December 5, 2017 – Johnny Halliday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris. His father was Belgian and his mother French. took his stage name from A cousin-in-law from Oklahoma, USA who performed as Lee Halliday called Smet “Johnny” and became a father figure, introducing him to American music. And the name Johnny Halliday was born. Continue reading Johnny Halliday 12/2017
November 21, 2017 – David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) was born on April 12, 1950 in New York, New York with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was singer/actor Jack Cassidy and his mother actress Evelyn Ward.
As his parents were frequently touring on the road, he spent his early years being raised by his maternal grandparents in a middle-class neighborhood in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1956, he found out from neighbors’ children that his parents had been divorced for over two years and had not told him. David’s parents had decided because he was at such a young age, it would be better for his emotional stability to not discuss it at that time. They were gone often with theater productions and home life remained the same. Many years later, after his father’s death, he found out that his father was bi-sexual with many homosexual encounters. Continue reading David Cassidy 11/2017
November 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017
November 19, 2017 – Della Reese, was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931 in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit Michigan. At six years old, Reese began singing in church. From this experience, she became an avid gospel singer. On weekends in the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies independently to watch the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lena Horne portray glamorous lives on screen. Afterwards, Reese would act out the scenes from the films. In 1944, she began her career directing the young people’s choir, after she had nurtured acting plus her obvious musical talent. She was often chosen, on radio, as a regular singer.Delloreese entered Detroit’s popular Cass Technical High School (where she attended the same year as Edna Rae Gillooly, later known as Ellen Burstyn). She also continued with her touring with Jackson. At the age of 13, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. With higher grades, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school in 1947, at only 15. Continue reading Della Reese 11/2017
November 5, 2017 – Robert Knight, born Robert Peebles on April 24, 1945 grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just south of Nashville’s Music scene. Knight made his professional vocal debut with the Paramounts, a quintet consisting of school friends. Signed to Dot Records in 1960, they recorded “Free Me” in 1961, a US R&B hit single that was somewhat noteworthy as it outsold a rival version by Johnny Preston. Continue reading Robert Knight 11/2017
October 18, 2017 – Eamonn Campbell was born on November 29, 1946 in Drogheda in County Louth, but later moved to Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin. He heard Elvis’ That’s All Right for the first time when he was 10; got his first guitar when he was 11 and taught himself how to play it in the next several year.
He had his first gig at 14 and never really looked back, even though there were early plans to take up accounting. In 1964, he graduated high school with the intention of becoming an accountant. “But his accountant’s brain told him he’d make much more money out of gigging.” So instead he would go on to play for bands such as The Viceroys, The Checkmates and The Delta Boys. He also played locally with the The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and he first met The Dubliners when both acts toured England together in 1967. Over the years that followed he got into production and often sat in with the Dubliners, which had formed in 1962. Continue reading Eamonn Campbell 10/2017
October 7, 2017 – Jimmy Beaumont (The Skyliners) was born on October 21, 1940 in the Knoxville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. While in his teens he formed the bebop group the Crescents. Joe Rock, a promo man working with Beaumont’s group, one day jotted down the lyrics to a song as he sat in his car at a series of stoplights, lamenting that his girlfriend was leaving for flight attendant school on the West Coast.
Rock took the lyrics to Jimmy Beaumont, who wrote a melody just as quickly as Rock wrote the words to a magical, tearful ballad that soon topped the Cashbox R&B chart and went to No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart: the title …..“Since I Don’t Have You.”
“I had been listening to all the doo-wop groups from that period — The Platters, The Moonglows. I guess just from listening the melody just came out of me,” Beaumont told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette years later.
Thirteen labels rejected the song as a demo, but the record was released in late December 1958. In short order it went to No. 1 in Pittsburgh, prompting an invitation to “American Bandstand.” Continue reading Jimmy Beaumont 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Tom Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville Florida. Growing up in the town that houses the University of Florida, music became the young Petty’s refuge from a domineering, abusive father who despised Tom’s sensitivity and creative tendencies—but would later glom on to his son’s rock-star fame for status. Continue reading Tom Petty 10/2017
September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida
Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017
September 18, 2017 – Mark Selby was born in September 2, 1961. Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Selby spent his youth harvesting wheat and playing in bands throughout the Midwest before moving to Hays, Kansas to attend Fort Hays University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music.
He was musically gifted in three ways: as a songwriter, a singer with a soulful voice and a guitarist with some impressive chops. His future as a blues rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer started in Germany, where he signed as a solo artist to ZYX Records. Continue reading Mark Selby 9/2017
September 12, 2017 – Jessi Zazu (Those Darlins) was born Jessi Zazu Wariner in Nashville Tennessee in 1989.
When Jessi Zazu was just a little girl, her mother Kathy says, she would wrap her fingers around the neck of a guitar and strain to play. She would not give up. Though she was the tiniest creature in her remarkable family of drawers, painters, players and all-around makers, Jessi knew she was destined to make a sound that was bigger than all of them. F*** the laws of physics. She was going to play that guitar like ringing a bell. The indie rock band that she fronted from 2006 to 2016 called Those Darlins, was hugely popular for its unique style that mixed genres like garage rock and punk with bluegrass and country.
Years later, Jessi Zazu made more noise in Nashville than most of its rockers can even dream of. Those Darlins made three albums between 2009 and 2013 and became the noisy royals of the city’s underground. The band, which she formed as a teenager with Kelley Anderson, Nikki Kvarnes and Linwood Regensburg after receiving a hands-on education at the Southern Girls Rock Camp, lived up to the legacy Jessi embraced, of women who made unvarnished truth sparkle through the artful application of feedback and attitude. She loved the Carter Family and the Ronettes, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Rubber Soul. As a songwriter, she grew up in front of her loving audience’s eyes: Her early Those Darlins songs are sass explosions pierced through with shards of insight, while later ones reveal a woman digging into herself, facing her own vulnerabilities aided by an increasingly sophisticated feminist consciousness.
Zazu was a rock star in her hometown, but one completely free of attitude. She lifted up her peers and always welcomed newcomers. As an integral part of Southern Girls Rock Camp, she devoted herself to convincing girls that they could talk about anything, through music and also through visual art, her other medium. Small in stature, Jessi lived her message that creativity can make a person — especially a young woman — heroic, though she’d never use such a self-inflating term. Jessi was more playful and ever-curious, a 21st-century female version of Jack conquering the beanstalk — always climbing higher, killing giants, enlarging her worldview.
Nashville-based singer and songwriter Jessi Zazu, formerly of Those Darlins — or “wild one Jessi Darlin, the top singer and writer in a band where everybody sings and writes,” as Robert Christgau described her on NPR in 2011 — died at Centennial Hospital in Nashville on Tuesday afternoon following a public battle with cervical cancer. She was 28 years old.
Zazu and her original bandmates Nikki Kvarnes and Kelley Anderson formed Those Darlins in 2006 when Zazu was still a teenager — and their heated music acted as a forceful argument that straight-ahead country wasn’t the only style that Nashville had to offer. Like her former bandmates in Those Darlins, Zazu used “Darlin” as a last name before the group broke up.
Zazu’s battle against cancer was widely chronicled, including in a long profile published in the weekly alternative Nashville Scene. In December 2016, she first publicly shared her diagnosis, which had come shortly after Those Darlins disbanded at the end of 2015. The original diagnosis was cervical cancer caused by papillomavirus, or HPV, which then metastasized. In the YouTube video in which she announced her medical diagnosis and ensuing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Zazu shaved her hair off, saying that it was a way to “celebrate this new chapter.”
In the video, she wore a T-shirt bearing the phrase “Ain’t Afraid” — a Those Darlins song title that became her rallying cry. Ironically, the song’s lyrics mention “a tumor growing on my body” — in a song written years before Zazu received the cancer diagnosis.
A crucial figure within the Nashville music scene and a mentor to the city’s younger musicians, Zazu was also a personal friend to NPR’s Ann Powers and her family. Powers, who lives in Nashville, has written a tribute, which we’ve published in full below.
I knew Jessi as a friend who instantly embraced me as a family member, and a loving mentor to my drummer daughter, Bebe, whose own budding rock and roll career Jessi inspired and unfailingly supported. She rarely missed a show by the teenage bands she coached at rock camp, even after she became ill with the cancer that would eventually take her life.
More remarkably, she never stopped creating. In her last year, she produced enough drawings, ceramics and other artworks to stage two major exhibitions, recorded an as-yet unreleased album, and kept coming up with new projects. The last time I saw her, just a week before her death, she told me she was ready to start a new book of illustrations of the girl groups she loved so much. Jessi was also an activist, turning the energies that had already fed the feminist core of the rock scene she occupied toward anti-racist work after she witnessed the work of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Fundamentally, she was a spark. She started things, connected people, lit the ignition in our sometimes tired minds and hearts. Her slogan was “Ain’t Afraid” — and she wasn’t, because there was no darkness that her brilliance couldn’t cut through, or at least make light enough to live in. The fiery particle that was the gift she gave us will never burn out.
The Darlins went on an indefinite hiatus early 2016, and shortly thereafter Zazu was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She’d been doing art, recording a new record, and fighting cancer which in the end got her on September 12 2017, way too sadly young at age 28.
September 5, 2017 – Rick Stevens (Tower of Power) was born Donald Stevenson on February 23, 1941 in Port Arthur, Texas, but didn’t stay there long, as a few years later his parents moved to Reno, Nevada. Rick first sang in public at the tender age of four, when his family set him up on a chair in front of the congregation at their church.
While growing up Rick was greatly influenced by his uncle, singer Ivory Joe Hunter, who was his mother’s younger brother. There was always a great deal of excitement when Uncle Ivory Joe came to visit on breaks from touring around the country with his band. Rick decided early on that he wanted to be a singer, just like his uncle. Ivory Joe was a not only a ground-breaking performer in what at the time was referred to by the record labels as “race music”, he was also a prolific songwriter with hundreds of songs to his credit.
Elvis Presley invited Ivory Joe to Graceland in 1957, and they spent the day singing together, including Ivory Joe’s hit “I Almost Lost My Mind”, among other songs. Hunter commented, “He is very spiritually minded … he showed me every courtesy, and I think he’s one of the greatest”. Elvis recorded five songs written by Ivory Joe: “My Wish Came True” (Top 20), “I Will be True”, “It’s Still Here”, “I Need You So”, and “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” (Top 20).
Like many musically talented teenagers in the late 1950’s Rick was interested in doo-wop, and he joined a singing group called the “Magnificent Marcels”. In the early 1960’s Rick performed in nightclubs around Reno, where he was known as “Mr. Twister”.
Having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-60’s Rick continued his singing career, fronting various bands that played in local nightclubs. Rick’s bands included “Rick and the Ravens”, and “The Rick Stevens Four” (or Five, depending on how many people were in the band).
Rick joined “Four of a Kind” in 1966, initially in San Francisco, later moving with the band to Seattle. After a short time, Rick moved back to the Bay Area and joined a band called “Stuff”, in which one of the other members was Willie James Fulton (guitar and vocals). Rick and Willie James left “Stuff” and joined Tower of Power at about the same time as drummer David Garibaldi in 1969 and later replaced Rufus Miller as lead vocalist after Rick sang the diamond hit, “Sparkling in the Sand” on Tower of Power’s first album, EAST BAY GREASE. (The only song on that album that made any impact). The next Tower of Power album to hit the charts was BUMP CITY in 1972, and that record features Rick’s signature song, “You’re Still a Young Man”. The album also includes other hits such as “Down to the Night Club” and “You Got to Funkafize”.
Although he is not credited on the third album, the self-titled record, TOWER OF POWER, Rick initially sang all the lead vocals. He also contributed background vocals, which were retained on the record when it was released. The album features several hits such as, “What is Hip”, “Soul Vaccination”, and “Get Your Feet Back on the Ground”, and of course, “So Very Hard to Go”. Rick’s increasing drug dependency lead to Lenny Williams taking over lead vocals, as Rick left the band in 1973 to pursue other avenues of his musical career. After leaving Tower of Power, Rick joined a Bay Area band called “Brass Horizon”, a popular band with a big horn section.
The Stanford Daily – February 25, 1975
Former Tower Singer Heads Brass Horizon
By JOAN E. HINMAN
SAN FRANCISCO – Quick – name Tower of Power’s two biggest hits. Maybe you said “So Very Hard To Go”, the single off Tower’s third album. But if you’re a deranged purist, you named “Sparkling In The Sand”, from East Bay Grease, and “You’re Still A Young Man”, the monster hit off Bump City in 1971.
It was “You’re Still A Young Man” that established Tower as national stars, removing them from the realm of San Francisco funk forever. The song’s amazing success can be explained in two words — Rick Stevens. Stevens emerged as Tower’s lead singer after the success of “Sparkling In The Sand”, the only song on the band’s first album on which he sang lead…
… the excellent set performed by Stevens and his new band, Brass Horizon, Saturday at Yellow Brick Road marks the return of one of the finest vocalists ever to hit the City. The new band, Brass Horizon, is every bit as tight and biting as the famed Tower brass…
…Stevens proved that his voice can still get down and growl on dance tunes, as well as sweep up to carry the pure melody of “You’re Still A Young Man”. … the fine Rick Stevens stage presence that on past occasions made Winterland feel as homey as a living room was evident Saturday. Smiling and jiving with the “mamas” on the dance floor, Stevens was clearly back in the atmosphere he likes best—putting out get-down, good time music.
Then in 1976 it gets quiet around Rick Stevens for the next 36 years as he is sentenced to life in prison for a triple homicide in a drug deal gone wrong. Addicted to drugs he had shot and killed 3 men in a botched deal.
In 2012 Stevens was released on parole. He then formed Rick Stevens & Love Power, which regularly played in Northern California. He also occasionally sat in with Tower of Power, including an appearance at a January 2017 benefit concert for former band members that were hit by a train in Oakland’s Jack London Square.
Rick Stevens passed away on September 5, 2017 after a short battle with liver cancer.
“Rick Stevens went to heaven today to be with the Lord whom he loved with all his heart. Rick was an extremely soulful singer and entertainer who had an engaging personality and a strong faith which he shared with all he came in contact with,” Tower of Power founder Emilio Castillo wrote on the band’s Facebook page.“We loved him and we’ll miss him. I have faith that I’ll see him in heaven someday and together we’ll worship and glorify God together for eternity. Rick is there right now enjoying it!!!”
September 1, 2017 – Mick Softley was born in 1939 in the countryside of Essex, near Epping Forest.
His mother was of Irish origin (from County Cork) and his father had East Anglian tinker roots, going back to a few generations. Softley first took up trombone in school and became interested in traditional jazz. He was later persuaded to become a singer by one of his school teachers, and this led to him listening to Big Bill Broonzy and promptly changed his attitude to music, to the extent of him buying a mail-order guitar and some tutorial books and teaching himself to play.
By 1959, Mick Softley had left his job and home and spent time traveling around Europe on his motorbike, with a friend, Mick Rippingale. He ended up in Paris, where he came into the company of musicians such as Clive Palmer, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Wizz Jones. Here he improved his guitar skills and spent time busking with friends until his return to England in the early 1960s. Continue reading Mick Softley 9/2017
August 28, 2017 – Melissa Bell (Soul II Soul) was born Melissa Cecelia Ewen Bell on March 5, 1964 in London, England. Her Jamaican heritage included musical pedigree. From the age of four, music filled every corner of Melissa’s life: she could play the piano, was constantly singing, and even ran her own “radio station” from the upstairs window of the house, calling out to passers-by and begging them to stop and listen. It was when Melissa saw the 14-year-old Lena Zavaroni performing on Opportunity Knocks Continue reading Melissa Bell 8/2017
August 24, 2017 – Jamaican Ska Authentic Winston Samuels (McInnis), a living legend in Jamaican Music, was born in Kingston, Jamaica to proud parents Winston D. McInnis and Mavis Davis-McInnis in 1944. From the time he was born he loved to sing. As a matter of fact his mother, Mavis would have Sunday family discussions followed by songs of worship. There was such harmony in the household that it drew other tenants who loved to listen to him. Continue reading Winston Samuels 8/2017
August 8, 2017 – Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas. He was the seventh son of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry.
He received his first guitar when he was four years old. Learning the instrument from various relatives, especially Uncle Boo, he played consistently throughout his childhood, eventually gravitating toward jazz players like Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt. While he was learning guitar, he also sang in a local church, where he developed his vocal skills. By the time he was 14, he had begun performing with a number of country bands in the Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico area, including his uncle’s group, the Dick Bills Band. When he was 18, he formed his own country band, the Western Wranglers, and began touring the South with the group. Four years later in 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a session musician. Continue reading Glen Campbell 8/2017
July 25, 2017 – Michael Johnson was born on August 8, 1944 in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver. He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State University to study music but his college career was truncated when he won an international talent contest two years later. First prize included a deal with Epic Records. Epic released the song “Hills”, written and sung by Johnson, as a single. Johnson began extensive touring of clubs and colleges, finding a receptive audience everywhere he went.
Wishing to hone his instrumental skills, he set off for Barcelona, Spain in 1966, to the Liceu Conservatory, studying with the eminent classical guitarists, Graciano Tarragó and Renata Tarragó. Upon his return to the States in late 1967, he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient. Continue reading Michael Johnson 7/2017
July 21, 2017 – Kenny Shields was born in 1947 in the farming community of Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Canada. His passion for music and entertaining emerged at the age of six when he entered and won an amateur talent show. While continuing his interest in music and singing, upon graduation from secondary school he moved to Saskatoon to attend university but was immediately recruited by the city’s premiere band – Witness Incorporated.
Kenny’s lifelong dream began to take shape as the band built a loyal fan base across the country, scoring with a string of national radio hits including “I’ll Forget Her Tomorrow”, “Jezebel” and “Harlem Lady, all featuring Kenny’s unmistakable vocals. After touring with such legendary artists as Roy Orbison and Cream, tragedy struck in 1970 when Shields was critically injured in an automobile accident that sidetracked him from music for several years. Continue reading Kenny Shields 7/2017
July 20, 2017 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was born on 20 March 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. The son of a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases, Bennington had a troubled youth. “Growing up, for me, was very scary and very lonely,” he told Metal Hammer magazine in 2014.
“I started getting molested when I was about seven or eight,” he said, describing the abuser as an older friend. “I was getting beaten up and being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. It destroyed my self-confidence. Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience,” he told the magazine.
His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he went to live with his father, whom he described as “not emotionally very stable then”, adding that “there was no-one I could turn to”. Soon after his parents divorced he began abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
After years of intense drug use as a teenager, he got sober and moved to Los Angeles, where he successfully auditioned to join Linkin Park.
An early line-up of Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, surfed the popular wave of nu-metal, Rolling Stone magazine writes. The album’s canny mix of pop, hip-hop, and melodic alt-rock drove it to sales of more than 11 million copies early on, making it the top-selling rock record of the ’00s. Given the rapid changes to the music industry in the immediate aftermath of Hybrid Theory, it’s plausible to suggest that no rock record will ever come close to achieving those sorts of sales figures ever again. The album single-handedly initiated Bennington into a small (now rapidly shrinking) fraternity of arena-rock vocalists — Bennington was one of the few guys on the planet with the qualifications to front a big-time rock band.
Hybrid Theory eventually sold more than 30 million albums and became one of the top-selling albums since the start of this millennium.
The angst-ridden vocals of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington helped lead the group to global critical acclaim.
The frontman’s brooding charisma – added to the group’s blend of rap, metal and electronic music – spawned a string of chart-topping hits.
Later in the 2000s, as the band’s success took off, he again began using drugs before returning to sobriety, telling Spin Magazine in 2009: “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic.
“It’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass.
“It’s cool to be a part of recovery.
“Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another,” he added.
The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards.
Linkin Park had a string of hits including Faint, Numb, What I’ve done, In The End and Crawling, and collaborated with rapper Jay-Z.
Their latest music video for the song ‘Talking to Myself’ was released on the same day this father of six took his life. Another coincidence of his day of departure: Sound Garden’s Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May, would have turned 53. Bennington and Cornell were close for many years. The two had toured together and joined each other onstage, and Bennington even performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s private Los Angeles funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26. He was also the Godfather to Cornell’s son Christopher.
Upon hearing the horrible news of Cornell’s death, the night before Linkin Park’s Kimmel tribute, Bennington posted a heart-wrenching open letter to Cornell, writing:
“I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with their song ‘Rocky Raccoon’ playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept.
“I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.
“I just watched a video of you singing ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. Send me love to your wife and children, friends, and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
With All My Love
In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also sang for the Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 replacing Scott Weiland, for his side project Dead by Sunrise, and Kings of Chaos.
Bennington leaves six children from two marriages and an early relationship as he moves on to another life at 41.
For millennials, who were in their teens when Linkin Park’s blockbuster debut Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Bennington looms as a defining rock star of the era. A singer capable of both piercing bombast and pained sensitivity, Bennington’s nimble tenor initially played off the rapping of Mike Shinoda, but over time his versatility and soulfulness made him the band’s primary frontman. For kids who found solace in Linkin Park’s music, Bennington was the band member they were most likely to connect with.
July 13, 2017 – Simon Holmes (The Hummingbirds) was born on March 28, 1963 in the southern beachside suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The family lived in Bentleigh, before shifting to Turramurra in 1967, before going overseas for three years, in upstate New York, where Holmes started school at Myers Corner. The family then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. He spent part of his childhood in Canberra, attending the AME School: an alternative education institution and then Hawker College. Holmes moved to Sydney in the early 1980s. He started studying anthropology and archaeology at the University of Sydney, but left after two years. Continue reading Simon Holmes 7/2017
June 17, 2017 – Sonny Knight was born in 1948 in Mississippi and around 1955 moved to Minnesota with his grandmother. He grew up in the Rondo suburb of St.Paul where he was exposed to the urban music of the era such as bepop, soul and r&b.
At age 17 in 1965 he recorded his first (and only) 45rpm single as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols, titled “Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”. Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.
It was not until after retiring from long-haul trucking that Sonny Knight came back to music. The following interview perfectly describes this talented soul musician’s rebirth in his sixties; sadly cut way too short by cancer.
The Twin Cities music community was dealt a hard blow this weekend with the passing of Sonny Knight, an endlessly charismatic and powerful soul singer whose history on local stages dates all the way back to the early 1960s. From cutting his first 45 as Little Sonny Knight back in 1965 to recording his final album with the Lakers this past fall, Sonny’s experiences span almost the entire time that soul music has been captured on tape in the state of Minnesota.
One of the things that’s managed to comfort me since learning about Sonny’s passing has been remembering back to all of the times I was able to speak with him about his memories and hear his stories. I’ve gotten a chance to interview Sonny several times over the past four years, here in the Current’s studios and also while researching my book about the Twin Cities funk and soul scene and the roots of the Minneapolis Sound. Today, I’d like to share a deep-diving, career-spanning interview that I conducted with Sonny in the spring of 2015 as part of my book research; though small portions will appear in the text of the book, the majority of it has been sitting unpublished in my notes until now.
When I asked Sonny to do the interview, he suggested that we meet at the entrance to the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, so we could walk through the rows of carefully preserved houses and contemplate the ways our society chooses to preserve some histories and forget others. Sonny was deeply thoughtful like that — and kind, too. He would greet me with a hug every time I saw him, and kept making sure I was getting what I needed for this interview and every other one we did together.
As we sat on a park bench and looked down the row of old railroad houses, Sonny walked me through his life story, touching on many of the different musical projects he’s been involved with over the years and sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way. Sometimes while telling a story, he couldn’t help but break out into song. At times I had to pinch myself that such a sweet soul man was quietly serenading me there on that bench as we watched the birds fly overhead and squirrels run past.
The interview is a long one — we ended up talking for nearly two hours — but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving anything out. I hope you’ll find it as enlightening as I did.
Andrea Swensson: I was curious, first of all, how you ended up in Minnesota. You moved here with your grandmother?
Sonny Knight: Yeah. It was back in the ‘50s. I would say it must have been about ’55 that I moved from Mississippi up to here, and that was with my grandmother. It was a good thing. I enjoyed leaving Mississippi. It gives you more room to grow up here.
What were some of the differences you noticed right away when you got here?
One of the things, being a kid, was you come from down south, you come from red clay. The dirt is red. And then you come up here, it’s black dirt and big old black ants and stuff like that. The day-to-day living, the neighborhoods, it was everybody in the neighborhood; it’s not just one color of people in the neighborhood.
What area of St. Paul did you live in?
Pretty much over I would say like the Selby-Dale area, between University and Selby, in that area there.
When I have heard stories about Rondo I get the sense that everybody knew everybody, like it was kind of a small town within a city. Did you get to know your neighbors well?
The only part of Rondo that I knew back in that day would consist of between Western and Dale Street, more or less. That was like what I knew of the black town of Rondo, and Rondo would be like 94, kinda like down right there on 94. [There were] a lot of juke joints and different things, and business was going along over there on Rondo. I went to school at McKinley grade school, which was near Mackubin and Concordia — which used to be Mackubin and Rondo, back in the day.
When you started getting interested in music, did you go out to any of the clubs around there?
Nah, I didn’t do too much clubbing or anything like that. When I started singing with these cats, I just got into some of the halls that they would rent — these were the only things that I could basically get into. I remember playing some gigs at the University of Minnesota for some sorority house deals back in the day, but not really into the clubs. I could go into The Western Lounge, which was on Western and St. Anthony over there, and they had the best Coney Island – oh my god. You could get maybe seven of them for a dollar. At that point in time I did manage to see – what was his name – a blues guy. Jimmy Reed. I did get to see him up there in the Western Lounge. But I really couldn’t get into the other places. I was too young.
If you didn’t have access to see much live music, what made you wanna do it? What was your inspiration?
Television. You look at Elvis Presley up on television doing what he does, and I guess if music is in you, that’s gonna be what you wanna do. And then gospel – going to church with my grandmother, you see these gospel cats playing guitars and you know you can see the spirit is moving somebody, and they’re just jammin’ and they’re doin’ what they’re doin’. So yeah, there was something in music that way. Then I’d listen to the phonograph. My aunt had gospel records. She had old Sam Cooke records, Otis Redding. So that kind of got music in me, and then the doo-wop days – you’re hanging out the guys and you’re [starts singing “there goes my baby”], like sitting here in the park or something like that, and cats get together and they start singing. So it was those things, too, that got me going. Cats like Herman Jones [of the Exciters], he used to live kinda across the street kitty corner from me down on Central and Arundel back in the day.
Did you know him well?
Yeah, I knew him back in the days. People started putting bands together at that point in time that I had joined The Bluejays, and then I started noticing the other bands that were out and about playing and doing different things. Then I graduated from that into other bands — Soul Sensation, which ended up turning into Haze.
I noticed that on the 45 you recorded back in the ‘60s, it said “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” Is that different from The Bluejays?
The Cymbals was these other three guys that came along and did just the background singing on that song that I had, so they put “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” But the band was The Bluejays. That’s who I was with, and these guys, The Cymbals, they came in, they laid down the tracks, but we never did go out and perform together.
How did you meet your Bluejays bandmates?
It was back in the day where you could get these little reel-to-reel recorders for about $20, so my aunt got me one and I was messin’ around with it at home, and I got to singing on it. And then a friend of mine that I went to school with came by my house, and I was playing it for him and he heard it and said, “That sounds cool, man. That you singin’?” “Yeah, that’s me.” “You can sing!” Blah blah blah, and next thing you know, “Hey, man, you oughtta come and check out my brother’s band.” So we checked it out and they had me audition for the band, and then next thing you know I got the job. But I was auditioning against another cat that was kind of a rough dude in the neighborhood, and I’m like is this cat gonna beat my butt because I beat him out or what? But, no, it worked out real cool. I ended up with them guys and we started playing little things here and there, and that gave me a little more experience into playing, understanding singing, getting out a little bit more into the music world.
What years were you active in that group?
I’m gonna say ’64 maybe, because I joined the military in ’66. I had just turned 18 then. So I’m gonna say about ’64.
And then you made the record in ’65?
Yeah. Then everybody went military-bound, more or less, and done their thing, and that was the end of the band. Then I got out of the military and I ended up with Haze and started doing things with him.
What year did you come back?
Got back in ’69.
So you were gone about three years. What would you say changed about the music scene in that time?
What changed? It went from doo-wop to more like Sly and The Family Stone — [starts singing “Dance to the Music”] — Woodstock, Joan Baez, all this other stuff started happening then, kind of a changing of things. Everybody was revolutionaries and right on, peace and flower power.
I know there was a lot going on with the venues in the late ‘60s too — black music venues trying to move into downtown and then getting shut down.
I don’t like to say things about people and things, but I guess it’s what it is. Mostly white cats got the good gigs at different clubs and things like that. Our case, there was like basement parties you start off playing at — whatever things you could get into, which we called like a chitlin circuit, where it was mostly black people playing.
The chitlin circuit — how would you describe that?
Lower class places where black folks go, not really paying a lot of monies for anything. It’s like what’s left of the hog. This is what you get. It’s not the big ham or the bacon or anything like that. It’s the chitlins of that, so the lower class, in the bowels of everything. Those were the kind of places that we were playing. And then to get a crossover of things going on, at that point in time the Commodores, Earth, Wind and Fire and different things like that was coming on. That was more of a crossover of music, and a lot of people of all colors were into those kinds of music, and then boom, up popped disco and stuff like that. I think I’m moving a little too fast here.
I definitely want to talk about Haze before we get to disco. So you came back in about ’69. Did you jump right back into music?
Yeah, I got back and Haze was doing a thing underneath the name of Soul Sensation, at that point in time. And I ended up rehearsing and playing a little bit with them, not really doing a whole lot, but just dibbling and dabbling into the music game, and that’s when I left and moved to the Bay area. I got out in ’69, so messed around here until like the later part of ’70, ’71, then I moved to the Bay.
How long were you there?
And it was a totally different band when you came back.
Yeah, they had released an album, and they had this song “I Do Love My Lady,” which had hit the charts and was doing pretty doggone good. So their singer, when I got back from California, was no longer with them – Chita – I ended up taking his place. They accepted me back into it, and I just dived right into it, and it was just amazing watching them write collectively, and just kinda come together, put things together. The camaraderie of the brothers, and how everybody kinda got along, and the magic that it had, it was growing. It was just amazing, and I was really proud to be a part of it. They had more of a crossover than a lot of the other predominantly black bands that was out happening. They played more white clubs and different things — Purple Barn way out in Burnsville, and other places around.
Why did they appeal to more of a mixed audience, do you think?
I would say because all they did was a lot of original music; because maybe they had their album out and their song was on the Billboard charts. The album probably had a lot to do with it. I don’t know, because the cats ended up with The Jackson Five at the auditorium at St. Paul and all kind of stuff like that, so they had that magic. They had that fire that was goin’ on.
Was there radio here in town that would play Haze?
KUXL would play Haze. When we left to go to the East Coast, I believe it was KMOJ at that point in time, and they would be playing some of the stuff that Haze had goin’ on.
What kind of venues do you remember playing with Haze?
One of the main ones I remember that we used to have a lot of fun at was the Jockey Lounge. Jockey Lounge was down on West 7th Street just before you get ready to cross that bridge to go towards the airport, in that little shopping mall to your right, right there. And it would be packed each and every time we would play there. And they would bring in some other acts from Michigan, guys that was really hot, playin’ some good stuff. I enjoyed playing there with them, and when we went out to the East Coast we played D.C., Philadelphia and some other venues around the Philadelphia area, and did some recording in Philly. And there was the memorable days of going to California together on an old school bus, and getting out there and things not being quite what it was supposed to be —and actually were starving, trying to make ends meet. I think out of that we ended up getting a job in Lake Tahoe at Harris’s Casino. We went through a lot together – different things – traveling about here and there and stuff like that.
Was it common at that time for bands to go to California to try to connect with the bigger music industry?
Yeah. That was why I went out there, because I was listening to Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, stuff like that. And it seems like California is the place you oughta be. So I loaded up and moved to Oakland. I played with a band out there called Herbie Mem’s East Bay Band. Through Herbie I got to meet a lot of good people. I met Freddie Hubbard, Pharaoh Sanders, Larry Graham — when Larry was putting together Graham Central Station. It started out as Hot Chocolate. Sometimes in the parks and places that we would play, his band would come there and play too. That was his wife’s band, and he was managing the band. Through our drummer, I got to meet Larry and got to know him a little bit out there, and then when he took the bass player that he had in the band out and put himself there and started calling it Graham Central Station, next thing I know the San Francisco papers started writing about Graham Central Station, Larry Graham, and it took off. I go, I must be in the right place.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, that’s when a lot of the freeways were going in here. What impact did you see? I’m curious if there were any music venues closed, or any impact on the music community from the highways going in?
Yeah. It pretty much took out the Rondo scene — what old Rondo was. Sometimes that’s the sad part about up here. They tear down everything that has anything. They took out a lot of good businesses, and people kind of scattered. They’re still scattering way out to suburbia and somewhere now instead of the inner city, and then that part of the inner city — a lot of people started moving from suburbia back into the city and reclaiming those parts of Rondo, like on Selby and Dale. They used to have the Old Louisiana Restaurant there. They still got one there, but it’s nothing like what the old one used to be. The mom and pop variety stores, drug stores and different things like that, are all gone to the new modern convenience of one drugstore to serve them all or what have you. Ace Hardware now instead of mom and pop’s hardware. So a lot of things are missing and gone. People scatter.
One thing I’m really interested in, zooming out into the big picture, is musicians who influence each other over time. I’m wondering if you have any memories of either people that came up before you that you learned from in the community, or if there were young kids coming out to your shows that then started their own bands, who were learning from what you guys were doing in Haze.
I don’t know too much about people learning from us and me, but there was some cats that influenced me — like the Amazers, which was a local group with Napoleon Crayton singing the lead. That guy’s voice was phenomenal. At that point in time, what am I, 14, 15 years old? Listening to this cat singing this song, which was almost like a gospel song, “It’s You For Me,” it just makes you wanna cry it felt so good.
Other cats — like I got to meet and know Willie Weeks. Willie Weeks played with the Mystics, then he went on to play with Donnie Hathaway, Three Dog Night and all these people, and Wynonna Judd. I remember Willie back in the day; big influence. I remember Al Jarreau coming through here. I think Al Jarreau was living over in Milwaukee or something at that point in time, and I remember he came through here. Rockie Robbins, who also played with the Mystics back in the day — he also did a recording, and then the next thing you know he was on the Johnny Carson Show. So I’m like wow, look at these cats. And then Prince jumps out and starts doing his thing. This was pretty much during the time that I was with Haze, that he was evolving. And then The Time coming up and doing their thing – Alexander O’Neal and everybody getting in. And then I kinda started wondering what happened to me. Where did things go? So many cats that did so many good things as far as what was happening musically around, and it was a pretty cool thing.
Were you friends with these younger bands, Prince and The Time?
We’re friends by association in music. I never really talked a lot to Prince or anything like that. I just remember one time that we were playing at The Thunderbird Motel, which used to be out on 494, and his band was over on one side of the room of the hotel there, and our band, Haze, was on the other thing playing in another room somewhere. So that’s what I knew of him.
When would you say things wrapped up with Haze?
Whenever that thing came out in City Pages, about Haze being rediscovered and this lady found the record in the dumpster. That was pretty much the end of it right there. The rebirth of it, trying to bring it back — Google trying to come in and work with us, and cats couldn’t get it together. As time went by, they’d either grown bitter or just grew apart, I guess. That was the last time, because the conga player, Michael Lopez, came back up. He was living in Florida, so they flew him back in for this reunion deal with everybody being back together here, and he came up and we did this one little thing over at 7th Street Entry for Google. We recorded that, and then Michael went back down to Florida, and we was looking to see if things would come back together, but it just didn’t. And Michael died of pancreatic cancer. So that was that. Chita died of course a long time ago. What was that, maybe four or five years ago? Four years ago?
I think that was 2010.
Somewhere back there. So that was pretty much the end of Haze right there. We ended this thing. I’m going, like, wow man, we got a chance to come back and do it, and it was good to see everybody. I’m not a very religious person, and these cats were like whatever the lord wants us to do, blah blah blah — wait to see what He wants us to do. I’m like, man, that ain’t working for me. If the lord is gonna give you something, he sends you something down here and you said no I don’t want that, I’m waiting for this — then next thing you know there ain’t nothin’ else comin’ by for you to wait for. I was saying we need to jump on board, start letting people know we’re here and start putting some kind of show together. Let’s start doing it. And then there’s one group of guys over here saying let’s do this, and the other group of guys saying no we’re gonna do it like this. Now they’re split; and that’s what happened. I’m gonna move on. So I just went on and looking other places, and I ran into a couple of bands — people that wanted to do something and wanted to add me into it for their agenda. I was very unhappy going down that road. I guess that’s another story.
What do you mean by that? What was going on?
I’ve always believed if I’m gonna be a part of the band I’m gonna be a good soldier because I know military like that. So if I’m in the band I’m in the band, all the way, to be the best that we can be, to make the band shine and do what we do. Being in other people’s bands, I had to realize that this is their band. This is not yours. This is theirs, so they wanna do it that way, nothin’ you can do but do it that way or quit and go home. So I learned how to stick and stay. And then I learned how to try and shine whenever it was spotlight time; you get to sing the lead on this song. OK, sing your song, boom. And I tried to put everything I had into it so people could say there’s something about that guy there. I don’t know. It got to be frustrating at times dealing with people that had their own agendas. I was living like that until The Lakers came along.
I wanted to ask you about joining into the reunited Valdons – had you seen them back in the ‘70s?
Yeah, I knew of them back in the day when I was with Haze. That difference right there with them cats was they was playing a lot of cover stuff and pretty much doing things to more of a black audience instead of a crossover. They’d come out more suited up, whereas Haze would come out with stuff that we made up in our heads and had a seamstress put together, with polyester and gigantic bellbottoms; we were like Earth, Wind and Fire, whereas these cats would come out looking like The Temptations or The Stylistics or somebody of that era. Monroe Wright came to me at one point maybe 20-some years ago – he had came back from California and said he wanted to put together this group doing some Mills Brothers and Ink Spots stuff, and they called it The Bachelors. So himself, me and Maurice Young, we started doing that. I guess they used to do that way out there in California, so coming back here, we started doing that again, and for 20-some years we did that and played different venues, and that’s how I ended up getting this little spot to sing with the Valdons on that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing. That’s how that came about.
Tell me about meeting Eric Foss. How did he come into your life?
Twin Cities Funk and Soul. Like I said, I was playing with Monroe as The Bachelors, and Eric had approached them because they had had a record out with Napoleon Crayton, and Napoleon was part of the Valdons as well. So they wanted me to fill in because Big Bill, who normally would’ve been doing that, was not able to do it. He was sick. So I said yeah, I’ll do that. I went and sat in with them, and they flew Cliff [Curtis] in, who was one of the Cymbals on my first 45. Flew him in from California because he was a Valdon back in the day, and we went down to The Current and did that little thing at MPR. And that’s how I met Eric, at that point then, when they started putting that show together at the Cedar Cultural Center. Prophets of Peace, their singer wasn’t able to do anything either, so Tony Scott asked me if I would sing one or two of their songs. I said yeah, I’d be glad to. So I ended up kinda like all over the place – I’m a Valdon, I’m a Prophet of the Peace.
So through that, and playing a couple of times at First Avenue as that Twin Cities Funk and Soul, Eric said we’re gonna put a band together behind you – you – like “That guy!” Plus, me bugging him all the time when I came home from the gym — because [Secret Stash] was right in between the gym and my house, so [I’d] stop by. I said, man, where’s this thing going? What are you, a new company or what? What’s going on with that? Can I get in on the ground level here, too? Things started growing. He and I started working on some songs, and it turned out to be The Lakers and doing what we’re doing now.
Then [the Valdons] made decisions to go and do other things. I’m going nah, I’m not gonna do that, no. For me, I didn’t want somebody else running my life like that. I wanted to have some kind of control. With Eric, it was like, it’s cool. I didn’t look at them like young cats or younger than me or anything. I just looked at them as another human being, and we’re all trying to make something work here. And I admired their energy as far as making that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing work. I’ve been learning from them cats ever since. Pretty special guys.
What do you think it is about right now, that all of this attention has been turned back to this kind of vintage soul sound? Even when you listen to pop music now, people are trying to channel that sound.
I don’t know. Music to me is weird. Stuff has been there and been around forever, and then somebody comes along and picks it up and now all of a sudden it’s like, this is cool stuff! Some people forget about it, but it’s still there till someone comes and picks it up, brushes it off, and says, what if I put another little twist like this? It’s still the same old thing, but with a new twist.
That’s interesting to me, I guess because I didn’t experience it first hand as it was happening, but you can really see how the music evolves and people are learning from the people that came before them, adding their own thing to it.
That’s the thing, too. That’s life itself, I guess; you get mesmerized with living life from day to day. And next thing you know – I didn’t know that person never saw that, and I lived that first hand. Wow. Where did the time go? What happened? I thought these people knew all about this. Well, yeah, through reading books and things of learning that way, but yeah, I got to see that first hand. Damn, I’m ancient. I start picking on myself.
You’re not ancient. I think you’re about the same age as my dad.
Wow. We’re ancient.
You’re both looking really good.
That’s a good thing – blessed that way, and that’s why I try to go to the gym. I don’t know – mom and dad gave me some good genes to put on or something, and everything worked out pretty good, but I can say it’s amazing that you see so much stuff and you don’t really realize that some people ain’t even saw that or know about that.
I want to hear about the First Avenue release show for I’m Still Here, because I get the sense that that might be one of the biggest crowds that you’ve ever performed for. What were you thinking when you came out on stage and saw all those people so excited about your album coming out?
I didn’t think that they were that excited about my album or anything else like that. I wasn’t even thinking about my album. I was just scared to death.
When I came out on stage, I had no idea how many people was really out there. Because when I first came in there wasn’t a whole big crowd of people, and as they started filling in I still didn’t see it until it was time for me to come out. When it was my turn to come up on stage, I was like OK. I just lost it and went into acting, into form – what I gotta do. How do I make you move? You must be here to move, groove, do something. That’s where my focus goes. How do you make it work? How do you get people liking it? And once the motion started movin’, then it got kinda easy. I got into it and it was do or die. Just do whatever you can do. This is your show. This is your song. Don’t worry about it. Just go. And it turned out I guess to be pretty good. I was just up there having some fun.
I think it’s so cool, not only that you’re performing this music that has such a rich history, but the show is just nonstop and the energy is nonstop; you don’t see many people onstage like that. It’s like, wow.
That is wow, because I know sometimes up there the show will be moving so fast, and then it’s jumping around, the dancing, it’s like, I better pace myself here because it’s right out of one song into another song, and I’m trying to catch my breath. But it just tells me that if I’m kinda choking a little bit I need to get back in, get the cardio all pumped up a little bit more to keep the drive going, because that’s what people want. They want that energy. They wanna see that. They want that drive. You wanna get them to move. You don’t want people to just go get a beer or something and walk away. You want them to stay there. You want them to be a part of your show, have them jump up and down, because we can see from the stage and see people going like this [moves hand up and down].
That must be really cool to watch.
Yeah. The first time I did it was over at the Little Lake Festival, and I said, “I’m gonna call off a number when the band’s gonna hit, and when the band hits it I wanna see you guys jump and get your cardio in. Can you get it?” “Yeah!” “You got it?” “Yeah!” So now and then we’ll go and get people jumping up and down. They kinda like that. We played down in St. Peter last Saturday and we had them jumping down there. The love that the people’s been showing wherever we go has just been amazing. I guess maybe we must be doing something right, which is a blessing to get something like that going.
This whole thing is a blessing for me – being where I’m at, age-wise, each and every day that I get is a blessing. Today, to do the interview with you is another blessing – to wake up and continue down that path that we’re trying to go. I appreciate it. I appreciate waking up, life – appreciate this neighborhood being the way that it is. It’s just so much now that I feel there is to live for, versus what I went through coming up to get to this point. Did I think I would get here? Maybe yes and maybe no. It didn’t really matter. You just get beat down with so much.
It’s kinda like that guy in North Korea before he escaped. He was born in prison and he thought the guards were the high-power great people because they were guards, and they had all this freedom. He knew nothing about the outside until he escaped and got away. It’s kinda like I feel. Certain people had more power and could play in different places. I never knew anything like what I’m knowing now, that freedom of wow, there we are playing. You’re Sonny Knight. You get to come in. Your name is out there in front of the band and that’s you. You get to sit here. This is your green room. This is what’s for you. Never had that and never thought I would get that. I thought that was for the other big people. This is cool. How did this happen? I keep asking myself how did that happen. Must be doing something right. What is it? I don’t know.
It sounds like you do know, though, because you’ve seen bands that didn’t make the right choices and you have a very realistic way of looking at things.
Yeah, and again, I think it just comes back around to being humble and patient and putting in work. You think well I’m this, I’m that, I’m Sonny Knight, I’m supposed to get this – don’t mean nothin’. I’m just another person that’s still trying to make it in this world, and what I got is what I got. And I stay true to what I got because life is too precious. There’s so much energy – people walking, squirrels moving, birds flying – that’s all energy. And to be here and to sit here and enjoy that for this moment in this time now – you can’t ask for more. Tomorrow might bring you some better things, but tomorrow ain’t even here. Right now I got right now. I got this interview right now. It feels good just to be in the moment, and I try to stay in the moment.
The other good thing I think happened for me is I took money out of the equation. Where’s my money? I need to get paid for this and if I’m not getting paid for this then I can’t do this is I’m not gonna get paid. I believe enough in it to keep working this. It’ll come. Whatever’s gonna be. Que sera sera. Hey, let’s make a song of that. So when I took money out of the equation everything got really kinda cool. I mellowed out and I know that the longer I live the more I’ll understand life.
Some people are happy just going and visiting and being with their family, cutting the grass and doing that. Don’t want no more. Other people want the moon and the stars, and then they try to go after the moon and stars and then somehow get unhappy it ain’t comin’ as fast as they thought it should. I think some people fall by the wayside with that. I know I did – expecting and pursuing and thinking things should be this way or that way and it wasn’t. So I’m just grateful. I’m just hoping I have the energy to continue doing what I’m doing now for at least another 20 years. My son came to Lake Harriet bandshell and caught the show over there and he was like wow, you really inspired me – motivated me to wanna go out and become a musician. That’s really cool.
I’m just keeping it real. I’m a human being. I’m not a superstar. I’m not nobody. Prince is a human being. All these cats are. Ain’t nobody no more than you or I, but yet they’re in a position to be held like the Queen is the Queen. I don’t know. You wanna leave this world in a good way, and we all going to leave this world. You wanna get things right. And that’s kinda like how I try to live – just doing things right. I’m still here trying to make it work.
I love that song – “I’m Still Here.”
It’s a good song. It’s a real good song and I don’t know where it was coming from when we started doing it, but the fact that I’m still here to be able to sing my song and do it – that’s what matters. To be able to see my grandkids grow up – that’s what matters. My first grandchild – I have two grandkids – when my first one was born I looked at her and I thought how pure and how innocent everything is for her right now. There’s nothing she’s done that anybody can say or touch – she’s pure.
So to still be here, I guess it means like what are you gonna do with your life? Who are you? Now that you’re still here, we’re all still here, that energy is still here, drawing and just knowing what you can do – making positive things is what I’m hoping, that we can end up making people feel and do good. That’s why – hey, let’s jump.
Sadly Sonny Knight passed away on June 17, 2017 from the devastations of cancer. He was 69.
May 21, 2017 – Jimmy LaFave was born July 12, 1955 in Willis Point, Texas where he was also raised. Music was his destiny from very early on, but he started his journey on drums.
Some years later he moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma and played in the school band but at age 15 LaFave switched to guitar and began writing and singing his own songs in a band called The Night Tribe.
After graduating from high school LaFave played music at night while working during the day. He had a job as the manager of a music club called Up Your Alley and during this period recorded the albums Down Under in 1979 and Broken Line in 1981. Continue reading Jimmy LaFave 5/2017
May 21, 2017 – Curtis Womack (The Valentinos) was born on October 22, 1942 in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.A. He was second oldest of the five Womack Brothers (Friendly, Curtis, Bobby, Harry, Cecil), and started singing together with his siblings at their father’s church in Cleveland. In 1954, they formally were named Curtis Womack and the Womack brothers with Curtis and, occasionally, Bobby singing lead. Continue reading Curtis Womack 5/2017
May 17, 2017 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964 in Seattle, Washington, where he was also raised. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Cornell was a loner; he tried to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music but during his early teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression and almost never left the house. His first favorite band were the Beatles. A noteworthy rumor later was that Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor’s house. Continue reading Chris Cornell 5/2017
May 3, 2017 – Casey Jones (Albert Collins/Johnny Winter) was born July 26, 1939 in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi and raised in Greenville. As a kid he played with the Coleman High School band, but claimed he learned more about drumming from Little Milton’s drummer Lonnie Haynes, than from the band director
In 1956 at age 17, his sister Atlean and her husband Otis Luke enticed him with the promise of a drum kit and entry into the musician’s union, if he would move to Chicago to live with them. True to his word, they went to Frank’s Drum Shop on Wabash Ave and from there on Casey Jones played drums in Otis’s band. His first gig with Otis Luke & the Rhythm Bombers in 1956 made him $5. Continue reading Casey Jones 5/2017
April 15, 2017 – Matt Holt (Nothingface) was born Matthew Francis Holt on May 28, 1977 near Gaithersburg, Maryland and was raised there and in nearby Germantown, just north of Washington DC.
While in high school he met Tommy Sickles through mutual friends. Holt, Sickles, and two other friends formed the band Ingredient 17, in which he played guitar and sang. After playing a show with a band known as Nothingface, the two bands became familiar with one another. A short while later Ingredient 17 was later recording in Nothingface bassist Bill Gaal’s studio when Nothingface’s vocalist, David Gabbard, left the band citing musical differences. One day Holt came in to record a song for Ingredient 17, and the band members of Nothingface liked his voice, so they “took” him from his band and got their new singer. The original NOTHINGFACE lineup included Matt Holt (vocals), Bill Gaal (bass), Chris Houck (drums) and Tom Maxwell (guitar). Continue reading Matt Holt 4/2017
April 20, 2017 – Cuba Gooding Sr. (The Main Ingredient) was born in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on April 27, 1944. While having moved to Cuba, his Barbados born father had promised his first wife on her deathbed that he would call his first son Cuba after the country they both adored. Gooding Sr. grew up eight blocks away from the Apollo Theater and nineteen blocks away from Carnegie Hall.
After his father, a New York cab driver who spoke 7 languages died when he was 11, the criminal grip of the city and the Harlem neighborhood took a hold of Gooding Sr. for awhile and as a result he spent a couple of years in jail, just before he joined Main Ingredient as a backing singer at first. Continue reading Cuba Gooding Sr. 4/2017
April 3, 2017 – Brenda Jones was born on December 7, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Frazier Jones, she was raised in a gospel singing family. The Jones Girls Valorie, Brenda and Shirley spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis, between Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the ’60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the latter part of the decade, but sales of those records weren’t much more encouraging.
It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities — the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists’ singles. Aretha Frankling, Lou Rawls, Betty Everett, Peabo Bryson and dozens of other charting soul acts. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson’s activities as a producer and arranger. Continue reading Brenda Jones 4/2017
April 1, 2017 – Lonnie Brooks, Chicago bluesman who achieved fame in the late 70s, was born Lee Baker Jr. on December 18, 1933 in Dubuisson, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. He learned to play blues from his banjo-picking grandfather but did not think about a career in music until after he moved to Port Arthur, Texas, in the early 1950s. There he heard live performances by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Long John Hunter, Johnny Copeland and others and began to think about making money from music.
He focused on the guitar comparatively late in life, when he was already in his 20s. But he learned fast and a little while later, Award winning Zydeco king Clifton Chenier heard Brooks strumming his guitar on his front porch in Port Arthur and offered him a job in his touring band. Continue reading Lonnie Brooks 4/2017
March 16, 2017 – James Cotton was born on July 1, 1935 in Tunica, Mississippi. He was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in the cotton fields working beside their mother, Hattie, and their father, Mose. On Sundays Mose was the preacher in the area’s Baptist church. Cotton’s earliest memories include his mother playing chicken and train sounds on her harmonica and for a while he thought those were the only two sounds the little instrument made. His Christmas present one year was a harmonica, it cost 15 cents, and it wasn’t long before he mastered the chicken and the train. King Biscuit Time, a 15-minute radio show, began broadcasting live on KFFA, a station just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas. The star of the show was the harmonica legend, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). The young Cotton pressed his little ear to the old radio speaker. He recognized the harmonica sound AND discovered something – the harp did more! Continue reading James Cotton 3/2017
March 12, 2017 – Robert “P-Nut” Johnson (Parliament Funkadelic) was born in Baltimore on October 16, 1947.
Prior to joining Bootsy’s Rubber Band and P-Funk, P-Nut played with local bands in the Baltimore area.
P-Nut started on the road with Bootsy’s Rubber Band and in the studio with P-Funk in 1976. Continue reading Robert “P-Nut” Johnson 3/2017
March 10, 2017 – Joni (Joan Elise) Sledge (Sister Sledge) was born on Sept. 13, 1956, in Philadelphia to Edwin Sledge, a performer on Broadway, and Florez Sledge, an actress who oversaw her daughters’ careers as their business manager and traveled with them on tours.
Joni and her sisters, Debbie, Kim and Kathy, received voice training from their grandmother Viola Williams, a former operatic soprano, and gained early experience singing at the family church, Williams Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal.
Best known for their work with Chic in the late ’70s, siblings Debbie, Kim, Joni, and Kathy Sledge — collectively Sister Sledge — reached the height of their popularity during the disco era, but had been recording since the early ’70s and were still active in the late ’90s. Continue reading Joni Sledge 3/2017
March 4, 2017 – Valerie Carter was born on February 5, 1953 in Winterhaven, near Orlando, Florida.
Being an “army brat” she moved between many cities in her young years. Her first break in music came while living with her family in Tucson, where she joined a band fronted by Gretchen Ronstadt, sister of Linda Ronstadt.
Next she was off to New York City where she formed the folk band Howdy Moon. They headed to California, released a self-titled album in 1974 and regularly played at the West Hollywood rock club, the Troubadour.
In the early 1970s in Los Angeles, she became known as a songwriter, penning tunes such as Cook With Honey for Judy Collins and Love Needs a Heart for Jackson Browne, who was introduced to her by Lowell George of Little Feat fame.
And here I have to stop and make a confession. Continue reading Valerie Carter 3/2017
March 4, 2017 – Tommy Page was born on May 24, 1970 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He began playing the piano at age eight and learned keyboards at age 12, joining his brother in a band. Obviously gifted, he graduated from Highschool at age 15 and found himself in New York attending the Stern School of business at age 16.
To help support himself during his freshman year at Stern (then 16), Page worked as a cloakroom attendant in a popular New York nightclub called Nell’s. The job gave Page a chance to play his demo tape to the house DJ, who then used the demos as part of his club mixes. The unknown sounds were so impressive that soon Page was introduced to Sire Records founder Seymour Stein. Continue reading Tommy Page 3/2017
February 17, 2017 – Peter Skellern was born in Bury, Lancashire on March 14, 1947.
He played trombone in a school band and served as organist and choirmaster in a local church before attending the Guildhall School of Music, from which he graduated with honors in 1968. Because “I didn’t want to spend the next 50 years playing Chopin,” he joined the vocal harmony band March Hare which, after changing their name to Harlan County, recorded a country-pop album before disbanding in 1971.
Married with two children, Skellern worked as a hotel porter in Shaftesbury, Dorset, before music struck lucky at the end of 1972 with a self-composed U.K. number three hit, “You’re a Lady.” The record featured the Congregation, who had previously recorded the top ten hit “Softly Whispering I Love You”.
“You’re a Lady” reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and number 50 in the United States Billboard Hot 100 and sold several million copies world wide. Continue reading Peter Skellern 2/2017
February 12, 2017 – Al Jarreau was born Alwin Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the fifth in a family of 6 children.
His father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.
Jarreau went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Moving to San Franciso during the 1967 summer of love, Jarreau worked as a rehabilitation counselor and moonlighted with a jazz trio headed by George Duke. In San Francisco, Al’s natural musical gifts began to shape his future and by the late 60s, he knew without a doubt that he would make singing his life. He joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez to “spell” up-and-coming comics John Belushi, Bette Midler, Robert Klein, David Brenner, Jimmie Walker and others at the famed comedy venue, THE IMPROV and soon the duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito night club called Gatsby’s. This success contributed to Jarreau’s decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career. Continue reading Al Jarreau 2/2017
February 5, 2017 – Sonny Geraci (Outsiders and Climax) was born Emmett Peter Geraci on November 22, 1947 in Cleveland Ohio. Sonny was a street kid, growing up in Cleveland to the music of Motown, the British invasion and all the music that came before.
Still in high school he joined a group called The Starfires. Actually his older brother Mike played sax for a number of groups in the greater Cleveland are and when the Starfires needed a new singer, as theirs was called up for military draft, Mike suggested his brother Sonny. After he joined the group, he pushed the rest of the band to record and change the drummer and change the guitar player and finally change the name to The Outsiders and started to record songs. It was a good move.
The first single “Time Won’t Let Me” was almost an afterthought as they were planning to cut a Beatles song, but instead opted to record an original.
February 1, 2017 – Robert Dahlqvist (The Hellacopters) was born on April 16, 1976 in Uddevalla, Sweden, and got his first guitar at the age of ten and attended music school but quit after a month frustrated over not being allowed to play Kiss songs. Five years later, at age fifteen, his mother got him an electric guitar and he started to focus more seriously on his playing. Dahlqvist soon started playing in bands and worked at a bar where he got to know members of the Swedish rock band The Hellacopters.
After the departure of guitarist Dregen in early 1998, The Hellacopters brought in temporary replacements Chuck Pounder and Mattias Hellberg to tour with them. In 1999, The Hellacopters recorded Grande Rock with the band’s pianist Anders Lindström on rhythm guitar and started to look for a permanent guitarist. When Dahlqvist heard about this he contacted the band and asked for the opportunity for an audition, and after a few jam sessions together Dahlqvist was chosen as the band’s new guitarist. Continue reading Robert Dahlqvist 2/17
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.
John’s early work with a variety of bands (Splinter, Mogul Trash and Family) allowed him to show off his impressive bass talents, but did little to showcase his equally impressive singing and songwriting skills. Frustrated, John began to listen a bit closer to the sales pitch of an old friend, Robert Fripp, who set about to reform King Crimson in 1972. Wetton first came to rock fans’ attention when he joined a revamped King Crimson lineup, sticking with the group over a two-year span that included the records Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red. This Crimson core of Wetton, Fripp, and Bill Bruford is often considered the “classic” line-up, releasing three studio albums, that truly stretched the band to its imaginative limits. But after a blistering show in New York’s Central Park in 1974, the band took what was supposed to be a hiatus, but sadly became permanent.
He then served stints with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before co-founding U.K. with his engine room buddy Bill Bruford, as comments from fans and even the media proved to John that there could still be some life in the Wetton/Bruford rhythm section of King Crimson. A series of phone calls and meetings proved to be all the momentum needed in getting U.K. off the ground.
The line-up of Wetton, Bruford, Eddie Jobson, and guitar phenomenon Allan Holdsworth delivered a potent mix of jazzy fusion and progressive pop that brought great success, but also division in the band. After one album, Bruford and Holdsworth were out, and drummer Terry Bozzio in. This trio delivered one studio album and one live album before a demise similar to King Crimson….a hiatus that turned permanent.
At this point, John decided to turn his attentions to a solo career and entered the studio to record “Caught in the Crossfire,” an album that, in hindsight, shows a logical bridge from the music of U.K. to the eventual music of Asia. While most Wetton fans are now familiar with “Caught in the Crossfire,” not many people heard it in 1980. E.G. Records failed to give it the necessary promotion; a move EG blamed on John’s advancing age. He was 31 at the time…
Feeling it was time to clean house, John parted ways with his old management, publisher, and record company, and joined forces with Brian Lane, who had just ended a successful run with Yes. John had already started working with Atlantic Records’ A&R man John Kalodner, Kalodner was moving to the newly-formed Geffen Records, and wanted to assemble a group that would unleash a new sound across the musical landscape while preserving the finest elements of progressive rock. He found his dream line-up with Wetton, Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer drummer, Carl Palmer. Together they formed Asia — a so-called progressive rock supergroup, whose self-titled debut album topped the charts in the U.S. on its way to more than eight million in worldwide copy sales and the title of Billboard magazine’s No. 1 album of 1982.
This “fab four” of progressive pop would rule radio and record sales for a scant year and a half before losing Wetton in an unceremonious shake-up just weeks before MTV’s heavily-promoted Asia in Asia concert broadcast. (Wetton was fired from Asia at the insistence of Geffen Records, ostensibly because of less-than-expected sales of the Alpha (1983) album). Wetton was brought back to Asia in 1985, with Mandy Meyer replacing Steve Howe on lead guitar, to complete Astra (1985). The album showcased a few Wetton/Downes classics such as “Rock and Roll Dream” and “Go,” but the die had been cast, and the record company’s confidence translated into lack of promotion; loss of momentum equalled lost sales and a waning interest and Asia ultimately disbanded following 1985’s little-heard Astra LP.
By the end of the ‘80s however, interest in Asia reignited in Europe. John, who had been collaborating with ex-Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, rejoined Carl Palmer, and eventually Geoff Downes, for a series of ASIA concerts that proved successful, but left John empty. To him, Asia was sounding tired and he was ready for a break. Further enticing him was a solo deal with Virgin Records. So, after wrapping up a South American tour in 1991, John temporarily bid adieu to Asia…at least that’s what he thought. (The word Hiatus was not used this time).
With renewed energy, John moved to California to focus on his solo career and began work on his “Voice Mail” album, the first album to really show off his talents for emotional, autobiographical material. Two songs from the album, “Hold Me Now” and “Battle Lines,” have become classics among Wetton fans. In fact, “Battle Lines” eventually replaced “Voice Mail” as the album’s title when British producer Bob Carruthers selected it as the theme for his film “Chasing the Deer.” To promote the album, John embarked on his first solo tour and later released a live CD called “Akustika.”
Returning to the studio in the mid 90s, John contributed tracks to tribute albums featuring the works of Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Genesis. He furthered the link to Genesis by signing on with Steve Hackett for his “Genesis Revisited” project, which culminated in several highly successful live performances in Japan.
Continued autobiographical songwriting led to 1997’s “Arkangel” album, an emotionally gritty album that would add more staples (“Arkangel,” “Emma”) to John’s live solo performances. 2000’s “Sinister” album, also entitled “Welcome to Heaven,” finished the trilogy of solo offerings. He further promoted these albums with extensive tours of Europe, Japan, and South America.
Despite being left off the tour schedule, American fans had plenty to celebrate in 2002 with the first-ever John Wetton Fan Convention in suburban Allentown, PA. Hundreds filled a local venue to spend a weekend with John, his band, and Geoff Downes, who joined John for a gala Saturday night concert which marked the first time the two had shared a stage in more than ten years.
Fans delighted in a resurgence of the Wetton/Downes team when John returned to the studio to begin work on 2003’s “Rock of Faith.” Two new songs written by John and Geoff (“I’ve Come to Take You Home” and “I Lay Down”) created a buzz among fans hoping for an eventual reunion of the original Asia line-up. That buzz roared in 2005 with the release of “iCon,” an album of original music by Wetton and Downes that the duo followed with a number of live shows. Fans cheered the fact that Wetton sounded as good in person, if not better, than he did during the heyday of Asia.
With Wetton at the top of his game once again, imagine what it would sound like if Downes, Howe, and Palmer all joined in! It indeed happened in early 2006, as the four musicians responsible for Billboard’s Number One Album of 1982 sat down in a London hotel and began the groundwork for a worldwide reunion tour. After a media blitz across the US, the tour kicked off in Rochester, NY in August of 2006. Fans quickly snapped up tickets as more and more dates were added.
Several months into the reunion tour, Asia and its fans were stunned to learn that John Wetton needed emergency heart surgery. During his hospital stay in London, worried fans flooded the switchboard with calls about his progress. Thankfully, John made a remarkably quick recovery and, after a few short weeks of resting at home, Asia returned to the road.
“I accept the fact that I might not be here tomorrow, but having said that, having come through it you feel great,” Wetton said after his heart surgery. “It gave me a completely new outlook on life, that it could all end tonight while I’m asleep, so let’s make the most of today. Let’s make the most of now.”
During this same time, John and Geoff released the second of their iCon albums, “Rubicon.” The historical meaning of the title was not lost on the musicians or their fans, as the songs reflected John and Geoff’s personal and professional decisions to sever restrictive ties of the past and forge a positive new outlook. As Asia set out on a much-anticipated second year of touring, fans demanded more. They wanted to hear what would happen if Wetton, Downes, Howe and Palmer sat down in a studio and created a new album. Fans got their wish as the band retreated to the studios at Liscombe Park and got to work on “Phoenix.” The appropriately titled project was an incredibly balanced one, fully showcasing the writing and playing of each band member. John’s thoughtful reflections on his health crisis and his healthy resurgence colored many of the lyrics on the album.
Asia wrapped up months of touring in the spring of 2008 with a series of shows in Eastern Europe, leaving John and Geoff with time to craft their third iCon album. The Phoenix tour resulted in the Live CD/DVD “Spirit of the Night”. A track from that album, An Extraordinary Life, was also selected as the theme to America’s Got Talent.
The band’s success continued with the recording of the second album of their reunion, Omega. The subsequent World Tour resulted in the release of “Resonance” which captured a live performance in Switzerland.
Wetton returned to his solo career in 2011 to record Raised in Captivity, an album of new compositions with Billy Sherwood. A band was formed to tour the UK and Japan, playing music from the new album and a career spanning back catalogue. Wetton’s other ventures during this period included the reunion of UK with Eddie Jobson and guest appearances for Cleopatra Records.
In 2012, ASIA returned to the studio to record XXX, proving that a reunion can last longer than first time around. The album cover shows the ASIA dragon 30 years later and was supported by another World Tour, taking in America, Europe and Japan.
In 2013, Steve Howe announced he was leaving ASIA and Wetton was instrumental in selecting new guitarist, Sam Coulson, to join the band. The band planned to record a new studio album, Valkyrie, which was released as Gravitas in 2014.
In 2016 Wetton went public with his colon cancer diagnosis, which forced him to pull out of Asia’s scheduled tour dates with Journey so he could undergo chemotherapy, which sadly did not turn out to heal him.
John Wetton, the bassist and singer for Asia, as well as a former member of King Crimson and U.K., died on January 31, 2017 at the age of 67, after a battle with colon cancer.
“With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant,” wrote Asia drummer Carl Palmer in a statement. “John was a gentle person who created some of the most lasting melodies and lyrics in modern popular music. As a musician, he was both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of Asia to the top of the charts around the world. His ability to triumph over alcohol abuse made him an inspiration to many who have also fought that battle. For those of us who knew him and worked with him, his valiant struggle against cancer was a further inspiration. I will miss his talent, his sense of humor and his infectious smile.
May you ride easy, my old friend.”
“He will be remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents, and I for one of many was wholly blessed by his influence,” added Downes in a lengthy post. “It was a massive privilege for me to have worked with this genius so closely on our numerous projects together over the years. His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions — out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony — unreal. He was literally a ‘special one.'”
In the short term, Wetton is scheduled to be replaced for the Journey tour by Yes veteran Billy Sherwood; over the long term, Downes has signaled a determination to continue Asia in honor of his longtime partner. “It is the end of an era for all of us,” he wrote. “But we will soldier on — the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.”
AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE
AN INTERACTIVE CELEBRATION
OF THE LIFE & MUSIC OF JOHN WETTON
JUNE 17, 2017 AT THE BERGEN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
ASIA and their fans will pay tribute in a special concert to the late singer / songwriter, John Wetton, who spearheaded the legendary British band. The event is called “An Extraordinary Life” and will be a fully interactive celebration whereby fans can contribute to the remembrances of the acclaimed musician. It will be held on Saturday, June 17th at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ.
John Wetton, who was the lead vocalist, bassist and co-writer with the iconic group, lost his brave fight against cancer on 31st January 2017, just as the band was about to embark on a four month tour as special guests of Journey, recreating the days when both bands were world best sellers.
“An Extraordinary Life”, a reference to one of the band’s most popular songs, will pay tribute to John. Special guest Billy Sherwood of YES is filling in as bassist and vocalist. Also appearing will be current ASIA members Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes, and Sam Coulson. The group will do a full set of ASIA music, as well as some of the best loved songs from the members’ previous super-groups, bands such as King Crimson; YES; The Buggles; and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
In addition to the ASIA performance, the evening will be highlighted with rare video clips of John and the band, historical footage and fan remembrances of John and his music. ASIA fans will be encouraged to send in written or video accounts of their love of the music and the man behind much of it. Still photos of fans with John are also welcomed and will be projected onto the screen. Fans who send media to the band in advance will be balloted to share memories on the evening.
January 23, 2017 – Bobby Freeman was born on June 13, 1940 in Alameda County and raised in San Francisco.
By his early teens Bobby was not only literally singing on street corners in the city’s Fillmore District but also spending every hour not in school dancing at the Booker T Washington community centre. He got his first taste of the record business as a tenor with a local vocal group led by Alvin Thomas; the Romancers, who made two singles for Dootsie Williams’ Dootone label in 1955. The group cut a further single for the local Bay Tone label (on which Freeman does not appear) before splintering, while Bobby formed another team, the Vocaleers. Having learned piano from Thomas, Freeman also began to write his own material in the mould of Little Richard and Fats Domino.
Itinerant deejay Jim “Specs”Hawthorne caught the group at a football rally at Mission High School in early 1958 and called for an audition at Sound Recorders. The rest of the Vocaleers weren’t interested, and so it was just Freeman and a bongo-playing pal who showed up at Sound Recorders in San Francisco. “Hawthorne asked, do you have any original songs, and I said yeah,” Bobby recounted to me in 2000. “He said OK, when I do this [points], start doing the material. There were some other songs, ‘Follow The Rainbow’, ‘Responsible’, and then we got into ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. Where the break is, the song was over. But Hawthorne wanted to get his money’s worth with whatever he was being charged, so he told me, do some more. That’s why the song starts up again – it wasn’t designed that way. But now, they call that a hook.” Continue reading Bobby Freeman 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Walter “Junie” Morrison was born sometime in 1954 in Dayton, Ohio. The exact date has not been found as if intentionally hidden by his later alter ego J.S. Theracon, showing up on an infrequent basis during his life, mostly when contractual obligations got in the way of making music.
Morrison sang and played piano as a child in church, soon learning a range of other instruments such as guitar , bass, drums and brasses, making gospel a foundation for his music. He soon became a student school choir director and orchestra conductor at Roosevelt High School in Dayton. In 1970, in his mid-teens, after graduating from high school, he joined the funk band the Ohio Players.
He became their lead singer, trumpeter and keyboardist, and soon their musical director and producer, involved in some of their major hits and the albums Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy. He was largely responsible for writing and arranging the band’s 1973 hit single, “Funky Worm“. The band members nicknamed him Junie, he told the Red Bull Music Academy, because they were older. “It took quite a while before they let me forget my age and lack of experience in the ‘ways of the world,’ ” he said. Continue reading Junie Morrison 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Maggie Roche was born on October 26, 1951 in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Together with her sister Terre, she dropped out of Park Ridge High School to tour as a duo in the late sixties. Maggie wrote most of the songs, with Terre contributing to a few. The sisters got a big real break when Paul Simon brought them in as backup singers on his 1973 #2 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. In return they got his support and an appearance by the Oakridge Boys, when they recorded their only album as a duo in 1975 titled Seductive Reasoning.
A year later their youngest sister Suzzy completed the Irish singer/songwriting trio The Roches. Maggie was their main songwriter in the beginning as they became increasingly known for their unusual harmonies, quirky lyrics and comedic stage presence. Continue reading Maggie Roche 1/2017
January 20, 2017 – Ronald ‘Bingo’ Mungo was born April 20, 1940 in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. Just out of high school he joined the doo wop group The Marcels, named after a popular 1950s hairstyle ‘the Marcel wave’.
The group formed in 1959 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and signed to Colpix Records with lead Cornelius Harp, bass Fred Johnson, Gene Bricker, Ron Mundy, and Richard Knauss.
In 1961, the Marcels recorded a new version of the ballad “Blue Moon” that began with the bass singer saying, “bomp-baba-bomp” and “dip-da-dip”. A demo tape sent to Colpix Records landed them at New York’s RCA Studios in February 1961 to record, among other things, a rockin’ doo-wop version of the Rodgers and Hart classic “Blue Moon” with an intro they had been using on their take of The Cadillacs’ “Zoom.” As legend has it, the day he heard it, New York DJ Murray the K played “Blue Moon” 26 times in a four-hour show. In March 1961, the song knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the Billboard chart, becoming the first No. 1 rock ’n’ roll hit out of Pittsburgh. Continue reading Ronald ‘Bingo’ Mundy 1/2017
January 13, 2017 – Richie Ingui (The Soul Survivors) was born the November 15, 1947 in Manhattan, New York.
The predecessor group was formed in New York City in 1965 by Richie and his brother Charlie Ingui, along with Kenny Jeremiah. They first played together under the name The Dedications. (Jeremiah released several singles under this name in 1962 and 1964). They adopted the name Soul Survivors in 1965 and signed to Philadelphia label Crimson Records, who put them in touch with Gamble & Huff. “Expressway to Your Heart” was a #1 hit regionally in Philadelphia and New York in the fall of 1967, and the tune reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 nationally. “Expressway to Your Heart” spent 15 weeks in the charts and sold over one million copies. Continue reading Richie Ingui 1/2017
January 8, 2017 – Peter Eardley Sarstedt was born on Dec 10, 1941 in Delhi, India where his parents Albert and Coral Sarstedt, worked in the British civil service as India was still a British possession in 1942.
The following year, his parents moved the family to Kurseong near Darjeeling, in the shadow of Mt. Everest, where Albert took over the management of a tea plantation. Peter Sarstedt was one of six children and, like his siblings, was educated at boarding schools favored by the British living in India for much of his childhood. From the time he was five years old, the family relocated to Calcutta, and later — amid the turmoil and uncertainty following independence in 1947 — the family finally moved to England in 1954. Albert Sarstedt had passed away during the extended preparation for the relocation, and it was a truly new existence that they began in South London that year. Continue reading Peter Sarstedt 1/2017
January 6, 2017 – Sylvester Potts (the Contours) was born on January 22, 1938 in Detroit and attended North Eastern High, the same school where Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, and Bobby Rogers were educated at.
His love of music and the excitement he got from performing, made him once say he wanted to die on stage. In the fall of 1960, a Detroit group called The Contours (consisting of Joe Billingslea, Billy Gordon, Billy Hoggs, Leroy Fair and Hubert Johnson) auditioned for Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Gordy turned the act down, prompting the group to pay a visit to the home of group member Hubert Johnson’s cousin, R&B star and Gordy associate Jackie Wilson. Wilson in turn got The Contours a second audition with Gordy, at which they sang the same songs they had at the first audition, the same way they claim, but this time were signed to a seven-year contract. Continue reading Sylvester Potts 1/2017
December 25, 2016 – George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, North London, England on June 25, 1963. His father, was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, who moved to England in the 1950s and his mother, was a dancer. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth.
While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire where he attended Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, and where he also befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. Continue reading George Michael 12/2016
December 7, 2016 – Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born on 10 November 1947 in Poole, Dorset near Bournemouth, England. Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor called Don Strike.
first learned to play guitar at age 12. After 12 months of guitar lessons, Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows but his instructor “wouldn’t have any of it.” After he left school, Lake worked as a draughtsman for a short period of time before he joined The Shame, where he is featured on their single “Don’t Go Away Little Girl”, written by Janis Ian. Lake then became a member of The Gods, which he described as “a very poor training college”.
In the 1960s, Lake formed a close friendship with guitarist Robert Fripp, who was also from Dorset and had shared the same guitar teacher. When Fripp formed King Crimson in 1969, he chose Lake to be the singer and bassist. Lake had been a regular guitarist for 11 years and this change marked Lake’s first time playing the instrument.
“I am both a bass guitarist and guitarist,” Greg explains. “A lot of the really good bass players also play guitar. McCartney and Sting for example both play guitar and I certainly grew up on it. But, because King Crimson didn’t need two guitarists, I took over playing the bass.”
In taking on the instrument, he also pioneered a new way of playing it. “I derived a great deal of enjoyment playing bass partly – I think – because I played it in a different way from most people at the time. The style I developed was a more percussive and more sustained approach, which almost certainly came from all my years on guitar. I was frustrated by the normal dull sound of bass guitars at the time and was searching for a more expressive sound. I discovered the key was to use the wire wound bass strings, which have far more sustain, rather like the low end of a Steinway Grand Piano. I think I was the first bass player to really use them in this way.”
However, it was the acoustic guitar that provided the setting for the ballads ELP and Lake became famous for. Lake wrote and sang: “C’est La Vie,” “From the Beginning,” “Still…You Turn Me On,” “Watching Over You,” and “Lucky Man.” One of the most famous Christmas songs ever was penned by Greg Lake. “I Believe in Father Christmas” has been covered by artists ranging from classical to rock, among them Irish rockers U2, actress and singer Sarah Brightman, and Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess. Greg has performed it with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson frequently as a fundraiser. Greg Lake composed ballads, he says, so he could play the guitar with ELP and still contribute the electric bass that paired so well with Emerson’s fiery keyboards and Palmer’s explosive drums.
Though Peter Sinfield was the band’s lyricist, Lake had some involvement in the lyrics for their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. After their contracted producer Tony Clarke walked away from the project, Lake produced the album. Released in October 1969, the album an immediate commercial and critical success, as Lake recalled: “There was this huge wave of response. The audiences were really into us because we were an underground thing – the critics loved us because we offered something fresh”. He won worldwide acclaim as lead vocalist, bass guitarist and producer.
The album featured such songs as 21st Century Schizoid Man. The album set a standard for progressive rock and received a glowing, well-publicized testimonial from The Who’s Pete Townshend, who called it “an uncanny masterpiece”.
King Crimson supported In the Court of the Crimson King with a tour of the UK and the US, with some of the shows featuring prog-rock band The Nice as the opening act. During the US leg, Lake struck up a friendship with Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson and the two shared similar musical interests and talked about forming a new group.
When King Crimson returned to the UK in early 1970, Lake agreed to sing on the band’s second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, and appear on the music television show Top of the Pops with them, performing the song “Cat Food”.
After returning from the USA tour, founding member Mike Giles quit, but Lake stuck around long enough to sing on their second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, which was criticized for treading old ground, but refused to work with the band on the promotional tours.
He was approached by Keith Emerson to be the bass player and singer for his new band. Introduced to Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Carl Palmer, by Robert Stigwood, very soon thereafter they formed Emerson Lake and Palmer and made their live debut at the Guildhall in Plymouth in 1970 before giving a career-making performance at the Isle of Wight Festival. That special concert propelled them on their path to become one of the world’s first “super groups.”
The 1971 debut album, Emerson Lake and Palmer went platinum and underscored their Super Group status. It was produced by Lake and featured a song Greg had written while still in school: “Lucky Man.” “Lucky Man,” performed on acoustic guitar, would become an iconic song for the band and a popular classic on radio. The song has become synonymous with Greg Lake and the title was chosen as the title for Greg Lake’s 2012 autobiography.
Unusually, the band combined heavy rock riffs with a classical influence and created a unique live theatrical performance which stretched the imagination and enthralled audiences. In the next several years they scored hit albums with Pictures at an Exhibition (a full rock-ified version of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s famous 1874 piano suite), Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery – many of them produced by Lake himself. They were commercially successful in the UK with five albums charting in the Top 10, while Lake contributed acoustic and electric guitar work to Emerson Lake & Palmer, and his voice had a wider and more diverse range than anything The Nice had recorded.
Tarkus, released in 1971, featured an opening track inspired by the fictional Tarkus character – a half-tank, half-armadillo creature that would appear on stage at gigs – that lasted more than 20 minutes. Emerson and Lake conflicted between Emerson’s interest in complex, classically-influenced music and Lake’s more straightforward rock tastes. During the making of Tarkus, Lake initially rejected the title track, but was persuaded to record it following a band meeting with management, which ended in the addition of an original Lake tune, “Battlefield”, into the suite.
In 1975, while still a member of ELP, Lake achieved solo chart success when his single, “I Believe in Father Christmas”, reached number two on the UK Singles Chart. It has become a Yuletide perennial.
The band went on to enjoy chart success in 1977 with their version of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
ELP’s ambitious light shows and on-stage theatrics were the epitome of ’70s rock excess, and several punk acts cited ELP as one of the bands they were reacting against.
But the band sold more than 48 million records, and Lake continued to be an influential and popular touring musician even after the band wound down in the late 1970s and split in 1979, following the unsuccessful album Love Beach. The group reformed for a number of years in the mid-1990s before permanently disbanding, bar a one-off gig in 2010.
Lake briefly joined Asia in 1983, replacing fellow King Crimson alumnus John Wetton, along with Palmer, members of Yes and King Crimson—before joining with Emerson to form the slightly poppier ELP reboot Emerson, Lake and Powell (Cozy Powell on drums) in the late 80s, featuring the Hot 100 hit “Touch and Go.”
He also formed partnerships on stage, and off, in performances, writing, recording, and productions with musicians whose brilliance matches his own. Solo tours and recordings have been extremely successful as he continues to recreate hits, add to his vast repertoire and raise the bar for others in the industry. His collaborations are many and impressive: Sheila E; Ringo Starr (joining Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band to great acclaim and with great enjoyment); Led Zepplin’s Robert Plant; The Who’s Roger Daltrey (which led to a guest recording on a hit Who single); Procol Harum’s Gary Booker, and Gary Moore. Greg has joined his friend Ian Anderson onstage with Jethro Tull and performed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Greg also completed a successful and critically acclaimed tour in 2010. That tour was the foundation for the unique and inventive format which relies on audience participation. It preceded the reunion performance of Emerson Lake and Palmer as the headliners of the first and much celebrated and awarded High Voltage Festival.
2012 sees a reimagining and expansion of his intimate, interactive musical event format with his autobiographical tour, Songs of a Lifetime, full of drama, pathos, and humor. That show was inspired by the writing of Greg Lake’s greatly anticipated autobiography, Lucky Man. Available in both audio (read by the author) and hard cover formats, the book is not a recording of the show; it is completely different.
Greg Lake was a formidable producer in his own right. He was one of the driving forces behind the now legendary Manticore Records, which he says, was built “with the noble ideal of helping other progressive artists, music we thought worth supporting, that weren’t getting help from the majors.”
Lake’s inventive production shaped the best selling ELP albums and his solo work.
In 2005, Lake toured Germany and the United Kingdom with his “Greg Lake Band” which included David Arch, Florian Opahle, Trevor Barry on bass, and Brett Morgan. Lake performed “Karn Evil 9” with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at several shows. He was a special guest on the album Night Castle (2009).
In July 2010, Lake joined Emerson and Palmer for what was to be the final live concert by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, at the High Voltage rock festival, in Victoria Park, London. The entire concert was later released as the double-CD live album, High Voltage, and subsequently on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Most recently Greg worked with arranger, composer and keyboard artist David Arch (whose vast credentials include scoring and playing now-classic movies including three Harry Potter films, Star Wars, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Notting Hill).
On 9 January 2016, he was awarded an honorary degree in music and lyrics composition by Conservatorio Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy, the first degree awarded by the conservatory.
Greg Lake passed on after a long and troubled fight with cancer on December 7, 2016. He was 69 years old.
Lake’s death comes as a particular shock to ELP fans, coming just months after Keith Emerson’s tragic suicide in March.
‘Love not money’
“The greatest music is made for love, not for money,” Lake is quoted as saying on his official website.
“The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward.”
Greg says “There is a common thread throughout all the music. The forms may be different, but each one to some degree draws upon inspiration from the past. I am as proud to have been as influenced by people like Elvis and Little Richard as I am by composers like Copeland and Prokofiev and I’m honored when other musicians regard me as one of their inspirations.
“I love acoustic guitars. They’re delicate and light and yet at the same time are unbelievably powerful. They are really a strange instrument from that point of view, but there is something very special about them,” he explains. “You just have to look at some of the truly great songs written on acoustic guitar – “Scarborough Fair,” “Forever Young,” “Yesterday” – truly iconic songs that all came from a small piece of wood with thin steel strings tied to each end.”
The acoustics worked perfectly with Lake’s “golden” voice, which Record Collector magazine calls “extraordinary, altering comfortably between angelic and magisterial.”
Lake’s remarkable voice also powered ELP’s more electric pieces such as Karn Evil #9, one of the world’s most beloved songs. The opening line “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” is an international favourite, globally used as a television theme.
To date Emerson Lake and Palmer has sold over 48 million records. Lake produced Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, Works Vol. 1 and 2, and two different live albums. All went platinum and featured a series of hit singles , most written and all sung by Greg, who credits their success to his constant search for perfection and his heart.
“The greatest music is made for love, not for money. The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward.”
It wasn’t just the albums, it was the performances. The band filled arenas and stadiums in record breaking numbers. They toured the world with an enormous assembly of technicians, musicians and artists to realize their spellbinding shows.
November 12, 2016 – Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1941. An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play.
He started classical piano lessons when he was 4 years old, played baritone horn in his high school marching band and also learned trumpet. At 14 he started gigging in Oklahoma; since it was a dry state at the time, he could play clubs without being old enough to drink. Soon after he graduated from high school, Jerry Lee Lewis hired him and his band to back him on tour for two months.
He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and found club work and then studio work; he also learned to play guitar. Calling himself Leon Russell — the name Leon came from a friend who lent him an ID so he could play California club dates while underage — he drew on both his classical training and his Southern roots, playing everything from standards to surf-rock, from million-sellers to pop throwaways. He was glimpsed on television as a member of the house band for the prime-time rock show “Shindig!,” the Shindogs, in the mid-1960s.
In 1967, he built a home studio and began working with the guitarist Marc Benno as the Asylum Choir, which released its debut album in 1968. He also started a record label, Shelter, in 1969 with producer Denny Cordell. Russell drew more recognition as a co-producer, arranger and musician on Joe Cocker’s second album, “Joe Cocker!,” which included Russell’s song “Delta Lady.”
By the time Mr. Russell released his first solo album in 1970, he had already played on hundreds of songs as one of the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. Mr. Russell was in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra, and he played sessions for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures and the Monkees, among many others. He is heard on “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones and all of the Beach Boys’ early albums, including “Pet Sounds.”
When Joe Cocker’s Grease Band fell apart days before an American tour, Russell assembled the big, boisterous band — including three drummers and a 10-member choir — that was named Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Its 1970 double live album and a tour film became a showcase for Russell as well as Cocker; the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart. Russell also released his first solo album in 1970; it included “A Song for You” and had studio appearances from Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, two ex-Beatles and three Rolling Stones. But Russell’s second album, “Leon Russell and the Shelter People,” fared better commercially; it reached No. 17 on the Billboard chart.
With a top hat on his head, hair well past his shoulders, a long beard, an Oklahoma drawl in his voice and his fingers splashing two-fisted barrelhouse piano chords, Russell had his widest visibility as the 1970s began. His songs also became hits for others, among them “Superstar” (written with Bonnie Bramlett) for the Carpenters, “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker and “This Masquerade” for George Benson. More than 100 acts have recorded “A Song for You,” a song Mr. Russell said he wrote in 10 minutes.He played the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden with George Harrison and Bob Dylan; he produced and played on Dylan’s songs “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Watching the River Flow.” He toured with the Rolling Stones and with his own band. His third album, “Carney,” went to No. 2 with the hit “Tight Rope.” In 1973 his “Leon Live” album reached the Top 10; he also recorded his first album of country songs under the pseudonym Hank Wilson. The fledgling Gap Band, also from Oklahoma, backed Russell in 1974 on his album “Stop All That Jazz.” His 1975 album “Will O’ the Wisp” included what would be his last Top 20 pop hit, “Lady Blue.”
But he continued to work. He made duet albums with his wife at the time, Mary Russell (formerly Mary McCreary). And he collaborated with Willie Nelson for a double LP in 1979 of pop and country standards, “One for the Road,” which sold half a million copies.
The music Leon Russell made on his own, put a scruffy, casual surface on rich musical hybrids, interweaving soul, country, blues, jazz, gospel, pop and classical music. Like Willie Nelson, who would collaborate with him, and Ray Charles, whose 1993 recording of “A Song for You” won a Grammy Award, Russell made a broad, sophisticated palette of American music sound down-home and natural.
In 1979 Mr. Russell married Janet Lee Constantine, who gave him six children: Blue, Teddy Jack, Tina Rose, Sugaree, Honey and Coco. For the next decades, Mr. Russell delved into various idioms, mostly recording for independent labels. He toured and recorded with the New Grass Revival, adding his piano and voice to their string-band lineup. He made more country albums as Hank Wilson. He recorded blues, Christmas songs, gospel songs and instrumentals. In 1992 songwriter and pianist Bruce Hornsby, who had long cited Russell’s influence, sought to rejuvenate Russell’s rock career by producing the album “Anything Can Happen,” but it drew little notice. Mr. Russell continued to tour for die-hard fans who called themselves Leon Lifers.
A call in 2009 from Elton John, whom Russell had supported in the early 1970s, led to the making of “The Union” — which also had guest appearances by Neil Young and Brian Wilson — and a 10-date tour together in 2010. Russell also sat in on Mr. Costello’s 2010 album, “National Ransom.” Then Russell, who had bought a new bus, returned to the road on his own.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. At the ceremony, Elton John called him “the master of space and time” and added, “He sang, he wrote and he played just how I wanted to do it.”
His website announced on November 13 in the early morning hours that Leon Russell has passed on in his sleep. Russell had significant health difficulties over the past five years. In 2010, he underwent surgery for a brain fluid leak and was treated for heart failure. In July of this year, he suffered a heart attack and was scheduled for further surgery.
October 23, 2016 – Peter Jozzeppi “Pete” Burns was born on August 5, 1959 in Port Sunlight, Cheshire, England. His mother was the daughter of a German Jew and had escaped Nazi Germany before the war. She met Burns’s father, Francis Burns, then a soldier, in Vienna, from where they returned together to Liverpool.
Burns described his upbringing as unconventional. His mother was an alcoholic, and attempted suicide several times when Burns was growing up.
“As far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn’t a mother, but she’s the best human being that I’ve ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me,” he said. “She called me ‘Star Baby’ and she knew that there was something special in me.”
“I lived, I know now, a very solitary childhood. I had nothing to compare it with, so it seemed fine to me. I rarely left the house. I didn’t need to; I had a secret world I shared with my mother. In those early years, I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better friend. She gave me the power to dream, the power to remove myself from where I might not be having any fun, and go inside my head and be somewhere else.”
Burns spoke German until he was five, which resulted in local children spending days outside his door shouting “Heil Hitler”. According to Burns, school was “almost non-existent”, and his mother frequently kept him away so he could spend the day with her. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 after being summoned to the headmaster’s office because he had arrived at school with “no eyebrows, Harmony-red hair, and one gigantic earring”. At around this age he was raped by a man who took him for a drive; Burns later recalled that he wasn’t upset by this, though he knew that people would expect him to be. He stated that he already knew the man, who drove him to Raby Mere and threatened him with an air gun.
While building his career, Burns worked at a Liverpool record shop, Probe Records, which became a meeting place for local musicians. Burns was notorious for his maltreatment of customers, sometimes throwing their purchases at them because he disapproved of their selection. Burns first performed as a member of the short-lived Mystery Girls, who gave one performance only and comprised Burns, Pete Wylie and Julian Cope, who stated that Burns’s performing style drew on that of the transgender punk performer Wayne County. Burns was next in Nightmares in Wax, a proto-Goth group that formed in Liverpool in 1979; they released a 12″ single, “Black Leather”, and a 7″ single, “Birth of a Nation”, each containing the same three songs, but never produced an album. In 1980, after replacing several members, Burns changed their name to Dead or Alive.
Dead Or Alive’s first album, Sophisticated Boom Boom (1984), had paved the way for the group’s success by reaching the UK Top 30 and yielding a Top 40 single with a cover of KC & The Sunshine Band’s That’s the Way (I Like It). The following year they released Youthquake, which was produced by the upcoming hit-makers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and not only contained You Spin Me Round, which became a number one hit in the UK, and a top 20 hit in the US, but also gave them a No 9 album in the UK and reached 31 on the US Billboard chart.
His heyday as a pop star coincided with the rise of the “New Pop” epitomised by Boy George and Culture Club, Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. With his ambiguous sexuality, androgynous look and spectacular fashion choices, Burns, after several years of trying, found himself in the right place at the right time. “Everything goes round in circles and luckily we’ve got the current sound of the moment,” he commented in 1984, a remark pointing to his inherent scepticism about fame, fashion and pop music.
Despite further hits with Lover Come Back to Me, In Too Deep and Brand New Lover, the huge success of You Spin Me Round was not to be repeated. Dead Or Alive continued through the 80s, but by the end of the decade had been reduced to the core duo of Burns and the drummer Steve Coy. Their album Nude (1989) gave them a belated chart fling by delivering a No 1 hit on the US dance charts with Come Home With Me Baby, while Turn Around & Count 2 Ten reached No 1 in Japan.
During the 90s, Dead Or Alive released several albums in various territories outside the UK, with limited success. In 1994 Burns sang and co-wrote the single Sex Drive for the Italian techno act Glam, and that same year Burns and Coy recorded David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, calling themselves International Chrysis. Fragile (2000) was Dead Or Alive’s final album of new material, though some tracks were remixes and cover versions. The new century brought the compilations Evolution: The Hits (2003) and That’s The Way I Like It: The Best of Dead Or Alive (2010).
Burns’s decision to embrace reality TV came after he had spent years protesting that he would never do it (“I still have a career, and I don’t really do reality,” he said in 2003), but his outsized personality and caustic manner made him a natural. The sight of him dancing with the politician George Galloway, both of them dressed in lycra leotards, on Celebrity Big Brother was unforgettable for any number of reasons. Burns triggered further controversy on Big Brother when he claimed to be wearing a coat made of illegal gorilla skin, though tests proved it was made from the skin of the colobus monkey, using pelts that pre-dated legislation outlawing their use.
In 2007 Burns appeared on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and Celebrity Wife Swap, where he swapped places with Leah Newman, partner of the footballer Neil “Razor” Ruddock. Also on the show was Burns’s husband, Michael Simpson, whom he married in 2006 after his divorce from the stylist Lynne Corlett whom he had married in 1978. The three remained on good terms. In the series Pete’s PA, on Living TV, contestants competed to become Burns’s assistant.
In 2015, Burns was evicted from his London flat after running up £34,000 in rent arrears. Last month, Burns appeared on Channel 5’s Celebrity Botched Up Bodies and talked frankly about his horrific experiences with cosmetic surgery, which had given him near-fatal blood clots and pulmonary embolisms as he underwent further procedures to try to correct mistakes.
In the end Pete Burns later became a living advertisement for the dangers of plastic surgery. Burns, who died of a heart attack aged 57, on October 23, 2016, claimed to have undergone 300 surgical procedures, many of them in an attempt to repair previous botched efforts.
Pete Burns defied categorization and challenged those who pitied or sneered. The chaos, flamboyance and craven attention-seeking were matched by genuine eccentricity and intelligence. And despite bouts of depression and years of agony and ill health as the result of a botched lip filler operation, he appeared to be entirely lacking in self-pity. As he explained after the publication of his 2006 autobiography, Freak Unique, “I’m not thinking ‘Why me?’ but ‘Why NOT me?’ ”
A statement released by his partner, Michael Simpson, his ex-wife, Lynne Corlett, and his manager and former band member, Steve Coy, read: “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star. He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul and will be missed by all those who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories he has left us with.”
A couple of years after divorcing his wife Lynne and marrying his partner Michael Simpson, they separated and Burns remarked: “I view marriage as a sacred institution. I think two men naturally are predators. Gay relationships are a commercial break, not a whole movie. The relationships I’m aware of, apart from one … it’s as though there’s some kind of emotional inadequacy or narcissism, where they feel emotionally inadequate and need more validation, from either a father figure or a mirror image of themselves. I’m not condemning it, I think it needs researching and help.”
September 24, 2016 – Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural Jr. (Buckwheat Zydeco) was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on November 14, 1947. He acquired his nickname as a youth, because, with his braided hair, he looked like the character Buckwheat from Our Gang/The Little Rascals movies. His father, a farmer, was an accomplished amateur traditional Creole accordion player, but young Dural preferred listening to and playing rhythm and blues.
Dural became proficient at the organ, and by the late 1950s he was backing Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many others.
In 1971, he founded Buckwheat & the Hitchhikers, a funk band that he led for five years before switching to zydeco. They were a local sensation and found success with the single, “It’s Hard To Get,” recorded for a local Louisiana-based label.
He began backing Clifton Chenier, one of the most legendary zydeco performers. Though not a traditional zydeco fan when growing up, Buckwheat accepted an invitation in 1976 to join Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band as organist. He quickly discovered the popularity of zydeco music, and marveled at the effect the music had on the audience. “Everywhere, people young and old just loved zydeco music,” Dural says. “I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played for four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.”
Dural’s relationship with the legendary Chenier led him to take up the accordion in 1978. After practicing for a year, he felt ready to start his own band under the name Buckwheat Zydeco. They debuted with One for the Road in 1979 on the Blues Unlimited label and then recorded for New Orleans’ Black Top label. In 1983, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Turning Point and in 1985 for Waitin’ For My Ya Ya after switching to the Rounder Records label. The band then signed to Island Records, becoming the first zydeco act on a major label, and released On a Night Like This, a critically acclaimed album that was nominated for a Grammy as well. The band appeared in the movie The Big Easy in 1987.
In 1988, Eric Clapton invited the band to open his North American tour as well as his 12-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall. As even more doors opened, Buckwheat found himself sharing stages and/or recording with Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, David Hidalgo, Dwight Yoakam, Paul Simon, Ry Cooder, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and many others, including indie music stalwarts Yo La Tengo on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan bio-pic, I’m Not There. His music has been featured in films including The Waterboy, The Big Easy, Fletch Lives and Hard Target. BET’s show Comic View, used his live version of “What You Gonna Do?” as theme music for the program’s 10th anniversary “Pardi Gras” season. He also wrote and performed the theme music for the PBS television series Pierre Franey’s Cooking In America. Buckwheat won an Emmy for his music in the CBS TV movie, Pistol Pete: The Life And Times Of Pete Maravich.
Buckwheat Zydeco has played many major music festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (numerous times), Newport Folk Festival, Summerfest, San Diego Street Scene, Bumbershoot, Montreux Jazz Festival, the Voodoo Experience, and countless others.
The band performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics to a worldwide audience of three billion people. Buckwheat performed for President Clinton twice, celebrating both of his inaugurations. The band appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, CNN, The Today Show, MTV, NBC News, CBS Morning News, and National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage.
During the 1990s and early 2000s Buckwheat recorded for his own Tomorrow Recordings label and maintained an extensive touring schedule. Buckwheat Zydeco’s latest album, Lay Your Burden Down, was released on May 5, 2009 on the Alligator Records label. It was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos and included guest appearances by guitarists Warren Haynes and Sonny Landreth, Trombone Shorty, JJ Grey and Berlin himself. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award. Sonicboomers.com says, “The CD is a vastly entertaining and appealingly diverse package. Bandleader Dural remains an ever-engaging vocalist and a whiz on any keyboard he touches. So, for Buckwheat Zydeco fans, Lay Your Burden Down finds the maestro and his group near the top of their form. For listeners with less interest in the ol’ accordion get-down, the collection supplies enough interesting wrinkles to get the good times rolling.”
Buckwheat’s especially powerful and haunting version of the classic “Cryin’ in the Streets” appears on the benefit album for Hurricane Katrina recovery, Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast.
Buckwheat’s version of Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy’s “When the Levee Breaks” appeared on 2011’s Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection. It originally appeared on the 2009 Buckwheat Zydeco album Lay Your Burden Down.
Buckwheat Zydeco died after a battle with lung cancer on September 24, 2016.
“Whether performing on the final episode of ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,’ or on the Letterman show many times, or in the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics, or at President Clinton’s inaugurals, or with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon or Willie Nelson, Stanley Dural Jr.’s musical genius and genuine warm, welcoming personality carried the banner for zydeco and Southwest Louisiana’s Creole community.
He once said: ‘Life is a tour, and it’s all about how you decide to get where you’re going…I don’t want to ignore the bad things in life, but I want to emphasize the good things.’
Buck made everything and everyone he touched better and happier.
Since 1979, Buckwheat Zydeco has been one of the most celebrated bands to come out of Louisiana. The group has shared the stage and studio with Eric Clapton, U2, the Boston Pops Orchestra, B.B. King and other renowned names.
Dural and band performed in the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which reached a TV audience of 3 billion people. They played at both inaugurations for former President Bill Clinton and countless commercials and TV shows, such as “The Late Show with David Letterman” and the last episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Last November, Dural and band members were part of an all-star tribute to country music legend Willie Nelson, who received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The TV special aired on PBS stations across the country.
Buckwheat won the Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album Grammy for the 2009 CD, “Lay Your Burden Down,” which featured Trombone Shorty, Sonny Landreth and other stars. The band received an Emmy for the music in the CBS TV movie from 2001, “Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich.”
March 10, 2016 – Keith Noel Emerson (Emerson,Lake,Palmer ELP) was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 2 November 1944. His family had been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the Second World War. He grew up in Goring-by-Sea, in the borough of the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex and attended West Tarring School. His parents were musically inclined and arranged for him to take piano lessons starting at the age of 8. His father, Noel, was an amateur pianist, and thought that Emerson would benefit most as a player from being versatile and being able to read music. However, he never received any formal musical training, and described his piano teachers as being “local little old ladies”. He learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz and rock themes. Continue reading Keith Emerson 3/2016
February 15, 2016 – Vanity was born Denise Katrina Matthews on January 4, 1959 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Helga Senyk and Levia James Matthews. Her mother was of Polish, German, and Jewish descent and was born in Germany, while her father was of African-American descent and was born in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Growing up in Niagara Falls, God wasn’t her priority. She was more concerned with hiding bruises from her classmates at Princess Margaret elementary school. Routinely beaten by an alcoholic father, Matthews rarely discussed her home life with friends. “She didn’t really like to,” recalls Debbie Rossi, one of Matthews’ best friends at Princess Margaret and later Stamford Collegiate. “And I wasn’t one to force. I just wanted to listen.”
Matthews didn’t confide because she thought every household was like this. Her father, James Levia Matthews, died in 1974 when she was 15 years old. Instead of feeling free, she watched her mother sink deeper into depression and alcoholism.
She felt more confused than ever, but had one huge advantage – she was one of the most gorgeous young women in Niagara Falls. A modeling career beckoned. While her sister, Patricia, became a star athlete at Stamford (she still holds nine school records), the younger Denise was turning heads. “Denise kind of blossomed and got really, really beautiful,” recalls Rossi. “She was fun-loving, and very aware of her beauty. “She had a little bit of trouble in Stamford with prejudice – guys wanted to go out with her, but they didn’t want anybody to know. It really hurt her, so she changed schools.”
After jumping to Westlane, where she graduated, Matthews got her first taste of success by winning the Miss Niagara Hospitality pageant. She was calm and poised accepting the crown. She seemed like a natural.
You just knew she had ambitions of making it big,” says Stamford classmate Vito DiMartino, now head of phys ed at A.N. Myer. “Denise always had good looks.” “Everyone seemed to like her,” adds friend Linda Clarkstone, now a librarian at Westlane. “She was always smiling, always happy. “She was beautiful, and even back then she could sing.” Within a year, Matthews left Niagara Falls for Toronto, and then California.
After she won the Miss Niagara Hospitality title in 1977, she went on to compete for Miss Canada in 1978. At age 17, she moved to New York City to further her career. She signed with Zoli Model Agency. However, because she was short in stature, her modeling career was limited to commercials and photo shoots and included no runway work. Vanity appeared in ads for Pearl Drops toothpaste, before completing a modeling stint in Japan.
In 1980, she had a small role in the horror movie Terror Train, which was filmed in Montreal a year earlier. She then went to Toronto to film the lead role in the B-movie Tanya’s Island. At the time of both film roles, she was billed as D.D. Winters.
In the early 1980s, Matthews was given two tickets to a Prince concert and she became enthralled with the funky Minneapolis singer, who wasn’t quite a superstar yet. Weeks later she met Prince backstage at the American Music Awards. That night Prince called her at 3 a.m. The couple dated for several months, and Prince, learning that she could sing, eventually invited her to Minneapolis to front a racy all-girl group he was forming.
“He wanted me to call myself Vagina. He said people would know me nationwide,” she discloses with a smile. “I said, ‘No kidding.’ ” They settled on Vanity (because he saw so much of himself in her), and Vanity 6, clad in scanty camisoles and singing tunes like Drive Me Wild and Nasty Girls, soon cracked the black Top 10.
Dressed in lingerie and garters, Vanity 6 stumbled with its first single – “He’s So Dull” – but the second, “Nasty Girl,” became a crude classic (and a strip club mainstay). With Vanity, Matthews had found the devillish flipside to her personality.
Prince was so taken with her, he chose her to appear with him on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1983 and offered her a major role as the female lead in his biographical musical Purple Rain. At 24, Matthews was starting to become the star everyone predicted. She was supposed to play the lead female role in “Purple Rain,” the semi-autobiographical Prince film that was a box-office hit in 1984, but abandoned the project before filming began. Back in Minneapolis Vanity had helped Prince script Purple Rain and had been slated to play the female lead, a role based in part on her own life story. But before the cameras rolled, Vanity left—off to California and a solo career. “I needed one person to love me, and he needed more,” she says of Prince and her departure. “I never thought, ‘Oh God, I’m in Prince’s shadow,’ ” she says firmly. “He’d been performing for years and he was my teacher. I miss his humor. I always felt we’d be like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor over the years. I can honestly say I love the kid.”
She then went on to release two albums as a solo artist on Motown, “Wild Animal” and “Skin on Skin.”
After her music career started, as Vanity she starred in a number of movies, including The Last Dragon, which featured her underground hit “7th Heaven.” In 1986 she starred in Never Too Young to Die opposite John Stamos (“She was pretty wild,” Stamos once said about his co-star. “She was like Al Pacino in Scarface, blasting these fucking prop machine guns all over the place. We weren’t even rolling!”). The film also featured Gene Simmons. She went on to appear in 52 Pick-Up and 1988’s Action Jackson, her highest profile role, in which she starred opposite Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, and Sharon Stone. From the mid–1980s to the early–1990s, Vanity guest–starred on numerous TV shows. She played a villain who tortured Nancy Allen’s character in the 1990 TV movie Memories of Murder, guest-starred in an episode of Miami Vice’s third season, and in 1992 appeared in an episode of Highlander: The Series. She also appeared in Friday the 13th: The Series in the episode entitled “Mesmer’s Bauble”.
She thrived on raciness, often performing in lingerie. “My music is very sexual, so you could say I’m just putting all of me out there,” she told The Associated Press in 1985. She was on the cover of Playboy in 1988.Vanity then left the group (and Prince’s organization), and signed with Motown Records as a solo artist in 1984. She released two albums for Motown in the mid-1980s, and had mild success on the US pop and R&B charts with a handful of singles.
Besides Prince, Vanity was linked romantically to Adam Ant and Billy Idol. In 1987, she stated that she and Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx were engaged. She joked that she would become Vanity 6 (Sixx) again. They never married. In Sixx’s 2007 autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, he describes his 1987 drug use with Vanity who was addicted to crack cocaine at the time. Anecdote: At one point, the wasted couple is laying in bed when Sixx believes he hears voices and fires a .357 magnum through the door. It was only his radio.)
In 1994, Vanity overdosed on crack cocaine and suffered from near-fatal renal failure. She recalled that after being rushed to the hospital, doctors said she had three days to live while on life support. She said that Jesus appeared to her at this time and spoke to her, saying, if she promised to give up her Vanity persona, he would save her. Upon her recovery, she completely renounced her stage name and career and became a born-again Christian. In 1995, she said, “When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine—interview, every tape, every video. Everything.”
In 1995, she married football player Anthony Smith of the Oakland Raiders, who later was sentenced to life in prison murder. She ignorantly had stated that she had chosen not to receive any further revenue from her work as Vanity, and cut off all ties with Hollywood and her former life in show business. Her marriage to Smith however lasted only one year.
After a kidney transplant in 1997, she decided to devote her life to Christ and became an Evangelist. “All I had become was thus painted on my face — vanity,” she later wrote on a personal website. According to her sister, the former Vanity eventually became an ordained minister and preached in churches around the country.
In 2010, she released her autobiography, Blame It On Vanity: Hollywood, Hell and Heaven.
Due to her kidney problems, which were caused by years of drug abuse, Matthews had to undergo peritoneal dialysis five times a day (each session was 20 minutes long).
She suffered from sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, a rare complication of a peritoneal dialysis, and died in Fremont, California on February 15, 2016, from renal failure, aged 57.
Two months after her death, on April 21, 2016, Matthews’ ex-partner and music mentor Prince died in his Paisley Park residence, also aged 57.
Onstage in Melbourne, Australia, Prince offered a tribute of his own. “Her and I used to love each other deeply,” he told the crowd, according to Australian news media accounts. “She loved me for the artist I was; I loved her for the artist she was trying to be.”
By her own later admission, Vanity led a fast life, and it took its toll. In an interview with Jet magazine in 1993, she said she had been “extremely wild” in her younger days. “There was a lot of cocaine,” she said. “I tried men, women, everything. I didn’t snort cocaine, I smoked it. I had found my way into the playground of the pearly white stuff called cocaine,” says her bio Blame It On Vanity. “I’d inhaled so much rock that by the age of 35, you could light me up, smoke me and stick me in the nearest cold grave. Easily, the devil had won me and readied my tired body for hell.”
Even though she resents the “lies” former lover Motley Crue guitarist Nikki Sixx tells in his book about their times in 1987, she admittedly contributed to it. “I was the glutton for punishment (with Nikki), and also the punisher punishing,” she writes. “It wasn’t easy being high all the time and relating to another human being. He could have related better to a pet rock.”
February 4, 2016 – Maurice “Moe” White (Earth, Wind & Fire) was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the eldest of nine siblings. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his grandmother in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones, with whom he formed a “cookin’ little band” while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He made frequent trips to Chicago to visit his mother, Edna, and stepfather, Verdine Adams, who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.
By the mid-1960s he found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. While at Chess, he played on the records of artists such as Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, the Impressions, the Dells, Betty Everett, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy. White also played the drums on Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me” and Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”. In 1962, along with other studio musicians at Chess, he was a member of the Jazzmen, who later became the Pharaohs. One song on which he played, Rescue Me by Fontella Bass (1965), was a worldwide hit. In 1966 he joined a trio led by the jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and went on to play on nine of Lewis’s albums: the 1966 song Hold It Right There won a Grammy for best R&B group performance. While in the Trio he was introduced in a Chicago drum store to the African thumb piano or kalimba and on the Trio’s 1969 album Another Voyage’s track “Uhuru” was featured the first recording of White playing the kalimba. White brought the kalimba into mainstream use by incorporating its sound into the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. He was also responsible for expanding the group to include a full horn section – the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns, later known as the Phenix Horns.
In 1969, White left the Trio and joined his two friends, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, to form a songwriting team who wrote songs for commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol Records and called themselves the Salty Peppers. They had a moderate hit in the Midwest area with their single “La La Time”, but their second single, “Uh Huh Yeah”, was not as successful. White then moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, and altered the name of the band to Earth, Wind & Fire, the band’s new name reflecting the elements in his astrological chart and thus he became the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire.
White got the concept of EWF from a drum and bugle corps band from his hometown. He formed the band after having touring stints with Santana, Weather Report, and Uriah Heep. One night after an EWF concert in Denver, Colorado, White briefly met singer Philip Bailey. It was an encounter that was to prove vital to Bailey’s future and to the history of American pop music. Bailey left college a year later and decided to pursue a musical career in Los Angeles. Once he arrived on the West Coast, he hooked up again with Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice White had arrived in L.A. only the year before with visions of creating a truly universal music group, one that was spiritually charged and ambitious in scope, defying boundaries of color, culture, and categorization. Those ideas appealed to Bailey as well and he joined the group in 1972. Bailey’s shimmering falsetto blended perfectly with White’s charismatic tenor. White served as the band’s main songwriter and record producer, and was co-lead singer along with Philip Bailey. EWF combined high-caliber musicianship, a wide-ranging musical genre eclecticism, and ’70s multicultural spiritualism that included Biblical references.
It took until 1973 for Earth, Wind & Fire to find a mass audience: that year, the group’s fourth album, Head to the Sky, with its danceable, groove-heavy songs featuring horns and White’s kalimba, or African thumb piano, was the first of a series of huge-selling records.
Open Our Eyes (1974) and That’s the Way of the World (1975) consolidated this position, embedding the group’s recipe of soul, funk, R&B and disco in the American public’s affections. Boogie Wonderland, on which the band collaborated with the singing sister-act the Emotions, sold more than a million copies and was in the British singles charts for three months. Their 1978 cover of the Beatles’ Got to Get You Into My Life, injected with the band’s distinctive and inventive strident brass and guitar riffs, won a Grammy.
With Maurice as the bandleader and producer of most of the band’s albums, EWF earned legendary status winning seven Grammy Awards out of a staggering 20 nominations, a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, and four American Music Awards. The group’s albums have sold over 90 million copies worldwide. Other honors bestowed upon Maurice as a member of the band included inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, individually in The Songwriters Hall of Fame and The NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Also known by his nickname “Reece”, he worked with several famous recording artists, including Deniece Williams, the Emotions, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.
In 1976, White, with Charles Stepney co-produced Deniece Williams‘ – a former backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder – debut album, This Is Niecy, which was released on Columbia Records. The album was the first project for the newly formed production company Kalimba Productions which was formed by Maurice White and Charles Stepney in the same year. This Is Niecy rose to number 3 on the R&B charts and contained the single Free which reached number 25 on the pop charts, number 5 on the R&B charts and number 1 on the UK singles charts. This is Niecy has been certified gold in the United States by the RIAA. With the death of Charles Stepney a few months after the release of This Is Niecy White solely produced Williams second album Song Bird, released in 1977. The single “Baby, Baby My Love’s All For You” reached number 13 and number 32 on the black and UK singles chart respectively. Williams later released four more albums on Columbia Records for Kalimba Productions which were 1978’s That’s What Friends Are For, 1979’s When Love Comes Calling, My Melody released in 1981 and 1982’s Niecy respectively. In a 2007 interview Deniece says: “I loved working with Maurice White … he taught me the business of music, and planning and executing a plan and executing a show.”
After Stax Records became embroiled in financial problems, the girl group the Emotions looked for a new contract and found one with Columbia Records which released their album Flowers in 1976. With Charles Stepney co-producing their album with White, Flowers was their first charting album since 1969. It rose to number 5 on the R&B and number 45 on the Pop charts, and has been certified gold in the US. The singles “Flowers” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” from this album reached, respectively, number 16 and number 13 on the R&B charts (number 87 and number 51 on the Pop charts). Following Charles Stepney’s death, White took over producing the Emotions as well.
He played the drums on Minnie Riperton’s debut 1970 album, Come to My Garden, and contributed vocals to Weather Report’s 1978 album Mr. Gone. White also produced Ramsey Lewis’ albums: Sun Goddess (1974), Salongo (1976), and Sky Islands (1993), Jennifer Holliday on her 1983 release Feel My Soul, Barbra Streisand on her 1984 platinum album Emotion, Atlantic Starr on their platinum 1986 album All in the Name of Love and Neil Diamond on his 1986 gold album Headed for the Future. He also co-wrote the song “Only In Chicago” with Barry Manilow which was included on his 1980 platinum album Barry, the track “Tip of My Tongue” for the rock band the Tubes which appeared on their album Outside Inside, and contributed vocals to Cher’s 1987 self-titled platinum album.
White wrote songs for the movies Coming to America and Undercover Brother. He composed music for the television series Life Is Wild and worked in 2006 with Gregory Hines’ brother, Maurice, on the Broadway play Hot Feet for which White and Allee Willis wrote several new songs.
White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1987, which led him eventually to stop touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. He retained executive control of the band, and remained active in the music business, producing and recording with the band and other artists.
Messages of encouragement from celebrities including: Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine were published for White.
From time to time, after his retirement, he appeared on stage with Earth, Wind & Fire at events such as the 2004 Grammy Awards Tribute to Funk, and alongside Alicia Keys at Clive Davis’ 2004 pre-Grammy awards party where they performed the band’s 1978 hit “September”.
White died in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Los Angeles, California, on the morning of February 4, 2016, at the age of 74.
His brother Verdine posted the following on Facebook:
My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. While the world has lost another great musician and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult and life-changing transition in our lives. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes. Yours Truly, Verdine White
All in all the Chicago-born, LA based band had 46 charting R&B singles and 33 charting pop singles, including eight gold singles.At their peak, Earth, Wind & Fire bestrode the popular music scene like a troupe of magnificently attired angels of funk, upbeat and apparently perpetually partying. Their slick blend of panache and optimism owed much to the songwriting, producing and vocals of Maurice White.
In 1965s she was living in San Francisco and gaining recognition as an accomplished jazz/folk singer, when the vocalist Marty Balin heard her sing at a popular folk club, the Drinking Gourd and asked her to join a folk-rock group he was forming.
The band, soon christened Jefferson Airplane, signed with RCA Victor Records and released its first album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” in 1966.
Soon after joining the Airplane, she married one of the Merry Pranksters, Jerry Anderson, a marriage that lasted from 1965 to 1974. She sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, most notably on the song “Chauffeur Blues”. Just as Jefferson Airplane was ascending, Anderson gave birth to her first child. Realizing that life on the road with a newborn was unfeasible, Anderson opted to part ways with Jefferson Airplane in 1966. Anderson remained with the group while they searched for a replacement, eventually choosing the Great Society singer Grace Slick, who brought that band’s “Someone to Love” (retitled “Somebody to Love”) and her “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane.Anderson distrusted the Airplane’s original manager, Matthew Katz, and refused to sign a contract with him until he inserted a special escape clause freeing her from him if she left the band for any reason.
In July 1966, Anderson informed Bill Graham that she was quitting the band after a series of shows they were playing in Chicago, realizing that bringing her newborn child, with then-husband Jerry Anderson, on the road was not feasible. Graham, however, asked her to stay with the band through the October shows at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, to which she agreed. This gave the band time to search for her replacement, eventually choosing Grace Slick after Sherry Snow declined their offer. Allegedly there were other factors, such as the hostility of other band members towards her husband.
Anderson’s last live performances with the Jefferson Airplane were two sets on October 15, 1966 at The Fillmore. Both performances were recorded (as were most Fillmore shows) and have surfaced on some bootleg albums. In August 2010, Collector’s Choice music in cooperation with Sony finally released the second show on a legitimate CD issue. At what seemed to be the end of the second set, Marty Balin returned to announce that Anderson was leaving the group. Her goodbye to the fans, recorded for posterity, was as follows: “I want you all to wear smiles and daisies and box balloons. I love you all. Thank you and goodbye.” At several fans’ request, Anderson and the band performed her signature number, “Chauffeur Blues”.
They finished the night with “High Flying Bird,” and thus ended Anderson’s tenure with the Airplane. The band returned to play two more shows the following night with Grace Slick on board for the first time. This entire performance was officially released in 2010 as Jefferson Airplane: Live at The Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Signe’s Farewell.
After leaving the Airplane she returned to Oregon where she sang for nine years with a ten-piece band, Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company. In the mid 1970s she recovered from cancer. In 1977 she married local building contractor Michael Alois Ettlin, and continued to sing with Carl Smith. Anderson also worked in a department store.
Anderson credited the Airplane’s success with its members’ musical educations. “We all were very knowledgeable music-wise,” she told KGON radio in 2011. “We could all read music. We all knew the classics, we knew blues, we knew folk music — we had a lot of groundwork first.”
In the mid 1990s, Anderson suffered further serious health problems, including a broken neck and bypass surgery, which led to serious financial problems for her family. She made guest appearances with the KBC Band, Jefferson Starship and Airplane spinoff Hot Tuna. Anderson’s husband, Michael Alois Ettlin, died at the age of 62, on February 21, 2011.
Anderson died at her home in Beaverton, Oregon at the age of 74 on January 28, 2016, from the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She died on the same day as Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner and both were 74.
Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wrote on his blog: “Signe was one of the strongest people I have ever met. “She was our den mother in the early days of the Airplane… a voice of reason on more occasions than one… an important member of our dysfunctional little family. I always looked forward to seeing her when we played the Aladdin in Portland. She never complained and was always a joy. Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest sister. You will always live in my heart…”
Airplane bassist Jack Casady wrote on Facebook that he’d been in touch with Anderson the week prior to her death, when she moved from her home to a hospice. “She was a real sweetheart with a terrific contralto voice coming from a solid folk background,” he recalled. “Listen to how she made the three part harmonies of ‘JA Takes Off’ (first album) sound so thick. Her wonderful tone between Paul’s and Marty’s.” Casady added “A sad day… for those of us still here.”
Anderson had stayed in touch with Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and other former bandmates and performed with them on occasion.
Mr. Balin, writing on Facebook, imagined that she and Mr. Kantner “woke up in heaven and said: “Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band.”
2015 – “Lemmy” Ian Fraser Kilmister was born on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1945 in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When Lemmy was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme, then to Madeley. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former footballer George Willis, who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.
The family moved to a farm in Benllech on Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting on his time there, that “funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time, but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.” He attended Sir Thomas Jones’ School in Amlwich, where he was nicknamed Lemmy. It was later suggested by some that the name originated from the phrase “lemmy [lend me] a quid till Friday” because of his alleged habit of borrowing money from people to play slot machines, although Lemmy himself claimed that he didn’t know the origin of the name. He soon started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls and horses.
By the time he left school his family had moved to Conwy, still in northern Wales. There he worked at menial jobs including one in the local Hotpoint electric appliance factory, while also playing guitar for local bands, such as the Sundowners, and spending time at a horse-riding school.
Lemmy saw the Beatles perform at the Cavern Club when he was 16, and then learned to play along on guitar to their first album Please Please Me. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon.
At the age of 17 he met a holidaying girl called Cathy. He followed her to Stockport, where she eventually had his son Sean, who was put up for adoption. In the 2010 documentary film Lemmy, Lemmy mentions having a son whose mother has only recently “found him” and “hadn’t got the heart to tell him who his father was”, indicating the boy – perhaps Sean – was given up for adoption.
He spread his wings with a band called The Rockin’ Vickers, who released three singles and rocked the Manchester music scene while dressed in clerical gear. Lemmy moved to London in search of fame and fortune, where he had a stint as a roadie with Jimi Hendrix and the Nice and briefly played in progressive rock band Opal Butterfly.
In 1972 he was recruited as bassist for the space-rock band Hawkwind, despite having played only rhythm guitar before. He sang lead on their hit “Silver Machine“. “It sounded like Captain Kirk reading Blowing in the Wind,” Lemmy later recalled. “They tried everybody singing it except me. Then, as a last shot they said, ‘Try Lemmy.’ And I did it in one take or two.”
Lemmy’s tenure with Hawkwind ended abruptly when he was busted for drug possession on a tour of Canada in 1975.
He later claimed that his dismissal was due to ‘pharmaceutical differences’, his preference for amphetamines being in stark contrast to the rest of Hawkwind’s love of more hallucinogenic substances. After his departure from Hawkwind he founded Motörhead as lead singer, bassist, songwriter and frontman. Despite the falling-out, Lemmy had fond memories of his time with the band. “In Hawkwind I became a good bass player,” he told Classic Rock magazine in 2012. “It was where I learned I was good at something.”
Lemmy decided to form his own band, “so that no-one can fire me again“, and adopted the name Bastard, until it was gently pointed out that he would be unlikely to get a gig on Top of the Pops. Instead he changed it to Motorhead, US slang for someone who takes speed and also the title of the last song he had penned for Hawkwind.
From early on he was clear about exactly which musical direction the band would take.
“Very basic music – loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speed-freak rock n roll. It will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die”.
The beginnings of the band were not auspicious. Lemmy claimed they were so badly off they had to steal equipment and they practiced in a disused furniture warehouse. They recorded some tracks for the United Artists label but the company thought they were so bad they refused to release them.
In the first of what would be a series of personnel changes, Lemmy fired drummer Lucas Fox and replaced him with Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. He later replaced guitarist Larry Wallis with “Fast” Eddie Clarke, completing what many fans consider to be the definitive Motorhead line up.
By 1977 the band were so disillusioned they agreed to split and put on a farewell show at The Marquee in London.
It became a turning point when a record producer at the gig offered them enough studio time to record a single.
Instead the band laid down 13 tracks that formed their first album, entitled Motorhead, which reached No 43 in the UK charts. It’s probably the only rock album with the word “parallelogram” in the lyrics.
Lemmy’s guttural vocals appealed to the fans and the punk influences in their blistering music tapped into the fast-changing music scene in the UK. Indeed Motorhead collaborated with punk outfit The Damned on a few occasions.
It marked the start of the band’s most successful period, which peaked with the release of their fourth album, Ace of Spades, in 1980. The thunderous title track became the band’s definitive anthem and appearances on Top of the Pops helped it stay in the UK charts for 12 weeks. During the following three decades the band released no fewer than 17 further albums.
Lemmy stuck with the music formula of fast, driving rock that he’d adopted at the band’s inception.
Despite a horde of imitators he also rejected any notion that Motorhead were a metal band, insisting that what they played was pure rock and roll.
Lemmy never made any secret of his drug and alcohol intake, which, while prodigious over the years, never seemed to sap his appetite for recording and playing. In 2005 he was invited to address the Welsh assembly on the perils of drug-taking, and took the opportunity to call for the legalization of heroin to remove the drug dealer from society.
In the same year Motorhead picked up a Grammy for their cover of Metallica’s Whiplash.
“It’s about bloody time,” was Lemmy’s response. “Nobody deserves it more, although I’m too modest to say it.”
Aside from his musical skills, Lemmy was well known for his hard living lifestyle and regular consumption of alcohol and amphetamines. Lemmy was also noted for his collection of Nazi memorabilia and use of Nazi symbolism, although he stated that he did not support Nazi ideals.
One of the band’s last performances was a storming set at Glastonbury.
On a 1988 tour of Finland, Lemmy was asked by one journalist why he had kept going for so long.
“We’re still here,” he replied, “because we should have died a long time ago but we didn’t.”
Lemmy died from cancer on December 28, 2015 at the age of 70.
December 27, 2015 – Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) was born Stephen Carlton Wright on December 20, 1947 in Leeds, England. When he was 9, his family moved to Melbourne, Australia and four years later to Sydney where they lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel. He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws, and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells, which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music, but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.
After a Langdells performance, Wright met the Dutch-born Johan van den Berg (later Harry Vanda), who was staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel, and his landsman Dingeman van der Sluys (later Dick Diamonde)., this introduction was arranged by their first manager a man named Alan Kissick. The pair convinced Wright to form a band with Vandenberg’s friend and fellow hostel resident Scottish-born George Young. Together with another Englishman, Gordon “Snowy” Fleet, they formed the Easybeats in mid-1964. The initial line-up of the Easybeats was Diamonde on bass guitar, Fleet on drums, Vanda on guitar, Wright on vocals and Young on guitar.
During his time with the Easybeats, Wright was popularly and affectionately known as “Little Stevie”. Early hits for the Easybeats were co-written by Wright with bandmate Young, including, “She’s So Fine” (No. 3, 1965), “Wedding Ring” (No. 7, 1965), “Women (Make You Feel Alright)” (No. 4, 1966), “Come and See Her” (No. 3, 1966), “I’ll Make You Happy” (track on Easyfever EP, No. 1, 1966), and “Sorry” (No. 1, 1966).
He was lead vocalist on their international monster hit “Friday on My Mind”, which peaked at No. 1 in Australia in 1966 and it in to the top Ten in UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy and the US in 1967. In 2001, the song was voted the Best Australian Song of All Time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association. Wright was renowned for his energetic stage performance, which included acrobatic back-flips and mod dance moves.
“Stevie would hurl himself off stage he would catapult, he would somersault, it was an extraordinary thing to witness, he gave everything.”
They recorded several more hits including Sorry, She’s So Fine, Wedding Ring, and Good Times, which was covered in the late 1990s by INXS and Jimmy Barnes.
The Easybeats broke up in 1969 with Vanda & Young becoming freelance musicians, songwriters and producers and Wright became a top solo artist.
He formed the band Rachette and produced Bootleg’s debut single, “Whole World Should Slow Down.” He performed with Rachette at the Odyssey Music Festival in 1971, before briefly joining Likefun in Perth. He returned to Sydney to perform in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar and stayed with the production from 1971-1973. During 1972 he also performed with Black Tank and appeared on the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, released in 1973.
He then began work on his solo debut album Hard Road with Easybeats’ songwriters Harry Vanda and George Young, who had returned from the UK and were now staff producers and songwriters at Albert Productions. For his Live work he formed Stevie Wright & the Allstars.
In April 1974 his debut solo LP, Hard Road, was released which featured the single “Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” The song was written and produced by Vanda & Young and it became a hit—the only 11-minute song to chart at No. 1 anywhere in the world. and is now regarded as an Australian rock classic. Part 1 is subtitled, “Let Your Hair Hang Down”, and part 3 is “I’m Losing You”. Wright performed three concerts at the Sydney Opera House with backing by Vanda, Young and AC/DC’s Malcolm Young (George Young’s brother).
Long before MEATLOAF sang his Triple-Song Rock Anthem, PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS …..
Many years ahead of VANGELIS and his Multi-Themed, Storytelling narrative, FRIENDS OF MR. CAIRO …..
Australian Rocker STEVIE WRIGHT sped through our heads with his 1975 ….. 11 Minute,Triple-Songed, torch, love rock ballad EVIE. With it Stevie Wright became one of Australia’s biggest rock stars of the 70s and delivering one of the greatest rock songs of all-time, the epic ‘Evie’.
Wright fell on hard times after the follow-up ‘Black Eyed Bruiser’ album of 1975 failed to chart.
The All Stars left to back John Paul Young in 1975 so Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band but, by this time, Wright’s drug addiction had begun to curtail his career. By 1976 Wright was addicted to heroin, which he had reportedly begun using during his time in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
He was hospitalised and undertook methadone treatment. His mental health suffered further after his self-admission to the notorious Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney. A psychiatrist, Harry Bailey, administered a highly controversial treatment known as deep sleep therapy which was alleged to treat drug addiction by a combination of drug-induced coma and electroconvulsive therapy. Many patients, including Wright, suffered brain damage and lifelong after-effects. The scandal was later exposed and Bailey committed suicide.
He performed a few gigs with Sacha in 1976 and performed “Evie” alongside performances by the cream of Australian pop and rock at the Concert of the Decade in November 1979, captured on the double album Concert of the Decade (1980).
In 1982, Wright returned to the studio with his former Easybeats buddies Vanda & Young to record vocals for their project Flash & The Pan and the ‘Headlines’ album for the songs ‘Where Were You’ and ‘Waiting For A Train’. That same year there was talk of an Easybeats’ reunion. Wright told Juke Magazine in 1983 “we had our lawyers working out the deal” because there was a venue interested in having them “but at the last minute they tried to change the venue and we just said ‘forget it’.
His career, however, soon derailed again when Wright appeared in court charged with housebreaking in January 1984 while undergoing drug rehabilitation. Wright was arrested for heroin use in the same month after being found unconscious in a hotel toilet. The Easybeats reformed for a successful six-week national tour in October 1986. Wright formed the band Hard Rain in 1988 and released the album Striking It Rich in 1991. With his health declining, Wright gave his final performance with Hard Rain at Sydney’s Coogee Bay Hotel on April 4, 1992.
Wright went on to battle drug and alcohol addiction for another decade before settling on the Australia’s south coast.
In 2012 he appeared on the ABC’s Australian Story program, when he spoke about the devastation caused by his long-term drug addictions. He said if he had his time again, he “wouldn’t pick up any hard drugs”.
“It does destroy. Because it’s all inside anyway, all, all the things in the mind and the power that you think the drugs are going to add to, and they don’t at all, they take everything away,” he said.
“Never touch hard drugs. You blow your marriage, blow your jobs, blow your friends. You can’t do that you know. It just doesn’t work.”
In 2005 Wright was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame for his success with The Easybeats.
Wright’s last performance was at the Legends of Rock Festival at Byron Bay in 2009.
Wright contracted pneumonia on the second day of Christmas (Boxing Day) and perished a day later on December 27, 2015 at the age of 68.
• “Stevie will be sadly missed by all who knew him and countless more who did not know him but loved his music,” Mr Albert said in a statement. (Albert Productions)
“We have lost one of Australia’s greatest front men who has left an indelible mark on our musical landscape. He could take any audience and absolutely slay them with his energy.”
• Fellow Australian singer Normie Rowe remembered Wright as “an amazing performer”.
“The Easybeats were one of the most remarkable pop bands of their time, and I think probably recorded the definitive pop song of the era in Friday On My Mind,” he said.
• 1960s singer-songwriter and Young Talent Time host Johnny Young said Wright was “one of the greatest rock n’ roll stars” ever produced in Australia.
“Stevie was a wonderful musician, a great songwriter,” he said.
“He lived a pretty rugged life at the end of it.
“Everybody knew he had some serious addictions that he had huge problems with, but I like to remember Stevie as he was when he was younger.”
• Aside from tracks for the Easybeats, Wright and George Young also wrote “Step Back” for Johnny Young which peaked at No. 1.
Very unusual for 1967, when everything on TV was lip-synch, this video covers a live performance of the song Friday on my Mind in a German TV program called “BeatClub”.
Scott Weiland was born Scott Richard Kline on October 27, 1967 in San José, California. At age 5 he became Weiland when his stepfather adopted him. Moving between Ohio and SoCal in the first 15 years of his life he emerged from the San Diego area as Mighty Joe Young. Weiland’s band landed a contract with Atlantic Records, changed its name to Stone Temple Pilots and cashed in on the burgeoning grunge scene. They took the name Stone Temple Pilots due to their fondness of the initials “STP”.
The band’s early success with its debut album, Core, and the rock radio smashes “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush,” “Creep,” and “Wicked Garden,” earned the attention of rock royalty, landing the band an opening spot of some dates of the Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge” tour in 1994. Aside from opening with the Stones, Weiland also found himself rubbing shoulders with other notable rockers, including Gene Simmons of KISS, Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin, and Rob Zombie, at events like Rock for Choice in 1993. In the summer of 1993, STP was one of the top attractions on the Weenie Roast, the annual summer concert held by Los Angeles radio station KROQ, where the band’s music remained a staple through the ‘90s and beyond.
In one of the band’s first opening performances as Mighty Joe Young, they opened for Electric Love Hogs, whose drummer Dave Kushner would one day co-found Weiland’s later band Velvet Revolver.
In 1994, STP released their second record, Purple, which saw the development of a more distinctive identity for the band. Like Core, Purple was a big success for the band, spawning three hit singles (“Big Empty”, “Vasoline” and “Interstate Love Song”) and selling more than six million copies. The critical response to Purple was more favorable, with Spin magazine calling it a “quantum leap” from the band’s previous album.
In 1995, Weiland, always instantly bored with unchanging scenarios, formed the alternative rock band The Magnificent Bastards.
The band included Victor Indrizzo on drums, Zander Schloss and Jeff Nolan on guitars and Bob Thompson on bass. Only two songs were recorded by The Magnificent Bastards, “Mockingbird Girl,” composed by Nolan, Schloss, and Weiland, appeared in the film Tank Girl and on its soundtrack, and a cover of John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?” was recorded for the tribute album, Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon.
Weiland rejoined Stone Temple Pilots in the fall of 1995, but STP was forced to cancel most of their 1996–1997 tour in support of their third release, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, which sold about two million albums. Weiland encountered problems with drug addiction at this time as well, which inspired some of his songs in the late-1990s.
Weiland liked to shake things up by kissing his bandmates in front of the camera. In a 1993 photo, he was captured locking lips with STP drummer Eric Kretz. The band’s early success earned them a spot on MTV’s acclaimed Unplugged series in 1994. By 1998, Weiland was in full rock-star mode, saluting photographers with a single finger and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
While STP went on hiatus once again after the release of Tiny Music…, Weiland released a solo album in 1998 called 12 Bar Blues. Weiland wrote most of the songs on the album, and collaborated with several artists, notably Daniel Lanois, Sheryl Crow, Brad Mehldau and Jeff Nolan. In 1999, STP regrouped once again and released No. 4. The album contained the hit single “Sour Girl” which featured a surreal music video with Sarah Michelle Gellar. That same year, Weiland also recorded two songs with the short-lived supergroup The Wondergirls. During this time period Weiland spent five months in jail for drug possession.
In November 2000, Weiland was invited to perform on the show VH1 Storytellers with the surviving members of The Doors. Weiland did vocals on two Doors songs, “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” and “Five to One”. That same month Stone Temple Pilots appeared on The Doors tribute CD, Stoned Immaculate with their own rendition of “Break on Through” as the lead track. On June 19, 2001, STP released its fifth album, Shangri-La Dee Da. That same year the band headlined the Family Values Tour along with Linkin Park and Staind. In late 2002, the band broke up with the DeLeo brothers and Weiland having had significant altercations back stage.
In 2002, former Guns N’ Roses members – guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum – as well as former Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner were looking for a singer to help form a new band. Throughout his career Weiland had become acquainted with the four musicians; he became friends with McKagan after attending the same gym, was in rehab at the same time as Sorum and once played on the same bill as Kushner. Weiland was sent two discs of material to work with, but felt that the first disc “sounded like Bad Company gone wrong.” When he was sent the second disc, Weiland was more positive, comparing it to Core-era Stone Temple Pilots though he turned them down because Stone Temple Pilots had not yet separated. When Stone Temple Pilots disbanded in 2003 they went into the studio and in 2004 released the album Contraband which debuted number one on the Billboard 200 and sold over 3 million copies.
Their second album in 2007, Libertad, received mixed critical awareness. Though some critics praised the album and felt that Libertad gave the band an identity of their own, outside of the Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots comparisons, others described the album as “bland” and noted that the band seem to be “playing to their strengths instead of finding a collective sound.”
Weiland was definitely an over the top narcissistic persona, so when his former STP bandmember Dean DeLeo discussed an offer from a concert promoter to headline several summer festivals, Weiland accepted and said he had cleared the brief tour with his Velvet Revolver bandmates. He explained, “everything was cool. Then it wasn’t”, and said the rest of the band stopped talking to him.
Another version of this story reads:
According to Dean DeLeo, steps toward a Stone Temple Pilots reunion started with a simple phone call from Weiland’s wife. She invited the DeLeo brothers to play at a private beach party, which led to the reconciliation of Weiland and the DeLeo brothers. However, Weiland said in a 2010 radio interview to promote the band’s self-titled release that the reunion was the result of Dean calling him and asking if he’d be interested in reuniting the band to headline the Coachella Festival.
In any case on March 20, 2008 Weiland revealed at Velvet Revolver’s show in Glasgow, Scotland that this would be the band’s final tour. After several flares on their personal blogs and in interviews, on April 1 it was announced by a number of media outlets that Weiland would no longer be in Velvet Revolver.
And the controversies continue
In 2008, Stone Temple Pilots announced a 73-date U.S. tour on April 7 and performed together for the first time since 2002. STP’s reunion tour was a success, and the band continued to tour throughout 2009 and began recording its sixth studio album. STP’s first album since 2001, Stone Temple Pilots, was released on May 25, 2010.
In September 2010, STP announced it was rescheduling several U.S. tour dates so that the band could take a “short break.” Instead STP toured Southeast Asia for the first time in 2011, followed by Australia.
The band said they were interested in a 20th anniversary tour to celebrate the release of Core with Weiland commenting on January 2, 2012, “Well, we’re doing a lot of special things. There’s a lot of archival footage that we’re putting together, a coffee table book, hopefully a brand new album – so many ideas. A box set and then a tour, of course.” Yet also in that same month of January guitarist Dave Kushner announced Velvet Revolver would reunite with Weiland for the first time in four years for a one night, three song gig to raise money for the family of recently deceased musician John O’Brien. On what the future would hold for the band and Weiland, Kushner replied “We haven’t played together in four years, and so we’re really just like, ‘Let’s see how this goes.” Three months later Weiland remarks that he would like to reunite permanently with Velvet Revolver, comparing that “if Maynard James Keenan can do it with A Perfect Circle and Tool, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go and do it with both bands”. Further in May in an interview with ABC Radio Weiland said that he had reunited with the band permanently for a tour and an album, which however was denied a few days later by Slash in an interview with 93x.
STP began to experience problems in 2012 that were said to have been caused by tensions between Weiland and the rest of the band. Despite the band’s claims that their fall tour would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Core, this did not happen. On February 27, 2013, shortly before this solo tour was set to commence, Stone Temple Pilots announced on their website that “[…]they [had] officially terminated Scott Weiland”.
Weiland in turn criticized the band after they hired Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington as his replacement, claiming he was still a member and they shouldn’t be calling themselves Stone Temple Pilots without him and the Velvet Revolver reunification never happened either.
So Weiland, next to his solo album projects including a full blown Christmas album in 2011, started a new project with Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, with a tour titled “Purple at the Core” commencing in March 2013 with pop/rock band MIGGS as the opening act, and an album titled “Blaster” finally released on March 31, 2015. Less than a week after the release his guitarist Jeremy Brown was found dead at his home at age 34.
On December 3, 2015, Weiland was found in cardiac arrest on his tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota. Drugs are suspected but not proven yet. Many see Scott Weiland as one of the three voices of the grunge generation, next to Kurt Cobain (died at age 27 on estimated April 5, 1994 and Layne Staley (died at age 34 on April 5, 2002). Just sad to consider that 3 of that generation’s voices couldn’t stay away from drugs and depression.
A day following his death, his former bandmates in Stone Temple Pilots issued a statement saying, “Dear Scott Let us start by saying thank you for sharing your life with us. Together we crafted a legacy of music that has given so many people happiness and great memories. The memories are many, and they run deep for us. We know amidst the good and the bad you struggled, time and time again. It’s what made you who you were. You were gifted beyond words, Scott. Part of that gift was part of your curse. With deep sorrow for you and your family, we are saddened to see you go. All of our love and respect. We will miss you brother, Robert, Eric, Dean.”
October 3, 2015 – Singer Billy Joe Royal, best known for his pop hit “Down in the Boondocks” and a string of country singles in the 1980s,was born April 3, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia.
As a young man he performed on the radio program “Georgia Jubilee,” which is where he met artists like Jerry Reed and Joe South. It was fellow Georgian Joe South who penned Mr. Royal’s 1965 breakout single, “Down in the Boondocks,” which peaked at No. 9. Royal would also find success with his follow-up single: another South-penned song, called “I Knew You When.”
During the mid-1980s, his career was revitalized when he signed with Atlantic Records and began releasing country songs. In late 1985, Royal notched his first Top 10 country single with “Burned Like a Rocket,” though the song was reportedly pulled from the radio after the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy of January 1986. He followed “Rocket” with several country hits including “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow,” “Tell It Like It Is,” and “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore.” He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
Mr. Royal’s soulful voice was still in fine form, and he continued to tour in recent years. His final live performance was 12 days before his passing on Sept. 24, 2015 at the Gwinnett County Fair in Georgia, the state in which he was raised and where he discovered his love of music. Taylor said that Mr. Royal had planned to spend some time off the road in the coming weeks in order to spend time with his daughter, a student at NC State University.
He is survived by his ex-wife, Michelle Royal, with whom he was still close, daughter Savannah Royal, and two stepsons, Trey and Joey Riverbank. Funeral arrangements will be announced this week. He learned to play steel guitar and joined the Georgia Jubilee in Atlanta at 14, performing with Joe South, Jerry Reed, and Ray Stevens, among several other artists. Royal had his own rock & roll band in high school and was regularly singing around Atlanta by the age of 16.
He also spent time in Savannah, where he was influenced by African-American vocal styles and began to develop his distinctive vocal sound. Performing at a nightclub that also booked Sam Cooke and other African-American stars, Royal observed their vocal moves and began to practice them on his own time. In 1962, he recorded an independent single that went unnoticed. Royal and South roomed together for a time, and two or three years later South contacted him with a song he wanted Royal to sing as a demo, in the hope that Gene Pitney would record it. Royal flew from Cincinnati (where he was working at the time) to Atlanta and cut “Down in the Boondocks,” whose churchy echo resulted from the use during recording of a large septic tank that had been dragged into the studio.
The demo ended up at Columbia, and the label signed Royal to a six-year deal. The song becameRoyal’s breakthrough single, reaching number nine on the pop charts and briefly making the vocalist into a teen idol. F
ollowing its success, Royal had a string of lesser hits, including the Top 40 pop singles “I Knew You When,” “I’ve Got to Be Somebody,” and “Cherry Hill Park.” By the end of the decade, Royal’s star waned, and he became a regular performer in Las Vegas and around Lake Tahoe. He also did a bit of acting on television, in feature films, and in commercials. In 1978, he recorded a cover of “Under the Boardwalk” and scored a minor hit.
The wrong-side-of-the-tracks theme of “Down in the Boondocks” was a familiar one to country audiences, and during the early ’80s Royal worked on establishing himself as a country artist. In 1984, he broke through when he recorded the Gary Burr composition “Burned Like a Rocket”; it was picked up by the Atlantic label, which signed Royal to a contract. The single became a hit and reached the country Top Ten in early 1986. Over the next two years he had a string of Top 40 hits, breaking into the Top Ten in late 1987 once again with “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow.” In 1989, Royal released the album Tell It Like Is; the title cut, a remake of the venerable soul standard, became his biggest hit, peaking at number two, while the album itself stayed in the Top 15 for over a year.
By 1990, Royal’s style of pop-inflected country had been replaced by neo-traditional honky tonk at the top of the charts, and his popularity began to decline. He continued to have minor hits into 1992 and toured into the 2000s. Royal launched a comeback with the 1998 album Stay Close to Home on the Intersound label, following up with the independent release Now and Then, Then and Now in 2001. “I know exactly what George Jones feels. But I know exactly what Ray Charles feels, too,” Royal once said, and by the beginning of the new century, a host of reissues of Royal’s work testified to his status as a vocal craftsman whose success transcended genre.
Truth be known, the Joe South penned song “Hush” made Billy Joe Royal a celebrity rockstar across the globe.
He passed away on October 6, 2015 at age 73.
Although she was an aspiring entertainer, in the early 60’s Cilla was working as a typist, a waitress, and as a hat check girl at the Cavern in Liverpoool, the same venue where the Beatles were performing and beginning to draw attention at that time. She performed at times with some local Liverpool bands including Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and The Big Three, and received encouragement from her friends in the Beatles. An article in the local music newspaper Mersey Beat mis-identifed her as Cilla Black, and Cilla liked the name and decided to keep it as a stage name. She was signed to a recording contract by Brian Epstein, then went to the Parlophone label, where her records were produced by George Martin. Her first single was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and titled Love Of The Loved. It made it to number 35 on the UK chart.
She was still raw as a singer and producer George Martin initially had his doubts, but he worked with her and she worked hard to become a good singer, with a strong voice. In February of 1964 Cilla’s recording of Anyone Who Had A Heart, a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, became her first smash hit, reaching number 1 in the UK. (It didn’t even make the top forty in the US however, due to the recording by Dionne Warwick of the same song, which made the US top ten.)
In the summer of that same year, which some might say was the most competitive year ever in the history of British pop, Cilla came up with her second number one hit in the UK with You’re My World. This was to be her only top forty hit in the US, moving to number 26. She continued to sell many, many records in the UK throughout the 60’s. Included in these were recordings that she made at Abbey Road Studios such as Alfie, the Lennon-McCartney composition It’s For You, Love’s Just A Broken Heart, Don’t Answer Me, Surround Yourself With Sorrow, Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight), and Randy Newman’s I’ve Been Wrong Before.
Cilla actually went on to become the second-largest selling recording artist to come out of Liverpool, and her version of Anyone Who Had A Heart remains as the biggest selling single of the 60’s by a British female singer.
Cilla moved into British television in the late 60’s, hosting her own show on the BBC with a theme song written by Paul McCartney, Step Inside Love. Her work in television seemed to polarize the public — many loved her, while others rejected her. She had a girl-next-door image. Her final hit on the British chart came in 1974 with Baby We Can’t Go Wrong, but her career as an entertainer continued into the twenty-first century. All of Cilla’s chart hits are contained on the album Best of Cilla Black; her best album ever may be Cilla Sings A Rainbow, from 1966.
Cilla had a brief career as a comedy actress in the 70’s, and hosted her own BBC television program beginning in 1968 and lasting for nearly a decade. The show was quite popular and featured many of the biggest stars of the time. Eventually she was managed by songwriter Bobby Willis, whom she married. The marriage produced four children and lasted for over thirty years until Willis’ death in 1999.
Although her days of selling records had fallen into decline, Cilla performed in concert and on the cabaret circuit for a time, and remained a popular television personality for decades, at times hosting game shows.
On August 1, 2015 Cilla fell at her villa near Estepona, Spain, suffered a stroke, and died. She was 72.
He began singing and writing in a doo-wop group, the Monterays, later renamed as the Desires, and, after Maresca left, as the Regents, who had a hit with “Barbara Ann”.
In 1957, his demo of his song “No One Knows” came to the attention of Dion DiMucci, who recorded it successfully with the Belmonts on Laurie Records, the record reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart in 1958.
Ernie Maresca was a fairly successful songwriter in the New York doo wop/rock & roll scene in the first half of the 1960s, most known for writing several of Dion’s biggest hits (by himself or in collaboration with Dion): “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” “Lovers Who Wander,” “A Lover’s Prayer,” and “Donna the Prima Donna.” He also wrote for a great deal of other artists throughout the 1960s, usually in a style that combined doo wop with the developing sounds of girl groups or Dion’s boastful Bronx pop/rock; the Regents’ modest modern doo wop hit “Runaround” was the biggest of these. Although he didn’t think of himself as a singer, and was an average nondescript vocalist at best, he was persuaded to record as a solo artist. In mid-1962, he ended up with his one and only hit under his own name, “Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out).” A fun if extremely basic rocker that used the same chord pattern that anchored Dion hits like “Runaround Sue” and added the dance-rock energy of bands like Joey Dee & the Starliters, it made number six.
Maresca made an album in 1962, and continued to record, without success, for Seville through 1965 and then for Laurie during the remainder of the 1960s. He kept on writing for plenty of artists, too (often on the Laurie roster), and in that capacity had some modest hits with Reparata & the Delrons (“Whenever a Teenager Cries”), Bernadette Carroll (“Party Girl”), and Jimmie Rodgers (“Child of Clay,” co-written with Jimmy Curtiss). While some of his songs for Dion were classics, Maresca was a limited songwriter, many of his compositions limited to variations (or replicas) of the ascending, circular basic doo wop chord structures heard on Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” “Lovers Who Wander,” and “Donna the Prima Donna.” By the 1970s he was head of Laurie Records’ publicity department, which concentrated on reissuing the label’s catalog, and as of 2000 was working as a consultant to EMI and administrator for Laurie’s publishing.
Ernie died at his home in South Florida, after a brief illness on July 8, 2015 at the age of 76.
June 9, 2015 – James Last was born Hans Last on April 17, 1929 in Bremen Germany, the third son for Louis and Martha Last, and christened Hans. His father, a post-office worker, was a keen amateur musician, competent on both drums and bandoneon. He learned to play piano as child, and bass as a teenager. He joined Hans-Gunther Oesterreich’s Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946, when he was 17 years old.
The brothers Last, Robert, Werner and young Hans, enjoyed their game of street football and so father Louis was pleased when all three expressed more than just an passing interest in music.
By the age of nine, young Hans could play “Hanschen Klein”, a German folk song in the piano, but his first music teacher, a lady, claimed at the age of ten he was totally unmusical. A year or so later with tutor number two, a gentleman, things started to happen. At the age of fourteen Hans was off to military school in Frankfurt where he studied brass, piano and tuba.
Hans’ parents were pleased with the appointment. It was hoped that he would emerge from the school as classically trained conductor. After passing his first exam, the school was bombed and the students were evacuated to Buckenburg, just outside Hanover, to continue their training.
Later, Buckenburg was also lost in the war. Hans claims that if he had stayed at Buckenburg, he would have been a conductor of serious music by the time he was twenty three.
After the war, Hans-Gunter Oesterreich, who organised entertainment for the American clubs, signed Hans Last for his first professional engagements. Later, Oesterreich secured a major post with Radio Bremen, and soon, the Last brothers were all working together.
In 1948, they joined forces with Karl-Heinz Becker, and became known as the Last-Becker Ensemble.
Hans was sold on jazz, Woody Herman and Stephan Grapelli being among his favorites. In 1959 Hans Last was voted Germany’s Top Jazz Bassist, a title held until 1953. In 1955 the Last-Becker Ensemble was on the verge of breaking up. At this stage Hansi considered forming his own band, but lack of funds halted this project. Instead they joined the North German Radio Dance Orchestra in Hamburg.
Soon Hans was arranging music for the NDR, he stayed with the NDR until 1964 when he signed a contract for Polydor. He became a much sought after arranger and was soon scoring hits for Caterina Valente, Freddy Quinn, Helmut Zacharias in Hamburg, he even flew to Nashville to record Brenda Lee singing in German.
It was in 1955 that Hans married the attractive Waltraud Wiese from Bremen and by 1958, the Last household had become four, with the birth of a son Ronald and a daughter Caterina.
Soon a couple of albums hit the market. Hans Last and his Orchestra had arrived, but suddenly the next release on the Polydor label featured James Last and his Orchestra. Somebody somewhere within the record company felt that James had more international appeal than Hans.
Now James Last wanted to unleash upon the Germans his new party sound. His idea was to record the top hits of the day, and them hold a party in the studio to build up the atmosphere. In 1965 the Non Stop Dancing sound of James Last was launched.
In 1967, with seven or eight of his early albums making the German charts, and the launch of the Non Stop Dancing series, Polydor produced a budget price sampler album “This is James Last” and suddenly the Last sound was launched worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, this sampler sold for twelve shillings and sixpence. “This is James Last” entered the British album charts on April 15th, 1967, it stayed for forty-eight weeks and reached the number six position. In the U.K. sales topped 400,000. James Last had arrived.
James Last albums were selling by the thousands in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and here in the United Kingdom. Album after album reached the national charts. Whilst on a crest of the wave in Europe, it is reported that in Canada in 1967, five percent of the total record sales were by James Last. By 1969, the success in the record sales was phenomenal, but the Last band was a studio band, and yet to appear live. During 1969 Hans Last was persuaded to take the James Last Orchestra on tour. A four week tour of Germany had been lined up.
Many artists throughout the music business are great on disc, and terrible on stage, and vice-versa. Hansi wanted to recreate on stage the stereo sound which had been so succesful in the studio.
First the services of Peter Klemt were secured, he had succesfully mastered and mixed the early recordings. Peter immediately went out and purchased two mixers, one for the Hanover strings, whom Hansi had hired for the tour, and one for the brass section. The rhythm quartet was in front flanked by the English choir. By the end of the tour, Last was well and truly established. Soon plans were in hand to take the Orchestra to Canada for Expo 69 in Montreal.
1969 was a big year for the James Last Orchestra. In Cannes they received the International Midem Prize, the music industry’s Oscar. In Germany they were voted the number one Orchestra. The Germans gave Hansi the title of “Arranger of the Year”.
In 1970 the Last Orchestra were on the road in Germany again, a tour which had to be lengthened because of the demand for tickets. They toured Denmark and the gold discs were arriving thick and fast.
Now Hansi wanted to conquer the British. The entourage finally arrived in October, 1971. The New Victoria Theatre in London, housed the first concert. Whilst records came at the rate of around six a year, 1972, must have been the most productive year on the road. Another tour of Germany was followed by visits to Russia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. 10,000 fans attended a James Last Voodoo Party in the Hamburg woods.
Last returned to Britain in 1973. The tour included three sell out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall. By the time the 1973, UK tour was under way, twenty seven Last albums have entered the British album charts. After Britain, another tour of Canada and in December 1973, Hansi received his 100th Gold Record. During 1973, we saw the composition of a leissure centre Hansi built for the band at Fintel on Lumberg Heath. Here the band coudl relax and take a few days break, the complex had half a dozen or so bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, sports equipment. All the members in the band were given a key, and the centre was frequently used by many Last musicians to get away and relax after weeks on the road and in the recording studio.
By the mid-seventies Hansi and the James Last Orchestra were established as a top recording artist and sell out concerts attraction around the world. Hansi, was also scoring as a composer. Most Last albums have included a Last composition. In March 1969 Andy Williams entered the U.S. charts with Hansi’s composition “Happy Heart”, it stayed for 22 weeks and reached number seven. Here in May, it reached number nineteen, appearing in the charts for nine weeks. Elvis Presley recorded Hansi’s composition called “No Words”, words were added and “No Words” became “Fool”. “Fool” reached number 23 in the U.K. charts in August 1973 and stayed for seven weeks.
Without any chart success, probably the most famous Last composition is “Games That Lovers Play”. Over 100 recordings available worldwide including versions by Freddy Quinn, Connie Francis and Eddie Fisher.
Although Andy Williams scored with “Happy Heart” the number has been recorded by Petula Clark, Roger Williams, The Gunter Kaftan Choir, The Anita Kerr Singers, Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra and Peggy March.
Television has played a major part in the James Last success story. In 1968 ZDF Television launched a new music spectacular entitled Star Parade. The James Last Orchestra were residents for the 50 shows produced. The biggest names in music all guested on the show; Abba, Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard, Boney M, Roger Whitaker. Many television specials had been produced here in the United Kingdom. In 1971 on their first British tour the BBC took Hansi and the Orchestra along to the Dorchester Hotel, to record a fifty minute special before an invited audience. Dance Night at the Royal Albert Hall was captured by the Beeb, and in 1976 was recorded a the Shepherd Bush studios.
By 1978, the James Last Orchestra, had achieved virtually what they set out to do. Hansi had noticed that at concerts in Great Britain, the audience would get up and dance when he played his non stop dancing titles. The German audiences loved him too, and so later that year Hansi persuaded ZDF Television to come to London, to record a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The show was put together over two nights, each of those two nights some 5000 fans attended and had a ball.
The British fans were on their feet long before the interval, dancing and prancing around the Royal Albert Hall arena to their favourite James Last polkas. The second half was a riot, the fans had invaded the stage, they danced, they sang, and when Hansi asked them to sit on the floor, they sat on the floor and listened to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”.
Whilst seated, they sang “Cockless and Mussels”, “Daisy, Daisy”, and “Abide With Me”. Back on their feet James Last struck up the band and introduced his version of “Dancing Party”, and what a Dancing Party it was, all taking place at a James Last concert and being captured on film.
The show entitled “Live in London” became available on a single album in Germany, a double album in Great Britain. In Germany on television, ZDF presented a ninety minute special, whilst here the BBC gave us two thirty minute shows. On top of that a year or so later, Polydor released the official video, which they sold by the case load. In fact, sales were so good that several dealers listed this video in their top sellers chart.
On April 23rd, 1978 Hansi received the highest award that can be won in Germany. He was awarded the “Bundesverdienstkreuz” by the President of West Germany, for his services to his country.
April 1979, Hansi celebrated his fiftieth birthday in London and the fans presented him with a special birthday cake. In fact, seven cakes shaped into letters and numbers spelling out H-A-N-S-I-5-0. Two days earlier, Hansi’s most successful recording released in Great Britain’s “Last The Whole Night Long” entered the British charts. It reached number two and stayed in the charts for forty five weeks.
The demand for live concerts was as high as ever. Late October 1979, the entourage left Hamburg for a month long tour of Japan. For this special occcasion, Hansi recorded a new album specially for the Japanese market entitled “Paintings”. Last was succesful now almost throughout the whole world. Although Hansi has a home in Florida, success in the U.S. has been limited to one album making eighty in the Billboard Top 100.
In April 1980, “The Seduction” hit the Billboard singles charts. It received air play across the United States, achieved position twenty eight and stayed for six weeks. A month later it made the British charts for four weeks reaching position number forty-eight.
In June 1980, the ZDF Television series “Star Parade” came to a close after 50 minute shows. In September 1980, ZDF launched the “Show Express”, another ninety minute production featuring James Last, but his came to a halt after ten shows.
James Last worldwide album sales cannot be counted – only estimated. However, in Germany, the trade paper Musicmart claimed Last has sold 1,800,000 in Germany in 1979, and an American publication called “They Have Sold A Million” claim estimated worldwide sales in excess of 40 billion. Throughout the sixties and seventies, the Last sound was dominant, hearing a track on the radio, the fans would reply “that is James Last”.
In the eighties, Hansi experimented with some new sounds. His album “Biscaya” strongly featured bandoneon and synthesizer, “Bluebird” featured pan flute and synthesizer, “Deutsche Vita” was mainly electronic. Many fans welcomed the new sounds, sound were disappointed that the Old James Last sound was missing. However, tracks from these albums, became firm favourites and concert show pieces.
Last continued to record around six albums per year. He did not spend so much time on the road, but in the early years of the new millennium he consistently toured the United Kingdom, Belgium and Holland.
In 1987, Last took the Orchestra to East Berlin for four sell out concerts, the East Berliners had a ball. From those four sell out concerts, Polydor released an album “Live in Berlin”, followed by a video. In 1990, James Last joined forces with Richard Clayderman to produce a new album, “Golden Hearts”.
By his own admission Last played as hard as he worked and his memoirs, My Autobiography (2007), revealed a man whose workaholic lifestyle and enthusiastic partying (including struggles with alcohol and serial womanising) blinded him to the demands of his family for many years. He always enjoyed a close relationship with his orchestra, however, many members of which had been with him from the beginning to the end of his career.
When his first wife Waltraud, whom he had married in 1955, died in 1997 he moderated the more excessive aspects of his behaviour, eventually marrying his second wife Christine, with whom he divided his time between homes in Hamburg and Florida. She survives him, with two children of his first marriage.
Songs composed by Last which achieved success in the US include “Happy Heart” and “Music From Across The Way”, both recorded by Andy Williams, “Games That Lovers Play”, recorded by Eddie Fisher, and “Fool”, recorded by Elvis Presley. By the time of his farewell tour in the spring of 2015, Last was reported to have sold well over 200 million albums.
James undertook his final tour months before his death at age 86, upon discovering in September 2014 that a life threatening illness had worsened. His final UK performance was his 90th at London’s Royal Albert Hall, more than any other performer except Eric Clapton.
He died 86 years old on June 9, 2015.
Writing in The Independent, Spencer Leigh suggested once that Last’s Non-Stop Dancing albums “paved the way for disco and dance mixes”. Asked if he minded being labelled the “King of Corn”, Last had replied “No, because it is true”.
Ronnie Gilbert was no stranger to success or to controversy. Born to working-class Jewish parents in New York City, she refused to participate in her 1940s high-school senior play because she was convinced of the racial injustice of the minstrel show theme.
The family moved to Washington, DC during World War II. This is where she met folklorist Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie and other folk singers. She performed in the early 1940s with the Priority Ramblers.
In the 1950s, Gilbert melded her joyous contralto with the radical voices of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman in their celebrated group the Weavers, which brought folk rhythms and social activism to the mainstream, even while being branded as subversives in the hysteria of the McCarthy era and blacklisted. So they were briefly one of the most popular groups in America, but were denied the opportunity to reap the benefits of their fame when they were targeted by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations of suspected Communists and found themselves blacklisted. American folk singer, songwriter, actress and political activist.
In 1963, divorced both from her husband and from the reigning cultural expectations of a wife, Gilbert was beginning to build a solo singing career when she met Joseph Chaikin, then a young actor/director with a fledgling experimental troupe, The Open Theater. After she concentrated on theatre, in 1968 appearing on Broadway in The Man in the Glass Booth.
In the 1970s, Gilbert’s career took yet another surprising turn when she earned an M.A. in clinical psychology and worked as a therapist for a few years.
After a one-off reunion with the Weavers at Carnegie Hall in 1980 Ronnie was coaxed back to folk music in 1983 by the singer Holly Near, who took her on tour as a duo and with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie; they all released an album together in 1985, HARP: A Time To Sing.
The 1980s saw Gilbert make her debut appearance at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, reading a lesbian-themed poem. Gilbert met, was inspired by, and sang with Holly Near, recording Lifeline (live, 1983) and Singing with You (1986) with Near, and Harp (1985) with Near, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.
Gilbert’s debut solo release, The Spirit Is Free (1985) was released on the feminist Redwood label; the live recording of Love Will Find a Way followed, in 1989, on the Abbe Alice label, the collaborative product of a new alliance with manager/partner Donna Korones. In 1990, Gilbert gave the keynote speech at the annual conference of the Association of Women’s Music and Culture (AWMAC). She also performed a one-woman theater piece on the life of the legendary American labor activist Mother Jones.
Intermittent reunions of the Weavers culminated in a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2006. She celebrated her 70th birthday on tour with Holly Near; and was still touring well into her eighties.
Ronnie Gilbert died in Mill Valley, California on June 6, 2015 at the age of 88.
June 3, 2015 – Andrew Maurice Gold was born on August 2, 1951 at Burbank, Los Angeles, into a musical family. His father, Ernest Gold, composed the scores for dozens of Hollywood films, including Exodus (1960) — for which he won an Oscar — Too Much Too Soon (1958) and On The Beach (1959); his mother, the classically-trained soprano Marni Nixon, was best known for supplying the singing voices for film actresses, notably Deborah Kerr in The King And I (1956), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964). She also appeared as Sister Sophia in The Sound Of Music (1965).
Andrew was 13 when he started writing pop songs, although he never learned to read music. At Oakwood School in north Hollywood, he introduced himself to the singer Linda Ronstadt when she played a gig there with her group the Stone Poneys . By the early 1970s he had joined her band, and in 1974 played a variety of instruments and made the musical arrangements for Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough album Heart Like A Wheel, as well as for her next four albums. Among other accomplishments, he played the majority of instruments on “You’re No Good,” Ronstadt’s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the same on “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave” and many other classic hits. He was in her band from 1973 until 1977, and then sporadically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Gold was a multi-instrumentalist who played guitar, bass, keyboards, accordion, synthesizer, harmonica, saxophone, flute, drums and percussion, and more arcane musical devices such as ukulele, musette, and harmonium. He was also a member of the Los Angeles band Bryndle, alongside Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman and Karla Bonoff, releasing the single “Woke Up This Morning” in 1970.
Branching out as a record producer and musician, Gold recorded with Art Garfunkel on his solo hit I Only Have Eyes For You (1977), on which Gold played all the instruments; in the same year he played on Eric Carmen’s album Boats Against The Current, from which the track She Did It was a minor chart hit. Over the years he worked with many other major artists, among them John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Cher, James Taylor, Carly Simon and The Eagles.
In the early Eighties, Gold produced, co-wrote, sang and played on three 10cc tracks that appeared on the hit-making pop-rock band’s 1981 album Ten Out of 10. Subsequently, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman of 10cc invited Gold to become a member of the group. Although he had worked with them in the studio, business conflicts prevented him from actually joining their ranks.
In late 1983, 10cc broke up, and in the aftermath, Gold and Gouldman formed Wax. Wax recorded and toured for five years. They enjoyed international success, particularly in the U.K. where the duo had several Top 10 hits including “Right Between the Eyes” and their biggest hit “Bridge to Your Heart.” Wax broke up as a recording and touring entity in 1989, but Gold and Gouldman continued to write and record together when possible.
Gold played on Cher’s hit 1989 album Heart of Stone and, during the early ’90s, wrote and composed hits for Trisha Yearwood as well as Wynonna Judd, for whom he co-wrote the #1 single “I Saw The Light” with Lisa Angelle. (Later, Gold would produce Angelle on her own album, which featured a number of songs on whose authorship and composition they collaborated.) He also produced singles for Vince Gill, wrote and produced tracks for Celine Dion, and arranged a cover of the Everly Brothers’s hit “All I Have to Do Is Dream” that was sung by stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen in the 1984 science-fiction film Starman.
In the 1990s, Gold once again joined forces with ex-bandmates Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman and Kenny Edwards to re-form Bryndle and finally release their first full-length album, Bryndle.
In 1996, Gold left Bryndle and released the children’s Halloween-oriented novelty album Halloween Howls with John Waite, featuring the track “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” The same year, he released the solo album ….Since 1951, and produced Stephen Bishop’s Blue Guitar album. Thereafter, he recorded the psychedelic ’60s tribute album Greetings from Planet Love under the pseudonym “The Fraternal Order Of The All,” and released it on his own record label, “QBrain Records.” This album was a multi-tracked solo affair with Gold essentially playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals on original songs in the style of Gold’s favorite 1960s bands such as The Beatles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys.
He produced, composed, and/or wrote tracks for numerous films, such as the comedy Rectuma from director Mark Pirro, and contributed songs to many television soundtracks and commercials. Among his more high-profile gigs, he sang “Final Frontier,” the theme song for the television sitcom Mad About You. In a remarkable turn of events, his rendition of the song was used as the wake-up call for the Mars Pathfinder space probe in 1996. Gold also produced seven albums for Japanese singer-songwriter Eikichi Yazawa.
During 2000, Gold compiled a Wax rarities album, House of Wax on Wax, as well as recording and releasing a new solo album The Spence Manor Suite; this last was followed in 2002 by another solo collection, Intermission. He appeared in a 2006 concert with the classic rock group America, and singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, and the performance was later released as a DVD titled “America And Friends – Live at the Ventura Theater.” The show featured Gold performing “Thank You for Being a Friend,” “Final Frontier,” “Bridge to Your Heart” and “Lonely Boy,” as well as accompanying America and Bishop on guitar and vocals. Gold had earlier produced America’s Holiday Harmony Christmas album back in 2002, wherein he also played most of the instruments and co-wrote the track “Christmas in California.”
In the 1990s Gold, recording under a pseudonym, released an album of original songs in the style of his favourite Sixties’ bands, among them The Beatles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys. He was also a prolific composer of music for commercials and of film and television soundtracks.
From 1985, Cindy Fee’s version of Thank You For Being A Friend was used as the theme song for the American sitcom The Golden Girls.
In 1996 Gold’s was the first human voice to be “heard” on the surface of Mars, when Final Frontier, his theme from the American television series Mad About You, was used to activate a robot for the Mars Pathfinder space probe.
Andrew Gold died on June 3, 2011 from an apparent heart attack at age 59.
May 6, 2015 – Lester Errol Brown was born on December 11, 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his family, to the UK when he was twelve years old. In the late 60s, Errol and his friend Tony Wilson formed a band which was first called ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ but this was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, but Errol was told he needed permission. He was contacted by Apple Records, discovered that Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended. But it was in the disco era of the mid-1970s when Hot Chocolate became a big success. A combination of high production standards, the growing confidence of the main songwriting team of Errol and Tony Wilson and tight harmonies enabled them to secure further big hits such as “You Sexy Thing” and “Every 1’s a Winner”, which were also U.S. hits, peaking at No.3 in 1976 and No.6 in 1979, respectively. After Tony’s departure for a solo career, Errol took over songwriting duties on his own.
In 1977, after 15 hits, they finally reached Number One with “So You Win Again”. The band became the only group, and one of just three acts, that had a hit in every year of the 1970s in the UK charts, the others being Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. The band eventually had at least one hit, every year, between 1970 and 1984. Critically, they were often lambasted or simply ignored, and apart from compilations their albums such as Cicero Park sold modestly.
The band continued well into the 1980s, and clocked up another big hit record: “It Started With a Kiss”, in 1982, which reached Number 5 in the UK. In all, the group charted 25 UK Top 40 hit singles. Their single “You Sexy Thing” became the only track that made British Top Ten status in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
In 1981, he performed at the wedding reception following the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, at Buckingham Palace and when Hot Chocolate disbanded in 1986, Errol began to concerntrate more on his solo career.
Two of his singles “Personal Touch” and “Body Rockin'”made the UK Singles Chart. Errol was highly honored in 2003, when Queen Elizabeth II named him a Member of the Order of the British Empire for “services to popular music for the United Kingdom”. Then honored again the following year in 2004, he received an Ivor Novello Award for outstanding contributions to British music.
He died of liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on May 6, 2015 at the age of 71.
April 30, 2015 – Benjamin Earl ‘Ben E’ King was born on September 28, 1938, became perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a US Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the UK in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group the Drifters.
When you think of Ben E. King, you don’t think of teenage crushes, even though his songs were the soundtrack for hundreds of millions of them. You think of eternal life and everlasting love, or at least the desire for these things.
“Among all the kids singing back then, Ben was the most mature-sounding young man,” songwriter/producer Mike Stoller told Jazzwax in 2012. “His delivery and the timbre of his voice was advanced beyond his years. Most of the young kids singing back then sounded like, well, kids. Ben had a style that was akin to Arthur Prysock or Billy Eckstine. His sound was settled. It wasn’t in a hurry. That was a wonderful characteristic about Ben.”
King said that he was “never supposed to be a lead singer” because, as a baritone, his role was to provide backup, but once he was unexpectedly drafted to sing lead on the Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby,” an unlikely baritone star was born. His vocal sound was so settled and timeless that pop fans tended to either assume King was already long-dead or would never die.
He passed away Thursday April 30, 2015 of natural causes at 76, just a little more than a month after “Stand by Me” was selected for induction into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Here are parts of the stories behind a few of his most beloved recordings:
STAND BY ME
“Stand by Me” was very loosely based on a gospel song, transferring that spiritual craving into the yearning to have earthly fidelity survive even longer than the hereafter. That was a lot of weight for one young man still in his early 20s to carry, but King could shoulder it.
According to the documentary History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself when he wrote it. King had written it for The Drifters, who passed on recording it. After the “Spanish Harlem” recording session, he had some studio time left over. The session’s producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if he had any more songs. King played “Stand by Me” on the piano for them. They liked it and called the studio musicians back in to record it.
Stoller recalls it differently:
I remember arriving at our office as Jerry and Ben were working on lyrics for a new song. King had the beginnings of a melody that he was singing a cappella. I went to the piano and worked up the harmonies, developing a bass pattern that became the signature of the song. Ben and Jerry quickly finished the lyrics …
In another interview, Stoller said:
Ben E. had the beginnings of a song—both words and music. He worked on the lyrics together with Jerry, and I added elements to the music, particularly the bass line. To some degree, it’s based on a gospel song called “Lord Stand By Me”. I have a feeling that Jerry and Ben E. were inspired by it. Ben, of course, had a strong background in church music. He’s a 50% writer on the song, and Jerry and I are 25% each…. When I walked in, Jerry and Ben E. were working on the lyrics to a song. They were at an old oak desk we had in the office. Jerry was sitting behind it, and Benny was sitting on the top. They looked up and said they were writing a song. I said, “Let me hear it.”… Ben began to sing the song a cappella. I went over to the upright piano and found the chord changes behind the melody he was singing. It was in the key of A. Then I created a bass line. Jerry said, “Man that’s it!” We used my bass pattern for a starting point and, later, we used it as the basis for the string arrangement created by Stanley Applebaum.
“Stand by Me”, “There Goes My Baby”, and “Spanish Harlem” were named as three of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll;and each of those records plus “Save The Last Dance For Me” has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
THERE GOES MY BABY
This is the song that got it all started for Ben E. King. He was part of a group called the 5 Crowns that was drafted wholesale to replace the Drifters when a previous incarnation of that combo was fired by their manager in 1958. The all-new Drifters recorded “There Goes My Baby” as their first single and had it soar to No. 2 on the pop chart and go No. 1 at R&B. This, despite the fact that it has a slick, strings-laded sound that confused King when he first heard it coming together in the studio, despite the fact that he was a co-writer with renowned producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
“Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had came up with a new concept of black music and black singers, and it took off and it never turned back,” King said in an interview with the TV program In the Groove. “It was the first time that strings was used successfully in a recording such as that… Their whole arrangement and concept of the song ‘There Goes My Baby’ has nothing to do with what I actually heard when I first wrote it. The only thing I owned about the song is the lyrics, because their arrangement was completely left field (and had) nothing to do with gospel at all the way, they arranged it…
Our lead singer was Charlie Thomas, and because he was having trouble with the lyrics, that’s how I became a lead singer anyway. I was never supposed to be a lead singer, ever. There never should have been a Ben E. King in life because I was a baritone singer. I was the one that did the steps and watched the girls while the other guys had the responsibility of making the song happen. I was not that guy. I had no intentions of being that guy but as luck would have it or not, Charlie Thomas couldn’t do the song. Jerry Wexler got upset about it and said, ‘Who wrote the song?’ And they pointed at me. And he said, ‘Well, if he wrote it, let him sing it.’”
The world has certainly stood by this song: It’s BMI’s third most-played song of all time.
“Of all the songs I wrote or co-wrote in my career, this is my favorite,” King told the Guardian. “It came at a strange time, though. I’d just left the Drifters and had to plead with Ahmet Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records, to find a place for me.”
Ertegun put him back to work with Leiber and Stoller, the architects of “There Goes My Baby,” which King described as “like a schooling for me – a kid from Harlem who knew nothing about anything.” This time, he was the principal writer on the song, although his mentors added crucial musical elements.
“It was 1960, but in my vocal I think you can hear something of my earlier times when I’d sing in subway halls for the echo, and perform doo-wop on street corners. But I had a lot of influences, too – singers like Sam Cooke, Brook Benton, and Roy Hamilton. The song’s success lay in the way Leiber and Stoller took chances, though, borrowing from symphonic scores.”
It was a combination of the symphony and gospel, really. Stoller remembers the lyrical concept being a thinly disguised variation on a gospel classic, “Lord, Stand by Me.” King, for his part, said he borrowed it from another gospel song, “Lord, I’m Standing By.” Whatever the inspiration, the Lord worked in not-so-mysterious ways in making this plea for earthly faithfulness into one of the most cherished songs of the 20th century.
Amazingly, “Spanish Harlem” came out of the same exceedingly fruitful session as “Stand by Me.” King admitted that he thought the lyrics about a “rose” might be a bit too, well, flowery when he first heard them. King said his natural vocal style came out of gospel music, where the same phrase might be repeated over and over for maximum effect.
And then Leiber and Stoller “would take me and say, do this song: ‘There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, a red rose up in Spanish Harlem. It is the special one, it’s never seen the sun, it only comes out when the moon is on the run, and all the stars are gleaming.’ I say, you got to be joking! I would look at them like they were absolutely mad, but yet once I would do it with the band, with the strings, it all made sense. And whatever I was feeling, when I’d sing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ or anything else in church, I can actually find the same feeling when I’m doing ‘There’s A Rose In Spanish Harlem.’ They taught me that it’s not what you’re singing, it’s how you’re feeling when you’re singing it.”
SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME
The lyrics were written by Doc Pomus, who was wheelchair-bound and regretted not being able to dance with his wife. Not only did King not overlook this then-unknown story behind the song, he actually took to heart as he was recording the tune.
“He gave me more than lyrics. He gave me a reason why the song was born,” King told Into the Groove. “When you go into a studio and you get a song from a writer and you don’t have anything other than what he wrote… because I knew this was actually from the experience that Doc himself had felt and this is very personal, I just closed my eyes in front of the microphone and I could see him watching his wife as she was dancing, and I could sing the song because now the whole complete picture of the song and the reason it was written was all in my head.”
I (WHO HAVE NOTHING)
When you think of Ben E. King’s songs being used in other media, you immediately jump to as obvious an example as “Stand by Me” actually becoming the title of a Rob Reiner movie. But The Sopranos made just as evocative a use of King’s songs, on multiple occasions. “This Magic Moment” was used for highly ironic effect at the end of the episode “Sopranos Home Movies,” after the Bobby character has been forced to make his first murder, signaling that that moment will change him forever just as surely as the young romance indicated in the song.
Another episode, “The Telltale Moozadell,” ended with one of King’s slightly lesser remembered hits, “I (Who Have Nothing).” The recording could hardly be more dramatic, with the lack of drums more than made up for by the jolting strings. On The Sopranos, it followed a scene of low-key, decaying domesticity between Tony and his wife, suggesting that the show’s anti-hero really does have little in his life to grasp onto, despite the appearance of normalcy.
But there’s nothing subdued about King’s reading of it as a declaration of despair. Other singers took the song to greater chart peaks, including Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey in the UK, and a generation of younger singers has rediscovered it, making it nearly a staple on American Idol. But it’s King’s pleadings to a lost lover to rediscover meaning in his life that stick with us more than anyone else’s.
April 28, 2015 – Jack Ely was born on September 11, 1943 in Portland, Oregon near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Both of his parents were music majors at the University of Oregon, and his father, Ken Ely, was a singer. His father died when he was four years old and his mother subsequently remarried.
Ely began playing piano while still a young child, and was performing recitals all over the Portland area before his seventh birthday. When he was eleven, a piano teacher provided what he termed “jazz improvisation lessons.” The teacher would show Ely a section of a classical composition, and the boy would have to make up 15 similar pieces. He would be required to share each in class and then make up one on the spot.
On January 28, 1956, Ely watched Elvis Presley on television for the first time, and he decided that he wanted to play guitar. At his first guitar lesson, he was required to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, an experience that Ely found so demeaning that he quit after that lesson and began picking out his favorite guitar riffs by ear. Ely played guitar and sang for the Young Oregonians, a traveling vaudeville show for entertainers under the age of 18. “We didn’t get paid in money, we got paid in experience,” Ely recalled.
In 1962, while playing a gig at the Pypo Club in Seaside, Oregon, the band noticed Rockin’ Robin Roberts’s version of “Louie Louie” being played on the jukebox for hours on end. The entire club would get up and dance. Ely convinced the Kingsmen to learn the song, which they played at dances to a great crowd response. Unknown to him, he changed the beat from 1-2-3-4, 1–2, 1-2-3-4, 1–2 to 1-2-3, 1–2, 1-2-3, 1–2 because he based it on the intro only. Ken Chase, host of radio station KISN, formed his own club to capitalize on these dance crazes. Dubbed “The Chase”, the Kingsmen became the club’s house band and Ken Chase became the band’s manager. Ely was begging Chase to let the band record their own version of “Louie Louie”, and on April 5, 1963, Chase booked the band an hour-long session at the local Northwestern Inc. studio for the following day. The band had just played a 90-minute “Louie Louie” marathon.
Despite the band’s annoyance at having so little time to prepare, the Kingsmen walked into the recording studio on April 6 at 10:00 am. In order to sound like a live performance, the group’s equipment was arranged such that Ely was forced to lean back and sing into a boom microphone suspended high above the floor. “It was more yelling than singing,” Ely said, “’cause I was trying to be heard over all the instruments.” In addition, he was wearing braces at the time of the performance, further compounding his infamously slurred words. Ely sang the beginning of the third verse a few bars too early, but realized his mistake and waited for the rest of the band to catch up. In what was thought to be a warm-up, the song was recorded in its first and only take. The Kingsmen were not proud of the version, but their manager liked the rawness of their cover. The B-side was “Haunted Castle”, composed by Ely and Don Gallucci, the new keyboardist. However, credit was given to Lynn Easton on both the Jerden and Wand labels. The entire session cost $50, and the band split the difference.
Before the record became a hit Jack was forced out of the group and began playing with his new band, the Courtmen. Ely began touring with his new group, and in 1966, they released “Louie Louie ’66” and “Ride Ride Baby” after which he was called up into the army.
On August 16, during a band practice, Easton told Ely that he wanted to abandon the drums and become the frontman and singer. Ely would have to become the drummer, and since The Kingsmen was registered in Easton’s name only, he technically led the band. Ely was not happy with this turn of events, and he and Nordby left the band at once. At the time, the song had sold roughly 600 copies and it was thought that the Kingsmen would disband. When he found out “Louie Louie” was climbing up the Billboard charts, Ely attempted to rejoin the group, but was blocked by Easton who was intent on adding replacements. Undeterred, Ely went on to form his own “Kingsmen” group and also recorded “Love That Louie” in 1964 for RCA Records as Jack E. Lee and the Squires. A legal battle ensued, resulting in Ely ceasing to call his group the Kingsmen and Wand Records being required to credit Ely as lead vocalist on all future “Louie Louie” pressings. Ely received $6000 in royalties, and Easton had to stop lip-synching the song in live performances.
In August of that year, during a band practice, Easton told Ely that he wanted to abandon the drums and become the frontman and singer. Ely would have to become the drummer, and since The Kingsmen was registered in Easton’s name only, he technically led the band. Ely was not happy with this turn of events, and he and Nordby left the band at once. At the time, the song had sold roughly 600 copies and it was thought that the Kingsmen would disband. When he found out “Louie Louie” was climbing up the Billboard charts, Ely attempted to rejoin the group, but was blocked by Easton who was intent on adding replacements. Undeterred, Ely went on to form his own “Kingsmen” group and also recorded “Love That Louie” in 1964 for RCA Records as Jack E. Lee and the Squires. A legal battle ensued, resulting in Ely ceasing to call his group the Kingsmen and Wand Records being required to credit Ely as lead vocalist on all future “Louie Louie” pressings. Ely received $6000 in royalties, and Easton had to stop lip-synching the song in live performances.
Ely began touring with his renamed group, the Courtmen. In 1966, they released “Louie Louie ’66” and “Ride Ride Baby” with Bang Records; neither charted. With the Vietnam War on the horizon, Ely was conscripted into the army, and found his career had waned upon his return to the United States in 1968. Ely spiraled down into drug and alcohol addiction, but then spoke out against it with the Rockers Against Drugs.
In later years, Ely lived at his farm in Terrebonne, Oregon, where he trained horses. He was a strong supporter of the Performance Rights Act, which would give royalties to recording artists and record labels. Since Ely was not the original author, he never received any money from the radio play of “Louie Louie.” In an interview, he said, “It’s not just about me. There are a lot of one-hit wonders out there just like me who deserve compensation when their recorded performances are played and stations get ad revenue from it.”
In 2012, Ely released a Christian rock album, Love Is All Around You Now.
Ely died at his Oregon residence on April 28, 2015 at the age of 71, having long suffered from an unknown illness. “Because of his religious beliefs, we’re not even sure what it was that killed him,” his son Sean Ely said. He was a Christian Scientist and Sean Ely believed his father suffered from skin cancer.
April 14, 2015 – Percy Tyron Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama on November 25th 1940. While growing up he would sing in church on Sundays. As a teenager he worked on several farms in the fields before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama.
Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, who signed Percy to a recording contract.
Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called “emotional classics for romantics of all ages”.
‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ was his first song recorded under the contract, and was released in April 1966. It reached No. 1 in the US and went on to become an international hit, charting twice in the UK, reaching No. 4 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at No. 2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. According to Sledge, the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965, and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them.
It was followed by a string of hits including “Warm and Tender Love”, “It Tears Me Up”, “Take Time to Know Her”, “Love Me Tender”, “Cover Me”, “I’ll Be Your Everything” and “Sunshine”.
Percy became an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent; he averaged 100 concerts a year in South Africa.
Sledge’s career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when “When a Man Loves a Woman” re-entered the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 2 behind the reissued Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me”, after being used in a Levi’s commercial.
In the early 1990s, Michael Bolton brought “When a Man Loves a Woman” back into the limelight again on his hit album Time, Love, & Tenderness. On the week of November 17 to November 23, 1991, Bolton’s version also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, exactly 25 and 1/2 years to the week after Percy’s did in 1966.
In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced Sledge’s album, Blue Night, for Philippe Le Bras’ Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others. Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album.
In 2004, Davis and Goldberg also produced the Shining Through the Rain album, which preceded his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Songs on the CD were written by Mikael Rickfors, Steve Earle, the Bee Gees, Carla Olson, Denny Freeman, Allan Clarke and Jackie Lomax. The same year Percy recorded a live album with his band Sunset Drive entitled Percy Sledge and Sunset Drive – Live in Virginia on WRM Records produced by Warren Rodgers.
In December 2010, Rhino Handmade issued a four-CD retrospective, The Atlantic Recordings, which covers all of the issued Atlantic masters, as well as many of the tracks unissued in the United States (although some were simply the mono versions of songs originally issued in stereo; Disc 1 comprises Sledge’s first two LPs which were not recorded on stereo equipment).
In 2011 he toured with UK singing star, Sir Cliff Richard during his Soulicious tour, performing “I’m Your Puppet”. Sadly his 2014 tour was cancelled because of ill health. Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge on April 14, 2015 at the age of 74.
He was honored with the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1989 and honored with the Blues Music Award in 1996 for best Soul/Blues album of the year with his record Blue Night. Already a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Carolina Beach Music Hall Of Fame, in 2005, Percy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in May of 2007, he was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in his home city of Baton Rouge.
March 16, 2015 – Andy Fraser (Free) was born on Andrew McLan “Andy” Fraser 3 July 1952 in the Paddington area of Central London and started playing the piano at the age of five. He was trained classically until twelve, when he switched to guitar. By thirteen he was playing in East End, West Indian clubs and after being expelled from school in 1968 at age 15, enrolled at Hammersmith F.E. College where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, pioneering blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner, who became a father-figure to him.
Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a telephone call from John Mayall, who was looking for a bass player, Korner suggested Fraser and, still only 15, Andy was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.
Korner was also instrumental in Fraser’s next move, to the ultimately very influential band Free, which consisted of Paul Rodgers (vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums). Fraser produced and co-wrote the song “All Right Now” with Rodgers, a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering over 1,000,000 radio plays in the United States by late 1989. In October 2006 a BMI London Million-Air Award was given to Rodgers and Fraser to mark over 3 million radio and television plays of “All Right Now“.
Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
Fraser also co-wrote two other hit singles for Free, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. Free initially split in 1971, and Fraser formed a trio, Toby, with guitarist Adrian Fisher (later with Sparks), and drummer Stan Speake. Material was recorded but not released, and Fraser re-joined Free in December 1971. He left for the second time in June 1972.
After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding plus drummer, Marty Simon. Despite being well received by the critics, especially for Spedding’s tasteful guitar work, Fraser left after their debut album, First Water (1973).
He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. They released two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975, before that too folded. Attempts to form a band with Frankie Miller came to nothing, and Fraser re-located to California, to concentrate on songwriting. He crafted hits for Robert Palmer, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Rod Stewart and Paul Young.
Fraser’s most famous compositions remain “All Right Now” and “Every Kinda People”, which Robert Palmer recorded in 1978 for his Double Fun album. In 1984, Fraser released another album of his own. Fine, Fine Line featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel, Bob Marlette (keyboards), Michael Thompson (guitar) and David Faragher (bass), with Fraser contributing vocals.
Having been diagnosed with HIV, he was later diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer that had been very rare until the onset of the AIDS epidemic. This time-line was called into question by Fraser’s subsequent revelation that he was homosexual. He played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at Woodstock ’94, but otherwise kept a low profile until 2005, when a new release, Naked and Finally Free, appeared. At the time of the new album’s release, Fraser was interviewed by Dmitry M. Epstein for the DME website and revealed: “To be quite honest, I never thought of myself as a bass-player. I actually only used the bass-guitar because the other kids in our school-band wanted to be the singer, or drummer, or guitarist. I have always thought of myself as doing whatever was necessary to make the whole thing work. I’m happy adding piano, or tambourine, or anything that helped”.
In early 2006, writing for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra conducted a comprehensive interview with Fraser, covering his career, influences and instruments and, in April, Fraser responded to the revival of interest in his music by announcing two rare live shows at Southern California’s Temecula Community Arts Theatre on 4 May. The shows, highlighted by an eight-piece band, were his first live performances since the 1994 Woodstock reunion.
In 2008, Fraser wrote and sang the song “Obama (Yes We Can)”, to support the campaign to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States.
In May 2010, Andy Fraser was interviewed for BBC2’s documentary series titled Rock ‘n’ Roll. The project includes a five-part documentary, narrated by British music show anchor-man Mark Radcliffe plus online and radio content. “The documentary aims to explain the success of some of the greatest bands of the past 50 years, including the Who, the Police, the Doors, Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters”.
In mid-2013, Fraser played a supporting role as bassist in the band of protege Tobi Earnshaw for a short series of UK dates. Accompanying Earnshaw and Fraser was a veteran ally, guitarist Chris Spedding. Fraser has produced and mentored Earnshaw on a number of album releases.
Fraser died on 16 March 2015 at his home in California. He was 62 and had been battling cancer and AIDS. The cause of his death however has been under investigation ever since.
March 4, 2015 – Jim McCann, Irish guitarist and singer, was born in Dublin on October 26th 1944. He dropped out of University College Dublin where he was studying medicine, when he became interested in folk music during a 1964 summer in Birmingham, UK. He began to perform in folk clubs in the area, and, upon his return to Dublin, he joined a group called the Ludlow Trio in 1965. They had an Irish No.1 hit 1966, with “The Sea Around Us”, but the band broke up the following year.
Jim began a solo career, releasing an album, McCann and making several appearances on several folk programs for Telefis Éireann.
Amongst other pursuits, he spent the next few years involving himself in theatrical productions (starting with Maureen Potter’s “Gaels of Laughter” in 1968), and he toured throughout Ireland and Britain. He released a second album, McCanned, made a television special called Reflections of Jim McCann, and then hosted a series called The McCann Man. It was on The McCann Man that he met fellow folk artist, Luke Kelly of The Dubliners. During this appearance, Kelly did his only televised performance of the Phil Coulter song “Scorn Not His Simplicity”, a song that he chose to perform sparingly out of respect to the subject matter (Coulter’s intellectually disabled son).
McCann subsequently performed alongside Kelly in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973, in the role of Peter. In April 1974 Kelly asked McCann to join The Dubliners temporarily, to replace Ciarán Bourke during a period of illness. However, he became a permanent member soon afterwards, when Ronnie Drew left the group to pursue a solo career. McCann remained with The Dubliners until the end of 1979, during which he toured incessantly, as well as recorded several albums with the group.
Jim released 7 solo albums including From Tara to Here which went gold.
He rejoined the Dubliners in 2002 for their 40th anniversary album, but during the subsequent tour was diagnosed with throat cancer. Although treatment for the illness was successful, the damage to his voice left him unable to sing. However, he still collaborated with the Dubliners by taking the photographs for them, appearing as a compere in their concerts, and sometimes playing the guitar. During the Dubliners’ last concert in December 2012, he performed with them as a guitarist.
McCann’s death from throat cancer was announced by his family on 5 March 2015. He was 70.
March 11, 2015 – Jimmy Greenspoon aka Maestro was born on February 7, 1948 in Los Angeles and raised in Beverly Hills. He was taught the piano at aged 7 by his mother, the silent screen star, Mary O’Brien. While a senior at school he formed a surf group The New Dimensions, in 1963, before attending the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to studiy piano. Jimmy worked on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s with the groups Sound of the Seventh Son and The East Side Kids. His bands held residence at The Trip, Stratford on Sunset later The House Of Blues, Brave New World, Bidos Litos, Ciros, and The Whiskey.
In late 1966, he moved to Denver, Colorado, with the members of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and formed the group Superband. In 1968, he moved back to Los Angeles, where he met Danny Hutton, and subsequently formed Three Dog Night with whom he performed for the next 46 years, until he was too ill to tour in 2014.
The band earned 12 gold albums and recorded 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. Their first gold record was “One”, and they had three US No.1 songs, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, “Joy to the World” and “Black and White”.
As well as with Three Dog Night, over his long career Jimmy has performed and recorded with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, America, The Beach Boys, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Nils Lofgren, Lowell George, Donovan, Eric Clapton, Buddy Miles, Stephen Stills, Jeff Beck, Chris Hillman, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, James Burton, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, The Wrecking Crew, Osibisa, Shaun Cassidy, Cheech & Chong, Redbone, and Jimi Hendrix.
He also served as an Entertainment and Media Consultant with the Murry-Wood Foundation and composed original music for the movies Fragment, produced by Lloyd Levin, United 93, Hellboy, Watchmen, Field of Dreams, Predator, and Die Hard. He collaborated with composer Neil Argo and in 2000 and received a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars.
Jimmy Greenspoon died March 11, 2015 at the age of 67 while fighting metastatic melanoma at his home in North Potomac, Maryland.
Feb 22, 2015 – Chris Rainbow (Camel) was born Christopher James Harley in Glasgow, Scotland on November 18, 1946.
He started out in a band called Hopestreet, in 1972-3. Following this he adopted the stage name “Rainbow” to avoid confusion with Steve Harley and recorded as Christopher Rainbow, then Chris Rainbow and released three solo albums: Home of the Brave in 1975, Looking Over My Shoulder in 1977 and White Trails in 1979 which produced hits including “Give Me What I Cry For” and “Solid State Brain”.
Apart from his solo career, he made frequent vocal contributions to The Alan Parsons Project, starting on their 1979 Eve album through to their 1987 album Gaudi, and Eric Woolfson’s Freudiana in 1990, an APP album in all but name.
Chris recorded and toured with Camel, including singing some lead vocals on studio albums The Single Factor in 1982 and Stationary Traveller in 1984. He worked with Camel keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak) on his 1984 album Heart of the Universe in a duo format, performing five lead vocals.
He sang backing vocals on the album “Song Of Seven” by former Yes frontman Jon Anderson, and toured with Anderson’s New Life Band. Chris also wrote, produced and recorded jingles for Capital Radio 95.8FM 1973 to 1984 for Kenny Everett, Mike Aspel, Tommy Vance, David Symonds and others.
In later years he produced several albums for the Scottish Gaelic rock group Runrig.
Chris died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease on Feb 22, 2015 at the age of 68.
February 16, 2015 – Lesley Sue Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, the daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore.
Her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children’s swimwear and underwear manufacturer and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, a little distance from the George Washington Bridge and was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” became a number one hit. The song was eventually nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was certified as a gold record.
“It’s My Party” was followed by many other hits for Gore, including the sequel, “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (US No. 5); “She’s a Fool” (US No. 5); the protofeminist million-selling “You Don’t Own Me”, which held at No. 2 for three weeks behind The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; “That’s the Way Boys Are” (US No. 12); “Maybe I Know” (US No. 14/UK No. 20); “Look of Love” (US No. 27); and the Grammy-nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (US No. 13), from the 1965 movie, Ski Party. In 1965 she appeared in the beach party film, The Girls on the Beach in which she performed three songs: “Leave Me Alone”, “It’s Gotta Be You”, and “I Don’t Want to Be a Loser”.
Gore was given first shot at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love” by songwriters Carole Bayer and Toni Wine, with a melody from a sonatina by Muzio Clementi, but Shelby Singleton, a producer for Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, refused to let Gore record a song with the word “groovy” in its lyrics. The Mindbenders went on to record it, and it reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts.
Gore recorded composer Marvin Hamlisch’s first hit composition, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”, on May 21, 1963 while “It’s My Party” was climbing the charts. Her record producer from 1963 to 1965 was Quincy Jones. Jones’ dentist was Marvin Hamlisch‘s uncle, and Hamlisch asked his uncle to convey several songs to Jones. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” was released on the LP Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts but did not surface as a single until June 1965. Hamlisch composed three other Gore associated songs: “California Nights”, “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” and “One by One”.
Gore was one of the featured performers in the T.A.M.I. Show concert film, which was recorded and released in 1964 by American International Pictures, and placed in the National Film Registry in 2006. Gore had one of the longest sets in the film, performing six songs including “It’s My Party”, “You Don’t Own Me”, and “Judy’s Turn to Cry”.
Gore performed on two consecutive episodes of the Batman television series (January 19 and 25, 1967), in which she guest-starred as Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions. In the January 19 episode “That Darn Catwoman”, she lip-synched to the Bob Crewe-produced “California Nights”, and in the January 25 episode “Scat! Darn Catwoman” she lip-synched to “Maybe Now”. “California Nights”, which Gore recorded for her 1967 album of the same name, returned her to the upper reaches of the Hot 100. The single peaked at number 16 in March 1967 (14 weeks on the chart). It was her first top 40 hit since “My Town, My Guy and Me” in late 1965 and her first top 20 since “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”.
Gore also performed the single “We Know We’re in Love” ten months earlier on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show, which aired on March 19, 1966.
After high school, while continuing to make appearances as a singer, Gore attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying British and American English literature. At college, folk music was popularly lauded as ‘chic’ whereas pop music was often derided as ‘uncool. “Had I been tall with blonde hair, had I been Mary Travers, I would have gotten along fine.” She graduated in 1968.
Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for “Out Here on My Own”, written with her brother Michael. Michael won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme song of the same film. Gore played concerts and appeared on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Gore co-wrote a song, “My Secret Love”, for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. The film includes a subplot about a young singer named Kelly Porter, who is based in part on Gore and is played by Bridget Fonda. The character, who is a closeted lesbian, performs “My Secret Love” in the film.
In 2005 Gore recorded Ever Since (her first album of new material since Love Me By Name in 1976), with producer/songwriter Blake Morgan, with the label Engine Company Records. The album received favorable reviews from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine and other national press. The album also included a revised version of “You Don’t Own Me”, about which the New York Daily News wrote: “In Lesley Gore’s new version of ‘You Don’t Own Me’—cut more than 40 years after its initial recording—she lends a pop classic new life.” Gore commented: “Without the loud backing track, I could wring more meaning from the lyric”. And: “It’s a song that takes on new meaning every time you sing it.
She was 68 years old when she died on 16 February 2015 from lung cancer.
January 31, 2015 – Don Covay was born Donald Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina on March 24, 1938. Covay was the son of a Baptist preacher who died when his son was eight. The family soon after relocated to Washington, D.C., where he and his siblings formed a gospel group dubbed the Cherry Keys; while in middle school, however, some of Covay’s classmates convinced him to make the leap to secular music, and in 1953 he joined the Rainbows, a local doo wop group that previously enjoyed a national smash with “Mary Lee.”
By the time Covay joined the Rainbows the original lineup had long since splintered, and his recorded debut with the group, 1956’s “Shirley,” was not a hit. He stuck around for one more single, “Minnie,” before exiting; contrary to legend, this iteration of the Rainbows did not include either a young Marvin Gaye or Billy Stewart, although both fledgling singers did occasionally fill in for absent personnel during live performances.
In the meantime Covay landed a job chauffeuring his idol, Little Richard, doing double-duty as the hitmaker’s opening act; Richard soon produced Covay’s 1957 solo debut “Bip Bip Bip,” a blistering single credited to Pretty Boy. Issued on Atlantic, the record went nowhere and he next landed at Sue. During the remaining years of the decade Covay released four more singles for as many labels — “Switchin’ in the Kitchen” on Big, “Standing in the Doorway” on Blaze, “If You See Mary Lee” on Firefly and “‘Cause I Love You” on Big Top — none of them hits. He then signed to major label Columbia, issuing three 1961 singles — “Shake Wid the Snake,” the Ben E. King-soundalike “See About Me,” and “Now That I Need You” — that showcased the vast eclecticism of his approach, from retro-doo wop to uptown soul to smoldering R&B.
As his recording career refused to catch fire, Covay increasingly focused on songwriting, partnering with fellow Rainbows alum John Berry to pen a dance tune called “Pony Time” — recorded by Covay for the Arnold label with backing band the Goodtimers, the resulting 1961 single proved to be his first chart hit, inching to the number 60 spot on the Billboard pop countdown. Equally significant, Chubby Checker soon after recorded his own version, topping the pop and R&B charts in early 1962.
Covay resumed his solo career with 1962’s “I’m Your Soldier Boy,” his lone effort for Scepter; he then signed to Cameo, scoring another minor chart hit with “The Popeye Waddle,” a novelty record inspired by New Orleans’ “Popeye” dance craze. Its 1963 follow-up “Wiggle Wobble” went nowhere, however, as did “Ain’t That Silly” and “The Froog,” both cut for Cameo’s Parkway subsidiary. At the same time, however, Covay continued an impressive string of songwriting hits, including Jerry Butler’s “You Can Run (But You Can’t Hide),” Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Letter Full of Tears” and Connie Francis’ “Mr. Twister.” He also authored “I’m Gonna Cry,” Wilson Pickett’s debut single for Atlantic.
Covay next landed at the tiny Rosemart label, where he entered perhaps the most creatively rewarding period of his career — his first single for the label, 1964’s “Mercy Mercy,” was cut with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix on guitar, and went on to crack the Billboard Top 40 after Atlantic picked it up for distribution. The song remains an R&B classic, and earned even greater notoriety a year later when the Rolling Stones recorded their own rendition for the Out of Our Heads LP; even upon cursory listens, it’s impossible not to hear the massive impact of Covay’s brash style and bluesy phrasing on Mick Jagger’s own frontman persona.
In the meantime, Covay squeaked back into the Hot 100 with “Take This Hurt Off Me,” graduating to Atlantic on a full-time basis with 1965’s “The Boomerang.” The latter didn’t chart at all, but the move to Atlantic gave him access to collaborators including Memphis legends like keyboardist Booker T. Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper, and his music achieved an even more powerfully soulful edge. “Please Do Something” fell just shy of the R&B Top 20, and its follow-up “See Saw” proved Covay’s biggest hit to date, reaching the R&B Top Five and coming in at number 44 on the pop charts.
By now the likes of Etta James (“Watch Dog” and “I’m Gonna Take What He’s Got”) and Otis Redding (“Think About It” and “Demonstration”) were recording his material, but he could never quite maintain the same momentum as a performer, in 1966 releasing three brilliant Atlantic singles — “Sookie Sookie,” “You Put Something on Me” and “Somebody’s Got to Love You” — that all failed to chart. The relatively minor “Shingaling ’67” at least made it as far as the R&B Top 50, but both “’40 Days-40 Nights”” and “You’ve Got Me on Your Critical List” sank without a trace. And even though Aretha Franklin scored one of her biggest and most enduring hits in 1968 with “Chain of Fools,” written by Covay some 15 years earlier, his own recording that same year went nowhere.
Covay attempted to reignite his flagging career by organizing the Soul Clan, a Murderers’ Row of R&B greats that also included Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Ben E. King and Arthur Conley. The supergroup’s lone Atlantic effort “Soul Meeting” was a minor pop it, reaching the R&B Top 40 in late 1968. After two more failed solo singles, “I Stole Some Love” and “Sweet Pea,” Covay teamed with former Shirelles guitarist Joe Richardson and folkie John Hammond in the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band, an odd stab at underground blues-rock that yielded a 1969 LP, The House of Blue Lights and hit number 43 on the R&B chart with the single “Black Woman.”
He left Atlantic for Janus in 1970, releasing a second Jefferson Lemon Blues Band LP, Different Strokes for Different Folks, before signing to Mercury in 1972 as an A&R exec. There he also began work on Superdude, the blistering 1973 album that many groove-heads regard as his masterpiece — the album yielded a pair of hits, the pop smash “I Was Checkin’ Out While She Was Checkin’ In” and “Somebody’s Been Enjoying My Home.”
The gospel-inspired non-LP single “It’s Better to Have (And Don’t Need)” returned Covay to the charts in 1974, followed a year later by “Rumble in the Jungle,” a novelty effort inspired by the now-legendary heavyweight bout pairing Muhammad Ali against George Foreman. He then migrated to Philadelphia International, teaming with famed producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for 1976’s Travelin’ in Heavy Traffic — neither “Right Time for Love” nor the title track charted, and apart from two indie records, 1977’s U-Von effort “Back to the Roots” and 1980s Newman release “Badd Boy,” it seemed Covay’s recording career was over.
The career of singer spanned virtually the entirety of the R&B spectrum, from the electrifying rock & roll of his earliest records to the gritty, swaggering deep soul of his most enduring efforts. The scope and diversity of his catalog no doubt contributed to his failure to enjoy consistent commercial success, however, and the general public is probably better acquainted with his songs than with his own renditions of them.
He didn’t resurface until 1986, contributing backing vocals to the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work — in 1993, the Stones’ Ron Wood repaid the favor, joining the likes of Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren for the tribute LP Back to the Streets: Celebrating the Music of Don Covay. That same year, Covay was honored by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation with one of its prestigious Pioneer Awards, but he was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to the lingering effects of a stroke he suffered in 1992. He gradually regained his health, however, and in 2000 issued Ad Lib, his first new studio album in nearly a quarter century.
Covay died on January 31, 2015 at the age of 78, after suffering another stroke.
January 29, 2015 – Rod McKuen was born on April 29th, 1933 in Oakland, CA. He ran away from home at the age of 11 and drifted along the West Coast, supporting himself as a ranch hand, surveyor, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy, lumberjack, stuntman and radio disk jockey.
He went on to become one of the best-selling poets in the USA during the late 60s and throughout his career. He produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. His songs include “Jean”, “Seasons in the Sun”, “The Loner”, and “I Think of You”.
He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions. In the early 1960s, he moved to France, where he first met the Belgian singer-songwriter and chanson singer Jacques Brel. He was instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world.
Rod wrote over 1,500 songs which have accounted for over 100 million records sales worldwide. His songs have been performed by such diverse artists as Glenn Yarbrough, Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Petula Clark, Waylon Jennings, The Boston Pops, Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, Pete Fountain, Andy Williams, Al Hirt, the Kingston Trio, Percy Faith, the London Philharmonic, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Mathis, Greta Keller, and Frank Sinatra.
Rod died from pneumonia on 29 January 2015, three months short of his 83rd birthday.
January 25, 2015 – Demis Roussos was born as Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 15, 1946. His family was greek and his father George was a classical guitarist and engineer, while his mother Olga was a singer. As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Byzantine Church choir. When his parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis, they decided to move to Greece.
As a teenager Demis sang in several local groups, including The Idols, where he met Vangelis. In 1967 he formed rock band Aphrodite’s Child with his friends Vangelis and Loukas Sideras, initially as a singer, but later he also played bass guitar. The band set off for London to break into the international music scene but were turned back at Dover due to visa problems. They retreated to Paris where they decided to stay, signing a record deal there with Philips Records.
Their first recording sessions were delayed by the general strike of May 1968 but later the same year the song “Rain and Tears” was issued across Europe and was a huge success. the song appeared on the album End of the World in October. Composed by Vangelis and the French lyricist Boris Bergman, the song featured Roussos’s unusual high tenor, The song was only a minor hit in Britain but was hugely successful in many other countries. Their second album featured another jewel: the title song “It’s Five o’Clock”. His unusual tenor voice reach allowed an operatic vocal style that helped propel the band to international success, notably on their final album 666, based on religious texts from the Apocalypse of St John, which became a progressive rock cult classic.
After Aphrodite’s Child disbanded, Demis continued to record sporadically with Vangelis. In 1970 the two released the film score album Sex Power, although the album has also been disputably credited to Aphrodite’s Child. They also recorded the ’77 album Magic, but their most successful collaboration was “Race To The End“, a vocal adaptation of the musical theme from the film Chariots of Fire.
Demis also guested on the soundtrack to Blade Runner in 1982, with “Tales Of The Future“. In 1971 he also launched a solo career with the song “We Shall Dance”. His single “Forever And Ever” topped the charts in several countries in 1973, including the UK in 1976. Other hits were “Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun”, “My Reason”, “Someday Somewhere”, “Velvet Mornings”, “My Friend The Wind”, “Goodbye My Love, Goodbye”, and “Lovely Lady Of Arcadia”.
His popularity in the rest of Europe, but not the UK, fascinated BBC TV producer John King, who made a documentary entitled “The Roussos Phenomenon” in 1976 and Philips Records released a four-song record of the same name, which was the first extended play to top the UK singles chart. He was equally successful in Latin America, the Middle East and Japan.
In 1973, Demis made one of his earliest television appearances on The Basil Brush Show and also appeared on Nana Mouskouri’s TV show in the UK. In 1980, he had a hit with a cover of Air Supply’s “Lost In Love”, sung as a duet with Florence Warner.
In June 1985, Demis was among the passengers of TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome, which was hijacked by Lebanese militants, but he was released along with four other Greeks after five days while most of the other hostages remained there for seventeen days.
He continued to record and tour well into the 2000s and from 2006 to 2008, he was part of the Âge Tendre Et Têtes De Bois tour, a series of concerts featuring French singers from the 1960s and 1970s.
Also known as “The Kaftan King”, a dress code he preferred and perfected in the years that he grew to well over 300 pounds, sold more than 60 million albums worldwide. For years, Roussos struggled with his weight. In June 1980 he weighed 147 kilograms (324 lb). He then began a diet in which he lost 50 kg in 10 months. In 1982 he co-authored the book A Question of Weight with his close friend photographer Veronique Skawinska, in which he dealt candidly with his struggles with obesity.
He died at the Hygeia Hospital in Athens on January 25, 2015 at the age of 68. He had been in the private hospital with an undisclosed illness for some time. He leaves behind survived by his mother, Olga, children Emily and Cyril, long-term partner Dominique, brother Costas and his ex-wives Pamela and Monique.
Jan 20, 2015 – Edgar Willmar Froese was born in Tilsit, East Prussia, on D-Day 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. Members of his family, including his father, had been killed by the Nazis and his mother and surviving family settled in West Berlin after the war.
He took piano lessons from the age of 12, and started playing guitar at 15. After showing an early aptitude for art, Froese enrolled at the Academy of the Arts in West Berlin to study painting and sculpture. In 1965, he formed a band called The Ones, who played psychedelic rock, and some rock and R&B standards.
While playing in Spain, The Ones were invited to perform at Salvador Dalí’s villa in Cadaqués. Froese’s encounter with Dalí was highly influential, inspiring him to pursue more experimental directions with his music. The Ones disbanded in 1967, having released only one single (“Lady Greengrass” / “Love of Mine”).
He is best known for founding the electronic music group Tangerine Dream. Although his solo and group recordings prior to 2003 name him as “Edgar Froese”, his solo albums from 2003 onward bear the artist name “Edgar W. Froese”.
After returning to Berlin, Froese began recruiting musicians for the Berlin-based band Tangerine Dream, a prolific solo artist, and one of the most influential pioneers of electronic music. That term, however, was one that Froese rejected. “We don’t like what we do to be called ‘electronic music’,” he insisted. “We are people making music, not machines. We are writing songs and compositions and then translate them with synthesizers … but also other instruments.” Initially, the group found themselves trying to emulate the superstars of Anglo-American rock music, such as Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, before it dawned on Froese that they needed to find a way to express their own background and experiences. “The Germans have no roots in rock music,” he said. “We didn’t have the attitude for rock’n’roll, the blues and so on.”
This philosophy would enable Tangerine Dream to encompass various kinds of classical, avant-garde and minimalist influences within their music as well as heavy rock and ambient atmospheres, and it set Froese and Tangerine Dream apart from other “Krautrock” bands such as Neu! or Kraftwerk, whose so-called “motorik” beats emphasized machine-like repetition. Froese’s versatility and artistic inquisitiveness drove Tangerine Dream to create more than 100 studio albums; his catalogue of more than 20 solo albums included Macula Transfer (1976), Stuntman (1979), Kamikaze 1989) and the four-volume series Ambient Highway (2003).
Froese’s composition “Stuntman” has been used as the opening theme music for “Mabat Sheni” (“Second Look”), an investigative news program from Channel One television in Israel, since the 1980s.
In his personal life Edgar Froese declared himself to be vegetarian, teetotaler, and a non-smoker; he also did not take drugs. Froese was married to artist and photographer Monique Froese from 1974 until her death in 2000. Their son Jerome Froese was a member of Tangerine Dream from 1990 through 2006. Edgar Froese remarried to artist and musician Bianca Acquaye.
he band’s live performances became increasingly rare in recent years, though they played selected European dates in 2007 to mark the group’s 40th anniversary, including one at the Astoria in central London. Their show at the Royal Albert Hall on 1 April 2010 was billed as the Zeitgeist concert, and was captured on a three-CD live album. The Electric Mandarine Tour 2012 took the band to Europe and North America, and they performed in Melbourne, Australia, in November that year.
Froese died suddenly in Vienna on 20 January 2015 from a pulmonary embolism and was posthumously awarded the Schallwelle Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2015.
January 15, 2015 – Kim Fowley was born into an acting family in Los Angeles on July 21st 1939 and attended the University High School at the same time as singers Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Johnston, as well as actors Ryan O’Neal, James Brolin and Sandra Dee. In 1957, he was diagnosed suffering with polio but, and after realize from treatment became manager and publicist for a local band The Sleepwalkers which included Bruce Johnston, drummer Sandy Nelson and, occasionally, Phil Spector. In his early days he worked in various capacities for both Alan Freed and Berry Gordy. His first record as producer was “Charge” by The Renegades.
He also worked on occasion as a recording artist in the 1960s, with Gary S. Paxton, he recorded the novelty song “Alley Oop”, which reached No. 1 on the charts in 1960 and he was credited to the non-existent group The Hollywood Argyles. In 1965, he wrote and produced a song about the psychedelic experience, “The Trip”, and later appeared on Frank Zappa’s first album ‘Freak Out!’. In the 60’he also worked with P.J. Proby, an early incarnation of Slade known as the N’Betweens, Gene Vincent, he appeared on hypephone on Frank Zappa’s first album Freak Out! and wrote the lyrics for the song “Portobello Road” recorded by Cat Stevens.
The 70s saw Kim produce three recordings, “At the Hop”, “Louie Louie” and “She’s So Fine” by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, for the film American Graffiti. He also co-wrote songs for KISS, Helen Reddy, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell and Kris Kristofferson. He also made recordings with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. The 80s find Kim talent hunting in Australia and New Zealand and he worked with The Innocents, Candy, Steel Breeze, The Runaways and Shanghai. He was the one behind the rise of all-girl rockbands in the late 1970s. Kim is also featured in Mayor of the Sunset Strip, a 2003 documentary about the disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer.
He became an experimental filmmaker after the DVD release of Mayor of the Sunset Strip. His written and directed works include: Black Room Doom, Dollboy: The Movie, Satan of Silverlake, The Golden Road to Nowhere, Frankenstein Goes Surfing, Trailer Park’s On Fire and Jukebox California.
He also played three dozen gigs between June 2007 and February 2009 as the act Crazy White Man, a duo featuring him on vocals and Richard Rogers on guitar. In 2012, Kim won the Special Jury Prize at the 13th Melbourne Underground Film Festival for his two feature projects – Golden Road to Nowhere and Black Room Doom, and in 2014 he also made an appearance in Beyoncé’s music video “Haunted”. Fowler has often been described as “one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll.
He died on January 15, 2015 at the age of 75 after a long battle with bladder cancer.
He was reared by an aunt and uncle. When he was 3, they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. He grew up in a Pentecostal church, which did much to influence his music, and he attended a Pentecostal boarding school in Tennessee.
“He started playing the drums in church when he was 4 years old,” said his daughter, Desiree Berry of Brooklyn. “My grandfather and a deacon in the church showed him how, and he picked up fast.”
He got his first drumkit when he was seven. He once said: “My mom and dad took me to the store and told me to get anything I liked. There was this tiny red drum set, with a tiny little kick drum and snare…little cymbals. Now, that’s what I wanted! By the next morning, the thing was in the trash can. I beat it all to death. But, I tell you what…I knew how to play after that. I just knew. I had the rhythm down pat and had timing too. Just that fast. I been playing ever since.”
In his young years he worked as a porter at Bergdorf Goodman’s women lingerie department, while gigging at night. His father had a moving business and he got him some trucks of his own and everything. Popsy however told his dad “Dad, this is just not my callin’.” By then, I was playing around pretty good, so dad said, “Son, I understand.“
He met brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with the brothers and sang two songs. “After that second song,” recalls Wendell, “Popsy was a brother.” They played the bar circuit until 1979 when they officially formed The Holmes Brothers. With The Holmes Brothers, he recorded with the likes of Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, Willie Nelson, Freddie Roulette, Rosanne Cash, Levon Helm and Joan Osborne, toured the world including performing for President Bill Clinton and released 12 albums.
He was the so-called “spirit brother” of The Holmes Brothers trio, and he could croon in a soaring multi-octave falsetto that The Chicago Tribune once hailed as “otherworldly.” His upper reach was the sparkplug of doo-wop numbers and the exclamation point of gospel songs.
Dixon was celebrated for his soaring, soulful multi-octave vocals and his driving, in-the-pocket drumming. They played in a variety of Top 40 bar bands until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers, which The New York Times described as “deeply soulful, uplifting and timeless.” They toured the world, releasing 12 albums starting with 1990’s In The Spirit on Rounder. Their most recent release was 2014’s Brotherhood on Alligator.
The Chicago Tribune described Dixon’s voice as “otherworldly…a gift to the world of music.” Living Blues said, “Popsy’s voice is a wonder…spontaneous and raw.”
They performed in every state in the union and in 35 countries all over the world. When he was 60 he was asked: Is touring starting to wear you out?
His answer: “I’m 60 years old and I’m having a good time. When people tell me they can’t do such and such because of their age, I say…yea…you just keep on feelin’ that way, cause I’m moving right past you. You limit yourself by how you think. If you think you can’t do it, then you can’t. I don’t limit myself that way. I just keep on keepin’ on and feelin good. Even when I ain’t playing, I’m out fishin’. But let me tell you, once we played in West Africa and they kept asking us if we were politicians. We said “Hell, no…we’re musicians. We just came here to play.” Playing is what makes me feel good and I’m not gonna stop until life stops.”
Life stopped for this remarkable performer on January 9, 2015, 4 days after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bladder Cancer. In December 2014 he was hospitalized with pneumonia shortly after a performance. Doctors discovered that he had stage-four bladder cancer on Jan. 5, he went into hospice care in Richmond, where he transitioned at age 72 just four days later.
Their most recent release was 2014’s “Brotherhood”. They won the Blues Music Award from the Memphis-based Blues Foundation for Band of the Year in 2005 and for the Soul Blues Album of the Year in 2008.
In September 2014, The Holmes Brothers were honored with a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon its folk and traditional artists.
When a Joe Cocker song came on the airwaves, you instantly knew it was Joe Cocker. He was known for his rasping voice, after he rose to fame with his cover of the Beatles song With a Little Help from My Friends, which went to No 1 in 1968. Cocker was “without a doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain – and remained the same man throughout his life. Hugely talented, a true star, but a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him.”
Born John Robert Cocker in 1944, he was raised in Sheffield, the youngest son of a civil servant. His first foray into music was under the stage name Vance Arnold with his band Vance Arnold and the Avengers, mainly covering Chuck Berry and Ray Charles in Sheffield pubs, but the band landed their big break in 1963. They supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall and Joe cut his first single, a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead”, with Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitars. He soon developed an interest in blues music of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and teamed up with Chris Stainton to form the Grease Band. He then moved to London with Chris Stainton, where a new Grease Band were given a residency at the Marquee Club in London. He formed the new band with Chris Stainton and keyboardist Tommy Eyre. After minor success in the United States with the single “Marjorine”, Joe and his Grease band was propelled to pop stardom when his version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” reached No.1 in 1968. The recording features Jimmy Page on lead guitar, drumming by B. J. Wilson, backing vocals by Sue and Sunny, and Tommy Eyre on organ. Their touring line-up now featured Henry McCullough on lead guitar and they embarked on their first tour of the United States in spring 1969, which included several large festivals, including the Newport Rock Festival, the Denver Pop Festival and the Woodstock Festival they performed several songs, including “Delta Lady”, “Something’s Comin’ On”, “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, “I Shall Be Released”, and “With a Little Help from My Friends”. Joe is also well known for his epic ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ Tour of 1970, which featured over 40 musicians which included Chris Stainton, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, and Chuck Blackwell. They toured 48 cities across the US, and resulted in a third gold album by the same name and a concert film. Joe carried on touring the world throughout the 70s though to the 2000s, producing hits such as “The Letter”, You Are So Beautiful”, “Woman To Woman”. In 1978 Joe moved to in Santa Barbara, California. In 1983 he won his first Grammy with ‘Up Where We Belong’, a duet with Jennifer Warnes, the theme from the 1982 film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. On June 3rd 2002, Joe performed “With A Little Help From My Friends” accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and guitarist Brian May at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, an event in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. He went onto receive an OBE in 2011 for his great contribution to music and a career in which he recorded more than 40 albums.
Paul McCartney led the tributes to the musician who had covered so many of the Beatles’ tracks in his long career, and said he was for ever grateful to Cocker for turning With a Little Help from My Friends into a soul anthem.
“It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing,” he said. “He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing. I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away. He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world and we’ll all miss him.”
The sentiment was echoed by the Beatles’ drummer, Ringo Starr, who wrote: “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends peace and love. R.”
In a testament to Cocker’s widespread influence, other musicians from singer Ronan Keating to American rapper Lupe Fiasco and British rock band the Darkness also took to social media to pay their respects. Singer Bryan Adams said: “RIP my good friend, you were one of the best rock singers EVER.”
Road to Stardom
Cocker’s performance of With a Little Help from My Friends at the 1969 Woodstock festival in New York is still considered by many as one of the great moments in rock performance history and was later described by him as “like an eclipse”.
He released his second album, Joe Cocker!, in the same year, featuring covers of songs originally performed by artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Paul McCartney and George Harrison, impressed with his talent, allowed him to cover two Beatles tracks on the album.
In 1970, he embarked on a mammoth tour of America under the guise of his new band, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which included pianist Leonard Russell and singer Rita Coolidge. In line with the rock-n-roll scenes of the era performing alongside musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and releasing several successful cover songs, including his take on the Box Tops’ The Letter, which became his first US top 10 hit, Cocker began to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and returned to Sheffield in 1971.
Speaking years later about his experiences on tour, Cocker said: “There was no rehab back in those days. Drugs were readily available, and I dived in head first … It took me years to get straight. When I first became successful, I was a beer-drinker from Sheffield. Then I was thrown into the world of American rock.”
After almost a decade of releasing several albums that mostly received only a tepid response, Cocker married Pam, his second wife, in 1978, whom he credited with helping him escape the downward spiral. Cocker staged a successful comeback in the 1980s that saw his 1983 duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong, earn him a Grammy and an Academy award for best original song as the theme to the film An Officer and A Gentleman. Cocker was then nominated for a Brit award for best British male in 1993, and in 2007 he received an OBE for his contribution to music.
He continued to record albums until 2012, when his final album, Fire It Up, was released, reaching number 17 in the UK charts. He played a 20-date tour across Europe last year. His last concert was in Hammersmith in June of 2014.
Sony Music said in a statement: “John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on 22 December 2014 after a hard-fought battle with small-cell lung cancer … His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day.”
Singer-songwriter and musician Peter Frampton said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. You Are So Beautiful is both Joe and Nicky Hopkins piano at their very best. Gonna play it now RIP.”
Singer-songwriter Frank Turner tweeted: “Wow. Sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. Incredible singer.” Irish pop star Ronan Keating wrote: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker passing. What a brilliant and unique voice. Peace.” British comedian Ricky Gervais also paid tribute, saying: “RIP the mighty Joe Cocker.”
Sheffield Soul rocker Joe Cocker, whose career spanned almost 5 decades, died after a three year battle with small cell lung cancer on December 22, 2014.
Dec 21, 2014 – Udo Jürgens was born Udo Jürgen Bockelmann on September 30, 1934 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Udo grew up in the family castle Ottmanach in Kärnten with his brothers John (1931) and Manfred (1943). In 1939 he gets a harp (harmonica) as a present and he teaches himself to play national anthems on it. In 1942 he moves up the ladder with an accordeon and six years later he gets his formal music education at the conservatory of Klagenfurt in piano, singing and compositions.
In the 1950 he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime” and he gets his music education on the road with the Udo Bolan band and several other reincarnations. The 50s is a long learning curve and his first record deal comes apart in a big flop and in 1956 he changes his artist name into Udo Jürgens.
But then in 1961 he wrote the 1961 worldwide hit “Reach for the Stars”, sung by Shirley Bassey. In 1964, he represented Austria for the first time at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Warum nur warum?”, finishing sixth. The UK participant, Matt Monro, was impressed with the melody and covered the song as “Walk Away”. His song “Sag ihr, Ich lass Sie grüßen” came fourth in 1965’s contest, and on his third try he won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 in Luxemburg with “Merci, Chérie”, which then becomes a top 10 hit in more than 20 countries.
Over his career, Udo composed close to 1,000 songs, and sold over 100 million records, including “Griechischer Wein”, “Aber bitte mit Sahne”, “Mit 66 Jahren”, and one of his biggest successes “Buenos Días, Argentina”, which he performed together with the Germany national football team in 1978.
On 2 December 2007, hise jukebox musical ‘Ich war noch niemals in New York’ (I’ve never been to New York) opened in Hamburg’s Operettenhaus. It weaves his songs into a familial storyline, similar to the treatment of ABBA songs in Mamma Mia!, the musical it succeeded at the venue.
Udo Jürgens holds the worldwide-record as the artist with the longest presence in the charts ever – more than 57 years from his first entry 1958 till 2015.
He died of acute heart failure in Münsterlingen, Switzerland on Dec 21, 2014 at the age of 80, just two weeks after his last Udo Jürgens Live Concert in Zürich, Switzerland.
December 18, 2014 – Lawrence Joel “Larry” Henley was born on June 30, 1937 in Arp, Texas. He grew up in Odessa, Texas. Little is known about his early years other than that he had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter. He met the Mathis brothers Dean and Mark when he auditioned for their band the Newbeats in 1962 in Shreveport Louisiana, singing in a distinctive falsetto that would bring them their first and only global hit song “Bread and Butter” in 1964 when it charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. Subsequently they toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour. There were some lesser known hits such as “Run Baby Run”, but the group never reached the Bread and Butter popularity again.
The group’s last single was released in 1974 after they disbanded. Henley had a solo album, Piece a Cake, released in 1975. But his songwriter talents had taken over at this point.
Over the years he co-wrote with Red Lane “‘Til I Get It Right” for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers. Other #1 country hits were his songs “Is It Still Over?” (performed by Randy Travis), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (performed by Tanya Tucker), and “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” performed by Janie Fricke. Other songs included “Shotgun rider” for Delbert McClinton, “You’re Welcome to Tonight” by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris and “The World Needs a Melody” by The Carter Family with Johnny Cash.
Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley’s urging that Goldsboro sang the Bobby Russell penned song “Honey” and launched Goldsboro’s career.
Another hit was “Love Is on the Air” written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, performed by Lou Rawls was used in The Cannonball Run movie, but his pinnacle composition was the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” written by Henley and guitarist/musician Jeff Silbar which became a blockbuster U.S. #1 hit for Bette Midler and has since totaled in excess of 6 million radio air plays.
The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award. The song was originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982 and has since been covered by numerous artists.
Henley was a 2012 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His 1964 hit “Bread and Butter” has been used in Sunbeam Bread advertisements and multiple films, while “Wind Beneath My Wings” was part of the soundtrack for Beaches (1988).
He died on Dec 18, 2014 at age 77 from Lewd Body Dementia in Nashville, Tennessee.
In his early 20s, he owned several burger restaurants in Caldwell, but in 1958 at the age of 20, he also had formed a group called The Downbeats; it was an instrumental band before he recruited singer Mark Lindsay, then changed the name to Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960.
As their frontman, keyboardist, he became “The madman of rock and roll” for over 56 years.
They got their brake in 1963 with a cover of “Louie, Louie”, after which, they scored 4 Top Ten singles in the 60s with “Kicks,” “Hungry,” “Good Thing” and “Him or Me, What’s It Gonna Be”. Their biggest hit came in 1971 with “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)”.
Paul became known as “the madman of rock and roll” for his revolutionary war-style, colonial attire with his tri-cornered hats and his infectious, energenic onstage persona with the band. The band appeared regularly on national U.S. television, most notably on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is, Happening ’68, It’s Happening and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Paul continued to lead and tour with various line-ups of The Raiders throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s until 2014 when sadly he got too ill to perform. Over his 56 years leading The Raiders, he released 14 studio albums, 15 compilation albums, 2 live albums and released 39 singles with the band.
He died at his home in Garden Valley, Idaho at the age of 76 after bravely fighting cancer.
August 31, 2014 – Jimi Wayne Jamison (Survivor) was born in rural Durant, Mississippi, but moved with his mother to Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his birth.
In his teens, he taught himself to play the guitar and piano while honing his vocal abilities. By middle school (Messick Jr. High, Memphis), he was playing in a band called The Debuts, who recorded what became a local hit song (“If I Cry” (1968) on the Scudder label. He also was part of the band D-Beaver, who released one album (Combinations, 1971).
By late 1970, Jamison was fronting the local Memphis band, Target. Jamison and the group released a pair of albums, Target (1976) and Captured (1977), on A&M Records, plus a live concert at the High Cotton school (which marked the beginning of a contract with the record company) and opened concerts for Black Sabbath, Boston, and KISS.
In 1982, Jamison teamed up with Memphis-based Swiss expatriates, guitarist Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus) and bassist Tommy Keiser, in their new band, eventually named Cobra. Rounded out by guitarist/keyboardist Jack Holder (ex-Black Oak Arkansas) and drummer Jeff Klaven and managed by Butch Stone, who had also handled Jamison’s old band Target as well as Krokus and Black Oak Arkansas, the band became a fixture on the local scene and managed to score a record deal with Epic Records. The group issued their lone album, the Tom Allom-produced First Strike, in 1983. It was also during this time that Jamison began providing background vocals for bands such as ZZ Top (with ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons even referring to Jimi as the “fourth member” of the group). Meanwhile, First Strike was only a moderate commercial success, and Cobra went their separate ways in 1984, with members going on to join Asia, Krokus, and, in Jamison’s case, he was invited to join Survivor and had been the only constant member of the band since.
Although he was initially not keen on fronting what he considered more of a “pop rock” band, which would contrast significantly with the heavier stylings of Cobra to which he had become accustomed, Jamison acquiesced to the band and its agents, ultimately joining and becoming Survivor’s new frontman, in the footsteps of Dave Bickler, who’s vocal problems seemed to cause the wane Survivor was experiencing after their number one hit “Eye of the Tiger”.
Although Jamison originally joined Survivor in 1983/84, the charismatic performer would leave and return many times over the next few decades. Often sueing each other, enforced by management groups, fact remains that when there was harmony between the bandmates, the music shined.
Jamison’s first Survivor release was “The Moment of Truth,” a song that didn’t fare well on the radio but became the theme for the hit movie ‘The Karate Kid.” His debut album with the band was much more successful, catapulting them back to superstardom; “Vital Signs” (1984) went platinum and spun off several hits, including the rock ballads “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You” and “The Search Is Over.”
“I’m stronger on ballads,” Jamison told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “I like to sing them more than anything else but I didn’t get much of a chance before. I wanted to sing more ballads. Being in this group is just right for me.”
Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger” — which sold over 2.5 million copies, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became an athletic anthem as part of the soundtrack for “Rocky III” — was released two years before Jamison joined the band. Over the next 30 years, however, he would perform the soaring tune countless times in concert, much to the joy of fans. He also recorded the vocals for “Burning Heart,” a song that appeared on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack.
In 1988, Survivor released what would be their final studio album of the 1980s, Too Hot to Sleep. Jamison composed several songs on this album, including “Rhythm of the City” and the album’s title track. While Jamison and his bandmates believed it to be one of their best works to date (with Jamison citing it retrospectively as his favorite Survivor album), Too Hot to Sleep suffered from a lack of promotion from the record label, and while two singles (“Across the Miles” and “Didn’t Know It Was Love”) charted, it was not as successful as previous Survivor albums. The band then released a greatest hits album to close out the decade and went on hiatus until 1993.
In 1989, Jamison contributed his own version of “Ever Since the World Began,” a song Survivor had initially recorded prior to his tenure in the band, to the film Lock Up. That same year, he was asked to be the lead vocal replacement for Deep Purple, who had just fired Ian Gillan. Said Purple organist Jon Lord of Jamison in a 1993 interview, “He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers. They didn’t want him to leave [Survivor] and he didn’t dare to get into a fight with them.” In fact, Lord’s record label was preparing to release Jamison’s new album, When Love Comes Down (which eventually surfaced in 1991), and they wanted him to stay and promote the record instead of joining Deep Purple.
Jon Lord Deep Purple On replacing Ian Gillan in 1989 :
I myself was against Joe Lynn Turner from the beginning on. He just wasn’t the singer I imagined. It’s funny because in fact none of us wanted him, but he was the only one that was left. The guy we actually wanted, if we *had* to work with a replacement for Gillan, was the singer of Survivor [Jimi Jamison], a very nice, very quiet and very pleasant guy. He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers. They were Italo-Americans; that says enough. Yes, they have connections with a certain “family”. They didn’t want him to leave the band and he didn’t dare to get into a fight with them. After a long period, during which we though he’d accept the job, he turned it down. We were very disappointed and had to do auditions.
After Survivor disbanded in 1989, Jamison decided to focus on a solo career. He released two albums, “When Love Comes Down” (1991) and “Empires” (1999), and cowrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” which became the theme for the the TV show “Baywatch.”
In 1992, Jamison began touring, billing his band as “Survivor” or “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.” After Jamison’s success touring overseas that year, original Survivor guitarist and founding member Frankie Sullivan contacted Jamison’s management and asked to be included on the tour; he performed on eight to ten dates before leaving the group. Soon after, in late 1992–early 1993, Survivor was tapped to do a new and more extensive greatest hits package with two new songs. For a short time, Peterik, Sullivan and Jamison were reunited in the studio to record new material for the new package and forthcoming world tour. But after contract talks broke down, Jamison quit and went back on the road again as “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.”
At this point, Sullivan, along with fellow Survivor cofounder Jim Peterik filed a lawsuit against their former colleague for using the name but ultimately failed (at the time) in their bid to stop Jamison from touring under the “Survivor” banner. However, in late September 1999, Sullivan, who had brought forth another lawsuit against Jamison, won ownership of the name “Survivor,” thereby ending the ongoing trademark battle.
Survivor reunited in 1993, with former lead singer Dave Bickler back on the mic. But Jamison reunited with the band in 2000, played and recorded for six years, left for five and then returned again in 2011.
Between 2006 and 2011 he worked with Whitney Wolanin for the theme, “It Takes Two” in 2005.
In 2008, Jamison teamed up with his former Survivor bandmate, Jim Peterik and released a solo album called Crossroads Moment in Europe. The album was produced by Peterik and released in the United States in 2009 with one more song, “Streets of Heaven”. Then, in 2010, an album titled Extra Moments surfaced, featuring songs from the Jamison/Peterik collaboration that didn’t appear on Jamison’s previous album and some songs sung by Peterik.
In 2009 and 2010, he performed to a sold out crowd at Firefest, the yearly Melodic Rock Festival in Nottingham, England. This performance included Survivor songs such as “It’s the Singer, Not the Song”, “Caught in the Game”, “Didn’t Know It was Love”, “I See You in Everyone”, “Is This Love”; the Cobra song “Blood on your Money”; as well as solo material such as “A Dream Too Far “, “Crossroads Moments”, and “I’m Always Here.” He ended with “Burning Heart” and “Eye of The Tiger”. He also performed at the Melodic Rock Fest in 2010 and 2013.
2010 saw the release of a pair of new singles, “Wouldn’t It Feel Like Christmas” and “House That Love Built,” the latter of which benefited the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. He also performed at the annual concert and event When Rock Meets Classic in Germany, singing the songs “Burning Heart”, “I Can’t Hold Back”, and “The Search is Over”.
In October 2011, he released an album with Bobby Kimball (former lead singer of Toto) titled Kimball/Jamison. That same year, he joined the band One Man’s Trash with Fred Zahl, and they released the album History.
On November 15, 2011, Jamison announced his return to Survivor following a five-year absence from the group.
While still a member of Survivor, Jamison again joined with Peterik to release a country-flavored album titled Unreleased Music. That same year, he released a new solo album, Never Too Late, which was more in the melodic hard rock vein. He continued to tour with Survivor until his death. His last show was on August 30, 2014 in Morgan Hill, California at the CANcert benefit event during the ARTTEC Summer Concert Series.
Survivor’s 58 minute set consisted of “Feels Like Love”, “Broken Promises”, “Take You On A Saturday”, “High On You”, “Rockin’ into the Night”, “The Search is Over”, “Rebel Girl”, “I Can’t Hold Back”, “Burning Heart”, “Poor Man’s Son”, “It’s The Singer Not The Song” and ended with “Eye Of The Tiger”.
The next evening on August 31, 2014, Jimi died from a methamphetamine induced brain stroke at his house in Memphis. He was 63 and scheduled to go on tour again 12 days later.
July 30, 2014 – Richard Allen “Dick” Wagner was born on December 14th 1942 in Oelwein, Iowa, but grew up in Saginaw, Michigan area and graduated from Waterford Township high school in 1961. His first band, called the Bossmen, was a favourite in the Detroit area and scored radio play with the Wagner-penned composition “Baby Boy”, “You’re the Girl for Me” and others.
Wagner formed his next band, the Frost, with Donny Hartman, Bobby Rigg and Gordy Garris, in the late 1960s and built up a substantial following in the Michigan area. The band featured the dual lead guitars of Wagner and Hartman. The band released three albums during their tenure together on Vanguard Records: 1969’s Frost Music and Rock and Roll Music, plus 1970’s Through the Eyes of Love. Wagner was the principal songwriter, arranger and lead singer of The Frost. Their live appearances brought out large crowds of young fans throughout the region.
In the late 60s he formed his second band The Frost, it was in these days he penned one of the best-known songs “Only Women Bleed”.
In 1972, Wagner moved to New York and formed the short-lived group “Ursa Major”. The original line-up included Billy Joel on keyboards and Rick Mangone on drums. As Billy Joel had to leave the band for personal reasons, Wagner replaced him with former Amboy Dukes bassist Greg Arama. They released one seminal, acclaimed self-titled album as a power trio. The band toured nationally with Jeff Beck and then with Alice Cooper.
In 1973, Wagner was recruited by producer Bob Ezrin for Lou Reed’s band along with Steve Hunter. Wagner and Hunter were featured guitarists on Lou Reed’s dark and controversial 1973 studio album, Berlin. Soon after, Wagner and Hunter were joined by Prakash John, Pentti “Whitey” Glan and Ray Colcord for Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal Tour. As band leader and arranger, Wagner took the early Lou Reed songs that had been recorded by the Velvet Underground and rearranged them for the concert stage. The new arrangements left behind the laid back feeling that had been established by the prior Reed band and won Reed his first gold album. The band toured internationally with Reed, culminating in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal album, recorded live at the New York Academy of Music in December 1973. Readers of Guitar World ranked the Hunter/Wagner solos on the 1973 live version of “Sweet Jane” 81st among the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time.
It was during Wagner’s days with the Frost that he first met Alice Cooper. Producer Bob Ezrin brought both Wagner and Steve Hunter into the studio to play guitar on the early Alice Cooper albums. Wagner had already been featured on the band’s School’s Out album, notably for playing the memorable guitar solo on the track “My Stars”. Wagner continued to play lead guitar (sometimes uncredited) on every Alice Cooper Group album that followed, through the break up of the original group.
When the members of the original Alice Cooper group parted ways in 1974, Wagner officially teamed up with Alice Cooper and became his principal co-writer, lead guitarist and band director. Together they wrote their first concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare.
Produced by Bob Ezrin, the album was released in 1975. The Nightmare Tour became the largest and longest touring rock show of the time. The live show also featured the duelling lead guitars of Wagner and Hunter in a guitar battle captured on the film of the same name. The film became a TV special and was released on home video in 1976. The world tour covered more than 120 cities over an eighteen-month period. Wagner continued to co-write songs and play lead guitar on additional Cooper albums, including: Goes To Hell, The Alice Cooper Show, Lace and Whiskey, From the Inside (written by the team of Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner and Bernie Taupin), Zipper Catches Skin, DaDa and Hey Stoopid among others.
At the suggestion of producer Bob Ezrin, Wagner contributed guitar tracks to the highly successful 1976 Kiss album Destroyer – the first Kiss album to prominently feature outside musicians. Though uncredited, Wagner replaced Ace Frehley as lead guitarist for the tracks “Flaming Youth” and “Sweet Pain”, while also playing the acoustic guitar found on the ballad “Beth”. As one of Ezrin`s hired guns throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s, Wagner continued to lend his playing (and in some cases, songwriting) talents to albums including Peter Gabriel’s self-titled solo debut (1977), Air Supply, Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings, Hall & Oates’ Along the Red Ledge, Kiss’s Revenge, and Burton Cummings’ Dream of a Child. Wagner produced and co-wrote songs for Mark Farner’s solo début and a pair of albums for the star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Curry and more.
In 1978, Wagner released a solo LP called Richard Wagner, produced by Bob Ezrin, and released on Atlantic Records. The album title confused both record stores and disc jockeys, who relegated the record to the classical music bin, assuming it was a classical music record composed by the 19th-century classical composer with the same name.
One of the best-known songs written by Wagner is “Only Women Bleed“. Written during Wagner’s days with the Frost, Wagner was initially unhappy with his lyrics and did not release it. Once his collaboration with Alice Cooper started, Wagner played the song for him. Alice had a title for a song he had been wanting to write. Cooper and Wagner penned new lyrics and recorded it for Cooper’s album Welcome to My Nightmare. The song delivered a message against domestic abuse. Since its initial release in 1975 “Only Women Bleed” has been covered by more than 30 artists, including Tina Turner, Etta James, Guns N’ Roses, Lita Ford, Carmen McRae and Tori Amos.
Following “Only Women Bleed”, Wagner co-wrote a series of hit power ballads with Alice Cooper, including “I Never Cry”, “You And Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now” (the latter written by Cooper, Wagner and Bernie Taupin). Other songs co-written by Wagner brought him public recognition as a songwriting talent. First “Shine Silently” with Nils Lofgren, who performed it originally on his 1979 album Nils, then as part of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band’s 1990 eponymous first album. “Just As I Am”, written by Wagner with Rob Hegel, was a hit record for Air Supply. At the behest of producer Bob Ezrin, Wagner flew to Toronto and recorded seven tracks of guitars on the Air Supply record. Another power ballad, “I Might As Well Be on Mars”, again with Alice Cooper, was featured on Cooper’s 1991 album Hey Stoopid.
One of the songs Wagner was most proud of is “Remember The Child“, written to address the issue of child abuse. Written from the point of view of a child, the lyrics and sing song melody deliver a powerful and poignant message to adults that a child will forever remember the love or abuse of their childhood. New York Times best selling author John Bradshaw selected “Remember The Child” as the theme song for his award winning PBS television special, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child”.
Bradshaw invited Wagner to join him on his nationwide tour to perform the song as a cathartic and healing piece of music to the thousands who attended Bradshaw’s lectures and seminars. Embraced by psychiatrists and psychologists in their practices, the song has been used as a tool to evoke emotion from patients who are unable to express feelings. In 1996, Wagner was invited by Leo Najar, conductor of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra to perform a two and a half hour concert of his songs with the symphony. Wagner entitled the concert, “The Remember The Child Concert”, raising funds for child abuse agencies in central Michigan through his “Remember The Child Foundation”.
Wagner moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 2005 where he was writing a new album with Alan Gordon (Happy Together, Celebrate). In 2007 he produced and wrote songs for artist Wensday on the album Torch Rock, released on his independent record label Desert Dreams Records. Her début album, produced by Wagner, was included in the 2007 50th Anniversary Grammy Awards ballot.
A film about the work of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, entitled “Rock and Roll Animals”, was in production in 2007 by Noble Savage Productions. In filmed interviews, Alice Cooper talks about hiring Dick Wagner, writing with him and hiring the greatest guitar players to be in his band. Fred Mandel, keyboardist with the Alice Cooper Band was also interviewed. The film was never completed, but the clips are on YouTube.
In 2006, Wagner cooperated with the Italian rock singer Chris Catena in recording a cover version of “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” the famous rock song by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, which will be released in the third album of the Italian singer around 2015.
In 2007, Wagner suffered a massive heart attack and stroke. After arriving DOA at a Scottsdale hospital, he spent two weeks in a coma, awakening with a paralyzed left arm. While recovering from his heart attack, Wagner continued to write songs and began writing his memoirs, which ultimately became his book, Not Only Women Bleed.
As he slowly recovered from his heart attack and stroke, Wagner manifested unusual symptoms, including difficulty walking and concentrating, loss of balance, and symptoms of dementia, threatening his music career and his life. In 2011, Wagner was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a type of dementia which affects, among other things, fine motor skills and gait. In late 2011, after successful surgery at Barrow Neurological Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, Wagner was able to make a significant recovery, regaining almost all of the dexterity which had been lost over the course of the disorder’s progression.
Dick Wagner’s former band the Frost was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame in 2008. The group’s recording of “Mystery Man”, a Wagner composition, was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2009. He continued to recover from his near-fatal heart attack and recorded with long-time collaborator Steve Hunter on an unnamed single for Wensday.
Wagner released a new CD in October 2009, called Full Meltdown on Desert Dreams Records. It features 15 lost and newly discovered songs recorded by Wagner between 1979 and 1995. He also produced the band Warsaw Pact and the independent artist Brandon Bullard with releases from both in early 2010. Wagner scored with Alice Cooper and the British funk rock band the Velvet Hearts the soundtrack to the Indie horror film Silas Gore, A Film Trilogy. Similar to his original work on the first Alice Cooper solo album Welcome to My Nightmare, Dick also contributed lead guitar to the final track, “The Underture”, from the album Welcome 2 My Nightmare. It represents instrumental versions of several songs from each album.
In 2010, Gibson.com honored the guitar tandem of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter with two places in the Top 50 Guitar Solos of All Time – #25 for “Intro to Sweet Jane” (Lou Reed), and as #41 “Train Kept A Rollin’ (Aerosmith). In 2012, Gibson published Riff This Way: Aerosmith’s Top 10 Riff-Heavy Tracks, placing Dick Wagner with two winning guitar solos: The #1 Best Aerosmith Guitar Solo for his lead guitar on “Same Old Song and Dance”, and also #4, honoring his performance as lead guitarist with Steve Hunter on “Train Kept A Rollin'”. Wagner won a number of BMI Songwriter awards and other international music awards and his work has been featured on albums earning more than 35 gold and platinum records.
In 2012, Wagner’s memoirs, Not Only Women Bleed, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician, were released to tremendous acclaim, spending more than two weeks at No. 1 on Amazon.com’s Hot New Releases in Biographies & Memoirs of Entertainers. His book has won five international book awards.
The same year, Wagner joined forces with the Mugshots – the only European band ever produced by the musician- and spent two weeks in Italy to produce their acclaimed release “Love, Lust And Revenge”, on which he is featured as lead guitarist as well. Susan Michelson is featured as associated producer, British ladies Never The Bride provided backing vocals, American actress Suzi Lorraine] is featured on the cover. The record was then mixed in Phoenix by Otto D’Agnolo at Chaton Studios, and mastered by Wagner’s longtime friend and collaborator, Gil Markle. The Mugshots – “a majestic Euro-American combination of classic rock and dark stories” in the musician’s words – are known to be the only band to have recorded a cover version of “Pass The Gun Around”, written by Dick Wagner back in 1983 for Alice Cooper’s DaDa.
In 2013 and 2014, after suffering more than six years of extreme health adversities: two heart attacks, a stroke, a paralyzed left arm, a diagnosis of hydrocephalus (NPH) two brain surgeries, a pacemaker and more, Wagner’s guitar playing facilities had returned, and he fully resumed performing, touring, writing songs and producing music. His book tour for Not Only Women Bleed took him to more than 40 states. With personal appearances in documentary films and writing film scores, Wagner had three songs featured in the multi-award winning documentary “Louder than Love” (including the opening song and the closing credits song). Leading up to his death, Wagner’s projects included producing and writing for Danish rock star, Maryann Cotton, in a concept album and TV project reminiscent of Wagner’s shock rock history, a featuring in the forthcoming third solo album of the Italian rocker Chris Catena, entitled Return of the Freak.
On July 30, 2014, Wagner died of respiratory failure at the age of 71.
Since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group The Valentinos and as Sam Cooke’s backing guitarist, Womack’s career spanned more than 60 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.
His mother played the organ for the church choir, and their father was a steelworker, part-time minister, musician who played the guitar and also sang gospel. His father would advise his sons to not touch his guitar while he was away. One night, eight-year-old Bobby, who was often playing it, broke a guitar string. After Friendly replaced the string with a shoelace, he let Bobby play the guitar for him. According to Bobby, Friendly was stunned by his son’s talents as well as the talents of his other sons. Soon afterwards, he bought Bobby his own guitar.
Sam Cooke, the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, first saw the Womack Brothers performing in the mid-1950s. He became their mentor and helped them go on tour. They went on national tours with The Staple Singers. Even though Curtis Womack often sang lead, Bobby Womack was allowed to sing alongside him showcasing his gruff baritone vocals in contrast to his older brother’s smoother tenor. During performances, Bobby would sometimes imitate the role of a preacher, which later became his nickname. At just 16, Bobby dropped out of high school.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Cooke formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label in 1961, where they released a handful of gospel singles. Then, Cooke changed their name to The Valentinos, relocated them to Los Angeles and convinced them to transition from gospel music to secular soul- and pop-influenced sound. Cooke produced and arranged the group’s first hit single, “Lookin’ for a Love”, which was a pop version of the gospel song, “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray”, they had recorded earlier. The song became an R&B hit and helped land the group an opening spot for James Brown’s tour. The group’s next hit came in 1964 with the country-tinged “It’s All Over Now”, co-composed by Bobby. Their version was rising on the charts when The Rolling Stones covered it. Actually nine days after hearing the song for the first time during a radio interview, Mick and the Boys quickly interrupted their US tour for a recording session at Chess Studio in Chicago; that’s how eager they were to add this song to their historic repertoire climbing to the top of Rock and Roll.
Womack was also a member of Cooke’s band, touring and recording with him from 1961. The Valentinos’ career was left shaky after Sam Cooke was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel. Devastated by the news, the brothers disbanded and SAR Records folded. Womack continued to work as a session musician. Between 1965 and 1968 he toured and recorded with Ray Charles.
Bobby Womack was closely related to Sam Cooke’s life and music, so much that 3 months after Cooke got killed in a mysterious Motel altercation in Los Angeles, Womack married his wife Barbara and his brother Cecil later married Cooke’s daughter Linda.
Womack became a prolific songwriter who further wrote New Birth’s “I Can Understand It”. As a singer he is most notable for the hits “Lookin’ For a Love”, “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”, “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, “Harry Hippie”, “Across 110th Street”, and his 1980s hits “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much”.
Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s other artists would regularly record his songs. They included Ella Washington and Baby Washington who recorded ‘I Can’t Afford To Lose Him’ in 1968, Jerry Butler who released ‘Yes My Goodness Yes’ in 1968, Margie Joseph who issued ‘What You Gonna Do’ and Roosevelt Grier who had an R&B success with ‘People Make The World’. One of his most famous songs ‘Trust Me’ was recorded by Janis Joplin and later by Winfield Parker amongst others. The 1960s and 1970’s were especially profitable years for Womack’s songwriting, either solo efforts or in partnership with the likes of Darryl Carter and Jim Ford. Whilst working as a session musician with Wilson Pickett he regularly contributed songs included the original version of ‘I’m In Love’, later covered by Aretha Franklin. Another Atlantic Records artist Percy Sledge issued ‘Baby Help Me’ in 1967. The J. Geils Band covered “Lookin’ For A Love”, released on several albums, including the live gem “Blow Your Face Out”.
In the following decade Millie Jackson with ‘Put Something Down On It’ , Kokomo and New Birth with ‘I Can Understand It’, Ronnie Wood with ‘I Got A Feeling’ and George Benson with the instrumental ‘Breezin’ recorded versions of Womack songs. Lou Donaldson, the American jazz saxophonist reinterpreted ‘You’re Welcome To Stop On By’ in 1974. The British singer Rod Stewart used the distinctive string arrangement from ‘Put Something Down On It’ for his massive hit ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’. Other significant artists to record Bobby Womack songs include: Georgie Fame and Kelly Rowland with ‘Daylight’, O V Wright’s cover of ‘That’s The Way I Feel About You’ and reggae acts Dennis Alcapone who issued a distinctive version of ‘Harry Hippy’ entitled ‘Sorry Harry’ and Triston Palma who issued ‘Love Has Finally Come At Last’ in 1984.
Jodeci’s K-Ci Hailey, a notable admirer of Womack’s work, covered “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” in 1994. Hailey again covered Womack in 2006 with his rendition of “A Woman’s Gotta Have It”. The song is referenced in Mariah Carey’s song “We Belong Together”, a number one hit in June 2005. Carey sings “I can’t sleep at night / When you are on my mind / Bobby Womack’s on the radio / Singing to me: ‘If you think you’re lonely now.'” In 2007, R&B singer Jaheim interpolated the song as “Lonely” on his album “The Making of a Man”. Neo Soul Singer, Calvin Richardson also covered many of Womack’s tunes. “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha” was covered by the late R&B musician Gerald Levert and fellow singer Mary J. Blige on Levert’s 1998 album Love & Consequences.
Film director Quentin Tarantino used “Across 110th Street” (which, in a different version, had been the title song of the 1972 movie) in the opening and closing sequences of his 1997 film Jackie Brown. His work has been used in several other popular films, including Meet the Parents (2000), Ali (2001) and American Gangster (2007). A 2003 Saab commercial used Womack’s interpretation of “California Dreamin'”. In 2005, “Across 110th Street” appeared in the hit Activision video game True Crime: New York City.
On the 1994 release 1-800-NEW-FUNK, Nona Gaye covered “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, produced by Prince and backed by his band, New Power Generation.
During the spring of 1997, R&B singer Rome covered the original song from his self-titled debut album.
In 2008, Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child recorded her own version of his R&B hit “Daylight” with Travis McCoy of the Gym Class Heroes, which became a hit in the UK Singles Chart, where it was previously released as a single by Womack in 1976.
In 2009, Calvin Richardson was chosen to record a tribute album to Womack to coincide with Womack’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Grammy-nominated album was entitled Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack. It reached No. 30 on the US R&B chart.
Bobby Womack, singer/songwriter and guitarist, who was a session musician for Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Wilson Pickett, to name just a few left a rich musical legacy spanning seven decades and 28 studio albums.
He passed on June 7, 2014 and although the exact cause of the 70-year-old’s death was not announced, he had suffered from cancer and Alzheimer’s and had battled drug addiction. Womack’s life was blighted by drugs, and he slipped off the radar for years at a time. Despite this – and pneumonia, diabetes, two forms of cancer and the early stages of Alzheimer’s – Womack outlived most of the artists he was associated with, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He said towards the end of his career: “Maybe if I wasn’t high, my life might not have lasted so long.”
Australian singer and musician, best known as the charismatic lead singer for the Australian hard rock band The Angels. His father, Bernard James Neeson, was a British Army soldier, and his mother was Kathleen née Corrigan. He was the eldest of six children. They were raised as Catholics although the family lived in a Protestant area of Belfast. He attended boarding school at Terenure College in Dublin.
Neeson emigrated with his family to Adelaide on April 14, 1960 aboard SS Strathnaver when he was 13 years old. In the late 60’s, he was conscripted into the Australian army, serving as an education corps sergeant in Papua New Guinea for 18 months. Returning to Adelaide, he attended Flinders University and completed degrees in film and drama and intended to become a film director.
While he was a student, in 1971 he joined an acoustic blues group, Moonshine Jug and String Band, on vocals and guitar. The band evolved into The Keystone Angels in 1974, switching to electric instruments and began playing 1950s rock and roll on the pub circuit. In 1975, the band supported AC/DC during a South Australian tour. On the recommendation of Bon Scott and Malcolm Young from AC/DC, the band was offered a recording deal with the Albert label. Another slight name change* and the iconic Australian act The Angels, fronted by Neeson was born. It was Neesons memorable and theatrical stage presence that became one of the Angels defining characteristics. Since releasing their debut single Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face.
- Record producer George Young suggested the new band he was working with, the Keystone Angels, rename themselves simply as ‘‘the Angels’’ and that the band choose a lead vocalist instead of sharing the singing. The choice came down to John Brewster’s clear tones or Doc Neeson’s gruff shout.”Our drummer, Buzz Bidstrup, said, ‘Let’s go with Doc. He’s got the worst voice in the band’,” Neeson said. ”While I was looking daggers at him, he changed that to ‘distinctive’ and the penny dropped with everyone. We’d sacrifice sweetness for distinctiveness. That’s how I became the Angels’ lead singer.” And that’s how Australian music was changed.
Again in 1976, and following up with hits like No Secrets, Take A Long Line, and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, The Angels did go on to enjoy an extraordinary career remaining one of the most enduring bands in Australian music history. Neesons energetic stage performances came to an abrupt end on December 1, 1999 when he was in a near fatal car accident. A truck rear-ended his car while waiting in line at a tollbooth. He sustained serious neck and back injuries. Neeson was scheduled to perform in Dili, a gig he had organised to support the Australian troops stationed in East Timor. He still performed in Dili but upon his return to Australia, his specialist warned him that if he continued to perform, he would end up in a wheelchair and was told to retire.
In 2008, he reunited with the original Angels band and went on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Face to Face album. In 2010 Neeson launched his solo career. The Angels 100% Tour was announced in November, 2012 for early 2013.
Neeson was at a family Christmas dinner in 2012 when he began feeling unwell and was taken by ambulance to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. After having a seizure at the hospital, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. The tumor was surgically removed and he began an intensive program of radio and chemotherapy. Due to his health problems, The Angels 100% tour was cancelled.
News quickly spread about his condition and the music community organised a benefit concert Rock For Doc to help raise funds to assist him with the funds needed for his medical treatment and day-to-day living expenses. The concert raised $200,000 AU. In February 2014, Neeson had a follow up MRI scan that revealed the tumor had returned. On June 4, 2014 Bernard “Doc” Neeson passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 67.
April 11, 2014 – James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born in Bossier City Louisiana on May 17th 1944. He had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.
During the height of the Vietnam War he moved to Canada in 1967, where he began his career as a solo artist. After he became a Canadian citizen in 1973, he gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977 but did not resettle there until 2002.
Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field, near Bossier City, Louisiana, and raised in northern Mississippi and in Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine.
Winchester began playing guitar in bands while still in high school. He played in Germany during college study abroad and after graduation. Upon arriving in Quebec in 1967, he joined a local band, Les Astronautes. He also began writing songs, which he performed as a solo artist at the Montreal Folk Workshop and at coffeehouses throughout eastern Canada, adding impetus to a revival in folk music that was taking place across Canada. After a friend introduced him to Robbie Robertson of the Band, Mr. Winchester was signed by the Band’s manager, Albert Grossman. His debut album was produced by Robbie Robertson and received admiring reviews.
Sales were modest, partly because Mr. Winchester could not tour the United States to promote it. But “Yankee Lady” was a hit in Canada for Winchester, and later in the United States for Brewer & Shipley, and “Biloxi” became a staple of Jimmy Buffett’s repertoire.
His highest charting recordings were of his own tunes, “Yankee Lady” in 1970 and “Say What” in 1981. Probably best known as a songwriter, with his works being recorded by many notable artists, including Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris. His song “I’m gonna Miss You Girl” performed by Michael Martin Murphey from 1987 is probably best known. Many of these recordings have had success on various rock, folk and country charts.
“The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which Winchester said was the first song he wrote, was recorded by, among others, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Anne Murray and Patti Page, who had a huge hit in 1950 with “The Tennessee Waltz.”
His songs were rooted in country, soul and gospel, and they strove to stay plain-spoken and succinct, whether he was singing wryly about everyday life or musing on philosophy and faith. In 1989 he told Musician magazine, “You can always find a way to say things in fewer words.”
In 2002, he moved back to the United States, settling in Virginia. That year, his song “Step by Step”, from the album Let the Rough Side Drag, was used as background music for the montage that ended the first season of the television program The Wire. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2007. Winchester continued to record and perform throughout the United States and Canada, releasing his tenth studio album, Love Filling Station, in 2009.
In 2011, Winchester was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and underwent treatment for the next couple of months. He was later given a clean bill of health from his doctor and resumed touring, but in April 2014, it was revealed that Winchester was “gravely ill” and receiving hospice care at his home, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He died there on the morning of April 11, 2014, aged 69, from bladder cancer.
Winchester’s final CD, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, was released in September 2014, with liner notes by his friend Jimmy Buffett. Rolling Stone called it “a gentle collection of playful songs about love, memory and gratitude that amounts to one of the most moving, triumphant albums of Winchester’s 45 year career.
March 15, 2014 – Cees Veerman (the Cats) was born on October 6th 1943 in the Dutch town of Volendam, near Amsterdam. He initially played in the bands Electric Johnny & The Skyriders, Sputniks, Mystic Four and The Blue Cats, prior to becoming one of the founders The Cats.
From the late 60s to the mid 70s, The Cats of which Cees was frontman and main song writer too, the band saw a large number of successes, including Sure He’s a Cat and Lea (1968), Why (1969), Marian (1970), Where Have I Been Wrong (1970) and Be My Day (1974). Their best-selling single was One Way Wind from 1972, which reached No.3 in the Top 40.
The Cats are considered the founders of the Palingsound (Eel Sound), a category that is used to indicate a classic, typical Dutch style in pop music coming from the fishing village Volendam.
In 1976 Cees released a solo album called “Another Side Of Me”, which spawned the hit single “Sailor, Sail On (Dreamer, Dream On)”.
The Cats disbanded in 1979. On March 23rd 2006, The Cats were made Members of the Order of Orange-Nassau,the same year they made a reunion to record a single for inclusion on a Best Of-album which went gold. Cees performed also with the Cats Aglow Band as support act of Willy De Ville’s Amsterdam Carré show on July 7th 2000.
Cees Veerman died on March 15, 2014 at age 70 in Yogjakarta, Indonesia.
Feb 18, 2014 – Bernd “Nossi” Noske (Birth Control) was born on August 17, 1946 in West Berlin. At age eight he was already singing in the School choir even though music was in those days competing with soccer. He was a very talented soccer player. He played his first gig with the Black Phantoms in the city of Spandau in 1961, but before he enrolled fully into a career as musician he packed food and drove trucks.
His first Band „The Odd Persons“ played gigs in West Germany which included the famous Starclub in Hamburg. In 1969 he succeeded Hugo Egon Balder, in the Band Birth Control, where he played drums and sang until his death in 2014.
The band split in 1983 for ten years after the death of their guitarist Bruno Frenzel; Nossi reunited the band in 1993. In those years he played with Bands such as Hardbeats, Mr. Goodtrip and Lilly & the Rockets.
Birth Control released 34 albums between 1970-2009, while Nossi also released a solo album in 1999, Come Out at Night.
Since 2005 Nossi also was a drum instructor when he unexpectedly passed on February 18, 2014 at age 67.
Feb 17, 2014 – Robert Edward “Bob” Casale Jr. aka Bob 2 -(Devo) was born Robert Edward Pizzute, Jr on July 14, 1952 in Kent, Ohio. His birth name was Pizzute because his father had legally changed his name from Robert Edward Casale to that of his foster parents.
He originally trained as a medical radiation technologist, but was recruited by his brother Gerald Casale to join his band, the new wave band Devo. In Devo concerts, Bob played lead-rhythm guitar and keyboards while working with MIDI sampling. He also sang backup vocals both on album and at live shows.
Ohio-based Devo introduced themselves to the world in 1977 by making a frenetic version of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. The new wave band released its Brian Eno-produced debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, in 1978. They reached platinum status in the 1980’s with record Freedom of Choice, largely thanks to the success of Whip It, which became the theme song of a generation.
Devo is short for devolution, the idea that man was regressing into an earlier state.
The band stopped performing in 1991, but reformed as a musical act in 1995.
As music engineering and production opportunities expanded he began working for TV and movies, including Four Rooms, Happy Gilmore, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Rugrats Go Wild. (
Bob died from heart failure on February 17, 2014. He was 61.
February 2, 2014 – Bunny Rugs aka Bunny Scott was born William Clarke on February 2nd 1948 in Mandeville, Jamaica and raised in Kingston. In the mid 60s he joined Charlie Hackett and the Souvenirs, the resident band at the Kitty Club on Maxfield Avenue, before leading the early lineup of Inner Circle in 1969. From 1971 he did a stint in New York where he was a member of the dance band Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers and the Bluegrass Experience.
He returned to Jamaica in 1974 and recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry, initially as a backing singer, then with Leslie Kong’s nephew Ricky Grant as the duo Bunny & Ricky. They released singles such as “Freedom Fighter” and “Bushweed Corntrash”.
He joined Third World in 1976. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits in U.K. and U.S. charts including “Now That We Found Love,” “Always Around” and “Reggae Ambassador.”
The next year, the band released “96 Degrees in the Shade,” one of its most popular albums. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits on British and U.S. charts, including “Now That We Found Love,” “Always Around” and “Reggae Ambassador.” He performed on all of Third World’s records except the group’s debut.
Stevie Wonder, who performed on stage with the band at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1981, co-wrote and produced Third World’s 1982 song “Try Jah Love.”
Clarke and Third World were known for seamlessly fusing reggae with soul and pop music, something they were occasionally criticized for by reggae purists. In a 1992 interview with Billboard magazine, he described the band’s identity this way: “Strictly a reggae band, no. Definitely a reggae band, yes.”
Drummer Willie Stewart, who kept the beat in Third World until 1997, said Monday that the fun-loving Clarke “loved his art but always had a joke.”
In a government statement noting Clarke’s death, Culture Minister Lisa Hanna said: “Bunny Rugs’ voice was distinct. He had a charisma and stage presence that was spellbinding with a smile that was vibrant.”
He had been released from an Orlando Florida cancer treatment center a week earlier when he passed away at his home on February 2, 2014 at age 65.
January 18, 2014 – Dennis Hardy “Fergie” Frederiksen was born May 15th, 1951, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
He started his musical career at the age of 13 and he played clubs and pubs at the age of 15 with a group called the Common People. In 1975, while attending college at Central Michigan, he was asked by his friend Tommy Shaw to replace him as the lead vocalist for the band MSFunk, as Shaw was leaving to join Styx. The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Dennis began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds. Frederiksen was with MSFunk for a year before disbanding in 1976. While living in Chicago, he helped form a local progressive rock band called Trillion with keyboardist Patrick Leonard. Trillion’s debut album was released in 1978 and was produced by Gary Lyons (producer of Foreigner’s debut album); all but one of its nine tracks were co-written by Frederiksen. The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Frederiksen began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds, a gimmick he would continue with later bands. Frederiksen would leave the group after one album, and was replaced by Thom Griffin.
After leaving Trillion, Frederiksen started focusing mainly on session work; primarily movie soundtracks. In 1979, he signed with Casablanca Records, where he performed under the alias of David London. (Frederiksen wanted to separate his rock image from the disco image Casablanca was known for.) He sang two tracks (“Samantha” and “Sound Of The City”) on the soundtrack to Can’t Stop The Music (which reached number 47 on the Billboard 200), as well as a more AOR-style solo album in 1981, with his friend Mark Christian as the lead guitarist. This would turn out to be one of the last albums released by Casablanca Records, as the fall of disco in the early 1980s forced the label to fold, eventually becoming part of Mercury Records. He would drop the stage name soon after, officially going by his childhood nickname “Fergie”.
While at Casablanca, he met Greg Giuffria, of the recently defunct glam-rock band Angel (one of the few rock acts signed by the record label). The two started working in his studio in late 1981 in hopes of a possible new Angel LP under a new line-up. It was in these Angel recordings where Frederiksen met bassist Ricky Phillips.
The two became long-time friends and have collaborated on many projects. This line-up never completed an official album, as Giuffria started focusing heavily on the formation of his group Giuffria in 1982, but did record three songs during band sessions: “Whips”, “Troubleshooter”, and “Should Have Known Better”. These tracks were later released on the Angel Rarities collection, and were eventually covered by White Sister.
After Kansas singer Steve Walsh originally left the band, auditions were held in early 1982. Frederiksen was one of several candidates who tried out, but John Elefante eventually took over the lead vocal spot. However, Kansas manager Budd Carr spotted Fergie during auditions and began working with him soon after, which ultimately would prove instrumental for Frederiksen’s career. It was around this time that long-time friends Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan from Survivor invited Frederiksen to their studio during the recording of their third album, while lead singer Dave Bickler was experiencing vocal cord strain. Ultimately, Bickler was able to finish the album, and Frederiksen assisted with background vocals. The band’s third album Eye of the Tiger was released in May 1982, with Frederiksen credited simply as “Fergie”. It jumped to number 2 on the Billboard charts, and eventually went 2x Platinum on the strength of its #1 title track. Frederiksen provided harmonies on five tracks, including the album’s second single, “American Heartbeat”, which charted in the top 20.
In late summer of 1982, Frederiksen and Asia session-guitarist Jim Odom were both recruited by manager Budd Carr, to replace lead singer/guitarist Jeff Pollard of LeRoux, who had recently left the band to start his own Christian ministry. Fergie became LeRoux’s new front-man soon after. So Fired Up, the band’s fifth album, was released in February 1983. It included the hit song “Carrie’s Gone”, which Frederiksen wrote shortly after breaking up with then girlfriend Carrie Hamilton (Carol Burnett’s daughter). The band was dropped from RCA Records, but are still together and touring, and were recently inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Frederiksen reunited with Ricky Phillips to start a brand new band called Abandon Shame, featuring Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and his wife Tane. The quartet worked on 5 songs in 1984, with Fergie only singing on one of the tracks. The Kevin Elson-produced “You Can’t Do That”, “Burnin’ in the Third Degree”, and “Photoplay” appeared in the soundtrack to The Terminator, and were credited to Tahnee Cain and Trianglz. While “Kicks” and “Over Night Sensation” would eventually appear in the 1985 film Armed Response, with Tane and Fergie singing the leads respectively.
Phillips, who was friends with Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, gave him a Frederiksen demo. Toto, who had fired lead singer Bobby Kimball in the midst of recording their fifth album Isolation, invited Frederiksen to come audition for his spot. After edging out Eric Martin, he got the job, and the band finished recording Isolation, which was released in October 1984. It included the hit song “Stranger in Town” and went Gold. The music video for “Stranger in Town”, which featured Fergie as the murder victim, was nominated at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Direction. After touring with Toto through 1985, Frederiksen was fired from the band during the initial recording sessions for Fahrenheit, mainly due to his difficulties with performing in the studio. He has repeatedly cited his brief tenure with Toto as the highlight of his career.
In June 2010, he announced he had inoperable cancer. Medical treatments made it difficult for him to do recording sessions, however, his friend Alex Ligertwood pushed him to continue and he released two more solo albums: Happiness is the Road and Any Given Moment.
He died on Jan. 18, 2014 after a nearly four-year-long battle with cancer.
Jan. 13, 2014 – Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee was born Frederick John Cheesman in Chopwell, Durham, England in 1937. As a child an accident with a dart led to the loss of his right eye. Throughout his life he made light of his disability and refused to let it be a handicap. Though hardly a household name, Lee was a wild and notorious presence on the UK rock and roll scene from the early ’60s up to his death. Born in 1937, he lost his right eye at the age of three after an accident with a stray dart thrown by his father. According to the North Hampton Chronicle, Lee’s daughter remembers her father occasionally dropping his glass eye in people’s drinks while they weren’t looking. “He was the most unconventional dad ever, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way.”
Freddie’s career started in the fifties as a guitarist in a skiffle group, playing between films on the Star Cinema circuit. His life profoundly changed in 1957, when Jerry Lee Lewis released ‘A Whole Lotta Shakin’ and that inspired him to take up the piano. Freddie said, “All I had heard as a kid was Winifred Atwell and I just didn’t believe that a human being could play piano like that.” Cheesman had various scaffolding jobs in his teens and while working in London, he taught himself to play a landlady’s piano. He played with workmates in various skiffle and rock’n’roll groups and in 1960, he joined Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages, Sutch renaming him Freddie Fingers Lee. He play piano with Screaming Lord Sutch, in the house band at The Star Club in Hamburg. He contined to work with Screaming Lord Sutch until Lord Sutch’s suicide in 1999. The following year he was backing the hit-making Eden Kane, but his tenure ended after a fight with the audience led to him having stitches in his good eye. He became the resident pianist on the gold piano at the Star-Club in Hamburg and met several of his heroes. “Jerry Lee Lewis wouldn’t even pass you the toilet paper,” he said.
Returning to the Savages, Lee played on Sutch’s infamous “Jack the Ripper” and every night Sutch would want to perform it with himself as the killer and Lee as the prostitute. “He knocked me into the orchestra pit in Sheffield and he strangled me in Hamburg,” Lee told me in 1993, “and he said, ‘If you don’t turn up for the next show, I’m taking it out of your wages’.” Lee also worked as a session musician playing with Alvin Lee, Ian Whitcomb and Twinkle, whose “Golden Lights” was a hit in 1965.
Lee struck out on his own in 1965 and among the musicians in his band was Ian Hunter, later to form Mott The Hoople. He made the singles “The Friendly Undertaker” (1965) and “Bossy Boss” (1966) but he excelled on stage. He attacked pianos with a chainsaw and he once blew up his piano using his knowledge of explosives. At the De Montfort Hall in Leicester he removed the ivory keys with an axe and hurled them into the audience, who promptly threw them back. Doing handstands on the piano was commonplace and he often used paraffin to ignite his hat. He did however maintain that he had never, ever destroyed “a good piano”.
One of British rock ‘n’ roll’s most colorful characters was Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee, a guy who never lost the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
In the early ’60s he joined the Savages, Screaming Lord Sutch‘s band. Sutch was arguably the first rocker to incorporate theatrics into his concerts, long before Arthur Brown or Alice Cooper would make the scene. Lee was the guitarist in the band until a young upstart named Ritchie Blackmore stepped in. It was then that Lee moved over to piano.
Freddie started down the road to nuttydom playing piano for Screaming Lord Sutch, his long time partner in crime, while the young Ritchie Blackmore took over his job on guitar. He later joined Eden Kane’s band touring with Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde until, like many other British acts in the sixties, he found his way to Hamburg, initially playing with Sutch and later joining the houseband at the legendary Top Ten Club and The Star Club. When asked the inevitable questions about the Beatles, Freddie said “Lennon was a nut case but they were the same as the rest of us, just a bunch of working-class lads playing the circuit, we didn’t see them any differently; it just happened for them and they got on.”
Years later Paul McCartney paid Freddie the ultimate tribute by inviting him on stage at The Hammersmith Odeon. It was, however, visiting Americans who made Hamburg memorable for Freddie, when he met and sat in with all of the rock ‘n’ roll greats. “I played with Jerry Lee Lewis for a week, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Crickets and Gene Vincent, I also met Sam Cooke there, who was a real gentleman“.
These musicians, particularly Jerry Lee, remained an enduring influence on Freddie’s prolific writing career which eventually resulted in 19 singles, 8 albums, 12 compilations and had stars such as Tom Jones and Charlie Gracie covering his songs. “In my mind and in my music, I stayed in the fifties; I love country music though and do a few country numbers in the set, there are so many facets to it, from Cash to Lewis. Rock ‘n’ roll is pure excitement, there is nothing else that can make an entire audience, of all ages and descriptions, start stamping their feet. It’s that incessant drive in the beat. Fads come and go but rock’n’roll has stayed. I have been playing it since day one and I’m still playing it now”.
For many people, Freddie burst into prominence with the 1979 revival of the Jack Good TV show ‘Oh Boy’ which made him a household name, especially on the continent. “I have followed the re-runs of it right across Europe, playing major dates of the back of it. ‘Oh Boy’ sparked a massive following in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and, believe it or not, in Africa”. Freddie’s life now consisted of jetting backwards and forwards across European capitals playing festivals and TV dates, sharing billing with his own heroes like Sleepy Labeef, Scotty Moore and Chuck Berry. “I’m glad that the TV success happened later in life because I could handle it, a lot of people couldn’t. It also saddens me that some missed it the second time around, people like Johnny Kidd who could have taken the whole scene by storm”.
Freddie Lee was an unassuming bloke, with no time for the superstar syndrome he simply reckoned that “If you can’t mix with people what can you do? I am lucky to have travelled the world, met some great people and got paid for what I love to do”.
Mott the Hoople lead singer Ian Hunter, who played with Lee in Hurricane Harry and the Shriekers back in the mid-’60s, offered this tribute on his official website:
I’m so sorry.
Fred, Miller Anderson, Pete Phillips and I had some great times back in the day. Fred was a character. He told me he started with Sutch on ten bob a week AND he had to drive the van. We starved together in Germany – van broken down – club owner not paying us – but we got to play for hours every night and that was the buzz. Somehow disasters were averted and we’d make it back.
I always felt bad for Fred. He was – quite naturally – Jerry Lee Lewis’ twin. Same range, same power on the keyboards, same arrogance and he could be really funny – same love of American Country music – he would often sail into a song the band had never heard of. Fred loved the raw original beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll and remained staunchly loyal to it during a long, successful career. He had a lot of fans in Europe and never seemed to stop working – music was his life.
We all went off and did different things, but I’ll always be grateful to Fred for giving me a little hope at a time when I thought the factory was my only future. I’ll always remember him saying to me “You’re a good songwriter – but don’t ever try to sing.” He was probably right!!!
Rest In Peace, Freddie. Condolences to all.
Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee passed away on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. He was 76 years old. Lee suffered two strokes within the past decade and had recently contracted pneumonia.
January 3, 2014 – Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family; his father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.
Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7, through early high school, in Shenandoah before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.
Discovered in the mid 1950s, Don and Phil Everly recorded and wrote many country inspired songs, but not until they hooked up with songwriter husband and wife Felice Bryant (born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, August 7, 1925 – April 22, 2003) and Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant February 13, 1920 – June 25, 1987) and recorded a song hat had been turned down 30 times by other performers, “Bye Bye Love”, did they break huge onto the late fifties R&R scene. Other global hits with songs from the Bryant’s were “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I have to do is dream”, “Bird Dog”, “Love Hurts” and another 2 dozen, catapulting the Everly Brothers into a phenomenon of early Rock and Roll, reaching almost the size of Elvis’ fame.
The brothers toured with Buddy Holly in 1957 and 1958. According to Holly’s biographer Philip Norman, they changed Holly and the Crickets from dressing in Levi’s and T-shirts to the Everlys’ Ivy League suits. Don said Holly wrote “Wishing” for them. Phil said: “We were all from the South. We’d started in country music.”
Both brothers became skilled songwriters as well, which allowed them to keep their music career going through first couple of years in the sixties, as they signed a 10 year contract with Warner Bros in 1960. First of the bat in that year they wrote and performed “Cathy’s Clown”, which sold 8 million copies. Forced enlistment in the US Marine Corps Reserves in October 1961 can be pinpointed as the beginning of their decline. They never stopped working as a duo but their last United States Top Ten hit was 1962’s “That’s Old Fashioned”.
The music of the Everly Brothers influenced the Beatles, who referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers” when Paul and John went hitch-hiking south to win a talent competition and based the vocal arrangement of “Please Please Me” on “Cathy’s Clown”. Keith Richards called Don Everly “one of the finest rhythm players”. Paul Simon, who worked with the pair on “Graceland”, said the day after Phil’s death: “Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.”
The Everly Brothers had 35 Billboard Top-100 singles, 26 in the top 40. They hold the record for the most Top-100 singles by any duo, and trail Hall & Oates for the most Top-40 singles by a duo. In the UK, they had 30 chart singles, 29 in the top 40, 13 top 10 and 4 at No. 1 between 1957 and 1984. They had 12 top-40 albums between 1960 and 2009.
In 1986, the Everly Brothers were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were introduced by Neil Young, who observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies.
He was two weeks short of his 75th Birthday when he died from emphysema and bronchitis on 3 January 2014.
January 2, 2014 – John “Jay” Traynor was born on March 30th 1943 in Brooklyn New York. He was a lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on “The White Cliffs of Dover” and lead on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star”.
The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harbourlites“. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, John “Jay” Traynor, a stand-in singer with a group called “The Mystics” was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane.
The four were teamed up with songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, who had a great track record with The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ben E. King. United Artists had just finished the movie version of West Side Story and offered the boys heavy promotion if they recorded a song from the soundtrack called “Tonight”. Under the name “Jay and the Americans”, Tonight sold 50,000 copies, but was far overshadowed by an instrumental version by Ferrante and Teicher.
He sang lead on their first hit, “She Cried,” which reached #5 in 1962 and was followed up by the LP, She Cried. In 1964 he went solo when additional hits failed to materialize. releasing “I Rise, I Fall” followed by “Up & Over”, which became a big hit with the UK “Northern Soul” underground dance clubs and also worked at an upstate New York TV station, and behind-the-scenes in the music industry.
After Traynor left Jay and the Americans, he was replaced by David Black, who adopted the name Jay Black. The group went on to score mega hits like “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia” and “This Magic Moment.”
In the late 1960s he worked for Woodstock Ventures, the company that put on the “Woodstock” festival, during which time he picked up behind the scenes working with such 1970s acts as Mountain, West, Bruce & Laing, The Who, Ten Years After, Yes, and gospel singer Mylon LeFevre.
In 1977, Traynor moved to Albany, New York, near his roots in Greenville and worked at WNYT-TV as a studio camera operator. He then performed with cover bands (George and “Friends”), jazz trios, and finally as the singer with the Joey Thomas Big Band, where his love for Frank Sinatra’s music began. The Big Band put out a few CDs with Traynor, including Live On WAMC & The Sinatra Show.
In 2006, Traynor received a call from Jay Siegel, and he toured with Jay Siegel’s Tokens, best known for their hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for the remainder of his life. He also sang sing with the Joey Thomas Big Band and recorded a few CDs including Live On WAMC & The Sinatra Show.
Jay died after a two year fight with liver cancer on Jan 2, 2014 at the age of 70.
“He was a pro…he was very versatile in his vocal style, from rock and roll to Frank Sinatra,” Siegel told ABC News Radio. “His demeanor and his look were a perfect fit for my group…he just did a great job onstage and more than that, he did a great job offstage. He was a true gentleman, a very humble guy and I considered him like my brother. He was a great talent and a good friend.”
November 24, 2013 – Bob Allison was born Bernard Colin Day on February 2nd 1941 in the UK. He became a pop singer and one half of the duo The Allisons, who were marketed as being brothers, using the surname of Allison. Both Bob and John were born in Wiltshire and started harmonizing very early on in life.
The Allisons represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Festival in 1961 with the song “Are You Sure?”. They came second with 24 points and the song spent 16 weeks in the top 40 (six weeks at No. 2 and a further three weeks in the top 4), and became a solid million copy seller.
What was even more remarkable was that this British duo were so close in sound with the Everly Brothers, that many people after the Eurovision Song Festival were convinced that the Allison Brothers were actually the Everly Brothers. It was the first UK Eurovision entrant to become a Top Ten hit and was the best chart showing for a UK entrant until Eurovision entry Puppet on a String by Sandie Shaw reached number one in 1967.
In a poll of Radio 2 listeners in 2013, it was voted 13th best UK Eurovision song of all time. Speaking to the BBC in 2009, Andrew Lloyd Webber listed it as his favorite ever. “I was a kid in school at the time, and I remember thinking what a shame it was that Britain didn’t win it that year,” he said. “It is a very, very good song.”
Despite a couple of minor follow-up hits, the duo disbanded in 1963.
Through the 70s & 80s Bob and John teamed up for short tours to keep ‘The Allisons’ name alive. But by the 1990s, they regularly reunited to perform on the oldies circuit.
Bob Allison died after a long illness on November 24, 2013 at age 72.
October 30, 2013 – Peter John “Pete” Haycock was born on March 4, 1951 in Stafford, England. He attended St.John’s Primary School, then King Edward VI Boys Grammar School and played his first gig at a miners club at the age of 12.
In 1968 at 17, as lead guitarist, vocalist he founded the Climax Chicago Blues Band along with Richard Jones on bass, guitarist-vocalist Derek Holt, keyboardist Arthur Wood, George Newsome on drums and harmonica player- vocalist Colin Cooper. Two years later they changed their name to the Climax Blues Band in 1970.
The band produced more than 15 successful albums in their heyday, before they finally split in 1988. Pete launched a solo career and in 1990, he joined up with former ELO’s Bev Bevan, to form Electric Light Orchestra Part II. The group toured and recorded in the early 1990s, releasing both a live CD and video of their performance with the Moscow Symphony Orchestre.
Also in the 90s Pete began scoring music for films as he was asked by Hans Zimmer to collaborate on several projects, including K2 and Drop Zone among others. Pete formed several of his own bands, continued to record and perform and had been a featured guest with the Siggi Schwarz’ band, performing on the same bill with ZZ Top and Johnny Winter in 2012.
In 2013 he formed of a super-group recording and scheduled for touring as Pete Haycock’s Climax Blues Band featuring Robin George, several tracks of new material had been completed before Pete’s death.
He sadly died from a heart attack on October 30, 2013 at age 62.
August 19, 2013 – Donna Hightower was born on December 28, 1926 in Caruthersville, Missouri to a family of sharecroppers. She listened to singers such as Ella Fitzgerald in her youth, but never planned to have a singing career and by the age of 23 had been married with two children, and divorced.
While working in a diner in Chicago, she was heard singing by Bob Tillman, a reporter with the Chicago Defender newspaper, who then won her a booking as a singer at the Strand Hotel. Initially billed as Little Donna Hightower, she won a recording contract with Decca Records and recorded her first single, “I Ain’t In The Mood”, in 1951.
During the mid 1950s she recorded R&B songs, for RPM Records, often accompanied by the Maxwell Davis Orchestra as on her 1955 version of “Hands Off”. She toured widely in the US, with Louis Jordan, B. B. King, Johnny Mathis, Della Reese and others. While none of her records made the pop or R&B charts, she received good reviews and her discs did perform well in Decca Record’s own sales guides, with her “I Ain’t In The Mood” ranking #1 on their Sepia (race) charts.
By 1958, her career had slowed and she began working for a music publishing firm in New York City, recording demonstration records of new songs. Her version of “Light of Love” — later recorded by Peggy Lee — was heard by record producer Dave Cavanaugh, and as a result of his interest she was signed to Capitol Records. She recorded two albums for Capitol, including Take One! and Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?, both released in 1959.
While noted for her “range and power, she was equally compelling doing sentimental, soft ballads.”
In 1959, she toured England, France, Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, later performing with Quincy Jones, The Platters and French rockstar Johnny Hallyday. She first settled in France, then Belgium and finally in the late 1960s, in Madrid.
In 1971 she won the Costa del Sol International Song Festival, following which she began recording in Spain for Columbia Records, although her songs were issued in much of Europe by Decca Records. She worked with singer Danny Daniel as a duo, Danny y Donna, and they had a hit in Spain with “El Vals de las Mariposas”. She also recorded solo, and her most successful record, “This World Today Is A Mess” (“Este Mundo es En Conflicto”), which she co-wrote, was an international hit — though not in the US, where it was not released, or in the UK — in 1972, reportedly selling over one million copies worldwide. She is also known for the song “If You Hold My Hand”, which was later sampled for the UK 2007 hit single “Handsfree” by Sonny J.
Age 64, she returned to the US to live in semi-retirement in Austin, Texas, in 1990. She was active in the Austin Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. She was a member of Calvary Baptist Church, and appeared on local radio programs. Her last performance in Spain was at a jazz festival in 2006.
She died in Austin in 2013 at the age of 86.