly attended college in Beaumont and Austin but was more drawn to blues legends and beat poetry than her studies; soon she dropped out and, in 1963, headed for San Francisco, eventually finding herself in the hippie filled Haight Ashbury neighborhood. She met up with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (later of the legendary San Francisco rock outfit Jefferson Airplane) and the pair recorded a suite of songs with Jorma’s wife, Margareta, providing the beat on her typewriter. These tracks – including blues standards like “Trouble in Mind” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” – would later surface as the infamous “Typewriter Tapes” bootleg.Continue reading Janis Joplin 10/1970
September 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
July 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.
July 3, 1969 – Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (Rolling Stones) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on 28 February 1942. An attack of croup at the age of four left him with asthma, which lasted for the rest of his life. His middle-class parents, Lewis Blount Jones and Louisa Beatrice Jones (née Simmonds) were of Welsh descent. Brian had two sisters: Pamela, who was born on 3 October 1943 and died on 14 October 1945 of leukemia; and Barbara, born on 22 August 1946.
Both Jones’s parents were interested in music: his mother Louisa was a piano teacher, and in addition to his job as an aeronautical engineer, Lewis Jones played piano and organ and led the choir at the local church.
In 1957 Jones first heard Cannonball Adderley’s music, which inspired his interest in jazz. Jones persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and two years later his parents gave him his first acoustic guitar as a 17th birthday present.Continue reading Brian Jones 7/1969
December 10, 1967 – Otis Redding was born on Sept 9, 1941in 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.
October 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
February 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
January 20, 1965 – Alan Freedalso 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.
December 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
October 11, 1963 – Édith Piaf born Edith Giovanni Gassion on Dec 19, 1915 became a legendary French singer and actress; one of the most popular French singers of the 1940s and ’50s, famous internationally for her husky, mournful voice and her songs of loneliness and despair.
At aged 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public, before going it alone as a street singer at the age of 16.
In 1935 she was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. Louis taught her stage presense and nicknamed her La Môme Piaf …The Waif Sparrow or Little Sparrow as she was only 4ft 8in tall. Continue reading Edith Piaf 10/1963
March 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.
Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963
April 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
July 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
February 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
May 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
June 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
August 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
September 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
May 26, 1933 –Jimmie Rodgers was born James Charles Rodgers on September 8, 1897 near Meridian, Mississippi. His work is often categorized as a country music from the early 20th century, as he was known most widely for his rhythmic yodeling. But his work was much, much more than that. Among the first country music superstars and pioneers, Rodgers was also known as “The Singing Brakeman”, “The Blue Yodeler”, and “The Father of Country Music”. Unfortunately this qualification does very little to support Rodgers’ reputation as a cross over musical giant of early American music.
The Jimmie Rodgers’ music tradition “crosses over several lines of blues, rock and country and we could have added gospel as well. Some of this diversity may not win applause from staunched rockers but it would be sadly inconsistent with Jimmie Rodgers’ openness to multiple influences not to mention him here. While the Blue Yodeler did have a huge “hillbilly” following, his musical appeal was not limited to the sons of Appalachia.Continue reading Jimmie Rodgers 5/1933
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