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Papa John Creach 2/1994

Papa John CreachFebruary 22, 1994 – Papa John Creach (Jefferson Airplane) was  born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania on May 28th 1917.

He began playing violin in Chicago bars when the family moved there in 1935, and eventually joined a local cabaret band, the Chocolate Music Bars. Moving to L.A. in 1945, he played in the Chi Chi Club, spent time working on an ocean liner, appeared in “a couple of pictures”, and performed as a duo with Nina Russell.

In 1967, Creach met and befriended drummer Joey Covington. When Covington joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1970, he introduced Creach to them, and they invited him to join Hot Tuna. Though regarded as a session musician, he remained with the band for four years, before leaving in 1974 to join Jefferson Starship and record on their first album, Dragon Fly. Creach toured with Jefferson Starship and played on the band’s hit album Red Octopus in 1975. Around 1976, Creach left to pursue a solo career. Despite this, he was a guest musician on the spring 1978 Jefferson Starship tour.

A year later, Creach renewed his working relationship with Covington as a member of the San Francisco All-Stars, as well as with Covington’s Airplane predecessor, Spencer Dryden, as a member of The Dinosaurs. He also continued occasional guest appearances with Hot Tuna, and was on stage at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1988 when Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna reunited with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick for the first time since Jefferson Airplane disbanded.
In 1992, he became one of the original members of Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation and performed with them until he succumbed to congestive heart failure on February 22, 1994.

Papa John sadly suffered a heart attack during the ’94 Northridge California earthquake on January 17th. This led to him contracting pneumonia, from which he died a month later) He was 76 years old when he died on 22 February 1994.

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Harry Nilsson 1/1994

NilssonJanuary 15, 1994 – Harry Edward Nilsson III aka Nilsson was born on June 15, 1941 in Brooklyn New York. His paternal grandparents were Swedish circus performers and dancers, especially known for their “aerial ballet” (which is the title of one of Nilsson’s albums). His father, Harry Edward Nilsson Jr., abandoned the family when young Harry was three. An autobiographical reference to this is found in the opening to Nilsson’s song “1941” and “Daddy’s Song”.

Because of the poor financial situation of his family, Nilsson worked from an early age, including a job at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. When the theatre closed in 1960, he applied for a job at a bank, falsely claiming he was a high school graduate on his application (he only completed ninth grade). He had an aptitude for computers however, which were beginning to be employed by banks at the time. He performed so well the bank retained him even after uncovering his deception regarding being a high school graduate. He worked on bank computers at night, and in the daytime pursued his songwriting and singing career.His uncle, a mechanic in San Bernardino, California, helped Nilsson improve his vocal and musical abilities.

By 1958, Nilsson was intrigued by emerging forms of popular music, especially rhythm and blues artists like Ray Charles. He had made early attempts at performing while he was working at the Paramount, forming a vocal duo with his friend Jerry Smith and singing close harmonies in the style of the Everly Brothers. The manager at a favorite hangout gave Nilsson a plastic ukulele, which he learned to play, and he later learned to play the guitar and piano. In the 2006 documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, Nilsson recalled that when he could not remember lyrics or parts of the melodies to popular songs, he created his own, which led to writing original songs.

Uncle John’s singing lessons, along with Nilsson’s natural talent, helped when he got a job singing demos for songwriter Scott Turner in 1962. Turner paid Nilsson five dollars for each track they recorded. (When Nilsson became famous, Turner decided to release these early recordings, and contacted Nilsson to work out a fair payment. Nilsson replied that he had already been paid – five dollars a track.)

John Lennon and Harry NilssonNilsson went on a steady track upwards to success with songwriting credits that included names like Phil Spector, Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, the Monkees, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds, but did not give up his bank job until late 1966. With special admiration for his work from the Beatles and especially John Lennon, Nilsson’s name became household. (When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, Lennon was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, “Nilsson”. McCartney was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, “Nilsson”.

Nilsson acquired a manager, who steered him into a handful of TV guest appearances, and a brief run of stage performances in Europe set up by RCA. He disliked the experiences he had, though, and decided to stick to the recording studio. He later admitted this was a huge mistake on his part.

Yet within a couple of years, he started making records with casual disregard for how things were done. He made albums that jumped from style to style, and from era to era. He made an album of 1940s standards long before anyone else thought of it (eat your heart out Rod Stewart!). And he was a hard-drinking artist who rarely played live.

His real breakthrough came in 1971 when he recorded Badfinger’s “Without You” with reached Billboard No.1 for 4 weeks.
Close friends with John Lennon who produced his album “Pussycats” in 1973, he also maintained an apartment in London that became a tragedy chamber with a curse as Mama Cass Elliott was found dead there in 1974 at age 32 from heart failure and the Who drummer Keith Moon four years later also at age 32 from an overdose of Clomethiazole, a prescribed anti-alcohol drug.

Nilsson was profoundly affected by the death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980. He joined the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and overcame his preference for privacy to make appearances for gun control fundraising. He began to appear at Beatlefest conventions and he would get on stage with the Beatlefest house band “Liverpool” to either sing some of his own songs or “Give Peace a Chance.

After a long hiatus from the studio, Nilsson started recording sporadically once again in the mid to late 1980s. Most of these recordings were commissioned songs for movies or television shows. One notable exception was his work on a Yoko Ono Lennon tribute album, Every Man Has A Woman (1984); another was a cover of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” recorded for Hal Willner’s 1988 tribute album Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Nilsson donated his performance royalties from the song to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

His career took several turns before he passed away but it was always interesting and it rarely repeated itself.

Nilsson himself passed away on January 15, 1994 at his California home from heart failure.



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Michael Clarke 12/1993

michael clarke byrdsDecember 19, 1993 – Michael Clarke was born Michael James Dick in Spokane Washington on June 3, 1946. His father was an artist and his mother was a musician. Clarke ran away from home when he was 17 years old and hitchiked to California to become a musician. In legend, Clarke was said to have been discovered by Byrds’ founder David Crosby while playing bongos on a beach. Reality is that he was discovered by singer-songwriter Ivan Ulz, in North Beach, San Francisco and was introduced to other group members by Ulz to the musicians who would become The Byrds in 1964.

Clarke was not an accomplished musician prior to joining The Byrds and his only previous musical knowledge was rudimentary piano lessons he received in his youth. He had never played drums and, after joining The Byrds, not having a drum set, practiced on a makeshift kit of cardboard boxes and a tambourine, but he did have real drumsticks. According to Roger McGuinn, Clarke was hired by McGuinn and Gene Clark (no relation) for his resemblance to Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. Actually he had Brian Jones’ hair and facial features and Mick Jagger lips)

Clark was the least talented of the five members that were on the Byrds’ 1965-1967 5 album recordings, as unlike the others, he did almost no songwriting. His drumming was basic and, for the most part, appropriate for the Byrds’ needs, although he was sometimes replaced by sessionmen. Still, he fit in well with the band visually, and proved that his drum skills were not marginal via subsequent hitches in the Flying Burrito Brothers and Firefall, along with session work for several of the ex-Byrds’ solo projects.

Like all of the Byrds,  he had little experience playing electric rock & roll music when the band, at that time called the Jet Set, formed in 1964. At least the other four members had a good deal of professional experience as acoustic folk musicians; Clarke didn’t even have that.

Clarke’s strength as a drummer however should be illustrated by his jazz-oriented playing on The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”, on the Fifth Dimension album. It has sometimes been written that session musicians played much of the music on the Byrds’ early recordings, but with the exception of the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single (on which McGuinn was the only one to play an instrument), research has indicated that the group did in fact play their own instruments in the studio. Suspicion has been directed at Michael Clarke as the least talented of the Byrds’ musicians, but even numerous bootleg tapes have his voice coming in loud and clear with comments and responses as the Byrds work out arrangements. The best of his drum work is certainly contained on “Eight Miles High,” where he pushes the band with a relentless, jazz-like verve, especially during the guitar solo.

In August 1967, during the recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers album, Clarke walked out of The Byrds and was temporarily replaced by session drummers Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine. Clarke had become dissatisfied with his role in the band and didn’t particularly like the new material that the songwriting members of the band were providing. However, Clarke continued to honor his live concert commitments with the band, appearing with them at a handful of shows during late August and early September 1967. Clarke returned from his self-imposed exile in time to contribute drums to the song “Artificial Energy” in early December 1967, but was subsequently fired from the band by McGuinn and bass player Chris Hillman once The Notorious Byrd Brothers album was completed.

After a year hiatus with a trip to Hawaii, he was back in the studio for a stint with Dillard and Clarke, followed by several years with the Flying Burrito Brothers after their first album, a reunion album with the Byrds, a numbers of years with softrockers in Firefall. In the early 80s he joined Jerry Jeff Walker. After that time he joined ex-Byrds singer Gene Clark for a series of controversial shows billed “A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds.” Many clubs simply shortened the billing to “the Byrds,” and the pair soon found themselves involved in acrimonious court battles with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over usage of the group’s name. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January of 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together.

Michael continued to tour with a group called “Byrds Celebration”, but his health declined as his drinking accelerated.

He died from liver failure due to more than three decades of heavy alcohol consumption on Dec 19, 1993 at the age of 47.

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Doug Hopkins 12/1993

Goug HopkinsDecember 5, 1993 – Doug Hopkins was born on April 11, 1961 in Seattle, WA  but raised in Tempe, Arizona. It’s unknown when exactly the Hopkins family arrived in Arizona, but the family lived in suburban Tempe. Little is published about Doug’s younger days, prior to attending McClintock High School. As a senior, Hopkins picked up an acoustic guitar and began taking lessons. An instructor encouraged him to change to bass, on account of his large hands. Doug’s interest in music kept him busy, often practicing the guitar on a Friday night rather than going to parties. Doug successfully graduated McClintock in 1979, even after a gym short incident resulting in a two week suspension during his senior year.

After High School, Doug briefly studied music at Mesa Community College, before becoming disenchanted with the emphasis on classical music. Following this, he enrolled at Arizona State University, studying Sociology.

Doug’s first foray into music was playing for bass for a little known cover band in Fountain Hills. At the time he was largely into classic rock. Stories of Doug engaging in strong arguments about music are peppered throughout his life. One of the more notable instances of this was around this time with McClintock pal Bill Leen. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the pair would argue the validity of classic rock vs. punk rock, with Bill championing the latter genre. Eventually Doug saw the value to punk rock and put it to Bill that they should start a punk band. Doug decided that he’d teach Bill to play bass, and he’d pick up the guitar again. The fact that neither of them could play all that well, instruments worried them too much. There was born Moral Majority, Doug’s first serious original band, with neighbors Alan Long and Jim Swafford on drums and vocals respectively.

True to the punk genre, there was not much musical training between the bunch, but the punk rock power chords, reminiscent of many 70’s punk rock bands was a perfect backdrop for Doug’s interest in literature and his intelligence was expressed through his clever lyrics, often targeting political and social issues. After months of practicing and playing living room gigs with family and friends as spectators, Moral Majority secured a position opening for then local heroes The Jetzons.

Moral Majority dissolved towards the end of 1981, and by the beginning of 1982 Doug had started a new band, The Psalms. Throughout his life, each new band often showcased a genre shift from the last. With The Psalms, Doug put to bed punk rock and moved towards a new wave sound. The Psalms were able to pick up where Moral Majority left off, opening for the Jetzons, and later more high profile spots opening for the likes of Billy Idol. During the bands two or so year tenure they received a reasonable amount of local press, and released a single and an EP with some help from Ed Reilly. Six months into the band Doug began to experiment with keyboards and synthesizer, teaching singer Jim Swafford to play guitar to devote more time to those instruments. A decision that he later regretted towards the end of the Psalms. The Psalms disbanded in early 1984. The same year Doug graduated from Arizona State University.

With both his studies and The Psalms behind him, Doug started putting together his next band in early 1985. Despite having jammed with former Psalm band mates through 1984, the line up of Algebra Ranch was made up of new players, including Damon Dorion from the newly defunct Jetzons. Algebra Ranch are cited as the band in which Doug grew significantly as a writer and honed in on the jangly pop sound and style which a few years later would become the trademark of the Gin Blossoms. Around this time he was working on future hit songs such as Hey Jealousy and Found Out About You. The latter of which was inspired by an ex-girlfriend who put him in a hospital with a shattered cheek bone, with a Tai-Kwondo kick to the head at an R.E.M concert the same year. Despite the advancing in his song writing and arrangement craft with the Algebra Ranch material, Doug’s on stage antics and unserious manner saw the band only last about a year before breaking up.

The following year, Doug teamed up again with Jim Swafford to form the Ten O’Clock Scholars. Although the band held on to some Algebra Ranch songs, and their set lists were virtually a blue print for the early Gin Blossoms, working with this singer David McKay gave this band more of a folk slant than any of Doug’s previous work. After a few months of jamming, the band dissolved when Doug up and left for a recording contract in L.A, but was soon picked up in Portland after David McKay convinced the rest of the band to move to Portland. On arriving in Portland, Doug garnered a spot with a local cover band to help pay the bills along side Scholars gigs. Despite local television exposure, the gigs were hard to come by for the Scholars, and by the end of 1986 the band had broken up and members had returned to Phoenix.

Doug’s next project would become his most famous band. The Gin Blossoms formed in late 1987, and soon became local favorites in Tempe, Arizona. After some lineup changes, a trip to Austin’s South By South West and independent cassette release, the band was signed to A&M Records in 1990. The band achieved local success with the recording of their A&M debut Up and Crumbling in 1991, and the following year started recording their follow up record in Memphis. During the recording sessions, tensions rose within the band and label as Doug was reported to be “moody, homesick and unproductive” and drinking heavily throughout the time in Memphis. The situation came to a head when he was sent back to Phoenix and soon learnt that he’d been fired from the band.

Back in Phoenix, Doug was a local celebrity and had no problem putting together new bands. The first of which was The Eventuals, with Marc Norman and Brian Blush, both Hopkins fans who have been quoted as saying he inspired them to become musicians. Blush and Hopkins had become friends years earlier when the underage Blush attempted to sneak into Long Wongs, caught by Doug who told him to buy him a beer or he was going to shanghai his ass out of the bar. The Eventuals were short lived, only ever playing one gig together.

Soon after Doug, hooked up with Lawrence Zubia to form the Chimeras. The Chimeras, with a solid lineup of musicians paired with Doug’s writing skills garnered a near immediate local following and played showcases like South By Southwest. By early 1993, the Gin Blossoms album New Miserable Experience was starting to find footing, and the success of his former band fueled Doug’s song writing desire for revenge, as well as increase his inner turmoil and self destructive behavior. Despite the impressive following and arsenal of songs that could rival the Gin Blossoms, in April 1993 while performing at the KUKQ Birthday Bash festival, Doug fumbled a solo and promptly quit the band after the set. While the next day he asked to rejoin the band, his inner turmoil was obvious to the band who denied the request, although Hopkins and the Zubias remained good friends.

For the latter part of 1993 Doug continued playing with local musicians, however his depression worsened as the Gin Blossoms success continued to grow. In November 1993 he received a gold record for sales of Hey Jealousy, which hung on his wall for 2 weeks until he smashed it. Concerns for his well being by friends and family escalated, and Chimeras band mate Lawrence Zubia took to checking on him daily. On Dec 5, 1993, a week after Doug smashed the gold record, Lawrence found that he’d taken his life in his Tempe apartment at the age of 32.

“I told him I was sorry I couldn’t make him happy,” Hopkins’ sister, Sara Bennewitz, remembers of her last conversation with him Thursday. “He just said, ‘I was born unhappy.’

“I told him I loved him and that I knew I wouldn’t see him again. He patted my hand and said goodbye.”

Hopkins’ sister, Sara, told The Associated Press that this was Hopkins’ sixth suicide attempt in 10 years.

Doug’s death hit the Tempe music community hard, with former band mates Lawrence and Mark Zubia turned their Sunday night set into an impromptu wake. A memorial service was held in Tempe a few days later. Immediately following the service, Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms was approached by a women with a relaying a message from Doug – that he had poured sugar in their tour van’s gas tank, causing the van to breakdown and the band miss that night’s show.

Doug’s musical legacy lives on, with his songs still being heard on radio, and performed by the Gin Blossoms. Over the years, many band mates have recorded and performed cover versions of his songs, as well as songs in tribute to him.

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Frank Zappa 12/1993

Frank ZappaDecember 4, 1993 – Frank Vincent Zappa was born on December 21, 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland with an Italian, Sicilian, Greek and Arab ancestry. With his dad employed as chemist/mathematician in the Defense industry, the family often moved to the extent that he attended at least 6 high schools. He began to play drums at the age of 12, and was playing in R&B groups by high school,

Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde composers such as Varèse, Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern, as well as R&B and doo-wop groups (particularly local pachuco groups), and modern jazz. His own heterogeneous ethnic background and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles in the sixties, were crucial in the forming of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards “mainstream” social, political, religious and musical movements. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco. Television also exerted a strong influence, as demonstrated by quotations from show themes and advertising jingles found in his later works. Continue reading Frank Zappa 12/1993

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Peter Wood 12/1993

Peter WoodDecember 1, 1993 – Peter Wood was born on April 9, 1950 in Middlesex, and brought up in Egham, Surrey. He became one of those talented music performers that have contributed to a massive amount of hits and superhits, but never really became famous, outside of the industry.

After the initial years of picking up an instrument and growing to become prolific, in his case it was piano and later all types of keyboards, he became a member of the rockband Quiver when he replaced Cal Batchelor. Later they teamed up with the Sutherland Bros and became part of the Sutherland Bros and Quiver. Wood had a longterm musical relationship with Al Stewart and cooperated with him on the famous 1976 album  “Year of the Cat” for which song he received co-songwriter credits.

In that same year he worked with Joan Armatrading -who I consider one of the great singers of that decade- on her self-titled album, that catapulted her into stardom.

Also in 1976 he briefly joined a band called Natural Gas (incl. Joey Molland after the breakup of Badfinger) which recorded one album with famous New York producer Felix Pappalardi. The next couple of years saw him work closely with Al Stewart, and through his frequent collaborations with former Quiver bandmate Tim Renwick, in 1980 he joined Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, becoming one of the original members of the “surrogate band”, who featured in Pink Floyd’s The Wall live shows in 1980 and 1981 and he can be heard on the live album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81.

After this he moves to New York where he works with Cyndi Lauper, Jonathan Kelly, Tommy Shaw, Carly Simon and Bob Dylan and in 1984 joins for an album stint with the Lou Reed Band. In the late 1980s we see him back with Al Stewart and Cindy Lauper and in 1990 he joins Roger Waters in his epic Live Show – The Wall- Live in Berlin, followed by the historic Guitar Legends Festival in Seville Spain in 1991.

Sadly he passed away from the injuries of a fall in his New York home on Dec 1, 1993 at age 43.

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Randy Jo Hobbs 8/1993

August 4, 1993 – Randy Jo Hobbs was born on March 22nd 1948 in Winchester, Indiana.

Already fronting his own band the Coachmen at age 17, he soon joined brothers Rick (later known as Rick Derringer and Randy Zehringer, a Union City Indiana garage band called The McCoys (originally Rick and the Raiders) from 1965 to 1969 during which time their hit “Hang On Sloopy” became a global hit. The song sold some 6 million copies and was the McCoys entry in the big league, opening up for giant acts of the era like the Rolling Stones. When the song’s popularity ran out of steam, they became the house band for a popular New York hotspot called Steve Paul’s The Scene where they were introduced to Texas guitar God in the making Johnny Winter.  Lacking more hits the band soon turned into backing guitar phenomenon Johnny Winter in the seventies.

As a band the McCoys called it quits in 1973 and Hobbs stayed a while longer with Johnny Winter but later played in brother Edgar Winter’s White Trash from until around 1976. White Trash was comprised of Southern musicians, one of which was another guitar giant, Ronnie Montrose. This led to Randy playing with a later version of Montrose,  on the ‘Jump on It’ album, released in 1976.

Earlier Randy had played bass with Jimi Hendrix on some 1968 live sessions which were later released unofficially as Woke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead in 1980 and New York Sessions in 1998, and officially as Bleeding Heart in 1994. At this time he unfortunately developed a huge heroin dependency that ultimately would cause his demise in 1993

In 1978 he also played bass on Rick Derringer’s album with Dick Glass, “Glass Derringer”.

Drug abuse took a toll on Randy Hobbs, and ultimately consumed his career as a musician.  A front man can stumble out onto the stage and sleepwalk through the set, but an out-of-control side player is done for.  Randy Hobbs was fired from Johnny Winter’s band and returned to Randolph County where he lived out his life.

Randy Jo Hobbs was found dead in a Dayton hotel room on August 5, 1993 – Rick Derringer’s birthday. The cause was heart failure. He was 45.

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Richard Tee 7/1993

July 21, 1993 – Richard Tee was born Richard Ten Ryk on November 24th 1943 in Brooklyn, New York, where he spent most of his life and lived with his mother in a brownstone apartment building.

Tee graduated from The High School of Music & Art in New York City and attended the Manhattan School of Music. Though better known as a studio and session musician, Tee led a jazz ensemble, the Richard Tee Committee, and was a founding member of the band Stuff. In 1981 he played the piano and Fender Rhodes for Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert In Central Park.

Tee played with a diverse range of artists during his career, such as Paul Simon, Carly Simon, The Bee Gees, Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Peter Allen, George Harrison, Diana Ross, Duane Allman, Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, Art Garfunkel, Nina Simone, Juice Newton, Billy Joel, Etta James, Grover Washington, Jr., Eric Clapton, Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin, David Ruffin, Lou Rawls, Ron Carter, Peter Gabriel, George Benson, Joe Cocker, Chuck Mangione, Tim Finn, Peabo Bryson, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Phoebe Snow, Doc Severinson, Leo Sayer, Herbie Mann and countless others. He also contributed to numerous gold and platinum albums during his long career and joined the band Stuff led by bassist Gordon Edwards. Other members of the band included guitarist Cornell Dupree, drummer Chris Parker and later adding guitarist Eric Gale and drummer Steve Gadd to the line up.

After a 16-year relationship with Eleana Steinberg Tee of Greenwich, Connecticut, the couple was married in Woodstock, New York, by New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruce Wright. The couple moved to the Chelsea Hotel in 1988, and later to Cold Spring, New York.

Tee died of prostate cancer on July 21, 1993 in Cold Spring, New York at the age of 49. He is buried in the Artist Cemetery in Woodstock, New York.

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Duncan Browne 5/1993

duncan-brownMay 28, 1993 – Duncan Browne was born March 25th 1947. As a boy, Duncan Browne intended to follow his father, an Air Commodore (British equivalent of a one-star Air Force general), into the Royal Air Force, but his poor health even as a youth precluded this as a possibility.

Instead, he chose to pursue his interests as an actor — he played the clarinet and studied music theory, but wasn’t possessed to consider a career in music until, at age 17, he saw Bob Dylan in an appearance on a BBC drama called The Madhouse on Castle Street, during the American folk-rock star’s first tour of the U.K. It was Dylan’s guitar playing rather than his singing that served as Browne’s inspiration and entryway to rock music. “Most people find that odd,” he recalled in a 1991 interview from his home in London, “but I was interested in the way he tuned and played his guitar, especially on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” In response, he bought a Yamaha acoustic model and taught himself to play in a technique that was heavily classically influenced.

He then spent some time busking around London and later traveled across Europe on 30 pounds borrowed from his father, before entering the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. During his three years there, in addition to studying drama, he kept up with his guitar playing and developed a greater command of music theory — which he’d begun studying as a teenager — and formed a folk-rock trio called Lorel. They were later signed to Andrew Oldham’s Immediate Records and cut one single, ironically enough an original song that had the bad luck to use as its source the same Bach-originated tune that Procol Harum had utilized for “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.

Immediate saw no point in releasing the single, and the trio soon dissolved. Browne was able to salvage his own career out of the debacle, however — he had done some arranging for other acts on the label and Oldham was impressed with what he’d seen, and wanted a solo album from him. He turned to a former student friend of his, David Bretton, to serve as lyricist, and the two composed a dozen songs together. The resulting album, Give Me Take You, was one of the jewels of the Immediate Records catalog, a quietly dazzling work that embraced elements of folk, rock, pop, and classical, all wrapped around some surprisingly well-crafted poetry and Browne’s stunning voice.

Over the decades, it has been compared to the best work of Paul McCartney and the Moody Blues, and also to such albums as Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, while Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice has described it as an example of “Pre-Raphaelite Rock,” a reference to the Renaissance revival movement in art, formed in England in the mid-19th century.

Despite its many virtues, the album died a commercial death, largely as a result of its being released just at the point when Immediate’s financial underpinnings were beginning to collapse. Both Browne and Give Me Take You did get some notice in England, and especially from his fellow musicians — “Keith Emerson [of the Nice] heard my work on Give Me Take You,” he recalled in 1991, “and rang me up to ask if I would arrange [the choir and accompaniment on] “Hang on to a Dream.” I enjoyed working with the Nice — we would support each other when we toured together, and Keith asked me at one point if I was interested in replacing their guitarist, Davy O’List, as the fourth member of the band. I think by the time that happened though, he was in the process of putting together the group that eventually became Emerson, Lake & Palmer.”

Those who heard it tended to love Give Me Take You, and Browne probably could have gotten some concert work from the release, but for a certain degree of confusion as to who he was, owing both to Immediate’s slipshod publicity operation and the design of the album jacket — the triple superimposed image of Browne, coupled with the multiple overdubs on many of the songs, led some promoters to think that Duncan Browne was a trio of some sort. When the company’s collapse came in 1969-1970 — with Oldham, trying in the final days to raise money from any and every source, actually presenting Browne with a bill for 2,000 pounds (about $6,000) to cover the recording cost of the LP — Give Me Take You was buried under the rubble of Immediate Records. It resurfaced briefly in the mid-’70s on the Canadian-based Daffodil label and then disappeared until the early ’90s; for years, as with most of the Immediate library, the master tapes to Browne’s work were missing, lost in storage in some forgotten vault.

Browne went on to record a single for Bell Records’ British unit (an unusual label that also recorded the not-dissimilar Amazing Blondel during this same period), and had a short but more substantial liaison with Mickie Most’s RAK label in 1972, where he issued a single, “Journey,” with its extraordinary Spanish guitar figure, that went top 20 in 1972 and was voted “most unusual single of the year”. A self-titled solo album that was a direct stylistic follow-up to his Immediate LP followed. Neither did well enough to justify more recording at the time, and Browne spent the next several years as a session musician, working on a pair of albums by Colin Blunstone and one album by Tom Yates.

In 1973 he decided to transfer his classical technique to electric guitar, during which period he met Peter Godwin. They worked together for two years in Paris and London on the prototypical songs, sound and style of what was to become “Metro”. Duncan’s only album with Metro was released in 1976 on Logo Records. Suddenly, Browne was near the cutting edge of music again, and in addition to his work with Metro he released a pair of solo albums, The Wild Places and Streets of Fire, which were also issued on Sire in the early ’80s. This was as close as Duncan Browne ever got to rock stardom, his records sought after in locales like New York’s East Village and played on American college radio stations. Creem magazine critic Janis Schact pegged him as the voice that was “about to launch [a thousand romances] into the 1980s.”

Despite some beautiful and surprisingly hard-rocking music that was sort of new wave melodic, however, there wasn’t enough interest or activity to sustain this phase of Browne’s career. By the middle of the eighties, Browne had moved into the field of film and television scoring, and worked on Jonathan Miller’s series Madness, among other productions. He was pleasantly surprised at the outset of the 1990s when the CD boom led to new interest in his 1960s and 1970s rock efforts — Browne was gratified, in particular, to learn that Sony Music Special Products was preparing a CD reissue of Give Me Take You in the United States.

Alas, he was stricken with cancer in the early ’90s, and died on May 28, 1993 at the age of 46.

In the years since, most of his catalog, including his early-’80s solo albums, was re-released and Browne’s music may well have had a larger following in 2002 than it ever did in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1990’s, battling cancer, Duncan had begun working on his first album of new songs in well over a decade. But tragically, Duncan would not see the completion of “Songs of Love and War”. The task of completing the album fell to Nick Magnus, who with the help of Colin Blunstone and Sebastion Graham-Jones, put the finishing touches on a haunting and beautiful collection of songs. The album was released on Nic Potter’s Zomart label in 1995.

Duncan Browne’s songs have been covered by Patti Smith, Ian Matthews, Barry Manilow, Colin Blunstone, John English, and particularly successfully by David Bowie.

I guess you have to be in a particular mood, but I loved the achingly beautiful song by Duncan Brown titled Niña Morena.


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Steve Douglas 4/1993

steve douglasApril 19, 1993 – Steve Douglas Kreisman  was born September 24, 1938 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he studied trumpet, trombone and violin and taught himself to play the saxophone at age 15.  After serving briefly in the Navy in the Drum and Bugle Corps, Douglas began his musical career recording and touring with Duane Eddy in the ’50s.

His first job as a session saxophonist was with Phil Spector as one of “Phil’s Regulars,” a group that included Sonny Bono on percussion, Glen Campbell on guitar and Leon Russell on keyboard.

He played the blues with Duane Eddy and the Rebels at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1958, and with Elvis Presley on the set of the film “Girls, Girls, Girls!” in the early 1960’s.

Douglas played on albums by the Beach Boys and toured with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. He was one of the most sort after session musicians in L.A, a member of The Wrecking Crew, who worked with Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. He can be heard on records by Duane Eddy, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, BB King, Ike & Tina Turner, Bobby Darin and so many others.

Over the years, he played with Sam Cooke, B. B. King, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder. He also worked on the soundtracks for such movies as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

The ’70s and ’80s saw Douglas performing with Bob Dylan, Mink Deville, Mickey Hart, Ry Cooder, and even the Ramones on the Phil Spector production End of the Century.

Anyone who has listened to classic rock radio has heard the sax playing of Steve Douglas. As a result of his contributions, Steve Douglas was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Douglas died of heart failure on Monday April 19, 1993  at a Hollywood recording studio during a recording session with Ry Cooder.

He was 55 and lived in Petaluma, Calif.

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Toy Caldwell 2/1993

Toy CaldwellFebruary 25, 1993 – Toy Talmadge Caldwell Jr (Marshall Tucker Band) was born in Spartanburg, SC on November 13, 1947.

He began playing guitar before his teen years with his younger brother Tommy Caldwell. He developed a unique style of playing, playing the electric guitar using his thumb rather than a pick. Toy played basketball and football in high school with friends George McCorkle, Jerry Eubanks, and Doug Gray. While very involved in sports, the boys eventually became interested in music including jazz and blues. By the age of sixteen, Caldwell was passionate about music, sports, and his other obsession, motorcycles. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing.

Like a good old southern boy, Caldwell decided to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In 1966, he reported for recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After being wounded in Vietnam in September 1968, he was evacuated for two weeks, but then returned for duty. Caldwell was discharged in 1969 and once again began playing music with his high school buddies. The Spartanburg chapter of the Marine Corps League is named the Hutchings-Caldwells Detachment in honor of Toy, his brother Tommy and another Marine, Pvt Nolan Ryan Hutchings who was killed during the Iraq Invasion in 2003.

Toy was a founding member and lead guitarist of the Marshall Tucker Band which formed in 1973. He was a member of the band from 1973 to 1983 and wrote almost all of their songs. He later formed the Toy Caldwell Band and released an eponymous CD in 1992; the record was later renamed “Son of the South” by Southern rock luminary, Toy’s personal friend, Charlie Daniels.  In addition to his guitarist role, he occasionally performed lead vocals for Marshall Tucker Band, including on one of the band’s best-known hits, “Can’t You See.”

He was the older brother of co-founder and bass guitarist Tommy Caldwell, who was killed at age 30 in an automobile accident on April 28, 1980, and to Tim Caldwell, who on March 28, 1980, one month prior to Tommy’s death, was killed at age 25 in a collision with a Spartanburg County garbage truck on S.C. Highway 215

Toy Caldwell was 45, when he died on 25 February 1993 from cardio-respiratory failure due to cocaine ingestion.

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Patrick Waite 2/1993

Patrick WaiteFebruary 18, 1993 – Patrick Waite . Waite was born on May 16, 1968 in the Birmingham area of England. His father had moved from his native Jamaica to England in 1966.

At age eleven he became a founding member of Musical Youth, a British-Jamaican pop/reggae band. The group originally formed in 1979 at Duddeston Manor School in Birmingham, England and featured two sets of brothers, Kelvin and Michael Grant, plus Junior and Patrick Waite.

The latter pair’s father, Frederick Waite, was a former member of Jamaican group The Techniques, and sang lead with Junior at the start of the group’s career in the late 1970s.
They were quickly signed to MCA Records and by that time, founding father Frederick Waite had backed down, to be replaced by Dennis Seaton, a kid their own age, as lead singer.

In 1982 they released there first and only hit. The pro-marijuana song called, “Pass The Dutchie” was based on “Pass The Kouchie” by ‘The Mighty Diamonds.’ The song sold over 5 million copies, but none of their future releases would gain as much attention as this one had. They went onto sing backup for Donna Summers until the career began to sour, eventually leading to the disbanding of the band in 1985.

An interview in England from March 2003 reveals that Musical Youth was Doomed from the start, in an industry that has claimed many legends, unprepared for great wealth, adoration and royalty theft. Here is that interview with singer Dennis Seaton and keyboard player Michael Grant.

Next Car & Van Rental sits opposite a council estate in Halesowen, a small town near Birmingham. It’s not the best area, but it’s not the worst either. The walls of the forecourt are spiked with broken glass. Inside, co-owner Steve Cooke offers a pulverizing handshake, the internationally recognized signal of a provincial businessman on the up. His partner, Dennis Seaton, is charming, yet seems faintly sheepish about being interviewed.

Next Car & Van Rental is a long way from the Grammy awards, where Seaton was nominated best newcomer the night Michael Jackson picked up eight gongs for Thriller, and from Los Angeles, where he was briefly top goalscorer on Rod Stewart’s celebrity expat Sunday league team. But it’s also a fair distance from signing on or delivering sacks of rice, which Seaton also did when his 15 minutes of fame ran out. Today, few of his customers know he was ever famous. “People aren’t going to rent a car from me because I used to be the singer in Musical Youth,” he says. 

Musical Youth’s 1982 single Pass the Dutchie sold 5m copies. They broke America. They were the first black artists to be played on MTV – beating Michael Jackson by several months. But their stardom never transcended its era. Seaton’s tales are thick with dimly remembered names. They were regulars on Razzmatazz, Tyne Tees’s unlamented pop show. They worked on a film with The A Team’s Mr T. Irene Cara, singer of Fame and Flashdance, guested onstage. Throw in a commentary by Stuart Maconie and some footage of people wearing deely boppers and you’ve got yourself a BBC2 nostalgia show. 

What started out as a jaunty celebration of multi-cultural British youth ended as a cautionary tale about the perils of naivety in the music industry. Like all tales from rock’s dark side, it involved drugs, mental instability, lawlessness, financial wranglings and premature death. In this tale, however, the people who got in trouble, went mad and died had barely hit puberty at the height of their success. 

Eating lunch in a gaudy Birmingham leisure complex, keyboard player Michael Grant is aware that Musical Youth has become a byword for child stardom’s misery. “Black artists get ripped off, child stars get ripped off,” he says. “We were doomed from the start, really.” 

Grant is the only surviving member of Musical Youth who still has a successful musical career. Remixes by his production team, 5am, have graced singles by Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes and Kelly Rowland. He manages a gospel duo called Nu Life and has recently produced an indie band, River Deep. “I want to produce the next Oasis album,” he says hopefully. 

Courteous to a fault, he is nevertheless noticeably angrier about Musical Youth’s demise than Seaton. The singer retains a curious ebullience even when accusing the music industry of racism. Perhaps that’s the legacy of being the frontman, spending your early teens grinning good-naturedly on gormless kids’ TV shows and in gormless pop magazines. 

Grant was nine years old in 1979, when he and his guitarist brother Kelvin, then seven, joined Musical Youth. They had formed at the behest of a family friend, Freddie Waite, once a singer in Jamaican vocal trio the Techniques. Waite had left the band in 1966, emigrated to England and ended up in Nechells, in inner-city Birmingham. Waite encouraged his sons, Patrick and Junior, to take up bass and drums respectively. When the Grant brothers joined them, they became his backing band. 

“We used to do a lot of pubs and clubs with this 35-year-old man when we were between the ages of seven and 12,” says Grant. “This old guy next to a bunch of kids! Kelvin’s hands were so small they could only just reach around the fretboard of his guitar. It was odd, but we got a favourable reaction. We could play our instruments.”

Reggae is a famously obtuse genre. It makes stars out of the most unlikely people. Freddie Waite and Musical Youth were certainly weird, but no weirder than, say, King Stitt, Jamaica’s cross-eyed, toothless, facially disfigured DJ. Outside reggae circles, however, Freddie Waite and Musical Youth were just too peculiar. An A&R man spotted them performing in Coventry, and offered them a deal – on one condition. “He said, you need a singer your own age,” Grant chuckles. “We held an audition and Dennis was the only one to turn up. It was pretty embarrassing.” 

Musical Youth signed to MCA records in 1982. “We would have been excited if we knew what it meant,” says Grant. “We thought it was par for the course – why shouldn’t we get a record deal? We didn’t really understand.” 

“The Fun Boy Three tried to talk to us about the business,” remembers Seaton. “But we were asking them questions like, ‘Are you going out with Bananarama?'” 

Musical Youth’s first single for MCA was a version of the Mighty Diamonds’ Rastafarian anthem Pass the Kouchie, with the lyrics and title famously altered to avoid any reference to marijuana. Driven by Kelvin Grant’s exuberant toasting – a kind of Jamaican proto-rapping, then entirely alien to a British pop audience – Pass the Dutchie entered the charts at number 26 on September 25. The next week it leapt to number one. It was a hit across Europe. It reached the top 10 in America. They recorded with Donna Summer. Michael Jackson took a shine to them. “I was one of those kids that’s been in his bedroom,” says Grant indignantly, “and nothing untoward happened.” 

The money was rolling in. Everyone except Seaton moved away from their council estate homes. “We had to set up our own companies,” he remembers. “We had to get accountants and sit in board meetings. I would ask questions, but I was 15 and I felt like I was bothering them.” 

In some ways, it’s surprising Musical Youth’s success lasted so long. In a market reliant on high visibility to keep fickle audiences interested, Musical Youth were restricted by guidelines protecting child performers. “We could only work 42 days of the year, and we were trying to compete against guys that toured for 18 months solid,” says Grant. 

In addition, once the excitement surrounding Pass the Dutchie died down, Musical Youth found themselves trapped in a musical no-man’s land, between frivolous teen pop and the sombre, grittily political world of reggae. They had honed their skills in Birmingham’s notoriously tough black clubs and recorded sessions for the John Peel show, but their age meant they would inevitably be viewed as a novelty, aimed not at serious music fans but children. “We were seen as a novelty, not just because of our age, but because of the colour of our skin,” says Grant. “There weren’t any role models around our age, there weren’t any black kids on TV, so we were setting a lot of trends.” 

The disparity showed in the songs Dennis Seaton penned with Freddie Waite. They awkwardly attempted to graft the language with which Rastafarian artists prophesied Babylon’s imminent collapse on to juvenile concerns. Pass the Dutchie’s follow-up, The Youth of Today, suggested its protagonist was “under heavy manners”, a phrase coined by Jamaican premier Michael Manley, when he introduced martial law in 1976. It wasn’t the first time the term had been re-appropriated by a reggae song (fire-and-brimstone Rasta Prince Far-I beat them to it) but it was presumably the first time it had been used to describe a child’s frustration at being unable to “buy a little bike”. The B-sides of their second top 10 single Never Gonna Give You Up further encapsulated their dilemma. One was a bass-heavy band original called Rub N Dub. The other was the theme to Jim’ll Fix It. 

Their record label was keen to capitalise on their US success. In America, Pass the Dutchie had become the biggest-selling reggae single in over a decade – testament both to the band’s commercial appeal and the fact that Americans didn’t buy many reggae records. “We started doing R&B because they wanted to make it accessible to America,” says Grant. “Even then, at 13, I was thinking, this isn’t what I want. We weren’t really in a position to argue. I should have been more assertive in hindsight, but I was a child. I had no influence on my career. To say we were manipulated is an understatement. We were led by everybody and anybody.”

It was to prove a disastrous miscalculation. Different Style limped to number 144 in America. In Britain, too, the novelty had worn off: 18 months after Pass the Dutchie, Musical Youth’s chart career was over. Its failure shocked their label, which hurriedly sent them – with their families – to Barbados for a massively expensive recording session with reggae star Eddy Grant. “My parents realised the money was running out, that we didn’t look as happy,” remembers Grant. “Nobody from the record company and the management came to explain to my parents about what was going on. Towards the end of Musical Youth, they got solicitors involved. Now, looking back, it was an absolute nightmare.” 

“It became the Grants versus the Waites and Dennis Seaton was caught up in the whole thing. The parents thought their career wasn’t being planned or controlled properly,” says David Morgan, who became Seaton’s manager in the late 1980s. “I think they thought they could do better themselves, but they had no knowledge of the business. When MCA saw this internal squabbling, they were pretty dismayed. Then when the label discovered the amount of money Eddy Grant had charged them, and heard what he’d done, that was pretty much the kiss of death.”

While the families and their respective lawyers battled with each other, the behaviour of both Waite brothers was becoming unpredictable. “Junior was showing signs of mental problems,” says Grant. “Stuff that should have been water off a duck’s back he was taking really seriously. If you asked him why he hadn’t shaved, he’d go beserk, ‘Why are you criticising me? Why don’t you mind your own business?’ Patrick was like that as well. I just thought, ‘We don’t need this.'” 

The reasons behind their decline are still mysterious. One band associate solemnly claims Patrick Waite’s problems stemmed from an incident in which he had “fallen over and bumped his head”. Seaton thinks they had something to do with the Waite family’s relocation from the estates of Nechells to Edgbaston. “They moved to this swanky apartment, a well-to-do area. That changed them because they were in surroundings that they weren’t used to. My family stayed in Nechells, my mum bought her house there. It keeps you grounded.” 

More prosaically, the Waite brothers had developed drug problems. Seaton and Grant profess ignorance as to precisely what drugs. “Obviously, we knew that he was smoking weed because we were his friends, but this other stuff, we had no idea,” says Seaton. “When I hear now what people are like on speed, I think that’s what it must have been. When Patrick left school, he was spending a lot of time in this pub that his dad owned, so I suppose he must have got it there. It wasn’t until we got out on the road that we realised he was going off the rails.” 

Patrick Waite’s erratic behaviour came to a head on a final, disastrous trip to Jamaica in the spring of 1985. “He completely lost it onstage,” Grant remembers. “He was totally spaced out, didn’t know where the hell he was, playing all kinds of crap. His dad ran onstage, took his bass off him and took him off the stage.”

Waite was hospitalised, and the rest of Musical Youth left Jamaica without him. Back in England, they were dropped by MCA and broke up in June, spurred by Seaton’s decision to leave: “The day before my 18th birthday, I became a Christian, and from that day everything changed. For the last four years, I’d lived, breathed, slept and shit Musical Youth. The decision to leave wasn’t planned. I didn’t even particularly want to be a solo artist. I just wasn’t happy.” 

Neither was Michael Grant. “After the band broke up, I read this article in one of the tabloids saying Musical Youth were has-beens. I was 16 years old. All my friends are leaving school, going into jobs, starting their lives, doing all that sort of thing, and you read this article saying you’re a has-been. I didn’t do anything for a couple of years. I got involved with different bands, but it didn’t bring me any peace.”

His brother, just 14 when the band split, was equally distraught. “He got bored and restless and didn’t have anything to do. Kelvin didn’t want to go back into the music industry, didn’t want to go back down that road. He felt a bit burned by the experience. He’s still trying to find some direction.” 

Today, Kelvin Grant is a virtual recluse; the brothers seldom speak. Various attempts to reform Musical Youth during the late 1980s floundered, usually because of the Waites’s unpredictability. Seaton tried his hand at a solo career. Despite songwriting help from Stevie Wonder, his 1989 album Imagine That flopped. Two years later, he was back in Birmingham, driving a delivery van. “I had to sign on when the money ran out. People were looking at me and laughing, but I had to do it.”

The Waite brothers’ lives unravelled far more dramatically. Patrick Waite began making local newspaper headlines as a petty criminal. Grant thinks his crimes had little to do with poverty. “Suddenly, there’s no rehearsals, you’re not going around the world any more. I think he was just bored out of his mind.” In 1987, he was jailed for four months for reckless driving, credit-card fraud and assaulting the police. In 1990, he was jailed again, for robbing a pregnant woman at knifepoint. Shortly after his release, he was arrested again, for marijuana possession. “I had words with him,” remembers Seaton. “I was trying to tell him it affected all five of us, that it was tarnishing whatever reputation the band had left. Every time he appeared in the papers it wasn’t Patrick Waite, it was Musical Youth. That was the last conversation I ever had with him.”

While awaiting trial in February 1993, Patrick Waite collapsed on February 18 and died at his uncle’s, the victim of heart failure brought on by a rare virus. He was 24 years old. 

At the time of his death, he was sharing a flat with his mother, sister and Junior, whose mental condition had worsened. “He just got more and more withdrawn,” says Seaton. “I suppose he had a breakdown. He used to sit at home all day watching Aswad videos. He was like a guy that retires, doesn’t have anything to do. It’s bound to affect you.” Junior Waite was eventually sectioned. Today, he is still under medical supervision, in the care of his mother.

By the late 1990s, Musical Youth had passed into history. The sound of Pass the Dutchie became a sort of musical shorthand for a less manufactured era of pop. In 1998, Seaton’s former manager David Morgan heard it on the soundtrack of 1980s-themed romantic comedy hit The Wedding Singer. “I rang Dennis and said, ‘You must be earning a lot of money. He said no. The members of Musical Youth had not received any royalty accounting from their record label since 1986, which was diabolical. Just the use on The Wedding Singer earned about £20,000.” 

It took him two and a half years to sort through Musical Youth’s business affairs.”Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ,” said Universal’s spokesman, when Morgan launched a £2m claim for unpaid royalties, damages and interest on the money owed Musical Youth. “I sent something like 10,000 letters,” he sighs. “They tried to wear me down by ignoring me.” In December 2002, MCA/Universal settled out of court. Morgan cannot divulge exact figures but claims “it amounts to close on a seven-figure sum. In the end, the record company were embarrassed about it.” 

In addition, he has convinced the label to release a Musical Youth compilation. Seaton and Grant plan to promote it with some club dates and a 1980s package tour. “Everyone remembers Musical Youth,” says Seaton. And indeed they do. Ever since Frankie Lymon, the teenage singer of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? overdosed on heroin in 1968, child stars whose careers go horribly wrong have exerted a morbid fascination. It may be that their stories confirm the public’s worst instincts about the music industry. It may be something to do with the gulf between the chirpy records children invariably make and the reality of their lives: child stars rarely sound like Joy Division or Nirvana, signposting doom in their music. Or it may be simple nostalgia for a more innocent era. “I still get emails from Holland,” smiles Seaton. “People saying we changed their life.” Then his telephone rings, and he arranges to pick up a Mercedes hatchback from a nearby industrial estate. 

Their recordings include “Children Of Zion,” “Rockers,” “Youth Of Today,” “Sixteen,” “Yard Stylee,” “Air Taxi,” “Blind Boy,” “Mash It The Youth Man, Mash It,” “Young Generation,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Heartbreaker,” “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Schoolgirl,” “Shanty Town,” “She’s Trouble,” “Watcha Talking ‘Bout,” “Incommunicado,” “No Strings,” and “Tell Me Why.”

They received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards of 1984. Their follow-up to “Pass the Dutchie”, “Youth Of Today”, reached number 13 in the UK Singles Chart, and early in 1983, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, climbed to UK number 6. Minor successes with “Heartbreaker” and “Tell Me Why”, were succeeded by a collaboration with Donna Summer on the UK Top 20 hit, “Unconditional Love”.

“To be honest we all had no preconceived ideas on how fame would be handled because it was only ever about playing as many gigs as possible. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing but we were dealing with unknown territory of musical success on a world stage but yes there are some aspects of our new found fame could have been handled much better.”

In 2001, the band reformed, but the set of shows scheduled for the Here & Now tour of that year were cancelled due to the 9-11 attacks. Sadly, and according to your website, original band members Freddie ‘Junior’ Waite has since suffered a nervous breakdown, Kelvin Grant also suffers from psychological problems, and Patrick Waite died at age 24 from heart problems!

Says Seaton: “Kelvin was supposed to come on the road with me but due to his erratic behaviour I decided to just work with Michael as he was more interested than Kelvin. It was ashame that the tour got cancelled but it spurred Michael and myself to carry on and do some live shows together because that’s what we started out doing. We have now toured the West coast of America, Slovenia some live shows in Netherlands and Germany. Things took a natural course for the band and subsequent events haven’t helped but then that’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ as they say!”

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Ronnie Bond 11/1992

ronnie_bondNovember 12, 1992 – Ronnie Bond was born Ronald James Bullis on May 4, 1940, the week before Nazi Germany invaded the Lowlands and brought the war to England.  Born in Andover, Hampshire, he was a founding member of the rock band, The Troggs, originally called The Troglodytes.

They had a series of hits in the UK, Europe and the USA including “Wild Thing”, which was written by Chip Taylor (James Wesley Voight) Actor Jon Voight’s brother and Angelina Jolie’s uncle,  “Anyway That You Want Me”, “Love Is All Around”, “I can’t control myself” and “With a Girl Like You”.

The Troggs Billboard Hot 100 chart topper “Wild Thing” is ranked #257 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and was an influence on garage rock and punk rock. Many of their hits have also been successful as covers, such as Jimi Hendrix with Wild Thing, Wet Wet Wet and REM with “Love Is All Around”, and Spiritualized with “Anyway That You Want Me”.

Iggy Pop, The Buzzcocks and The Ramones are amongst punk bands who cited the Troggs as an influence. Ronnie also released a solo single “Anything For You” in 1968 and a solo hit single titled “It’s Written On Your Body” which remained in the UK charts for five weeks in 1980.

Ronnie Bond transitioned on Nov 12, 1992 at age 52 under non-disclosed circumstances, but former band bass player Pete Staples had this to say about Ronnie Bond: “Ronnie was a good heavy drummer and had a very good voice, possibly the best in the group. His frustration could be heard by the continued use of the F word. Underneath the drink and the frustration was a very kind bloke.”

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Tony Williams 8/1992

tony williams of the plattersAugust 14, 1992 – Samuel Anthony “Tony” Williams  was born on April 5th 1928 in Roselle, New Jersey. His family moved to California in the 1940s.

The Platters formed in Los Angeles in 1952 and were initially managed by Federal Records A&R man, Ralph Bass. The original group consisted of Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed, who joined the group after he was discharged from the Army in December 1952. Reed created the group’s name.

In June 1953, Gunter left to join the Flaires and was replaced by tenor Tony Williams, a parking lot attendant, recommended by his sister Linda Hayes, an R&B singer, Williams became the group’s lead vocalist. The group then released two singles with Federal Records, under the management of Bass, but found little success. Bass then asked his friend music entrepreneur and songwriter Buck Ram to coach the group in hope of getting a hit record. Ram made some changes to the lineup, most notably the addition of female vocalist Zola Taylor; later, at Reed’s urging, Hodge was replaced by Paul Robi. Under Ram’s guidance, the Platters recorded eight songs for Federal in the R&B/gospel style, scoring a few minor regional hits on the West Coast, and backed Williams’ sister, Linda Hayes. One song recorded during their Federal tenure, “Only You (And You Alone)”, originally written by Ram for the Ink Spots, was deemed unreleasable by the label, though pirated copies of this early version do exist.

Despite their lack of chart success, the Platters were a profitable touring group, successful enough that the Penguins, coming off their #8 single “Earth Angel”, asked Ram to manage them as well. With the Penguins in hand, Ram was able to parlay Mercury Records’ interest into a 2-for-1 deal. To sign the Penguins, Ram insisted, Mercury also had to take the Platters. Ironically The Penguins would never have a hit for the label.

Convinced by Jean Bennett and Tony Williams that “Only You” had real potential, Ram had the Platters re-record the song during their first session for Mercury. Released in the summer of 1955, it became the group’s first Top Ten hit on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts for seven weeks. The follow-up, “The Great Pretender”, with lyrics written in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas by Buck Ram, exceeded the success of their debut and became the Platters’ first national #1 hit. “The Great Pretender” was also the act’s biggest R&B hit, with an 11-week run atop that chart. In 1956, the Platters appeared in the first major motion picture based around rock and roll, Rock Around the Clock, and performed both “Only You” and “The Great Pretender”.

The Platters’ unique vocal style had touched a nerve in the music-buying public, and a string of hit singles followed, including three more national #1 hits and more modest chart successes such as “I’m Sorry” (#11) and “He’s Mine” (#23) in 1957, “Enchanted” (#12) in 1959, and “The Magic Touch” (#4) in 1956.
The Platters soon hit upon the successful formula of updating older standards, such as “My Prayer”, “Twilight Time”, “Harbor Lights”, “To Each His Own”, “If I Didn’t Care”, and Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”. This latter release caused a small controversy after Kern’s widow expressed concern that her late husband’s composition would be turned into a “rock and roll” record. It topped both the American and British charts in a Platters-style arrangement.

The Platters also differed from most other groups of the era in other ways because Ram had the group incorporated in 1956. Each member of the group received a 20% share in the stock, full royalties, and their Social Security was paid. As group members left one by one, Ram and his business partner, Jean Bennett, bought their stock, which they claimed gave them ownership of the “Platters” name. A court later ruled, however, that “FPI was a sham used by Mr. Ram to obtain ownership in the name ‘Platters’, and FPI’s issuance of stock to the group members was ‘illegal and void’ because it violated California corporate securities law.”

Tony Williams and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1998. The Platters were the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America. They were also the only act to have three songs included on the American Graffiti soundtrack that fueled an oldies revival already underway in the early to mid-1970s: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “The Great Pretender”, and “Only You (and You Alone)”.

From 1955 until Williams left the group in 1960, The Platters had four No. 1 hits and 16 gold records, including “My Prayer,” “Harbor Lights,” “Twilight Time,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and their biggest seller, “The Great Pretender.”

The group continued to perform without Williams, while he pursued a solo career.

Tony Williams passed away on August 14, 1992 from emphysema and lung cancer. He was 64 and had been earlier that year toured Thailand and other Asian countries, performing with his wife and son.

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Jeff Porcaro 8/1992

Jeff PorcaroAugust 5, 1992 – Jeffrey Thomas “Jeff” Porcaro was born on April 1, 1954. He was not only a founding member of the hugely popular band “Toto”, he was also a highly sought after session drummer, by many regarded as the most in demand studio drummer in rock from the mid-’70s to the early ’90s. He has worked on hundreds of the most successful albums from that era and contributed to thousands of sessions.

At age 17 he became the drummer for Sonny and Cher’s Touring Band at the height of their popularity. He toured with Boz Scaggs and recorded with Steely Dan before he and his brothers, together with Steve Lukather and David Paich formed.

Porcaro was one of the most recorded session musicians in history, working on hundreds of albums and thousands of sessions.Even while with Toto, he was still a highly sought after session musician. He collaborated with many of the biggest names in the music business, including Boz Scaggs, Paul McCartney, Dire Straits, Donald Fagen, Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones, Michael Jackson, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Stan Getz, Sérgio Mendes, Lee Ritenour, Christopher Cross, James Newton-Howard, Jim Messina, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Eric Carmen, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Larry Carlton, Michael McDonald, Seals & Crofts, and David Gilmour.

Porcaro had contributed drums to four tracks on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, as well as played on the Dangerous album hit “Heal the World”. He also played on 10cc’s …Meanwhile (1992).

He died unexpectedly at home on August 5, 1995.The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office listed the cause of death to be a heart attack from atherosclerosis induced by cocaine use, not from an allergic reaction to the pesticides as presumed immediately after his death and stated by Toto in the band’s official history. The official cause of death reported by the coroner has long been the subject of intense debate, with Porcaro’s family, friends, and Toto bandmates claiming that while he did occasionally use cocaine, he was by no means a heavy drug user nor was he an addict. Most of the people that knew him state that the coroner’s report is wrong, and that he died of a combination of undiagnosed heart disease and organophosphate poisoning caused by the insecticide he was spraying on the day he died.

In a podcast recorded with I’d Hit That in late 2013, Steve Lukather spoke about Jeff Porcaro’s death:

Steve Lukather: I spoke to him the day he passed…he said, ‘yeah, man I’ll see you this weekend and we’ll have a BBQ at the house and we’ll go clean up the yard’…and that’s when he got poison on himself and it turns out he had a bad heart anyway. He had two uncles that died when they were 40 years old from heart disease so it was genetic…this whole drug thing that came out its so insidious, and I hate the fucking fact cause he was never the bad drug guy…he’d be the guy going “what are guys staying up all night, you idiots”…in the early ’80s and late ’70s early ’80s it was crazy man, we’re not gonna deny any of it, but by the time he passed it was never, I don’t know, people just love to roam the dirty laundry as Henley wrote you know…and you read these Wikipedia shit, that’s right there, it’s like does anybody ever do homework on these facts…he just had a genetic predisposition…this whole thing with his arms hurting and all this, he was always, ‘my arms, my muscles’, it wasn’t his muscles, it was the fact that the blood was not getting to the extremities, he had hardening of the arteries at 38 years old.

Interviewer: How long was he complaining of the pain in the arms?

Steve Lukather: Years, it was debilitating to the point where touring became difficult for him.

A memorial concert took place at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on December 14, 1992 with an all-star lineup that included Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, Don Henley, Michael McDonald, David Crosby, Eddie Van Halen, and the members of Toto. The proceeds of the concert were used to establish an educational trust fund for Porcaro’s sons.

Porcaro’s tombstone is inscribed with the following epitaph, comprised by lyrics from Kingdom of Desire track “Wings of Time”: “Our love doesn’t end here; it lives forever, on the Wings of Time.”

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Jerry Nolan 1/1992

Jerry NolanJanuary 14, 1992 – Jerry Nolan was born May 7th 1946 in Brooklyn New York. Nolan joined The New York Dolls in the autumn of 1972 to replace Billy Murcia, who had died of asphyxiation in a failed attempt to revive him from a drug overdose while on tour in England, early in the band’s career. The Dolls got a record deal with Mercury Records in 1973. Nolan also was a childhood friend of Peter Criss (KISS’ original drummer) who auditioned for The New York Dolls at the same time. He previously played with Wayne (Jayne) County’s “Queen Elizabeth”, Billy Squier’s “Kicks” and was the only male member of Suzi Quatro’s Detroit-based band Cradle. Jerry was drumming for the power trio “Shaker”, a New York band that frequently opened for the Dolls, when he was recruited to replace Billy. Nolan played on the Dolls’ first two albums (New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon).

After much internal fighting and a short stint under the helm of future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, Nolan left the Dolls together with Johnny Thunders in the spring of 1975. The two then placed a call to bassist Richard Hell, formerly of the Neon Boys and Television, to form The Heartbreakers. Soon, Walter Lure was brought into the fold and Hell was replaced by Billy Rath.

In 1976, The Heartbreakers were invited to tour with the Sex Pistols on their infamous “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour which also included support from The Clash and The Damned. Soon after the tour, The Heartbreakers took up permanent residence in London and played many shows throughout 1976–1977. Nolan quit the band soon after they released their only studio album, L.A.M.F. in October 1977 because he felt the album was poorly mixed. Nolan still continued to play with The Heartbreakers, but as a “hired drummer” until the end of 1977.

In early 1978, Nolan joined The Idols led by Steve Dior and Barry Jones. The Idols with ex-Chelsea bassist Simon Vitesse recorded four demos in London for Track Records and then toured America later in the year with Arthur Kane on bass. The Idols also released a single including “You” b/w “The Girl That I Love” in 1978 on Ork Records. Nolan also filled in on drums for Sid Vicious’ ill-fated New York City solo performances in September 1978 along with Arthur Kane and Steve Dior also backing up Vicious. Mick Jones from The Clash also joined Vicious’ backing band filling in on guitar on the last live date. The live recordings from these shows can be found on Sid Sings.

The Idols continued to play shows up and down the east coast but broke up in 1979, the last line up consisting of Jerry Nolan, Steve Dior, Barry Jones, Arthur Kane, and Walter Lure. Nolan later joined back up with Steve Dior and Barry Jones in their next band, The London Cowboys in the early 80’s which also included Glen Matlock from The Sex Pistols. Jerry didn’t play drums on The London Cowboys two albums Animal Pleasure (1982) and Tall in the Saddle (1984), but he did play drums on their live album On Stage (1986).

While touring with Johnny Thunders in 1982, Nolan met Charlotte (Lotten) Nedeby, whom he soon married. Nolan took up residence in Sweden, off and on, through the 1980s. In Sweden playing drums and singing lead vocals he recorded a solo single with the Teneriffa Cowboys of an unreleased Heartbreakers’ song, “Take A Chance With Me” and a new song, “Pretty Baby” released in 1982 on Tandan Records. Other songs recorded with the Teneriffa Cowboys throughout 1982–1983 include Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon” which was released on “Sword – The Best in Scandinavian Rock” album in 1985 on Sword/Tandan Records and “Countdown Love” which was released on a posthumous split single with Johnny Thunders in 1997 on Sucksex Records. The other co-singer and guitarist of Teneriffa Cowboys, Michael Thimren (who also occasionally played with Johnny Thunders from 1983–1988) contributed the songs “Lickin’ My Boots” and “Notorious Liar” along with other unreleased songs from the 1982–1983 period. Also in 1983, Nolan recorded a single with the Swedish band Pilsner playing drums and singing lead vocals on “I Refuse (To Live in the U.S.A.)” and “Sleep With You”. He was also a member of the short-lived Ugly Americans with fellow ex-Doll Sylvain Sylvain. Johnny Thunders also moved to Sweden with his girlfriend, Susanne, and their collaboration continued periodically, until Thunders’ death in 1991.

Nolan outlived his long-time friend by only a few months. During that period he was working on a recording project with singer/songwriter/guitar Greg Allen and bassist Chicago Vin Earnshaw. In late 1991, while Nolan was being treated for bacterial meningitis and bacterial pneumonia at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, he suffered a stroke and went into a coma from which he never recovered. He spent his final weeks on a life support system and died on January 14, 1992 at age 45.

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Dee Murray 1/1992

Dee MurrayJanuary 15, 1992 – Dee Murray (Elton John band) was born in Gillingham, Kent, England on 3 April 1946. Before joining Elton John as his touring sidemen, Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson were members of the Spencer Davis Group in 1969. In Murray’s musician bio in the program book for 1982’s “Jump Up!” tour, Murray recalled when he first took up the bass guitar during his high school years: “Someone put this heavy thing over my shoulder and said, ‘Here, you play this!'”

Murray quickly established a solid reputation on the instrument. In the Classic Albums documentary on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, producer Gus Dudgeon lauded Murray’s musical ability, and said he hadn’t heard a bassist quite as good as him.
Murray and Olsson joined John as his road sidemen in 1970, and first appeared on disc with John on “Amoreena” from the 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection, though they were first featured on the live album 17-11-70. While they were John’s constant touring band mates, his record company only allowed them to play on just one track per studio album. As of Honky Château in 1972, however, John exerted some of his skyrocketing popularity at the time, and convinced his record company to allow Murray and Olsson to also become full-time recording members of his band. Along with fellow new recruit Davey Johnstone on guitar, Murray and Olsson played on John’s hit albums, including the milestone album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, singles, and world tours for several years.

In 1975, after recording Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Murray and Olsson were released from the band because John wanted to achieve a different sound. He said at the time “The band always rattled along. I want it to chug”.
Murray and Olsson continued working together as session musicians in Los Angeles. They played on Rick Springfield‘s first United States album, Wait for Night (1976). In 1977, Murray briefly joined Procol Harum on a North America tour promoting their last 1970s album, Something Magic, although he never recorded with the group.

Between 1978 and 1979, Murray worked as part of Alice Cooper’s backing band. According to music site, Murray played on Cooper’s hit album “From the Inside,” and joined Olsson backing the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir on his solo album “Heaven Help the Fool” in 1978.

Other artists he worked with during the 1970s and early 1980s include Yvonne Elliman (her Night Flight album contained the hit single “If I Can’t Have You,” composed by the Bee Gees), Shaun Cassidy, Allan Clarke, Bernie Taupin, Kiki Dee, Stefanie Gaines, Barbi Benton and Jimmy Webb.

Murray and Olsson returned to tour and play sessions with John, starting with “21 at 33” in 1980. He and Olsson backed John during his landmark concert in New York City’s Central Park before more than 400,000 fans on the Great Lawn on 13 September 1980, and appeared on The Fox in 1981. Murray went on to contribute all the bass tracks on Jump Up! in 1982, and joined Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone for the Jump Up! Tour, followed by albums and tours for Too Low for Zero (1983) and Breaking Hearts (1984). The group then disbanded, reuniting once more to record backing vocals on Reg Strikes Back in 1988.
In the 1980s, Murray played on numerous Nashville sessions for artists such as Michael Brown, Lewis Storey, Beth Nielsen Chapman and John Prine, amongst others.

He was a talented musician whose gift for melody, placement, and an understated, yet profound technique, plus his standout work as a backing vocalist, puts him in an elite class among rock bassists. He died after a long brave battle with skin cancer from a stroke at age 45 years  on 15 January 1992.

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Willie Dixon 1/1992

Willie DixonJanuary 29, 1992 – Willie Dixon was born July 1st 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother Daisy often rhymed the things she said, a habit her son imitated. At the age of seven, young Dixon became an admirer of a band that featured pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He sang his first song at Springfield Baptist Church at the age of four. Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as an early teenager.

He later learned how to sing harmony from local carpenter Leo Phelps. Dixon sang bass in Phelps’ group The Jubilee Singers, a local gospel quartet that regularly appeared on the Vicksburg radio station WQBC. Dixon began adapting poems he was writing as songs, and even sold some tunes to local music groups. By the time he was a teenager, Dixon was writing songs and selling copies to the local bands. With his bass voice, Dixon later joined a group organized by Phelps, the Union Jubilee Singers, who appeared on local radio. Continue reading Willie Dixon 1/1992

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Eric Carr 11/1991

November 24, 1991 – Eric CarrEric “The Fox” Carr was born as Paul Caravello on July 12, 1950 in Brooklyn New York. He grew up typically post war American and by the time he was 15, while still in high school, he began playing with a string of bands mostly performing covers of Top 40 songs.

In 1970, Caravello joined the band Salt & Pepper, which started as a cover band playing music from multiple genres; the band was named that because half of the members were black and half were white. In 1973 the band changed their name to Creation, now performing disco music.

Tragedy struck in 1974 when a fire broke out during a discothèque gig at Gulliver’s restaurant in Port Chester, New York, killing dozens of people including the band’s keyboardist and lead singer. Caravello escaped and was credited with saving another person, one of the band’s female singers. It was determined that the fire had been started by a thief in an adjacent building hoping to cover his tracks.

Carr would go on with the band until 1979. They enjoyed some success, performing as an opening act for established names such as Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone. The band broke up in late 1979. He later described the band as “like my family basically for nine years.”

In December 1979, Caravello successfully auditioned for a four-piece rock ‘n’ roll cover band called Flasher. After three weeks of rehearsals, they started playing at clubs. At this point he had become discouraged about his musical future after so many years trying to make it without a break, and considered settling down with a non-musical career.”…we were making real (lousy) money – something like $10, $7 a night, whatever it was it was. Really, really terrible. Just by contrast, I used to make $15 a night when I was like 16 years old, and here I am almost 30 years old, and I’m making like $7 a night! So I wasn’t doing better, obviously – I was going in reverse, you know!

Flasher played the club circuit in New York City and Long Island for several months, before their keyboard player, Paul Turino quit; they then continued as a power trio, with the three sharing vocal duties. They played songs by Joe Jackson, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, among others.” Bookings diminished, and Caravello handed in his resignation in May 1980. At that point, he considered quitting music, having reached the age of 30 without any real success. Shortly afterwards, he had a chance meeting with Turino in a club in Queens; Turino told Caravello about Peter Criss’ departure from Kiss, and urged Caravello to audition to become Kiss’ drummer.

He did and was the last drummer to audition. A significant advantage for Caravello may have been his relative anonymity, as it was important for the band to maintain the mystique surrounding the members. Said Paul Stanley, “It was really important to us that we got somebody who was unknown… We didn’t want somebody who last week was in Rod Stewart’s band or in Rainbow.” The press release announcing the induction of Caravello into Kiss deducted three years from his actual age in part to confuse those seeking information about his true identity, but also to help create an identification with Eric – a young fan chosen out of the crowd to be the new KISS drummer.

His Kiss persona, was first made up as “The Hawk,” but later adopted the persona of “The Fox”, he was also part of the band’s stage makeup removal of their live on MTV in 1983. He also played guitar, bass guitar, piano and sang background vocals, he sung lead vocals on “Black Diamond” and “Young and Wasted” live with Kiss. He sang lead on the remake of “Beth” in the studio on the album Smashes, Thrashes & Hits.

In 1989 he sang lead vocal on a self-penned, studio track titled “Little Caesar,”. His last live performance with Kiss was November 9, 1990 in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. He succumbed from heart cancer one year later,on November 24, 1991 at age 41.

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Freddie Mercury 11/1991

freddie-mercury-4November 24, 1991 – Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th 1946 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.  He spent time in a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where he studied piano and it was not long before this charismatic young man joined his first band, the Hectics. He was of Indian Parsi descent and his early childhood was in India, which gave him the title “Britain’s first Asian rock star.

After moving to London with his family in the 1960s, Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art where he befriended a number of musicians including future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. Following graduation, he joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London, as well as had a job at Heathrow Airport. In April 1970, he joined with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called SmileIn 1969, Mercury joined up with a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining forces with Taylor and May in the early 70s. They met up with bassist John Deacon in 1971, and the quartet—who Mercury dubbed Queen—played their first gig together in June of that year. Continue reading Freddie Mercury 11/1991

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Mort Schuman 11/1991

Mort ShumanNovember 2, 1991 – Mort Shuman was born November 12, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York City, of Polish Jewish immigrants and went to Abraham Lincoln High School, subsequently studying music at the New York Conservatory. He became a fan of R&B music and after he met Doc Pomus the two teamed up to compose for Aldon Music at offices in New York City’s Brill Building.

Their songwriting collaboration saw Doc write the lyrics and Shuman the melody, although occasionally they worked on both. Their compositions would be recorded by artists such as Dion, Andy Williams, Bobby Darin, Fabian, The Drifters, and Elvis Presley, among others.

Their most famous songs include “A Teenager in Love”, “Turn Me Loose”, “This Magic Moment”, “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “Little Sister”, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame” and “Viva Las Vegas”.

With the advent of the British invasion, they moved to London where they penned songs for a number of British musicians. After the partnership with Doc Pomus ended in 1965, Shuman moved to Paris, France where he wrote songs for the French rocker Johnny Hallyday. He also wrote and sang many songs in French, such as Le Lac Majeur, Allo Papa Tango Charlie, Sha Mi Sha, Un Eté de Porcelaine, Brooklyn by the Sea which became great hits in France.

One of his hits in the early 1970s was “(Il Neige Sur) Le Lac Majeur”. He also wrote a couple of hits in the UK (including one for The Small Faces, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” written with Kenny Lynch), as well as a musical, Budgie (lyrics by Don Black). With the Welsh songwriter Clive Westlake, he wrote “Here I Go Again”, which was recorded by The Hollies. Billy J. Kramer enjoyed success with another Shuman song, “Little Children”.

In 1968, Shuman had teamed with Eric Blau and adapted the French lyrics of songs by the Belgian composer Jacques Brel used as the basis of the successful off-Broadway production Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Some of the songs from the show were subsequently recorded by Scott Walker, including “Jackie” and “Mathilde”. Shuman appeared in both the stage revue and the 1975 film adaptation. This was followed the next year with work on the soundtrack of the film Sex O’Clock U.S.A., which is notable for featuring one of the earliest known gay songs, “You’re My Man,” while another one of his compositions from the soundtrack, “Baby Come On” (billed under the Sex O’Clock U.S.A. name during its chart run) become a modest hit on Billboard’s Disco chart, peaking at number 37 in July 1977. He also did many collaborations with the French singer Mike Brant.

Mort was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992.

Shuman died from complications due to a liver operation on November 2, 1991 at age 54, 8 months after his songwriting partner Doc Pomus.

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Vince Taylor 8/1991

early rocker Vince TaylorAugust 27, 1991 – Vince Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden on July 14, 1939 in Isleworth, Middlesex, England. When he was seven, immediately after WWII, the Holdens emigrated to America and settled in New Jersey where his father found employment. According to Wikipedia, around 1955, his sister, Sheila, got married to Joe Barbera, of Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Productions. As a result of this, the family moved to California, where Taylor attended Hollywood High School. As a teenager, Taylor took flying lessons and obtained a pilot’s license. (note: this seems to need further research, since Joe Barbera (creator of the Flintstones and Tom & Jerry a.o.) was married to his high school sweetheart with whom he had 4 children until 1963!!)

At age 18, impressed by the music of Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley, Taylor began to sing, mostly at amateur gigs. Barbera, his brother-in-law, acted as his ‘manager’, in his late forties at that time. When Barbera went to London on business he asked Taylor to join him. In London, Taylor went to the 2i’s Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho, where Tommy Steele was playing. There he met drummer Tony Meehan (later of the Shadows) and bass player Tex Makins (born Anthony Paul Makins, 3 July 1940, Wembley, Middlesex). They formed a band called the Playboys. Whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes he noticed the phrase, ‘In hoc signo vinces’. He decided on the new stage name of Vince Taylor.

His first singles for Parlophone, “I Like Love” and “Right Behind You Baby”, were released in 1958, followed several months later by “Pledgin’ My Love” backed with “Brand New Cadillac”, (the latter track featuring guitarist Joe Moretti, who later featured on “Shakin’ All Over” with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates). Parlophone was not satisfied with the immediate results and severed the recording contract. Taylor moved to Palette Records and recorded “I’ll Be Your Hero”, backed with “Jet Black Machine”, which was released on 19 August 1960.

On 23 April 1960 ABC-TV screened the first edition of their new weekly rock and roll TV show, Wham! The first show featured Taylor with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.

However, his unpredictable personality, although dynamic on stage, caused several arguments within the band, and the Playboys fired Taylor and changed their name to ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’. The ‘Noise’ was contracted to play at the Olympia in Paris in July 1961. The top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris.[3]

Despite his sacking Taylor remained friendly with the band and he asked if he could come to Paris too. He dressed up for the sound check in his trademark black leather stage gear, and added a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion, which he had bought on arrival at Calais. One version of the story says he gave such an extraordinary performance at the sound check, that the organizers decided to put Taylor at the top of the bill for both shows. As a result of his performance at those two shows, Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.

During 1961 and 1962, Taylor toured Europe with Clarke’s band, once again called Vince Taylor and his Playboys. Between gigs they recorded several EPs and an album of 20 songs at Barclay Studios in Paris.
By the end of 1962, Vince Taylor and the Playboys were the top of the bill at the Olympia in Paris. Sylvie Vartan was the opening act.

Despite his on-stage rapport with the Playboys, the off-stage relationship faltered. As a result, the band once more broke up. Taylor played several engagements backed by the English band the Echoes (who also backed Gene Vincent whenever he played the UK), but he still presented the band as the Playboys.

In February 1964, a new single “Memphis Tennessee”, backed with “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues”, was released on the Barclay label. The Playboys were Joey Greco and Claude Djaoui on guitars, Ralph Di Pietro on bass, and Bobbie Clarke on drums. The group was under contract to the Johnny Hallyday orchestra.

Hallyday was drafted into the French Army, and Clarke again joined Taylor and they started up ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’ along with Ralph Danks (guitar), Alain Bugby of The Strangers (bass), Johnny Taylor, ex lead singer for the Strangers (rhythm guitar), and “Stash” Prince Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (percussion). Managed by Jean Claude Camus, the band embarked on a triumphant tour of Spain and then co-topped the bill with the Rolling Stones during the Easter week-end of 1965 at the Olympia in Paris.

The band then disbanded and Taylor, undergoing problems with drugs and alcohol abuse, joined a religious movement. Danks left to play guitar with Three Dog Night, and later Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Stash, a close friend of the Rolling Stones, would later produce the Dirty Strangers album featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Clarke replaced drummer Don Conka for several studio sessions with the original line up of the band Love. He also played with Vince Flaherty and his band The Invincibles, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and the first incarnation of Deep Purple before forming a group, Bodast, with Steve Howe and Dave Curtis. In 1968, Bodast recorded an album for MGM Records, opened for the Who, and were the backing band for Chuck Berry at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Meanwhile, Clarke was involved in a comeback for his friend Taylor, a one-month tour across France, billed as ‘Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers’. Eddie Barclay gave a new chance to Taylor who recorded again and performed intermittently throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until his death.

During his career, Taylor wrote and recorded many songs, among them his hit in Europe, “Brand New Cadillac” which has been covered by many other artists including the Clash on their 1979 album London Calling. Taylor lived in Switzerland late in his life, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. He said it was the happiest time of his life.

Taylor died from cancer in August 1991, at age 52. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.


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Gene Clark 5/1991

gene-clarkMay 24, 1991 – Harold Eugene Gene Clark was born November 17, 1944 in Tipton, Missouri, the third of 13 children in a family of Irish, German, and Native American heritage. His family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where as a boy of 9 he began learning to play the guitar and harmonica from his father. He was soon playing Hank Williams tunes as well as material by early rockers such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. He began writing songs at the age of 11. By the time he was 15, he had developed a rich tenor voice, and he formed a local rock and roll combo, Joe Meyers and the Sharks. Like many of his generation, Clark developed an interest in folk music because of the popularity of the Kingston Trio. When he graduated from Bonner Springs High School, in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1962, he formed a folk group, the Rum Runners. Inspired by the Kingston Trio and playing with several folk groups he began working with the New Christy Minstrels. They hired him, and he recorded two albums with the ensemble before leaving in early 1964 after hearing the Beatles.

He moved to Los Angeles, where he met fellow folkie and Beatles convert Jim (later Roger) McGuinn at the Troubadour Club. In early 1964 they began to assemble a band that would become the Byrds. Longing to perform his own songs in the sixties and now turning to a more rocky genre, they started assembling a band that would, in time, come to be known as the Byrds. Even though the Byrds gained initial fame with newly arranged cover of Bob Dylan songs, Gene became the Byrds’ dominant songwriter in the mid sixties, penning most of their best-known originals, including “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Here Without You,” and “Eight Miles High,” and was one of the group’s strongest vocal presences.

He initially played rhythm guitar in the band, but relinquished that position to David Crosby and became the tambourine and harmonica player. Bassist Chris Hillman noted years later in an interview remembering Clark, “At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby—it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior. Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence. He was the songwriter. He had the ‘gift’ that none of the rest of us had developed yet…. What deep inner part of his soul conjured up songs like ‘Set You Free This Time,’ ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,’ ‘I’m Feelin’ Higher,’ ‘Eight Miles High’? So many great songs! We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves.”

A management decision gave McGuinn the lead vocals for their major singles and Bob Dylan songs. This disappointment, combined with Clark’s dislike of traveling (including a chronic fear of flying) and resentment by other band members about the extra income he derived from his songwriting, led to internal squabbling, and he left the group in early 1966. He briefly returned to Kansas City before moving back to Los Angeles to form Gene Clark & the Group with Chip Douglas, Joel Larson, and Bill Rhinehart.

gene-clark-2After leaving The Byrds he released 2 solo albums “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” and “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark” before rejoining The Byrds just for a short time. Although he did not achieve commercial success as a solo artist, Clark was in the vanguard of popular music during much of his career, prefiguring developments in such disparate subgenres as psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock, and alternative country.

With the future of his solo career in doubt, Clark briefly rejoined the Byrds in October 1967, as a replacement for the recently departed David Crosby, but left after only three weeks, following an anxiety attack in Minneapolis. During this brief period with the Byrds, he appeared with the band on the television program Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, lip-synching the group’s current single, “Goin’ Back”; he also performed “Mr. Spaceman” with the band. Although there is some disagreement among the band’s biographers, Clark is generally viewed as having contributed background vocals to the songs “Goin’ Back” and “Space Odyssey” for the forthcoming Byrds’ album The Notorious Byrd Brothers and was an uncredited co-author, with McGuinn, of “Get to You”, from that album.

In 1968, Clark signed with A&M Records and began a collaboration with the banjo player Doug Dillard, guitarist Bernie Leadon (later with the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles), bass player Dave Jackson and mandolin player Don Beck joined them to form the nucleus of Dillard & Clark. They produced two albums, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968) and Through the Morning, Through the Night (1969).

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark was an acoustic adventure in country rock; it included the songs “Train Leaves Here This Morning” (covered in 1972 on the album Eagles) and “She Darked the Sun” (covered by Linda Ronstadt on her 1970 album Silk Purse. Through the Morning, Through the Night was more bluegrass in character than its predecessor and used electric instrumentation. It also included Donna Washburn (Dillard’s girlfriend) as a backing vocalist, which contributed to the departure of Leadon and it marked a change to a traditional bluegrass direction, which caused Clark to lose interest. The song was used in Quincy Jones’s soundtrack of the 1972 Sam Peckinpah movie The Getaway. This song, along with “Polly” (both from the second Dillard & Clark album), was also covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their 2007 album Raising Sand. Both albums by Dillard & Clark fared poorly on the charts, but established them as pioneers of country rock and newgrass crossovers.

The collaboration with Dillard rejuvenated Clark’s creativity but greatly contributed to his growing drinking problem. Dillard & Clark disintegrated in late 1969 after the departures of Clark and Leadon. Clark, along with Leadon, Jackson and Beck provided backup on the debut album of Steve Young, Rock Salt & Nails, released in November 1969.

In 1970, Clark began work on a new single, recording two tracks with the original members of the Byrds (each recording his part separately). The resulting songs, “She’s the Kind of Girl” and “One in a Hundred”, were not released at the time, because of legal problems; they were included later on the album Roadmaster. In 1970 and 1971, Clark contributed vocals and two compositions (“Tried So Hard” and “Here Tonight”) to albums by the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Frustrated with the music industry, Clark bought a house in Albion, California, near Mendocino, married a woman named Carlie and fathered two sons (Kelly and Kai) while subsisting in semiretirement on his still-substantial Byrds royalties throughout the early 1970s, augmented by income from the Turtles’ 1969 American Top Ten hit “You Showed Me”, a previously unreleased composition by McGuinn and Clark from 1964.

He was now ready to cut some solo work. A strong, primarily acoustic set, the album White Light sold poorly in America but was an unexpected hit in the Netherlands. Clark’s next album, Roadmaster, combined new material with the unreleased 1969 tracks cut with the Byrds; while it was a strong album, A&M chose not to release it and it was initially released only in Holland. Clark left A&M just in time for the Byrds to cut a reunion album with their original lineup; Clark contributed a pair of fine songs to the project, “Full Circle” and “Changing Heart,” but most of the album sounded uninspired and the reunion quickly splintered.

In 1974, Clark signed to Asylum Records and cut the polished but heartfelt No Other. Clark, however, had hoped to release the set as a double album, which did not please labelhead David Geffen, and the album stalled in the marketplace without promotion. In 1977, Clark returned with a new album, Two Sides to Every Story, and put his fear of flying on hold to mount an international tour to promote it.

For his British dates, Clark found himself booked on a tour with ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman; audiences were clearly hoping for a Byrds reunion and while the three men had planned nothing of the sort, they didn’t want to let down their fans and played a short set of Byrds hits as an encore for several dates on the tour. This led the three men to begin working up new material together once they returned to America, and in 1978, they began touring as McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman. After a well-received acoustic tour, the trio signed a major deal with Capitol Records and released their self-titled debut in 1979. However, the slick production (designed to make sure the group didn’t sound too much like the Byrds) didn’t flatter the group, and the album was a critical and commercial disappointment. Clark soon became disenchanted with the project, and on their second album, 1980s City, the billing had changed to Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, with Gene Clark. By 1981, Clark had left and the group briefly continued on as McGuinn/Hillman.

After splitting with McGuinn and Hillman, Clark stayed on the sidelines of music for several years, assembling a band called Flyte that failed to score a record deal. Clark finally re-emerged in 1984 with a new band and album called Firebyrd; the rising popularity of jangle-rockers R.E.M. sparked a new interest in the Byrds, and Clark began developing new fans among L.A.’s roots-conscious paisley underground scene.

Clark appeared as a guest on an album by the Long Ryders, and in 1987, he cut a duo album with Carla Olson of the Textones called So Rebellious a Lover. So Rebellious was well-received and became a modest commercial success (it was the biggest selling album of Clark’s solo career), but Clark began to develop serious health problems around this time; he had ulcers, aggravated by years of heavy drinking, and in 1988, he underwent surgery, during which much of his stomach and intestines had to be removed.

Clark also lost a certain amount of goodwill among longtime Byrds fans when he joined drummer Michael Clarke for a series of shows billed A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds. Many clubs simply shortened the billing to the Byrds, and Clarke and Clark soon found themselves in an ugly legal battle with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over use of the group’s name. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January of 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together, including Clark’s “Feel a Whole Lot Better.”

A period of abstinence and recovery followed until Tom Petty’s cover of “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, on his album Full Moon Fever (1989), yielded huge royalties to Clark, who quickly began using crack cocaine and alcohol.  Consequently Clark’s health continued to decline and on May 24, 1991, not long after he had begun work on a second album with Carla Olson, Gene Clark died, with the coroner declaring he succumbed as a result of “natural causes” brought on by a bleeding ulcer.

He was 49.

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Johnny Thunders 4/1991

Johnny_ThundersApril 23, 1991 – Johnny Thunders was born on July 15, 1952 as John Anthony Genzale Jr. in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York

His first musical performance was in the winter of 1967 with The Reign followed by a gig at Quintano’s School for Young Professionals with “Johnny and the Jaywalkers”, under the name Johnny Volume.

In 1968 he began going to the Fillmore East and Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on weekends. His older sister, Mariann, started styling his hair like Keith Richards. In late 1969 he got a job as a sales clerk at D’Naz leather shop, on Bleecker Street in the West Village, and started trying to put a band together. He and his girlfriend, Janis Cafasso, went to see the Stones at Madison Square Garden in November 1969, and they appear in the Maysles’ film, Gimme Shelter.

In London, after the Isle of Wight Festival, the following summer, his girlfriend Janis fell sick and they flew home. Back in NYC from the UK, toward the end of 1970, he started hanging out at Nobodys, a club also on Bleecker Street in the West Village. It was near there that he met future Dolls Arthur Kane and Rick Rivets. (Dolls bass guitarist, Arthur Kane, later wrote about Thunders’s guitar sound, as he described arriving outside the rehearsal studio where they were meeting to jam together for the first time: “I heard someone playing a guitar riff that I myself didn’t know how to play. It was raunchy, nasty, rough, raw, and untamed. I thought it was truly inspired…” Adding, “His sound was rich and fat and beautiful, like a voice.) Johnny joined their band “Actress” which later, after firing Rivets and adding David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, became the New York Dolls. At this time he changed his name to “Johnny Thunders”, inspired by a comic book hero.

After the Dolls he formed The Heartbreakers touring the US and UK, releasing one official album, L.A.M.F., in 1977. The group relocated to the UK, where their popularity was significantly greater than it was in the U.S., particularly among punk bands. In late 1979 Johnny began performing in a band called Gang War and recorded a number of solo albums beginning with So Alone in 1978. The notoriously drug-fueled recording sessions featured a core band of Johnny, bassist Phil Lynott, drummer Paul Cook, and guitarist Steve Jones, with guest appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Steve Marriott, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, and Peter Perrett of The Only Ones.

The CD version of the album contains four bonus tracks, including the single “Dead or Alive”. After its release, Thunders and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious played in the Living Dead for a short time.

He died on 23 April 1991, primarily from methadone and alcohol poisoning, although doctors had diagnosed leukemia in him earlier in the year. He was 38 years 9 months and 8 days old.

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Steve Marriott 4/1991

Steve-MarriottApril 20, 1991 – Steve Marriott (Small Faces and Humble Pie) was born in London on January 30th 1947. He started singing and performing, by busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money. His father Bill was an accomplished pub pianist and the life and soul of many an ‘East End’ night. Bill bought Marriott a ukulele and harmonica which Marriott taught himself to play. Marriott showed an early interest in singing and performing, busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money and winning talent contests during the family’s annual holiday to Jaywick Holiday camp near Clacton-on-Sea.

At the age of 12, he formed his first band with school friends Nigel Chapin and Robin Andrews, called ‘The Wheels’, later the ‘Coronation Kids’.

In 1960, his father Bill spotted an advertisement in a London newspaper for a new Artful Dodger replacement to appear in Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at the New Theatre (now called the Noël Coward Theatre) in London’s West End, and without telling his son, applied for him to audition. At the age of thirteen, Marriott auditioned for the role. He sang two songs, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, and “Oh, Boy!” by Buddy Holly. Bart was impressed with Marriott’s vocal abilities and hired him. Marriott stayed with the show for a total of twelve months, playing various boys’ roles during his time there, for which he was paid £8 a week. Marriott was also chosen to provide lead vocals for the Artful Dodger songs “Consider Yourself”, “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” which appear on the official album to the stage show, released by World Record Club and recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. In 1961 the Marriott family moved from Strone Road to a brand new council flat in Daines Close, Manor Park. Continue reading Steve Marriott 4/1991

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Dave Guard 3/1991

Dave_GuardMarch 22, 1991 – Dave Guard was born October 19th 1934 and along with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane, was one of the founding members of The Kingston Trio. He spent his early years first in San Francisco, and then his junior high school and high school years in Honolulu, pre-state Hawaii. Guard grew up hearing the soft vocal melodies and strummed guitars of Hawaiian music. He was particularly attracted to the unique rhythmic sounds of finger-picked slack-key ukulele and guitar music masterfully performed by the many of his neighbors and beach boys.While an undergraduate at Stanford, Dave started a pickup group with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane.

He called his group Dave Guard and the Calypsonians. He kept the group together after Reynolds and Shane left, changing the name to The Kingston Quartet.

In 1956 a publicist in the area, Frank Werber, offered his services to Guard and his bandmates, including Reynolds at the time. Werber’s offer, however, was contingent upon replacing Gannon and Bogue, and shortly thereafter, both left the group. Guard and Reynolds contacted former Calypsonian member Shane (who was performing part-time in Honolulu) asking him to join the reconstituted group. In 1957, back again as a trio as in their previous college days, they changed its name to The Kingston Trio.

With material gathered from a variety of sources, under Guard’s musical arrangements and direction, the Kingston Trio quickly became a success. Guard, Shane and Reynolds worked well together. In addition to developing the characteristic “Kingston Trio sound” of the group’s two guitars and a banjo, success came to the group from Guard’s musical arrangements and renditions of folk and Irish ballads, Shane’s talent for style and performance along with an innate knowledge of what pleased audiences, and Reynolds’ management of the group’s logistics.

Under contract with Capitol Records, the Trio became a huge commercial and influential success with hit songs such as “Tom Dooley,” “A Worried Man,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Tijuana Jail,” “Greenback Dollar,” “Reverend Mr. Black,” “Sloop John B.,” “Scotch And Soda,” “Merry Minuet,” “M.T.A.”, “Zombie Jamboree”, “Hard, Ain’t It Hard,” “Three Jolly Coachmen,” and “Raspberries, Strawberries”.

In the following years Guard was aware that among the Kingston Trio, he was the only one who could read music and who had some understanding of music theory; his partners basically played by rote, and the three of them sang in simple three-part harmony. With help from the Trio’s bassist and musicologist David “Buck” Wheat, Guard embarked on a self-education program of learning more about harmony, and becoming more and more disenchanted with what appeared to him to be a lack of willingness or effort to “improve” on the part of his partners.

By late 1960, Guard’s frustration and discontent with his partners, combined with an alleged embezzlement of the group’s finances, had reached a point where he no longer wanted to work with Reynolds and Shane. Giving his partners notice that he intended to leave the Trio, and unwilling to cause the group he had founded to disband, Guard agreed to stay on with the Trio until his personal commitments were completed, and until Shane and Reynolds were able to find a suitable replacement for him. By early 1961 Shane and Reynolds had found a replacement for Guard. After a reportedly acrimonious meeting with Shane, Reynolds, and the Trio’s business manager over the future of the Trio, Guard quit the group. The group continued to perform for another six years as the Kingston Trio before disbanding in 1967, with John Stewart taking Guard’s place.

In 1961, shortly after leaving the Trio, Dave formed a new group, The Whiskeyhill Singers, They toured and released an album and were asked to perform several folk songs on the Academy Award winning soundtrack of How the West Was Won. Their voices can be heard on “The Erie Canal”, “900 miles”, “The Ox Driver”, “Raise A Ruckus Tonight”.

Dave performed solo on the tracks “Wanderin'” and “Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger”. In late 1962 he moved to Sydney, Australia. There he hosted a national TV variety show called Dave’s Place. Until his return to the United States in 1968. Through the ’80’s he continued to do solo performances, along with several “reunions” of the old Kingston Trio.

In 2000 The Kingston Trio was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. He died from lymphatic cancer on March 22, 1991 at age 56.

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Leo Fender 3/1991

LeoFenderMarch 21, 1991 – Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender was a Greek-American inventor, born on August 10th 1909. He founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, now known as Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and later founded MusicMan and G&L Musical Products (G&L Guitars). His guitar, bass, and amplifier designs from the 1950s continue to dominate popular music more than half a century later.

When designing “The Strat”, he asked his customers what new features they would want on the Telecaster. The large number of replies, along with the continued popularity of the Telecaster, caused him to leave the Telecaster as it was and to design a new, upscale solid body guitar to be sold alongside the basic Telecaster instead. Continue reading Leo Fender 3/1991

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Doc Pomus 3/1991

doc pomusMarch 14, 1991 – Doc Pomus was born Jerome Solon Felder on June 27th, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, he was a son of Jewish immigrants. Having had polio as a boy, he walked with the help of crutches. Later, due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, Felder eventually relied on a wheelchair.

Big Joe Turner turned him onto the Blues and using the stage name “Doc Pomus“, teenager Felder began performing as a blues singer. His stage name wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular; he just thought it sounded better for a blues singer than the name Jerry Felder. Pomus stated that more often than not, he was the only Caucasian in the clubs, but that as a Jew and a polio victim, he felt a special “underdog” kinship with African Americans, while in turn the audiences both respected his courage and were impressed with his talent. Gigging at various clubs in and around New York City, Pomus often performed with the likes of Milt Jackson, Mickey Baker and King Curtis. Continue reading Doc Pomus 3/1991

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Steve Clark 1/1991

Steve ClarkJanuary 8, 1991 – Stephen Maynard Steve Clark  was born on April 23rd 1960 in Sheffield, England. From a very early age, he showed an interest in music with one such example being his attendance at a concert held by Cliff Richard and the Shadows aged 6. At 11, he received his first guitar from his father, a taxi driver, on the condition that he learned to play. Clark studied classical guitar for a year before one day he discovered Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin at a friend’s house.

When Clark left school his first employer was an engineering firm called GEC Traction where he worked as a lathe operator under a 4 year apprentice contract while first playing in a local band, Electric Chicken. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard’s original guitarist/founder). Clark asked for a spot in the band and joined Def Leppard in January 1978. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” without accompaniment. It was Steve who threatened to quit, right as they started out, unless the band stopped rehearsing and actually went out and played. Singer Joe Elliot went out and scored them a gig that paid the princely sum of £5.

While a guitarist for Def Leppard, he contributed substantially to the band’s music and lyrics. Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed as “The Riffmaster” according to the band’s lead vocalist Joe Elliott in VH1’s Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard’s Hysteria. When Willis was asked to leave (ironically for drinking), guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band.

Steve Clark made some telling contributions to the success of a band that has gone on to sell 100 million albums. He contributed both music and lyrics for the bands first four albums including the worldwide hit albums Pyromania and Hysteria. Musically, according to the other band members in interviews, he was more likely to contribute riffs and guitar parts, although he did write all the music for some of the bands songs, including ‘wasted’ on the bands debut album On through the night.

Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the “Terror Twins,” in recognition of their talents and friendship.

Part of their success as a duo was attributed by Collen (on the BBC’s Classic Albums show) to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, often both playing lead or both doing rhythm within the same song. Lead singer Joe Elliott told the same program that Clark was not a technician, he was a guitarist who wore his instrument a few notches too low, and his style was a key part of the band’s chemistry. Elliott referred to Clark as the “creative one” and Collen as a “total utter technician”.

Whereas Collen quit drinking alcohol during the 1980s in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Clark never managed to escape his addiction to alcohol.

And as time went on all was not well with Steve Clark the person, despite the money, fame and travelling the world. He developed a drink problem, and suffered it seems with bouts of depression. Not a happy drunk either according to many, this would often push him over the edge with his mood swings. He began to suffer with shakes when trying to play because of his alcohol abuse, which upset him, and he would storm off and have a drink, taking things full circle. Rehab was attempted and failed, and as a last resort Clark was given, unofficially, six months off the band. He never went back.

The night before his death Clark promised girlfriend Janie Dean he was only popping out for ten minutes and definitely wasn’t drinking. Four hours later he arrives back to their Chelsea ad smashed with one of his drinking buddies in tow. Dean had pleaded with him not to drink and take prescription drugs, which he was taking for cracked ribs, the result of one of his other drunken nights out.

The next morning on January 8, 1991, Janie Dean showed an interior decorator around their plush London pad, not knowing that her boyfriend, Def Leppard’s Steve Clark was lying dead on the Sofa. She hadn’t bothered to wake him as after he rolled up drunk the night before. After all ‘nothing woke him after a night on the drink’ she later commented. A couple of hours later she realized the horrific truth, finding him blue in the face with blood coming out of his mouth. Screaming ‘wake up’, it was left to the interior decorator, still in the house, confirmed he was dead. Steve Clark then became, sadly, probably Sheffield biggest Rock n Roll casualty.

His autopsy report stated that he had died from an overdose of codeine and Valium, morphine and a blood alcohol level of .30, three times the British legal driving limit. There was no evidence of suicidal intent.

He had already contributed to half of the songs on the band’s 1992 album Adrenalize prior to his death, which was released in 1992.

 Steve Clark was 30 years 8 months 16 days old when he died on 8 January 1991.

In 2011, Collen revealed in an online series of web videos that both he and Clark began working on what would become the song, “White Lightning”, during the recording sessions for the 1992 album, Adrenalize. Completed after Clark’s death, the song ironically described in great detail the effects of Clark’s alcohol and drug addictions.

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Allen Collins 10/1990

Allen Collins 300October 20, 1990 – Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was one of three lead guitar players in the Southern Rock guitar army Lynyrd Skynyrd. He survived the tragic crash that killed Ronnie van Zant and Stevie Gaines, but succumbed to chronic pneumonia 13 years later. Collins, just 12 years old joined Ronnie van Zant and Gary Rossington to form Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964. Even though his life was littered by personal tragedies and illness, he gained super stardom recognition for co-writing many of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s monster hit songs, including Freebird, That Smell and Gimme Three Steps.

Lynyrd Skynyrd says the following about Allen Collins:

Long considered one of rock’s premier guitarists, Allen Collins served as heart to Ronnie VanZant’s soul in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Allen’s unique, firy guitar playing and powerful songwriting helped insure Lynyrd Skynyrd’s place in rock and roll history.

Born at St. Lukes Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on July 19, 1952, Allen (delivered by Doctor Owens) weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Allen’s mother, Eva remembers her son as full of energy and enthusiasm — even before Allen could walk he moved constantly. From his earliest days Allen loved cars — especially race cars — and his favorite summer activity was going to Jacksonville Raceway every Saturday night to watch Leroy Yarborough race. The Collins family first started attending the races when Allen was eight years old and Allen, sitting as high in the stands as possible, would laugh and holler as he pretended to be racing his own car. This early fascination lasted throughout Allen’s life — he later collected an entire fleet of collectible and performance cars that was one of his proudest possessions.

In 1963, Allen lived in Jacksonville’s Cedar Hills area when an older friend received a guitar for his birthday. Allen was hooked. Allen’s parents had recently divorced and times were tough for Allen, his sister and mother. His mother, already working all day at the cigar factory, took a second job at Woolworths in the evenings. As soon as she had saved enough money, she surprised Allen by taking him down to Sears and ordered his first Silvertone guitar and amplifier. Despite no training aside from a few tips from his step-mother and friend, Allen picked up the guitar easily and quickly formed his first band — The Mods.

Together with singer Ronnie VanZant and guitarist Gary Rossington, Allen Collins formed the nucleus of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1964 by learning what they could from each other and listening to the radio. This early band, first called My Backyard, then the Noble Five also included drummer Bob Burns and bassist Larry Junstrum. Finding a place to practice proved difficult and the choices were limited to the carport at Bob’s house, Ronnie’s backyard, where they were sure to get a full meal or Allen’s living room which usually included Eva’s famous cakes and candies. After several years of practicing, performing and personnel changes, Skynyrd, like any decent group of fledgling rock stars, started gigging the notorious one-nighters.

In 1970, Allen married Kathy Johns. Allen included his band mates in his wedding party, but Kathy worried that their long haired appearance would disturb her parents. Solving the problem required everyone tucking their rock and roll image under wigs for the wedding ceremony. The wedding reception played host to a piece of rock and roll history – one of the first public performances of “Freebird” complete with the trademark extended guitar jam at the end. Allen’s family grew with the birth of his daughter Amie followed quickly by Allison. Times were very difficult since Allen’s musical career barely brought in enough to support the young family. Despite coming close several times, Lynyrd Skynyrd just kept missing that elusive big break.

In 1973, however, things finally started coming together for Lynyrd Skynyrd. During a week-long stint at Funochio’s in Atlanta, the band was discovered by the renown Al Kooper. After signing a record deal with MCA subsidiary Sounds of the South, Skynyrd entered the studio with Kooper producing. The result — Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd — started the band on its rise to fame with standards like ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Simple Man’, and the incendiary, guitar-driven classic, ‘Freebird’.

Gold and platinum albums followed a string of hit songs like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Saturday Night Special’, ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’, ‘What’s Your Name?’, and ‘That Smell’. Over the four years Skynyrd recorded, the memories gradually turned into legends. Opening the Who tour. “Skynning” Europe alive. 1975’s Torture Tour. Steve Gaines. One More From The Road. The Knebworth Fair ’76.

By October 20, 1977, Skynyrd’s songs had become radio staples. Their latest album, Street Survivors, had just been released to critical and popular acclaim. Their ambitious new tour, just days underway, saw sellout crowds. Then it all fell away at 6000 feet above a Mississippi swamp.
At 6:42 PM, the pilot of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered Convair 240 airplane radioed that the craft was dangerously low on fuel. Less than ten minutes later, the plane crashed into a densely wooded thicket in the middle of a swamp. The crash, which killed Ronnie VanZant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, road manager Dean Kilpatrick and seriously injured the rest of the band and crew, shattered Skynyrd’s fast rising star as it cut a 500 foot path through the swamp. Lynyrd Skynyrd had met a sudden, tragic end.

After several years of recovery, the crash survivors felt the time was right for another try. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins had performed at a few special jams, and slowly began planning a new band. Over the next few weeks they signed on Skynyrd survivors Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson and other local musicians, although the choice of a lead vocalist for the new band remained a perplexing one. Realizing any singer would be faced with inevitable comparisons with Ronnie VanZant, Allen and Gary chose Dale Krantz, a gutsy, whiskey-voiced female backup singer from .38 Special. This change set the Rossington Collins band apart as they entered the 1980s.

The Rossington-Collins Band debuted in June 1980 with the Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere album. Kicked by such songs as ‘Getaway” and ‘Don’t Misunderstand Me’ the album sold more than a million copies and the band toured to enthusiastic, sellout crowds. However the band’s 1981 follow-up effort stumbled in the marketplace despite being well-received critically.

Tragedy struck Allen’s life again just as the Rossington Collins Band started. During the first days of the stressful debut concert tour, Allen’s wife Kathy passed away forcing the tour’s cancellation. Coupled with the lingering effects of losing his friends in the plane crash, Kathy’s death devastated Allen. However, the pull of creating music was too strong for Allen to walk away from. Even when Gary Rossington and Dale Krantz quit the Rossington Collins Band, Allen continued on forming the Allen Collins Band in 1983. Allen originally wanted the name Horsepower for his band, but shortly after completing the new album’s artwork they learned that name was already used. Their one release, Here, There and Back, met with considerable fan approval, but little support from MCA Records which dropped the band shortly after the album’s release.

Once again tragedy struck Allen in 1986. Driving near his home in Jacksonville, Allen crashed his car in an accident which killed his girlfriend and left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The injuries also limited the use of his upper body and arms. He later plead no contest to DUI manslaughter.

During the 1987 Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute tour Allen served as musical director — selecting the set lists, arranging the songs and setting the stage. However, remaining on the sidelines while his band took center stage proved painful for the guitarist. Part of Allen’s sentence from his car wreck, called for him to use his fame and influence to warn kids of the dangers of drunk driving. Allen used the Tribute tour to go on stage and let his fans know the reason why he couldn’t play with Skynyrd — a powerful, sobering message few fans will forget.

In 1989, Allen developed pneumonia as a result of decreased lung capacity from the paralyzation. He entered the hospital in September where he passed away on January 23, 1990.

Allen Collins – Rossington Collins Band One Good Man

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Tom Fogerty 9/1990

Tom FogertySeptember 6, 1990 – Thomas Richard “Tom” Fogerty (November 9, 1941 – ) was born in Berkeley California and became best known as the rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival and is the older brother of John Fogerty the band’s lead singer/songwriter. He was a founding member of the band that sold 30 million albums in the United States alone and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Tom played on all but one of their albums: Creedence Clearwater Revival-1968, Bayou Country-1969, Green River-1969, Willy and the Poor Boys-1969, Cosmo’s Factory-1970, and Pendulum -1970, producing such hits as “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Down on the Corner”, “Green River”, “Fortunate Son”, “Travelin’ Band” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”.

Tom left the CCR in 1971, the year before the band split. During the few years of the life of CCR, Tom sang backing vocals and wrote songs, but only one of his songs (“Walking on the Water”) was recorded. This lack of opportunity, along with festering, long-standing animosity with his brother, led him to leave the band in 1971.

He began a solo career and worked with the likes of Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, and old band mates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. Tom’s 1974 solo album Zephyr National was the last to feature the four original band members of CCR. A few of the songs sound much in the Creedence style, particularly the aptly-titled “Joyful Resurrection”. All four members did play on the song, but John recorded his part to the mix separately.

At the October 1980 reception for Tom’s marriage to Tricia Clapper, all four members of CCR reunited and performed for the first time in a decade. They took the stage once more for a final time at a school reunion three years later.

He died on September 6, 1990 from complications from AIDS acquired during blood transfusions needed for a tuberculosis infection.

In just four top years, CCR released 17 Top 40 Chart Hits, including many two-sided hits. Virtually their ENTIRE singles catalog are still played regularly on both Oldies Radio and the Classic Rock Stations: SUZIE Q (#9, 1968), PROUD MARY (#2, 1969), BAD MOON RISING (#2, 1969), GREEN RIVER (#2, 1969), DOWN ON THE CORNER (#3, 1969), FORTUNATE SON (#6, 1969), TRAVELIN’ BAND (#2, 1970), WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN (#2-B, 1970), UP AROUND THE BEND (#2, 1970), LOOKIN’ OUT MY BACK DOOR(#1, 1970) and HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN (#3, 1971) are all radio staples. Lesser known hits, B-Sides and LP cuts like BORN ON THE BAYOU, LODICOMMOTIONRUN THROUGH THE JUNGLESOMEDAY NEVER COMESSWEET HITCH-HIKERI PUT A SPELL ON YOU and their version of I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE also continue to receive a fair amount of airplay. In fact, percentage-wise, they may be the most-represented band on the radio when you consider how many songs get played in relationship to their total career output.  But CCR wasn’t just a singles band … in that same four year period, they released seven albums worth of new material. GREEN RIVER and COSMO’S FACTORY both went to #1 and were triple and quadruple platinum sellers respectively. Their self-titled debut LP, BAYOU COUNTRYWILLY AND THE POORBOYSPENDULUM and MARDI GRAS rounded out the string of hit LPs. In 1969 and 1970, they outsold THE BEATLES. In their four year career, they had seven gold albums (with sales of over 25,000,000) and ten gold singles (with sales of around 12,000,000!)

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Bobby Day 7/1990

July 27, 1990 – Bobby Day was born Robert James Byrd on July 1st 1928 in Fort Worth, Texas.

An African American rock and roll and R&B singer and keyboardist in Texas in the 1940s, Day moved to Los Angeles, California, at the age of 15. As a member of the R&B group the Hollywood Flames he used the stage name Bobby Day to perform and record. He went several years with minor musical success limited to the West Coast, including being the original “Bob” in the duo Bob & Earl.

In 1957 Day formed his own band called the Satellites, following which he recorded three songs that are seen today as rock and roll classics. Despite the similarity in personal and group names, this is not the Bobby Byrd that sang with, and was the founder of, the Famous Flames, the vocal group with which James Brown first began his career.

Day’s best known songwriting efforts were “Over and Over” made popular by the Dave Clark Five in 1965, and “Little Bitty Pretty One” popularized by Thurston Harris in 1957, Clyde McPhatter in 1962, and the Jackson Five in 1972. However, Day is most remembered for his 1958 solo recording of the Billboard Hot 100 No. 2 hit, “Rockin’ Robin”, written by Leon Rene under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold record. “Rockin’ Robin” was a song covered by Bob Luman at Town Hall Party on October 28, 1958, The Hollies in 1964, Gene Vincent in 1969, Michael Jackson in 1972, and by McFly in 2006.

In 2012-2013, his uncharted recording, “Beep-Beep-Beep”, was the musical soundtrack for a Kia Sorento television commercial shown nationwide in the U.S.

Day died of intestinal cancer on July 27, 1990 at the age of 62.

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Brent Mydland 7/1990

July 26, 1990 – Brent Mydland was born in Munich, Germany on October 21, 1952, the child of a U.S. Army chaplain. The family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was just one and he spent most of his childhood living in Antioch, California, an hour east of San Francisco. He started piano lessons at age six and had formal classical lessons through his junior year in high school. In an interview he commented that: “my sister took lessons and it looked fun to me, so I did too. There was always a piano around the house and I wanted to play it. When I couldn’t play it I would beat on it anyway.” His mother, a graveyard shift nurse, encouraged Mydland’s talents by insisting that he practice his music for two hours each day. He played trumpet from elementary till his senior year in high school; his schoolmates remember him practicing on an accordion, as well as the piano, every day after school.

“In my late teens I went and saw a lot of groups, and thank God I did, because the era didn’t last much longer.” When asked if he had musical aspirations in high school he admitted to wanting to originally be “a high school band teacher or something, I played trumpet in the marching band … then my senior year I got kicked out of the marching band for having long hair … they told me “sorry we’ll lose points for your long hair”, so that was the end of my band career. I gave up the trumpet and concentrated on the keyboards.” Brent graduated from Liberty High in nearby Brentwood, California, in 1971.

Of his early musical experiences Mydland has stated: “Late into high school I got into playing rock ‘n’ roll with friends and it was like I had to start from the beginning almost, because if I didn’t have a piece of music in front of me I couldn’t do much. I changed my outlook on playing real fast after that. I think dope had something to do with that.”

Influenced by rock organists such as Lee Michaels, Ray Manzarek and Goldie McJohn of Steppenwolf. Mydland was in a series of local bands. In the late 1960s he bought the first albums by Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, and during this interview he stated that he was in a band “where I used to sing “Morning Dew” and we did “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” too.”

When asked if that scene, which was based heavily on extended jams, had influenced him musically at all he said: “For a while, yes, but I could never find people that could make that kind of music sound good. We’d jam along and then. It’s nice to have people who add to it and change it instead of “Ok, I’ve got my part”; that gets boring really fast”.

He went on to state that: “In senior year I got together with a guitar player; he knew a drummer and bass player who were both pretty good. We were serious about it for about six weeks or so and then it kind of fell apart. I ended up living in a quonset hut in Thousand Oaks, California, writing songs and eating a lot of peanut butter and bread and whatever else was around. In one of the bands, I played with a guy named Rick Carlos and he got a call from John Batdorf of Batdorf & Rodney asking him to come to L.A, to play with them. A couple months later they were looking for a keyboard player who could sing the high parts, so I went down there and joined the band. I got to do a tour with them which was great experience. Then after that fell apart John and I put together Silver; Silver lasted about two years. We put out an album on Arista and were going to do a second but Clive Davis, Arista’s president, kind of choked it”.

“After Silver I bummed around L.A for about six months and then hooked up with Weir through John Mauceri, who I’d played with back in Batdorf & Rodney, and I joined the Bob Weir Band. With Bobby, at first, I’d say to him: “Well, should I play this instrument on this song, or this other instrument?” And he’d say, “I don’t care. Why not play one this time and the other the next time if you feel like it.” It loosened me up a lot and it got me more into improvisation. I liked it a lot.” So much so that he had no apprehension to join the biggest jamband of the all, when he replaced Keith and Donna Godcheaux on the keyboard for The Grateful Dead.

After two weeks of rehearsals, he played his first concert with the band at the Spartan Stadium, San Jose, on April 22.

Mydland quickly became an integral part of the Dead owing to his vocal and songwriting skills as much as his keyboard playing. He quickly combined his tenor singing with founder members Weir and Jerry Garcia to provide strong three-part harmonies on live favourites including “I Know You Rider”, “Eyes of the World” and “Truckin'”. He easily fit into the band’s sound and added his own contributions, such as in Go to Heaven (1980) which featured two of Mydland’s songs, “Far From Me” and “Easy to Love You”, the latter written with frequent Weir collaborator John Perry Barlow. On the next album, In the Dark (1987), Mydland co-wrote the defiant favorite “Hell in a Bucket” with Weir and Barlow; he also penned the train song “Tons of Steel”.

Built to Last (1989) featured several more of Mydland’s songs: the moody “Just a Little Light”, the environmental song “We Can Run”, the live performance driven “Blow Away” and the poignant “I Will Take You Home”, a lullaby written with Barlow for Mydland’s two daughters.

Mydland wrote several other songs that were played live but not released on any studio albums, such as “Don’t Need Love”, “Never Trust A Woman”, “Maybe You Know”, “Gentlemen Start Your Engines”, and “Love Doesn’t Have To Be Pretty”; the latter two written with Barlow. He also co-wrote “Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues” with Phil Lesh collaborator Bobby Petersen, although the song was performed live only once.

His high, gravelly vocal harmonies and emotional leads added to the band’s singing strength, and he even occasionally incorporated scat singing into his solos. Mydland’s vocals added colour to old favorites such as “Cassidy”, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, “Ramble on Rose”, the Band’s “The Weight”, and even wrote his own verse for Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster”. He sang lead on many covers, including Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, and the Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way”.

Brent was also a capable songwriter whose credits include “Hell In A Bucket,” “Tons Of Steel,” “Just A Little Light,” “Blow Away” and the tender “I Will Take You Home.” “He could take something and turn it into a fully scored, well-thought-out, harmonically structured masterpiece in about a minute and a half,” songwriting partner John Perry Barlow told the New York Times. “Brent could pick his way through anything immediately, which meant he had the special requirement it was going to take to walk into the Dead overnight. He was musically central to the band, but he was so good at what he did that he was able to become fundamental to everything that the band was doing musically without it being immediately apparent to the audience.”

Mydland’s voice and approach was also on display for a number of covers the Dead performed during his time in the group such as “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Hey Pocky Way” and “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The keyboardist died just days after the Grateful Dead completed Summer Tour 1990 at The World in Tinley Park, Illinois on July 23, 1990. The encore that night was the Dead’s recently debuted cover of “The Weight” by The Band. All of the Dead’s vocalists sang lead for one verse of “The Weight.” Brent’s verse ends and the final words he sang as lead vocalist were “I gotta go, but my friends can stick around.”

The keyboardist who had been with The Grateful Dead for 11 years, longer than any other keyboardist, died of a drug overdose at his home in Lafayette, California, on July 26, 1990. He was 38. He was known mostly as a drinker, but in his later years he turned to hard drugs as he was struggling to cope with family issues and severe depression.

Watch the eerie and emotional performance of “The Weight” from July 23, 1990.


• In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead.

• After joining the Grateful Dead, Mydland played in Bob Weir’s Bobby and the Midnites during 1980 and 1981.
• In 1982, he recorded and mastered a solo studio album, but it was never released.
• In the Summer of 1985, he performed with fellow band member Bill Kreutzmann in their band Kokomo’ along with 707’s Kevin Russell and Santana’s David Margen.
• Also in 1985, he performed at the Haight Street Fair with Weir, John Cipollina, and Merl Saunders, among others.
• In 1986, Mydland formed Go Ahead with several San Francisco Bay area musicians, including Bill Kreutzmann, also former Santana members Alex Ligertwood on vocals and David Margen on bass, as well as guitarist Jerry Cortez. The band toured during the time Jerry Garcia was recovering from a diabetic coma, and also briefly reunited in 1988.
• He also did numerous solo projects and performances, as well as duo performances with Bob Weir numerous times throughout the 1980s, with Weir on acoustic guitar and Mydland on grand piano.
• Brent had a love for Harley Davidson motorcycles, and was an avid rider. A Harley which was owned by Mydland was featured on a 2013 episode of Pawn Stars.

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Jim Hodder 6/1990

jimhodderJune 5, 1990 – Jim Hodder  was born on December 17, 1947 in in the small Long Island hamlet of Bethpage, New York in 1947. He graduated from Plainedge High School in the Plainedge Union Free School District in 1965 and relocated thereafter to the Boston area, where he became active in the local music scene.

As drummer and lead vocalist, he joined the Boston-based psychedelic rock group The Bead Game, named after Hermann Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game. The group built a local following before attracting the attention of Avco Records and producer Gary Kannon, later known as Gary Katz. Their first album, Baptism, was cancelled, though it would receive a posthumous release in 1996 with a limited run.

In 1970 they appeared in the film The People Next Door in which they performed two songs, and soon thereafter recorded the album Easy Ridin’ as part of the collective Freedom Express. 1970 also saw the release of the band’s only proper album, Welcome, on Avco/Embassy. This album showcased a late psychedelic/early progressive crossover sound, and featured Hodder singing lead vocals on all tracks.

In 1972, Hodder accepted an invitation from Katz and Boston guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter to relocate to Los Angeles and join Steely Dan, a new group built around songwriters Donald Fagen and Walter Becker with whom the two were working. He made the move with his girlfriend Kathi Kamen Goldmark, later a successful author and musician. He barely knew the other band members prior to beginning tracking for their first records.

Hodder acted as the group’s drummer, but was also given occasional lead vocal duties thanks to Fagen’s insecurities as a vocalist. He sang lead on “Dallas”, the A-side on their initial two-song single, and the “Midnite Cruiser” cut on their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill. The band soon embarked upon extensive touring in the wake of their early commercial success. Hodder’s drumming featured on the entirety of the follow-up album, Countdown to Ecstasy, a band-focused effort recorded the following year after the group’s sound had cohered on the road.

Jim Hodder, “percussionist, bronze god, pulse of the rhythm section,” was the original drummer for Steely. Burly, with large hands, Hodder brought a syncopated, pert style to the music. He exemplified “tasty,” a common term then used among musicians to describe one who was creative but not overly flashy. His drumming seemed part BJ Wilson from Procol Harum, part Bobby Colomby from Blood, Sweat & Tears, and part Ringo. He wed lots of straight 8th notes on the hi-hat with snappy tom fills. An attention to detail is apparent from his articulate press rolls on “Dirty Work” to the rags-style bossa groove he played on “Do It Again.”

“Bodhisaitva,” the first song on Countdown to Ecstasy, kicks off with snare drum/hi-hat blasts from Hodder. Along with the rest of the band, Hodder’s playing reflects a new looseness and confidence. Instead of striking a closed hi-hat with the tip, more of a swinging bash is employed, using the shank. He’s more aggressive, playing Richie Hayward-ish fusion on the sci-fi “King of The World”.

Like Idris Muhammad or Herbie Lovelle from the l960s Prestige-era jazz recordings, Hodder maintained a snakey, slinky touch. He was still playing rock, but with a jazzer’s approach. His drums were tuned a bit lower; and the cymbals seemed to ring more, matching the Indian flare of “Your Gold Teeth” or the country twang of “Pearl Of The Quarter.” However, by 1974 this was it for Hodder as far as Steely Dan was concerned. Though a strong drummer and timekeeper, he lacked the definitive personality that might have kept him on Becker and Fagen’s first-call list.

Nonetheless, Countdown is the album that set the course for Steely Dan. They continued to refine and redefine their music with each successive album, becoming more exacting and demanding with the performances and the overall sound, while writing more stunning compositions.

Hodder continued working as a session musician. He played drums on Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 single “You’re No Good”, and tracks on the 1976 albums Nine on a Ten Scale by Sammy Hagar and Sibling Rivalry by The Rowans. He later appeared as the sole drummer on David Soul’s Playing to an Audience of One and Rocky Sullivan’s 1984 Caught in the Crossfire record.

Jim Hodder drowned in his swimming pool on June 5, 1990. He was 42.

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Richard Sohl 6/1990

richard-sohlJune 3, 1990 – Richard Arthur Sohl  (Patti Smith Group) was born May 26th 1953 in Queens, New York City.  He grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist family that encouraged music. Still in his late teens he became a classical piano player in a world of New York Proto Punk, Punk rock and rock and ultimately became best known for his work as songwriter, pianist and arranger with the Patti Smith Group.

This is what guitarist Lenny Kaye said about Richard Sohl in an interview in 1996:

What about a piano player for the stage show. Do you see yourself eventually finding someone to replace Richard Sohl? 

“Well, as you know Richard Sohl passed into the great beyond, and he was always our perfect piano player.  So when the right person comes along… We don’t just want someone to put organ pads underneath the songs. We want someone who will help us move forward creatively, in the same way that Richard did. You know when it was just me, Richard and Patti, there was a real immediacy to the work we did. Richard was the right person.

Patti told us a funny story about the time you were auditioning piano players. When Richard Sohl first walked in, you said, “D.N.V” right away, because he looked liked the young boy, Tadzio, from Visconti’s Death in Venice. 

Yeah, he had that stupid sailor suit on, and he was just so like, “I’m beautiful, I know it, I’ll play some great piano.” “Okay, sure!” and then he’d go roomn, wramn, wramn.

Sohl also played with genre greats like Iggy Pop, Nina Hagen and Elliott Murphy. Richard Sohl well known as the keyboardist of the Patti Smith Ggroup was a soul of many creative and sensitive faces and facets of expression that occupied a space in the New York City Punk/Music scene. Richard Sohl in the Patti Snith Group has still to derive proper recognition from that association where Patti Smith has continiously derived profit and benefit from her association with others much like Andy Warhol those others have seemingly derived little benefit from her.

He died on June 3, 1990 of a heart attack while vacationing on Fire Island, New York.

More telling than anything of the little information I could find on Richard Sohl are the wonderful words from Elliot Murphy:

“But so much of the finesse came from Richard Sohl whose piano playing was so modest, so classically composed, so right. Richard didn’t like synthesizers and didn’t care to learn; preferred to travel light. I only heard of his sad passing months after he died; didn’t know who to call or write. We met in ’73 or ’74 at a party and spent many nights in the photo-booths of Times Square with friend Steven Meisel and Geraldine. Later, he found his place with Patti Smith and finally (again) with me; countless nights at Tramps and some memorable European tours – Montreuz Jazz Festival ’83, on the beach in Sete and an infernally hot Italian summer – from Milano to the boot… Oh, Richard, we miss you… And whenever I play LAST CALL, I think of you smiling at that terrible upright at Tramps, seemingly asleep at the keys while I braved it through my sob story.”

“People hear songs, music but to the musicians who write the songs, play the music; we hear time, places, faces, sometimes too much to bear as Richard Sohl’s stunning piano intro to THE STREETS OF NEW YORK brings it all back…where? Not home, anymore. But someplace else, even closer to the heart.
I didn’t know it for a few years later, but this album was my swan-song to New York City where I spent fifteen years searching for the soul of a city and finally gave up intent upon finding my own, at last.”

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Ric Grech 3/1990

rick grechMarch 17, 1990 – Ric Grech (Blind Faith) was born Richard Roman Grechko in Bordeaux, France’s famous wine area on November 1st 1946. He was educated at Corpus Christi RC School, Leicester, after attending Sacred Heart Primary School, where he played violin in the school orchestra.

He originally gained notice in the UK as the bass guitar player for the progressive rock group Family. He joined the band when it was a largely blues-based live act in Leicester known as the Farinas. He became their bassist in 1965, replacing Tim Kirchin. Family released their first single, “Scene Through The Eye of a Lens,” in September 1967 on the Liberty label in the UK, which got the band signed to Reprise Records. The group’s 1968 debut album Music in a Doll’s House was an underground hit that highlighted the songwriting talents of Roger Chapman and John “Charlie” Whitney as well as Chapman’s piercing voice, but Grech also stood out with his rhythmic, thundering bass work on songs such as “Old Songs New Songs” and “See Through Windows,” along with his adeptness on cello and violin.

Continue reading Ric Grech 3/1990

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Del Shannon 2/1990

Del ShannonFebruary 8, 1990 – Del Shannon was born born Charles Weedon Westover on December 30, 1934 in Grand Rapids Michigan and grew up in nearby Coopersville. He learned ukulele and guitar and listened to country and western music, including Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Lefty Frizzell. He was drafted into the Army in 1954, and while in Germany played guitar in a band called “The Cool Flames”.

When his military service ended, he returned to Battle Creek, Michigan, and worked as a carpet salesman and as a truck driver in a furniture factory. He found part-time work as a rhythm guitarist in singer Doug DeMott’s group called “The Moonlight Ramblers”, working at the Hi-Lo Club.

In 1958, he took over a band as leader and singer, with the name Charlie Johnson, and renaming his band the Big Little Show Band. In early 1959 he added keyboardist Max Crook, who played the Musitron (his own invention of an early synthesizer). Crook had made recordings, and he persuaded Ann Arbor disc jockey Ollie McLaughlin to hear the band. McLaughlin took the group’s demos to Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik of Talent Artists in Detroit. In July 1960, Westover and Crook signed to become recording artists and composers on the Bigtop label. Balk suggested Westover use a new name, and they came up with “Del Shannon”, combining Mark Shannon—a wrestling pseudonym used by a regular at the Hi-Lo Club—with Del, derived from the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, his favorite car.

He flew to New York City, but his first sessions were not successful. McLaughlin then persuaded Shannon and Crook to rewrite and re-record one of their earlier songs, originally called “Little Runaway”, using the Musitron as lead instrument.On January 21st 1961 Del Shannon recorded “Runaway”, which reached No.1 in the Billboard chart in April and made its way around the globe.

This hit was followed with “Hats Off to Larry”, which peaked at No.5 on the Billboard and No.1 on Cashbox in 1961. Other hits included “So Long, Baby,” and “Little Town Flirt”. He continued his success in England, where he had always been more popular. In 1963, he became the first American to record a cover version of a Beatles song, “From Me to You” which charted in the US before the Beatles. After these hits, Shannon was unable to keep his momentum in the U.S., but continued his success in England, where he had always been more popular.

In late 1964, Shannon produced a demo recording session for a young fellow Michigander named Bob Seger, who would go on to stardom much later. Shannon gave acetates of the session to Dick Clark (Del was on one of Clark’s tours in 1965), and by 1966, Bob Seger was recording for Philadelphia’s famed Cameo Records label, resulting in some regional hits which would eventually lead to a major-label deal with Capitol Records. 

Shannon signed with Liberty in 1966 and revived Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” and the Rolling Stones‘ “Under My Thumb”. Peter and Gordon released his “I Go to Pieces” in 1965.

Shannon also discovered country singer Johnny Carver, who was then working in the Los Angeles area. He got Carver a contract with Liberty Records’ subsidiary Imperial Records, writing, producing and arranging both sides of Carver’s debut single “One Way or the Other”/”Think About Her All the Time”. Carver went on to have nearly 20 Country-chart hits during the late 1960s and 1970s. The liner notes to his debut Imperial album acknowledge Shannon’s role in his being brought to the label.

In the late 1960s, not having charted for several years, Shannon turned to production. In 1969, he discovered Smith and arranged their hit “Baby, It’s You”, which had been a hit for the Shirelles in 1963. In 1970, he produced Brian Hyland’s million-seller “Gypsy Woman”, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s hit.

During Shannon’s Liberty Records tenure, success on a national scale eluded him, but he did score several “regional” US chart hits with “The Big Hurt”, “Under My Thumb”, “She”, “Led Along” and “Runaway” (1967 version). That version (recorded in England and produced by Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham) also did well on Canadian and Australian pop charts. In early 1967 Shannon recorded the album Home and Away in England, with Oldham at the helm. Intended by Oldham as the British answer to Pet SoundsHome and Away was shelved by Liberty Records, although a handful of singles were issued. It was not until 1978 that all of the tracks were eventually issued (with three non-related tracks) on a British album titled And The Music Plays On. In 1991, all of the tracks were released in the US as part of the Del Shannon–The Liberty Years CD. In 2006, 39 years after it was recorded, Home and Away was finally released as a stand-alone collection by EMI Records in the UK. This CD collected the 11 original tracks in stereo and the five single releases (US, UK and Philippines) in their original monaural mixes.

In September 1967, Shannon began laying down the tracks for The Further Adventures of Charles Westover, which would be highly regarded by fans and critics alike, despite disappointing sales. The album yielded two 1968 singles, “Thinkin’ It Over” and “Gemini”. In October 1968, Liberty Records released their tenth (in the US) and final Del Shannon single, a cover of Dee Clark’s 1961 hit “Raindrops”. This brought to a close a commercially disappointing period in Shannon’s career. In 1972, he signed with United Artists and recorded Live In England, released in June 1973. Reviewer Chris Martin critiqued the album favourably, saying that Shannon never improvised, was always true to the original sounds of his music and that only Lou Christie rivaled his falsetto. In April 1975, he signed with Island Records.

After he and his manager jointly sought back royalties for Shannon, Bug Music was founded in 1975 to administer his songs.

A 1976 article on Shannon’s concert at the Roxy Theatre described the singer as “personal, pure and simple rock ‘n’ roll, dated but gratifyingly undiluted.” Shannon sang some of his new rock songs along with classics like “Endless Sleep” and “The Big Hurt”. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “Shannon’s haunting vignettes of heartbreak and restlessness contain something of a cosmic undercurrent which has the protagonist tragically doomed to a bleak, shadowy struggle.”

In 1978 Shannon stopped drinking and began work on “Sea of Love”, released in the early 1980s on his album Drop Down and Get Me, produced by Tom Petty. The album took two years to record and featured Petty’s Heartbreakers backing Shannon. However, RSO Records, to which Shannon was signed, folded. Further work on the LP was done for the Network Records label (which was distributed by Elektra Records). Seven songs are Shannon originals with covers of the Everly Brothers, the Rolling Stones, Frankie Ford and “Sea of Love” by Phil Phillips. It was Shannon’s first album in eight years.

In February 1982, Shannon appeared at the Bottom Line. He performed pop-rock tunes and old hits. New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden described an “easygoing pop-country” manner. On “Runaway” and “Keep Searchin'”, Shannon and his band rediscovered the sound “in which his keen falsetto played off against airy organ obbligatos.” In the 1980s, Shannon performed “competent but mundane country-rock”. In 1986 he enjoyed a top-ten hit as a songwriter when pop-country singer Juice Newton released a single of her cover of Shannon’s “Cheap Love”, which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot Country chart.

Shannon enjoyed a resurgence after re-recording “Runaway” with new lyrics as the theme for the NBC-TV television program Crime Story. In 1988, Shannon sang “The World We Know” with the Smithereens on their album Green Thoughts. Two years later, he recorded with Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, and there were rumors he would join the Traveling Wilburys after Roy Orbison’s death. Previously, in 1975, Shannon had recorded tracks with Lynne, along with “In My Arms Again”, a self-penned country song recorded for Warner Brothers, which had signed Shannon in 1984.

In 1988, Del sang on “The World We Know” with The Smithereens on their album Green Thoughts. Shortly after, in 1990, he recorded with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and there were rumors he would join The Traveling Wilburys after Roy Orbison’s death. Previously, in 1975, he had recorded tracks with Lynne, along with In My Arms Again, a self-penned country song.

Suffering from depression, he was working on a comeback album with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, when Shannon fatally shot himself in the head with a .22 calibre rifle. His wife thought his death might have been related to his recent use of the prescription drug, Prozac. He died  February 8, 1990 at age 55.

Following his death, the Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of “Runaway”. Lynne also co-produced Shannon’s posthumous album, Rock On, released on Silvertone in 1991.

Shannon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.



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Pete de Freitas 6/1989

pete-de-freitasJune 14, 1989 – Peter Louis Vincent Pete de Freitas (Echo & The Bunnymen) was born one of 9 siblings on 2 August 1961 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and educated by the Benedictines at Downside School in Somerset, South England. His father was famous copyright attorney Dennis de Freitas,

He joined the Echo & The Bunnymen in 1979 to replace Echo, the band’s drum machine.

In the beginning they were like a little clockwork band. Just three young Liverpudlians and a drum machine called Echo. The Bunnymen played their frail, tick-tock tunes in little rooms, and looked as if they might split up on the spot if you asked them to. But there was a definite magic being born. They got better by the day, and nearly became the biggest group in the world. For a time in the 1980s they were the darlings of the British rock scene, and perhaps its brightest hopes.

In 1980 they released their debut LP which hit #17 on the UK Chart, followed by the EP ‘Shine So Hard,’ it was the first album to crack UK’s Top 40 Chart. In 1981 they released ‘Heaven Up Here,’ thanks to many great reviews,it became the band’s biggest Top Ten UK album. In 1983 they released ‘Porcupine’ and launched the Top Ten single, ‘Fine Cutter.’ In 1984 they released “The Killing Moon” which became there second Top Ten hit. Also that year they released the album, ‘Ocean Rain,’ it hit #4 in Britain and the album went into the US’s Top 100.

A sign of trouble came when Pete de Freitas temporarily absconded from the band in late 1985, throwing himself into a doomed group called The Sex Gods, on a lurid American “lost weekend” of rock’n’roll debauchery and regular car crashes.

Drug escapades, insecurity, and manic delusions were to take their toll on the man manager Bill Drummond says was once “the sanest and most balanced of the Bunnymen.” The madness peaked in 1986 when he relocated his freewheeling solo project, The Sex Gods, to New Orleans, where his behaviour became even more unpredictable. “Pete basically was having a breakdown,” said his brother, Geoff.

Shortly after, in September 1986, he returned to the Bunnymen and in 1987, De Freitas married, while his daughter Lucie Marie was born the following year. But whatever personal strides he was beginning to make, they were sadly cut short by the motorcycle accident that ended his life at age 27 on his way to Liverpool from London.

He died on June 15, 1989 at age 27, another member of the 27 Club.

The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch said: “I remember the day he died, playing Marquee Moon and crying over the line ‘I fell sideways laughing with a friend from many stages…’ because that’s exactly what he was.”

A little more than 20 years later Jake Brockman, another touring member of the band also died in a motorcycle accident in much the same way on the Isle of Man

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Ron Wilson 5/1989

ron-wilson-the-surfarisMay 7, 1989 – Ronald Lee “Ron” Wilson was born on June 26, 1944 in Los Angeles.

Wilson played Drums for a high school band Charter Oak Lancers in Covina, California in 1962. The members of the outfit were inspired by Boston born surf guitarist Dick Dale, but it was drummer Ron Wilson who inspired the biggest hit of the Surf Music genre.

As one of the original members of The Surfaris, an early surf rock group formed in Glendora, California in 1962, he introduced  a vigorous cadence-laced drumming style which made their music much more energetic than other surf bands.

Wilson said he had dreamed of a surfer and with the others wrote a song called “Surfer Joe”, sung by Wilson. It was recorded at Pal Studios in Cucamonga, California in January 1963.

The band needed a B-side and Wilson played a drummer’s practice exercise called a paradiddle. Wilson added stresses to what had been a rhythm he played in his school marching band, and the guitarists followed. According to band member Bob Berryhill, “Ronnie loved Scottish marches and played with our high school Tartan marching band. That came into play coupled with my suggestion of bongo rock-type breaks for an arrangement, a drum-solo type of song with a simple guitar melody. Ronnie started playing the famous Wipe Out solo and in about ten minutes we had the song together.”

His energetic drum solo made ‘Wipe Out’ the best-remembered instrumental of the period. The band toured in various forms for many years and at times invited members of the audience to attempt Wilson’s drum riff while the guitarists played the melody.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wilson was the drummer with the Monica Dupont band, which included Mel Brown, Johnny Heartsman, Bobby Forte’ and from time to time Bard Dupont. They recorded Honky Tonk live at the Stony Inn, in Sacramento, California available as a free download at

He was only 44 when he died of a brain aneurysm on May 7, 1989

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Bennie Benjamin 5/1989

Bennie_BenjaminMay 2, 1989 – Claude A. “Bennie” Benjamin was born on November 4th 1907 in Christiansted on the island of St.Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, which became US territory 10 years later. At the age of twenty, he moved to New York City. There, he studied the banjo and guitar with Hy Smith. He then performed in vaudeville and with various orchestras, until, in 1941, he started composing songs.

In 1946, Benjamin teamed with George David Weiss a partnership that would produce jewels like “Rumors Are Flying”, “Surrender”, “Confess”, “I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore”, “Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No)”, “Echoes”, “I’ll Never Be Free”, “To Think You’ve Chosen Me”, “I Ran All the Way Home”, “Jet”, “Wheel of Fortune”, “Cross Over the Bridge” and “How Important Can It Be”.

In the late 1950’s and 60’s, he worked with Sol Marcus on “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “I Am Blessed”, “Of This I’m Sure”, “Our Love (Will See Us Through)”, “How Can I?”, “Fabulous Character” and “Lonely Man”. Misunderstood became a megahit for the Animals as well as Nina Simone.

Other songs include “Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)”, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire”, “Confess”, “Strictly Instrumental”, “I Am Blessed”, “Of This I’m Sure” and “Don’t Take All Night”.

In 1968, Benjamin finally formed his own publishing company, Bennie Benjamin Music. In addition to his enormous catalog, Benjamin also collaborated on music and theme songs for movies including Fun and Fancy Free and Melody Time.

Bennie was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.

He died on May 2, 1989 at the age of 81.

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Vincent Crane 2/1989

Vincent CraneFeb 14, 1989 – Vincent Crane – (Atomic Rooster) was born Vincent Rodney Cheesman on 21 May 1943 in Reading, Berkshire, England.

He taught himself boogie woogie piano as a teenager before attending Trinity College of Music between 1961 and 1964. Influenced by Graham Bond, he took up Hammond organ and in 1967 and teamed up with Arthur Brown in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Their eponymous debut album, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968) contained the song “Fire”, a chart-topping hit single in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, with Crane’s organ and brass arrangement to the fore.
During their first tour of the USA in 1968, Crane suffered a nervous breakdown and returned to the UK where he spent 3 or 4 months in the mental hospital at Banstead.

Crane rejoined the band but on a subsequent tour of the USA, the band disintegrated in June 1969 when Arthur Brown temporarily disappeared to a commune and Crane and drummer Carl Palmer (later of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) left to form Atomic Rooster, playing their first concert at the Lyceum in London on 29 August headlining over Deep Purple. Atomic Rooster enjoyed success in 1971 with two hit singles, “Tomorrow Night”, and “Devil’s Answer”. Crane was the one constant member of the band through their almost constantly changing lineups, and wrote a slim majority of their material.

Crane suffered from bipolar disorder from at least 1968 onwards, periodically necessitating treatment at both out- and inpatient mental health treatment facilities.

He collaborated with other musicians on a number of albums, including Rory Gallagher (Rory Gallagher, 1971), Arthur Brown (Faster Than The Speed Of Light, 1979), Peter Green, Richard Wahnfried and Dexys Midnight Runners (Don’t Stand Me Down, 1985). In 1983 he was part of the one-off blues outfit, Katmandu, with Ray Dorset, Len Surtees and Peter Green, who recorded the album A Case for the Blues.
Crane died of a deliberate overdose of Anadin tablets in 1989 at the age of 45.

Influenced by Graham Bond, in 1967 he teamed up with Arthur Brown in The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Their self-titled album in 1968 contained the song “Fire”, a chart-topping hit single in the UK, Canada, and the US, with Vincent’s organ on the leads. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown practically dissolved on tour in the U.S.A., when Crane and drummer Carl Palmer left to form Atomic Rooster in late 1969. They enjoyed success in 1971 with two hit singles, “Tomorrow Night”, and “Devil’s Answer”.

In 1983 he was part of the one-off blues outfit, Katmandu, with Ray Dorset and Green, who recorded the album A Case For The Blues

Crane lost his fight against manic depression with an overdose of painkillers on Valentine’s Day, 14 Feb. 1989. He was 45.

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Trevor Lucas 2/1989

Trevor Lucas with wife Sandy DennyFebruary 4, 1989 – Trevor George Lucas (Fairport Convention) was born in Bungaree, Victoria, Australia on December 25, 1943. He learned to play guitar in order to help with his dyslexia. In his youth, Lucas studied to become a carpenter and performed nights at local clubs in Melbourne from 1961 or 1962.

He released his first solo work in Australia, two tracks, “Old Time Religion” and “Dem Bones Gwine to Rise Again“, on the Various Artists’ extended play The Folk Attick Presents (1963). In mid-1964 he married his first wife, Cheryl. In late 1964 Lucas released a solo album, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean on EAST Records. He also appeared on a compilation album called “Australian Folk Festival”, which was recorded in August that year with other folk musicians, Tina Lawton, Paul Marks, Brian Mooney, Lenore Somerset and Martyn Wyndham-Read.

On New Year’s Eve 1964 Lucas boarded the Greek ship, RHMS Ellinis, and relocated to United Kingdom with Cheryl. In London he worked as a solo artist and accompanist at various folk clubs including The Troubadour. He performed at the International Folk Fest at Royal Albert Hall. Lucas released his second solo album, Overlander (1966), on Reality Records. In August 1967 Lucas, playing bass guitar, formed the folk band Eclection with fellow Australian Kerrilee Male on lead vocals, Georg Kajanus (as George Hultgreen) on guitar and lead vocals, Michael Rosen on guitar and lead vocals, and Gerry Conway on drums. In August 1968 they issued a self-titled album and continued until their breakup in October 1969. Lucas recalled the group, “a very underground, flower power group, based on a cross between the Jefferson Airplane and the Mamas and the Papas [it was] a good apprenticeship in electric music. I don’t think it created anything devastatingly good … We were all very naive … We got ripped off terribly”

At this time he was dating the lead singer of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, and appeared on Fairport’s album Unhalfbricking.

In late 1969 Lucas, Denny and Conway formed Fotheringay after Denny left Fairport Convention – other members included Pat Donaldson on bass guitar and Jerry Donahue on guitar and vocals. In June 1970 Fotheringay released a self-titled album where Lucas provided acoustic guitar and vocals. The album included the Lucas-penned track, “The Ballad of Ned Kelly” (aka “Poor Ned”) and “Peace in the End” co-written with Denny. Fotheringay released only the one album and the band broke up the following year.

In 1972, Lucas organized and produced a one-off album “The Bunch” which featured 12 classic oldies favorites performed by past and (then) present members of Fairport Convention, as well other friends. He became a session musician and record producer for Bronco, Julie Covington, Al Stewart, The Strawbs and Richard & Linda Thompson.

In July to August 1972 Lucas was helping Fairport Convention record their album Rosie (February 1973) when he joined the group with Donahue. On 20 September 1973 Lucas and Denny married and shortly thereafter Denny rejoined Fairport Convention. In late 1975 Fairport started a long promotional tour and shortly afterwards Lucas, Denny and Donahue left the band. Lucas and Denny left because “we’d spent eight months on the road touring, and we’d been thinking of having a family and all that sort of thing”. Lucas assisted on Denny’s further solo work. In the mid-1970s the couple relocated to the village of Byfield in Northamptonshire, in July 1977 Denny gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Georgia Rose Lucas.

Then in April 1978, tragically Sandy had a fatal fall down a flight of stairs, leaving Trevor to raise their newborn daughter, Georgia, by himself.

Note: Sandy Denny had apparently suffered from substance abuse problems for some time, and by 1977 her addictions were obvious to others. Linda Thompson told The Guardian that shortly after the birth of their daughter Georgia in July 1977, Denny “was crashing the car and leaving the baby in the pub and all sorts of stuff.” Thompson also noted that the child was born prematurely, yet Denny seemed to have little concern for her new baby.

In late March 1978, while on holiday with her parents and baby Georgia in Cornwall, Denny was injured when she fell down a staircase and hit her head on concrete. Following the incident, Denny suffered from intense headaches; a doctor prescribed her the painkiller Distalgesic, a drug known to have fatal side effects when mixed with alcohol. On 13 April, concerned with his wife’s erratic behaviour and fearing for his daughter’s safety, Trevor Lucas left the UK and returned to his native Australia with their child. Four days later, Denny collapsed and fell into a coma while at a friend’s home. On 21 April, she died at Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon. Her death was ruled to be the result of a traumatic mid-brain hemorrhage and blunt force trauma to her head.

Lucas returned to England for her funeral, then in August, he was back in Melbourne, “I came here because it seemed like a good refuge … I’ve got a lot of family here, and I thought it was important for Georgia, my 13-month-old daughter, to have that sort of security”.

Lucas settled permanently in Australia after 1978. From 1979 and into the 1980s, Lucas was producing albums for Australian artists and later started working on scores for the film industry. In the 1980s, he was producing more albums and later started working on scores from the film industry. In 1985 he returned to England to work on a tribute album to Sandy Denny.

On 4 February 1989, Trevor Lucas died of a heart attack in his sleep, in Sydney, aged 45 years old. His children were left in the care of Elizabeth Hurtt-Lucas – his thread wife – who administered the estates of both Denny and Lucas. According to Australia rock music historian Ian McFarlane, Lucas “was one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters Australia ever produced and although he was held in high regard in UK folk-rock circles, he remained virtually unknown in his homeland.”

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Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

Paul JeffreysDecember 21, 1988 – Paul Avron Jeffreys was born on February 13, 1952. Paul grew up above his parents dry cleaning shop in East Ham, London.

On bass, he was a starting member of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and played on the first two Cockney Rebel albums titled, “The Human Menagerie” and “The Psychomodo”. Continue reading Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

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Roy Orbison 12/1988

roy orbisonDecember 6, 1988 – Roy Kelton Orbison was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas to Nadine and Orbie Lee. He formed his first band at age 13. The singer-songwriter dropped out of college to pursue music. He signed with Monument Records and recorded such ballads as “Only the Lonely” and “It’s Over.”

Born to a working-class Texan family, Orbison grew up immersed in musical styles ranging from rockabilly and country to zydeco, Tex-Mex and the blues. His dad gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and he wrote his first song, “A Vow of Love,” in 1944 while staying at his grandmothers. In 1945 he entered and won a contest on KVWC in Vernon and this led to his own radio show singing the same songs every Saturday. By the time Roy was 13 he had formed his own band “The Wink Westerners”. The band appeared weekly on KERB radio in Kermit, Texas. Roy graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in 1955 to study history and English. Continue reading Roy Orbison 12/1988

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Pete Drake 7/1988

July 29, 1988 – Pete Drake was born Roddis Franklin Drake October 8th 1932 in Augusta, Georgia. The son of a Pentecostal minister, Drake began his music career with his siblings in the Drake Brothers band. His bother Jack went on to join Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadors for 25 years. Inspired by the Opry’s steel great Jerry Byrd he saved and bought himself a steel guitar for $38 in a pawn shop.

Drake’s melodic steel guitar playing made him one of Atlanta’s top young instrumentalists. He joined with future stars Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller and Joe South, in a mid-’50s band. Although this group failed to record, it provided Drake with the impetus to move to Nashville in 1959.

He recorded first for Starday before signing up to the new Mercury based Smash label. He played on many Nashville country/pop sessions for the likes of Don Gibson, The Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins. Pete had a pop Top 30 hit, “Forever” in 1964 (credited to “Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar”), and recorded albums of country covers, his own tunes and experimental styles like his “talking guitar”. More often his trademark mellow toned steel guitar was used to strengthen albums by other artists.

He played on many crossover country/pop hits such as Lynn Anderson’s (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, Charlie Rich’s Behind Closed Doors, and Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. He became a cult name in the modern rock era by playing on sessions for Bob Dylan ( John Wesley Harding , Nashville Skyline & Self Portrait)), Ringo Starr (Beaucoups Of Blues, produced by Pete) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass)

Interview with Pete Drake

Nashville pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake is truly a phenomenon. Not only has he been the man behind hundreds of country music hits, but through his recordings with Elvis Presley, George Harrison and Bob Dylan, is singlehandedly responsible for opening the entire pop and rock field to the sounds of the pedal steel.
Pete was born in Georgia forty years ago, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he began playing steel guitar. Like so many before and since, Drake was inspired by the sounds of Jerry Byrd at the Grand Ole Opry. Pete then spotted a lap steel guitar in an Atlanta pawn shop, saved his money and bought it for the vast sum of $38.00.

What kind was it?
A Supro; a little, single-neck like you hold in your lap. I tried to play like Jerry Byrd. I guess most of the steel players today started off the same way. He has really been fantastically influential. So I fooled around with that thing for six months or a year, and got a chance to do a couple of fill-in things on an Atlanta TV station when somebody’d be sick.
Did you have any formal training on steel?
I took one lesson, but I’d get records and sit around playing to them. That’s how I really got started. This was around ’49 or ’50. Then when Bud Isaacs came out with a pedal guitar on “Slowly” by Webb Pierce, that shocked everybody, wondering how he got that sound. I guess I was the first one around Atlanta to get a pedal guitar: I had one pedal on a four-neck steel. It really looked funny. I made it myself, and it was huge, really too big to carry on the road or anything. I was playing in clubs all around Atlanta, then right after that I formed my first band.
What kind of group was that?
I had some pretty big stars working with me back then: Jerry Reed, Joe South, Doug Kershaw was playing fiddle, Roger Miller was playing fiddle with me, and country singer Jack Greene was playing drums. And we got fired because we weren’t any good! I was on television in Atlanta for three and a half years, but we kind of wore ourselves out, so I decided to move to Nashville.
Why Nashville?
Roger Miller had come on to Nashville, and I had a brother there, Jack, who played bass with Ernest Tubb for 24 years. Jack died last year. At first Jack didn’t want me to come, because the steel guitar was kind of dead then, in 1959. Everybody was trying to go pop. They was putting strings and horns on Webb Pierce records, and nobody was using steel guitar. So I starved to death the first year and a half. Then I worked with Don Gibson a while, then Marty Robbins.

When did you begin getting record session work?
I guess what really got me in was the “Pete Drake style” on the C6th tuning. When I first came up here everybody thought it was square, so I quit playing like that and started playing like everybody else. Then one night on the Opry, just for kicks, I went back to my own style for one tune behind Carl and Pearl Butler. Roy Drusky was on Decca then, and he come up to me and said, “Hey, you’ve come up with a new style. I’m recording tomorrow, and I want you with me.” So I cut this session with him, and the word kind of got out that I had this new style (actually, it was the same thing I’d been playing for years in Atlanta, but it was new in Nashville). That month I did 24 sessions, and it’s been like that ever since. That was in the middle of 1960, and that first record was “I Don’t Believe You Love Me Any More,” a number one record. Then I recorded “Before This Day Ends” with George Hamilton, and it, too, became number one. I just couldn’t do anything wrong there for a long time.
How did your “Talking Guitar” thing come about?
Well, everybody wanted this style of mine, but I sort of got tired of it. I’d say, “Hey, let me try and come up with something new,” and they’d say, “Naw, I want you to do what you did on So-and-so’s record.” Now, I’d been trying to make something for people who couldn’t talk, who’d lost their voice. I had some neighbors who were deaf and dumb, and I thought it would be nice if they could talk. So I saw this old Kay Kayser movie, and Alvino Rey was playing the talking guitar. I thought, “Man, if he can make a guitar talk, surely I can make people talk.” So I worked on it for about five years, and it was so simple that I went all around it, you know, like we usually do.
How did the talking guitar work?
You play the notes on the guitar and it goes through the amplifier. I have a driver system so that you disconnect the speakers and the sound goes through the driver into a plastic tube. You put the tube in the side of your mouth then form the words with your mouth as you play them. You don’t actually say a word: The guitar is your vocal chords, and your mouth is the amplifier. It’s amplified by a microphone.
When did you first use it on records?
With Roger Miller. He had a record called “Lock, Stock And Teardrops,” on RCA Victor, but it didn’t hit. Then I used it on Jim Reeves’ “I’ve Enjoyed As Much Of This As I Can Stand.” I really thought I’d used the gimmick up by the time Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy of Mercury Records wanted to record me. I had already recorded for Starday [a Mercury label] some straight steel things like “For Pete’s Sake,” but I went ahead and cut a song called “Forever” on the talking thing. It came out, and for about two months didn’t do a thing; then, all of a sudden, it cut loose and sold a million. So then I was known as the “Talking Steel Guitar Man,” and did several albums for Smash, which is a subsidiary of Mercury.
Do you still use the Talking Guitar?
Now I’m back into producing a lot of records, and not using it much. I’ve been so busy recording everybody else, I haven’t had time to record myself.

Tell us about your experiences getting into the pop field with the pedal steel.
You know, the steel wasn’t accepted in pop music until I had cut with people like Elvis Presley and Joan Baez. But the kids, themselves, didn’t accept it until I cut with Bob Dylan. After that I guess they figured steel was all right. I did the John Wesley Harding album, then Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait. Bob Dylan really helped me an awful lot. I mean, by having me play on those records he just opened the door for the pedal steel guitar, because then everybody wanted to use one. I was getting calls from all over the world. One day my secretary buzzed me and said, “George Harrison wants you on the phone.” And I said, “Well, where’s he from?” She said, “London.” And I said: “Well, what company’s he with?” She said, “The Beatles.” The name, you know, just didn’t ring any bells-well, I’m just a hillbilly, you know (laughter). Anyway, I ended up going to London for a week where we did the album All Things Must Pass.
Is that how Ringo came into it?
Ringo Starr asked me to produce him, so I told him I would if he’d come to Nashville, so he did and cut a country album which was really fantastic. It was good for Nashville, and, you know, I really wanted Nashville to get credit for it. Those guys, Ringo and George Harrison, really dig country music. And they’re fine people, too, just out of sight.

What kind of instrument do you play now?
Since I came to Nashville I have been playing Sho-Bud guitars and Standel amplifiers. I have some Sho-Bud amps, too. I’ve got four different guitars that I use with different artists. I try to change my sound around so it doesn’t seem like the same musicians on each record. I was looking in the trades the other day, and found that I was on 59 of the top 75 records in “Billboard.”
How about different tunings?
Yeah, I change a little. All my guitars have a little bit different pedals, enough to keep me confused. I, and just about everybody in Nashville, use basically the E9th with the chromatic strings and the C6th with a high G string. But everybody has their own pedal setups. I’ve got one pedal I call my Tammy Wynette pedal that I use with her; and I cut a hit with Johnny Rodriguez recently, “Pass Me By,” so I got me a Johnny Rodriguez pedal, too (laughter). If something hits big I try to save that for that particular artist.
Is your equipment modified?
My amps are just stock. As for my steels, I get Shot Jackson [of Sho-Bud in Nashville] to fix them up for me. If I want to raise or lower a string, I’ll go to him and say, “Can you do this?,” and he’ll say, “No,” then go ahead and do it. We did my Tammy Wynette pedal that way: I showed him how we could make it work with open strings, so he fixed it, and it was the most beautiful sound I every heard. So the next day we cut “I Don’t Wanna Play House” with Tammy, and it became a number one record.
You mentioned Jerry Byrd as a great inspiration, Whom else do you enjoy?
Well, there’s so many of them now, Lordy. I look at it kind of differently: There’s the recording musician and the everyday picker. They’re really not the same. A guy that’s really great on a show may not be any good at all on a session, or vice versa. For recording, I think Lloyd Green, Weldon Myrick, Bill West and Ben Keith are fantastic. They know how to come up with that little extra lick that you need to make a song. Hal Rugg is also a good recording steel man. For really technical playing, Buddy Emmons is a fantastic musician. Curley Chalker is my favorite jazz steel player, but in the studio I’d have to go with the commercial thing because I’m trying to make a dollar.

You know, you can play over country people’s heads, and I don’t think they’re ready for the jazz thing. I mean I like to listen to it, but it’s “musicians’ music,” and musicians don’t buy records (laughter).
What do you think is the future of the steel guitar and country music?
Right now something is happening that I’ve wanted to happen for a long time: Music’s coming together. It’s not country music, it’s not pop music, it’s music. Somebody said there’s only two kinds of music-good and bad. I like a little bit of it all.

Pete produced albums for hundreds of musicians, and founded Stop Records and First Generation Records. In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars and the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1987

He lost a 3 year battle with emphysema on July 29, 1988 at the age of 56.

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Hillel Slovak 6/1988

hillel-slovakJune 25, 1988 – Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) was born on April 13, 1962 in Haifa, Israel. His family, holocaust survivors, emigrated to America when Hillel was four settling in Queens, New York, then in 1967 relocated to Southern California.

As a child, Slovak developed an interest in art, and would often spend time painting with his mother, Esther. He attended Laurel Elementary School in West Hollywood and Bancroft Jr. High School in Hollywood, where he met future bandmates Jack Irons and Michael “Flea” Balzary. Slovak received his first guitar at age 13 as a bar mitzvah present, and would often play the instrument into the late hours of the night. During this time, he was highly influenced by hard rock music such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Kiss.

As a freshman at Fairfax High School, Slovak formed a band with Irons on drums and two other high school friends, Alain Johannes and Todd Strassman. They called their band Chain Reaction, then changed the name to Anthem after their first gig. After one of the group’s shows, Slovak met audience member Anthony Kiedis, and invited him to his house for a snack. Kiedis later described the experience in his autobiography Scar Tissue: “Within a few minutes of hanging out with Hillel, I sensed that he was absolutely different from most of the people I’d spent time with…He understood a lot about music, he was a great visual artist, and he had a sense of self and a calm about him that were just riveting.” Slovak, Kiedis and Flea became best friends and often used LSD, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine recreationally.

The original bassist for Anthem, which renamed to Anthym, was deemed unsatisfactory, so Slovak began teaching Flea to play bass. Following several months of commitment to the instrument, Flea developed proficiency and a strong musical chemistry with Slovak. When Strassman saw Flea playing Anthym songs on his equipment he quit the band, with Flea quickly replacing him. Shortly afterwards Anthym entered a local Battle of the Bands contest and won second place. Anthym started to play at local nightclubs, despite the fact that the members were all underage. After graduating from high school, the band changed their name to What Is This?. Flea left Anthym around this time to accept an offer of playing bass in the prominent L.A. punk band Fear. What Is This? continued on and performed many shows along the California coast.

They next dubbed themselves “Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem”, before changing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slovak, Flea, Kiedis, and Irons started Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1982, which became popular in the Los Angeles area, playing various shows around the city.

However, Slovak quit the band to focus on What is This?, a side project which had gotten a record deal, leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers to record their debut album without him. He rejoined the Chili Peppers in 1985, and recorded the albums Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan with the band.

Hillel’s work was one of the major contributing factors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early sound. He was also a huge influence on a young John Frusciante, who would later replace him as guitarist in the band.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers quickly gathered a following in L.A. with a high-energy stage act that caused quite a stir when the bandmembers would hit the stage in nothing but a sock strategically covering a certain part of their anatomy. But on a darker note, it was around this time that Slovak began to experiment with heroin. After Slovak and Irons decided to return to the Peppers full-time, the result became the 1985 George Clinton-produced Freaky Styley.

While it didn’t exactly storm the charts, the album and its subsequent tour made the Peppers popular with the alternative/college rock crowd. 1987 saw the Peppers issue their best and most focused work, Uplift Mofo Party Plan, which inched the band even closer to mainstream success, as the album appeared on the lower reaches of the Billboard album chart.

What should have been an exciting time for Slovak and the band turned to tragedy on June 25, 1988, when Slovak died from a heroin overdose. Devastated, the band contemplated disbanding, but Kiedis and Flea decided to carry on (Irons opted to bow out) — with Slovak-disciple John Frusciante filling the late guitarist’s shoes, and another newcomer, Chad Smith, taking over the drum spot. 1989’s Mother’s Milk was dedicated to Slovak and included one of his paintings as part of the album artwork (as well as one of the last tracks Slovak ever recorded with the Peppers — an incendiary cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”). He was 26.

The album was a surprise hit, which led to the band becoming one of rock’s top dogs by the ’90s. Slovak was also the subject of the Peppers songs “Knock Me Down” (from Mother’s Milk) and “My Lovely Man” (off 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik), while the 1994 odds and ends release Out in L.A. collected early Peppers demos, many of which prominently featured the guitar wizardry of Slovak. Hillel Slovak’s younger brother, James, published the book Behind the Sun: The Diary and Art of Hillel Slovak in 1999 and accepted the honors in 2012, when the band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Jesse Ed Davis 6/1988

jesse-ed-davisJune 22, 1988 – Jesse Edwin Davis  was born on September 21, 1944 in Norman, Oklahoma. His father, Jesse Ed Davis II, was Muscogee Creek and Seminole while his mother’s side was Kiowa. He graduated from Northeast High School in 1962. He earned a degree in literature from the University of Oklahoma before beginning his musical career touring with Conway Twitty in the early ’60s. Eventually the guitarist moved to California, joining bluesman Taj Mahal and playing guitar and piano on his first three albums. It was with Mahal that Davis was able to showcase his skill and range, playing slide, lead, and rhythm, country, and even jazz guitar, also making an appearance with the band as a musical guest in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

The period backing Mahal was the closest Davis came to being in a band full-time, and after Mahal’s 1969 album Giant Step, he went on to work closely with ex-Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, playing guitar on several of their solo albums. He released his first solo album the self-titled album Jesse Davis in 1971. Davis also began doing session work for such diverse acts as David Cassidy, Albert King, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Keith Moon, Jackson Browne, Steve Miller, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and others. In addition, he also released three solo albums featuring industry friends such as Leon Russell and Eric Clapton.

Prone to addictions, Davis disappeared from the music industry for a time, spending much of the ’80s dealing with alcohol and drug addiction.  Davis resurfaced playing in the Graffiti Band in late 1986, which coupled his music with the poetry of American Indian activist John Trudell. The kind of expert, tasteful playing that Davis always brought to an album is sorely missed among the acts he worked with.

Jesse Ed Davis was perhaps the most versatile session guitarist of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Whether it was blues, country, or rock, Davis’ tasteful guitar playing was featured on albums by such giants as Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, and John Lee Hooker, among others. It is Davis’ weeping slide heard on Clapton’s “Hello Old Friend” (from No Reason to Cry), and on both Rock n’ Roll and Walls & Bridges, it is Davis who supplied the bulk of the guitar work for ex-Beatle Lennon.

In the Spring of ’87, The Graffiti Band performed with Taj Mahal at the Palomino Club, and George Harrison, Bob Dylan and John Fogerty rose from the audience to join Jesse and Taj Mahal in an unrehearsed set which included Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” and Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” and “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Peggy Sue”, “Honey Don’t”, “Matchbox”, and “Gone, Gone, Gone”.

He tragically died of a suspected drug overdose on June 22, 1988 at the age of 43.

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Brook Benton 4/1988

brook bentonApril 9, 1988 – Brook Benton was born Benjamin Franklin Peay on September 19th 1931 in Lugoff, South Carolina.

When Benton was young, he enjoyed gospel music, wrote songs and sang in a Methodist church choir in Lugoff, South Carolina, where his father, Willie Peay, was choir master. In 1948, he went to New York to pursue his music career, going in and out of gospel groups, such as The Langfordaires, The Jerusalem Stars and The Golden Gate Quartet. Returning to his home state, he joined a R&B singing group, The Sandmen, and went back to New York to get a big break with his group. The Sandmen had limited success and their label, Okeh Records, decided to push Peay as a solo artist, changing his name to Brook Benton, apparently at the suggestion of label executive Marv Halsman.

Brook earned a good living by writing songs and co-producing albums. He wrote songs for artists such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter (for whom he co-wrote the hit “A Lover’s Question”) and Roy Hamilton. He eventually released his first minor hit, “A Million Miles from Nowhere”, before switching to the Mercury label, which would eventually bring him major success. He also appeared in the 1957 film, Mr Rock And Roll with Alan Freed.

His silky smooth tones was popular with rock n roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he scored hits such as “It’s Just A Matter Of Time”, “Hotel Happiness”, “Think Twice”, “Kiddio”, “The Boll Weevil Song” and “Endlessly”, many of which he co-wrote.

He made a comeback in 1970 with the ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia“. Brook eventually charted 49 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with other songs charting on Billboard’s rhythm and blues, easy listening, and Christmas music charts, as well as writing hits for other performers such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter, and Roy Hamilton.

Weakened from spinal meningitis, Brook died of pneumonia in Queens, New York City, at the age of 56 on April 9, 1988.

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Dave Prater 4/1988

Dave PraterApril 9, 1988 – Dave Prater (Sam & Dave) was born on May 9th 1937 in Ocilla, Georgia. The seventh of ten children, Prater grew up singing gospel music in the church choir and was a veteran of the gospel group the Sensational Hummingbirds, in which he sang with his older brother, J. T. Prater.  Dave Prater met his future duo partner, Sam Moore, in the King of Hearts Club in Miami in 1961 during a talent contest. They signed to Roulette Records shortly thereafter. He was the deeper, baritone and second tenor vocalist of the duo Sam & Dave from 1961 until his death in 1988.  Sam & Dave released six singles for Roulette, including two songs that Prater co-wrote with Moore. Prater was typically featured as the lead vocalist on these records, with Moore typically singing harmony and alternate verses.

The two recorded together for several years in and around Miami, Florida, before they were finally signed to the Atlantic Records Label in 1964, but later were moved to the Stax Records Label in Memphis by music producer Jerry Wexler. The duo began working with the writing team of the talented songwriters and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter and began to release several gospel/soul type R&B hit songs including a series of Top Tens including, ‘Hold On! I’m Comin,’ You Got Me Hummin,’ ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,’ ‘Soul Man,’ and ‘I Thank You,’ all between 1966 and 1968. On the majority of recordings they were backed by Hayes on piano with Booker T & the M.G.s and the Memphis Horns. Nicknamed “Double Dynamite” for their energetic and sweaty, gospel-infused performances, Sam & Dave were also considered by critics to be one of the greatest live performing acts of the 1960s. The duo has been cited as a musical influence by numerous artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Stevie Winwood.

When Stax and Atlantic severed their distribution agreement in 1968 and as a result Sam & Dave became Atlantic recording artists and were no longer able to work with Hayes, Porter and the Stax musicians. The records made by Atlantic did not have the same sound and feel as the Stax recordings, and most only placed in the lower ends of the music charts if at all. The ending of their association with the Stax record label and their own frequently volatile relationship contributed to the break-up of the duo in June 1970.

After the break-up with Sam, Prater went back to their early Miami label, Alston Records, where he recorded one single, “Keep My Fingers Crossed” backed with “Love Business” (Alston A-4596), and also performed sporadically over the next year. They reunited in August 1971 and performed throughout most of the decade through 1981, but their previous stardom had left.

In 1980 after the success of the John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd film, “The Blues Brothers” (which was somewhat based on ‘Sam & Dave’), new interest was found in the group, and they rejoined once again to do a series of concerts. There last attempt at a reunion was a New Year’s Eve concert in 1981.

In 1982, Prater started touring with Sam Daniels. This duo was also billed as Sam & Dave. They performed together until Prater’s death in 1988. Moore attempted to legally block Prater from using the group’s name without his participation and permission, but was generally unsuccessful in stopping the act from performing. The Daniels–Prater incarnation of Sam & Dave played as many as 100 shows per year, including gigs in Europe, Japan and Canada.

In 1985, Prater and Daniels released a medley of Sam & Dave hits newly recorded in the Netherlands, which peaked at number 92 on the R&B chart and was credited to “Sam & Dave”. Moore made the label recall the single for using the “Sam & Dave” name without permission, and the record was relabelled and reissued under the name of “The New Sam & Dave Revue”.

Prater’s last performance with Daniels was on April 3, 1988, at a Stax Reunion show at the Atlanta Civic Center, which also featured Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, and Rufus and Carla Thomas. Six days later, on April 9, 1988, Prater died in a car crash in Sycamore, Georgia, while driving to his mother’s house.

He was 50 years 11 months old.

Prater is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1992), the Grammy Hall of Fame (1999, for the song “Soul Man”), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1997), and he was a Grammy Award–winning (1967) and multiple Gold Record award-winning recording artist

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Andy Gibb 3/1988

Andy Gibb (1)March 10, 1988 – Andrew Roy Gibb “Andy Gibb” was born on March 5th 1958 in Manchester, England. He was the youngest of five children of Barbara and Hugh Gibb. His mother was of Irish and English descent and his father was of Scottish and Irish descent. He has four siblings: his sister Lesley, and three brothers Barry and fraternal twins Robin and Maurice.

At the age of six months, Gibb emigrated with his family to Queensland, Australia, settling on Cribb Island just north of Brisbane. After moving several times around Brisbane and Sydney, Andy returned to the United Kingdom in January 1967 as his three older brothers began to gain international fame as the Bee Gees.

In his childhood, his mother Barbara described Gibb as “A little devil, a little monster. I’d send him off to school but he’d sneak off to the stable and sleep with his two horses all day. He’d wander back home around lunchtime smelling of horse manure, yet he’d swear he had been at school. Oh, he was a little monkey!”

He quit school at the age of 13, and with an acoustic guitar given to him by his older brother Barry, he began playing at tourist clubs around Ibiza, Spain (when his parents moved there) and later in the Isle of Man, his brothers’ birthplace, where his parents were living at the time.
In June 1974, Gibb formed his first group, Melody Fayre (named after a Bee Gees song), which included Isle of Man musicians John Alderson on guitar and John Stringer on drums. The group was managed by Andy’s mother, Barbara, and had regular bookings on the small island’s hotel circuit. Gibb’s first recording, in August 1973, was a Maurice Gibb composition, “My Father Was a Rebel”, which Maurice also produced and played on. It was not released. Another track on the session performed by him was “Windows of My World” co-written by him with Maurice.

At the urging of his brother Barry, Gibb returned to Australia in 1974. Barry believed that as Australia had been a good training ground for the Bee Gees it would also help his youngest brother. Lesley Gibb had remained in Australia, where she raised a family with her husband. Both Alderson and Stringer followed Andy to Australia with the hope of forming a band there. With Col Joye producing, Andy, Alderson and Stringer recorded a number of Andy’s compositions. The first song is a demo called “To a Girl” (with his brother Maurice playing organ), he later performed that song on his first television debut in Australia on The Ernie Sigley Show. Sigley later informed the audience that it was from Gibb’s forthcoming album, but was not appeared on any of his previous records. In November the same year, he recorded six demos including “Words and Music”, “Westfield Mansions” and “Flowing Rivers” (which was later released). That session, also produced by Joye, but the bass player on the tracks was not credited. What may have detracted from the “training ground” aspect of Australia for Andy compared to his brothers was that Andy was relatively independent financially, mainly because of his brothers’ support and their largesse, hence the group’s sporadic work rate. Andy would disappear for periods of time, leaving Alderson and Stringer out of work with no income. Despondent, Alderson and Stringer returned to the UK.

Gibb later joined the band Zenta, consisting of Gibb on vocals, Rick Alford on guitar, Paddy Lelliot on bass, Glen Greenhalgh on vocals and Trevor Norton on drums. Zenta supported international artists Sweet and the Bay City Rollers on the Sydney leg of their Australian tours. The planned single “Can’t Stop Dancing” which was a Ray Stevens song, later a US hit for duo The Captain and Tennille in May 1977 but their version was not released, although Gibb did perform it on television at least once on the revitalised Bandstand show hosted by Daryl Somers. Zenta would appear later as a backing band for Gibb, and they did not participate on Gibb’s recording sessions around 1975, that session features a remake of “Words and Music” which was, that version was released, and he also recorded a rendition of Don McLean’s “Winter Has Me in Its Grip” (not released), the backing musicians on the session was the Australian jazz fusion group Crossfire.

In late 1976 in Miami, Andy, with older brother Barry producing and recording in the famed Criteria Studios, set about making his first album, Flowing Rivers, around the same time as Eagles finishing their album Hotel California as Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh played on two songs on his first album. The first release from the album, and Gibb’s first single released outside Australia, was “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” which was written by Barry, who also provided backup vocals. It reached number one in the United States and Australia and was the most played record of the year. In Britain it was a lesser hit, just scraping into the Top 30. Eight of the ten tracks on the album were Andy Gibb compositions, mostly songs written during his time in Australia. These included a re-recording of his previous single, “Words and Music”.

He was the youngest of the Gibb brothers but he was not a member of The Bee Gees.

In September 1977 he began his career as a solo singer, following his brothers’ disco style. His first 3 singles “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” (a song co-written by Gibb and his brother Barry) and “Shadow Dancing” all reached the No.1 spot. Three more consecutive Top Ten hits followed, cementing his overnight sensation status. “Love Is Thicker Than Water” quickly became a million selling album. That single broke in early 1978 during the time that the Bee Gees’ contributions to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack were dominating the world charts. In the United States it replaced “Stayin’ Alive” at the top of the charts, and then was surpassed by “Night Fever” at number one in mid-March.

In 1979, Gibb performed along with Bee Gees, ABBA, and Olivia Newton-John (duet with “Rest Your Love on Me”), at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly which was broadcast worldwide. He returned to the studio to begin recording sessions for his final full studio album, After Dark. In March 1980, the last of Gibb’s Top Ten singles charted just ahead of the album’s release. “Desire” (written by all four Gibb brothers), was recorded for Bee Gees’ 1979 album Spirits Having Flown, and featured their original track complete with Andy’s original “guest vocal” track. A second single, “I Can’t Help It”, a duet with family friend and fellow British and Australian expat Olivia Newton-John, reached the top 20.

Later in the year, Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits was released as a finale to his contract with RSO Records, with two new songs: “Time Is Time” (number 15 in January 1981) and “Me (Without You)” (Gibb’s last top 40 chart entry) shipped as singles, before RSO founder Robert Stigwood had to let him go due to his cocaine addiction and behavioral problems. “After Dark” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” were non-single songs added to the album, the latter of which was a duet with P. P. Arnold, who had previously worked with Barry Gibb, including singing uncredited backups on “Bury Me Down by the River” from Cucumber Castle. Despite the number four “Desire,” Gibb’s streak of Top Ten hits began to slip in 1980. In 1981 the following year, he had his last Top 40 hit, “Me (Without You).”

During his relationship with actress Victoria Principal, Gibb worked on several projects outside the recording studio including performances in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway and Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in Los Angeles, California. He also co-hosted the television music show, Solid Gold, from 1980 to 1982.

Around the same time, Gibb was invited to sing the first verse on Queen’s “Play the Game” and lead singer Freddie Mercury apparently was amazed with Gibb’s abilities. According to some sources, the tape was found in 1990 in search of Queen archives for bonus tracks for CD, but was not used. Since it has not been heard by any Queen collectors, its existence is somewhat doubtful, although record producer Mack has also confirmed that the version did exist. Gibb was ultimately fired from both Dreamcoat and Solid Gold because of absenteeism caused by cocaine binges. At this time Andy turned to acting, but it did not replicate the enormous success of his recording career. Sadly he developed a massive cocaine addiction, which helped lead to his death.

His romance with Principal also ended shortly thereafter when she gave him an ultimatum to choose between her or drugs, but not before they recorded and released a duet of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in the summer of 1981. He reportedly heard her singing in the shower and convinced her to go into the studio with him. This would be Gibb’s last official single, and his last US chart entry, peaking at number 51. In 1984 and 1985 Gibb did finish two successful contracts at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.

But in early 1987, Gibb went through another drug rehabilitation program and thought he had finally beaten his habits. Gibb now aimed to get a recording contract for release of a new album in 1988. He returned to the studio in June 1987 recording four songs; one of them, “Man on Fire”, was released posthumously in 1991 on a Polydor Records anthology. Another track, “Arrow Through the Heart”, was the final song Andy would ever record and was featured on an episode of VH1’s series, Behind the Music, and released on the Bee Gees Mythology 4-disc box set in November 2010. The songs are co-written by Gibb with his brothers Barry and Maurice. Their demo recordings with engineer Scott Glasel were heard by Clive Banks from the UK branch of Island Records. Gibb never formally signed a contract but the record label planned to release a single in Europe that Spring, followed by another single that summer with the album to follow.

In early March 1988, Barry Gibb had arranged for Island in England to sign Andy, but when he went to England at the start of 1988, he panicked. Gibb missed meetings with the record company and blamed himself for his trouble writing songs. The deal was never signed

At around 8:30 am on 10 March 1988, Gibb’s doctor walked in to his room and told him that more tests were needed, to which Gibb replied, “Fine”. Later that day, he slumped into unconsciousness and died as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a viral infection (a diagnosis supported by William Shell, a cardiologist who had previously treated Gibb, which was exacerbated by his years of cocaine abuse. Robin Gibb said “he was also not eating properly and the lack of nutrition also damaged his heart”, adding that the paranoia associated with cocaine abuse “shattered his confidence and he became scared of people.” He died from the inflammation of the heart muscle at age 30.

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John Curulewski 2/1988

John CurulewskiFeb. 13, 1988 (Styx) – John Curulewski was born on October 3, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois. Nicknamed “JC,” was one of the original members of Styx. He joined Dennis DeYoung, the Panozzo brothers, and James Young to form TW4 in 1968, which was renamed to Styx in 1970. He played acoustic and electric guitar on the band’s first five studio albums: StyxStyx IIThe Serpent Is RisingMan of Miracles, and Equinox. He left just before the Equinox promotional tour and was replaced by Tommy Shaw.

Curulewski left Styx because he wanted to spend more time with his family and have more creative control in his future endeavors. He went on to teach guitar at the Mad Music in La Grange, Illinois,

Owned by Steve Paceli (AKA Stevie Starlight) and John Reda (formerly of Gus’s Music, in Oak Lawn), and run a recording studio aptly called “The Studio”, he also played guitar in a band called Spread Eagle, and formed the group Arctic Fox playing the Chicago area clubs. Curulewski also coached his son’s baseball team, and would go into his son’s Grammar School as a lunch supervisor; he would bring in his guitar and play it to the kids, much to their amazement.

Curulewski taught some of Chicago’s best young guitar players including Joey Mazzuca, Dave Stulgo, Russell Leach, Hector Fernandez and many more. Many of JC’s students went on to form a core group of heavy metal guitarists in Chicago. Curulewski became very active in the mentoring of young bands in the western suburbs of Chicago; not only teaching guitar but coaching on performance and supplying support for live appearances and recording.

Curulewski was 37 years old when he died on 13 February 1988 from a brain aneurysm.

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Jaco Pastorius 9/1987

Jaco PastoriusSeptember 21, 1987 – John Francis Anthony Pastorius III aka Jaco Pastorius changed the way the bass was played. Born in Pennsylvania on December 1, 1951, Jaco’s family moved south and he grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he first took on the drums. Being a direct descendant of poet Francis Daniel Pastorius, who drafted the first  protest against slavery in the US in 1688!, artistry ran in the family. His dad was a big band leader and singer.

During his formative years drums, like his dad, but a football injury made him move to bass. Upright bass at first but after his bass cracked because of the ocean front humidity in Florida he bought an electric bass. Continue reading Jaco Pastorius 9/1987

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Peter Tosh 9/1987

peter toshSeptember 11, 1987 – Winston Hubert McIntosh better known as Peter Tosh/Stepping Razor was a Jamaican guitarist and singer in the original Wailers of Bob Marley & the Wailers fame.  Born in Petersfield on October 19th 1944, he became a pioneer reggae musician, as the original guitarist for The Wailers and he is actaully considered as one of the originators of the choppy, syncopated reggae guitar style, and as trailblazer for the Rastafari movement and the fight to legalize cannabis.

He was a target for the police and underwent many beatings. In the early 60s Winston met Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer through his vocal teacher, Joe Higgs. Continue reading Peter Tosh 9/1987

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John Hammond 7/1987

July 10, 1987 – John Hammond ll was born on December 15th 1910 in New York.

Not persé a rock and roller he was an important record producer, musician and music critic from the 1930s to the early 1980s, including the early years of Rock and Roll. A heir to both the Vanderbilt and Sloane fortunes, he grew up in a Manhattan mansion, where he listened to music with the black servants in the basement. He attended St. Bernard’s, Hotchkiss and Yale, but dropped out to be a disc jockey and live in Greenwich Village.

He funded the recording of pianist Garland Wilson in 1931, marking the beginning of a long string of artistic successes as record producer and eventually became one of the most influential figures of 20th century music sparking the careers of Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Babatunde Olatunji, Asha Puthli, Pete Seeger, Teddy Wilson, Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Bob Dylan, Freddie Green, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Arthur Russell and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

He is also largely responsible for the revival of delta blues artist Robert Johnson’s music. John received a Grammy Trustees Award for being credited with co-producing a Bessie Smith reissue in 1971, and in 1986 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He died from a series of strokes at age 76 on July 10, 1987.

His son John Hammond Jr. is an accomplished blues musician in his own right.

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Boudleaux Bryant 6/1987

boudleaux-bryantJune 25, 1987 – Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant was born on February 13, 1920 in Shellman, Georgia. he was trained as a classical violinist and during the 1937–38 season he performed with the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, yet was more interested in country “fiddling.”

He joined Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, an Atlanta-based western music band and slowly started moving towards jazz, when in 1945 he met Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, whom he called Felice, while performing at a hotel in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was born in the city in 1925 to an ethnic Italian family. She used to write lyrics to traditional Italian tunes. During World War II, still a teenager, she sang and directed shows at the local USO.

Bryant and Scaduto eloped two days after meeting. Their song, “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” is autobiographical for Felice. She was working as an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel in Milwaukee, when she saw Bryant. She has said that she “recognized” him immediately; she had seen his face in a dream when she was eight years old, and had “looked for him forever.” She was nineteen when they met.

By himself and as a couple they went on to become one of the greatest songwriter teams in country pop music history. His wife Felice Bryant died in 2003. The husband-and-wife country music and pop songwriting team are best known for songs such as “Raining In My Heart”, “Wake up little Susie”, “Rocky Top,” “Love Hurts” and numerous Everly Brothers hits, including “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love”.

Beginning in 1957 they came to national prominence in both country music and pop music when they wrote a string of hugely successful songs for the Everly Brothers and hits for others such as Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Their compositions were recorded by many artists from a variety of musical genres, including Tony Bennett, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Bob Moore, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and others.

In those days the Bryants lived not far from Nashville on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, near friends Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. In 1978 however, they moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They had often stayed at The Gatlinburg Inn, where they wrote numerous songs, including “Rocky Top.” They purchased the “Rocky Top Village Inn” in the town next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 1979 they released their own album called A Touch of Bryant. “Rocky Top“, written in 1967, was adopted as a state song by Tennessee in 1982, and as the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee sports teams.

The Bryants wrote more than 6,000 songs, some 1,500 of which were recorded and by the late ’80s, it was estimated that Boudleaux and Felice’s warehouse of songs, had sold over 300 million copies worldwide. In 1972 they had been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1986 into the Songwriters Hall of Fame; and in 1991 the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

During their career, the Bryants earned 59 BMI country, pop, and R&B music awards. Boudleaux Bryant is the third most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the UK Singles Chart, his wife Felice the 21st.

Boudleaux died on June 25, 1987 at the age of 67.

Interesting Sideline Anecdote:

“The title came from [producer and Monument Records founder] Fred Foster. He called one night and said, ‘I’ve got a song title for you. It’s “Me and Bobby McKee.”’ I thought he said ‘McGee.’ Bobby McKee was the secretary of Boudleaux Bryant, who was in the same building with Fred. Then Fred says, ‘The hook is that Bobby McKee is a she. How does that grab you?’ (Laughs) I said, ‘Uh, I’ll try to write it, but I’ve never written a song on assignment.’ So it took me a while to think about.

“There was a Mickey Newbury song that was going through my mind—‘Why You Been Gone So Long?’ It had a rhythm that I really liked. I started singing in that meter.

“For some reason, I thought of La Strada, this Fellini film, and a scene where Anthony Quinn is going around on this motorcycle and Giulietta Masina is the feeble-minded girl with him, playing the trombone. He got to the point where he couldn’t put up with her anymore and left her by the side of the road while she was sleeping. Later in the film, he sees this woman hanging out the wash and singing the melody that the girl used to play on the trombone. He asks, ‘Where did you hear that song?’ And she tells him it was this little girl who had showed up in town and nobody knew where she was from, and later she died. That night, Quinn goes to a bar and gets in a fight. He’s drunk and ends up howling at the stars on the beach. To me, that was the feeling at the end of ‘Bobby McGee.’ The two-edged sword that freedom is. He was free when he left the girl, but it destroyed him. That’s where the line ‘Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose’ came from.

“The first time I heard Janis Joplin’s version was right after she died. Paul Rothchild, her producer, asked me to stop by his office and listen to this thing she had cut. Afterwards, I walked all over L.A., just in tears. I couldn’t listen to the song without really breaking up. So when I came back to Nashville, I went into the Combine Publishing building late at night, and I played it over and over again, so I could get used to it without breaking up. Songwriter and keyboardist Donnie Fritts came over and listened with me, and we wrote a song together that night about Janis, called ‘Epitaph’. “‘Bobby McGee’ was the song that made the difference for me. Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis.”- Kris Kristofferson

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Peter Lucia 6/1987

Peter LuciaJanuary 6, 1987 – Peter Paul Lucia, Jr.  was born on February 2, 1947 in Morristown, New Jersey. He was a drummer for Hog Heaven and member of Tommy James and Shondells, whose period of greatest success came in the late 1960s. He co-wrote Crimson and Clover with Tommy James, referring to having the title created during a football meeting between two high school teams of which his home team wore Crimson and the opponents green reminding him of Clover.

They had a series of number one singles in the US – “Hanky Panky” in 1966 and “Crimson and Clover” in 1969, and five other top ten hits; “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, “Mirage”, and “Sweet Cherry Wine”.

Crimson and Clover, often mistaken by Christmas is Over

Peter Lucia unexpectedly died from a heart attack on January 6, 1987 in Los Angeles, U.S. during a round of golf.In 2006, Tommy James & the Shondells were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of FameProfile

While researching the minuscule information available on Peter Lucia I stumbled on a 2008 story by The Guardian correspondent John Moore that pretty much underlines how I feel about this strange strange song that is so bubble gummy sweet, but perfect. Here is his take on it:

While watching Monster, the biopic of executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Crimson and Clover plays in the background as Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci become sapphically acquainted in a dingy motel room. There’s hardly any flesh on display, but the scene is extraordinarily erotic, due to the tender, otherworldly sweetness of this song.

Tommy James and the Shondells were one of the big US acts of the mid-60s, scoring massive hits with songs such as I Think We’re Alone Now and Monie Monie. However, it was only after his main songwriter, Bo Gentry, went on strike in a dispute with Roulette records, that James had a go at writing himself.

In the face of much derision and scepticism over just how far his talents might stretch, he and Shondells drummer Peter Lucia Jr descended into the bowels of New York City’s Brill building, and Crimson and Clover was the result.

It’s fantastically vague – perhaps the song’s title is a reference to ladies’ parts, or some sort of pharmaceutical, but I’m probably being sordid. More likely, they’re just nice (and wonderfully inarticulate) words to sing and rhyme to: “Now I don’t hardly know her”, and “Well if she come walkin’ over”, etc.

Several sites on the web mistakenly (or perhaps mischievously) attribute it to the Velvet Underground. It has exactly the same three chord-descending riff as the earliest incarnation of Sweet Jane – which was developing in the big apple at exactly the same time. Perhaps a pop detective could place Tommy James at Max’s Kansas City, or prove Lou Reed was hiding in a guitar case, but it’s just as likely with rock music barely into its adolescence, that two great minds could pluck the same riff from the ether and bring it down to earth. It’s possible to love them both, with no overlap.

The production is an immaculate accident, sounding like a budget, restrained Phil Spector with a map of The United States, crossing from the east coast to the west, and calling at all points in between. In five and a half minutes, it travels from aching adolescent mating call, to gum-chewing garage punk, to Nashville ballad, and ends in psychedelia – achieved by singing through the guitar amp tremolo input.

The song was of course a massive hit in the winter of 1969, although it might have lasted longer, had radio stations not mistaken the title for Christmas is Over and stopped playing it.

As the final verse of this hymn, I’ll tell you that Kenny Laguna, the Shondells’ keyboard player, went on to produce Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – the singer currently being my favourite person, due to her knocking all those dreadful I’ll-do-anything-to-be-famous pretenders out of my daughter’s affections, and replacing them with her I Love Rock’n’Roll, Crimson and Clover real self.

There’s a fantastic recent clip of Tommy James and the Shondells on YouTube. Although he is beginning to look strangely like Danny deVito as the Penguin, his voice is still utterly thrilling, and the song remains superb.

Oh, one very last thing. Before changing their name to the Shondells, the band was called … the Raconteurs.

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Yogi Horton 6/1987

yogihortonJune 8, 1987 – Yogi Horton was born Lawrence Horton on October 1, 1953 in Teaneck, New Jersey. Two neighborhood recording studios got a lot of young kids in his area to pick up music. Yogi choose drums following in the footsteps of famous Motown drummer Bennie Benjamin.

By the late 1970s he was a highly in-demand, colourful and energetic drummer for hundreds of sessions with dozens of artists and bands, such as Diana Ross, Odyssey, Grover Washington Jr., John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, The B-52s, The Rolling Stones, Debbie Harry as well as being the long time touring and recording drummer for the late R&B singer Luther Vandross and the singer songwriters Ashford & Simpson.

Also, he was a member of the Alessi Brothers band for three years in the mid-’80s, touring and recording with Barnaby Bye bandmates and twins Billy & Bobby Alessi.

On June 8, 1987 after a very tense concert performance behind Luther Vandross in New York City, Yogi was very upset about the state of his career and jumped from a 17th floor hotel window. He was 33.

This is an instructional video in which he breaks down groove drumming. His words are as meaningful as his playing

At the time of his untimely death, Yogi was the go-to guy for hundreds of sessions, as well as the touring/recording drummer for the late R&B singer Luther Vandross and legendary singer/songwriters Ashford & Simpson. This online tribute is a continuation from piece we published in the August ’07 issue of Modern Drummer magazine.

The History Of R&B/Funk Drumming, featuring Yogi Horton, is one of the very first instructional type videos of its kind. The video, which was produced by Hudson Music founders Paul Siegel and Rob Wallis in association with DCI in 1983, has unfortunately been out of print for sometime now. Paul’s recollection is that Yogi came up with a very strong presentation for the concept right on the spot. “There wasn’t any real discussion beforehand as I recall. He just launched into this spontaneous rap about R&B drumming, particularly Benny Benjamin, the genius drummer at Motown. We were so inexperienced in video production at the time, though, so the audio was recorded very poorly, and the video was rendered almost un-releasable.”

Rob Wallis recalls, “I first met Yogi in 1980/81, at an Ashford & Simpson rehearsal, through a friend of mine, Pete Cannarozzi, who was their keyboard player. I had already heard about Yogi’s playing and incredible groove, but had never seen him play live before—I’d only heard him on records. When I first walked into the rehearsal room, I remember hearing a huge amount of laughter and soon realized at the center of it was Yogi telling some story or joke.

“I also remember the amount of power he used for his backbeat,” Wallis continues. “He raised the stick high and came down with more force than I’d ever see anyone hit a drum with. His snare drum was probably the loudest thing in the band. As they went through their set, it was clear that Yogi drove the band with an amazing confidence. Even on the ballads, he played with complete force and conviction. When we spoke after the rehearsal, I found him to be a very warm and funny guy.

“We talked about him doing a master class,” Rob goes on, “at what was then the original location for Drummers Collective. It was the early days of home video, and Paul Siegel and I started videotaping—very crudely at first—classes at the school. We knew very little about filming, as we were both drummers and running the school. I remember Yogi coming in, rolling tape, and that was pretty much it. We had edited an hour-long video that was one of the first three or four titles our first company, DCI Music Video, ever released. It was a very simple and somewhat crude production and eventually taken off the market due to the production values it had. But it was a glimpse of Yogi and a document of one of the great Funk/R&B drummers of the ’80s.”

Memories Of Yogi

Yogi Horton was a member of the Alessi Brothers band for three years in the mid-’80s, touring and recording with Barnaby Bye bandmates and twins Billy & Bobby Alessi. Bobby Alessi recalls one particular evening on tour with Yogi. “He looked like a tough guy on the outside,” Bobby explains, “but inside he was a sensitive, caring person. He was also very honest—one time, in my case, maybe a little too honest. I remember once in Japan, we were all enjoying a little R&R at a popular private club. I was dancing with a beautiful model, having a great time, when Yogi called me over and said, ‘Yo Bobby, if I were you, brother, I wouldn’t dance.’ Needless to say, I suck at dancing.”
Billy Alessi remembers the very first band rehearsal with Yogi. “He came into the studio with all of us there, including the road staff and the our beautiful backup singer Diana Krall. Yogi proceeded to drop his sweat pants to his ankles, walks up to our percussionist, Carlos Rodriguez, and says, ‘Let’s go, sucka, pay up!’ Later we found out that Carlos told Yogi he wasn’t our kind of drummer and was so sure he would never get the gig that they made a bet. He wound up playing with us a for three years.”

Keyboardist Pete Cannarozzi says, “We all still talk about Yogi and smile backstage whenever I do an occasional show with Ashford and Simpson. Yogi and I were roommates for the Ashford and Simpson Solid tour in 1983/84. I could tell you road stories about Yogi, but they’re not suitable for print! As far as his drumming, I recall Yogi being the finest pocket player I ever worked with. His live playing dynamics were always sensitive and explosive, and his studio chops and stamina were never-ending. He will forever be in my Hall of Fame.”

Drummer Chris Parker shared the drum seat with Yogi in 1981 on the Ashford & Simpson–produced recording for their then back-up singer Ullanda McCullough. “Yogi and I used to hang out when he came down to my loft on Grand Street or at Mikell’s when Stuff was playing. Yogi had such a fierce groove and plenty of power behind the notes. He also had a musically wicked sense of humor and took delight in playing things that would trick your ears, like accent displacement, ‘one drop’ reggae fills that incredibly led to the downbeat, or a big crash where you’d least expect it. When he caught you by surprise like that, he’d throw back his head and laugh hard!”

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John Gary Driscoll 6/1987

john-gary-driscollJune 8, 1987 – John Gary Driscoll was born on 18 April 1946 was an American R&B style rock drummer who performed in a number of successful bands from the 1960s until his death on June 10, 1987.

He first entered the music scene when he joined Ronnie Dio and The Prophets in June 1965, fronted by Ronnie James Dio. The band transformed into The Electric Elves, The Elves, and finally Elf in 1969, releasing a few singles along the way. They were eventually discovered by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover who went on to produce two of Elf’s three studio albums.

Elf disbanded in 1975 when Gary Driscoll, Ronnie James Dio, Micky Lee Soule (Elf’s keyboardist) and Craig Gruber (their bassist) were recruited by Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore to form the rock band Rainbow.

Driscoll was dismissed from Rainbow shortly after their debut album, entitled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, was recorded. It is speculated that firing Gary was simply due to his R&B/jazz/funk style of drumming, which did not sit well with Blackmore. Driscoll was later replaced with British hard rocker, Cozy Powell.

By 1975 Elf was no more, disbanded to join Blackmore and his new band, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, they recorded an album of the same name and although the line-up never toured, the band and the album won critical acclaim. Despite the success of the album, Blackmore fired all of the band except Dio and replaced Driscoll on drums with Cozy Powell for the follow-up album and world tour. The former band members were suitably irate at being used by Blackmore to secure the services of Ronnie James Dio and regardless of stories about Blackmore’s dislike of Driscoll’s R&B style, the reality is that Blackmore only ever wanted Dio.

After his departure from Rainbow, Driscoll played in the band Dakota (1978–1980, from Scranton, Pa. formally the Jerry Kelly Band), before starting Bible Black with Craig Gruber, future Blue Cheer guitarist Duck McDonald and singer Jeff Fenholt. This band released the albums Ground Zero and, with a few other musicians, Thrasher, neither of which sold well. Driscoll found a day job, and made a little extra money on the side as a session musician and moved between bands.

Driscoll was found dead in a friend’s home in Ithaca, New York in June 1987 at the age of 41. His brutal murder remains unsolved with no apparent motive, although it is rumored to have been drug related. The man initially arrested for the crime was acquitted at trial. There have been leads in the case, and the person of interest has fled the country. There have been varying accounts as to the reason; from drug deals to a ritualistic satanic sacrifice. There is evidence to suggest that the murder was carried out by more than one person, whilst the chief suspect fled America before being charged.

Driscoll did not have the impact on rock music that Dio and Blackmore can rightfully claim but his appearance on that first Rainbow album is enough to cement his place in the genre’s history books.

Listen to his playing on this track, it’s ironic that he was fired for his ‘pop style’ given Blackmore’s reason for letting Dio go in favour of Graham Bonnet and a move towards chart single success. Ignore, if you will, Blackmore’s soloing and hear the drumming. It’s really rather good.

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Carlton Barrett 4/1987

carly barrettApril 17, 1987 – Carlton “Carly” Barrett was born December 17th 1950. As a teenager he built his first set of drums out of some empty paint tins, and had initially been influenced by Lloyd Knibb, the great drummer from the Skatalites. He and his brother Aston were raised in Kingston and absorbed the emerging ska sound. Working as a welder he first tried building a guitar and playing. But he soon realised guitar wasn’t his thing and picked up the drums.

In the late 1960s Carlton started playing sessions with his brother Aston, the pair calling themselves the Soul Mates or the Rhythm Force, before settling on The Hippy Boys, a line-up that featured Max Romeo on vocals. Leroy Brown, Delano Stewart, Glen Adams and Alva Lewis also played in the band’s fluctuating line-up.

The Hippy Boys became one of Kingston’s busiest session bands; fittingly their first recording was “Watch This Sound”, backing the late Slim Smith. They also released a couple of albums for Lloyd Charmers, Reggae with the Hippy Boys and Reggae Is Tight. As well as playing on many sessions for Bunny Lee and Sonia Pottinger, the Barrett brothers also played on two 1969 UK chart hits, “Liquidator” for Harry J, and “Return of Django” for Lee “Scratch” Perry, with whom they had now taken root.

For Perry, they took the name The Upsetters, and knocked out a long run of instrumentals, including “Clint Eastwood”, “Cold Sweat”, “Night Doctor”, and “Live Injection”. It was while with Perry that the Barrett brothers first teamed up with The Wailers, then a vocal trio consisting of Bob, Peter and Bunny. After recording many now classic numbers, Carly and Aston decided to team up with The Wailers on a permanent basis.

The Barrett brothers recorded several singles with the Wailers in 1969–70: “My Cup (Runneth Over)”, “Duppy Conqueror, “Soul Rebel”, and “Small Axe”. Most of these songs appeared on two Perry-produced Wailers albums: Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, and formed the early foundation of the one drop sound.

Though original Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston left the group in 1973, Carlton and Aston remained with Bob Marley and went on to record Natty Dread in 1974. Carlton has songwriting credits for two of Natty Dread’s songs: “Talkin’ Blues” and “Them Belly Full”.

Carlton remained with the Wailers in the studio and on tour until Bob Marley’s death in 1981. His signature style can be heard on every recording the Wailers produced since 1969, with the exception of the 1970 “Soul Shakedown Party” sessions produced by Leslie Kong.

On 17 April 1987, just as Carlton arrived at his Kingston home and walked across his yard, a gunman stepped up behind him and shot him twice in the head. He was dead on arrival at a Kingston hospital at age 36.

Shortly after his murder, Carlton’s wife, Albertine, her lover, a taxi driver named Glenroy Carter, and another man, Junior Neil, were arrested and charged with his killing. Albertine and Carter escaped the murder charge, and were instead convicted and sentenced to 7 years for conspiracy. After just one year in prison, they were released in December 1992 on a legal technicality.

Carlton is featured on all the albums recorded by Bob Marley and the Wailers with the exception of the 1970 “Soul Shakedown Party”.  As a famous and influential reggae drummer and percussion player, he was the originator of the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style. He wrote the well known Bob Marley song “War” and with his brother Aston co-wrote “Talkin’ Blues”.

With Carly’s beats and his brother Aston’s bass, the Wailer rhythm section planted the seeds of today’s international reggae.

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Lee Dorsey 12/1986

lee_dorseyDecember 1, 1986 – Irving Lee Dorsey  was born on Christmas Eve December 24, 1924 in New Orleans and a childhood friend of Fats Domino.

At age ten, the family moved to Portland Oregon, he became a WWII veteran, who turned lightweight boxer in the early 1950s and saw success as Kid Chocolate. In 1955, at age 30 he decided to retire from boxing, move back to New Orleans, used his savings to open an auto repair shop and sang in Night Clubs at night. In 1960 his talent was recognized and he was put in contact with young rising star musician/producer Allen Toussaint at a party.

Their first collaboration YaYa became a Golden Record seller but with the British invasion right on his tail, things cooled off a bit until he picked up working with Allen Toussaint again and from 1965 to 1969 he had seven songs in the Hot 100, the most successful of which was “Working In The Coal Mine” in 1966. In 1970 he and Allen Toussaint collaborated on an album entitled “Yes We Can”.

He appeared on an album with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which led to more recordings on his own with ABC Records in the late 1970s. In 1980, he opened for English punk band The Clash on their U.S. tour and opened on tours for James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. Many of his songs, and especially “YaYa” and “Working in the Coal Mine” have been covered by many international superstars over the years.

He died from emphysema on Dec 1, 1986 at age 61.

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Cliff Burton 9/1986

Cliff burtonSeptember 27, 1986 – Clifford Lee “Cliff” Burton was born on February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, California; best known for his time with metal band Metallica. He is widely considered to have been one of the most influential metal bassists of all time. He made heavy use of distortion and effects, heard on his signature piece, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”.

He began playing bass at age 13, practicing up to six hours per day, even after he joined Metallica. Cliff formed his first band “EZ-Street”, taking its name from a Bay Area topless bar. Other members of EZ Street included future Faith No More guitarist “Big” Jim Martin and future Faith No More and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Mike Bordin.

Cliff and Martin continued their musical collaboration after becoming students at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. Their second band, “Agents of Misfortune”, entered the Hayward Area Recreation Department’s “Battle of the Bands” contest in 1981. Their audition was recorded on video and features some of the earliest footage of Cliff’s trademark playing style. The video also shows his playing some parts of what would soon be two Metallica songs: his signature bass solo, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”, and the chromatic intro to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

He joined his first major band, Trauma, in 1982, after which he was invited to join Metallica, his first recording with Metallica was the Megaforce Demo. He recorded Metallica’s first 3 albums Kill ‘Em All-1983, Ride the Lightning-1984, and Master of Puppets-1986, before his tragic untimely death.

Cliff’s final performance was in Stockholm, Sweden on September 26th 1986. Tragically Cliff was crushed to death after the band’s tour bus crashed on the road between Stockholm and Copenhagen, killing him instantly.

Burton was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica on April 4, 2009. He was selected as the ninth greatest bassist of all time in an online reader poll organized by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2011.

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Linda Creed 4/1986

LindaCreedApril 10, 1986 -Linda Creed- Epstein was born on December 6th 1948 in Philadelphia and raised in the city’s Mt. Airy section. She started singing while attending Germantown High School. After graduation, she started singing on the Philadelphia night-club scene and eventually went to New York to get her “big break.” When that didn’t happen, she called her father for help in coming back home and she composed “I’m Coming Home” based on that experience. Linda’s big break actually came in 1970, when UK singer Dusty Springfield recorded her song “Free Girl”. That same year, she teamed up with songwriter and producer Thom Bell. Their first songwriting collaboration, “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”, became a Top 40 pop hit for the Stylistics.

Continue reading Linda Creed 4/1986

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O’Kelly Isley Jr. 3/1986

o'kelley isleyMarch 31, 1986 – O’Kelly Isley Jr (Isley Brothers) was born on December 25th 1937.  The eldest of the Isley Brothers, Kelly Isley started singing with his brothers at church. When he was 16, he and his three younger brothers (Rudy, Ronnie and Vernon) formed The Isley Brothers and toured the gospel circuit. Following the death of Vernon Isley from a road accident, the brothers decided to try their hand at doo-wop and moved to New York to find a recording deal. Between 1957 and 1959, the Isleys would record for labels such as Teenage and Mark X. In 1959, they signed with RCA Records after a scout spotted the trio’s energetic live performance.

O’Kelly and his brothers co-wrote their first significant hit, “Shout”. While the original version only peaked at the top 50 of the Hot 100, subsequent cover versions helped the song sell over a million copies. Later moving on to other labels including Scepter and Motown, the brothers would have hits with “Twist & Shout” in 1962 and “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)”. In 1959, the Isley family had relocated to Englewood, New Jersey where Kelly stayed with his mother and younger siblings.

In 1969, the brothers left Motown and started their own label, T-Neck Records, where they would write the majority of their recordings, including “It’s Your Thing”. Kelly and his brother Rudy began to take some lead spots on the group’s albums starting with the It’s Our Thing album in 1969. The track, “Black Berries”, from their The Brothers Isley album, was dedicated to Kelly, who Ron would always quote him as saying “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”. That saying had been originated by Harlem Renaissance novelist Wallace Thurman in the 1929 novel, The Blacker the Berry. After the inclusion of younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper, Kelly, Rudy and Ron didn’t write as much as they did in the past but in an agreement shared parts of the composition credits as they owned the songs’ publishing.

Kelly Isley during the Isleys’ 1970s heyday was usually photographed wearing a cowboy hat and Western type of clothing. According to his brother Ernie, it was Kelly who discovered a homeless Jimi Hendrix after hearing of Hendrix’s talents as a guitarist and helped him get a job with the brothers’ band and allowed to live in his mother’s house.

In 1985 the brothers released the Masterpiece album. It’s Kelly who sings most of the lead of the Phil Collins ballad, “If Leaving Me Is Easy”, on the album with Ron backing him up. Kelly’s last appearance as member of the Isley Brothers was in 1986 on the song “Good Hands” from the Wildcats soundtrack.
A heavyset man, Kelly contracted cancer and lost weight, which was shown on the group’s album cover of Masterpiece. In March 1986, Kelly suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 48 in his Alpine, New Jersey home


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Richard Manuel 3/1986

Richard ManuelMarch 4, 1986 – Richard George Manuel (The Band) was born on April 3rd 1943 in Stratford, Ontario. He was raised with three brothers, and the four sang in the church choir. Manuel took piano lessons beginning when he was nine, and enjoyed playing piano and rehearsing with friends at his home. Manuel received a diploma from the Ontario Conservatory of Music in lap steel guitar; this was his only formal music certification. Some of his childhood influences were Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush.

He and three friends started a band when he was fifteen, originally named the Rebels but later changed to the Revols, in deference to Duane Eddy and the Rebels. The group also included Ken Kalmusky, a founding member of Great Speckled Bird, and John Till, a founding member of the Full Tilt Boogie Band (Janis Joplin). Although primarily known as a naturally talented vocalist with a soulful rhythm and blues style and rich timbre (often compared to that of Ray Charles), Manuel also developed an intensely rhythmic style of piano unique in its usage of inverted chord structures. These talents were showcased in the Revols.

Manuel first became acquainted with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks when the Revols opened for them in Port Dover, Ontario. According to Levon Helm, Hawkins remarked to him about Manuel: “See that kid playing piano? He’s got more talent than Van Cliburn.” The two bands once again connected at the Stratford Coliseum in 1961, when the Revols ended a show featuring the Hawks as headliners. After hearing Manuel singing “Georgia on My Mind”, Hawkins hired the Revols’ pianist rather than competing with them. Manuel was eighteen when he joined Ronnie Hawkins’s backing group, the Hawks. At this time the band already consisted of 21-year-old Levon Helm on drums, 17-year-old Robbie Robertson on guitar and 18-year-old Rick Danko on bass; 24-year-old organist Garth Hudson joined that Christmas.

In 1965, Helm, Hudson and Robertson helped back American bluesman John Hammond on his album So Many Roads. Hammond recommended them to Bob Dylan, who tapped them to serve as his backing band while he switched to an electric sound. In 1966, they toured Europe and the U.S. with Dylan and were known for enduring the ire of Dylan’s folk fans, and were subjected to unpleasant hissing and booing. They gradually became called The Band.

Dylan opened doors for them in the music business by introducing them to his manager, Albert Grossman, and taught them by example about writing their own material.

In 1967, while Dylan recovered from a motorcycle accident in Woodstock, New York, the group moved there also, renting a pink house on 100 acres (0.40 km2) and were paid a retainer by Dylan. Not having to be constantly working and traveling allowed them to experiment with a new sound garnered from the country, soul, rhythm and blues, gospel and rockabilly music that they loved. During this time, while Helm was temporarily absent from the group, Manuel taught himself to play drums in a technically irreverent, “loosey-goosey” style, a little behind the beat, similar to jazz drumming. In the Band era he would frequently assume the drummer’s stool when Helm played mandolin or guitar. Examples of this are the songs “Rag Mama Rag” and “Evangeline”. Manuel’s drumming is prominent on the album Cahoots.

The early months in Woodstock also allowed Manuel and Robertson to develop as songwriters.

Richard’s is the first voice you hear on The Band’s legendary debut album, Music From Big Pink, a rich baritone so soulful and charged with pathos it’s hard to believe it could come from the frail Canadian. Music from Big Pink was released with the group name given as simply “The Band”. This would be their name for the rest of the group’s existence. While only reaching No. 30 on the Billboard charts, the album would have a profound influence on the nascent country rock movement; “Tears of Rage” and “The Weight” would rank among the most covered songs of the era.

In 1970, Manuel acted in the Warner Bros. film Eliza’s Horoscope, an independent Canadian drama written and directed by Gordon Sheppard. He portrayed “the bearded composer,” performing alongside Tommy Lee Jones, former Playboy Bunny Elizabeth Moorman, and Lila Kedrova.
Manuel’s “Blues for Breakfast” (an early Woodstock composition) was covered by Cass Elliot on Dream a Little Dream (1968).

He was credited to writing only three songs (“When You Awake,” “Whispering Pines,” and “Jawbone”) on The Band (1969) and two (“Sleeping” and “Just Another Whistle Stop”) on Stage Fright (1970); all of these compositions were credited as collaborations with Robertson, who had assumed dominance in the group’s affairs with Grossman.

According to Helm,
When The Band came out we were surprised by some of the songwriting credits. In those days we didn’t realize that song publishing–more than touring or selling records–was the secret source of the real money in the music business. We’re talking long term. We didn’t know enough to ask or demand song credits or anything like that. Back then we’d get a copy of the album when it came out and that’s when we’d learn who’d got the credit for which song. True story…. When the album [The Band] came out, I discovered I was credited with writing half of “Jemima Surrender” and that was it. Richard was a co-writer on three songs. Rick and Garth went uncredited. Robbie Robertson was credited on all 12 songs. Someone had pencil-whipped us.

It was an old tactic: divide and conquer. I went on to express [to Robertson] my belief in creating music with input from everyone and reminded him that all the hot ideas from basic song concepts to the mixing and sequencing of our record, were not always exclusively his. I complained that he and Albert had been making important business decisions without consulting the rest of us. And that far too much cash was coming down in his and Albert’s corner. Our publishing split was far from fair, I told him, and had to be fixed. I told him that he and Albert ought to try and write some music without us because they couldn’t possibly find the songs unless we were all searching together. I cautioned that most so-called business moves had fucked up a lot of great bands and killed off whatever music was left in them.

I told Robbie that The Band was supposed to be partners. Since we were teenagers, we banded against everything and anyone that got in our way. Nothing else–pride, friends, even money–mattered to the rest of us as much as the band did. Even our families had taken second place when the need arose. I said “Robbie, a band has to stick together, protect each other support and encourage each other and grow the music the way a farmer grows his crops.”

Robbie basically told me not to worry because the rumors were true: Albert was going to build a state-of-the-art recording studio in Bearsville and wanted us to be partners in it with him. So any imbalance in song royalties would work out a hundred fold within the grand scheme of things. We would always be a band of brothers with our own place. No more nights in some company’s sterile studio…All we needed to do was play our music and follow our hearts. Well, it never quite worked out that way. We stayed in the divide and conquer mode, a process that no one ever seems to be able to stop to this day.

By Cahoots (1971), producer John Simon felt that “Robbie didn’t… consciously intimidate him… but when you met Robbie he was so smooth and urbane and witty, whereas Richard was such a gee-golly-gosh kind of guy”; the influence of Manuel’s increasingly harmful abuse of heroin may have also contributed to the diminution of his songwriting abilities.

The Band continued touring throughout 1974, supporting Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young alongside Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys on a grueling summer stadium tour. By 1975, Robertson had expressed his dissatisfaction with touring and was acting in an increasingly parental capacity, as the move to Malibu had seen him take the managerial reins on a de facto basis from an increasingly diffident Grossman. According to Helm, Manuel was now consuming eight bottles of Grand Marnier every day on top of a prodigious cocaine addiction, factors that ultimately precipitated his divorce from Jane Manuel in 1976. During that period, he developed a kinship with the similarly despondent Eric Clapton and was a driving force behind the boozy sessions that make up the guitarist’s No Reason to Cry (1976). Recorded at the Band’s new Shangri-La Studios, Manuel gave Clapton the song “Beautiful Thing” (a Band demo that Danko helped him finish) and provided vocals for “Last Night”.

On the group’s final full-fledged tour, Manuel was still recovering from a car accident earlier in the year; several tour dates were scrapped after a power-boating accident near Austin, Texas, that summer, which necessitated the hiring of Tibetan healers, in a scenario reminiscent of Robertson’s pre-show hypnosis before their first concert as the Band at the Winterland Ballroom in April 1968. The quality of the shows was frequently contingent upon Manuel’s relative sobriety. As he could no longer sustain the high vocal register of “Tears of Rage” or “In a Station”, his most notable contributions were confined to impassioned, raging versions of the prophetic “The Shape I’m In”, “Rockin’ Chair” and “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”, propelled by his hoarse (though still very expressive) voice.

The Band played its final show as its original configuration at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day of 1976. The concert was filmed in 35 mm by Robertson cohort and longtime Band fan Martin Scorsese for the documentary The Last Waltz. Manuel can be heard, but barely seen, singing “I Shall Be Released,” surrounded by various guest stars. While Manuel’s famed sense of humor and warm, congenial nature emerged in the interview segments, so did his shyness, deferential attitude – and inebriation. Initially the group only intended to end live performances as the Band, and each member was initially kept on a retainer of $2,500 per week by Warner Brothers. However, by 1978, the group had drifted apart.

Taking advantage of this new solace, Manuel moved to Garth Hudson’s ranch outside Malibu. He entered an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, became sober for the first time in years and eventually remarried. During this time he played little-publicized gigs in L.A.-area clubs as leader of the Pencils (with Terry Danko on lead guitar). By 1980, Rick Danko and Manuel had begun to tour regularly as an acoustic duo; along with Hudson, Manuel played on several instrumental cues composed by Robertson for the soundtrack of Raging Bull (1980).

The Band reformed in 1983 with the Cate Brothers and Jim Weider augmenting the four returning members of the group – Manuel, Helm, Hudson, and Danko. Freed from his addictions, Manuel was initially in his best shape since the “Big Pink” era. Having reclaimed some of his vocal range lost in the years of drug abuse, Manuel performed old hits such as “The Shape I’m In”, “Chest Fever”, and “I Shall Be Released” alongside favorites such as Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” and “She Knows”. During this time, Manuel co-wrote a song with Gerry Goffin and Carole King called “Breaking New Ground”.

In January 1986, Albert Grossman died of a heart attack. Grossman had been a father figure and confidant to Manuel, and an instrumental figure in any possible solo career. Depressed by Grossman’s death, dwindling access to prestigious concert venues and the perception that the Band had stagnated and had become a traveling jukebox, Manuel returned to his alcohol and cocaine addictions. On March 4, after a gig at the Cheek to Cheek Lounge, in Winter Park, Florida (outside Orlando), Manuel committed suicide. He had appeared to be in relatively good spirits but ominously thanked Hudson for “twenty-five years of incredible music”. The Band returned to the Quality Inn, down the block from the Cheek to Cheek Lounge, and Manuel talked with Levon Helm about music and film in Helm’s room. According to Helm, at around 2:30 Manuel said he needed to get something from his room. Upon returning to his motel room, it is believed that he finished one last bottle of Grand Marnier before hanging himself. Manuel’s wife Arlie—also intoxicated at the time—discovered his body along with the depleted bottle and a small amount of cocaine the following morning.

He was 42 at the time.


Canadian singer, piano, keyboards, drums, and lap slide guitarist,

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Howard Greenfield 3/1986

Howard GreenfieldMarch 3, 1986 – Howard Greenfield (songwriting partner with Neil Sedaka) was born on March 15, 1936 on Brooklyn, New York. By his late teens Greenfield formed a songwriting partnership with Neil Sedaka, a friend he had met as a teenager when they both lived in the same apartment building, in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. For several years in the 1960s they worked out of the famous Brill Building. He is best known for his series of successful songwriting collaborations, first with Neil Sedaka from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, and a near-simultaneous and equally successful songwriting partnership with Jack Keller throughout most of the 1960s.

He co-wrote four songs that reached No.1 on the US Billboard charts: “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”, as recorded by Neil Sedaka; “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and “Breakin’ in a Brand New Broken Heart”, both as recorded by Connie Francis, and “Love Will Keep Us Together”, as recorded by The Captain & Tennille.

He also co-wrote numerous other top 10 hits for Neil Sedaka, including “Oh! Carol”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Calendar Girl”, “Little Devil”, “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”, and “Next Door to an Angel”;

for Connie Francis including the “Theme to Where The Boys Are” and “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own”;

for The Everly Brothers-“Crying In The Rain”;

for Jimmy Clanton-“Venus In Blue Jeans” and

for The Shirelles-“Foolish Little Girl”.

As well, co-writing the theme songs to numerous 1960s TV series, including Bewitched, The Flying Nun and Hazel.

In 2005, “Is This The Way To Amarillo”, a song Greenfield had written with Sedaka in the early 1970s, reached No.1 on the UK charts sung by Tony Christie when the song was re-released on 14 March 2005 to raise money for the Comic Relief charity, with an accompanying video by comedian Peter Kay. The video featured an all-star celebrity line-up lip-synching the track, and the proceeds went to charity. The record stayed at #1 for 7 weeks, and became the UK’s best-selling record of the millennium to that time.

Other artists than Connie Francis who sang Howard’s songs include Captain & Tennille, Cher, Patsy Cline, Neil Diamond, Everly Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, Shirelles, Etta James, Air Supply, LaVern Baker, and Gloria Estefan.

In 1991, Howard Greenfield was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

He died from complications due to AIDS at age 49 on March 3, 1986.

I’ll never let you see, the way my broken heart is hurting me,

I’ve got my pride and know how to hide

all my sorrow and pain, I’ll do my crying in the rain…”

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Phil Lynott 1/1986

phil lynott of thin lizzieJanuary 4, 1986 – Philip ParrisPhilLynott was born on 20 August 1949 in West Bromwich, England from a British mom and an Afro Guyanese father and became the bass player/frontman singer of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.

When Phil was four years old, he went to live with his grandmother Sarah in Crumlin, Dublin, while his mother stayed in Manchester. In spite of a seemingly confusing domestic arrangement, Lynott had a happy childhood growing up in Dublin, and was a popular character at school.

In the mid 1960s, he began singing in his first band, the Black Eagles. Around this time, he befriended Brian Downey, who was later persuaded to join the band. Before long  however the Black Eagles broke up and Phil joined ‘Kama Sutra’ before settling into a short stint singing in (Irish) Skid Row alongside guitar icon Gary Moore (all of 16 years old at the time), before learning the bass guitar and forming Thin Lizzy in 1969.

In 1969, Phil and Brian Downey formed Thin Lizzy with guitarist Eric Bell and keyboard player Eric Wrixon, both had been in the top Irish band Them with Van Morrison as frontman.. Phil was the main songwriter for Thin Lizzy, as well as the lead singer and bassist, even though he was essentially a shy person, who took a long time to create his on stage persona.

The name Thin Lizzy came from the character “Tin Lizzie” in the comic The Dandy, which in turn was based on the nickname for theFord Model T car. The “h” deliberately added to mimic the way the word “thin” is pronounced in a Dublin accent. Lynott only later discovered Henry Ford’s slogan for the Model T, “Any color you like as long as it’s black”, which he felt was appropriate for him. Wrixon was felt by the others to be superfluous to requirements and left after the release of the band’s first single, The Farmer in July 1970.

During the band’s early years, despite being the singer, bassist and chief songwriter, Lynott was still fairly reserved and introverted on stage, and would stand to one side while the spotlight concentrated on Bell, who was initially regarded as the group’s leader. During the recording of the band’s second album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, Lynott very nearly left Thin Lizzy to form a new band with Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice. He decided however he would rather build up Lizzy’s career from the ground up than jump into another band that had big-name musicians in it. Due to being in dire financial straits, Lizzy did, however, soon afterwards record an album of Deep Purple covers anonymously under the name Funky Junction. Lynott did not sing on the album as he felt his voice was not in the same style as Ian Gillan.

Towards the end of 1972, Thin Lizzy got their first major break in the UK by supporting Slade, then nearing the height of their commercial success. Inspired by Noddy Holder’s top hat with mirrors, Lynott decided to attach a mirror to his bass, which he carried over to subsequent tours. On the opening night of the tour, an altercation broke out between Lynott and Slade’s manager Chas Chandler (former Animals bass player), who chastised his lack of stage presence and interaction with the audience, and threatened to throw Lizzy off the tour unless things improved immediately. Lynott subsequently developed his onstage rapport and stage presence that would become familiar over the remainder of the decade.

Their first top ten hit was in 1973, with a rock version of the traditional Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar“. After this initial success, the band found strong commercial success in the mid-1970s with hits such as “The Boys Are Back in Town“, “Jailbreak” and “Waiting for an Alibi” and became a popular live attraction due to the combination of Lynott’s vocal and songwriting skills and the use of dual lead guitars.

Having finally achieved mainstream success, Thin Lizzy embarked on several consecutive world tours. The band continued on Jailbreak’s success with the release of a string of hit albums, including Bad Reputation and Black Rose: A Rock Legend, and the live album Live and Dangerous, which feature Lynott in the foreground on the cover. However, the band was suffering from personnel changes, with Robertson being replaced temporarily by Gary Moore in 1976, and then permanently the following year, partly due to a personnel clash with Lynott.

In 1978, Lynott began to work on projects outside of Thin Lizzy. He was featured in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, singing and speaking the role of Parson Nathaniel on “The Spirit of Man”. He performed sessions for a number of artists, including singing backing vocals with Bob Geldof on Blast Furnace and the Heatwaves’ “Blue Wave” EP. He was a judge at the 1978 Miss World contest.  Towards the end of the 1970s, Lynott also embarked upon a solo career, published two books of poetry.

He released two solo albums in 1980, though Thin Lizzy were still enjoying considerable success. In 1984, after Thin Lizzy disbanded, he formed a new band, Grand Slam, with Doish Nagle, Laurence Archer, Robbie Brennan, and Mark Stanway, of which he was the leader until it folded in 1985 due to a lack of money and Lynott’s increasing addiction to heroin. He had one more major UK success with Gary Moore with the song “Out in the Fields”, followed by the minor hit “Nineteen”, before his death on 4 January 1986.

His heroin dependency landed him in the hospital on Christmas Day 1985. Although he regained consciousness enough to speak to his mother, his condition worsened by the start of the new year and he was put on a respirator. He died of pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia in the hospital’s intensive care unit on 4 January 1986, at the age of 36

He was 36 years 4 months 15 days old when he died on 4 January 1986

He remains a popular figure in the rock world, and in 2005, a statue to his memory was erected in Dublin.

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Ricky Nelson 12/1985

Ricky NelsonDecember 31, 1985 – Ricky Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson on May 8th 1940 in Teaneck, New Jersey. His parents were Ozzie and Harriet, which makes it necessary to look back to the creative roots of the Nelson family for Ricky’s talent and fame that came from more than 50 Hot 100 hits, being second only to Elvis Presley as the most popular rock and roll artist of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Nelson family was the first family in history that produced a REALITY TV show, half a century before the Ozbourne’s and Kardashian’s.

Ricky’s dad, Ozzie Nelson, was a pretty good singer, a very funny man, and a well-known band leader when he first spotted beautiful Harriet Hilliard and hired her as a vocalist for his busy orchestra in the early 1930’s. Harriet was the daughter of the show business parents and had been a professional actress, dancer, and singer since childhood. Ozzie and Harriet began a signature act that included comedic boy-girl banter in between the dance numbers. They married in 1935 and continued as a professional team after a successful transition to radio, launching their own radio show: “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” By 1940 two younger Nelsons had made a foursome- older brother David and his baby brother Ricky. A musical bent had been evident early, and so was the tendency toward solitary pursuits. Even as a tow-headed little boy of 3 or 4, Ricky could often be found lying under the family’s huge Wurlitzer radio, small bare feet sticking out, listening quietly to classical music. Eventually the boys joined “the act,” begging to play themselves on their parents radio show. Despite Ozzie and Harriet’s initial doubts, the move paid off and the show’s audience peaked to almost 20 million listeners. After 3 years the Nelson family changed format again, testing their visual appeal in a motion picture comedy called “Here comes the Nelsons” in 1947. It’s success led to an offer for a weekly television show, and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” became the first and longest running family situation comedy and part of the American lexicon.

Even though Ricky was a small and insecure child who suffered from severe asthma, he later became the show’s most popular character. His trademark line “I don’t mess around, boy” became a national catch phrase. More and more the show’s plots, written by Ozzie, revolved around Rick’s real life adventures. Story lines would incorporate Rick’s natural athleticism, for example, and Ozzie would have the cameras brought to the tennis courts. Rick ranked fifth in California among tennis player’s 15 years old and younger competed nationally, and at one time had ambitions to go professional. When his parents gave him a car for his sixteenth birthday, it too made its appearance in an episode.

By 1956 a new type of music was taking America by storm – Rock n’ Roll and Elvis Presley was on every teenager’s mind, including Rick Nelson’s. When an admiring Rick dressed up as Elvis on a Halloween show, the episode garnered huge ratings. At sixteen years old, dark haired, blue eyed and handsome, Rick was another heartthrob in the making. One night on a date with a girl who swooned over an Elvis Presley song playing on the radio, Rick retorted that he too was cutting a record (which he had no plans to do) and was met with derisive laughter. He determined to make it happen, secured a recording studio, and did his own cover of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin.” Ozzie telecast Rick performing the song to his already massive audience and a career in music was launched. “I’m Walkin” flew out of the stores and sold one million copies in a week, completely unheard of at that time. The song went to #2 on the Billboard Chart, and its flip side, “A Teenagers Romance” hit #2 as well.

Through the novel power of television, Rick Nelson became one of the first artists that audiences saw and heard simultaneously. He would perform a song at the end of every show, sometime having nothing to do with the plot. Rock n’ Roll was considered salacious and scandalous in the mainstream 50’s, and weekly the “nice Nelson boy” smuggled it into living rooms and made it acceptable to parents. Consequently American teenagers had far greater access to Rock n’ Roll than they ever would have had, arguably Rick Nelson’s most important contribution to music.

The Nelson family was unprepared for the commotion Rick’s success would cause. The Hollywood post office allotted an entire room to handle the fan mail that poured in from around the world. The family had to erect an electric fence around their home to discourage girls from climbing in the windows, and Rick received his diploma from Hollywood High School through the mail, the principle fearing his presence at graduation would cause a riot. Life magazine ran a cover story on Rick, and coined an original phrase to describe what he had become: a “Teenage Idol.”

Music and respect for music was part of the fabric of the Nelson household. From the beginning, Rick understood the importance of having an excellent band to back him up. Both on record and on stage he invariably associated with brilliant musicians who worked in a variety of different musical genres, from blues to rockabilly. For seven years his backup band included James Kirkland, Joe Osborn, and guitar legend James Burton, who later played lead for Elvis Presley and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Rick’s records consciously avoided the overly slick production trends that characterized much of the music of the era. He played the music that he loved to listen to. Whether it was written for him by rockabilly greats Johnny and Dorsey Burnett or R&B veteran Baker Night, the music was always excellent. Rick also did covers of obscure rockers, his tastes often clashing with his father’s. The more “rocking” cuts were often the flip side of the softer, croonier tunes favored by Ozzie, who suggested that the ballads better represented Rick’s “respectable” image on the television show. This rocker/ballad coupling would be repeated many times in Rick’s career. Between his first hit in 1957 and 1961 he had 36 Hot One hundred titles, several of them double-sided hits. At the age of 21 Rick had already 9 gold records for the Imperial label, and his single hit that year, “Travelin’ Man,” sold over 2 million copies and went to #1. Its flip side “Hello, Mary Lou” proved to be his biggest hit ever, reaching #1 in 32 countries and selling in excess of 7 million copies world wide. For the television show, Ozzie overlaid Rick’s performance of “Travelin’ Man” with some footage specially shot on location, making it the first conceptual rock video in history.

The handsome teenager with the deep blue eyes and quiet, modest manner was also a personal appearance sensation, shattering attendance records in America and abroad. He broke Sinatra’s attendance record at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City when 43,000 fans showed up, just managing to make the stage door by flying over the crowd in a helicopter. Nelson’s fame brought him numerous film offers, but unlike many other teen idols, he eschewed the typical teen fare for critically acclaimed parts in Howard’s Hawks’ classic “Rio bravo” (1959), which co-starred John Wayne and Dean Martin, and “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” (1960) with Jack Lemmon.

A change of musical climate was around the corner. By 1962, America was well in the grip of “The British Invasion.” A new generation of teenage record fans and buyers were filling the airways and charts with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Homegrown rockers like Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, and Ricky Nelson were suddenly considered passe. Despite a new lucrative 20-year contract with Decca Records, Rick struggled on the charts. Personally, things were changing for him as well. In 1962 Rick became engaged to Kristin Harmon, the beautiful 17 year old daughter of football great Tom Harmon. Rick had first met Kris in the gym of Hollywood High when she asked for his autograph which he signed “To Christin”- much to her chagrin. Kris’ mother, actress Eylse Knox, was socially acquainted with Harriet Nelson, and said to her prophetically “if the two quiet ones ever get together, there might be an explosion.” Many strategically arranged meetings later, Rick and Kris’ wedding in April 1963 was called “The Wedding of the Year” by Life magazine. The couple eventually settled into married life in Los Angeles with a new baby daughter, Tracy, born October 25 of the same year. Both wife and daughter joined Rick on the family television show. Then in 1965, after 14 years and 435 episodes, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” finally came to an end.

Professionally, Rick was searching, at risk of getting stuck on the doldrums. He tried many different creative projects during this period. He co-starred with his wife Kris in a fluffy family movie called “Love and Kisses,” broke attendance records touring the Orient, made his stage debut in a musical comedy, and continued putting out admittedly uninspired cuts for Decca.

Rick’s recording career was soon to undergo a change for the better, on every level. He’d always loved country music; songs like “No Vacancy” and ” Night Train to Memphis” were among the first songs he learned to play. He decided to cut a country album outside of Nashville, to prove it could be done, and done well. To this end James Burton, Glen Cambell, the Jordinaries and other excellent players were assembles, and the result was “Bright Lights and Country Music.” The experience became a professional turning point for Rick, gaining him immediate acceptance in a totally new arena. Rick began recording, freshly inspired, pioneering a style that would soon become known as country rock, the California country sound.

In 1967 twin sons Gunnar and Matthew were born. Rick was hanging out at the L.A. country-rock bastion the Troubadour, and taking his inspiration from friend Bob Dylan, who encouraged him to express himself honestly through his music. Rick began to put together “The Stone Canyon Band,” which at various times would include ex-Poco bassist and future Eagle Randy Meisner, Richie Hayward of Little Feat, John Beland of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Bakersville legend Tom Brumley on steel guitar. A double live album recorded with the new band at the Troubadour in 1969 “Rick Nelson in Concert,” put to rest the charge that he was just a lucky teen idol with a pretty face and garnered unanimous rave reviews. Rick Nelson had left “Ricky” behind for good. His next, and personally greatest, success rose out of a seeming failure.

In October of 1971, Nelson was reluctantly persuaded to play a Rock n’ Roll revival show at Madison Square Garden, on the same bill as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell, among others. By this time Rick’s hair had grown shoulder length, he wore bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, and he sang his new material. The audience had come expecting their entertainment to be frozen in time, a 50s malt shop, and Rick wasn’t playing along. Halfway through his set, the crowd began to stomp and boo. There were reports that police were in the back moving people out, and in the political spirit of the early 70’s the crowd was actually booing the police activity. Regardless, Rick thought the booing was meant for him, and deeply shaken, he left the stage. The experience inspired him to put his thoughts down on paper: “I went to a Garden Party, to reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again. When I got to the Garden Party, they all knew my name, but no one heard the music- I didn’t look the same. But it’s all right now. I learned my lesson well. You see you can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” “Garden Party” became Rick’s first million-seller in over a decade, hitting at #6 and going gold in 1972. On the cover of the album is a different image of Rick. He stands in starkly formal black and white, defiantly holding out his Les Paul guitar, confidence in his eyes. Rick Nelson was sure of this new direction, and proud of his message. He would from then on consider “you can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself” his personal anthem.

Rick continued to produce new material, including a son, Sam, in 1974. But due to his professional comeback, his marriage to Kris was stressed by constant touring, and it began to fall apart. Partly because he so loved to perform and partly due to his expensive and protracted divorce, Nelson found himself on the road an average of 250 night a year through the late 70’s and early 80’s. When he sang ” If memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck,” he meant it, even turning down a long term 1 million dollar offer (arranged by Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker) to play Las Vegas at a point when he was deeply in debt. In September 1984, he was invited to join in the finale of a Sun Records reunion album that featured Nelson’s early idols Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
There, alone in the studio, Carl Perkins quietly turned and said: “Well, Ricky, it looks like the two of us are the only real rockabilly cats left.” The resulting album “Interviews from the class of 55 Recording Sessions” won a Grammy in 1986 for Best Spoken Word Recording. It was Rick’s only Grammy, and vastly ironic to those who knew him well the quiet man who would rather sing than talk. In the mid 80’s, Rick had bought the old Errol Fylnn estate in the Hollywood Hills, a house much coveted by his father Ozzie many years earlier. He lived there with his new girlfriend Helen Blair and his college bound daughter Tracy. He adored his youngest son Sam, who was at the time being raised across town by Kris’ parents. Twin sons Gunnar and Matthew, young rockers playing L.A. night clubs, lived with their mother Kris and often begged professional advice from Rick, who was proud of their musicality. He would tell them simply to “just believe in what you’re doing, and keep doing it.”

By 1985, Rick had assembled a new, vibrant, young band, including Memphis’ Bobby Neal on lead guitar and L.A. rockabilly hotshots Pat Woodward and Ricky Intveld. Nelson had signed a new deal with Curb/MCA., and the group toured extensively, attacking their material with energy and excitement. Travel was constant and particularly stressful for Rick. For all of his life, Rick had maintained an avid fear of flying, sometimes referring to premonitions and a conviction that he could see himself “as an old man.” He insisted on 2 rules of air travel: he would always fly commercially and never in anything with a propeller. He broke both of his own rules when he decided to purchase a vintage DC-3 that had been previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis, surprising and confusing those who knew him well. The plane was dubbed “the flying bus,” because of its sluggishness and tendency to malfunction on the runway. A continuing irritation to the passengers was the temperamental gas heater on board, which would sometimes be adjusted mid-flight by the pilot when the cabin got too cold for the exhausted band.

On December 31, 1985, en route from Alabama to a New Year’s Eve show in Dallas, Nelson’s DC-3 crash-landed in a field near DeKalb, Texas. The burning plane trapped its passengers inside, killing all aboard, except the pilot and co-pilot, who escaped through the cockpit window. Early press reports erroneously suggested that drug usage aboard the plane might have played a role in the fire that killed Rick, his band, and Helen Blair. In fact, both the F.A.A. and the 1987 National Transportation and Safety Board report determined conclusively that the fire had begun in a malfunctioning gas heater.

Eric Hilliard (Rick) Nelson was buried in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn Cemetery. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. His friend Bob Dylan paid tribute to him while on tour, with a moment of silence and a version of “Lonesome Town” at each concert.

Rick Nelson was a household name and an American teen idol before he ever cut a record. In nearly every regard he would seem the antithesis of the early rockers who made the music he first loved and recorded, rockabilly, and far removed form the late 60’s environment that nurtured country rock, of which he was the vanguard. Artists as diverse as Paul McCartney and John Forgarty, and even some of his own heroes, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, admired and respected him. A seasoned professional by the age of 6, Rick Nelson carved out a place for himself on radio, television, film and the music charts. In fact his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame represents achievements in music, television, and radio. He sold in excess of 50 million albums worldwide. He had 18 top 10 singles and over Billboard charted records. He is ranked the 4th singles seller of all time.

Rick Nelson the man remains something of an enigma, even to those who knew him best. He was a very private person, sometimes solitary. He was quiet, gentle and modest. He could startle with his wicked sense of humor and constant practical joking, exemplified by one of the family’s favorite stories. Apparently newlywed Kris ceremoniously served Rick her first brave attempt at pork chops. The phone rang in the other room, and Kris went to get it. When she returned, Rick was gone- and the pork chops were nailed to the wall. He loved to laugh. He believed there was power in subtlety. But most of all he believed in being true to oneself. He lived honestly, gracefully, and with innate integrity.

In the early 1970’s, Rick wrote a song called “Gypsy Pilot.” This is the final verse:

“When they claim my body, they won’t have much to say. Except that he lived a good life, he lived every day. And you know he saw the sunshine, and you know he felt the rain. He loved everybody, And he hopes you do the same.”

Now 15 years into the 21st century we can say with certainty that Hello Mary Lou was the ultimate theme song of a generation and hit n0. 1 on Hit parades across the globe.

Ricky Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and also to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.

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Ian Stewart 12/1985

Ian-StewartDecember 12, 1985 – Ian Andrew Robert Stewart was born on July 18, 1938 at Kirklatch Farm, Pittenweem, East Neuk, Fife, Scotland, and raised in Sutton, Surrey. Stewart (often called Stu) started playing piano when he was six. He took up the banjo and played with amateur groups on both instruments. Stewart, who loved rhythm & blues, boogie-woogie, blues and big-band jazz, was first to respond to Brian Jones’s advertisement in Jazz News of 2 May 1962 seeking musicians to form a rhythm & blues group. The shifting and shuffling in the early British rock and roll days left unfortunate victims like Stu Sutcliff and Pete Best with the Beatles; Ian Stewart became one of those as well and to a degree even Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones also.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined a month later in June, and the group, with Dick Taylor (bass, who left several months later and founded the Pretty Things) and Mick Avory on drums. Avory claims that Tony Chapman (later with Frampton in the Herd) and not him, played the first gig under the name The Rolling Stones at the Marquee Club on 12 July 1962. In any case by late fall the rhythm section of Avory (ended up with the Kinks) and Taylor had left and replaced by Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.

Because the arrogant band’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham did not think Ian Stewart fitted the image he wanted to market and thought six was too many members, he “forced” the others to officially “retire him from the group” in 1963. He continued until his death as their road manager and pianist playing on all their albums of the first decade among others. Both Jagger and Richards often claimed that without Stewart the Stones would have broken up the same way the Beatles did early on.

Stewart loaded gear into his van, drove the group to gigs, replaced guitar strings and set up Watts’ drums the way he himself would play them. “I never ever swore at him,” Watts says, with rueful amazement. He also played piano and occasionally organ on most of the band’s albums in the first decades, as well as providing criticism. Shortly after Stewart’s death Mick Jagger said: “He really helped this band swing, on numbers like ‘Honky Tonk Women’ and loads of others. Stu was the one guy we tried to please. We wanted his approval when we were writing or rehearsing a song. We’d want him to like it.”

In 1975 Stewart joined the band on stage again, playing piano on numbers of his choosing throughout tours in 1975-76, 1978 and 1981-82. He favored blues and country rockers, and remained dedicated to boogie-woogie and early rhythm & blues. He refused to play in minor keys, saying: “When I’m on stage with the Stones and a minor chord comes along, I lift my hands in protest.” In 1976, Stewart stated, “You can squawk about money, but the money the Stones have made hasn’t done them much good. It’s really gotten them into some trouble. They can’t even live in their own country now.”

The Rolling Stones with Ian Stewart in the spring of 1963
The Rolling Stones with Ian Stewart in the spring of 1963

Stewart remained aloof from the band’s lifestyle. “I think he looked upon it as a load of silliness,” said guitarist Mick Taylor. “I also think it was because he saw what had happened to Brian. I could tell from the expression on his face when things started to get a bit crazy during the making of Exile on Main Street. I think he found it very hard. We all did.”

Stewart played golf and as road manager showed preference for hotels with courses. Richards recalls: “We’d be playing in some town where there’s all these chicks, and they want to get laid and we want to lay them. But Stu would have booked us into some hotel about ten miles out of town. You’d wake up in the morning in the middle of a golf course. We’re bored to death looking for some action and Stu’s playing Gleneagles!”

Session Work

Stewart contributed to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” from Led Zeppelin IV and “Boogie with Stu” from Physical Graffiti, two numbers in traditional rock and roll vein, both featuring his boogie-woogie style. Another was Howlin’ Wolf’s 1971 The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions album, featuring Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Steve Winwood, and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. He also played piano and organ on the 1982 Bad to the Bone album of George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Moreover, he performed with Ronnie Lane in a televised concert. Stewart played piano on Scottish blues rock band Blues ‘n’ Trouble’s second album No Minor Keys in 1986. He also played with the back-to-roots band Rocket 88 with Charlie Watts.

Stewart contributed to the Rolling Stones’ 1983 Undercover, and was present during the 1985 recording for Dirty Work (released in 1986). In early December 1985, Stewart began having respiratory problems. On 12 December he went to a clinic to have the problem examined, but he suffered a heart attack and died in the waiting room at age 47.

When the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, they requested Stewart’s name be included and still in his 2010 autobiography Life, Keith Richards says: “Ian Stewart. I’m still working for him. To me the Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organization… we’d be nowhere.”

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Willie Lee Perryman 7/1985

July 25, 1985 – Willie Lee Perryman was  born October 19, 1911 on a farm in Hampton, Georgia, where his parents Ada and Henry Perryman sharecropped. He was part of a large family, though sources differ on exactly how many brothers and sisters he had. Perryman was an albino African American, as was his older brother Rufus, who also had a blues piano career as “Speckled Red”.
When Perryman was six years old, his father gave up farming and moved the family to Atlanta to work in a factory. Not much is known about Perryman’s education or early life, but he recalled that his mother bought a piano for her two albino sons. Both brothers had very poor vision, an effect of their albinism, so neither took formal music lessons, but they developed their barrelhouse style (a loud percussive type of blues piano suitable for noisy bars or taverns) through playing by ear. Perryman sometimes recalled imitating Rufus’s style after watching him play, but it is doubtful that his brother was a major influence. Rufus, nineteen years older than Perryman, left Georgia in 1925 and did not return until a 1960 visit. Another influence that Perryman cited in interviews was Fats Waller, whose records his mother brought home. Other influences were likely the local blues pianists playing at “house” or “rent” parties, which were common community fund-raisers of that era.

His performing and recording careers emerged during the period of transition from completely segregated “race music”, to “rhythm and blues”, which was marketed to white audiences. Some music historians credit Perryman’s 1950 recording “Rocking With Red” for the popularization of the term rock and roll in Atlanta. His simple, hard-pounding left hand and his percussive right hand, coupled with his cheerful shout, brought him considerable success over three decades.

By the early 1930s, Perryman was playing at house parties, juke joints, and barrelhouses in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. He developed his percussive playing style and harsh singing style to compensate for the lack of sound systems and to overcome the noise of people talking in venues. He worked these circuits with other Georgia bluesmen, including Barbecue Bob, Charlie Hicks, Curley Weaver, and “Blind Willie” McTell.

Perryman married in the early 1930s, and he and his wife Flora had two daughters. He obtained seasonal employment performing in Brevard, North Carolina, a mountain resort town, and commuted back and forth between there and Atlanta. The Brevard job brought him before white audiences; by 1934 he had also begun to play at white clubs in Atlanta. In Atlanta he would play at a white club until midnight and then head over to an African American club, where he would play until 4 am. Perryman developed a repertoire of pop standards, which were more popular among the white audiences, while continuing his blues sets in the African American clubs.

Around 1936 he began to be billed as ‘Piano Red’, and made his first recordings with McTell in Augusta for Vocalion Records, although these were never released. He also began working as an upholsterer, a trade which he occasionally maintained through later years.

In 1950, after spending the previous 14 years upholstering and playing music on weekends, Perryman recorded “Rockin’ with Red” and “Red’s Boogie” at the WGST radio studios in Atlanta for RCA Victor. Both songs became national hits, reaching numbers five and three respectively on the Billboard R&B chart, and “Rockin’ with Red” has since been covered many times under many titles. This success, along with further hits “The Wrong Yo Yo” (allegedly written by Speckled Red), “Laying The Boogie” and “Just Right Bounce”, allowed him to resume an active performing schedule. He also recorded sessions in New York City and Nashville during the early 1950s.

Red played for white teenagers’ high school parties in peoples homes in Atlanta. You would arrange for him to be picked up at his home and returned and providing a “bottle” of booze for him as well as a very nominal fee.

During the mid-1950s Perryman also worked as a disc jockey on radio stations WGST and WAOK in Atlanta, broadcasting ‘The Piano Red Show’ (later ‘The Dr. Feelgood Show’) directly from a small shack in his back yard. A young James Brown made an appearance on his show in the late 1950s. Perryman’s involvement had him appearing on a flatbed truck in many parades, which led to his song “Peachtree Parade”. From the mid-1950s until the late 1960s, he recorded for several record labels, including Columbia, for whom he made several records, Checker, for whom he recorded eight sides with Willie Dixon on bass, and Groove Records, a subsidiary of RCA Victor, producing the first hit for that label.

His most famous one was  Dr. Feelgood, not to be confused with Motley Crüe’s hit, which became the first to hit the pop music charts.

Signed to Okeh Records in 1961, Perryman began using the name Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, releasing several hits, including the much-covered “Doctor Feelgood”. The persona was one he had initially adopted on his radio shows. The new career was short-lived, though, and Piano Red was never able to regain his former stature. In 1963, The Merseybeats recorded a cover of the b-side of “Doctor Feelgood,” titled “Mr. Moonlight” (written by Roy Lee Johnson) as the B-side of their UK top 5 hit I Think of You. It was also recorded by the Beatles and appeared on the album Beatles for Sale in the United Kingdom and on the Beatles ’65 album in the United States. In 1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful recorded his song “Bald Headed Lena” on their second album, Daydream.

Perryman continued to be a popular performer in Underground Atlanta, and had several European tours late in his career, including appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s inauguration, and on BBC Radio. During this time, he was befriended by Bill Wyman, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney, and Pete Ham of Badfinger wrote a song in his honor.

When Muhlenbrink’s Saloon closed in 1979, Perryman found himself without a regular job. That lasted until 1981, when he was hired to perform five nights a week at The Excelsior Mill in Atlanta. In 1984, he asked co-owner Michael Reeves to arrange a live recording and Reeves arranged for a mobile recording in October of that year.

In 1985, the same year that he was diagnosed with cancer, Red charted the song “Yo Yo”, a duet with Danny Shirley, who would later become lead singer of Confederate Railroad.

Perryman died on July 25, 1985 at Dekalb General Hospital in Decatur, Georgia. Among those who attended his funeral were the Governor of Georgia and the Mayor of Atlanta.

• The tapes from the Excelsior Mill remained in Reeves’s possession for twenty-five years. In April 2010, he formed a partnership with author and producer David Fulmer to release a CD of the recording under the title The Lost Atlanta Tapes. The CD was released by Landslide Records on August 17, 2010.
• Piano Red’s song “Dr Feelgood” was covered by several UK beat groups including The Beatles, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, who used it as the b-side to their 1964 single, “Always and Ever”.


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Soeur Sourire 3/1985

Soeur SourireMarch 29, 1985 – The Singing Nun or Soeur Sourire in her native Belgium, was born Jeanine Deckers on October 17, 1933.

When entering the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium she became Sister Luc Gabriel. She became internationally famous in 1963 as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song “Dominique”.

In the English speaking world, she is mostly referred to as “The Singing Nun”. She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

Continue reading Soeur Sourire 3/1985

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Gordon Huntley 3/1985

gordonhMarch 7, 1985 – Gordon Huntley (Southern Comfort) was born in 1930. Nicknamed The Governor, he played steel pedal with the Hawaiian Serenaders on a triple neck Fender lap steel. In 1959 he progressed  on to ‘pedal’ steel by adding a pedal to his guitar made out of a tractor accelerator pedal and bicycle brake cable.

He started his long career out on the road with Felix Mendelssohn & his Hawaiian Serenaders, and by the late 50’s before pedals were standard in the UK, Gordon was playing a triple-neck Fender non-pedal guitar.

Later he took over from Jeff Newman in his band ‘The Westernaires’, made up of U.S. Servicemen when Jeff returned to the States in 1963. By this time he had built himself one pedal onto his steel! Soon after he got himself his first model, a six pedal. Around this time Gordon also teamed up with Nigel Dennis (a Newbury solicitor)  to manufacture Denley steel guitars (DENnis-huntLEY) however they were not without problems when Gordon lent on it at a gig and a leg sheared off!

By 1970 Gordon had joined to Ian Mathews’ Southern Comfort and was able to buy his first ZB Custom from friend Eric Snowball of ‘The Steel Mill’ in Maidstone, Kent, using the royalties from the single ‘Woodstock’ (which reached N0 1 in the UK charts that year). The group debuted with Frog City, in 1971, which was followed up by self-titled release and Stir Don’t Shake in 1972. Gordon played on all Southern Comforts albums and singles.

The beautiful velvet tones of his steel on their No.1 hit ‘Woodstock’ was probably an introduction and inspiration to many guitarists and future pedal steel guitarists.

From then on his steel sound could be heard on recordings by names such as  Iain Matthews, Elton John, Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart, Clodagh Rogers, Barbara Dickson, The Pretty Things, Pilot,Marc Ellington, Bridget Saint Paul, Cliff Richard, Pete Green, Demis Roussos, John Renbourn, Al Jones, Fairport Convention and many others. Gordon was known as the Father of British Pedal Steel guitaring.As well as all the bands he has been a member of he became a much in-demand session player in both the studio and out on the road, which he preferred,

Gordon died at the age of 55 on March 7, 1985 from complications of cancer.

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Ester Phillips 8/1984

Esther Phillips amazing R&B/Jazz voiceAugust 7, 1984 – Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones on December 23, 1935. in Galveston Texas. She began singing in church as a young child. When her parents divorced, she split time between her father in Houston and her mother in the Watts area of Los Angeles.

It was while she was living in Los Angeles in 1949 that her sister entered her in a talent show at a nightclub belonging to bluesman Johnny Otis. So impressed was Otis with the 13-year-old that he brought her into the studio for a recording session with Modern Records and added her to his live revue.

Billed as Little Esther, she scored her first success when she was teamed with the vocal quartet the Robins (who later evolved into the Coasters) on the Savoy single “Double Crossin’ Blues.” It was a massive hit, topping the R&B charts in early 1950 and paving the way for a series of successful singles bearing Little Esther’s name: “Mistrustin’ Blues,” “Misery,” “Cupid Boogie,” and “Deceivin’ Blues.”

In 1951, Little Esther moved from Savoy and Johnny Otis to Federal after a dispute over royalties, but despite being the brightest female star in Otis’ revue, she was unable to duplicate her impressive string of hits. Furthermore, she and Otis had a falling out, reportedly over money, which led to her departure from his show; she remained with Federal for a time, then moved to Decca in 1953, again with little success.

In 1954, she returned to Houston to live with her father, having already developed a fondness for the temptations of life on the road; by the late ’50s, her experiments with hard drugs had developed into a definite addiction to heroin. She re-signed with Savoy in 1956, to little avail, and went on to cut sides for Federal and (in 1960) Warwick, which went largely ignored.

Short on money, Little Esther worked in small nightclubs around the South, punctuated by periodic hospital stays in Lexington, KY, stemming from her addiction. In 1962, she was rediscovered while singing at a Houston club by future country star Kenny Rogers, who got her signed to his brother’s Lenox label. Too old to be called Little Esther, she re-christened herself Esther Phillips, choosing her last name from a nearby Phillips gas station.

She recorded a country-soul reading of the soon-to-be standard “Release Me,” which was released as a single late in the year. In the wake of Ray Charles’ groundbreaking country-soul hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Release Me” was a smash, topping the R&B charts and hitting the Top Ten on both the pop and country charts. Back in the public eye, Phillips recorded a country-soul album of the same name, but Lenox went bankrupt in 1963.

Thanks to her recent success, Phillips was able to catch on with R&B giant Atlantic, which initially recorded her in a variety of musical settings to see what niche she might fill best. It was eventually decided to play up her more sophisticated side and accordingly, Phillips cut a blues-tinged album of jazz and pop standards; her string-laden remake of the Beatles song “And I Love Him” (naturally, with the gender changed) nearly made the R&B Top Ten in 1965 and the Beatles flew her to the U.K. for her first overseas performances.

Encouraged, Atlantic pushed her into even jazzier territory for her next album, Esther Phillips Sings; however, it didn’t generate much response and was somewhat eclipsed by her soul reading of Percy Sledge’s “When a Woman Loves a Man” (again, with the gender changed), which made the R&B charts.

Nonplussed, Atlantic returned to their former tactic of recording Phillips in as many different styles as possible, but none of the resulting singles really caught on and the label dropped her in late 1967.

With her addiction worsening, Phillips checked into a rehab facility; while undergoing treatment, she cut some sides for Roulette in 1969 and upon her release, she moved to Los Angeles and re-signed with Atlantic. A late-1969 live gig at Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper club produced the album Burnin’, which was acclaimed as one of the best, most cohesive works of Phillips’ career.

Despite that success, Atlantic still wanted her to record pop tunes with less grit and when their next attempts failed to catch on, Phillips was let go a second time. In 1971, she signed with producer Creed Taylor’s Kudu label, a subsidiary of his hugely successful jazz fusion imprint CTI.

Her label debut, From a Whisper to a Scream, was released in 1972 to strong sales and highly positive reviews, particularly for her performance of Gil Scott-Heron’s wrenching heroin-addiction tale “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.”

Phillips recorded several more albums for Kudu over the next few years and enjoyed some of the most prolonged popularity of her career, performing in high-profile venues and numerous international jazz festivals. In 1975, she scored her biggest hit single since “Release Me” with a disco-fied update of Dinah Washington’s “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” (Top Ten R&B, Top 20 pop), and the accompanying album of the same name became her biggest seller yet.

In 1977, Phillips left Kudu for Mercury, landing a deal that promised her the greatest creative control of her career. She recorded four albums for the label, but none matched the commercial success of her Kudu output and after 1981’s A Good Black Is Hard to Crack, she found herself without a record deal.

Her last R&B chart single was 1983’s “Turn Me Out,” a one-off for the small Winning label; unfortunately, her health soon began to fail, the culmination of her previous years of addiction combined with a more recent flirtation with the bottle. Phillips died in Los Angeles on August 7, 1984, of liver and kidney failure at the age of 48. Her funeral services were conducted by Johnny Otis.

Obviously a victim of the Music Industry’s pathetic lack of managerial direction and understanding of the art, Esther Phillips was twice nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986 and 1987, but was not inducted. Shame on them.


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Paul Gardiner 2/1984

Paul GardinerFebruary 4, 1984 – Paul Gardiner was born in Hayes, Middlesex on May 1st 1958. In early 1976 he was playing in a band called The Lasers when Gary Numan (then using his real name Gary Webb) auditioned as lead guitarist. The two became fast friends and when Numan left the band soon after, Gardiner followed. The pair formed Tubeway Army, initially with Numan’s uncle Jess Lidyard on drums. In October 1977, the band was signed to the independent label Beggars Banquet and released their first single, “That’s Too Bad”, in February 1978. The trio used assumed names, Gardiner’s being ‘Scarlett’.

An ever-changing line-up played gigs over the next few months, Gardiner and Numan being the only constant members. Settling back to a three-piece outfit with Lidyard, the band released two albums as Tubeway Army, an eponymously titled debut in 1978 and the No. 1 hit Replicas in 1979. When Numan dropped the name Tubeway Army in mid-1979, Gardiner remained as bassist, playing on the No. 1 albums The Pleasure Principle (1979) and Telekon (1980), and touring with Numan throughout the world in 1979-81.

Following Numan’s ‘retirement’ in April 1981, after final concerts at Wembley Arena, his backing band went its separate ways. Most of the members formed a new group called Dramatis, while Gardiner elected to concentrate on a solo career. Gardiner’s debut solo release was a single co-written with Numan called “Stormtrooper in Drag” b/w “Night Talk” in 1981. It made No. 49 in the UK Singles Chart. On these tracks Gardiner and Numan were credited with guitar and bass, respectively; Gardiner also played synthesizer.

Gardiner’s recording of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” was the first release on Numan’s own label, Numa, in 1984. The single’s B-side, “No Sense”, was written by Gardiner. Aside from work on solo projects, he played with Dramatis in 1982 and, shortly before his death, worked with Marc Anthony Thompson on the latter’s debut album.

Paul Gardiner struggled with heroin addiction in his last years and died of a fatal heroin overdose on 4 February 1984 in Limetrees Park in Northolt, Middlesex. He was survived by a son, Chris.

Gary Numan wrote the song “A Child with the Ghost” (from the 1984 album Berserker) in memory of his friend and former bass-player. He also paid tribute to Gardiner on the 10th and 20th anniversaries of his death by playing, respectively, “Stormtrooper in Drag” on his 1994 tour (released on the 1995 live album Dark Light) and “Night Talk” at a 2004 charity gig.

During the 2009 Pleasure Principle tour Numan paid tribute to Gardiner on his 25th anniversary of his death by playing “Complex” (the demo version) with a picture of Gardiner displayed on the large screen background.

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Alexis Korner 1/1984

Alexis KornerJanuary 1, 1984 – Alexis Korner/Alexis Andrew Nicholas Koerner was born in Paris on April 19th, 1928 to an Austrian Jewish father and a Turkish-Greek mother. His early childhood years were spent in France, Switzerland and North Africa and he arrived in London in 1940 at the start of World War II. One memory of his youth was listening to a record by blues jazz pianist Jimmy Yancey during a German air raid. Korner said, “From then on all I wanted to do was play the blues.”

In 1949, he joined Chris Barber’s Jazz Band and in 1952 he became part of the much larger Ken Colyer Jazz Group, which had merged with Barber’s band. Among those whom Korner crossed paths with during this era was Cyril Davies, a guitarist and harmonica player. The two found their interests in American blues completely complementary, and in 1954 they began making the rounds of the jazz clubs as an electric blues duo. They started the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, where, in addition to their own performances, Korner and Davies brought visiting American bluesmen to listen and play.

Very soon they were attracting blues enthusiasts from all over England. Korner and Davies made their first record in 1957, and in early 1962, they formed Blues Incorporated, a “supergroup” (for its time) consisting of the best players on the early-’60s British blues scene. Korner (guitar, vocals), Davies (harmonica, vocals), Ken Scott (piano), and Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone) formed the core, with a revolving membership featuring Charlie Watts or Graham Burbridge on drums, Spike Heatley or Jack Bruce on bass, and a rotating coterie of guest vocalists including Long John Baldry, Ronnie Jones, and Art Wood (older brother of Ron Wood). Most London jazz clubs were closed to them, so in March of 1962 they opened their own club, which quickly began attracting large crowds of young enthusiasts, among them Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones, all of whom participated at some point with the group’s performances; others included Ian Stewart, Steve Marriott, Paul Jones, and Manfred Mann.

In May of 1962, Blues Incorporated was invited to a regular residency at London’s Marquee Club, where the crowds grew even bigger and more enthusiastic. John Mayall later credited Blues Incorporated with giving him the inspiration to form his own Bluesbreakers group.

Record producers began to take notice, and in June of 1962 producer Jack Good arranged to record a live performance by the band. The resulting record, R&B from the Marquee, the first full-length album ever made by a British blues band, was released in November of 1962. The album consisted of largely of American standards, especially Willie Dixon numbers, rounded out with a few originals.

At virtually the same time that Blues Incorporated’s debut was going into stores, Cyril Davies left the group over Korner’s decision to add horns to their sound. Korner soldiered on, but the explosion of British rock in 1963, and the wave of blues-based rock bands that followed, including the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Yardbirds undercut any chance he had for commercial success. His more studied brand of blues was left stranded in a commercial backwater — there were still regular gigs and recordings, but no chart hits, and not much recognition. While his one-time acolytes the Rolling Stones and Cream made the front pages of music magazines all over the world, Korner was relegated to the blues pages of England’s music papers, and, though not yet 40, to the role of “elder statesman.”

For a time, Korner hosted Five O’Clock Club, a children’s television show that introduced a whole new generation of British youth to American blues and jazz. He also wrote about blues for the music papers, and was a detractor of the flashy, psychedelic, and commercialized blues-rock of the late ’60s, which he resented for its focus on extended solos and its fixation on Chicago blues. He continued recording as well, cutting a never-completed album with future Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant in early 1968.

Korner’s performing career in England was limited, but he could always play to large audiences in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, and there were always new Korner records coming out. It was while touring Scandinavia that he first hooked up with vocalist Peter Thorup, who became Korner’s collaborator over the next several years in the band New Church. After his dismissal from the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones considered joining New Church; Korner, however, rejected the idea, because he didn’t want his new band to be caught up in any controversy.

In 1972, he became peripherally involved in the breakup of another band, inheriting the services of Boz Burrell, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace when they quit King Crimson. It was during the ’70s that Korner had his only major hit, as leader (with Peter Thorup) of the 25-member big-band ensemble CCS. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” charted in England, and led to a tour and television appearances.

In response, Korner released Bootleg Him, a retrospective compiled from tapes in his personal collection, including recordings with Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, and Charlie Watts. Korner played on the “supersession” album B.B. King in London, and cut his own, similar album, Get Off My Cloud, with Keith Richards, Peter Frampton, Nicky Hopkins, and members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. When Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1975, Korner was mentioned as a possible replacement, but the spot eventually went to Ron Wood.

In 1978, for Korner’s 50th birthday, an all-star concert was held featuring Eric Clapton, Paul Jones, Chris Farlowe, and Zoot Money, which was later released as a video. In 1981, Korner formed the last and greatest “supergroup” of his career, Rocket 88, featuring himself on guitar, Jack Bruce on upright bass, Ian Stewart on piano, and Charlie Watts on drums, backed by trombonists and saxmen, and one or two additional keyboard players. They toured Europe and recorded several gigs, the highlights of which were included on a self-titled album released by Atlantic Records.

In contrast to the many blues-rock fusion records with which Korner had been associated, Rocket 88 mixed blues with boogie-woogie jazz, the group’s repertory consisting largely of songs written by W. C. Handy and Pete Johnson. After a well-received appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the early ’80s, there were rumors afterward that he intended to become more active musically, but his health was in decline by this time. A chain smoker all of his life, Korner, sometimes referred to as, “The Founding Father of British Blues”, died of lung cancer on January 1, 1984

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Dennis Wilson 12/1983

dennis wilson drumsDecember 28, 1983 – Dennis Carl Wilson was born on December 4, 1944 in Inglewood, California. He was the second oldest of the three Wilson brothers. The Beach Boys formed in August 1961 under the strongwilled guidance of father Murry Wilson. Though the Beach Boys were named for and developed an early image based on the California surfing culture, Dennis was the only real surfer in the band.

Dennis was initially considered the least talented of the Wilson brothers, surprising everyone later on with his superb songwriting, productions and vocal arrangements. Dennis’ role in the family dynamic, which he himself acknowledged, was that of the black sheep. Though anxiety-filled and aggressive at times he was also sensitive and generous. His musical talent was often overshadowed in later years by his excessive drinking.

Their 1961 debut single “Surfin'” was followed by many chart hits including “Help Me, Rhonda”, “California Girls”, “I Get Around”, “Surfing USA”, “Barbara Ann”, “Sloop John B”, “Good Vibrations”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Fun Fun Fun” and “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”. His original songs for the band included “Forever”, “Little Bird”, “Slip On Through” and “Do You Wanna Dance”.

In the late 1960s, as drug abuse and psychological issues led to Brian withdrawing from the group, Dennis began to write songs himself. At one point, he collaborated with Charles Manson, who, along with some of his female followers, stayed in Dennis’s house in the spring and summer of 1968. The Beach Boys even recorded one of Dennis and Manson’s songs, “Never Learn Not to Love.”

Dennis also worked on non-Beach Boys projects. With Billy Preston, he co-wrote the popular song “You Are So Beautiful,“which became a worldwide hit for Joe Cocker in 1974.

Branching out into film, Dennis appeared alongside James Taylor in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971). And he was the first Beach Boy to put out a solo album: Pacific Ocean Blue (1977). His collaborators on the album included Daryl Dragon, the ‘Captain’ of Captain & Tennille and Gregg Jakobson. Despite positive reviews, the album peaked at No.96 in the US and sold only around 300,000 copies.

His follow-up album, Bambu, was initially scuttled by lack of financing and the distractions of Beach Boys projects. A sampling of its music was officially released in 2008 as bonus material with the Pacific Ocean Blue reissue. Two songs from the Bambu sessions, “Love Surrounds Me” and “Baby Blue” were lifted for the Beach Boys 1979 L.A. (Light Album).

Within the Beach Boys, an acrimonious relationship developed between Dennis and Love in the 1970s. With his alcoholism prompting out-of-control behavior, the group sometimes banned Dennis from their concerts. In 1983, he was told that he needed to sober up in order to take part in an upcoming tour.

Dennis signed into a detox unit in late December of 1983, but left the facility on Christmas Day. For a month prior to his death, Dennis had been homeless and living a nomadic life. In November 1983, he checked into a therapy center in Arizona for two days, and then on December 23, checked into St. John’s Medical Hospital in Santa Monica, where he stayed until the evening of December 25. Following a violent altercation at the Santa Monica Bay Inn, Dennis checked into a different hospital in order to treat his wounds. Several hours later, he discharged himself and reportedly resumed drinking immediately.

On December 28, 1983, 24 days after his 39th birthday, he went to Marina del Rey, where he crashed on a friend’s yacht (his own boat had been sold to meet financial obligations). Dennis drowned at Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, after drinking all day and then diving in the afternoon, to recover items he had thrown overboard at the marina from his yacht three years prior. When he couldn’t be located after a dive, his friends raised the alarm. Rescuers recovered his body at approximately 5:45 p.m. An autopsy showed evidence of cocaine in his system, as well as an elevated blood alcohol level. Dennis was 39 when he died.

At the time of his death, Dennis—who had been married five times, twice to the same woman and had a relationship with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame—was married to Shawn Love, the 19 year old daughter of his Beach Boys bandmate and cousin. Shawn insisted that her husband be buried at sea; it was only with the intervention of then-President Ronald Reagan that the at-sea burial by the U.S. Coast Guardwas allowed. Five years after Dennis died, the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



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Jimmy Nolen 12/1983

Jimmy NolenDecember 18, 1983 – Jimmy ‘Chank’ Nolen was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 3rd 1934.

He started learning the violin at aged 6, then began teaching himself guitar at 14, inspired by T-Bone Walker. Singer Jimmy Wilson saw him in a Tulsa club and took him back to Los Angeles, where Nolen began his recording career backing trumpeter Monte Easter and Chuck Higgins and in the autumn of 1956, he recorded three sessions for Federal, from which six singles were released to little effect. During this time, he also started working with Johnny Otis, playing on many sessions for Otis’ Dig label and recording some sides under his own name for John Fullbright’s Elko label.

He remained with Otis for a couple of years and played on ‘Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me’ and ‘Willie And The Hand Jive’. He was the principal composer behind Otis’ hit “Willie And The Hand Jive.” He remained in Otis’ band until 1959 when he formed his own group, The Jimmy Nolen Band.

In that same year Nolen signed with Specialty Records subsidiary Fidelity, from which just one single emerged. Much of the early 60s was spent backing harmonica player George Smith before joining James Brown’s band, where in February 1965 his guitar licks became the defining element of ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’. Jimmy soon became known for his distinctive “chicken scratch” lead guitar playing in James’ bands.

In 1970, when Brown’s back up band became tired of his antics and refusal to pay them properly, Nolen started to tour with Maceo Parker’s group Maceo & All the King’s Men, only to return to The James Brown Band two years later. Jimmy stayed with James until his [Jimmy’s] death. Known as the inventor of the ‘Chicken Scratch’ and thus the father of funk guitar, Nolen’s career ended suddenly on Dec 18, 1983 with a fatal heart attack while the band was on tour in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Tom Evans 11/1983

February 1970, Margate, Kent, England, UK --- Tom Evans, Bassist of Badfinger --- Image by © Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS

November 18, 1983 – Tom Evans was born on June 5th 1947. The sad and tragic story of Evans and his fellow bandmate Pete Hamm is amplified by the greed grabbing conditions that the music industry has always been plagued by; ruthless and dishonest.

Tom Evans was a very talented bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, who started his music career as a member of “The Inbeateens” in 1961. With the growing recognition of the Beatles, he soon progressed to a Liverpool mod/soul group called Them Calderstones.

In 1967, he joined a Welsh band called The Iveys who changed their name to Badfinger in 1969, while under contract with the Beatles’ owned Apple Records. Paul McCartney gave the group a boost by offering them his song “Come and Get It” which he produced for the band. It became a featured track for the film The Magic Christian, which starred Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and put Badfinger on the map.

They followed up with major successes in 1970 and 71 with titles like “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue”, each featuring some of Toms vocals, songwriting capabilities, background harmony and dual leads. His high-career moment came with the composition “Without You”, co-written with bandmate Peter Ham. The song became a No.1 hit worldwide for Harry Nilsson and has since become one of the top worldwide evergreens, covered by hundreds of performers.

Evans & Joey Molland of Badfinger argued on the telephone, reportedly about the publishing royalty of the song “Without You.” Following the argument, Tom sadly hanged himself in the garden at his home at age 36 on November 18, 1983 at age 36, in an eerie replay of fellow band mate Pete Ham’s 1975 death scene. Marianne Evans, his wife, was quoted in a documentary as having stated that “Tommy said ‘I want to be where Pete is. It’s a better place than down here’ ….”

The band had everything going for them. They were in the right place, playing the right music, at the right time. They wrote great songs and got the attention of all the right people, including Paul McCartney.

What could go wrong?

Badfinger are like an allegory for everything that’s wrong with the music business.

They were signed to Apple records, the Beatles’ label and had legendary producer Tony Visconti (not that he was legendary at the time) as their producer got their first album.

The management came under Alan Klein. He was the manager of the Stones, but also managed the Beatles after Epstein’s death. Forget what you’ve heard about Yoko, Klein was the person who drove a wedge between the Beatles.

With the troubles caused by the Beatles’ break up and the general mismanagement of Apple, the band were largely left with no promotion and the album was nothing like as big as expected.

Their song Without You was rather undervalued by the band and buried as the closing song on side one of they’re first album. It was the result of two songs. Pete Ham had a verse he liked but a chorus he didn’t; Tom Evans had a chorus that worked but a verse he didn’t like.

However, many other people noticed it and it was recorded very successfully by Harry Nilsson, before becoming something of a standard and being recorded by dozens of other people, including Mariah Carey.

The royalties should be a straight forward 50/50 split between Ham and Evans. However, there was rumoured to be a verbal agreement to include the rest of the band. The management of the group was taken over by Stan Polley, an American entertainment manager. Polley created a contract that gave all the band members a set salary incorporating writing royalties. Polley’s company was included within this, effectively giving him over ten times the income than any members of the band received, while also splitting writing credits with members who weren’t involved in the composition.

The following court case tied up the band in legal wrangling for several years and created divisions between the members, making the band unworkable.

In the meantime the Nilsson version of Without You was huge. Under normal circumstances writing a big hit record, especially in the early 70s, could set you up quite comfortably for life. However, the issues of royalties meant this wasn’t the case. With at one point the song being attributed not only to Ham and Evans but also to fellow band mates Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland, as well as their former manager, Bill Collins.

In 1975 Ham became so depressed, over the court case, and financial problems that he hanged himself, citing Polley as one of the causes. He was 27. The financial issues continued with several law suits and a claim for royalties against Evans by the remaining members. In 1983 Evans also hanged himself.

Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland continued to tour as Badfinger. After much further issues, to the best of my knowledge, the royalties are now exclusively shared between the estates of Ham and Evans, which seems a little too late!

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James Jamerson 8/1983

August 2, 1983 – James Lee Jamerson  was born on January 29th 1936 in Edisto Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. In 1954 he moved with his mother to Detroit where he learned to play the double bass at Northwestern High School, and he soon began playing in Detroit area blues and jazz clubs.

Jamerson continued performing in Detroit clubs after graduating high school, and his increasingly solid reputation started providing him opportunities for sessions at various local recording studios. Starting in 1959, he found steady work at Berry Gordy’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio, home of the Motown record label. He played bass on Marv Johnson single “Come to Me”(1959), John Lee Hooker album ” Burnin’ “(1962) and The Reflections “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet”(1964).

There he became a member of a core of studio musicians who informally called themselves The Funk Brothers. This small, close-knit group of musicians performed on the vast majority of Motown recordings during most of the 1960s. Jamerson’s earliest Motown sessions were performed on double bass, but in the early 1960s he switched to playing an electric Fender Precision Bass for the most part.

The Funk Brothers

Like Jamerson, most of the other Funk Brothers were jazz musicians who had been recruited by Gordy. For many years, they maintained a typical schedule of recording during the day at Motown’s small garage “Studio A” (which they nicknamed “the Snakepit”), then playing gigs in the jazz clubs at night. They also occasionally toured the U.S. with Motown artists. For most of their career, however, the Funk Brothers went uncredited on Motown singles and albums, and their pay was considerably less than the main artists or the label received.

Eventually, Jamerson was put on retainer with Motown for one thousand dollars a week, which afforded him and his ever-expanding family a comfortable lifestyle.
Jamerson’s discography at Motown reads as a catalog of soul hits of the 1960s and 1970s.

His work includes Motown hits such as, among hundreds of others, “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes, “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Shotgun” by Jr. Walker & the All Stars, “For Once in My Life,” “I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder, “Going to a Go-Go” by The Miracles, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and later by Marvin Gaye, and most of the album What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Bernadette” by the Four Tops. According to fellow Funk Brothers in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Gaye was desperate to have Jamerson play on “What’s Going On,” and went to several bars to find the bassist. When he did, he brought Jamerson to the studio, who then played the classic line while lying flat on his back. He is reported to have played on some 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. He eventually performed on nearly 30 No. 1 pop hits—surpassing the record commonly attributed to The Beatles. On the R&B charts, nearly 70 of his performances went to the top.

Post Motown

Shortly after Motown moved their headquarters to Los Angeles, California in 1972, Jamerson moved there himself and found occasional studio work, but his relationship with Motown officially ended in 1973. He went on to perform on such 1970s hits as “Neither One Of Us” by Gladys Night & The Pips (1973), “Boogie Down” (Eddie Kendricks, 1974), “Boogie Fever” (The Sylvers, 1976), “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., 1976), and “Heaven Must Have Sent You” (Bonnie Pointer, 1979). He also played on Robert Palmer’s 1975 solo album Pressure Drop, Dennis Cofey “Instant Coffey” (1974), “Wah Wah Watson”‘s Elementary album (1976),[14] Rhythm Heritage (1976), Al Wilson (1977), Eloise Laws (1977), Smokey Robinson (1978), Ben E. King (1978), Hubert Laws (1979), Tavares (1980), Joe Sample & David T. Walker (1981), and Bloodstone (1982).

But as other musicians went on to use high-tech amps, round-wound strings, and simpler, more repetitive bass lines incorporating new techniques like thumb slapping, Jamerson’s style fell out of favor with local producers and he found himself reluctant to try new things. By the 1980s he was unable to get any serious gigs working as a session musician.

Long troubled by alcoholism, Jamerson died of complications stemming from cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure and pneumonia on August 2, 1983, in Los Angeles at the age of 47.

Finally Recognition

• James Jamerson (as is the case with the other Funk Brothers) received little formal recognition for his lifetime contributions. It was not until 1971, when he was acknowledged as “the incomparable James Jamerson” on the sleeve of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, that his name even showed up on a major Motown release.

• Jamerson was the subject of a 1989 book by Allan Slutsky (aka “Dr. Licks”) titled Standing in the Shadows of Motown. The book includes a biography of Jamerson, a few dozen transcriptions of his bass lines, and two CDs in which 26 internationally known professional bassists (such as Pino Palladino, John Entwistle, Will Lee, Chuck Rainey, and Geddy Lee) speak about Jamerson and play those transcriptions. Jamerson’s story was also featured in the subsequent 2002 documentary film of the same title.

• In 1999, Jamerson was awarded a bust at the Hollywood Guitar Center’s Rock Walk.

• In 2000, Jamerson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, part of the first-ever group of “sidemen” to be so honored.

• In 2003, there was a two-day celebration entitled “Returned To The Source” which was hosted by The Charleston Jazz Initiative and Avery Research Center of The College of Charleston.

• In 2004, the Funk Brothers were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

• In 2007, Jamerson along with the other Funk Brothers was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee.

• In 2008, James Jamerson was awarded the Gullah/GeeChee Anointed Spirit Award.

• In 2009, Jamerson was inducted into the Fender Hall of Fame. Among the speakers was fellow legendary Motown session bassist and friend, Bob Babbitt.

• In 2009, Jamerson received a Resolution from the SC House of Representatives.

• In 2012, Jamerson received the Hartke, Zune, Samson 2012 International Bassist Award.

• In 2013, he along with the Funk Brothers received their Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

• In 2014, Jamerson received a State Resolution from the South Carolina Senate.

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Chris Wood 7/1983

July 12, 1983 – Chris Wood  (Traffic) was born June 24th 1944 in Birmingham, England, the son of Stephen, an engineer, and Muriel Gordon, a missionary’s daughter born and raised in China.

He had a sister, Stephanie Angela, 3 years younger than he. Chris showed an interest in music and painting from an early age. His father related, “He stood by the record player changing records since he was this tall“.

Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he commenced playing at the age of 15, he began to play locally with other Birmingham musicians who would later find international fame in music: Christine Perfect (later Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame), Carl Palmer (ELP) , Stan Webb, and Mike Kellie(Spooky Tooth). Wood played with Perfect in 1964 in the band Shades of Blue and with Kellie during 1965-1966 in the band Locomotive.

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Felix Pappalardi 4/1983

felix pappalardi17 April 1983 – Felix Pappalardi (MOUNTAIN) was born December 30th 1939 in the Bronx, New York City. After High School he moved to Michigan where he studied classical music at the University of Michigan. After graduating he moved back to New York but could not find a job as a conductor and soon fell into the folk scene of Greenwich Village. During the 1960s as a music producer he helped to further the careers of musicans from Tim Hardin, The Youngbloods, Joan Baez, to Richard and Mimi Farina.

In 1964 he joined Max Morath’s Original Rag Quartet (ORQ)in their premier engagement at New York’s Village Vanguard with several other famous musicians. Along with Felix on guitarrón (Mexican acoustic bass) were pianist/singer Morath, who revived classic ragtime played in the Scott Joplin manner, Barry Kornfeld, a well-known NYC studio folk and jazz guitarist, and Jim Tyler, a famous Baroque and Renaissance lutenist playing four string banjo and mandolin. The ORQ then toured the college and concert circuit during the following year, and opened four engagements with the Dinah Shore show in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

As a producer, Pappalardi became perhaps best known for his work with British psychedelic blues-rock power trio Cream, beginning with their second album, Disraeli Gears. Pappalardi has been referred to in various interviews with the members of Cream as “the fourth member of the band” as he generally had a role in arranging their music. He contributed instrumentation for his imaginative studio arrangements and he and his wife, Gail, wrote the Cream hit “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.

In 1968 he produced a band named, ‘The Vagrants’ who recorded on the Atlantic Record Label, and which featured a young guitarist named Leslie West. In 1969 along with West, Corky Laing, Mark Clarke, Steve Knight, David Perry, and N.D. Smart II, he founded the hard charging blues-rock group, ‘Mountain.‘ The group was formed in Long Island, New York, and disbanded in 1972. They got back together in 1974, but disbanded again in 1975. One of there first big gigs was playing at the Woodstock Music Festival in Saugerties, New York, in August 1969. There songs include, “My Lady” “Don’t Look Around” “The Great Train Robbery” “Travelin” “In The Dark” “The Animal Trainer And The Toad” “Mississippi Queen” “For Yasgur’s Farm” “Boys In The Band” “Laird” “Silver Paper” “King’s Corale I” “One Last Cold Kiss” “Crossroader” and “Dream Sequence: Guitar Solo/Roll Over.

As a musician, Pappalardi is widely recognized as a bassist, vocalist, and founding member of the American hard rock band/heavy metal forerunner Mountain, a band born out of his working with future bandmate Leslie West’s soul-inspired rock and roll band The Vagrants, and producing West’s 1969 Mountain solo album. The band’s original incarnation actively recorded and toured between 1969 and 1971. Felix produced the band’s albums, and co-wrote, and arranged a number of the band’s songs with his wife Gail Collins and Leslie West.

The band’s signature song, “Mississippi Queen” is still heard regularly on classic rock radio stations. They also had a hit with the song “Nantucket Sleighride” written by Pappalardi and Collins.

Felix generally played Gibson basses live and on Mountain’s recordings. He is most often shown with an EB-1 but there are photographs of him playing an EB-0 live. He was known for playing a Gibson EB-1 violin bass through a set of Sunn amplifiers that, he claimed, once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.

Pappalardi was forced to retire because of partial deafness, ostensibly from his high-volume shows with Mountain. He continued producing throughout the 1970s and released a solo album and recorded with Japanese hard rock outfit Kazuo Takeda’s band The Creation (old name Blues Creation).

On April 17, 1983, Felix Pappalardi was shot once in the neck in their fifth-floor East Side Manhattan apartment. He was pronounced dead at the scene and his wife Gail was charged with second degree murder. Collins Pappalardi claimed that the killing was an accident. She was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter, but found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. On April 30, 1985, she was released on parole and disappeared to Mexico.

Felix Pappalardi was 43 when he died on April 17, 1983.

On December 6, 2013, Collins was found dead by her landlord in the Mexican village of Ajijic, Jalisco, a resort town with many American expatriate residents. She had been undergoing cancer treatments there. She was cremated with her three cats.

The Pappalardi’s became known for their non-musical proclivities, which included the usual chemical experiments as well as an open marriage. However her jealousy of one particular mistress reportedly led to the argument that ended in his death, although Collins maintained that she’d shot Pappalardi accidentally while taking a firearms training session. The fact that it happened at 6:00AM didn’t dissuade jurors from handing in a surprising verdict, convicting her of criminally negligent homicide rather than murder.

The judge in the case seemed annoyed by the verdict, making a point of reminding jurors, “She called her attorney instead of calling for help — she was concerned with her own well-being,” and giving her the maximum sentence under the law. Paroled in 1985 after serving half of her four-year sentence, Collins disappeared from sight, but judging from the quotes given by her acquaintances to the New York Daily News, she remained just as provocative a personality after exiting the spotlight.

“She was one of the most brilliant people I have ever known, but she was also an opinionated jackass. She just needed to be the star,” said one woman described as Collins’ friend. Added her neighbor, “She left instructions for her cats to be euthanized so their ashes could be mixed with hers. Who does that?”

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Pete Farndon 4/1983

Pete FarndonApril 14, 1983 – Pete Farndon was born on June 12th 1952 in Hereford England.
Before becoming the bassist in the band The Pretenders, he played with Cold River Lady until the summer of 1976, and then toured with Australian folk-rock band The Bushwackers prior to joining the Pretenders in 1978. He played a large role in shaping The Pretenders’ tough image, often wearing his biker clothing, or later, samurai gear onstage.

Farndon joined the Pretenders in early 1978 and was the first member of the 1978-82 lineup to be recruited by Chrissie Hynde. Farndon recalled their first rehearsal: “I’ll never forget it, we go in, we do a soul number, we do a country and western number, and then we did ‘The Phone Call’ which is like the heaviest fuckin’ punk rocker you could do in 5/4 time. Impressed? I was very impressed.” A guitarist was still needed, and Farndon recruited lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott into the group that summer. Farndon, Honeyman-Scott, and bandmate Martin Chambers all hailed from Hereford, England.
Chambers worked with Farndon to adjust to Hynde’s timing: “Pete and I did a fair amount of work on our own, in terms of the rhythm section being able to play Chrissie’s odd timing things. So Pete and I would come in a couple of hours ahead of the others and baby talk our way through the songs. You know, ‘da dad da, boom boom.’ She didn’t count in the traditional way so we had to reinterpret the counts. Once we made the adjustment and learned to go with her flow, so to speak, it became second nature. It’s the bedrock of Pretenders music.”

Farndon played a large role in shaping the Pretenders’ tough image, often wearing his biker clothing, or later, samurai gear onstage. Hynde later acknowledged that two Pretenders’ songs, “Biker” and “Samurai” had “references to Pete Farndons homosexuality”. As a performer, Hynde recalled that “Pete was fantastic. Pete was blagging it a lot because technically he wasn’t any kind of great musician. But he had real heart, like in boxing terms, he could win the fight on heart alone. And he had a great energy, borne of a kind of desperation.”

By early 1982 Farndon’s drug use was causing increasingly strained relations with his bandmates. He became increasingly belligerent and, according to Hynde, “was in bad shape. He was really not someone you could work with.” At the urging of Hynde, band manager Dave Hill fired Farndon on 14 June 1982.

Two days after Farndon’s dismissal, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was found dead of heart failure caused by a cocaine overdose. Without Farndon and Honeyman-Scott the Pretenders were left with only two of their original four members.
Farndon than began working with former Clash drummer Topper Headon, guitarist Henry Padovani, organist Mick Gallagher, and vocalist Steve Allen (formerly of Deaf School) in a short-lived band they called Samurai.

Chrissie Hynde later acknowledged that two Pretenders’ songs, “Biker” and “Samurai” had “references to a Pete Farndon type of character”. Sadly he became more and more dependend on his drug use and was tragically found drowned in his bath due to a drug overdose on April 14, 1983 at age 30

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Buddy Lucas 3/1983

Buddy LucasMarch 18, 1983 – Buddy Lucas was born Alonzo W. Lucas on August 16, 1914 (Session musician) in Pritchard, Alabama, he made his first recordings in 1951 for Jerry Blaine’s Jubilee label, where he also became leader of the house band.

As a bandleader, he led bands such as Buddy Lucas & His Band of Tomorrow, the Gone All Stars and Buddy Lucas & His Shouters and he also went under the stage name of “Big” Buddy Lucas.

He was much-in-demand session saxophonist on the East Coast and recorded with Little Willie John, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Count Basie, Jimi Hendix, Roy Buchanan, Horace Silver, Bernard Purdie, Titus Turner, The Rascals, Yusef Lateef and Aretha Franklin among others.

The solo recording career of Buddy Lucas, a tenor saxophonist who doubled on harmonica, started a bit less than a year before fellow R&B honker Jimmy Forrest rode the first hit version of the instrumental entitled “Night Train.” Once that express had left the station, opportunities to follow in hot pursuit were aplenty for saxmen such as Lucas, Earl Bostic, and Sam “The Man” Taylor. Lucas’ run of recordings under his own name continued on into the ’60s, running on a parallel track with his work as a studio session player. Undoubtedly the majority of his performances on record stem from the latter category, particularly his blowing on the questioning “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” by the Teenagers in 1956 and the soggy “Tears on My Pillow” by Little Anthony & the Imperials in 1958. Meanwhile, Lucas was responsible for dozens of singles and albums, enjoying a creative run in which the names of labels, songs, and bands all vie for the groovy gravy. He cut sides for Groove, Gone, Jubilee, Tru-Sound, Mohawk — even a record company called Lawn.

Then there were the songs themselves, a combination of popular and sentimental vocal music standards and wild-ass novelty songs and instrumentals out of which tales of drunken revelry could easily be spun: “Greedy Pig,” “Let’s Go to the Party,” “I Got Drunk,” “I Need Help,” “No Dice.” “Money, Money, Money, Money, Money” was hopefully the result. At least one album spotlighted his harmonica playing, the jam-packed 50 Harmonica Favorites, credited to “Big” Buddy Lucas & the Wigglers. This artist also recorded a pair of albums in the ’50s for the Savoy label accompanying dynamic blues singer Big Maybelle. In the late ’60s he was featured with Nina Simone, coming up with a fine harmonica part for the standard “Since I Fell for You.” Lucas’ session activities also led into the realm of modern jazz, usually when a performer known for far-out sounds attempts to display his funkier side: prime examples are Albert Ayler’s New Grass and the Atlantic Blue Yusef Lateef LP. Lucas eventually ran his own label, Steamboat, and among his pet projects was a doo wop combo featuring his son, Buddy Lucas, Jr.

In the late 1960s Buddy slowed down on studio work and concentrated on TV and radio commercials. Starting in 1972, he played in the band in the Broadway musical “Purlie” for almost two years, but his diabetes began to take its toll. He began to work with his old friend Herman Bradley in a trio at the Catch 22, a local club.

In 1980 his right lung was removed after cancer was discovered, but he was still able to play a little sax and harmonica in Bradley’s group. In December 1982 he finally gave up due to ill-health and on March 18, 1983 he passed away at age 68.

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Lamar Williams 1/1983

Lamar Williams 1January 25, 1983 – Lamar Williams born on January 14th 1949 in Newton, Mississippi. From an early age he was immersed in music, courtesy of his father-who was a gospel singer in a group called the Deep South-and an uncle in Michigan who liked jazz.

What really got me into music,” he recalled at one time, “was a trip I made once to visit my uncle. He was a jazz head, and used to listen to just about everything. He had a little plastic flute, and I remember one day I picked it up and tried to play along with some records. After a while, I got to where I was doing it, and liking it.”

A self taught musician, Williams remembered some of the problems he confronted when first attempting to master the bass.

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Jimmy Scott 6/1982

jimmy-scottJune 16, 1982 – Jimmy Scott was born James Honeyman-Scott on November 4, 1956 in Hereford, England. All along, he knew he wanted to be a guitarist. At home, a sleepy town on the Welsh border, Jimmy began taking piano lessons at seven. Although the lessons lasted for two years, he never learned to read music: “Everything I do is done by ear. I could never follow the theory of music. It all sounded very difficult, so I used to pretend I could read something, but in fact I always learned by ear to fool the piano teacher.

At ten he was given a guitar that his brother brought back from Africa. He graduated to an f-hole arch-top a year later, and then traded that for a Rossetti Air Stream after the f-hole’s neck fell off.

Prior to joining the Pretenders in 1978, he played in several bands, The Enid, The Hawks, The Hot Band, and Cheek.

A self-taught guitarist, Jimmy at first thought licks were the most important thing to learn, although he now claims chord work turned out to be more vital. His main influences as a teenager were Hank Marvin & The Shadows, Eric Clapton with Cream and Derek & The dominos, and the Allman Brothers Band. “Certain records back then said a lot to me,” he remembers. “Anything by Cream was important for guitar work, especially ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Badge’ – Jesus! And then came the Allman Brothers after that. Their song ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’ was real important.”

A year after taking up guitar, Jimmy began performing at youth clubs, often appearing on a borrowed bass: “We were playing ‘Sunshine Of Your Love,’ ‘Hey Joe,’ and songs like that. Then I was with a band that had no name from what I can remember. It was probably ‘something Blues Band’ because everything turned out to be a blues band back then. This was in 1968.” At 16 Honeyman-Scott bought a Gibson ES-335 and recorded tracks for an album by Robert John Godfrey. “I forget the title of that,” he adds, “and except for the Pretenders, the only other album I’ve played on was Place Your Bets by a guy named Tommy Morrison.”

Jimmy was in three other lineups prior to joining the Pretenders – The Hawks, The Hot Band, and Cheeks. “That second band was named after Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. We were in some village in Herefordshire, and it was like 12 guys – accordion and all manner of guitars and things. Mott The Hoople was just taking big then. They came from a group called Silence, which had been on the Hereford scene for quite a while. Mott happened in the early part of ’69, but I wasn’t into their music until 1974.What happened was Martin Chambers, who is now the drummer in the Pretenders, and I joined up with Verden Allen, who was Mott’s keyboard player, and formed Cheeks. That’s when I got into Mott The Hoople and started to understand them. Mick Ralphs [former lead guitarist for Mott, now with Bad Company] lent me his little ’57 Gibson Les Paul Jr. for a while when I was with Cheeks; that was a beautiful guitar. Mick Ralphs became a hell of a big influence because I started to steal his lead lines and things. I always liked the way he did finger vibrato.”

Cheeks toured extensively for three years without ever recording. After they disbanded. Jimmy started making his living selling guitars in a Hereford shop. During the summer of 1978, after hearing the guitar sounds on new cuts by Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, he decided that it was time to reenter the music scene: “I was out in the garden, digging away, and Nick Lowe came on with ‘So It Goes,’ and then came Elvis Costello’s ‘Red Shoes.’ And they had this big, jangly guitar sound, which was what I’d been wanting to get into for a long while. It was a huge guitar sound, like a big Rickenbacker 12-string or something. I thought, ‘Ah, my time is here!’ To get that sound at first I used a fantastic Ibanez Explorer-style guitar through an Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory pedal and a Marshall.”

Throughout his teenage years and his early twenties, Honeyman-Scott played with a variety of regional bands, including the band Cheeks, which included former Mott the Hoople founding member/keyboardist Verden Allen. It was during his tenure with Cheeks that Honeyman-Scott became friendly with fellow local musicians Martin Chambers (drums) and Pete Farndon (bass).

Honeyman-Scott paid the bills during these lean years by selling guitars in a shop and growing vegetables, as well as lending his guitar talents to albums by such obscure artists as Robert John Godrey and Tommy Morrison. Growing increasingly fed up with the stale rock scene of the mid-’70s, punk rock and new wave began to perk up Honeyman-Scott’s interest in rock again, namely the jangly pop of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Not long after, Honeyman-Scott received a phone call from his pal Farndon, inquiring if he’d like to try out for a new band he had formed with singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde. The tryout was a success, but Honeyman-Scott had second thoughts. To help make up his mind, Hynde and Farndon were able to line up Honeyman-Scott’s hero Nick Lowe to produce the band’s first single, a cover of The Kinks song “Stop Your Sobbing”. The song gained critical attention. It was followed in June with “Kid” and then in November the band got to No.1 in the UK with “Brass in Pocket”, which was also successful in the US reaching No.14 on the Billboard Hot 100. By 1979, he was a full-time member, bringing Chambers along to play drums for the new quartet as well.

Hynde, an American-born musical expatriate who was crossbreeding bits of pop, punk, reggae, and an eccentric sense of meter to create crisp, no-nonsense accompaniments to her lyrics, opened opportunities for Jimmy (as he prefers to be called) as his abbreviated lead style and Chrissie’s quavering, throaty vocals and unique guitar rhythms, worked well. He joined her lineup, the Pretenders. In a series of basement rehearsals, he found his specialty – savage power chords, arpeggiated or percussive rhythms, and short hooks instead of extended solos – and proved that he could handle his role with a precision and flamboyance that belies his cheery, light-hearted stage mannerisms.

Released in January 1980, their debut album, Pretenders, brought unexpected critical acclaim as whirlwind record sales shot the disc into the top slot of British charts and into the U.S. Top 10. The Who’s Pete Townshend described the effect of its provocative, sexually candid lyrics and hard-driving beat as being “like a drug.” After its release, the band toured Great Britain and the United States and appeared in numerous magazine articles. For Honeyman-Scott, the attendant publicity surrounding their rags-to-riches story was difficult to handle: “It’s very weird at first when it happens. When you’re eight years old and see the Beatles at Shea Stadium on TV or see the film A Hard Day’s Night, you think, ‘My God! That is the answer to everything!’ And then when you have a number-one record and a gold disc, you think, ‘What is this? What happens next?’ You tend to think the stars are going to open up or something. They don’t. But to get there, you’ve got to make a bit of a fight for it.”

While the album has become one of rock’s all-time classics, the band’s sudden success began to fracture the band, as both Honeyman-Scott and Farndon sank heavily into hard drugs. A month after the release of a stopgap mini-album in March 1981 (Extended Play), Honeyman-Scott wed model Peggy Sue Fender in London.

In May and June 1982, Honeyman-Scott was first in Los Angeles and then in Austin, Texas, for a short visit with his wife Peggy Sue Fender (an actress/model based in Austin, Texas), whom he had married in April 1981. His wife was staying with local guitarist Mark Younger Smith at this time (?). While in Austin, he became involved in his first co-production effort for an album by Stephen Doster that was never released. During the sessions with Stephen Doster in Austin, Honeyman-Scott was called back to London for a band meeting on 14 June with Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers that resulted in the dismissal of Pete Farndon from the Pretenders, due to Farndon’s increasing substance dependence.

Two days after the dismissal of Pete Farndon, on June 16, 1982 Honeyman-Scott was found dead in a girlfriend’s apartment of heart failure caused by cocaine intolerance.
He was 25 years old.

Honeyman-Scott’s death profoundly affected the Pretenders’ subsequent direction and longevity. Hynde later said, “One of the things that kept the band alive, ironically, was the death of Jimmy Scott. I felt I couldn’t let the music die when he did. We’d worked too hard to get it where it was…. I had to finish what we’d started”. At the group meeting on 14 June 1982, Honeyman-Scott suggested bringing Robbie McIntosh into the group in some capacity. After Honeyman-Scott’s death, McIntosh became the group’s lead guitarist for several years.

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Rusty Day 6/1982

rusty-dayJune 3, 1982 – Russell Edward “Rusty Day” Davidson, also known as “Pachuco” by his closest friends, was born in Garden City, Michigan on December 29, 1945.

Day joined Ted Nugent’s band The American Amboy Dukes in 1969, after their former vocalist, John Drake, was fired. Day had just quit his own band, Rusty Day & The Midnighters. He stayed only for one album, Migrations.

Very soon after he joined supergroup Cactus as vocalist. Cactus was initially conceived in late 1969 as a supergroup of the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice with guitarist Jeff Beck and singer Rod Stewart. However, Beck had an automobile accident and Stewart joined Ronnie Wood in The Faces. Out of frustration, Bogert and Appice formed what became known as Cactus in early 1970. The cast was complete when Day joined them on vocals and Jim McCarty joined on lead guitar.

But it was a short lived three albums later that he was fired. Having made a name for himself in Detroit’s rock scene as a force to be reckoned with however, Rusty Day worked to restore one of Detroit’s most legendary bands, The Band Detroit, to the national stage. The Band Detroit was formed as an offshoot of The Detroit Wheels by members Steve Gaines (who two years later joinEd Lynyrd Skynyrd), Ted “T-Mel” Smith, Nathaniel Peterson, Terry Emery, Bill Hodgeson, and others. The band’s initial flame burned out quickly due to many different issues going on at once. There’s a recording of Rusty Day, Steve Gaines, and the rest of the band performing in 1973 called The Band Detroit – The Driftwood Tapes.

In 1976, Rusty Day formed another version of Cactus in Longwood, Florida, where he had relocated. This version of Cactus featured Steve “Kahoutek” Dansby on guitar, John “Soybean Slim” Sauter (who later played on Ted Nugent’s Weekend Warriors) on bass guitar, and Gary “Madman” Moffatt (who later played for .38 Special) on drums. This was the longest lasting 1970s line-up of the band, which ended around 1979.

Day, having turned down AC/DC’s request to have him join their band to replace Bon Scott, and Rossington-Collins’s request to have him replace Ronnie Van Zant, eventually formed Uncle Acid & The Permanent Damage Band which scored him a deal with Epic Records in 1980

Day was fatally shot at his home on June 3, 1982. His son and Garth McRae were also fatally shot during the same attack. The murder officially remains unsolved, although the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office believe the victims may have known the perpetrator, and that the killings may have been drug related.

He was 36 years.

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Lightnin Hopkins 1/1982

Lightnin HopkinsJanuary 29, 1982 – Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins  was born Sam John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas on March 15, 1912. Hopkins’ childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. That day, Hopkins felt the blues was “in him” and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger “Texas” Alexander.

Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded. Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings. In the mid-1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm for an unknown offense. In the late 1930s, Hopkins moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there.

By the early 1940s, he was back in Centerville working as a farm hand.
Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston’s Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles-based label Aladdin Records. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”.

Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. In the late 1940s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. He occasionally traveled to the Mid-West and Eastern United States for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between eight hundred and a thousand songs in his career. He performed regularly at nightclubs in and around Houston, particularly in Dowling St. where he had first been discovered. He recorded his hits “T-Model Blues” and “Tim Moore’s Farm” at SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid to late 1950s, his prodigious output of quality recordings had gained him a following among African Americans and blues aficionados.

In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by Mack McCormick, who hoped to bring him to the attention of the broader musical audience, which was caught up in the folk revival. McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. Hopkins debuted at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960, appearing alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger performing the spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep”. In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song “Mojo Hand” in 1960.

In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally. He toured extensively in the United States[3] and played a six-city tour of Japan in 1978.
Houston’s poet-in-residence for 35 years, Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman.

His distinctive style often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly – with occasional slaps of the guitar – the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion and lead would be created. He influenced many guitarists including Jimi Hendrix. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career,

On January 29, 1982 he lost his battle with esophageal cancer  at age 70.


Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins, one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players, died Saturday in Houston, where he made his home. He would have been 70 years old next month. 

A contemporary of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, he was one of the last of the original blues artists. Mr. Hopkins began to sing the blues as a child in his native Texas. He started to sing professionally in the 1930’s, gaining recognition beyond his home state with an intense style that he used to phrase his songs of suffering and death. In his dark and supple voice, he would evoke his past as a field hand and rambler to the accompaniment of highly imaginative guitar work. 

His instrument often became a second voice to discourse with, or to end his vocal phrases. It also enhanced his reputation for flair, wit and improvisational skill. A Spontaneous Style 

On his guitar, Mr. Hopkins would alternate ominous single-note runs on the high strings with a hard-driving bass in irregular rhythms that matched his spontaneous, conversational lyrics. 

His recordings and fame had preceded the lean, lanky minstrel when he first ventured North in 1960 for a concert in Carnegie Hall and appearances at the Village Gate. 

The Carnegie Hall concert was a benefit hootenanny that also featured the young Joan Baez. Mr. Hopkins performed his frequently bitter and sardonic, introspective and autobiographical songs, and also swapped verses with Pete Seeger and Bill McAdoo, a young folk singer from Detroit. 

But his art was best suited for the more intimate surroundings of a club like the Village Gate, where he sang of unfulfilled love and unappreciated devotion. ”The blues form may seem simple and limiting,” reported Robert Shelton in his review in The New York Times, ”but at the hands of a master his sentiments burgeoned into a subtle exploration of moods.” 

Mr. Hopkins returned to the Village Gate in 1962 for a joint appearance with Sabicas, the Spanish flamenco guitarist. Playing out his moody, subjectively ruminating songs on a $65 guitar, he added an unusually light-hearted number, ”Happy Blues for John Glenn,” after having watched the television reports on the astronaut’s orbital flight around the world. Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ 

By that time, M r. Hopkins, a regular on Hou ston’s Dowling Street, had recorded more than 200 singles and 10 alb ums in 42 years of singing. 

He appeared in 1970 in a short film, ”Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ Hopkins,” a tribute to his musicianship, a study of his brand of music, as well as a celebration of his way of life. 

Mr. Hopkins was at Carnegie Hall again, in 1979, for a four-hour Boogie ‘n Blues concert and appeared for the last time in New York the following year for a three-night stand at Tramps on East 15th Street. 

Sam Hopkins was born March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Tex., a small cotton town, north of Houston, surrounded by red-clay country. At 8, he made his first guitar and had his brother teach him basic guitar blues, enough to get him started as a musician. 

He left school about that time to travel in Texas, sometimes as a hobo and occasionally working as a farmhand; he also did other odd jobs and played the guitar at county fairs and picnics. During those ramblings, he encountered Blind Lemon Alexander, the most popular Texas blues singer at the time, and his cousin, Texas Alexander, who sang but didn’t play the guitar; he took young Sam on as accompanist. 

It became a lasting association. Mr. Hopkins and Texas Alexander, a singer with a voice like barbed wire, worked theaters and both could still be heard together on Houston street corners and city buses in the early 1950’s. ‘Rediscovered’ in 50’s 

Mr. Hopkins had returned to Houston in 1945 after years of wandering around the South. Ten years later – he had become well known throughout Texas by then – the country blues were at a low as popular music and he fell into obscurity. 

But a musicologist, Sam Charters, ”rediscovered” him in the late 1950’s and introduced him to a new generation of blues fans, this time across the country. 

”The last of the blues is almost gone,” Mr. Hopkins noted just a few years ago when he had his national fame well in place, ”and the ones who doin’ it now got to either get a record or sit ’round me and learn my stuff, ’cause that all that they can go by.’

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Hoagy Carmichael 12/1981

Hoagy CarmichaelDecember 27, 1981 – Howard ‘Hoagy’ Carmichael was born in Bloomington, Indiana on November 22, 1899. If for nothing else, his song “Georgia on my Mind” would have landed him in the Annals of Superstardom.

He was named Hoagland after a circus troupe “The Hoaglands” who stayed at the Carmichael house during his mother’s pregnancy. His dad Howard was a horse-drawn taxi driver and electrician, and mom Lida a versatile pianist who played accompaniment at silent movies and for parties. The family moved frequently, as Howard sought better employment for his growing family.

At six, Carmichael started to sing and play the piano, easily absorbing his mother’s keyboard skills; he never had formal piano lessons. By high school, the piano was the focus of his after-school life, and for inspiration he would listen to ragtime pianists Hank Wells and Hube Hanna. At eighteen, the small, wiry, pale Carmichael was living in Indianapolis, trying to help his family’s income working in manual jobs in construction, a bicycle chain factory, and a slaughterhouse. The bleak time was partly spelled by four-handed piano duets with his mother and by his strong friendship with Reg DuValle, a black bandleader and pianist known as “the elder statesman of Indiana jazz” and “the Rhythm King”, who taught him piano jazz improvisation.

The death of his three-year-old sister in 1918 affected him deeply, and he wrote “My sister Joanne—the victim of poverty. We couldn’t afford a good doctor or good attention, and that’s when I vowed I would never be broke again in my lifetime.”

Carmichael attended Indiana University and the Indiana University School of Law, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1925 and a law degree in 1926. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and played the piano all around the state with his “Collegians” to support his studies. He met, befriended, and played with Bix Beiderbecke, the cornetist, sometime pianist and fellow mid-westerner. On a visit to Chicago, Carmichael was introduced by Beiderbecke to Louis Armstrong, who was then playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and with whom he would collaborate later.

In October 1929 the stock market crashed and Carmichael’s hard-earned savings declined substantially. Fortunately, Louis Armstrong then recorded “Rockin’ Chair” at Okeh studios, giving Carmichael a badly-needed financial boost. He had begun to work at an investment house and was considering a switch in career when he composed “Georgia on My Mind” with lyrics by Stuart Gorrell, perhaps most famously turned into an evergreen by the Ray Charles rendition recorded many years later(1960).

Hoagy kept writing what sounded ‘right’ and in 1930 made recordings of “Georgia On My Mind,” “Rockin’ Chair,” and “Lazy River.” Other artists heard the new songs and within a year Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and the Dorsey brothers had recorded their own versions and were performing them on the new hot medium, radio. Hoagy Carmichael himself was still barely known to the public, but they were hearing and singing his songs, and in 1936 Hoagy went to Hollywood where “the rainbow hits the ground for composers.”

During the next decade, Hoagy moved from backstage into the spotlight. He worked with lyricists Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser and Mitchell Parish. He became a star performer on records, radio and stage with a signature style, and began appearing in movies, most memorably in “To Have and Have Not” and “The Best Years of Our Lives”. He got married and fathered two sons. In one year, 1946, he had three of the top four songs on the Hit Parade, and in 1951 he and Mercer won an Oscar for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.” He hosted his own television show, “The Saturday Night Review.”

‘Hoagy’ was no longer a peculiar name, he was a star, even an American icon. He was also someone you knew, a guy you wished you could have a drink and share a laugh with. He had the same joys and desires, disappointments and fears you had, and some of his songs–“Lazy River,” “Heart and Soul”– became so familiar they sounded as if no one had written them, they’d just always been there.

Despite Hoagy’s folksiness, humor and accessibility, there was also something emotionally deep and complex in him. Perhaps it was because he never got that house back in Bloomington, even if he got one in Hollywood instead. Or maybe it was because behind that knowing look and wryly cocked eyebrow there were a whole lot of things that baffled him too. Like how you could want more than anything “the solid, warm, endearing things of life” and also be a “jazz maniac” whose judgment was “thrown out of kilter” by hearing a horn. These were the twin passions which wove through Hoagy’s life in strands, and one night when he was alone at the piano, they combined in a song.

Hoagy described his surprise the first time he heard a recording of “Stardust”: “And then it happened–that queer sensation that this melody was bigger than me. Maybe I hadn’t written it at all. The recollection of how, when and where it all happened became vague as the lingering strains hung in the rafters of the studio. I wanted to shout back at it, ‘maybe I didn’t write you, but I found you.'”

Hoagy found a lot of songs during his storybook life, and maybe his personal journey began the night a hungry young kid heard Louis Jordan’s band and went crazy for jazz. In The Stardust Road, Hoagy describes what he said to himself the next day mowing his Grandmother’s lawn: “No, gramma, I don’t think I’ll ever be president of anything. I know Mother named me after a railroad man, but it’s too late now, I’m afraid. Much, much too late.

He appeared as an actor in a total of 14 motion pictures died from a heart attack on Dec 27, 1981 at the age of 82.

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Lee Hays 8/1981

lee hays, baritone for the weaversAugust 26, 1981 – Lee Hays was born March 14, 1914 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the youngest of the four children of William Benjamin Hays, a Methodist minister, and Ellen Reinhardt Hays, who before her marriage had been a court stenographer. William Hays’s vocation of ministering to rural areas took him from parish to parish, so as a child, Lee lived in several towns in Arkansas and Georgia. He learned to sing sacred harp music in his father’s church. Both his parents valued learning and books. Mrs. Hays taught her four children to type before they began learning penmanship in school and all were excellent students. There was a gap in age of ten years between Lee and next oldest sibling, his brother Bill. In 1927, when Lee was thirteen, his childhood came to an abrupt end as tragedy struck the family. The Reverend Hays was killed in an automobile accident on a remote road and soon afterward Lee’s mother had to be hospitalized for a mental breakdown from which she never recovered. Lee’s sister, who had begun teaching at Hendrix-Henderson College, also broke down temporarily and had to quit her job to move in with their oldest brother in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1930, Lee’s brother Rueben helped him find a job at the public library in Cleveland, Ohio, and the 16-year-old’s informal education began. “Every book that was considered unfit for children was marked with a black rubber stamp,” Hays recalled later. “So I’d go through the stacks and look for those black stamps.” Hays stayed at the library until 1934 — the longest he would ever hold a single job — and then returned to Arkansas.

Hays had heard of a Presbyterian preacher in Logan County, Claude Williams, who had been organizing miners and sharecroppers in the area, both black and white. Hays enrolled at the nearby College of the Ozarks and studied for the ministry himself for about a year. Hays stayed under the wing of Williams through the 1930s — even as Williams was forced to leave his Paris church, was beaten by police and union busters in Fort Smith and moved to Little Rock.

Hays worked with two of the state’s best-known so-called “radical” organizations of the era — the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, organized in Tyronza in the mid-1930s, and Commonwealth College in Polk County, founded through the American socialist movement that gained momentum though World War I. Beyond its curriculum, those from the college advocated for coal miners in Western Arkansas and sharecroppers in Eastern Arkansas. Notable attendees of Commonwealth included future longtime Gov. Orval Faubus. Hays’ uncle, folklorist Vance Randolph, was among those in the state’s liberal community with ties to the college. At Commonwealth, Hays honed his songwriting skills and his bass singing voice.

In 1940, Hays left Arkansas for New York to further his emerging political interests. There, Hays met a compatriot, Pete Seeger, whom Hays would collaborate with for decades. Through the early 1940s, Hays, Seeger and Woody Guthrie — as part of the Almanac Singers — toured college campuses and union rallies. Guthrie nicknamed Hays “Arkansaw Hard Luck Lee.” Hays didn’t play an instrument, but was skilled at writing and adapting songs from hymnbooks and the like to fit their messages. Unlike the Weavers, the Almanac Singers did sing songs about unions, pacifism and politics.

But the success of the Weavers in the late 1940s and early 1950s attracted more attention in the McCarthy era. The group’s first single, “Goodnight Irene,” hit the charts a few weeks after the death of its composer, Leadbelly. As the group kept putting out hits and selling out concerts, the Weavers found themselves under increased scrutiny, and were eventually blacklisted. “Songs are dangerous,” Hays once said. His government apparently agreed.

One of Hays’ most enduring compositions is “If I Had a Hammer,” composed with Seeger at a rally. It was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and subsequently by many more artists. Hays also had some short stories and poems published, but remained best known as a Weaver. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Hays lived simply, mostly off his royalties for songs such as “Hammer.” One project he did go for was a small part as a preacher in the Arthur Penn-directed 1968 film “Alice’s Restaurant,” starring and based on the song by Arlo Guthrie, his old friend Woody’s son.

The Weavers never really recovered from the blacklisting, despite successful recordings and reunion concerts. By the late 1970s, Hays had a pacemaker and both legs had been amputated due to diabetes, but a final reunion concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall was staged and filmed by a documentary crew in October 1980.

Hays died from diabetic cardiovascular disease at home in Croton on August 26, 1981. He was 67, having seen his 1950s blacklisting go from a source of shame to a badge of honor.


In Dead Earnest

If I should die before I wake,
All my bone and sinew take:
Put them in the compost pile
To decompose a little while.
Sun, rain, and worms will have their way,
Reducing me to common clay.
All that I am will feed the trees
And little fishes in the seas.
When corn and radishes you munch,
You may be having me for lunch.
Then excrete me with a grin,
Chortling, “There goes Lee again!”
Twill be my happiest destiny
To die and live eternally.

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Harry Chapin 7/1981

July 16, 1981 – Harry Chapin was born on December 7th 1942 in Greenwich Village, New York, the second of four children who also included future musicians Tom and Steve. His parents were Jeanne Elspeth (née Burke) and Jim Chapin, a legendary percussionist. He had English ancestry, his great-grandparents having immigrated in the late 19th century. His parents divorced in 1950, with Elspeth retaining custody of their four sons, as Jim spent much of his time on the road as a drummer for Big band era acts such as Woody Herman. She married Films in Review magazine editor Henry Hart a few years later. Chapin’s maternal grandfather was literary critic Kenneth Burke.

Chapin’s first formal introduction to music came while singing in the Brooklyn Boys Choir, where Chapin met “Big” John Wallace, a tenor with a five-octave range, who later became his bassist, backing vocalist, and his straight man onstage. Continue reading Harry Chapin 7/1981

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Rushton Moreve 7/1981

rushton-moreveJuly 1, 1981 – Rushton Moreve was born John Rushton Morey (Steppen Wolf) on November 6th 1948 in Los Angeles, California.

Moreve’s early influence was essential in creating the unique musical style for which Steppenwolf became famous. Moreve joined the band in 1967, having responded to a “Bass Player Wanted” notice posted at Wallich’s Music City at Vine and Sunset. Not yet 18 he joined Steppen Wolf in 1967 on the first multi platinum debut album “Steppen Wolf” which featured the super hits “Born to be Wild” and “The Pusher”, both of which were used in the 1969 film Easy Rider.

While the band was recording its second album, Moreve played  a simple but catchy three-note bass line. The band liked it. The final result was the song “Magic Carpet Ride”, a worldwide hit which reached number three on Billboard 100. Writing credits for “Magic Carpet Ride” were assigned to frontman John Kay and Rushton Moreve. This was the only Steppenwolf song Moreve received credit for writing. It was released on the album Steppenwolf the Second, on which his influence was heavier.

Moreve was fired from the band in 1968 for missing gigs after he became afraid to return to Los Angeles, convinced by his girlfriend that it was going to be leveled by an earthquake and fall into the sea. He was awarded his gold record for The Second when one of his producers recognized him on the street years later.

In 1978, he joined a new Steppenwolf lineup with ex-Steppenwolf guitarist Kent Henry, who played on the For Ladies Only album . This was a separate incarnation from the lineup with Nick St. Nicholas. Moreve eventually left this version of Steppenwolf when he and Henry had a major falling out.

Morey died on July 1, 1981 from injuries sustained in a car/motorcycle accident in Sun Valley, Los Angeles, California. He was 33.

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Steve Currie 4/1981

Jack Steve Currie and Marc BolanApril 28, 1981 – Steve Currie was born on May 19th 1947 in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, England.

He became best known as bass player of the English glam rock band T-Rex.

Whilst working for the local Tax office, Currie played with local Grimsby group “The Rumble Band”. He joined T. Rex (recently renamed from Tyrannosaurus Rex) as bass guitarist in November 1970 (although the band were still listed as a duo) and continued to play with them until late 1976. He appeared on all of Marc Bolan’s most memorable hit singles from “Ride a White Swan” in 1970 to “Laser Love” in 1976 , as well as all the albums from 1971’s Electric Warrior to Dandy in the Underworld released in 1977.

After leaving T.Rex, Steve went into session work, and moved to Portugal to live.

He died in a car crash on 28 April 1981, whilst returning to his home near Vale de Parra, Algarve, Portugal. His death came less than four years after T. Rex lead singer Marc Bolan had died in a car crash in Barnes, South West London, and just six months after Steve Took’s death. The site where Marc Bolan died has since become a shrine which in 2007 was recognised by the English Tourist Board (Enjoy England) as a site of Rock ‘n Roll Importance. Steve Currie is commemorated with a memorial plaque on the steps at Bolan’s Rock Shrine, as are Mickey Finn (died Jan 11,2003), Steve Took (died 27 October 1980), June Bolan (née Child) (his widow) and later member of T. Rex Dino Dines.

Steve Currie was 33.

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David Lynch 1/1981

David LynchJanuary 2, 1981 – David Lynch was born on  July 3rd 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri. After his military service he moved to Los Angeles and began singing doo-wop with Alex Hodge, Herb Reed and parking-lot attendant Tony Williams. He was a cab driver before joining the second and most famous incarnation of the Platters. Part of the burgeoning Los Angeles rhythm & blues scene of the early 1950’s, the original Platters group consisted of Cornell Gunter, brothers Gaynel and Alex Hodge, Joe Jefferson and Curtis Williams. Formed in January 1953, the original line-up showed several early changes, with cab driver David Lynch replacing Joe Jefferson, Herb Reed (from the gospel group the Wings Over Jordan) replacing Curtis Williams and Tony Williams (introduced by his sister, Linda Hayes) replacing Cornell Gunter. The Platters’ big break came when the group signed with manager Buck Ram (a successful composer/arranger/talent agent), who signed them to Federal Records in 1953.

Their distinctive sound created by Buck Ram was a bridge between the pre-rock Tin Pan Alley tradition, and the burgeoning new genre. The group members were David Lynch, Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunther, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed.

When a few early recordings didn’t live up to expectations, Ram fired Hodge and replaced him with Paul Robi and Zola Taylor, the latter of Shirley Gunter and the Queens. The band then had its first regional hit with its seventh single, “Only You.” With this song they became the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America.

Mercury Records scooped up the Platters and reissued “Only You,” which cracked the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1955. It was soon followed by the #1 “The Great Pretender” in 1956, the year the Platters appeared in the rock ’n’ roll movies “Rock Around the Clock” and “The Girl Can’t Help It.” Other hits for the group that year were “My Prayer” (#1), “The MagicTouch” (#4) and “You’ll Never Know” (#11).

Lynch and the Platters also scored parts in several movies of this period, such as “The Girl Can’t Help It” with Jayne Mansfield, “Girls Town” with Mamie Van Doren, Mel Tormé and Ray Anthony and “European Nights”

In 1958, the Platters reached #1 with two singles: the classics “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” The latter was also an Australian chart-topper, and the band was very popular in the UK.

Scandal hit the Platters the following year when the band’s male members (who were black) were arrested in Cincinnati and accused of having sexual relations with four female minors (three of whom were white). In the racially-divided atmosphere of the time, it was a career-damaging incident. Though the Platters were acquitted, much of the public was outraged. Following the incident, the band’s line-up had only one more top-10 single, “Harbor Lights” (1960) in the US.

Consequently they looked at their popularity in Europe but after a few more releases, such as 1961’s “If I Didn’t Care,” lead singer Williams quit to go solo and was replaced by Sonny Turner. Despite this event, the record label continued to issue old singles featuring Williams for the next three years.

The original lineup disbanded during this period, and various members drifted in and out of the group for years. The Platters’ biggest later-period hit was 1967’s “With This Ring.”

David later joined Ram’s Platters lineup, with lead vocalist Sonny Turner, Herb Reed, Nate Nelson and Sandra Dawn; they enjoyed a short chart renaissance in 1966-67, with the comeback singles “I Love You 1000 Times”, “With This Ring”, and the Motown-influenced “Washed Ashore”.

Lynch was not among the Platters present at the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. He died of cancer on January 2, 1981.

David along with the Platters was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Tim Hardin 12/1980

Tim HardinDecember 29, 1980 – James Timothy “Tim” Hardin was born in Eugene, Oregon on December 23rd 1941. He dropped out of high school at age 18 to join the Marine Corps. (Hardin is said to have discovered heroin in Vietnam.) After his discharge he moved to New York City in 1961, where he briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was dismissed due to truancy and began to focus on his musical career by performing around Greenwich Village, mostly in a blues style.

After moving to Boston in 1963 he was discovered by the record producer Erik Jacobsen (later the producer for The Lovin’ Spoonful), who arranged a meeting with Columbia Records. In 1964 he moved back to Greenwich Village to record for his contract with Columbia. The resulting recordings were not released and Columbia terminated Hardin’s recording contract.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1965, he met actress Susan Yardley Morss (known professionally as Susan Yardley) and moved back to New York with her. He signed to the Verve Forecast label, and produced his first authorized album, Tim Hardin 1 in 1966 which contained “Reason To Believe” and the ballad “Misty Roses” which did receive Top 40 radio play.

His backing band included Lovin’ Spoonful leader John Sebastian on harmonica and jazzman Gary Burton on vibes, but Hardin claimed to be so upset by the strings that were overdubbed on some tracks without his consent that he cried when he first heard them. Still, it was a strong set with a tender low-key, confessional tone, and contained some of his best compositions, such as “Misty Roses”, “How Can We Hang On To A Dream”, and especially “Reason To Believe”, which became something of a signature tune.

Strings also occasionally graced Hardin’s next LP, Tim Hardin 2 (1967), in a more subtle fashion. Another solid collection in much the same vein