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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.

Continue reading Lamar Williams 1/1983

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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.

Obituary

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 as the debut, it contained perhaps his most famous song, “If I Were A Carpenter”, which was taken into the US Top 10 in a faithful cover version by Bobby Darin.

These two albums, sadly, represented the apex of Tim’s career; almost all of his best work is contained on them, although he would live another dozen years. Heroin problems and general irresponsibility often made him miss shows or perform poorly; he suffered from pleurisy in 1968, and a tour of England the same year had to be cancelled when he fell asleep on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after dismissing his backing group in front of the audience. The live Tim Hardin 3 (1968) was a decent set with jazzy backing musicians that introduced some new material along with reprises of previously recorded favorites. But Hardin didn’t record another set of fresh songs in the 60s, although he did perform at Woodstock, where he lived for a while (his performance, however, didn’t make it on to the film of the event).

Many of his songs were covered by prominent artists including Small Faces, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Rod Stewart, Weddings Parties Anything, Joan Baez Four Tops, Doc Watson, Robert Plant, Rick Nelson to mention a few. His many songs include “If I Were A Carpenter”, “How Can We Hang On To A Dream?”, “Misty Roses”, “Reason to Believe”, “It’ll Never Happen Again”, “You Got a Reputation”, “Don’t Make Promises”, “Shiloh Town”, “The Lady Came from Baltimore” and “Red Balloon”

Hardin did record a few albums in the early 1970s that were not without bright moments; but, whether due to dope or other factors, his muse seems to have withered; the 1973 record Painted Head didn’t even contain a single original composition. Tim Hardin 9 (also 1973) was his last LP; after years of bouncing around England and the West Coast and fighting health and psychological problems, he died in Los Angeles in 1980 at age 39 from a heroin and morphine overdose.

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John Bonham 9/1980

John BonhamSeptember 25, 1980 – John Henry “Bonzo, The Beast” Bonham was a natural phenomenon on the drums. All the accolades surrounding this man’s drumming point at one thing: He was and probably forever will be the best rock drummer of all time. Hard to accept that Vodka killed him; well 40 shots of the stuff made him vomit and then choke and did not only end his life, but also the best Rock Band that ever existed: Led Zeppelin.

Born in Redditch, UK on May 31, 1948, he started to learn drumming at the age of 5 and in 1964, he joined his first semi-professional band, Terry Webb and the Spiders. He also played in other Birmingham bands, The Nicky James Movement and The Senators, who released a fairly successful single “She’s a Mod,” in 1964. John then took up drumming full-time. Two years later, he joined A Way of Life, before he joined a blues group called Crawling King Snakes, whose lead singer was a young Robert Plant. Continue reading John Bonham 9/1980

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Joe Dassin 8/1980

megastar Joe DassinAugust 20, 1980 – Joseph Ira “Joe” Dassin was born on November 5, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a violinist Beatrice, called Bea, who works with the best classical musicians such as Pablo Casals, and father, Jules Dassin, who after a short stage career, becomes Alfred Hitchcock’s associate director and a film director at last. In 1940 his father, seduced by the seventh art, decides to move to Los Angeles. The mysterious Los Angeles of the MGM studios and the Pacific Coast beaches. In this American city, where East meets West, Joe lives a happy teenager’s life till the day when…the world turns upside down. Along with the end of the World War II and Yalta agreements the world has to put up with the consequences of the “Cold War”.

East and West face each other: the USA against USSR, capitalism against socialism. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin opens and leads his witch-hunt against people suspected of sympathizing with communism. Jules Dassin, who has already won some fame, is also under suspicion. Soon, he is accused of “Moscow-liking”. This means the end of sweet Hollywood life and exile for the Dassin family.By the end of 1949 a transatlantic liner leaves the New York harbor heading for Europe. Joe is watching his native land disappear in the morning mist and the liner’s smoke. From this time on, he won’t call any country home.

Joe discovers the Old Europe at the age of 12. This is 1950 and the old continent is under total re-construction. The Marshall Plan and ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) make front-page stories. While Jules and Bea are settling in Paris, Joe is sent to a boarding school of a famous Col-lege Rosey in Switzerland. The establishment is chic and very expensive. In spite of the exile the money doesn’t seem to be a big problem to the Dassins. There Joe makes acquaintance with Karim Aga Khan and the rich European heirs.

Meanwhile, the educational establishments follow one another. 1951: Joe is in Italy. 1953: he at-tends the International School in Geneva. In 1954 this latter sends him to Grenoble to pass his “baccalaureat” exam and get a bachelor’s degree, for this kind of diploma doesn’t exist in Switzer-land. By this time Joe is 16 and he is a very handsome guy with a winsome look in his eyes. He speaks three languages fluently and gets a good (excellent) mark for his “bac” exam.

In 1955, Joe’s parents get divorced. The film-maker continues his career with a new companion, the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, while the violinist prefers, from this time on, to keep in the back-ground. Joe takes the failure of his parents’ family life close to heart and decides to return to his hearth and home of America. So, he comes back to the USA where, at that time, the standards of the university education were second to none. As Joe gets enrolled in the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Elvis Presley starts his crusade for Rock’n’Roll. Joe doesn’t seem to be really im-pressed by this musical style. Being an earnest and diligent student, Dassin Jr. is far from black shirts, people indulging in pointless rebellion and the American Graffiti “live”. At first he tries to study medical science but experimenting with animals and dissection is more than he can endure, so Joe focuses on Anthropology and Russian language studies. Very concerned to speak fluently many languages, Dassin lives with his two French-speaking buddies, a French, Alain Guiraud and a Swiss, soon-to-be dean of one of the faculties of Geneva University. Quite often Alain and Joe make some changes in their usual time-table… Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, while America gets “electrified”, having neither leather jackets nor pomaded haircuts a la mode, the two friends sing in duet, standing on the double ladder so that the audience can see them better. Their repertoire includes neither Elvis Presley nor Eddie Cochran but Brassens. In the atmosphere of gen-eral affectation the French-singing duet assure their Folk “a la francaise” some kind of a promotion and is the first ever to export the poetry of Brassens to the American campuses. These recitals bring them some bottom dollars but it has more of a money spinning side-line than a regular job and Joe has to work. No problem. In an America of “affluent society” of J.K.Galbraith all young Americans make different “student jobs”. During six years of studies Joe takes turns working as a sociologist, a delivery man, a truck driver… Meanwhile, our A student finds some spare time to write a story – “Wade In Water” – which received the second national award. A painful omen: he is declared unfit for military service because of cardiac problems.

While Joe is studying hard at the University, his father gains authority throughout the world and becomes the Great Jules Dassin. In 1958, he asks Joe to record some themes for his next movie – “La Loi” (The Law) starring Gina Lollobrigida and featuring a marvelous tarantella. Dassin Jr. re-leases an EP at Versailles label in 1959. Then, in 1960, comes “Never On Sunday” (Jamais le di-manche) with its astonishing sound track and, especially, the song “Les Enfants du Piree” (The Children Of Piree) performed by Melina Mercouri. Joe graduates from the University and gets Doc-tor’s degree in Anthropology while the 60s take full speed. The Rock’n’Roll has already conquered America and is on the way to charming the Old Europe.

Diploma in the pocket, Joe has to decide his own future. And this is not an easy thing to do for a man who is an artist like his parents but not a daydreamer. Somehow he guesses that his future is on the other side of the Atlantic, in the good old Europe of his adolescent years. $300 in the pocket, Joe boards a ship which takes him to Italy. He travels first class: in the hold of a cargo. It is 1962 and Joe is 24. As he still does not feel like finding himself a regular job, his father hires him as an asso-ciate director of “Topkapi”, Jules’ second great movie. The world media are delighted to show the father and his son on the same set, and unveil Joe’s unshaven oriental face. Easy come easy go, and Joe spends his fee on a little Triumph. Just after that he starts to perform at the Radio Luxembourg and becomes a journalist for Playboy, while the French ye-ye is in its prime.

December 13, 1963 radically changes Joe’s private life. At one of the many parties organized by Eddy Barclay he meets a girl. The pretext of this “party” is the French release of Stanley Cramer’s movie “This Crazy, Crazy, Crazy World”. Surrounded by the imposing architectural beauty of the Pavillon d’Armenonville, Joe is equally impressed by girl’s charm and personality. Her name is Maryse. None of them suspects their ten-years long romance that will follow. A few days after the Pavillon party, Joe invites Maryse Massiera for a week-end to Moulin de Poincy, some 40 km from Paris. His aim is clear – to seduce her by all possible means. In the intimacy of the room with burn-ing fireplace he sings her “Freight Train”, accompanying himself on a guitar. He knows very well that the combination of his vocal cords and those of his guitar is irresistible. His devilishly tender plan works out perfectly and she falls into his arms… After this week-end out of time, the two lov-ers live up in the clouds till the end of the year.

From January 6, 1964, feeling determined the young couple starts to make plans. By the end of the month the idea of engagement, or even wedding, is in the air. Joe and Maryse settle in Saint-Cloud, at Bea’s place. The solution is temporary but the two lovers don’t put such difficult questions. Joe writes stories for the magazines and this let him get by for a moment. And even invite Maryse for a few days of skiing to Zermatt, Switzerland, in February. On their coming back, the couple becomes aware of reality and has to solve the apartment question. They accumulate their money and spend the spring of 1964 looking for a new lodging. Like all Americans, Joe is fond of St.Germain-des-Pres. He chooses Boulevard Raspail. The house is situated in front of the American center but a lit-tle three-room is far from Joe’s dreams… Whatever, this is his first apartment shared with a beloved woman. Inspired by his new role of a “family man”, Joe spends half a summer repairing their love nest. Determined to become a real head of family, he redoubles his efforts. In order to get some more money, he dubs American movies and writes articles for Playboy and The New Yorker. He even plays a part in Trefle Rouge (The Hop-clover) and Lady L. Between the two movies Joe gets a job of a stage manager for Clive Donner in What’s New Pussycat? His guitar is still his passion, his evening pleasure. Maryse shares with him these precious moments of musical emotion. Apparently, Joe is not going to bring his hobby into profit but nobody suspects what the future keeps in store…

Maryse has a friend, her former classmate, Catherine Regnier. While in boarding school, the two girls always shared their joys and sorrows. In this same 1964 a US record company which has recently established its subsidiary in France engaged Catherine as a secretary. Its rather shabby-looking office is situated on 42, rue Paradis, in the Xth district. The Columbia Broadcasting System more known as CBS distributes the discs of such American artists as Barbara Streisand. Catherine often speaks about songs and records, and Maryse has an idea. Joe’s 26th birthday is on November 5 and she is going to offer him a disc. As a gift. With the help from Catherine, who knows a man charged with transferring the sound from magnetic tape on vynil surface, Maryse intends to release a one-copy “supple”, so that she can easily listen to the voice of her beloved man singing “Freight Train”…

They make an appointment with the CBS staff. One October day, the precious magnetic tape in her hand, Maryse penetrates into the CBS office, which is nothing but an old apartment on the last – fourth – floor of a house with leaking roof. One of the brightest ever careers of French showbiz is decided in a room where every little rain makes appear a whole army of basins. Maryse meets Cath-erine, who promises to record the disc by the beginning of November. As soon as Maryse leaves, the little staff of CBS France, more used to listen to the American products than to young French-speaking singers, grabs the tape from the shelf in order to have a little fun in the end of a boring working day. But soon the fun gives place to deep reflection. The singer’s voice is deep and pleas-ant, and his phenomenal sense of rhythm is evident. Will it sell? And what if CBS France will es-tablish its own record catalog instead of trying to sell the American stars? The gift record is made and Catherine is charged with persuading Joe to meet the CBS France team. As it has to be a (good) surprise for him, Joe still knows nothing about it. But this birthday “surprise” sets him in a bad hu-mor. Especially when he finds out that the tape fell into hands of a record company which would truly like to meet him for some business reasons. Needless to say that Catherine’s proposition to see the CBS staff about his possible career of a singer is firmly refused. Joe will never become a singer. But it has to be something more than that to discourage Catherine who believes in Joe’s talent. She repeats her assault five times, ten times and… finally manages to convince him. Not too much, in-deed, just a little record, kind of a trial balloon… Two months of a siege gain the upper hand over the young rebel and a few days before Christmas the fortress surrenders. Joe puts his John Hancock on what is the very first contract with a French singer in the long history of the CBS record com-pany.

On December 26 , Joe is in the CBS recording studio. Oswald d’Andrea conducts the orchestra. They record four tunes for a glossy jacketed EP. There are inevitable adaptations and two originals written by Jean-Michel Rivat and Frank Thomas. The two young talented songwriters side Joe in the beginning of his legendary career. But, to tell the truth, the EP is a slapdash piece of work and Joe has difficulty believing in his “lucky star”.

And he is quite right. The 1000 copies of the disc are barely selling. Radio stations which played a crucial role in disc promotions at that time, showed very little enthusiasm, and it in no way encouraged the CBS to action. Monique Le Marcis from the Radio Luxembourg and Lucien Leibovitz from the Europe Un are the only DJs to include Joe’s songs to their play lists. Almost at once they felt this great potential that Joe seemed to have. The spirits are especially low in March and April. But Joe who was reluctant to start career of a singer some months ago, now little by little gets sucked into the game. He refuses to accept the flop and seeks recognition as a performer. So, he decides to get everything started over again with the CBS. From May 7 till 14, Joe returns to the recording studio with the same Oswald d’Andrea. Three recording sessions bring four songs – all cover versions – for the second EP (Extended Play). Having been published in June, the disc is released in 2000 copies. These latter are launched to the market as the promo record is sent to the radio stations in July. But nothing happens, the summer hit belongs to the others. Two successive failures push Joe to fully concentrate on his future career. He runs from publisher to publisher looking for cover versions for his third try which has to be good. By the end of the summer he gets “his” hit, “Shame And Scandal In The Family”, an all-American success, the French version of which he proposes to create. The CBS director has his doubts… Too late! Sacha Distel who has just signed a contract with Pathe-Marconi is in need of musical material and records the song. The Surfs, who are also looking for the second blow with the Festival Recording Company, do the same… As a result, both are a huge success and Joe, enraged, threatens to change the recording company. Joe’s results are poor, but the CBS France does not achieve what was expected from it by the CBS-USA, either. So, the New York direction decides to appoint a new chief of the French subsidiary. Jacques Souplet, chosen to fill the vacancy, used to work for Barclay. His first decision spells death to the existence of the office on rue Paradis. The organisation, which will later on become one of the biggest French recording labels, settles in a mansion in district XVI, 3, rue Freycinet. Joe decides to watch how this new team that promised him to take care of his career is getting on. The new recording session is scheduled for October 21 and 22. Joe knows that it will be either sink or swim. Either the disc is a success or a failure – in any case something has to be done. On his third EP Joe rounded up the best cover versions he had ever expected to get. At those times the publishers kept their best tunes for the stars such as Johnny and Cloclo. Joe and other newcomers had to be contented with what was left. Rivat writes French lyrics for two Cuban songs popular in English-speaking countries at that time. Soon after the recording sessions, from November 5 till 9, they release 4000 copies of the EP followed, by 1300 promos on November 19. And, thank God, the radio stations give it a warm welcome. About 25000 copies are sold. Even if Nana Mouskouri and Les Compagnons de la Chanson who also work under the CBS trademark have better sales figures with their versions of “Guantanamera”, the success of the other tune – “Bip-Bip” – belongs solely to Joe. It doesn’t even matter that Joe is more often heard on the radio than in the music stores. So, a gigantic step has just been made: Joe’s name has become known. Jacques Souplet fills out the CBS stable, signs new contracts and doesn’t have any spare time to take care of Dassin. But he realizes that this latter needs a good producer, someone who could “manage” him, give him advice. And Jacques seems to have an idea… There is a genius of a producer who has recently freed himself from a contract. Even more, it looks as if he were Joe’s kindred spirit. Like Joe, he is fond of jazz, he studied law and he knows America and the Americans quite well. As for his professional skills, he had released the first French discs of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, he had worked for Pathe with Aznavour and had launched in France the Capitol trademark before he became the artistic director of Hallyday and Gainsbourg at Philips. After all, he was the first ever independent producer at Philips and “made” Sheila with Claude Carrere. From September 13 his contract with the latter expired and he is free. It would be a shame to waste such a chance. Souplet knows that Jacques Plait is a man of situation. The only thing left is to persuade him to take charge of the process. Two Jacques meet and agree on a possibility of an independent production at CBS for Plait. Everything is all right but one thing… Plait has to find common ground with Dassin. A “business lunch” is fixed for the end of the year. Being a professional Plait is really worried to meet one more “father’s son”. Dassin fears the worst and cannot imagine being managed by anyone. On December 31, during the historical lunch with cheese and coffee the decision is made. Not without some natural rebuking movements from each contracting party. Anyway, Plait explains, Dassin listens, Souplet freely enjoys the process. The common ground is found. And the history is being made. After lunch, Jacques Plait, coming back to Sceaux, drops Joe at his place on Boulevard Raspail.

They seal the contract with a handshake and a smile. And there will be no other.

1966

Joe seems to get himself into another fix – Maryse drags him into marriage. The ceremony is scheduled for January 18 and will take place in the courthouse of the XIV district. But even if Joe accepts to set it up, he does not wish to see any friends or relatives at his wedding. The collapse of his parents’ marriage is still fresh in his mind. The passage to the courthouse is barred even for Catherine Regnier. Grumpy and touchy this same morning, on his way to the courthouse Joe runs into his friend and “parolier” (lyrics writer) Jean-Michel Rivat. This latter asks his pal where he is going. When Joe announces the news, Rivat cannot believe his ears and decides to join him. In the most intimate of atmospheres Joe says good-bye to his bachelor’s life. Then follows the wedding party in a Russian restaurant where Joe ends dead drunk under the table. Joe Dassin is married. Soon Jacques Plait shows up. Now it is necessary to select good songs, to write cover versions, to find the musicians and a studio… For the time of the studios integrated in the record companies and the musicians-employees is over. Joe starts to work with the man whom he soon baptizes Jacquot. The following process means a lot of work and very little sleep. After some weeks of searching the tandem is positively seduced by four Anglo-Saxon tunes one of which – “You Were On My Mind” – is American. The cover versions are made by Rivat who writes French lyrics for “Comme la lune”, as well as by the best French paroliers. One of them – Andre Salvet – adapts “The Cheater” which becomes, on Joe’s request, “Le tricheur”. But great music and good lyrics are not enough, Jacques Plait knows that nothing should be let slide. Claude Francois and Richard Anthony work in London, so Joe Dassin also must go to London for recording sessions, says Jacques to himself not really believing in this audacious thought. To tell the truth, Joe hasn’t shown his potential yet. Plait contacts Souplet who gives a go to the idea. Undoubtedly, the CBS protege enjoys his company’s confidence…

But the problems are far from being over. Jacques Plait has to find an orchestra conductor acting simultaneously as an arranger. Plait is offered three names and three telephone numbers. He makes calls – the first man is absent, the second one answers – it is Johnny Arthey – and the third one will never know what opportunity he missed. One cold winter day of 1966 Joe and Jacques take plane to London and call on Arthey who works for Feldman Music publishing company, 64, Dean Street in Soho. Very fast Jacques and Joe realize that they have to deal with a typical English eccentric. They present him the tunes to be rearranged. Dealing done, Arthey grasps what sound they want for the disc. And from now on he becomes the first and the only Joe’s studio arranger. For good. This gray day in the beginning of March Joe is feverish. In the Lansdowne Recording Studio in London Arthey’s musicians do the record in the key appropriate to his low baritone. Some days later in Paris Joe records vocal parties in an ancient disused movie theater – the Davout Studio – one of the first French independent studios. These March days “You Were On My Mind” becomes “Ca m’avance a quoi?”, the headliner of the fourth disc. Souplet acts promptly and releases the disc in April. The vinyl is released as EP and as a 45 single. During the same 1966 Joe starts to work for Radio Luxembourg performing the “Western Story” series. By the way the trio Rivat-Plait-Dassin enjoys cutting capers. They invent a certain Edouard who sings “Les hallucinations” teasing especially Antoine with his “Elucubrations”. Edouard, with his questionable “a la protest song” appearance is the same old chap Rivat disguised in a longhaired wig and Bible-prophet beard. The star takes the abuse into the court, wins and the EP has to be withdrawn. The second Edouard’s single goes into sales, then the third one, but the biggest ever hoax of French show business is quickly forgotten. On the other hand, this summer turns out to be successful for Joe. “Ca m’avance a quoi?” goes well on the radio and by September there are talks about the first album. Meanwhile, the market is awaiting a new disc. This time it will be a single with two songs, the kind that is used for jukeboxes. A great novelty for the French music market, indeed. From the very beginning of the vinyl disc business in France the recording companies released only the four-songs EPs as it was more profitable. Feeling the weakness of the market Souplet decides to launch a “commercialized” single like in English-speaking countries. First of all he wraps the disc in a cardboard full-color jacket. This will become the beginning of the Gemini series. Joe Dassin was one of the very first CBS’ French-singing performers who had tested this know-how. And it worked out. Three years later the rest of the recording companies followed the CBS example. On October 12 and 20, Joe records two songs in Davout – the second version of “Guantanamera” and a traditional American tune “Katy Cruel”. This single has to let Joe’s team work till the Christmas holidays when the album release is planned. But all of a sudden the French musicians go on strike. Plait decides to take refuge in a British studio. All for nothing, the perfidious Albion has already given up to the strike movement. There is only one solution left – to do the record in New York. Jacquot doesn’t dare to believe what Joe merely dreams about. But Souplet gives it a green light and on October 27, a plane takes off from Orly to New York. Two men (and their wives, Maryse and Colette) armed with a huge arsenal of songs are on board. The recording sessions take place in the studio on 30th Street with Stanley Tonkel as a sound director. Seven tunes are recorded on October 31 and November 3 and 4. After the sessions Joe takes an opportunity to show “his” country to his friends: Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Broadway… and the most impressive of all monuments – the CBS Building on 52nd Street. They come back late – Joe and Maryse to Bea’s place, Jacques and Colette to Waldorf Astoria. But the small team has yet another important task – take pictures of “Joe in New York” for the album jacket and especially for the media who will certainly enjoy the image of a handsome American in Paris who records his songs in his home town. Don Hunstein takes dozens of imprints. One of them – the one where Joe is leaning on somebody’s Harley Davidson is taken in front of the Time Life Building. This “Joe’s Harley” will appear on the front side of the album jacket and will become a dream of an entire generation. The last glance cast at the Kennedy Airport and the plane takes off for Paris. The CBS decides to release the fifth EP along with the first LP (Long Play). The first appears on November 17, and the latter on 18. The success is almost immediate. “Excuse Me Lady” is a Christmas hit and the sales figures begin to rise.

1967

In January, Andre Salvet and Bernard Chevry create the MIDEM. The professionals who believe in this project are few. But Plait who knows Salvet and owes him a lot decides to support the idea. He shows up at the presentation together with Joe, Maryse and Colette. The little company settles on a yacht anchored in a marvelous old port of Cannes. The journalists swarm at this first rendezvous of the world show business but there are very few real stars and Joe is a favorite target of the press. What can be better than to wrench an interview out of Jules Dassin’s own son in the world capital of cinema? But Joe realizes that this game is far too risky for him. At this time he prefers to avoid being mentioned in the newspapers and limits his performance to the presentation of the first MIDEM awards. But anyway, even if he does not sing, a handsome guy conducting the show with such ease – and in two languages, no problem! – is noticed in the media almost at once. Next morning, from an “upcoming star” Joe turns into the Star. “Excuse Me Lady” goes well enough but one has to think about the next hit. Plait does nothing but turn in mind the idea of a song which will let them go much further.

One morning on the yacht Dassin gets ready to slink to the shore, his guitar in his hand. Plait, extremely surprised, wonders what is happening. Dassin explains that he wants Henri Salvador to listen to a tune composed by Joe himself, Jean-Michel (Rivat) and Frank (Thomas). Joe says, this is not “his” kind of song. Curious Plait wants to be the first to listen to the new creation. Joe does not consider it to be wise. The two men confront. Minutes are passing. Plait wins and Dassin sings leaning on the guard railing: “Tagada tagada, voila les Dalton, tagada tagada ‘y a plus personne…” Jacques is pale as a sheet. Joe still does not understand. But the fury in Jacques’ eyes provokes one of his outbursts of anger: “Never in my life! I refuse to sing it! This song is not for me…” Plait who has already grabbed his hit does not intend to let it go so easily: “I forbid you to give it to Salvador!” And so on and so forth. Finally Joe surrenders, he will record the “cowboy song”. For the first and the last time, according to the contract. There is only one obstacle left: the touring, which is one of the main components of promotion. Joe meets an impresario Charley Marouani but doubts the outcome. His stage experience is short and not very pleasant. The terrible failure of his concert in Brussels in 1966 caused by unprofessional performing of the local orchestra is still fresh in his memory. To cut it short, Joe is terribly afraid of any public performances. Charley Marouani makes him change his mind and proposes him to participate in the first part of the Adamo concert. That’s a deal. On March 9, the tour debuts in Vire. Very fast Joe wins recognition of both public and the tour manager Georges Olivier who raises his fee. Between two galas, in April, Joe and Jacques are again in London where they record four songs for the sixth EP.

Some days later they are back in Davout studio for vocals recording. But “Les Dalton” turns out a real impediment. As an English singer fails to pronounce the sheriff’s part from “Les Dalton” intro, Jacques Plait grabs the mike to show him an example. One, two, twenty times. The tape recorder reels are turning, Plait is reciting, the Englishman is stammering. The situation becomes ridiculous. Jacquot delivers his speech such fervor that Joe and the sound director, dead of laughter, decide to keep this version. Jacques cannot even imagine that the innumerous TV broadcasts and a single Dassin’s scopitone session are waiting for him. Meanwhile, Joe wants to place “Viens voir le loup” on the side A of the new disc. But Jacques refuses to surrender. The saga of Lucky Luke’s four sward enemies of is a huge hit and must be on the side A. Lyrics of one of the two other songs on this EP belong to Claude Lemesle. Joe met him during a concert of young talents at the American Cultural Center situated in front of his house on Boulevard Raspail. It was a nice summer evening and Joe went to the Center looking for a banjo player. He did not find his banjo player but a female singer, Michele Cherdel who later on would become Vava from “Big Bazar”. At the same time he found a co-author and a friend. Joe just looked down at Lemesle from his short-sighted 1m 86 and said with shy kindness: “I really liked your songs, mister. Would you and your friends like to have a drink at my place? I live nearby…”

After Rivat and Thomas, Lemesle was the third parolier who joined the Dassin adventure. For good. On May 3, “Les Dalton” is released on the side A in a jacket without any side indications. The disc is a summer success. It will be the last Dassin’s EP and his last “comic” song, either. Joe’s creations of a kind that followed will be performed by his friend Carlos. After such a result Joe’s team is in high spirits. Plait is totally obsessed by the idea of finding “strong” songs that would consolidate the success. He has already acted the same way with Sheila. On the contrary, Joe, relaxed, takes his time. He writes France Gall’s “Bebe requin” which smashes the other song from the disc written by Serge Gainsbourg, having spelled the end for the collaboration between Serge and France. Joe is a popular crooner but he wants to record serious songs, too. In order to equalize the Daltons’ attack, in the fall of 1967 he records a Bobby Gentry blues, “Ode To Billy Joe”, which becomes “Marie-Jeanne”. Rivat carefully translates the song from English. More corresponding to the previous hit and written as usual by Rivat, “Tout bebe a besoin d’une maman” is represented on the side B. And even if the side A tune is an obvious commercial risk, it is good for the singer’s image. In the beginning of October Arthey conducts the orchestra during recording sessions in London. Joe records vocals in Davout. It takes him two weeks and results in 200 versions for “Marie-Jeanne”… with the first chosen for the disc. The latter is released on October 17, for the second time with a drawing on the jacket. The radio stations favor the side B over the side A. Joe begins to realize that he is probably too handsome and too young for singing some tunes. He understands it but will never accept the fact. At the same time Joe records the rest of the songs for the second LP (called now “album”) – two new tunes with lyrics written by Claude Lemesle and four American originals. This is a smashing novelty on the French market. The LP is released in November just before the holidays.

1968

Joe’s success confirms day by day but he has to “transform” his daring attempt, to become a number one conqueror of hit-parades. During a trip to Italy with Jacques Plait where Joe promotes five of his songs, he also listens to “potential” tunes. This American who has never looked for cover versions anywhere but USA would probably find something in the country of mandolins. Joe and Jacques come back home with a suitcase of records. By February 19, “l’equipe a Jojo” reunites in London. Their aim is recording a megahit. In the De Lane Lee Music recording studio on 129, Kingsway the atmosphere is electrified. Four songs are recorded. One of them is a cover version of a tune found in Italy, another – “La bande a Bonnot” – an original with Rivat’s lyrics. A few days later, during the vocals recording sessions the excitement reaches its peak. Plait has a presentiment of something really incredible. On March 4, two singles, with two songs on each, appear on the market almost simultaneously.

The rebellion grows in France. General de Gaulle is trembling. Unlike the catcalled ye-ye singers who have to go to exile, Joe becomes a “revolution” hero. Whole France whistles on the hill, a little bouquet of wild roses in hand. Spring and summer come and Joe’s songs are broadcast by all radio stations. The only problem of these revolutionary times is the music stores replenishment. Joe makes the most of a situation recording his two first songs in Italian on April 29. These tunes appear on the peninsular market in June. He also extend his contract with the CBS on June 26 and starts a promotional tour in Italy two days later, on June 29. As both of the ORTF channels are occupied by the students taking part in a demonstration, the French music takes its refuge on the RAI. While in Italy Joe gets acquainted with Carlos and Sylvie Vartan whom he met on a ship. Carlos will become one of his best friends. This friendship will strengthen in the course of a report from Tunisia made for a popular magazine Salut Les Copains, known as SLC. By September the CBS gets a new press attache, Robert Toutan. From now on this latter will watch over Joe’s image. In November Jacquot and Joe go to London to record sound and come back to Davout Studio for vocals. They record four songs, three of them are hits. Like two previous discs the two new singles are a double-shot. They are released at the same time in November. “Ma bonne etoile” is an Italian original rewritten by Delanoe. “Le temps des ?ufs au plat” lyrics belong to Ricky Dassin and Claude Lemesle. On the other side is represented “Le petit pain au chocolat”, another Italian song adapted by the same Delanoe. The disc industry is undergoing a serious crisis and the CBS does not release the disc for the holidays. But on November 10, Joe sings “Ma bonne etoile” in the “Tele-Dimanche” TV program and France capitulates. The end of the year is explosive. In bakeries throughout France the chocolate rolls are in great demand. Along with Pagnol’s famous movie, Joe’s song makes the bakers’ profits increase dramatically. Some of them even change the inscriptions on their signboards to “Chocolate Roll’s”, making obvious that Joe is much more than just another singer. From now on he is a social phenomenon. The CBS is unable to meet the demands of the record shops and an English-speaking group, the Tremeloes, makes English versions of Joe’s “Italian” songs. On November 26, Joe and Jacques, excited to the point, fly to Montreal via New York. Three days later they start a week of interviews in Quebec: Montreal, Trois Rivieres, Quebec, then Ottawa in the English-speaking part of Canada. They receive a hearty welcome everywhere. The promotion is fantastic. Everything is all right except for the increasing demands from the music stores.

The Orly runway and the windows of big supermarkets are decorated with neon lights. Christmas is coming. Joe is back. Together with Maryse they celebrate Nativity in their new five-rooms apartment on rue D’Assas and dream of a child.

1969

The third album is not ready yet. In February CBS releases a single with two previous hits, “Bip-Bip” and “Les Dalton”. At that time, the comics’ increasing popularity gives a tremendous boost to the story of four outlaw brothers. Meanwhile, Joe goes to London for recording sessions. From this time on, he has London and Heathrow at his fingertips. Six new titles are “stored away”, two of which are obvious hits. “Les Champs-Elysees” is a cover version of Smacka Fitzgibbons’ “Water-loo Road” and “Le chemin de papa” is written by Dassin in tandem with Delanoe. There is also a reprise of “Me que, Me que”, a funny song created by Becaud and Aznavour, and two more tunes by Joe and Ricky. The work being finished, Joe returns to Paris – straight in the whirl of TV and ra-dio interviews, not to mention the growing number of concert engagements.

On April 1, he collapses. Heart attack as a result of viral pericarditis. Joe is bedridden for one month but in the period between May and June, getting barely better, he releases the album and the only single containing “Les Champs-Elysees” and “Le Chemin de papa”, let alone a little promo record. More than ever, the public loves what Plait likes. The album becomes a smash hit as, on June 16, Joe makes up his mind to get his French driver’s license. At the same time he is invited to the “Salves d’or” – a TV program starring Henri Salvador. Joe has already got used to the set and doesn’t count down to his own performance. Anyway, this is the first time when, following Jacque-line Salvador’s advice, he tries the white suit which, since then, will become his official “trade-mark” attire on stage. This same time Joe’s contract with Jean-Michel Rivat and Frank Thomas, his two accredited co-authors, expires but neither part intends to resume it…

In Port de Salut Joe meets Boby Lapointe, makes friends with him, and they go on a tour. At the dinner table Boby introduces him to Georges Brassens. The dinner is pure magic. There Joe finds “his” world – far from show and business. He will always be thankful to Lapointe for this encoun-ter. After Boby’s death, in order to save his heritage for the future generations, Joe considers it his most important duty to request the Philips company to re-release all Lapointe’s records. Dassin’s fame spreads like wildfire. The whole France is singing “Les Champs-Elysees”, while in July Joe goes skiing to Tignes. This short vacation is followed by the tour, which main goal is preparing his first Olympia, scheduled for the fall. Meanwhile, CBS wastes no time releasing the double compila-tion album, Dassin’s first but certainly not the last… Joe’s popularity seems to cross all the borders – “Les Champs-Elysees” enter the Dutch hit parade and acquire 11th position in 7 weeks, which is a very good score. This is the first time when Joe is rated in the Netherlands. On October 1 and 15 he records the English version of “Les Champs-Elysees”, followed by the German one. This latter is re-recorded in the Davout studios on October 29, along with “Le Chemin de Papa” in German.

From this time on, Joe will always be ranked here, there and everywhere in the world. As Johnny Hallyday dreams in vain of starting an international career, Joe, willy-nilly, wins love and recogni-tion of the audience throughout the world. He even becomes No.1 in the Moscow hit parade, leav-ing the Beatles behind. And this happens long before Joe’s songs are heard on the Tian an Men square, sung by the Chinese students face to the tanks during the terrible spring of 1989… The first Olympia is a triumph. On October 22, just after the premiere, the dinner at Maxim’s takes place. But the dearest gift arrives on October 25. This is a letter of congratulations from Brassens.

With Olympia behind and Parisian press tamed, Joe carefully starts the German market penetration, with two songs recorded in the language of Goethe as a secret weapon. On November 27, in Hano-ver, he takes part in Peter Froehlich’s “Studio B”. At the same time in France CBS releases a single with the English version of “Les Champs-Elysees”. Unobtainable. December comes and Jacques Plait hesitates. The single and the album are selling so good that it seems as though there is no need to release another title. Anyway, the new song has to be as strong as the previous ones. After all, “C’est la vie, Lily” and “Billy le Bordelais” are chosen to carry the responsibility. The single has no side B but two As. Bull’s eye! Almost immediately the disc scores a success. The brave dipso re-ceives a fantastic welcome in Saint-Emilion and the members of the non-alcoholic league content themselves with the story of Lily’s life. For the second year running Joe does not release the album for the holidays. What is it, lack of time or some smart commercial move? It is true that Joe is ex-hausted and he sure has to restore his heart. He decides to go on honeymoon he and Maryse missed two years before. After some time spent in New-York, where the couple takes part in a very strange performance “O! Calcutta”, they head for the Caribbean Islands and stay at Barbados till January 15. Swimming and sunbathing are on top of their agenda.

1970

Meanwhile, Germany catches sight of the handsome multilingual cowboy. For the first time, on January 3, Joe is rated in the German hit parade with “Die Champs-Elysees”. He stays there for 4 weeks and moves up into 31st position. Plait can hardly believe his ears. Joe is back and after a gala in Palais d’hiver of Lyon, once again he has to cross the Rhine. On January 21 and 22, armed with four songs, he comes to Wiesbaden for the famous TV program “Star-Parade”. On January 28 he is already in Davout, for a re-recording session. “Les Champs-Elysees” along with “C’est la vie, Lily” turn into “canzoni italiani”. The French tour is scheduled for February and March. Besides Joe takes part in the Grand Prix of the Academy of Charles Cros ceremony where he receives the best album award for “Les Champs-Elysees”. The summer disc recording sessions approach. The so-called “summer hit” is the invention of the 70s and usually means intense broadcasting by the beach radio stations during July and August, including the important September sales. Sessions in London and Davout being finished, Joe presents “L’Amerique” and “Cecilia” – the two cover versions adapted by Delanoe. The story of “L’Amerique” is rather funny. Plait, always worried about Joe’s reaction on some songs, makes him listen the original version of “L’Amerique”, telling (on purpose) that he is going to give this song to Johnny Hallyday. He sure hits the mark. Dassin rises to the bait, menacing to shake the hell out of CBS in general and Jacques personally if he doesn’t get “his” song. For the third season running, the summer hit belongs to Joe. Waiting for the single to come onto the market in May, Joe performs some concerts and, on April 28, goes to Italy for TV shows in Naples and Milan. He sings the Italian versions of his two tunes in “El Caroselo” and “Cette Voci” TV programs. At the same time, Dassin writes a song for Gigliola Cinquetti, a female singer from the Plait stable. “Le bateau-mouche” is released by CBS. The summer comes with its usual round of concerts and a few unforgettable recording sessions. During one of them, on July 16, the Japanese versions of “Les Champs-Elysees” and “Mon village du bout du monde” are recorded. Again some concerts, and, on October 16, Joe records the Italian versions of “L’Amerique” and “Cecilia”. Though Jean-Marie Perier keeps photographing Dassin from time to time, his accredited photogra-pher is Bernard Leloup. On October 27 this latter takes Joe some 50 km from Paris to an old mush-room growers’ hut where his friends keep Leloup’s extremely photogenic cheetah called Loulou. There, standing on the tracks of a little deserted railroad, Loulou on a lead, Joe makes one of his cult photo sessions. Like Harley-Davidson four years before in New-York, Loulou will accompany Joe on the numerous disc jackets and posters. On November 9 Joe goes to Berlin for the third time. Meantime in London, waiting for him to come back, Arthey prepares the arrangements for a new album. One day Claude Lemesle brings Joe two fresh-written songs: “Les filles que l’on aime” and “L’equipe a Jojo”. Lemesle has written both music and lyrics but Joe rejects them, saying bluntly: “Claude, why is that you want me to take the music I’m able to write myself?” In August Lemesle comes to Jacques Plait’s beautiful house in St.Cezaire sur Siagne. In answer to Jacques’ question about any new musical material, Claude shows him his two songs held in reserve. Being a man of devotion, Jacquot gets excited in no time: “I’ve been looking for a hit comparable in quality with “L’Amerique” for two months and it seems to me that I have found it now!” Claude is naturally not so optimistic: “Jacques, you know, there is only one little problem… I’ve already let Joe listen to them and he turned everything down.” “He is absolutely crazy,” shouts Jacquot, “but don’t worry, I’ll fix it up!” After some weeks of withstanding the attack, Joe finally surrenders and takes both Lemesle’s songs. But he utterly changes their melodies and lyrics. The result is well known: “Les filles que l’on aime” becomes “La fleur aux dents” and “L’equipe a Jojo” keeps only its title un-changed. Really, Joe is not an easy-going kind of guy! Working with him means a tremendous lot of minor and major alterations, modifications, corrections and revisions. Though nice and kind-hearted in private life, Joe is a workaholic and a true pain in the neck for his team, so Delanoe and Lemesle call him “charming nerd”.

The album having just been released, the sales figures grow dramatically. 10 days slip by and Joe gets his Golden Disc. Incredible. The radio stations are broadcasting the two promo records re-ceived not so long ago… CBS does its best to take the opportunity and the work is in full swing. For the first time Joe goes on a tour to Africa. The deal with a local promoter Gerard Sayaret is ar-ranged by Charley Marouani. Sayaret arranges a 21-day concert tour of ten countries. With Pierre Lumbroso as road manager, Joe takes his team of eight musicians and leaves France on December 1. The passages are short, the climate is oppressive: Morocco (Casablanca and Rabat), Senegal (two nights in Dakar), Ivory Coast (Abidjan), Togo (Lome), Dahomey (Cotonou), Cameroon (Yaounde), Central African Republic, Zaire (two nights in Kinshasa), Gabon (Libreville), again Cameroon (Douala), Chad (Fort Lamy)… Somewhere up in the North the young French are reviewing their Geography course, following Joe in his trip through the heart of darkness. Joe is back to Paris and has barely time to celebrate Christmas – Germany is waiting for him. On December 29 and 30 he goes to Berlin to sing in German and, thus, to consolidate his position of an international star.

1971

On January 4, while the single “La fleur aux dents” goes on sale, Joe is awarded with 6 golden discs. He cannot believe his eyes. On January 6 Dassin and Plait go to the United States where Joe runs across his father and Melina Mercouri. During a business lunch with the CBS International ex-ecutive director Sol Rabinovitz Joe meets an impresario Paul Rosen who has to represent Dassin in America. But something is wrong and the deal is broken. On January 26 and 27 Joe is again in Da-vout, singing in German. The session is of great importance – four titles are recorded. It is “La fleur aux dents”, “Melanie”, “Le cadeau de papa” and one original German version. Extremely tired, Joe goes skiing to Courchevel. This winter vacation is, in fact, his only vacation, for all summer is reserved for touring. In April Joe is again in Germany, promoting his songs in Munich, Bavaria. This country is no secret for him any more. The single with “L’equipe a Jojo” is released in June but Joe decides to record another four “summer titles” written by Jojo’s gang. Both singles are released in July but even if “Fais la bise a ta maman” is a success, it is not a summer hit. In Novem-ber Joe goes to London for a new album. He has written most of the songs, one title belongs to a tandem Michel Mallory/Alice Donna and arranged in Paris by Alfredo de Robertis. The album con-tains very few potential hits, the producer is reluctant to release it but the singer objects and persists in launching the disc. There is a little tension between the two but, fortunately, the foreign market brings good results. On November 15, “Das sind zwei linke shuh'”, a German original, hits the 21st position of RFA hit parade and stays there for 12 weeks. This funny song is Joe’s greatest German success. Impeccable white pants, silver belt and open shirt – Joe’s character of “American lover” is admired by both Berlin and Munich. After Bundesrepublick comes Tunisia. A few days of fun and joy in Djerba are spent with Carlos and Bernard Leloup. Joe also makes it up with Jacques, inviting the Plaits to a trip to Morocco on December 9. All four of them go to the sacred place of Mamounia.

1972

The album is released in January but it doesn’t contain any hits and CBS re-releases the single with the previous summer success. For the first time the thing seems to slip. Joe decides to play a waiting game with the French market and, on April 17 and 20 in Davout, he records an album for Germany: “Fais la bise a ta maman”, “La ligne de vie”, “Bye-bye Louis”, “A la sante d’hier”, “La mal-aimee du courrier du c?ur”, “Allez roulez”, “L’equipe a Jojo”, “Adieu mes amis”, “Elle etait oh!”, “Le chanteur des rues”, “Sylvie” and two originals – a dozen of tunes sung in German is a record! Not to mention “Taka takata”, released in May. The latter is an absolute success in France and Plait breathes with relief. Maryse insists on a new tour. This time Joe goes to the islands and other terri-tories at the back of beyond. According to the tour timetable, the Reunion, Madagascar and Djibouti are to be visited in June. Then Joe flies to New Caledonia and Tahiti via Paris. But not everything goes as smoothly as it has to… Antananarivo airport is closed because of disorders and a violent cyclone flattens Noumea during Joe’s stay in New Caledonia. Now, siding Joe and his road man-ager Pierre Lumbroso, eight musicians and three back-vocalists ride in the Dassin’s gang, not to mention Bernard Leloup who is accredited to take photos for Salut les Copains and Maryse, ready to follow her husband everywhere, even if she has to be packed in his suitcase. After the concerts Joe and Maryse have a twelve days vacation on the island of Tahaa, in a coconut forest – an abso-lute dream. Joe is so absorbed by the beauty of the island that he buys twenty hectares of its terri-tory including one kilometer of the fine sand beach. He knows that from this time on it will become his favorite vacation site. In June Joe goes to the USA, to his sweet home California. On June 24 he meets with Jeff Barry from A&M Records and makes three songs in English for the American mar-ket, including his famous “Vaya-Na-Cumana”. The usual summer tour follows, tiring, sure, but full of gastronomic surprises. Every small town has its own delicious cuisine and Joe doesn’t intend to miss any tasty opportunity. Though he recorded a mighty lot of songs in German, it is “Taka takata” that enters the German hit parade on September 4 to occupy the 50th position. Halloween is spent in Deauville, at Pierre Delanoe’s place, where Joe discovers the pleasures of golf. He is fascinated by this noble game and, from this time on, he takes his golf clubs everywhere he goes, to Paris, to Valbonne, to Morocco, to Tahiti… Two years later Joe participates in the Trophee Lancome competition and his partner is Arnold Palmer himself. November comes with its ritual of recording sessions in London and Davout. Plait controls the process and little by little the new album begins to take shape. But this time Arthey has something up his sleeve – a brand-new device called synthe-sizer. The trio decides to take advantage of the contraption and decorates the Dassin trademark sound with some synthesized parts. The album contains 12 titles, two of which are hits – “La com-plainte de l’heure de pointe” (A velo dans Paris) and “Le moustique”, both cover versions. Joe pre-fers “The City of New Orleans”, written by Steve Goodman, arranged by Arlo Guthrie and adapted by Claude Lemesle with the participation of Ricky Dassin, but Plait keeps in mind the failure of the previous album and reduces costs. Nevertheless, the Goodman/Guthrie creation will become “Salut les amoureux”… The release of the album is planned for December and CBS decides to re-release “La Bande a Bonnot”. The first single, containing “La complainte de l’heure de pointe”, appears at the height of the Christmas shopping season. France celebrates the New Year’s Eve pushing the pedals of the bikes in time to Joe’s song…

1973

The year begins well. Joe is on vacation in Courchevel. As usual, two singles are released simulta-neously. The first one – “Le moustique” – is a raving success and “Salut les amoureux” becomes an all-time classic. The spring is coming and Germany calls Joe again. On March 21 he offers these cycling fans the German version of “A velo dans Paris”, recorded in Davout. When Joe has to go on his usual summer tour, Maryse is pregnant. This is the most beautiful thing that might happen to the couple after ten years of family life. Joe is over the moon, so happy that he decides to move to the country. He buys a plot for a country house in a suburb west of Paris. Besides, in order to see to the construction process and to give the future mother some fresh air, important for the child, he leaves D’Assas Street and rents a house near the golf course of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche. The house of hap-piness is to be built in the forest, in Feucherolles. The first petrol crisis doesn’t seem to make an im-pact on the construction progress but the swindlers of all kind have already located the couple and the house costs them a whole fortune. In May Joe goes to London but this time he leaves old Lans-downe for Audio International Studios. Again in association with Arthey and Plait, he records two titles with the lyrics written by Delanoe and Lemesle. One of them, “La chanson des cigales”, has to be the sequel of “Le moustique” but it won’t work. Before Joe would be disappointed at the fact but now, when he is about to become father, he just doesn’t pay so much attention to this insignificant failure. In July Maryse takes a vacation in Deauville, while Joe goes to Tahiti. No doubt, he is to-tally subjugated by this paradise on earth. His aim is to begin the construction of the fares (little bungalows) on his plot of land. In August he has to return to France and go on a tour without any hit of support. And, as troubles never come singly, the worst thing that may happen to the future father befalls on him.

Maryse gives birth to a premature newborn, Joshua, who dies five days later. From this time on nothing is like it was before. Joe sinks in the deepest depression. His friend Carlos tries to give him some support. Together they go on a tour where Carlos sings Joe’s tunes. The ones Joe cannot sing himself. This is the way “Une journee de Monsieur Chose” is created. At the same time, though CBS puts on the market the double compilation, Joe has to prepare the new album. He is completely absorbed in his work, because this is the only thing that lets him forget… He takes Bernard Leloup to Las Vegas, Nevada and to Arizona, to the canyon country, where they take a few photographs in the canyons. The new album, recorded in November in Lansdowne and Davout, is released in De-cember. It contains 13 new titles and very few potential hits, except for “Fais-moi de l’electricite”, written by Joe’s gang. There are also two good tunes written by Daniel Vangarde and Alice Dona.

1974

The single from the album is released in January. There is no side A or B, both songs, “Quand on a seize ans” and “A chacun sa chanson”, are represented as equal. But both titles fail and, by the end of January, CBS hastens to put on sale another single with “Les plus belles annees de ma vie” and “Fais-moi de l’electricite”. The result is barely better. Joe has to find his second wind, for sure. Anyway, he is as inspired as ever when he writes for others. This way Carlos gets such hits as “Se-nor Meteo” and “Le bougalou du loup-garou”, written by Joe in collaboration with Claude Bolling. And what is more, Joe sings in duo with Dolto, Jr. “Cresus et Romeo” is recorded not long before February 19, Joe’s next performance in Olympia. A very strange one, indeed. The Claude Gagnasso orchestra of 17 musicians, ten dancers and five back-vocalists are invited to record a “live” album. Joe practices his lasso tricks and sings, in addition to his own titles, a medley of American hits of the forties. Ambience a la Andrew Sisters is guaranteed. Having done with this, he goes to the Kluger Studio, to Brussels, where three songs in German have to be recorded – “Quand on a seize ans”, “La derniere page” and “A chacun sa chanson”. But Bundes Republik seems to go on strike and the songs almost fail. Joe has promised himself to go to Tahiti once a year and this time he de-cides to make his trip in May. The Dassins ask their friends, the restaurant owners from Aix-en-Provence, Gu and Renee Galasso, to join them. The little company is fond of funny jokes and the journey is excellent. After this short vacation Joe goes to London. He needs a summer hit. Two ti-tles are recorded, one of which is “C’est du melo”, but the single passes unnoticed. Plait is furious. He must find the new titles! On a summer tour Joe entertains the audience with his golden oldies. The nostalgic atmosphere of the concerts drives him mad. Even the fact of moving to his beautiful new house in Feucherolles doesn’t appease him. One of the most successful French singers has a tedious time – his family life is broken and his career is as monotonous as ever… Plait refuses to say uncle and redoubles his efforts but Joe doesn’t believe him anymore. Why so, he is not a Number One! But one needs something more to cut the ground from under the famous Jacques Plait, the best French producer of the time. A whole gang is enabled to work on the new album. In November, in Lansdowne, Plait and Arthey decide to hire another sound engineer. John Mackswith joins the team at the right time. The album is released promptly in the end of November, for Plait wants to make it with the New Year sales. And high time it is. Two songs from the album – “Si tu t’appelles melan-colie” and “Vade retro” – literally smash the hit parades. At a moment’s notice the single is released. There is no more reason to save money on the new titles. Plait takes chances, gambles on Lady Luck, and breaks the bank. Joe worked his way up to the top.

1975

Somewhere in the dark the disco is rumbling but Joe Dassin, invited to the MIDEM, is hardly aware of its existence. Meanwhile, Plait considers re-positioning Dassin. It is March and everything must be done to consolidate the success of the last single. He is on the look-out for “the” song, “the” summer hit. The spring passes by quickly. There is no more time to lose. And the miracle happens. During one of the listening sessions in the CBS office in the beginning of May, Joe’s producer hears musical production “made in Italy”, which is to be distributed in France. One of the songs – “Africa” – belongs to the group Albatros, and is written by a certain Toto Cutugno and Vito Pal-lavicini, known in France as author of some Italian cover versions. It is sung in English. Plait goes for it and makes Dassin listen to the song. Joe is completely stunned. He makes it over and over, while Plait is busy lending Lansdowne studio, buying tickets to London and giving Delanoe and Lemesle an extra bother about the lyrics. The destination is clear – Roissy, Heathrow, Lansdowne, Heathrow, Roissy. In a few days Joe is back in France for the voice recording sessions. On May 24, he walks into the studio CBE which belongs to Bernard Estardy. This latter is a famous sound engi-neer, one of the biggest names in showbiz. He knows best of all how to “catch” the voice of the greatest French chansonniers. A perfect melody, refined arrangements, spoken intro recorded by pure chance and a strong title found by Delanoe are the indispensable ingredients of “L’ete indien”. Plait is enthusiastic – he has a presentiment of a great hit. But the hardest thing is yet to come – broadcasting, promotion, TV sessions… On May 27 the fire is set to the outskirts. The disc itself is released on June 6, the anniversary of the American troops landings in Normandy. A good omen. Plait is willing to kill three birds with one stone: on June 24 and 25, as usual in CBE studio, Dassin records German and Italian versions of “L’ete indien”. Spanish and English versions follow. The latter is recorded in the Studio 92 on September 3. After ten years of singing career, Joe is holding in his hands something more than just another “summer hit”. “L’ete indien” proves to be his biggest success. And not only in the country of de Gaulle and Giscard. On August 2 the song enters the Dutch hit parade and stays there for five weeks to acquire the 22nd position. The German version enters the Deutsche hit parade on September 22 to reach the 28th place in fourteen weeks. It vies with the French version which penetrates the German market only on October 20 and in two weeks arrives at the 47th position. But this is nothing in comparison with Spain and South America, where Joe becomes a cult figure. After all, the disc will be released in twenty-five countries to achieve un-precedented success as against the original English-Italian version. In September, visibly revived, CBS releases a double compilation along with the “Golden Album”. Joe, also full of energy, signs with the tandem Cutugno-Pallavicini, who produces hit after hit. The album is prepared in London with Arthey and tweaked at CBE with Estardy. Needless to say, it is literally stuffed with hits: “Et si tu n’existais pas”, “Il faut naitre a Monaco”, “Ca va pas changer le monde”, “Salut”… The disc is released for Christmas holidays, supported by a little promo record. It is a smash success in France, as well as the forty-five with “Ca va pas changer le monde” and “Il faut naitre a Monaco”, released promptly in January. Thus comes the much expected renaissance.

1976

In March, CBS releases a new single with “Salut” and “Et si tu n’existais pas” and the success doesn’t make anyone waiting. For everybody to understand: this “Salut” is not “Au revoir”. Abroad Joe operates trouble-free. On April 10, “Ca va pas changer le monde” strikes the Dutch hit parade to stay there for five weeks and finally get the 23rd place. CBS informs that Dassin has sold – unbe-lievable! – 20 millions of discs during his career. In the beginning of summer he joins the CBE team to record “Il etait une fois nous deux”, which is released in June and becomes promptly classed as the summer hit. On July 6, the Spanish versions of “Et si tu n’existais pas” and “Ca va pas changer le monde” are released. Thanks to all this, Joe’s next tour with the Martin Circus is second to none. In September, CBS puts on the market a new double compilation, smartly baptized “Grands succes volume 3”. The beginning of the school year turns out to be the best time for this kind of produc-tion. As a break in the routine of recording sessions, Joe enters the CBE studios to start work on his new album in October. Sixty musicians and eighty back-vocalists under the direction of Arthey are summoned to perform a miracle called “Le Jardin du Luxembourg”, a 12-minutes title, composed by the same Italian duo, Vito Pallavicini and Toto Cutugno. Because of its length, “Le Jardin du Luxembourg” will first be rejected by the radio stations and Plait will be forced to release a promo single with explications. Along with “Le Jardin du Luxembourg”, “A toi” and “Le cafe des trois colombes” will also be remixed.

1977

Despite this hitch, first the album, and then the single with “A toi” and “Le cafe des trois colombes” have been triumphing since January. Plait seems to work wonders – with the disco music flourish-ing, he managed to find a new team “slow” for Dassin and it does work! In March and April, as usual at CBE, Joe records two new tunes for the upcoming summer. Both titles are written by the awesome Italians but the single with “Et l’amour s’en va”, released in May, is drowned out by the disco music… Still a big friend of Carlos, Joe writes some nice songs for this performer, the ones he thinks he couldn’t sing himself, like “Le big bisou”. Meanwhile, the CBS stable gets reinforced with a new female singer. Jeane Manson is American and, thus, has a lot in common with Joe. They make friends. At the same time Joe and his wife Maryse make a decision to get divorced. No of-fences, no quarrels – they just wish to live separately and on May 5 settle the matter out of court. Some days later, “Vendredi 13” goes to the Martinique with Joe and Johnny Hallyday on board. On June 7, Joe records Spanish versions of “A toi” and “Le Jardin du Luxembourg” – Spain and South America are delirious. In September CBS releases next two compilations and in December, though the Disco is the king, Joe persists in producing fine slows. Only one song from his new album be-comes a hit and it is “Dans les yeux d”Emilie”, promptly released in a single format. The rest of the album “Les femmes de ma vie” is a moving tribute to all those women who mattered to Joe, espe-cially his sisters and his new companion, pretty Christine.

1978

The LP is released in January. Two songs from it, “La premiere femme de ma vie” and “J’ai craque” are written by Alain Goraguer, the ex-accomplice of Serge Gainsbourg, who has just joined Jojo’s team. Alain also assists Dassin in writing “Le petit ballon”. On January 14, Joe marries Christine Delvaux. The ceremony takes place in Cotignac with Serge Lama and Jeane Manson as invitees. Tout va pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes… On March 4, “Dans les yeux d’Emilie” rushes into the Dutch hit. In June, Joe and his mother-in-law, Melina Mercouri, record a duo in Greek, “Ochi den prepi na sinandithoume”, intended to be the part of “Cri des femmes” soundtrack. Later this song will also be released as a promo single. Just before, in April, Joe rear-ranged “No Woman, No Cry”, a reggae tune, written by Bob Marley and rehashed by “Boney M”. Delanoe and Lemesle transformed it into “Si tu penses a moi”, leading Joe – for the first and the last time – to the slippery ground of disco-reggae. Christine is pregnant and the summer passes by in looking after the expectant mother. Meanwhile, CBS wastes no precious time: the 3rd volume of The Greatest Hits compilation and a three discs set are released. On September 14, eight months exactly after his wedding, Joe’s first son, Jonathan, is born in the American Hospital in Neuilly. Needless to say, Joe is the happiest man in the world. He comes up with an idea to record two ver-sions, French and Italian, of “Little Italy”, a musical comedy created by Pallavicini and Guarnieri. Marcella Bella is invited as a female vocalist. The result is designed for the French and Italian tele-visions. But the beautiful project, carefully planned by Gilbert and Maritie Carpentier, will never be brought out. After these recording sessions Dassin goes on a tour to Canada. In October and No-vember Joe returns to CBE for next album, but this time he seems to be a bit less enthusiastic about his work. His family life is of much greater importance! Nevertheless, he records two songs in Eng-lish, “La beaute du diable” and “Darlin'” of The Poacher. As a single for his new album, “15 ans deja”, Joe chooses “Darlin'”. The reason is clear: France gets completely crazy about English. Sheila, Juvet, Cerrone, Karen Cheryl, all the bonzes of the French showbiz consider their duty to record tunes in English. Thus, Joe the American has every prospect of success. But his production in native language is almost a failure. CBS has to react quickly, and the single with “La vie se chante, la vie se pleure” appears in January. This song, written as usual by Delanoe and Lemesle, is certainly the only one to be remembered, though for this album Plait invited some nicest songwrit-ers of the moment, such as Alice Dona, Toto Cutugno, Didier Barbelivien and William Sheller.

1979

The New Year holidays pass in a split second. The times are a-changing. Johnny Hallyday and some other old timers are pushed aside by a squad of newcomers named Cabrel, Duteil and Bala-voine… Joe feels that if he wants to stay where he actually is, he has to redouble his efforts. Jacques Plait is as fastidious as ever – even if “Darlin'” is rated in the German hit parade and climbs to the 49th place in two weeks, Joe has to be on the alert. On February 14 he records the Spanish versions of “La vie se chante, la vie se pleure” and “Si tu penses a moi”. From this time on, Joe works more for the Latin America than for Iberian peninsula and Marie-France Briere teaches him the particu-larities of South American Spanish, especially pronunciation in its Argentinean variant. While waiting for Joe to produce at least one title for the upcoming summer, in the beginning of April CBS releases another single, extracted from the album, “Cote banjo, cote violon”. His private life gets complicated and takes him more and more time. Nonetheless, in May, as always at CBE, he records a hit of Italian origin, “Le dernier slow”. The disc is released in a single format, but also as a maxi (promo and commercial), which is unusual for Joe. This slow will make dance all the lovers in the night clubs throughout France and push Julio Iglesias down from his pedestal. For four years Joe has been triumphing in South America and he is still on top. In all countries where his discs are selling he takes part in radio and TV programs, let alone the concerts. On August 10, 1979, Joe flies to Chili. After a short landing in Argentina his plane heads for Santiago, but is forced to return to Buenos Aires because of thick fog. When Joe finally arrives to the Chilean capital, he is deeply touched by the sight of excited crowds, singing his songs by heart, even in French. On the local television, Chanel 13, he sings “A ti” and every Chilean muchacha feels concerned. Our “Latino lover against his will” seems to have cast a spell over this part of the world! On August 14 he comes back to Argentina to set fire to the pampas with his songs… Plait cannot believe his own eyes – the slow “made in France” easily enthralls the kingdom of tango. On August 16, feeling revived and highly enthusiastic, Joe arrives to Los Angeles to record his next album. Arranged by Mike Utley, “Blue Country” is supposed to be the album of his renewal. While the musicians are busy with re-cording tunes of Jim Croce, Eric Clapton and Tony Joe White, Joe goes to Tahiti for a vacation. On coming back, he dubs in his voice in English and French in Devonshire Sound Studio. To Joe’s delight, his idol, Tony Joe White, comes to play the guitar and harmonica during the recording ses-sions. One song from the new album, “Le marche aux puces”, written by Dassin and Lemesle, will be adapted by Tony under the title “The Guitar Don’t Lie”. Joe is filled with pride. In autumn, while the English album is released in Canada under the title “Home Made Ice Cream”, Christine is pregnant for the second time. But Joe, feeling exhausted by her endless jealousy, sues his wife for a divorce and decides to see in the new year with his son Jonathan.

1980

“Blue Country”, the album of maturity, is released in France on January 11, without any single pre-ceding. The media are enthused, even if Joe’s regular fans are a bit perplexed. Being on a visit to Montreal, where he takes his back vocalists, Joe re-records four titles from his last album. From this time on he will record and sing only in English. After the release of the promo single, on February 18 Joe comes to CBE to remake a song from “Home Made Ice Cream”, followed soon, on February 25 and 26, by another three titles from the same album. On March 11, CBS risks to release a single with “Faut pas faire de la peine a John”, a cover version of Elvis Presley’s tune. As for Joe’s private life, his wife Christine gives birth to their second child, Julien. Joe should be the happiest man in the world, but…

On March 31 and April 1, Dassin joins Bernard Estardy in the studio on the rue Championnet, where they remake five English versions of songs from Joe’s last album. At the same time, on April 1 and 2, another three titles in English from this same album will be remixed in the latest fashion. So, now Joe is almost ready to release in France his “American” album. He takes this disc very much to heart. The summer is coming and CBS decides to issue “The Guitar Don’t Lie” in a single and a maxi format, but puts off the release of the album. Joe is waiting for the public verdict on his creation. His state of health, and especially his heart, cause him a lot of problems. He wasn’t careful enough and let himself too much abuse of all kinds. In July, suffering already from a stomach ulcer, Joe falls victim to a heart attack and is taken to the American Hospital in Neuilly. On July 26, Jacques Plait comes to see him before his departure to Tahiti. They’re meeting up in Papeete from where they are supposed to go visit Joe’s land he purchased some 120 miles south of Tahiti. Another heart attack strikes Joe in Los Angeles, landing point between Paris and Papeete. His state of health allows him neither smoking nor drinking, but feeling depressed, Joe pays it no attention. On his arrival to Tahiti with Claude Lemesle, his mother Bea and his two children, Joe tries to forget his personal problems. But there is no escaping fate. It is from this garden of Eden that Joe takes a one-way ticket to Paradise.

In the restaurant “Chez Michel et Eliane”, on August 20, at noon local time, Joe collapses, victim of his fifth heart attack. The one ambulance of the hospital was busy and arrived too late. He was 41.

When AFP announces the news in France, all the radio stations dash to broadcast Joe’s songs. So that they can take him to his “village at the back of beyond”. While the media tries to puzzle out the Dassin case, the public, still in the torpidity of summer vacation, snatches at Joe’s discs. In September, a great number of compilations are released, including the three discs set, conceived as a tribute to American from Paris. This is the way the things will con-tinue… Because Joe Dassin is not just “another singer”. Like Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens or Claude Francois, he is a social phenomenon. Once and for all.

In the period between 1981 and 1985, Joe is still in great demand, especially in 1982, when CBS releases a single with “A mon fils”, a piece from formerly unpublished “Little Italy”. In 1983, “A toi” and “L’ete indien” are reissued, let alone the re-editions and compilations of all kind that follow one after another.

Between 1986 and 1990 the first CD changes the situation on the market. Will Joe Dassin be forgot-ten? No way! The fist laser compilation, “Une heure avec… Joe Dassin” is followed by the book about Joe, published by Jacques Plait and Joe’s first wife, Maryse Massiera. All the albums are gradually reissued in the new format including the quasi-complete collection of songs in French and the video, produced in collaboration with INA. “L’ete indien” appears once again as a single, but this time it is accompanied by a megamix. The first TV advertising campaign on Joe, “Un ami revient”, is launched by Arsenic.

From 1990 till 1995, Dassin, along with Cabrel and Goldman, makes the best CD sales of Sony-France. He is so unavoidable that his discs are released even by France Loisirs. After the first CD single with “Les Champs-Elysees” and “A toi” is issued, Jacques Plait is on the point of jumping for joy. The matter is that French rocker number 1, Johnny Hallyday, records “The Guitar Don’t Lie”, turned into “La guitare fait mal” with the new French lyrics by Etienne Roda-Gil. Thus, “Le marche aux puces”, rearranged and “updated” proves, if there’s any need to do it again, that Joe was really ten years ahead of his time.

In 1993, another big campaign on Dassin, but this time with Platine, results in a compilation crowned with a double Golden Disc. And, finally, a brand-new L’equipe a Jojo including Les Innocents, Jean-Louis Murat, Les Objets, Jerome Soligny and Louise Feron, Dominique Daclan, Bill Pritchard, Autour de Lucie, Mr Kuriakin, Oui Oui, Pascal Comelade, Les William Pears, Droles de Beaux Gars, Marie Audigier, Katerine, Chelsea, Daniel Darc and Bertrand Burgalat, records a double album to pay tribute to the singer, whose songs still help us to live.

Joe Dassin had citizenship in both the USA and France. He was a talented polyglot, recording songs in German, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Greek, as well as French and English.

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Keith Godchaux 7/1980

July 23, 1980 – Keith Richard Godchaux (The Grateful Dead) was born on July 19th 1948 born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up in Concord, California where he commenced piano lessons at five at the instigation of his father (a semiprofessional musician) and subsequently played Dixieland and cocktail jazz in professional ensembles as a teenager.

According to Godchaux, “I spent two years wearing dinner jackets and playing acoustic piano in country club bands and Dixieland groups… I also did piano bar gigs and put trios together to back singers in various places around the Bay Area…playing cocktail standards like ‘Misty’ the way jazz musicians resentfully play a song that’s popular – that frustrated space… I just wasn’t into it… I was looking for something real to get involved with – which wouldn’t necessarily be music.” He met and married former FAME Studios session vocalist Donna Jean Thatcher in November 1970.
The couple introduced themselves to Jerry Garcia at a concert in August 1971; ailing keyboardist/vocalist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (who would go on to play alongside Godchaux from December 1971 to June 1972) was unable to undertake the rigors of the band’s next tour. At the time, Godchaux was largely supported by his wife and irregularly employed as a lounge pianist in Walnut Creek, California. While he was largely uninterested in the popular music of the era and eschewed au courant jazz rock in favor of modal jazz, bebop, and swing, several sources claim that he collaborated with such rock acts as Dave Mason and James and the Good Brothers, a Canadian trio acquainted with the Grateful Dead.

According to Godchaux, “I first saw the Grateful Dead play with a bunch of my old lady’s friends who were real Grateful Dead freaks. I went to a concert with them and saw something I didn’t know could be really happening… It was not like a mind-blowing far out, just beautiful far out. Not exactly a choir of angels, but some incredibly holy, pure and beautiful spiritual light. From then on I was super turned-on that such a thing existed. This was about a year and a half ago, when I first met Donna… I knew I was related to them.” He was also known to Betty Cantor-Jackson, a Grateful Dead sound engineer who produced James and the Good Brothers’ debut album in 1970.

Although the band had employed several other keyboardists (including Howard Wales, Merl Saunders and Ned Lagin) as session musicians to augment McKernan’s limited instrumental contributions following the departure of Tom Constanten in January 1970, Godchaux was invited to join the group as a permanent member in September 1971. He first performed publicly with the Dead on October 19, 1971 at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium.

After playing an upright piano and increasingly sporadic Hammond organ on the fall 1971 tour, Godchaux primarily played acoustic grand piano (including nine-foot Yamaha and Steinway instruments) at concerts from 1972 to 1974. Throughout this period, Godchaux’s rented pianos were outfitted with a state-of-the-art pickup system designed by Carl Countryman. According to sound engineer Owsley Stanley, “The Countryman pickup worked by an electrostatic principle similar to the way a condenser mic works. It was charged with a very high voltage, and thus was very cantankerous to set up and use. It had a way of crackling in humid conditions and making other rather unmusical sounds if not set up just right, but when it worked it was truly brilliant.” The control box also enabled Godchaux to use a wah-wah pedal with the instrument.

He added a Fender Rhodes electric piano in mid-1973 and briefly experimented with the Hammond organ again on the band’s fall 1973 tour; the Rhodes piano would remain in his setup through 1976. Following the group’s extended touring hiatus, he primarily used a baby grand piano in 1976 and early 1977 before switching exclusively to the Yamaha CP-70 electric grand piano in September 1977. The instrument’s unwieldy tuning partially contributed to the shelving of the band’s recordings of their 1978 engagement at the Giza Plateau for a planned live album.

Initially, Godchaux incorporated a richly melodic, fluid and boogie-woogie-influenced style that intuitively complemented the band’s improvisational approach to rock music; critic Robert Christgau characterized his playing as “a cross between Chick Corea and Little Richard.” According to Garcia in a 1980 interview with Mark Rowland conducted shortly before Godchaux’s death, “Keith is one of those guys who is sort of an idiot savant of the piano. He’s an excellent pianist, but he didn’t really have a concept of music, of how the piano fit in with the rest of the band. We were constantly playing records for him and so forth, but that wasn’t his gift. His gift was the keyboard, the piano itself.” Bassist Phil Lesh lauded his ability to “fit perfectly in the spaces between our parts,” while drummer Bill Kreutzmann was inspired by his “heart of music.”

Increasingly frayed from the vicissitudes of the rock and roll lifestyle, Godchaux gradually became dependent upon various drugs, most notably alcohol and heroin. Throughout the late 1970s, he was frequently embroiled in violent domestic scuffles with Donna, who also developed an alcohol use disorder.

Following the Grateful Dead’s 1975 hiatus, he largely yielded to a simpler comping-based approach with the group that eschewed his previously contrapuntal style in favor of emulating or ballasting Garcia’s guitar parts. Despite occasional flirtations with synthesizers (most notably a Polymoog during the group’s spring 1977 tour), this tendency was foregrounded by the reintegration of second drummer Mickey Hart, resulting in a heavily percussive sound with little sustain beyond Garcia’s leads. During this same period, Godchaux’s playing in the Jerry Garcia Band — which had fewer instrumentalists and hence a more “open” sound — retained more elements of his earlier work with the Grateful Dead.

In early 1978, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir began to perform slide guitar parts with an eye toward variegating the group’s sonic palette, with Weir concluding that “desperation is the mother of invention.” Garcia biographer Blair Jackson has also asserted that “the quality of Keith’s playing in the Dead fell off in ’78 and early ’79. It no longer had that sparkle and imagination that marked his best work (’72-’74). Much of what he played in his last year was basic, blocky, chordal stuff. I don’t hear many wrong notes, but he’s not exactly out there on the edge taking chances and pushing the others, as he frequently did, in his own quiet way, in his peak Grateful Dead years. I guess the worst thing you could say about later-period Keith is that he was just taking up sonic space in the Dead’s overall sound. Did this affect the others? No doubt, though it can’t be measured.”

Eventually, according to Donna Jean Godchaux, “Keith and I decided we wanted to get out and start our own group or something else – anything else. So we played that benefit concert at Oakland [2/17/79], and then a few days later there was a meeting at our house and it was brought up whether we should stay in the band anymore…and we mutually decided we’d leave.” The Godchauxes were replaced by keyboardist/vocalist Brent Mydland.

During his tenure with the Dead, his only lead vocal was “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away,” from Wake of the Flood (1973). It was performed live six times, all in 1973. Keith and Donna Godchaux issued the mostly self-written Keith & Donna album in 1975 with Jerry Garcia as a member of their band. The album was recorded at their home in Stinson Beach, California, where they lived in the 1970s. A touring iteration of the Keith & Donna Band with Kreutzmann on drums and former Quicksilver Messenger Service equipment manager Stephen Schuster on saxophone frequently opened for Grateful Dead-related groups in 1975, allowing Garcia to sit in on several occasions. Following the dissolution of this ensemble, the Godchauxes performed as part of the Jerry Garcia Band from 1976 to 1978. “Six Feet of Snow,” a collaboration with Lowell George of Little Feat, was featured on the latter group’s Down on the Farm (1979); George had recently produced the Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street (1978).

After Godchaux’s departure from the Grateful Dead, he cleaned up and remained in the band’s extended orbit, performing alongside Kreutzmann in the Healy-Treece Band (a venture for Dan Healy, the band’s longtime live audio engineer) and on at least one occasion with lyricist Robert Hunter. He also formed The Ghosts (later rechristened The Heart of Gold Band) with his wife; this aggregation eventually came to include a young Steve Kimock on guitar.

Godchaux sustained massive head injuries in an automobile accident while being driven home from his birthday party in Marin County, California, on July 21, 1980. He died two days later at the age of 32.

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

A much more revealing story titled:

How Keith Joined the Dead

 On September 17, 1971, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan went into the hospital, seriously ill and near death. The Dead were faced with a dilemma – just a month later, a midwest tour was to start in Minneapolis. Would they go on without a keyboard player? The decision was made quickly. From September 28, we have our first tape of their rehearsals with Keith Godchaux.
What happened in between?

From the Dead’s perspective, Godchaux came out of nowhere. They had several other keyboard players they had been working with, who could have joined:
Ned Lagin had played on American Beauty, and guested with them at the Berkeley shows in August ’71, along with several other ’71 shows and backstage experiments. But as far as we know, he wasn’t considered, or turned them down.
He mentions in his interview with Gans, “That fall I went back to Boston for graduate school. Brandeis gave me a fellowship that included all expenses, plus recording tape and all sorts of stuff to work with in their electronic music studio.” Many college students wouldn’t think twice between the option of another year at school or joining the Grateful Dead; but Lagin was on his own path. (Ironically, he became unhappy with Brandeis and soon dropped out, to resurface on a later Dead tour…)

Merl Saunders, of course, was playing with Garcia all the time, plus he had done studio overdubs on several songs for the Dead’s 1971 live album that summer. But if they asked him, he was not interested. In later interviews, he sounds like he preferred the independence & freedom to work on his own projects.
When he was asked why he hadn’t joined the band in 1990, he said, “I’ve always done my own thing. Before the Dead, I was working with Lionel Hampton, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis. Why would I want to work in the Dead and just be the way they worked?” He was proud of doing music theater: “During the late ’60s, I was doing a Broadway play in New York at the George Abbott Theatre. I was musical director for…Muhammad Ali. So those are the things that if I was with the Grateful Dead, I couldn’t do. I played with Miles Davis for about a year. The Lionel Hampton Band. Did a lot of recording with Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. I wanted to be myself and go the direction I wanted. Although I did record with the Dead. But when they asked me to come in and do their thing — to join them — I didn’t really want to join the band. When it’s Grateful Dead time you have to do a Grateful Dead thing.”
His associations with these other people may have been very brief in real life, but it should be noted he was much prouder of his work with them than any work he could have done with the Dead.
http://www.digitalinterviews.com/digitalinterviews/views/saunders.shtml
http://www.musicbox-online.com/merlint1.html

Howard Wales had also played on several songs on American Beauty, and had jammed with the band back in ’69, and had a close personal connection with Garcia – although he hadn’t played the Matrix club dates with Garcia for a year. The Dead even planned to play a benefit with him at the Harding Theater on September 3-4, 1971:
http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/03/gd19710903-4-harding-theater-sf-ca.html

It’s not known whether this benefit actually happened (probably not). But McNally tells the story of Wales auditioning with the Dead around this time. Weir (no doubt rolling his eyes) recalled: “We spurred him towards new heights of weirdness and he spurred us towards new heights of weirdness…much too weird much too quick…everybody backed off, scratched their head and said, ‘Well, maybe, uh, next incarnation.'”
Apparently Wales’s free-flowing weirdness, which Garcia enjoyed fitting into, was a bit too strong for a band that was now more focused on shorter ‘normal’ songs. Garcia would soon get the chance to play some more with Wales in the January ’72 east-coast tour supporting the Hooteroll release. (I would imagine Lesh might also have liked to play with Wales more – back in ’69 he had complained to Constanten: “Phil pointedly remarked how much he preferred Howard Wales’s playing when he sat in with the band.”)
On the other hand, from Wales’ perspective, the Dead might have been a little too big for him. He had apparently stopped playing at the Matrix when too many people started coming to see Garcia! John Kahn remembered, “One night there were a lot of people out there, and Howard realized that that’s not what he wanted to do, and he stopped doing it.” Garcia also said, “Howard went off…periodically he gets this thing of where he just can’t deal with the music world any more, and he just disappears.”

Of course there were plenty of other keyboard players around San Francisco who might have auditioned. It was Godchaux, though, who showed up at just the right moment and grabbed the baton.
Keith & Donna Godchaux, who’d married in November 1970 shortly after her first Dead show, were both already Dead fans. Donna had gone to the 10/4/70 Winterland show (drug-free), taken by some deadhead friends, and had quite an experience. As she said in a Relix interview, “The Grateful Dead came on, and it was more than music…I just could not even believe it. I had not taken anything, and I was just blown away.” She told Blair Jackson, “I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so excited. I kept thinking, ‘What did they do? How did they do that?’ They weave a spell. There’s this whole mystical energy that happens when you see the Grateful Dead and you’re ready to receive it. I was ready to receive it, and I got it. So every opportunity, every rumor that we heard that they might be playing, there we were… We’d all go see the Dead together, or at the very least get together and listen to Dead records.”
One of these friends of friends turned out to be Keith, who was also in these Dead listening parties. As he said in the Book of the Dead in ’72, “I first saw them play with a bunch of my old lady’s friends who were real Grateful Dead freaks. I went to a concert with them and saw something I didn’t know could be really happening… It was not like a mind-blowing far out, just beautiful far out. Not exactly a choir of angels, but some incredibly holy, pure and beautiful spiritual light. From then on I was super turned-on that such a thing existed. This was about a year and a half ago, when I first met Donna… I knew I was related to them.”

As it happened, they were introduced almost simultaneously to the Dead and to each other, and soon married. Getting connected with the Dead took a little longer, but surprisingly, in hindsight neither of them had any doubt it would happen.
Donna: “I had a dream that it was supposed to happen. It was the direction our lives had to go in. The only direction.”
Keith: “It had to happen. I knew it had to happen because I had a vision… Flash: go talk to Garcia… I wasn’t thinking about playing with them before the flash. I didn’t even try to figure out what the flash was…I just followed it, not knowing what was going to happen. I wasn’t playing with anyone else before that. Just playing cocktail lounges and clubs.”

He played jazz piano & cocktail music in a Walnut Creek club, but was just starting to get into rock & roll. As Donna said, “Keith would practice his rock & roll piano at home, and I was basically supporting the two of us.” He’d had no rock experience at all, and apparently listened to little rock music. Though he’d played with small jazz bands before, he was tired of bar gigs: “When other kids my age were going to dances and stuff, I was going to bars and playing… I was completely burned out on that. Then I floated for about six months, and then ended up playing with the Grateful Dead.”
He’d played piano in club bands since he was 14: “I spent two years wearing dinner jackets and playing acoustic piano in country club bands and Dixieland groups… I also did piano bar gigs and put trios together to back singers in various places around the Bay Area…[playing] cocktail standards like Misty the way jazz musicians resentfully play a song that’s popular – that frustrated space… I just wasn’t into it… I was looking for something real to get involved with – which wouldn’t necessarily be music.” (Getting a job was out of the question: “I could never see working during the day, and nobody would hire me for anything, anyway.”)
Considering what he would play later, it’s surprising that when his jazz trio went “in the Chick Corea direction,” Keith decided “I didn’t really have any feeling for that type of music,” and instead listened to big-band jazz, Bill Evans, and bebop: “the musicians the guys I was playing with were emulating… After gigs we’d go to somebody’s house and listen to jazz until the sun came up. They dug turning me on to bebop and where it came from. So I understood those roots, but I never got taken on that kind of trip with rock and roll – and I never had the sense to take myself on it.”
Until he met Donna, who turned him on to rock & roll. He sighed in ’76, “I’m just now starting to learn about the type of music I’m playing now… I never played rock and roll before I started playing with the Grateful Dead.” (Shades of Constanten!)
The interesting thing is that when he saw the Dead, he thought they needed more energy: “When I’d heard them play a couple of times, they really got me off; I was really high. But there were still a lot of ups and downs. Like [they] didn’t quite have the strength to pull the load…”

As far as I know, all the accounts of Keith’s joining the Dead come from Donna’s story – as told to Blair Jackson for the Golden Road magazine in 1985. The turning point came during a visit to their friends Pete & Carol (who had introduced them and turned them on to the Dead, and so played a hidden part in Dead history).
“One day I came home from work and we went over to Pete’s and he said, ‘Let’s listen to some Grateful Dead.’ And Keith said, ‘I don’t want to listen to it. I want to play it.’ And it was like, ‘Yeahhh! That’s it!’ We were just so high and in love! We said to Pete & Carol, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to play with the Grateful Dead!’ And we really believed it. We had no doubt.
We went home, looked in the paper and saw that Garcia’s band was playing at the Keystone, so we went down, of course. At the break, Garcia walked by going backstage, so I grabbed him and said, ‘Jerry, my husband and I have something very important to talk to you about.’ And he said, ‘Sure.’
…I didn’t realize that everyone does that to him. So Garcia told us to come backstage, but we were both too scared, so we didn’t. A few minutes later, Garcia came up and sat next to Keith, and I said, ‘Honey, I think Garcia’s hinting that he wants to talk to you. He’s sitting right next to you.’ He looked over at Jerry and looked back at me and dropped his head on the table and said, ‘You’re going to have to talk to my wife. I can’t talk to you right now.’ He was just too shy. He was very strong but he couldn’t handle that sort of thing. So I said to Jerry, ‘Well, Keith’s your piano player, so I want your home telephone number so I can call you up and come to the next Grateful Dead practice.’ And he believed me! He gave me his number.
The following Sunday the Dead were having a rehearsal and Jerry told us to come on down, so we did. But the band had forgotten to tell Jerry that the rehearsal had been called off, so Jerry was down there by himself. So Keith and Jerry played, and we played him some tapes of songs that I had written and was singing on. Then Jerry called Kreutzmann and got him to come down, and the three of them played some. Then the next day the Dead practiced, and by the end of that day Keith was on the payroll.
They asked me to sing right away, but somewhere in my ignorant wisdom I said I wanted to Keith to do it first, so he did two tours and I stayed home… So Keith and I went into it as green and innocent as we could be. I’d never sung before an audience before, really, and Keith had done only very small gigs.”
She also pointed out to Relix that “Keith and I didn’t know that Pigpen was sick or anything.”
http://www.blairjackson.com/chapter_twelve_additions.htm
http://www.levity.com/gans/Donna.980328.html
http://www.tonibrownband.com/donnajg24-4.html

McNally has but a few details to add:
He notes (from a different Donna interview) that after meeting Jerry, she tried calling the Dead’s office a few times with no luck – “she called the office and left several messages, but was ignored. Finally she got him at home.” So it may have been a more circuitous path between the first meeting and the rehearsal, but in Donna’s memory it was about a week.
He identifies the Dead’s rehearsal space as “a warehouse off Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael.” (The tapes of Keith’s rehearsals are labeled as being from an unknown location in Santa Venetia – but Santa Venetia is basically a neighborhood of San Rafael, so it is likely the same place. Possibly they could have moved to a studio to tape some of the sessions, though.)
And he says that “Keith and Donna played Garcia a song they’d written, Every Song I Sing.”
Donna told Blair Jackson, “When Keith and I first got together, we wrote some music that we wanted to be meaningful and spiritual. We wanted to write music to the Lord, because it didn’t seem like there was much out there that was spiritual. But when we heard the Grateful Dead…it seemed to have such spiritual ties. It had a quality that was magical, ethereal, spiritual, and that’s part of what was so attractive about it.”
What’s interesting here is that they’re playing Garcia THEIR music, in order to convince him of their rightness for the band. And there does seem to have been a spiritual tie – this moment prefigures not just Keith’s time with the Dead, but the later Keith & Donna band with Garcia sitting in, and the Garcia Band circa ’76 with Keith & Donna, bringing gospel music into the shows. (I think she has mentioned how she, Keith & Jerry would listen to lots of gospel music at home circa ’76.) So they hit Garcia with just the right note.

Blair Jackson observes that Keith had also played on a James & the Good Brothers record (a band the Dead were friends with) – Kreutzmann played drums on one track, and the album was recorded by Betty Cantor, so Keith may not have been a complete unknown to Garcia. (On the other hand, Keith is not mentioned in the album credits, so it’s a mystery where Jackson got this info.)

In early 1972, the Dead had a little promotional flurry, releasing a few band biographies for the press & fans. These offer a less detailed, but slightly different course of events. The Dead’s spring ’72 newsletter recounted:
“Pigpen was extremely ill, and unable to travel. Jerry had about this same time met Keith Godchaux, a piano player he and Billy had jammed with at Keystone Korner, a small club in San Francisco. With Pigpen sick, three major United States tours facing them, and the desire to have another good musician to add to their music, Keith was asked to join.”

Promo bios of each of the bandmembers released at the same time include this about Keith:
“After jamming with Jerry and Billy at a small club, and getting together with the Dead to work out some tunes, he joined the band in September of 1971.”
Keith was also quoted in the Book of the Dead: “We went into this club in San Francisco where Garcia was playing, and just talked to him. A couple of days later I was playing with him and Bill, and it just sort of came together.”

While these bios are brief and lacking in detail (Donna’s role is not mentioned at all), they were written only a few months later, so they should be taken into account.
The first surprise is to read that Keith had jammed with Jerry & Bill at the Keystone. This seems to have entirely slipped Donna’s memory! Is it possible there was a “lost” Jerry & Keith jam at the Keystone sometime in September ’71?
(Perhaps someone mixed up the Keystone and the rehearsal space – either way, Jerry & Bill jammed with Keith before the rest of the band did.)
It’s also a curious detail that Keith initially got with the Dead “to work out some tunes.” This is frustratingly vague – it may mean nothing; or it may mean that the initial intention was not to actually join the Dead.
Keith confirms that no time passed between meeting and playing: “a couple of days later…” This is even briefer than in Donna’s account!

This brings up the question of just which was the Keystone show where Keith & Donna met Garcia. He had a couple shows with Saunders in this month:
Tuesday, Aug 31
Thursday, Sept 16
The 16th has been considered the most likely date, since it’s closest to Keith’s first rehearsals. Note that Pigpen went into the hospital the next day. Donna remembered the Dead rehearsal being scheduled for “the following Sunday,” but the Dead canceled and only Jerry came. I have to think that, if it was Sunday the 19th, due to the sudden turmoil of Pigpen’s illness, it seems unlikely Jerry & Bill would have jammed with anyone that day. (It also may explain why Donna had a hard time reaching Jerry on the phone that week, though there doesn’t seem enough time for multiple phone calls.)
But note: the jerrysite lists the New Riders playing the Friends & Relations Hall in San Francisco on Sept 17-19, which wouldn’t preclude daytime rehearsals. And Keith did say he played with Garcia just a couple days after meeting him.
Or, if Donna’s memory is right, possibly Sunday the 26th was the first day Keith played with Jerry. This seems superhuman, though – it means his first day with the full Dead would have been the 27th. Our first rehearsal tape comes from the 28th, and it by no means sounds like Keith’s second day with the band. In fact, it sounds like he’s already settled in. (Not only that, it would mean they lost no time in taping rehearsals with the new guy, in fact starting immediately. Pretty speedy, for the Dead!)

So while it’s possible that Keith only started playing with the Dead near the end of the month, I think it’s also possible that he’d met Garcia on 8/31, and perhaps even jammed with him & Kreutzmann a time or two at Keystone Korner; and rehearsals may have started earlier than we think. The Dead may have been considering a new keyboard player even before Pigpen succumbed, and if Keith had already been playing with Garcia informally, their next candidate was right in front of them. (We don’t know how poor Pigpen’s health was in early September, but the Dead may have been aware before 9/17 that he was in decline.)
Or perhaps the Dead initially saw Keith as a temporary stand-in, a Hornsby-like figure until Pigpen could be eased back in. It would’ve become obvious pretty soon, though, that Keith was born to play with the Dead.
Or, the traditional story could be true: the Dead suddenly discovered after the 17th that they needed a new player; Garcia met one that very week, and they snatched him up immediately; and he learned all their songs in a week or less. Serendipity in action…

A closer listen may reveal more, but for now it sounds to me like there is not one attempt to teach Keith a single new song in these rehearsal tapes, only practiced run-throughs of already-learned songs. Very few songs even stumble or break down. At least when they rolled the tapes, Keith was ready to go on every song. This suggests that at the least, there were more than one or two days of rehearsal before these tapes were made.
Admittedly, Keith was quite familiar with the Dead’s music before playing with them; also, some of these songs were as new to the Dead as they were to Keith!
Lesh was quite impressed with Keith: “He was so brilliant at the beginning. That guy had it all, he could play anything… It’s like he came forth fully grown. He didn’t have to work his way into it.”
Lesh wrote in his book that in the first rehearsal, “all through the afternoon we played a whole raft of Grateful Dead tunes, old and new. That whole day, Keith never put a foot (or a finger) wrong. Even though he’d never played any Grateful Dead tunes before…[he] picked up the songs practically the first time through…everything he played fit perfectly in the spaces between [our] parts.”
Kreutzmann later told Blair Jackson, “I loved his playing. I remember when we auditioned him. Jerry asked him to come down to our old studio and the two of us threw every curveball we could, but he was right on top of every improvised change. We just danced right along on top. That’s when I knew he’d be great for the band. He was so inventive – he played some jazz stuff and free music that was just incredible. He had a heart of music.”
Manager Jon McIntire remembered when he first heard about Keith: “I saw Garcia and asked him what it was about, and he shook his head, very amazed, and said, ‘Well, this guy came along and said he was our piano player. And he was.'”

Surprisingly to anyone who ever saw him, Keith said in ’72 that “what I’ve contributed to the band as a whole is an added amount of energy which they needed, for my taste… I have a super amount of energy. I’m just a wired-up person and I relate to music super-energetically… The part of their music which I played fit in perfectly, like a part of a puzzle.”

It’s notable that Keith plays both piano and organ equally during the rehearsals. (Possibly the first instrument he played with Garcia was the organ, though I don’t think Keith had any experience with it; at any rate, organ was the Dead’s first choice for many of the new songs.) Over the course of the tour, though, he gradually dropped the organ altogether, and played it only rarely thereafter. When he is on piano during these rehearsals, the honky-tonk sound from many fall ’71 shows is very clear.

Our tapes come from several days – they’re cassette copies with variable mixes and shifty sound quality. (Note that on some tracks Keith can hardly be heard, being too low in the mix.)
http://archive.org/details/gd71-09-29.sbd.cousinit.16891.sbeok.shnf – Keith mostly on organ
http://archive.org/details/gd71-09-30.sbd.cousinit.18109.sbeok.shnf – Keith mostly on piano
http://archive.org/details/gd71-10-01.sbd.rehearsal.cousinit.16896.sbefail.shnf – very little Keith can be heard
http://archive.org/details/gd71-09-xx.sbd.unknown.16897.sbeok.shnf – compilation; Keith mixed up on some tracks
http://archive.org/details/gd1971-09-29.unsurpassed-masters-vol4-vol6.116951.flac16 – bootleg comp; different mixes, sometimes very trebley, but Keith comes out more (for instance Brokedown #2, where he takes over)

The Keith highlight is the first few tracks of 9/30, with Keith in full barrelhouse mode. It’s also interesting to hear him on organ on songs like Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed & Truckin’ on 9/29. (There’s also an oddly assertive moment before Cold Rain & Snow on the compilation, where Keith channels Keith Jarrett for a little solo riffing.)
There are almost no jams here, just straight songs (there is a short, interesting band jam on 10/1, and a rehearsal of the Uncle John’s jam on 9/29). I would guess there must have been more rehearsals over the next couple weeks (they had to have tried out some of the ‘deep’ jams), but no more tapes have come forth. Perhaps the Dead did not bother recording more improvisational jams.

We know Garcia gave Keith a batch of live tapes that had been recorded at the August shows, so Keith would also have been able to listen & practice the songs at home before his 10/19/71 live debut. Not that he did!
From a note on the Dick’s Picks 35 “Houseboat Tapes”: “In the late summer of 1971, just before Keith Godchaux began rehearsals with the Dead, Garcia handed him a big box of tapes and said, “Here, this is our most recent tour. Learn our music.” The irony was that Donna Jean doubts mightily Keith ever bothered to listen to them – he’d never listened to the Dead all that much before he auditioned… In any case, he left the tapes on his parents’ houseboat in Alameda, and there they stayed.”
In fact, in one interview with Lemieux it was speculated that Keith never even took the reels out of their box. But it makes sense – when you can rehearse with the band each day, there’s little need to check out their tapes.

So Pigpen stayed at home until December, while Keith went out and surprised Dead audiences. (Some were thrilled, others dismayed.) This was the second time Pigpen had been replaced by another player; but he probably took it in stride, as he had more serious things to worry about. He was still eager to rejoin the Dead, though, and went back on tour perhaps sooner than was wise. Lesh later felt guilty about this: “It would have been better for him if we’d just canceled the tour and let him recover all his strength at his own pace… It was agreed that Pig would rejoin the band when he felt up to it. Without realizing it, we put a lot of pressure on him to hurry up and get better.”
That was the band’s pattern, though, as the future would reveal – they wouldn’t cancel a tour no matter who was dead or dying. (And though no one knew it, Pigpen was likely beyond recovery by that point anyway.) Though he didn’t necessarily live for the road, Pigpen’s identity was bound up with the band, and he lashed himself to their mast as long as he could, whatever the cost to himself.
He would not be alone. The years on tour wouldn’t be kind to Keith either – indeed, the damage Dead keyboardists inflicted on themselves would become well-known – but Keith started out feeling cosmically optimistic. “The Dead’s music is absolutely 100% positive influence. When I met them, I knew these were people I could trust with my head. They would never do anything which would affect me negatively… They are righteous people.”

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Carl Radle 5/1980

carl-radleMay 30, 1980 – Carl Dean Radle was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 18th 1942. Although clarinet and piano lessons in his childhood failed to fascinate him, sometime during his years at Edison High School (Tulsa) he fell in love with rock and roll. By the time he graduated in 1960 he had bought an old used guitar and basically began to teach himself how to play. As he became more accomplished, he began playing in local clubs with fellow friends and musicians David Gates, Russell Bridges (Leon Russell), Johnny (J. J.) Cale, Jim Markham, Tommy Tripplehorn, Jim Karstein, Chuck Blackwell, Larry Bell, and a host of others, even though most of them were under the legal age limit for being granted entrance into the nightspots.

After graduating from high school this group of musicians, who would have to be considered the vanguard of what was to eventually be dubbed “The Tulsa Sound”, began migrating to California to try to break into the music business. Leon Russell was one of the earliest to make this move and his home/studio on Skyhill Drive in Hollywood became a haven for these young Tulsa musicians and assorted friends who needed a place to stay. They often played as back-up musicians in clubs, with new upcoming singers, like Bobby Rydell, fronting the act. During this time he recorded with a group called Skip & Flip, releasing a single, Tossin’ and Turnin’ / Everyday I Have to Cry.
After about a year of finding it difficult to make a living in the music world, in 1964 Carl decided to return to Tulsa and joined the Air National Guard, being stationed in Texas for about a year. After Carl’s discharge in 1965 and when he had once again returned to Tulsa, Leon Russell called him from California offering a “huge opportunity”, a position as new bass player for the Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Carl decided to give the music business one more try and he made the move back to California. He recorded and toured with Gary Lewis & the Playboys for about one year, making appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig, Hullabaloo, and The Tonight Show. Fellow Tulsans Jimmy Karstein and Tommy Tripplehorn were also members of this group, and during this time they spun out many “top ten” singles, including “Everybody Loves a Clown” and “Count Me In.” To date, Carl’s contributions are included on fourteen of Gary’s albums. This trip came to an end, however, when in January of 1967 Gary was called into military service and the band dissolved.

Carl remained in California doing studio work and pick-up gigs including working behind Dobie Gray in club engagements. He did some recording with John Lee Hooker and appeared on two albums (“The Colours” and “Atmosphere”) in 1968 with a group called The Colours, which also included Tulsan Chuck Blackwell.

In 1969, Leon Russell once again influenced Carl’s destiny, by introducing him to Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett to help form the group “Delaney, Bonnie & Friends.” This group also included Leon, Rita Coolidge, and Dave Mason. On tour the group performed as the opening act for “Blind Faith,” a group which included Eric Clapton. Upon Blind Faith’s demise, Eric Clapton joined up with the Bramletts for a tour and album titled Delaney & Bonnie & Friends on Tour. Carl collaborated on writing and arranging two of their hit songs, “Get Ourselves Together” and “Never Ending Song of Love.”

This group disbanded after about a year and in early 1970 several of the members, including Carl, joined Leon Russell who was forming the “Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen” ensemble. The company had more than two dozen musicians and performers, and the tour covered 46 cities in 56 days. From it emerged the biggest rock and roll tour in history, a major movie and a gold album.

In the meantime, Bobby Whitlock had started hanging with Eric Clapton who wanted to put together a group to tour and promote his first solo album. Bobby called in Carl and L.A. born drummer, Jim Gordon. Sidetracked at first, they took time in May and July of 1970 to collaborate with George Harrison on his “All Things Must Pass” album, which included the hit singles “My Sweet Lord” and “What is Life”. During a break in June, Eric, Jim, Bobby and Carl began seriously rehearsing and they completed their first single, “Tell the Truth, with “Roll it Over” on the B side. After the George Harrison sessions were finished in late summer of that year, Clapton’s new group resumed sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, with Tom Dowd at the production helm, resulting in what has become one of the greatest classic rock albums of all time, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”. Duane Allman’s guitar work was also a prominent contribution to this effort.  The group took time off in August of 1971 to help George Harrison in his benefit effort, the Concert for Bangladesh, an ensemble of great artists including Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, and others. The two live concerts held on August 1, 1971, at Madison Square Garden resulted in another album and movie.

Derek and the Dominos began working on sessions for another group of songs, but being dissatisfied with the results and the tensions that resulted, the band dissolved and a disillusioned Eric took a three year hiatus. For the next three years Carl stayed busy with session work on projects by various artists, including Art Garfunkel, Duane Allman, John Lee Hooker, Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, Bobby Whitlock, Donovan and Freddie King.

In April of 1974, he coaxed Eric Clapton out of seclusion and resurfaced with a band consisting of George Terry, Carl Radle, Jamie Oldaker, Dick Sims and Yvonne Elliman on vocals. The group once again began recording in Criteria Studios, under Dowd’s direction, to create the popular “461 Ocean Boulevard” album. Carl again brought his arranging abilities into play on the “Motherless Children” track for this album.

For the next five years, Carl, Eric and this group of musicians including the addition of vocalist Marcy Levy, worked closely together on an almost endless string of highly successful gold and platinum albums.
In 1979, Eric was ready for a new sound. That summer he dissolved the band and all the musicians went separate ways in their careers. Carl worked for a while with Peter Frampton, but soon returned to Tulsa where he enjoyed working with local musicians once again.

He died from a kidney infection on May 30 of 1980, at age 37, effected by alcohol and narcotics.

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Tommy Caldwell 4/1980

Tommy CaldwellApril 28, 1980 – Thomas Michael “Tommy” Caldwell was born on November 9, 1949 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With his older brother Toy, he formed the southern rock band the Marshall Tucker Band in 1973 and played bass and was its original frontman until his death in 1980. His death didn’t end the Marshall Tucker Band, but it changed things forever – in particular for his older brother Toy Caldwell.

The pair had been playing music together since Tommy was 7, and Toy was 9. The Toy Factory, led by the elder Caldwell, became the southern-rocking Marshall Tucker Band when Tommy joined as bassist in 1972. They took their name from a hometown piano tuner in the cotton-mill city f Spartanburg, S.C., and set about recording five gold-selling albums (including four in a row starting in 1973) and the platinum smash Carolina Dreams before the end of the ’70s.
Then tragedy struck. The Marshall Tucker Band had just returned home from a concert they recorded for broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour when Tommy Caldwell’s Land Cruiser clipped a parked 1965 Ford Galaxy on April 22, 1980, in Spartanburg. Tommy’s Jeep, modified for off-road driving with oversized tires, flipped onto its side – and Caldwell suffered a head injury that would ultimately prove fatal. “It was just a freak accident,” Moon Mullins, a crew member for the band, said later.

The owner of the Galaxy, who was in the car but uninjured when Caldwell struck him, was charged with improper parking the next day. Caldwell died on April 28, 1980, after lingering in critical condition at Spartanburg General Hospital for almost a week.
Franklin Wilkie, a former bassist in Toy Caldwell’s pre-Marshall Tucker group, took over for Tommy – but the band never regained its commercial momentum. Tenth, the final album to feature Tommy Caldwell, was their last Top 40 album.
Toy Caldwell was hit particularly hard, having endured another brother’s death in a traffic accident just one month before Tommy’s.

By 1984, he’d left the Marshall Tucker Band, creating a huge hole as the group lost its lead guitarist, vocalist on “Can’t You See” and principal songwriter. Toy Caldwell died in 1993, after too much cocaine stopped his heart.
“Since Tommy’s death, he was there in body only,” Toy Caldwell’s wife Abbie said in 1998. “In hindsight, Toy kept an awful lot inside of him. I cannot imagine the pain he was in after his brothers’ deaths. … Toy put up a good front for the others, but now I know he had to be torn apart inside.”

Doug Gray, who sang the group’s No. 14 hit “Heard It in a Love Song,” carries on with the Marshall Tucker Band these days. Rhythm guitarist George McCorkle died in 2007, leaving Gray as the only member from the classic era defined by the Caldwells.
Tommy Caldwell spoke to that lasting bond, as musicians and as brothers, in 1978. “You won’t find me in another band when this one’s over,” Tommy said after the release of the aptly titled Together Forever. “You’ll find me back in the country in South Carolina. Me and my brother have been playing together forever and, when that’s over, we’re going home. If you heard it, then you were fortunate enough to catch it. If you didn’t? Well, there won’t be another one, man.”

As well as being the frontman, he also sang background vocals and wrote several songs, including “Melody Ann,” which was the only song he ever performed lead vocals on. His last performance with the band was on April 18, 1980. This performance is captured on the 2006 release, “Live on Long Island”.

He died on 28 April 1980 of injures from a Jeep crash a week earlier.  His younger brother Timmy, who was not a member of the band died a month before him, also the result of a car crash at age 25. Tommy Caldwell was 30 years old when he died.

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Bon Scott 2/1980

bon scottFebruary 19, 1980 – Bon Scott was born July 9, 1946 in Kirriemuir, Scotland, and moved to Melbourne, Australia with his family in 1952 at the age of six. In 1956, the family moved to Fremantle, Western Australia, and Scott joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band, learning the drums. Scott attended North Fremantle Primary School and later John Curtin College of the Arts until he dropped out at the age of 15 and spent a short time in Fremantle Prison’s assessment centre and nine months at the Riverbank Juvenile Institution relating to charges of giving a false name and address to the police, having escaped legal custody, having unlawful carnal knowledge and stealing twelve gallons of petrol.

He attempted to join the Australian Army, but was rejected for being deemed “socially maladjusted.”

Scott’s vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard. After working as a postman, bartender and truck packer, Scott started his first band, The Spektors, in 1966 as drummer and occasional lead singer. One year later the Spektors merged with another local band, the Winstons, and formed The Valentines, in which Scott was co-lead singer with Vince Lovegrove. The Valentines recorded several songs written by George Young of The Easybeats. “Every Day I Have to Cry” (a song originally written and sung by Arthur Alexander) made the local top 5. In 1970, after gaining a place on the National Top 30 with their single “Juliette”, the Valentines disbanded due to artistic differences after a much-publicized drug scandal.

Scott moved to Adelaide in 1970 and joined the progressive rock band Fraternity. Fraternity released Livestock and Flaming Galah before touring the UK in 1973, where they changed their name to “Fang”. During this time they played support slots for Status Quo and Geordie. During this time, on 24 January 1972, Scott married Irene Thornton.

In 1973, just after returning to Australia from the tour of the UK, Fraternity went on hiatus. Scott took a day job at the Wallaroo fertiliser plant and began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a loose collective of musicians helmed by Peter Head (né Beagley) from Headband, who explained, “Headband and Fraternity were in the same management stable and we both split about the same time so the logical thing was to take members from both bands and create a new one … the purpose of the band was for songwriters to relate to each other and experiment with songs, so it was a hotbed of creativity”. Other ex-Fraternity members also played with the band as did Glen Shorrock pre-Little River Band. During this time, Head also helped Scott with his original compositions.

Vince Lovegrove said “Bon would go to Peter’s home after a day (of literally) shovelling shit, and show him musical ideas he had had during his day’s work. Bon’s knowledge of the guitar was limited, so Peter began teaching him how to bridge chords and construct a song. One of the songs from these sessions was a ballad called “Clarissa”, about a local Adelaide girl. Another was the country-tinged Bin Up in the Hills Too Long, which for me was a sign of things to come with Bon’s lyrics; simple, clever, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek …

“About 11 pm on 3 May 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike.” Scott suffered serious injuries from the ensuing motorcycle accident, spending three days in a coma and a further 18 days in the hospital. Vince Lovegrove and his wife, by then running a booking/management agency, gave Scott odd jobs, such as putting up posters and painting the office during his recovery, and shortly after introduced him to AC/DC who were on the lookout for a new lead singer.

“There was a young, dinky little glam band from Sydney that we both loved called AC/DC … Before another AC/DC visit, George Young phoned me and said the band was looking for a new singer. I immediately told him that the best guy for the job was Bon. George responded by saying Bon’s accident would not allow him to perform, and that maybe he was too old. Nevertheless I had a meeting with Malcolm and Angus, and suggested Bon as their new singer. They asked me to bring him out to the Pooraka Hotel that night, and to come backstage after the show. When he watched the band, Bon was impressed, and he immediately wanted to join them, but thought they may be a bit too inexperienced and too young. After the show, backstage, Bon expressed his doubts about them being “able to rock”. The two Young brothers told Bon he was “too old to rock”. The upshot was that they had a jam session that night in the home of Bon’s former mentor, Bruce Howe, and at the end of the session, at dawn, it was obvious that AC/DC had found a new singer. And Bon had found a new band.”

Bon replaced Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC in September 1974, he performed on AC/DC’s first 7 albums from High Voltage in 1975 to Highway to Hell released in 1979. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the U.S. top 100, eventually reaching #17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts.

During rehearsing sessions in London for the album “BLACK ON BLACK, Scott passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (later known as the KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance, who found him the next afternoon lifeless.

Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980 at age 33. Although there are many conspiracy theories surrounding his death, mostly based on inconsistent reporting, the coroner’s report stated that he had “drunk himself to death”, suffocating on his own vomit. The official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure”.

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Jimmy McCulloch 9/1979

jimmy mccullough27 September 1979 – James ‘Jimmy’ McCulloch was born 4 June 1953. From the age of 11, the year he picked up a guitar for the first time, he played in a band called The Jaygars which later changed it’s name to ‘One in a Million’, the Glasgow psychedelic band. Being a protegé of Pete Townshend of the Who and Hank Marvin of the Shadow, proved recognition of his tremendous talents when at age 11 he picked up the guitar and started convincingly imitating Django Reinhardt.

He rose to fame in 1969, just 16 years old, when he played with Andy Thunderclap Newman recording the mega hit “Something in the Air”. The band disbanded in 1971 and in October he was touring with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.

In 1972 at 18, Jimmy joined the blues rock band Stone the Crows, replacing Les Harvey who died from getting electrocuted on stage. He helped the band to complete their Ontinuous Performance album, playing on the tracks, “Sunset Cowboy” and “Good Time Girl”. That band gave it up in 1973 and Jimmy did some session work in Blue and played guitar on Brian Joseph Friel’s first album, under the pseudonym ‘The Phantom’, after which in 1974, he joined Paul McCartney’s Wings playing lead guitar. He was also the composer of the anti-drug song “Medicine Jar” on the Wings album Venus and Mars, and the similar “Wino Junko” on Wings at the Speed of Sound album.

While in Wings he also formed his own band, White Line, with his brother Jack on drums and Dave Clarke on bass, keyboards and vocals.

In September 1977, McCulloch left Wings to join the reformed Small Faces during the latter band’s 9-date tour of England that month. He played guitar on the Small Faces’ album, 78 in the Shade. In early 1978, McCulloch started a band called Wild Horses with Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain and Kenney Jones, which he had left that spring. In 1979, McCulloch joined the credited super group The Dukes with singer Miller Anderson, Ronnie Leahy on keyboards and bassist Charles Tumahai. His last recorded song, “Heartbreaker”, appeared on their only album, The Dukes.

On 27 September 1979, McCulloch was found dead by his brother in his flat in Maida Vale, North West London. Autopsy found that McCulloch died from a heroin overdose. He was 26.

A melodic, heavily blues-infused guitarist, McCulloch’s rig normally consisted of a Gibson SG and a Gibson Les Paul and he occasionally played bass guitar when McCartney was playing piano or acoustic guitar.

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Minnie Riperton 7/1979

July 12, 1979 – Minnie Riperton was born on November 8th 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of eight children in a musical family, she embraced the arts early. As a child she studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. In her teen years, she sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems.

At Chicago’s Lincoln Center, she received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. She practiced breathing and phrasing, with particular emphasis on diction. Jeffery also trained Riperton to use her full range. While studying under Jeffery, she sang operettas and show tunes, in preparation for a career in opera. Jeffery was so convinced of her pupil’s abilities that she strongly pushed her to further study the classics at Chicago’s Junior Lyric Opera. The young Riperton was, however, becoming very interested in soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. After graduating from Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Academy High School), she enrolled at Loop College and became a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She dropped out of college to pursue her music career.

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Lowell George 6/1979

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

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

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Sid Vicious 2/1979

sid viciusFebruary 2, 1979 – Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie on May 10th 1957 in Lewisham in Southeast London England. His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the Royal Airforce, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie’s father, a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.

Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few cheques failed to arrive, Anne realized senior would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent, England. Ritchie took his stepfather’s surname and was known as John Beverley.

Christopher Beverley died a short while later from cancer and by 1968 Ritchie and his mother were living in a rented flat in Turnbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971 mom and son moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Clevedon, Somerset.
Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound”.

By age 17, Ritchie was hanging around London’s center. One favorite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit.

John Lydon nicknamed Ritchie “Sid Vicious” after Lydon’s pet hamster Sid, who had bitten Ritchie, eliciting Ritchie’s response: “Sid is really vicious!” The animal was described by Lydon as “the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth.” At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as “The Four Johns”.

According to Lydon, he and Vicious would often busk for money, with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to stop. Once a man gave them “three bob” (three shillings, i.e., 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced. Yet the darker side of Sid’s personality emerged when he assaulted New Musical Express journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain, with help from Jah Wobble. On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.

His ‘musical’ career started in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene, Palmolive and Viv Albertine. He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London’s Oxford Street. According to members of The Damned, Vicious, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition. The song “Belsen Was a Gas” originates from this band, and was later performed live by the Sex Pistols, as well as Sid Vicious’ solo act.

He played his first gig with the Sex Pistols on 3 April 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. In Nov. 1977, Sid met American groupie Nancy Spungen. Both the group and Sid visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour.

The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on 14 January 1978. With Nancy acting as his “manager”, Sid embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders.

He performed the majority of his performances at Max’s Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max’s.

On October 12th 1978, Sid claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. On October 22 1978, ten days after Nancy’s death, he attempted suicide by slicing his wrist and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital.

A little over three months later, on February 2nd 1979, Vicious died from a heroin overdose as he had been partying in a New York flat to celebrate his release on $50,000 (£29,412) bail pending his trial for the murder of his girlfriend. A few days after his cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket: “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye”.

He was 21 years old.

In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.

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Jacques Brel 10/1978

JACQUES BREL

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

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

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

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Keith Moon 9/1978

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

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

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

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Sandy Denny 4/1978

sandy-denny-fairport conventionApril 21, 1978 – Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny (Fairport Convention) was born on 6 January 1947. Known as Sandy Denny, she was one of my favorite sixties’ British folk rock singers. She was the lead singer for the folk rock band Fairport Convention in 1968 and 69, but besides that she was a fabulous songwriter, notably her most famous song was ‘Who knows Where the Time Goes’, which has been covered by a myriad of artists since, most famously, 10,000 Maniacs, Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Eva Cassidy, Nina Simone, Sinéad O’Connor, to name a few.

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Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977

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

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

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

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

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Stevie Gaines 10/1977

Steve-Gaines-smilingOctober 20, 1977 – Stevie Gaines joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in May of 1976 and 17 months later he died with lead singer Ronnie van Zant and his sister Cassie in a chartered airplane crash in Mississippi. It was a chart breaking 17 months. The world had lost a guitar player whose skills were so outstanding that the entire band would “all be in his shadow one day”according to lead singer Ronnie vanZant.

Gaines was born September 14, 1949 in Seneca, Missouri, and raised in Miami, Oklahoma. When Steve was 15 years old, he saw The Beatles live in Kansas City. After being driven home from the concert, he pestered his father enough to buy him his first guitar. His first band, The Ravens (a local High School rock band that Steve’s friends formed), made its first recording at the famous Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

In the 1970s Steve played with bands Rio Smokehouse, The Band Detroit with Rusty Day (originally an offshoot of The Detroit Wheels) and Crawdad (a band that Steve had started around 1974). In 1975, he recorded several songs with Crawdad at Capricorn studios in Macon, Georgia which were released by MCA in 1988 as One in the Sun (when the present day Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band began touring) and is listed as his only official solo album.

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Marc Bolan 9/1977

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

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

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

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

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

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Tommy Bolin 12/1976

guitarist tommy bolinDecember 4, 1976 – Thomas Richard “Tommy” Bolin  was born August 1, 1951 in Sioux City, Iowa from a Swedish father and a Syrian mother.

In his own words:

“I was five or six at the time, I think, and I used to watch this show on TV called Caravan of Stars. I saw Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins. After seeing them perform I knew that was what I wanted to do. I actually started on drums when I was thirteen and played them for two years. Then I went to guitar for a year, played keyboards for a year and a half, and went back to guitar. It was just the right instrument. You’re in direct contact with the music you’re making by having the strings under your fingers. It’s not mechanical like a piano. My first guitar was a used Silvertone, the one that had the amplifier in the case. When I bought it, I had a choice between it or this black Les Paul for 75.00. I took the Silvertone. That was my first mistake.”

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Jimmy Reed 8/1976

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

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

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Keith Relf 5/1976

keith-relfMay 14, 1976 – William Keith Relf was born on March 22, 1943 in Richmond, Surrey, England.

As a teenager he latched onto American rhythm and blues and became influenced by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and the Chicago Blues scene. Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Despite his suffering from respiratory problems, his blues harp became a key part of the Yardbirds’ sound and success, according to many, and his vocals may have been as important a contribution to the band as the trio of worldfamous guitar players that joined the band.

When people remember the Yardbirds, as the British blues-based band that came to prominence in the mid to late 60s, what they remember most is the triumvirate of guitar players that used the group as a  step to stardom: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and future Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page. While there is no doubt that these now world-famous guitar gods contributed greatly to the Yardbirds’ sound, another less-famous member gave the group voice, performing presence, and direction. That man was Keith Relf.

They drew their  original repertoire from the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James, including “Smokestack Lightning”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, “Boom Boom”, “I Wish You Would”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”, and “I’m a Man”. Keith co-wrote many of the original Yardbirds songs “Shapes of Things”, “I Ain’t Done Wrong”, “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”. He also sang an early version of “Dazed and Confused” in live Yardbirds concerts, a song later recorded by the band’s successor group Led Zeppelin.

A record contract followed, and soon the band, guided by the restless and substance-friendly Relf, drifted away from R&B. Subsequent hit songs suggested beatniks with harpsichords (“For Your Love”), melancholy monks (“Still I’m Sad”), and acid-soaked Romany (“Over Under Sideways Down”). Clapton left the band, and Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page joined, pushing the group deeper into psychedelic byways of fuzztone and distortion. Although Relf persevered, his attitude towards the high-powered guitar music that defined the group began to change. Exhausted from extensive touring and suffering from asthma, Relf wanted to sing gentler, more thoughtful music. By 1968, the Yardbirds’ end was at hand.

That year Relf dissolved the group, became a record producer and sideman, and began a new stage of his musical career just before his early death.

Keith Relf’s first post-Yardbirds group was Together, an acoustic duo with fellow ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty. Their Simon and Garfunkel-inspired music failed to catch on, however, and Relf formed a new band with his sister Jane called Renaissance. The group was indeed a renaissance for Relf, allowing him to explore his psychedelic and acoustic leanings freely over the course of two albums with much singing by his beautiful sister Jane. But difficult and unrewarding touring wore them down, and Relf dissolved the first incarnation in 1970. (Led by vocalist Annie Haslam, the group’s second, more progressive incarnation became a fixture of the 70s music scene.) Relf stayed active in the early 70s as a producer and occasional player. He produced tracks for bands such as the acoustic, world music, group Amber, Saturnalia and Medicine Head, with whom he played bass guitar.

In 1975 he founded a heavy metal group called Armageddon. Energized by the group into delivering some of his best vocals on record, Relf looked poised for new success. Sadly, this was not to be. Dogged by ill health, Relf broke up the group and went home to recuperate. Instead, he met an ironic end. The man “who left the Yardbirds largely because of electric guitars” died on May 14, 1976, from being fatally electrocuted by an improperly grounded electric guitar, while rehearsing new material for the formation of his new band Illusion. He was only 33 years old.

Keith Relf was posthumously inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 with the Yardbirds. He was represented by his widow April, and son Danny.

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Phil Ochs 4/1976

PHIL-OCHSApril 9, 1976 – Phil Ochs  was born on December 19, 1940 in El Paso, Texas.

Being a 1960s protest singer-songwriter he wrote hundreds of songs and released eight albums. Politically, Phil described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.

He performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.

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Duster Bennett 3/1976

Duster Bennett with John MayallMarch 26, 1976 – Duster Bennett was born Anthony Bennett in in Welshpool, Powys, Mid Wales on September 23rd 1946.  As a kid he was very interested in the blues and developed as an exceptional blues singer and multi-musician.

After moving to London, he became a session musician in the early 60s. His first solo album (one of five before his death) “Smiling Like I’m Happy” saw him playing as a one-man blues band whose virtuosity and co-ordination on drums, his Les Paul Goldtop guitar and harmonica was as riveting as it was unique, while he was backed by girlfriend Stella Sutton, the first and original Fleetwood Mac singer, on three tracks. His live sets combined his own compositions with Jimmy Reed-style blues standards often aided by friends Peter Green and Top Topham.

Emerging in the late 1960s from the art school music scene of Kingston-upon-Thames and Guildford, Bennett was a one-man blues band, in the style of bluesmen such as Joe Hill Lewis.

Between 1968 and 1970 he was played frequently on John Peel’s Top Gear, toured and eventually joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as band member/solo act on a US tour in 1970. In the 1970s he drifted off into more mainstream material.

His haunting track Jumping at Shadows, was first covered by Fleetwood Mac and revived in 1992 by Gary Moore, who covered it in his “After Hours” album.

After performing with Memphis Slim, he died in a fatal road accident; tired at the wheel, his van collided with a truck on March 26, 1976. He was 29.

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Howlin’ Wolf 1/1976

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

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Gary Thain 12/1975

gary thainDecember 8, 1975 – Gary Thain  was born on May 15, 1948 in Christchurch, New Zealand. As part of the rock trio The New Nadir, with drummer Peter Dawkins, he traveled from New Zealand to London, sometime in 1967. He actually jammed with Hendrix a couple of time in London in Hendrix’ early fame years.

Thain then joined the Keef Hartley Band and recorded 5 albums with Hartley on drums. In 1971 they toured with hard rockers Uriah Heep who then asked him to join them, replacing Mark Clarke.

He played on the four studio albums: Demons & Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday, Sweet Freedom and Wonderworld as well as the live album Uriah Heep Live and traveled extensively in those top years.

Following bio comes from his website, which remarkably and admirably is still live 40 years after his passing.

Gary Thain had 2 older brothers, Colin and Arthur. An old school friend describes Gary’s personality as being quiet, maybe broody even, but also as just your average teenager, with a passion for music. Gary went to a catholic school called Xavier College in Christchurch.

He started performing around age 13. Gary also won a singing contest in his High School with the song “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”.   The official start to his career was with the New Zealand group “The Strangers”. Besides his brother Arthur (vocals and lead guitar), the other members were Graeme Ching (Rhytm Guitar) and Dave Beattie (Drums). Gary wrote his first (released) song “I’ll Never be Blue” with The Strangers in 1965 at age 16. “The Strangers” released 3 Singles.

After “The Strangers” split up, at age 17 Gary moved to Australia. Gary became part of “The Secrets”, but they only released one Single in 1966, with “You’re Wrong” on the B-Side, which was co-written by Gary. The other band members were Derek Wright on Lead Guitar and Vocals, Paul Muggleston on Rhythm Guitar and Vocals, Wayne Allen on Drums.

After their one Single, “The Secrets” split up. It was still 1966 when Gary and Paul joined up with Peter Dawkins and Dave Chapman, taking the name “Me and the Others to the UK, touring England, Scotland, Wales and Germany.

In 1967 after “Me and the Others” ceased to exist, Gary became part of his first professional Band called “New Nadir”. They were especially popular in Switzerland, where they played in a lot of clubs for about half a year.  It was a trio that played Jazz influenced music.  The other members were Ed Carter on guitar and a drummer named Mike Kowalski.  Besides playing their own music, they also worked as a backing band for an all-female group called “The Toys”.  New Nadir recorded an album for the “Witchseason” label, but it was never released.

In 1968 New Nadir dissolved and Mike and Ed have since then played in many bands together, and even were part of the Beach Boys backing band.  Gary of course joined the Keef Hartley Band. Not only did Gary play on 6 of their albums, but he got to be part of Woodstock in 1969 with the Keef Hartley Band. They played on the second day (before Santana). However, there is no Video footage available.

Another Festival worth mentioning (even though much smaller scale) was the Bath Blues Festival held on June 28, 1969 . The KHB played along with the Likes of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac that day in front of an audience of about 40,000.

Another notable contribution by Gary to the KHB were his Head Arrangements of the tracks on “The Time Is Near” (originally released in 1970, re-mastered 2005). One of the pictures on the liner notes from that recording session shows Gary with an Acoustic Guitar. He also co-wrote most of the material on “The Battle of NW6”.

Not only did Gary co-write a lot of material for the KHB, he also sang lead vocals to one of his compositions: “You say you’re together now”. That song can be found on the “72nd Brave” LP released in 1972.

Keef Hartley, Miller Anderson, and Gary Thain were the core trio of the Keef Hartley Band, who complimented each other well even through all the different members that came and went. But when they lost their frontman and main song writer Miller Anderson to other interests, they each went on to other projects.

Before the Keef Hartley Band dissolved in 1972, Gary also did some other recordings. In 1970 he recorded “Fiends and Angels” with Martha Velez. Some other, now well-known names from that recording session, are Eric Clapton and Christine McVie.  The music style on that recording has been described as British Progressive Blues and Martha’s singing has been compared to somewhat of a Janis Joplin type of voice.  It was originally released on the “Blue Horizon” label in the UK.  That version is very collectible nowadays and expensive to obtain.  There is a less expensive US version available.

Miller Anderson and Pete York, two members of the KHB revolving lineup, also ventured into solo projects during that time period. Gary was part of both of them, in 1971 and 1972, respectively.

Early in 1972, Gary received a phone call from Ken Hensley and joined Uriah Heep as their 3rd bass player (replacing Mark Clarke) – the rest is as they say history. Up until now Gary had only played Jazz and Blues material, and now found himself in a totally different genre. However, his playing style stayed unique – using no plectrum and all his fingers.

Heep was touring the USA at the time, Gary flew in to join the band and practiced the material he had to perform for several weeks. Gary’s first gig with Uriah Heep was on February 1, 1972 at the Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles, California. However, the earliest known Heep recording with Gary in the lineup (Bootleg) is either from Feb 27, 1972 (Columbia Coliseum, South Carolina, USA) or a Youngstown, Ohio, (USA) appearance. The latter was a support performance (Bootleg) for the Band “Cactus” sometime in February of 1972.

The first album that Gary recorded with Uriah Heep was “Demons & Wizards” (released May 1972), only 4 months after he joined Heep. “The Magician’s Birthday” followed later that same year, and by that time Gary co-wrote some of the songs (Spider Woman and Sweet Lorraine). The remastered edition (released 2003) also includes “Crystal Ball” and “Gary’s Song”, which he wrote during that time. (Gary’s Song being an alternate version of Crystal Ball). All in all it was a very successful year for Uriah Heep and Gary alike.

Of course Gary also toured with Uriah Heep almost non-stop. In the beginning of 1973 the first collection of some of those touring efforts was released, aptly titled “Uriah Heep Live 1973”. One of the points worth mentioning is the excerpt of their Rock ‘N Roll Medley endings. It shows Gary’s skill of using the 50’s and R ‘n R Bass lines that he had so diligently learned early on in his career.

An interesting story that occured while on tour as being told by Todd Fisher (crew member):

Gary’s playing style on his Fender Precision Bass and choice of flat-wound strings made for a distinct sound. He never used a plectrum (pick), preferring to use his thumb, the result being a very pure bass sound without the harsh “attack” sound and harmonics that would normally result from using a pick. Studying Gary’s face and body motions during a performance would reveal a very intense focus on his part for the particular song being performed. I can’t state from personal observation that there were nights when he might be so impaired from drink or drug that the performance was compromised, although I seem to recall some admonishment being administered more than once.

The point is primarily that he was incredibly intense in his playing style and this was never exemplified to me more than the performance at Salem, Oregon the night of Friday, March 9, 1972. As the person responsible for introducing the band as well as working the fans up for the encore, I had a very unique vantage point to measure the crowds acceptance or rejection of the nights performance. And collectively speaking, the Pacific Northwest was never an overly enthusiastic crowd for Heep.

But for some reason this particular night was one in which Gary seemed significantly more animated than most performances. Only his soul will truly know why. Why would I make this observation, you ask? It’s because I have the notation “Ethyl Chloride” noted in my weekly planner for Monday, March 12 as part of the equipment and supply requirements for preparation of the Japan tour.

Just after Kens and Lees respective solos at the intermezzo portion of the set, Gary winced in an expression of pain that I instantly recognized. As I watched, I noticed him favouring his “pick” thumb and substituting the side of his index finger. After the number he came over to the side of the stage and asked in that raspy, back-of-the-throat New Zealand accented voice.: “Do you have an adhesive bandage?” I quickly grabbed some Band Aids from my open brief case and, as he held out this terribly bloody thumb, I saw that he had torn off the callous built up from many years of playing without a plectrum. I quickly grabbed a clean towel, courtesy of our hotel, poured some fresh water on it, washed the open wound, and quickly wrapped two Band Aids around his thumb. This was accomplished in perhaps two minutes, during which Ken, Mick, and David stalled the set while I attended to the apparent emergency.

Gary continued to play through the set, perhaps not in as great pain as before, but still noticeably subdued. Mel Baister (Road Manager) contacted a physician by the end of the set who had arrived along with an aerosol can of a local anesthetic, “Ethyl Chloride” which was intended to give temporary relief for pain. He gave me a prescription for a refill that would get us through the period of the Japan tour. Thus the notation in my supplies list.

The following evening was our last performance in the U.S. prior to departing for Japan. It was in Seattle at one of the old Downtown theatres as I remember. Gary was able to get through at least one number, sometimes two before he would come over to me on the side of the stage to have me spray the open wound with Ethyl Chloride. Damn! The man wouldnt even let me tape it for him because he felt it would change his sound! Only he would know. We performed six days later in Tokyo Friday March 16, Nagoya on March 17 and March 19, and twice in Osaka March 20 and 21. Time had helped heal the wound since he had not punished himself with additional performances, but we still applied the Ethyl Chloride. After the Japan tour, the band spent a one week holiday in Hawaii. Our next performance was in Long Beach Arena on Friday March 30. Noted in my journal for this day among other supplies and tasks is “Ethyl Chloride”! WOW!

The band’s success story continued with the recording of “Sweet Freedom” at the Chateau D’Herouville, France in the summer of 1973. Gary’s song-writing input continued, especially on the song “Circus”. The story of the song “Circus” is still remembered by guitarist Mick Box today: “I wrote this with Gary in LA at the Continental Hyatt House. In France we finished it; the whole studio was in dark and you could only see a few lights. Gary was at the one end of the room and I was at the other. We didn’t speak a word to each other and finished the song this way. It was very spiritual.”. Even drummer Lee Kerslake remembers it with a quote on the Acoustically Driven DVD liner notes:: “I like Circus because it was written in the most unusual circumstances with myself, Mick and Gary Thain, God rest his soul, writing by telephone!”

Unfortunately, 1974 saw the last recording contributions of Gary on “Wonderworld” which was recorded in Munich, Germany. He is also being credited with co-writing half the songs on that original release. The seemingly endless touring continued, and eventually took its toll on  September 15, 1974 in Dallas, TX. [listen to a promo of that concert from KZEW FM radio here.]  Gary received an electrical shock during the song “July Morning”, while on stage.

Gary’s health never fully recovered and in January of 1975 he had to leave the band. The very last known recording with Gary on Bass is dated November 25, 1974 and took place in Brisbane, Australia. I found some very interesting comments on that Bootleg on the official David Byron website, and I quote: “This is one of the best audience recordings of the band ever to surface. Not due to the sound quality, but the contents itself. The band was very strong on this date, the crowd really reacted to the show, and it provided some rare pieces of the puzzle we were looking for. A good bit of improve is laid into this one, lots of talking between tracks and long renditions of certain tracks that didn’t appear much on other shows. … Only three tour dates are listed after this one before he (Gary) left the band in late January 75. So this show marks the end of an era of sorts, the classic lineup is done. The rebuilding process begins but it never regains the same intensity or presence that was created during the past three years. It’s a sad but true fact that even the most dedicated of Heepster must accept.”

All in all, he participated in over 140 live performances all over the world with Uriah Heep in just 3 years.

After continued struggles with health and drug problems, Gary died December 8, 1975, in his flat at Norwood Green at the young age of 27, becoming one of the lesser known 27 Club members.

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Tim Buckley 6/1975

tim-buckleyJune 29, 1975 – Timothy Charles “Tim” Buckley III was born on February 14, 1947 in Washington DC. By the time he had graduated high school he had already written over twenty songs with lyricist Larry Beckett; and many of these made up a large portion of his debut album. “Buzzin’ Fly“, also written during this period, were later featured his 1969 LP Happy Sad. He often regarded his voice as an instrument, a talent principally showcased on his albums Goodbye and Hello, Lorca, and Starsailor.

“He continually took chances with his life. He’d drive like a maniac, risking accidents. For a couple of years he drank a lot and took downers to the point where it nearly killed him, but he’d always escape. Then he got into this romantic heroin-taking thing and his luck ran out.”

Tim was also the father of Jeff Buckley who became a well-known musician in his own right, before he accidentally drowned in 1997.

One of the great rock vocalists of the 1960s, Tim Buckley drew from folk, psychedelic rock, and progressive jazz to create a considerable body of adventurous work in his brief lifetime. His multi-octave range was capable of not just astonishing power, but great emotional expressiveness, swooping from sorrowful tenderness to anguished wailing. His restless quest for new territory worked against him commercially: By the time his fans had hooked into his latest album, he was onto something else entirely, both live and in the studio. In this sense he recalled artists such as Miles Davis and David Bowie, who were so eager to look forward and change that they confused and even angered listeners who wanted more stylistic consistency. However, his eclecticism has also ensured a durable fascination with his work that has engendered a growing posthumous cult for his music, often with listeners who were too young (or not around) to appreciate his music while he was active.

Buckley emerged from the same ’60s Orange County, CA, folk scene that spawned Jackson Browne and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black introduced Buckley and a couple of musicians Buckley was playing with to the Mothers’ manager, Herbie Cohen. Although Cohen may have first been interested in Buckley as a songwriter, he realized after hearing some demos that Buckley was also a diamond in the rough as a singer. Cohen became Buckley’s manager, and helped the singer get a deal with Elektra.

Before Buckley had reached his 20th birthday, he’d released his debut album. The slightly fey but enormously promising effort highlighted his soaring melodies and romantic, opaque lyrics. Baroque psychedelia was the order of the day for many Elektra releases of the time, and Buckley’s early folk-rock albums were embellished with important contributions from musicians Lee Underwood (guitar), Van Dyke Parks (keyboards), Jim Fielder (bass), and Jerry Yester. Larry Beckett was also an overlooked contributor to Buckley’s first two albums, co-writing many of the songs.

Goodbye and Hello

The fragile, melancholic, orchestrated beauty of the material had an innocent quality that was dampened only slightly on the second LP, Goodbye and Hello (1967). Buckley’s songs and arrangements became more ambitious and psychedelic, particularly on the lengthy title track. This was also his only album to reach the Top 200, where it only peaked at number 171; Buckley was always an artist who found his primary constituency among the underground, even for his most accessible efforts. His third album, Happy Sad, found him going in a decidedly jazzier direction in both his vocalizing and his instrumentation, introducing congas and vibes. Though it seemed a retreat from commercial considerations at the time, Happy Sad actually concluded the triumvirate of recordings that are judged to be his most accessible.

Dream Letter: Live in London 1968

The truth was, by the late ’60s Buckley was hardly interested in folk-rock at all. He was more intrigued by jazz; not only soothing modern jazz (as heard on the posthumous release of acoustic 1968 live material, Dream Letter), but also its most avant-garde strains. His songs became much more oblique in structure, and skeletal in lyrics, especially when the partnership with Larry Beckett was ruptured after the latter’s induction into the Army. Some of his songs abandoned lyrics almost entirely, treating his voice itself as an instrument, wordlessly contorting, screaming, and moaning, sometimes quite cacophonously. In this context, Lorca was viewed by most fans and critics not just as a shocking departure, but a downright bummer. No longer was Buckley a romantic, melodic poet; he was an experimental artist who sometimes seemed bent on punishing both himself and his listeners with his wordless shrieks and jarringly dissonant music.

Blue Afternoon

Almost as if to prove that he was still capable of gentle, uplifting jazzy pop-folk, Buckley issued Blue Afternoon around the same time. Bizarrely, Blue Afternoon and Lorca were issued almost simultaneously, on different labels. While an admirable demonstration of his versatility, it was commercial near-suicide, each album canceling the impact of the other, as well as confusing his remaining fans. Buckley found his best middle ground between accessibility and jazzy improvisation on 1970’s Starsailor, which is probably the best showcase of his sheer vocal abilities, although many prefer the more cogent material of his earliest albums.

Live at the Troubadour 1969

By this point, though, Buckley’s approach was so uncommercial that it was jeopardizing his commercial survival. And not just on record; he was equally uncompromising as a live act, as the posthumously issued Live at the Troubadour 1969 demonstrates, with its stretched-to-the-limit jams and searing improv vocals. For a time, he was said to have earned his living as a taxi driver and chauffeur; he also flirted with films for a while. When he returned to the studio, it was as a much more commercial singer/songwriter (some have suggested that various management and label pressures were behind this shift).

Greetings from L.A.

As much of a schism as Buckley’s experimental jazz period created among fans and critics, his final recordings have proved even more divisive, even among big Buckley fans. Some view these efforts, which mix funk, sex-driven lyrical concerns, and laid-back L.A. session musicians, as proof of his mastery of the blue-eyed soul idiom. Others find them a sad waste of talent, or relics of a prodigy who was burning out rather than conquering new realms. Neophytes should be aware of the difference of critical opinion regarding this era, but on the whole his final three albums are his least impressive. Those who feel otherwise usually cite the earliest of those LPs, Greetings from L.A. (1972), as his best work from his final phase.

Buckley’s life came to a sudden end on June 29, 1975, when he died at age 28 of a heroin overdose just after completing a tour. Those close to him insist that he had been clean for some time and lament the loss of an artist who, despite some recent failures, still had much to offer. Buckley’s stock began to rise among the rock underground after the Cocteau Twins covered his “Song for the Siren” in the 1980s. The posthumous releases of two late-’60s live sets (Dream Letter and Live at the Troubadour 1969) in the early ’90s also boosted his profile, as well as unveiling some interesting previously unreleased compositions. His son Jeff Buckley went on to mount a musical career as well before his own tragic death in 1997.

He doesn’t talk very much and journalists are almost unanimous in their frustration of trying to get a word out of him. His presence is electric, almost disquieting, but he rarely says a word. He wrinkles his nose, flashes his eyes and contorts his mouth into a teasing scowl while he raises his eyebrows and creases his brow. When he smiles, his whole face crumples with mirth. But he rarely says a word to writers.

Friends describe him as shy, complicated and very uncomfortable with strangers. He changes his mind often–about everything–and is very hard to pin down. I saw literally hundreds of photographs at the Elektra publicity office, and he looks more at home in a serious visage than a smile. “That’s because the photographers were strangers,” I was told.

He stands, or more accurately, sways, on impossibly slender legs which seem devoid of inflexibilities. When he sits, which is most often on the floor in a corner, his arms and legs fall in a haphazard tangle as if they were folded up and put away when not in use.

You could get lost in his face. The photos showed him in a variety of poses, moods and changes, but with all their diversity one gets the niggling feeling that something is missed, something is lost; much, it would seem, is misunderstood.

Buckley’s intimate moments are on stage, and even then there is a paradoxical distance. He careens and weeps through elaborate poetic fugues, sometimes losing the words in the sound, writhing sensually behind an enormous Gibson 12-string. He sings in a passionate counter-tenor, skidding around the notes of a song as if possessed by the melodies…the songs, at times, seem to sing him. His eyes are nearly closed most of the time and when they open, briefly, for a contemplative moment they peer out from behind a jungle of dusky curls and recede. Aside from a few very glib introductions, he rarely says a word.

His mystique is not a staged or deliberate one; he’s a uniquely gifted artist whose sensitivities run deep–so deep it would be almost fearful to reach bottom and unthinkable to come over the top.

 

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Pete Ham 4/1975

Pete HamApril 24th, 1975 – Pete Ham (Badfinger) was born Peter William Ham in Swansea, Wales on April 27, 1947. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers around 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. The band was relocated to London by The Mojos manager, Bill Collins, in 1966, and they continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom. As it was, Ham eventually became the prominent songwriter for the band, as a Revox tape recorder was made available by Collins to encourage him. Ray Davies of The Kinks took an initial interest in the group, although tracks produced by Davies did not surface commercially until decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles personal assistant) and were eventually signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label after approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly impressed by the band’s songwriting abilities.

The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger with the single release of “Come and Get It,” a composition written by Paul McCartney, and it became a worldwide Top Ten hit. Ham had initially protested against using a non-original to promote the band, as he had gained confidence in the group’s compositions, but he was quickly convinced of the springboard effect of having a likely hit single. His own creative perseverance paid off eventually, as his “No Matter What” composition became another Top Ten worldwide hit after its release in late 1970.

He followed up writing two more worldwide hits with “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” His greatest songwriting success came with his co-written composition “Without You” – a worldwide number 1 when it was later covered by Harry Nilsson and released in 1972. The song has since become a ballad standard and is covered by hundreds of singers from many genres worldwide. An Ivor Novello award for Song of the Year was issued in 1973 along with Grammy nominations. George Harrison used Ham’s talents for a number of album sessions including the All Things Must Pass album and for other Apple Records artist’s recordings. This friendship culminated with Ham’s acoustic guitar duet on “Here Comes the Sun” with Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, later portrayed in the theatrical film of the concert.

In 1972, Badfinger was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, as the Apple Records label was crumbling and it seemed the band was primed for major recognition. Unfortunately however the era from 1973–75, found Badfinger embroiled in many internal, financial, and managerial problems and their music was stifled. By 1975, with no income and the band’s business manager uncommunicative, Ham became despondent and he hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home.

Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.”
It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger’s business manager, Stan Polley: “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” News of Ham’s death was not widely disseminated at the time, as no public comment was made by The Beatles, Apple Corps Ltd, or Warner Bros. Records.

Ham is often credited as being one of the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre. His most widespread effect in popular music is the ballad “Without You,” written with Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans. Collections of Ham’s home demo recordings have been posthumously released: 1997’s 7 Park Avenue, 1999’s Golders Green and 2013’s The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67. On 27 April 2013, Ham was commemorated by his hometown’s first official heritage blue plaque. The unveiling ceremony took place at Swansea’s High Street station, located at Ivey Place, on what would have been Ham’s 66th birthday. Following the unveiling, which was performed by Ham’s daughter Petera, a tribute concert featuring two original Iveys members was held at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.

As is the case with suicides, Ham reached a point where death seemed to be the only solution to his problems. He met band mate/co-songwriter Tom Evans in a pub near his home on the evening of April 24th, 1975, three days before his 28th birthday, and told him: “Don’t worry, I know a way out.” Fortified with drink, Ham went back to his home, wrote a note in which he expressed his bitterness towards his manager and hanged himself in his garage. Evans hanged himself seven years later leaving a note that stated, he wanted to be where Petey was.

The story of one of power rock’s eternal melodies “Without You”, left its creators in desperation, like the 15 minute of fame legacy kills.

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T-Bone Walker 3/1975

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

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

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

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Dave Alexander 2/1975

David AlexanderFebruary 10, 1975 – David Michael ‘Dave’ Alexander was born June 3, 1947 in Whitmore Lake, Michigan, but later re-located to Ann Arbor where he became  a founder member of Iggy Pop & The Stooges.

‘Zander’ met brothers Ron and Scott Ashton in high school where he dropped out after 45 minutes on the first day of his senior year in 1965 to win a bet. Later in 1965 Ron sold his motorcycle and they went to England to see The Who and to “try and find The Beatles”.

Alexander and the Asheton brothers soon met Iggy Pop and formed The Stooges in 1967. Although Alexander was a total novice on his instrument, the bass, he was a quick learner and subsequently had a hand in arranging, composing and performing all of the songs that appeared on the band’s first two albums, The Stooges and Fun House. He is often credited by vocalist Iggy Pop and guitarist Ron Asheton in interviews with being the primary composer of the music for the Stooges songs “We Will Fall”, “Little Doll” (both on The Stooges), “Dirt” and “1970” (Fun House).

Alexander was fired from the band in August 1970 after showing up at the Goose Lake International Music Festival too drunk to play.

Less than 5 years later he died of pulmonary edema after being admitted to a hospital for pancreatitis – linked to his excessive drinking – on February 10, 1975 at the age of 27, making him one of the less famous members of the ’27’ Club.

Mike Watt mentions Alexander by name in his song, “The Angel’s Gate,” on his 2004 album The Secondman’s Middle Stand, by which time Watt had replaced Alexander in the reformed Stooges. At Watt’s first performance with the Stooges at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in May 2003, he wore a Dave Alexander t-shirt in tribute.

Iggy Pop namechecks Alexander in the spoken intro to “Dum Dum Boys” on his album The Idiot, saying:

How about Dave?
OD’d on alcohol

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Nick Drake 11/1974

Nick DrakeNovember 24, 1974Nick Drake was born Nicholas Rodney Drake on June 19, 1948 in Rangoon Burma (Myanmar).  He was a British singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, not appreciated in his lifetime, but since his death his work has grown steadily in stature, to the extent that he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years and his songs have been covered by many greats and in 2004, 30 years after his death, he gained his first chart hit when two singles, “Magic” and “River Man”, were released to coincide with the compilation album ‘Made to Love Magic’.  Later that year the BBC aired a radio documentary about Nick, narrated by Brad Pitt.

Drake signed to Island Records when he was 20 years old and was a student at the University of Cambridge, and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969. By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Layter and Pink Moon. Neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release. Drake’s reluctance to perform live, or be interviewed, contributed to his lack of commercial success. There is no known footage of the adult Drake; he was only ever captured in still photographs and in home footage from his childhood.

Drake suffered from Major Depression or what would be diagnosed today as Adult Onset Major Depression. This was often reflected in his lyrics and as is often typical with this illness he reportedly self-medicated with marijuana regularly. On completion of his third album, 1972’s Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording completely, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire.

On 25 November 1974, at the age of 26, Drake died from an overdose of approximately 30 amitriptyline pills, a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.

His true value as a musician/songwriter did not come to the foreground until the early 1980, but has since been growing to cult like proportions.

Nick Drake died young with little commercial success in his own lifetime. Yet after years of steady rediscovery, his music has become a central touchstone for countless fans spellbound by his gentle voice, stunning composition, and perhaps surprisingly intricate guitar work.

Retrospectively, Drake’s story is usually told as a tale of consuming depression and increasing isolation. He did not offer many interviews and no known video footage of his playing exists. But based on the accounts and details we do know, he seemed obsessed with playing his guitar and exploring its depths, and this immersion brought an embrace of different tunings.

On the haunting “Cello Song” from his debut record, Five Leaves Left, for instance, Drake detuned his G-string just one half step to F#. It’s a subtle change but one that allows for the beautiful picking pattern that carries the song.

While his first two records are stocked with additional instrumentation (arguably to the songs’ detriment in some case), his third and final album, Pink Moon, is just Drake and a guitar. The album’s title track remains one of Drake’s most famous recordings and is built around a CGCFCE tuning. The tuning was also employed on Drake favorites, like “Hazey Jane I” and “Place to Be.”

Strum this tuning open, and you get a Cadd4. It’s an instant Nick Drake voicing, and simply barring and picking a few a few extra notes with your ring finger will get you into his open style.

His sister Gabrielle, a rather famous actress in Britain did an interview in the Guardian in 2014 that is equally explanatory as it is complicating the Nick Drake legacy.

Here are some of his posthumus youtube release videos:

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Graham Bond 5/1974

graham-bondMay 8, 1974 – Graham John Clifton Bond was born on October 28, 1937 in Romford England.

British keyboard player, one of the great catalytic figures of 60s rock in UK, and has a claim to the title “Father of the British Blues”. He gained attention as a jazz saxophonist as a member of the Don Rendell Quintet.

After which, he was a member of Blues Incorporated, a group led by Alexis Korner, before forming his Graham Bond Quartet. With a lineup of himself on vocals and organ, Ginger Baker on drums, Jack Bruce on double bass, and, briefly, John McLaughlin on guitar, who was replaced by Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax and the name changed to the Graham Bond Organization.

Graham was the main song writer, and also produced their two studio albums, The Sound of ’65 and There’s a Bond Between Us. The GBO is notable in popular music history for jump-starting the careers of two future Cream members, bassist/singer Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. One song Bruce and Baker originally recorded with Bond, “Train Time,” later wound up in the repertoire of Cream.

Graham also formed Magus with UK folk-singer Carolanne Pegg, the group disbanded around Christmas 1973 without recording. During that same period, he discovered American singer-songwriter-guitarist Mick Lee, and took him under his wing. They played together live, but never recorded.

The new band also had plans to include Chris Wood of Traffic, but never materialized due to Bond’s untimely death, which may or may not have been suicide? He died under the wheels of a Tube train at Finsbury Park station, London on May 8, 1974. He was 37.

 The following feature story from Classic Rock issue 185, traces the apocalyptic story of one of the 1960s most influential British talents in those early days when everyone played with everyone.

The voice on the other end of the phone line was optimistic; enthusiastic, even. “I feel great. I’m clean. I’m off everything and I’m looking forward to getting back to work again.”

It was Tuesday, May 7, 1974, and Graham Bond was calling the NME office to thank them for recently printing an old photo of his. During a cordial exchange, the paper agreed to interview him in the next few days, after which he hung up. There was nothing to suggest anything amiss.

Twenty-four hours later, Bond was dead, crushed under the wheels of a Tube train at Finsbury Park station. It was two days before the police were able to identify the body, and then only from his fingerprints. He was 36. It was a strange, messy end to a strange, unpredictable life.

In his mid-60s prime, Graham Bond was a true originator and one of the key figures on the British music scene. As the driving force behind the Graham Bond Organization, he dragged trad jazz out of its fusty confines and made it jump with heavy doses of blues and wailing R&B. A raft of talent passed through the band on the way to greater success in Cream, Blind Faith, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Colosseum and elsewhere.

As an organist and alto sax blower, Bond was a primal force. He redefined the role of the keyboard during his time with the GBO, his energy and outsized personality reflected in his ferocious playing and the anguish of his raw singing voice. Bulky and, during his later years, bearded, he was a formidable presence.

“You wouldn’t miss him in a crowd,” says Jack Bruce, who formed Cream with fellow GBO member Ginger Baker. “He was a colourful character and a powerful guy.”

If Bond’s reputation is largely diminished these days, his influence on his fellow musicians is undeniable. The likes of Rick Wakeman, Elton John, Steve Winwood and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord were all indebted to both his musicianship and his showmanship.

“He taught me, hands on, most of what I know about the Hammond organ,” said Lord.

Bond’s pioneering spirit even marked him out as a harbinger of prog – witness his appropriation of classical music, most notably co-opting Bach for 1965’s Wade In TheWater.

“Graham was important to a lot of people,” says Bruce. “He was a one-off. Nobody could play alto sax and Hammond at the same time and get that incredible sound. The Organization was a phenomenal band. It was quite primitive, but that was part of the beauty of it.”

But this is where his legacy gets mangled. The great enigma of Bond’s life and career was that, despite packed houses and plaudits from fellow musicians, he never achieved either the fame or the riches his talent deserved. By the time of his death, Bond was reduced to the role of outsider artist, his stock in tatters. The record industry had long given up on a troubled man prone to fits of erratic behaviour, trapped in an auto-destructive cycle of drug abuse and occultism.

“He was his own worst enemy,” says drummer ‘Funky’ Paul Olsen, who played with Bond in his final days. “He was supremely intelligent, but there was just too much going on in his head.”

The turn-of-the-70s Bond was a world away from the one who gate-crashed the music fraternity a decade earlier. Initially a saxophonist, Bond had studied music at the Royal Liberty School in London before landing a job with the Goudie Charles Quintet. By 1961 he’d signed up with the Don Rendell New Quintet, where his exuberant style and unique phrasing brought him to the attention of the jazz press. Bond’s recorded debut came on the Quintet’s album Roarin’, released later that year. In Melody Maker’s year-end jazz poll, his prowess was such that he was voted second in the New Star category.

The following year was a pivotal one. As well as playing with Don Rendell, he also began gigging with the Johnny Burch Octet, a ‘budget big band’ whose members included double-bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith.

“I first met him at one of the all-nighters at the Flamingo,” Bruce recalls. “Graham used to sit in with us. His appearance reminded me of Cannonball Adderley, and the intensity just astounding.”

By October 1962, Bond had graduated to Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, a hothouse for emerging talent. He doubled up on the sax by pumping out fat Hammond riffs through a Leslie speaker, brokering a new style of American-influenced R&B. Bond, Baker and Bruce, also in the line-up, began playing as a trio during intervals. It’s not exactly clear just when Bond decided to start his own band, although a trip to Manchester in February 1963 appears to have been a turning point. He’d secured a trio gig and travelled up in a hired black Dormobile camper van with Baker and Bruce. The audience howled their appreciation of their wild, free-ranging approach. Not long after, Bond told Korner he was breaking off on his own, with Ginger and Jack in tow. It was typical of his single-minded bullishness that he never bothered to consult with those two first.

“I just showed up for rehearsal one day and Alexis was looking very glum and angry,” Bruce remembers. “He wouldn’t talk to me at all. Then I found out that I’d resigned from the band! I was very naïve in those days, just a kid. I should’ve said something, but just went along with it. It was years before Alexis began talking to me again.”

Three became four when guitarist John McLaughlin joined from Georgie Fame’s band. The Graham Bond Quartet’s first release found them backing emergent rock’n’roller Duffy Power on a cover of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There.

“Graham’s influence on me was enormous,” admits Power. “He was a natural musician and had a philosophy where you must always go for it. That’s what he instilled in me. He was head and shoulders above the other Hammond organ players. And he was always very encouraging towards the others: ‘Yeah, Ginger! Yeah, Jack!’. He’d always be talking it up, saying they were making music for the future. When you stood outside a club where they were playing, the atmosphere was just magnetic.”

McLaughlin was replaced by Heckstall-Smith later that year. With the newcomer blowing sax with gusto and skill, the Graham Bond Organization became a fearsome proposition.

“I got the opportunity to see them play live a lot and absolutely adored them,” recalls Pete Brown, co-author of Cream classics I Feel Free, White Room and Sunshine Of Your Love, and a Bond devotee. “There was nothing like it. It had a lot of the spirit of jazz but with a ferocious energy from blues and rock.”

Jack Bruce: “There was hardly any R&B scene at the time – we more or less invented it. When we started out we’d be doing venues like The Place in Hanley and the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, these real funky little clubs. The audiences went bananas. The kind of stuff we were playing was very new for British music, as was the intensity.”

The Graham Bond Organization’s debut album, The Sound Of ’65, was a stirring attempt to capture the transcendent thrill of their live shows. So finely drilled were they at this point that, according to Bruce, the whole thing was recorded in three hours. The album, a mix of covers and strident original swingers like Half A Man and Spanish Blues, was doubly remarkable for the fact that it was the first British release to feature a Mellotron.

“Way-out blues sounds, weird at times, but always fascinating,” raved the New MusicalExpress. “Plenty of wailing harmonica and raving vocalistics.”

In July the GBO appeared on ITV’s flagship pop show Ready Steady Go! promoting their new single Lease On Love. Bond delighted in bringing along his new toy, with the Mellotron’s ability to reproduce strings, brass and woodwind sounds essentially putting him at the hub of his own mini-orchestra. He made liberal use of it again on the equally raucous follow-up There’s A Bond Between Us, released later in 1965. But by then it was clear that all was not well.

The GBO were working hard, forever on the road or in the studio, with precious little to show for it.

“Graham’s band flogged themselves to death for very little money and I don’t think they sold many records either,” says Power. “And I hate to say this, but Graham didn’t have the personality or looks that could catch on with a young audience. It must’ve made him unhappy because he thought he’d take the music business by storm when I met him.”

Drugs were starting to derail the band too. Pot had always been a communal form of recreation for the GBO [“We were all stoned out of our bonces,” Bruce admits], but now things had taken a more sinister turn. Both Bond and Baker had become addicted to heroin, making for what Pete Brown calls “the archetypal junkie relationship”. Bond’s burgeoning interest in white magic and the occult only made him more unpredictable. Plus he wasn’t always upfront with the band’s accounts.

“We were playing bigger places but getting no money,” Bruce recalls. “In theory, Graham was paying us. One night at a club in East London, between getting money from the promoter and then crossing the dance floor to pay us, it had disappeared. So he wasn’t being fair, financially. Then Ginger took over as the bandleader, but it only improved a little.”

In fact, growing friction between Baker and Bruce was a factor in the latter being sacked from the GBO in the autumn of 1965. Baker’s departure the following summer was effectively the end of the GBO.

Bond was undergoing myriad changes. He’d left his wife, grown out his hair, taken to wearing multi-coloured cloaks, become fascinated with tarot cards and begun dropping acid. As Baker noted in his autobiography, Hellraiser, Bond “was getting into the realms of the very weird indeed… Gone was the happy musician – he had been replaced by a strange, unsmiling mystic”.

Jon Hiseman was brought in as Baker’s replacement, but the instant impact of Cream had a profound effect on Bond. “What upset him most was the way Jack and Ginger went into Cream and almost immediately had chart singles,” says Hiseman. “Every time he heard one he physically shrank and began to feel endlessly betrayed. He was becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that many of the musicians he had worked with on the way up were becoming much more successful than him, and he simply could not understand it. In his self-belief, nobody was as good as he was. And all his pent-up anger was running alongside a serious heroin addiction. A lesser man would have crumbled, but such was the force of his personality, nobody could help. He would just not let you in.”

By 1967, the GBO had split altogether. Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith played briefly with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before forming successful prog-jazzers Colosseum. It was a different story for Bond. Immersing himself in occultist lore, he was increasingly prone to bouts of delusion. He began telling people he was the lost son of The Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley. It was an idea that took hold after Bond read that one of Crowley’s partners had given birth in 1937, the same year he was born, and left the baby in an orphanage. To Bond, a Barnardo’s child who was adopted at six months old, the symmetry made perfect sense.

“He felt that very deeply and would sometimes muse about what his background actually was,” Bruce says. “He thought he was Jewish, for some reason. But he just didn’t know. It must be a terrible thing, to not know who you are. I’m sure it played a large part in the way his life went later on.”

“In the early days he did seem relatively well adjusted,” says Pete Brown, “but when the heroin took hold, he got rather devious and difficult. People who’ve had addictions and manage to stop them find that the ritualistic aspect of it needs to be replaced. So when the smack was gone he felt he needed a power source. But it just became atrophied and went bad. Aleister Crowley just seemed like a fucking creep to me. Graham started off with so-called white magic, then I don’t know where it went. People make some bad choices.”

The remainder of Bond’s career was a procession of ever-diminishing returns. In early 1968 he set out for America, though his failure to secure a work permit put a crimp in his recording plans. Eventually he went into an LA studio and cut Love Is The Law, a pulsating set of organ-led blues, made with Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine, that reflected his spiritual obsessions – the title was one of Aleister Crowley’s occult dictums.

There was also session work for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Dr John, the latter’s influence palpable on the gumbo funk of Stiff Necked Chicken, from Bond’s next album for the Pulsar label. Both records offered vivid proof that, no matter how precarious his personal state, Bond’s musical and compositional skills were still intact. Alas, it was a sign of the record company’s indifference that the title of the second LP was misspelt asMighty Grahame Bond. Neither shifted many copies.

Undeterred, he returned to England in late 1969 and formed the Graham Bond Initiation with his new wife Diane Stewart. Not that it did him much good. Bond was promptly arrested on the eve of a comeback gig and carted off to Pentonville on a two-year-old bankruptcy charge [Jack Bruce would rescue him by paying his bail].

There were two further albums: 1970’s Holy Magick and the following year’s We Put OurMagick On You. The former was a incantatory blow-out recorded with Stewart, who shared his magickal beliefs, that consisted of meditations and rites in Egyptian and Altantean, backed by honking jazz-rock freakery. The sleeve showed the pair, arms raised in supplication, against a druidic backdrop of Stonehenge.

Around the same time, Bond began playing sax in Ginger Baker’s Air Force. The band, which included Steve Winwood, Denny Laine, Ric Grech and Chris Wood, proved too unwieldy to sustain. He also enjoyed a brief tenure as organist in the Jack Bruce Band, although, as Bruce points out, ‘enjoyed’ probably isn’t the right word. “It was terrifying trying to be the bandleader of Graham Bond,” he winces. “We were playing somewhere in Europe one time and he went out on to the roof. He was in tears about his drug use. He couldn’t seem to get over it. I vividly remember firing him in Milan. He infuriated me so much by playing something or other that I actually ripped a sink off the wall and smashed it on the floor. He was that sort of a guy.”

Bond’s last concerted effort came in 1972, when he and Pete Brown teamed up for TwoHeads Are Better Than One. “We had great fun making that record,” says Brown. “Graham was playing really well and we toured a lot. By that time he was a little damaged and addicted to Dr Collis Browne’s [a cough mixture and painkiller], which had opiates in it that you could extract or just down the whole lot. He lived with me for nearly six months, which was kind of difficult. But I loved the guy. I owe him a lot. The great thing about Graham was that he encouraged people. He’d always make you deliver something beyond what you thought you were capable of.”

There were further plans, too, chief among them being Magus, formed with folk singer Carolanne Pegg. But the band split by the end of 1973 without having recorded a note. Bond nevertheless forged a friendship with Magus’s drummer, Paul Olsen.

“My girlfriend and I had a little flat in Barnes, and Graham stayed with us for a while,” Olsen says. “He got arrested for drug possession and spent six weeks at Springfield mental home, this big old Victorian place in south London [it’s thought that Bond had schizophrenia]. They had an old upright piano there that was so out of tune. But I remember Graham sitting there, mapping all the keys in his head, then playing it. He had everybody standing around him, smiling.”

Bond convinced the staff to allow Olsen to bring in the whole band so they could play fort the patients. “That gig was incredible. They were the best audience I’ve ever had. There were tears in their eyes.”

Duffy Power recalls seeing Bond at a TV show with Alexis Korner. “Graham couldn’t even get himself a drink,” he says. “I had some pep pills with me, but he wasn’t keen to get stoned like he used to. He was very down.”

Paul Olsen: “He was so depressed at one point that we answered an ad for Chingford Organ Studios, who were looking for a demonstrator. For a man of his history and capability to be reduced to that meant he was at rock bottom. He’d just blotted his copybook with too many people too many times.”

Pete Brown: “Right at the end, Graham said to me: ‘I’m giving all the magic stuff up and I’m just going to play. I’m not going to do anything influenced by that any more’. Then a few days later he was dead.”

There was no evidence of foul play in Bond’s death. Nor was there a suicide note. Some have speculated that he was chased into Finsbury Park station that afternoon by persons unknown, perhaps drug dealers whom he owed money. But with no witnesses coming forward at the inquest, the coroner was left to record an open verdict. It’s most likely that his demise was self-inflicted.

“His death shocked me,” confesses Jack Bruce. “I went to his funeral and played this amazing elegy on the organ there. A lot of people were very moved by it. And I really felt that I was getting messages from him. I felt his spirit and was interweaving a lot of his themes. It was very beautiful.”

Graham Bond was no saint. Even after all these years, Bruce sums him up as “quite a character and quite difficult”. Drug addiction and booze only accentuated his less savoury traits. And, on an altogether more disturbing level, it was claimed in Harry Shapiro’s definitive biography, Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow, that he even sexually abused his stepdaughter. Bond never admitted it, nor did he deny it. But as a musical entity, his standing among his peers is immense.

“There was never any question about the music,” affirms Bruce. “The Organization was a powerhouse. It was an amazingly hip band for the time.”

Paul Olsen contends that Bond’s over-the-top behaviour and personality were both his biggest weakness and his biggest strength. “A lot of English uptights shunned him. And he was a loose cannon. But people like that enrich lives. When he walked into a room, no one else mattered. He had one of those naturally big personalities. When I first saw him at the Roundhouse in 1970, he was a monster on stage. He had on his robes, his long, flowing things, and all his pentagrams.”

For Pete Brown, Bond’s influence has never waned. “A lot of his showmanship and ideas–the multi-keyboard thing, the things he wore and played – got ripped off by people who made a lot more money. The prog rock people definitely took a lot from him. The GBO weren’t pretty boys preening around – it was real musicians with real soul. Although there were four terrific brains involved, it wasn’t just cerebral music. It was body music as well, powerful and sexy and groovy. And that’s what music should do to you. He was a classic case of someone never fully appreciated in his own time.”

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Arthur Crudup 3/1974

arthur crudupMarch 28, 1974 – Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup was born on August 24th 1905 in Forest Mississippi, where he first sang gospel, then began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi.

As delta blues singer-songwriter and guitarist, he was Elvis Presley’s favourite blues artist and is maybe to some best known outside blues circles for writing songs later covered by Elvis and dozens of other artists, such as “That’s All Right”, “Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues”, “Who’s Been Foolin’ You”, “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine”.

As a member of the Harmonizing Four he visited Chicago in 1939. In the late 40s he toured throughout the country with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup.

He died from a stroke on March 28, 1974 at age 69.

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Bobby Darin 12/1973

Bobby DarinDecember 20, 1973 – Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Perciville Cassotto on May 14, 1936. Darin rose from poor beginnings in Harlem and the South Bronx, New York where he fought rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart and plagued him throughout his life. As a result of these obstacles, he worked extremely hard to overcome them. Knowing his life would not be a long one, his ambition to succeed was fueled by an overwhelming desire to make it big in show business. By the time he was a teenager he could play several instruments quite proficiently, including piano, drums and guitar, he later added harmonica and xylophone.

Wanting a career in the New York theater, he dropped out of college after a year to play small nightclubs around the city with a musical combo. In the resort area of the Catskill Mountains, he was both an entertainer and a busboy. For the most of his teenage years Bobby was a comedy drummer and an ambitious vocalist. Continue reading Bobby Darin 12/1973

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Gram Parsons 9/1973

gram parsonsSeptember 19, 1973 – Gram Parsons was born Cecil Ingram Connor III on November 5, 1946 in Winter Haven Florida, near Orlando. He became a very influential member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but died tragically from an overdose of morphine and alcohol at the age of 26 on September 19, 1973. Phil “The Mangler” Kaufman, his one time road manager hijacked his corpse from LAX tarmac, drove it up to Joshua Tree and lit it on fire as was previously agreed between the two.

Very proficient as singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist; in his early teens he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, at 16 he turned to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos. Heavily influenced by the Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. He went on to be a member of the International Submarine Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and was later a solo artist who recorded and performed duets with Emmylou Harris.
His influence on the Byrds musical output became crystal clear with their 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, with in turn gave way to country cross-overs like the Flying Burrito Brothers and the super stardom introduction of the Eagles.

An interesting tidbit comes after Gram Parsons first meets the Stones and Keith Richards. This took place in 1968 while the Byrds were touring Europe in support of their landmark “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” record. This is documented in the book “Gram Parsons: A Music Biography by Sid Griffin” Published by Sierra Books, Copyright 1985. Quote from page 20 of the paperback edition: “The Byrds were in London to play a benefit at the Royal Albert Hall. On the morning after the show, Parsons told McGuinn, Chris Hillman and then-Byrds drummer Kevin Kelly he was not going to South Africa under any circumstances. Parsons left the group and stayed in London while the Byrds flew to South Africa…” also quote:”Gram met Keith Richards in London and stayed with him for a spell, turning the Stones onto country music. Suddenly songs like ‘Dear Doctor’, ‘Country Honk’, and ‘Dead Flowers’ became part of the Stones’ repertoire”. There is a second book called “Hickory Wind: The life and Times of Gram Parsons” Published by Pocket Books, Copyright 1991 which is also very good reference on the life and times of this significant influence on the Rolling Stones. The life and music of the late Gram Parsons is essential learning material for any student of The Rolling Stones that is interested in understanding one of their strongest influences during “The Golden Era”.

Since his death, he has been credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country and in 2004 Rolling Stone ranked him No.87 on their list of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time (He died of morphine and alcohol overdose in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California).

A Typical Southern Story

Ingram Cecil Connor III was born on November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, Florida, to Ingram Cecil (“Coon Dog”) and Avis (née Snively) Connor. The Connors normally resided at their main residence in Waycross, Georgia, but Avis traveled to her hometown in Florida to give birth. She was the daughter of citrus fruit magnate John A. Snively, who held extensive properties in Winter Haven and in Waycross. Parsons’ father was a famous World War II flying ace, decorated with the Air Medal, who was present at the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Biographer David Meyer characterized Parson’s parents as loving, writing in Twenty Thousand Roads that they are “remembered as affectionate parents and a loving couple”. However, he also notes that “unhappiness was eating away at the Connor family”: Avis suffered from depression, and both parents were alcoholics. Parsons’ father committed suicide two days before Christmas in 1958, devastating the 12 year old Gram and his younger sister, Little Avis. Avis subsequently married Robert Parsons, whose surname was adopted by Gram and his sister. Gram attended the prestigious Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. For a time, the family found a stability of sorts. They were torn apart in early 1965, when Robert became embroiled in an extramarital affair and Avis’ heavy drinking led to her death from cirrhosis on July 5, 1965, the day of Gram’s graduation from Bolles.

As his family disintegrated around him, Parsons developed strong musical interests, particularly after seeing Elvis Presley perform in concert on February 22, 1956, in Waycross. Five years later, while barely in his teens, he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, headlining in clubs owned by his stepfather in the Winter Haven/Polk County area. By the age of 16 he graduated to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos, in Greenville, South Carolina. Heavily influenced by The Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. Forays into New York City’s Greenwich Village included appearances at The Bitter End.

After The Shilos broke up, Parsons attended Harvard University, where he studied theology but departed after one semester. Despite being from the South, he did not become seriously interested in country music until his time at Harvard, where he heard Merle Haggard for the first time. In 1966, he and other musicians from the Boston folk scene formed a group called the International Submarine Band. They relocated to Los Angeles the following year, and after several lineup changes signed to Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records, where they spent late 1967 recording Safe at Home. The album contains one of Parsons’ best-known songs, “Luxury Liner”, and an early version of “Do You Know How It Feels”, which he revisited later on in his career. Safe at Home would remain unreleased until mid-1968, by which time the International Submarine Band had broken up. When David Crosby and Michael Clarke left the Byrds, Gram Parsons became involved with the Byrds.

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Jim Croce 9/1973

jim croceSeptember 20, 1973 – Jim Croce was born on January 10, 1943 in South Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He had two Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers at number 1: “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” He died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 20, 1973 an hour after he delivered a concert at Northwestern State University on route to a concert at Austin College Texas.

Jim Croce was a fabulous songwriter, who was not enthralled with the road. He wrote his wife from his last tour ‘Life and Times’, that he had decided to take a break from music and touring and settle down with his wife and infant son after the tour was completed. Continue reading Jim Croce 9/1973

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Memphis Minnie 8/1973

blues singer/songwriter/guitarist memphis MinnieAugust 6, 1973 – Memphis Minnie was born Lizzie Douglas on June 3, 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.

She was the eldest of 13 siblings. Her parents, Abe and Gertrude Douglas, nicknamed her Kid when she was young, and her family called her that throughout her childhood. It is reported that she disliked the name Lizzie. When she first began performing, she played under the name Kid Douglas.
When she was 7, she and her family moved to Walls, Mississippi, south of Memphis. The following year she received her first guitar, as a Christmas present. She learned to play the banjo by the age of 10 and the guitar by the age of 11, when she started playing at parties.

Continue reading Memphis Minnie 8/1973

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Clarence White 7/1973

July 14, 1973 – Clarence White was born Clarence LeBlanc on June 7th 1944 in Lewiston, Maine. The LeBlanc family, later changing their surname to White, were of French-Canadian ancestry and hailed from New Brunswick, Canada. Clarence’s father, Eric LeBlanc, Sr., played guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmonica, ensuring that his offspring grew up surrounded by music. A child prodigy, Clarence began playing guitar at the age of six. At such a young age he was barely able to hold the instrument and as a result, he briefly switched to ukulele, awaiting a time when his young hands would be big enough to confidently grapple with the guitar.

In 1954, when Clarence was ten, the White family relocated to Burbank, California and soon after, Clarence joined his brothers Roland and Eric Jr. (who played mandolin and banjo respectively) in a trio called Three Little Country Boys. The family group was occasionally augmented by sister Joanne on double bass. Although they initially started out playing contemporary country music, the group soon switched to a purely bluegrass repertoire, as a result of Roland White’s burgeoning interest in the genre. Early on, the group won a talent contest on radio station KXLA in Pasadena and by 1957, they had managed to attract the interest of country guitarist Joe Maphis. With Maphis’s help, the Three Little Country Boys made several appearances on the popular television program Town Hall Party.

In 1957, banjoist Billy Ray Latham and Dobro player LeRoy Mack were added to the line-up, with the band renaming themselves the Country Boys soon after. By 1961, the quartet had become well known enough to appear twice on the The Andy Griffith Show. That same year the Country Boys also added Roger Bush on double bass, as a replacement for Eric White, Jr., who had left the band to get married. Between 1959 and 1962, the Country Boys released three singles on the Sundown, Republic and Briar International record labels.

In September 1962, the Country Boys recorded their debut album ‘The New Sound of Bluegrass America’ released in early 1963 and changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels. Around this time, Clarence’s flatpicking guitar style was becoming a much more prominent part of the group’s music.

After meeting while attending a performance by Doc Watson at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles, Clarence began to explore the possibilities of the acoustic guitar’s role in bluegrass music. At that time, the guitar was largely regarded as a rhythm instrument in bluegrass, with only a few performers, such as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Don Reno, exploring its potential for soloing. White soon began to integrate elements of Watson’s playing style, including the use of open strings and syncopation, into his own flatpicking guitar technique. His breathtaking speed and virtuosity on the instrument was largely responsible for making the guitar a lead instrument within bluegrass. In addition to being accomplished musicians, the Kentucky Colonels’ music often featured close harmony vocals.

Following the release of their debut album, the Kentucky Colonels played a multitude of live appearances throughout California and the United States, including an appearance at the prestigious Monterey Folk Festival in May 1963. Between these bookings with the Colonels, White also made a guest appearance on Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman’s New Dimensions in Banjo & Bluegrass album, which would be re-released in 1973 as the soundtrack album to the film Deliverance (with Weissberg and Steve Mandell’s version of “Dueling Banjos” added to the album’s track listing).

In 1964 the Kentucky Colonels were signed to World Pacific Records by producer Jim Dickson, who would later became the manager of folk rock band The Byrds and by the close of the year, the Kentucky Colonels were considered by fans and critics to be one of the best bluegrass groups in the United States.

Although they were now a successful bluegrass recording act, it was becoming increasingly hard for the Kentucky Colonels to make a living playing bluegrass. The American folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which had helped facilitate the Colonels’ commercial success, had been dealt a serious blow in 1964 by the popularity of the pop and beat music of the British Invasion. However, it wasn’t until mid-1965, with the release of The Byrds’ folk rock single “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, that the folk revival’s popularity began to seriously wane. Before long, many young folk performers and some bluegrass acts were switching to electric instrumentation. The Kentucky Colonels followed suit, plugging in with electric instruments and hiring a drummer in mid-1965, in order to keep a concert booking as a country dance band at a bowling alley. The band added fiddle player Scotty Stoneman to their line-up in mid-1965, as a replacement for Sloan, but some months later, the Kentucky Colonels dissolved as a band after playing their final show on October 31, 1965.

As 1965 turned into 1966, White met Gene Parsons and Gib Guilbeau at a recording session for the Gosdin Brothers and shortly after, he began to perform live with the duo in local California clubs, as well as doing regular session work on their records, which were released under the moniker of Cajun Gib and Gene.

1966 also saw White begin playing with a country group called Trio, which featured drummer Bart Haney and former Kentucky Colonel Roger Bush on bass. In autumn of that year, as a result of his friendship with Gilbeau, Parsons and the Gosdin Brothers, White was asked to provide lead guitar to ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s debut solo album, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. White also briefly joined Clark’s touring band shortly thereafter.

During the Clark album sessions, White reconnected with mandolin player and bassist Chris Hillman, who he had known during the early 1960s as a member of the bluegrass combo The Hillmen. At the time Hillman was  a member of The Byrds and in December 1966, he invited White to contribute countrified lead guitar playing to his songs “Time Between” and “The Girl with no Name”, which both appeared on The Byrds‘ Younger Than Yesterday album.

Together with Gene Parsons, he invented the B-Bender, a guitar accessory that enables a player to mechanically bend the B-string up a whole tone and emulate the sound of a pedal steel guitar. 

The country-oriented nature of the songs was something of a stylistic departure for the group and can be seen as an early indicator of the experimentation with country music that would color The Byrds’ subsequent work. White also contributed guitar to the band’s follow-up album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and to their landmark 1968 country rock release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Early in 1968, White joined Nashville West, which also featured Gene Parsons, Gib Gilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Glen D. Hardin, and Wayne Moore. Nashville West recorded an album for Sierra Records, but the record didn’t appear until 1978.

Finally White was invited to join the Byrds in the fall of 1968 as Roger McGuinn was rebuilding the Byrds’ lineup after the departure of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Clarence White fit into the revamped Byrds’ country-rock direction. He played on the group’s untitled album, which spawned the single “Chestnut Mare.” While he was with the band, he continued to work as a session musician, playing on Randy Newman’s 12 Songs (1970), Joe Cocker’s eponymous 1969 album, and the Everly Brothers’ Stories Would Could Tell (1971), and others, appearing on recordings by Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Jackson Browne.

Once the Byrds disbanded in 1973, Clarence White continued his session work and joined bluegrass supergroup Muleskinner, which also featured David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Guerin, Bill Keith, John Kahn, and Richard Greene. Muleskinner only released one album, which appeared later in 1973.

After the Muleskinner record was finished, White played a few dates with the Kentucky Colonels and began working on a solo album. He had only completed four tracks when he was killed by a drunken driver shortly after 2am on July 14, 1973, while he and his brother Roland were loading equipment onto a van, following a spur-of-the moment reunion gig of the Colonels. He was just 29.

• His guitar playing was sort of like a combination of Jerry Garcia, Roy Buchanan, and James Burton. He plays with the melody of Jerry, the tone and brilliance of Roy, and the conciseness and sweetness of James.

• White was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

• Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 52 in its 2015 line-up of the 100 Most Influential Guitar Players in Rock and Roll.

Clarence White helped shape two genres: His acoustic flatpicking, first displayed as a teenager when he and his brother formed the Kentucky Colonels band, was key in making the guitar a lead instrument in bluegrass. Later, he set the stage for country rock and transferred that dynamic precision and melodic symmetry to the electric guitar. A top session man in the Sixties, he played on the Byrds’ 1968 landmark, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. After he joined the band later that year, White brought a full-bodied rock elation to his California-inflected Nashville chops. “He never played anything that sounded vaguely weak,” said the Byrds’ leader, Roger McGuinn. “He was always driving… into the music.” White had returned to bluegrass with the acclaimed Muleskinner album when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. He was 29. “Clarence was immersed in hard country and bluegrass,” said Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. “He incorporated those elements into rock & roll, and it totally blew people’s minds.”

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Pigpen McKernan 3/1973

pigpen-janisMarch 8, 1973 – Ronald Charles McKernan, nicknamed “Pigpen”, born on September 8, 1945, was  a founding member of the Grateful Dead.

McKernan was a participant in the predecessor groups leading to the formation of the Grateful Dead, beginning with the Zodiacs and Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann were added and the band evolved into the Warlocks. Around 1965, McKernan urged the rest of the Warlocks to switch to electric instruments. Around this time Phil Lesh joined, and they became the Grateful Dead.

McKernan played blues organ as well as harmonica and vocals. While his friends were taking LSD, marijuana and other psychedelics, McKernan preferred alcoholic beverages such as Thunderbird and Southern Comfort. He steadily added more signature tunes to the Dead’s repertoire, including some that lasted for the remainder of their live performance career such as “Turn On Your Love Light” and “In the Midnight Hour.”

In 1967 and 1968 respectively, Mickey Hart and Tom Constanten joined the Grateful Dead, causing the band to take a stylistic turn from blues-based danceable rock toward full-blown experimental psychedelia influenced by avant-garde jazz, serialism, and world music traditions. Constanten often replaced Pigpen on keyboards. In October 1968, McKernan and Weir were nearly fired from the band because of their reluctance to rehearse.

Ultimately, the task of firing them was delegated by Garcia to Rock Scully, who said that McKernan “took it hard.” The remaining members did a number of shows under the monikers Mickey and the Hartbeats and Jerry Garrceeah and His Friends, mainly playing Grateful Dead songs without lyrics. Weir asked repeatedly to be let back into the band, promising to step up his playing, and eventually the rest of the band relented. McKernan was more stubborn, missing three Dead shows; he finally vowed not to “be lazy” anymore and rejoined the band. In November 1968, Constanten was hired full-time for the band, having only worked in the studio up to that point. Road manager Jon McIntire commented that “Pigpen was relegated to the congas at that point and it was really humiliating and he was really hurt, but he couldn’t show it, couldn’t talk about it.

McKernan achieved a new prominence throughout 1969, with versions of “Turn On Your Love Light”, now the band’s show-stopping finale, regularly taking fifteen to twenty minutes. When the Grateful Dead appeared at Woodstock, the band’s set (which was marred by technical problems and general chaos) consisted mostly of a 48-minute version of the song. Not only did he have a short love affair with Janis Joplin and a longer friendship, like Janis he’s also forever part of the 27 Club. Here are Janis and Pigpen with Turn on your Love Light:

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Michael Jeffery 3/1973

Michael JeffreyMarch 5, 1973 – Michael Jeffery (39) Jeffery was born in March 1933. The only reason why he is in the line up up on this website is because he actually may have killed Jimi Hendrix.

He started out as music business manager of British band The Animals and American guitarist-composer Jimi Hendrix, whom he co-managed for a time with former Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler. A former associate of noted British pop impresario Don Arden, he was and remains a controversial figure… Hendrix died in September 1970. His body was found in London at the flat of Monika Dannemann, who was Hendrix’s girlfriend at the moment and died under suspicious circumstances in 1995 in the middle of legal altercations with another former Hendrix lover, Kathy Etchingham.

In May 2009 the UK media reported claims that Michael Jeffery had murdered Jimi Hendrix. James “Tappy” Wright, who was a roadie for Hendrix and The Animals in the 1960s, claimed he met Michael Jeffery in 1971, one year after Hendrix’s death, and Jeffery confessed to having murdered Hendrix by plying him with pills and a bottle of wine in order to kill him and claim on the guitarist’s life insurance.

Jeffrey is quoted by Wright as telling him: “I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some old friends.. we went ’round to Monika’s hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth…then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe.” The manager was allegedly worried that Hendrix was about to sack him. He had reputedly taken out an insurance policy worth $2 million on Hendrix’ life, with himself as beneficiary.

At the time of Hendrix’s death, a coroner recorded an open verdict, stating that the cause was “barbiturate intoxication and inhalation of vomit”. However Dr. John Bannister, the doctor who attempted to resuscitate Hendrix, later raised the possibility that Hendrix actually died from forced inhalation of copious amounts of red wine.

Jeffery’s, who was married to actress Gillian French, was killed on his way back from Palma de Mallorca in 1973 in a mid-air collision over Nantes, France, whilst aboard Iberia Airlines Flight 504 DC-9. The air traffic control system had been taken over that day by military personnel because of a strike of the civilian controllers.

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Danny Whitten 11/1972

Danny-whitten-cig-glassesNovember 18, 1972 – Daniel Ray Whitten was born on May 8, 1943, in Columbus, Georgia. He spent his early teens in Canton, OH from where he took the core members of his first band the Rockets to San Francisco in the mid sixties.

In 1967 Neil Young, fresh from departing the Buffalo Springfield, with one album of his own under his belt, began jamming with the Rockets and expressed interest in recording with Whitten, Molina and Talbot. The trio agreed, so long as they were allowed to simultaneously continue on with The Rockets: Young acquiesced initially, but imposed a rehearsal schedule that made that an impossibility. At first dubbed “War Babies” by Young, they soon became known as Crazy Horse.

Recording sessions led to Young’s second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, credited as Neil Young with Crazy Horse, with Whitten on second guitar and vocals. Although his role was that of support, Whitten sang the album’s opening track “Cinnamon Girl” along with Young, and Whitten and Young played guitar on “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand”. These tracks would influence the grunge movement of the early 1990s, and all three songs would be counted among Young’s most memorable work, continuing to hold a place in his performance repertoire to this day.

Whitten began using heroin and quickly became addicted. Although he participated in the early stages of Young’s next solo effort, After the Gold Rush, Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were dismissed about halfway through the recording sessions, in part because of Whitten’s heavy drug use. Whitten performs on “Oh, Lonesome Me”, “I Believe in You”, and “When You Dance I Can Really Love”. Young wrote and recorded “The Needle and the Damage Done” during this time, with direct references to Whitten’s addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent.

Acquiring a recording contract and expanded to a quintet in 1970, Crazy Horse recorded its first solo album, released in early 1971. The debut album included five songs by Whitten, with two standout tracks being a song co-written by Young which would show up later on a Young album, “(Come On Baby Let’s Go) Downtown”, and Whitten’s most famous composition, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, a heartfelt ballad that would receive many cover versions and offer the promise of unfulfilled talent.

Whitten continued to drift, as his personal life was ruled almost totally by drugs. He was kicked out of Crazy Horse by Talbot and Molina, who used replacements on the band’s two albums of 1972. In October of that year, after receiving a call from Young to play rhythm guitar on the upcoming tour behind Young’s Harvest album, Whitten showed up for rehearsals at Young’s home outside San Francisco. While the rest of the group hammered out arrangements, Whitten lagged behind, figuring out the rhythm parts, though never in sync with the rest of the group. Young, who had more at stake after the success of Harvest, fired Danny from the band on November 18, 1972. Young gave Whitten $50 and a plane ticket back to Los Angeles. Later that night Whitten died from a fatal combination of Valium, which he was taking for severe knee arthritis, and alcohol, which he was using to try to get over his heroin addiction.

Neil Young recalled, “We were rehearsing with him and he just couldn’t cut it. He couldn’t remember anything. He was too out of it. Too far gone. I had to tell him to go back to L.A. ‘It’s not happening, man. You’re not together enough.’ He just said, ‘I’ve got nowhere else to go, man. How am I gonna tell my friends?’ And he split. That night the coroner called me and told me Danny had OD’d. That blew my mind. Fucking blew my mind. I loved Danny. I felt responsible. And from there, I had to go right out on this huge tour of huge arenas. I was very nervous and … insecure.” His famous “Needle and the Damage Done” referenced Danny Whitten.

 

 

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Berry Oakley 11/1972

Berry Oakley-Allman BrosNovember 11, 1972 – Berry Oakley was born as Raymond Berry Oakley III in the Forest Park suburb of Chicago on April 4th 1948.

After moving to Florida Oakley became one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band sometime in 1969.

Not only was he known for his long, melodic bass runs underneath Duane Allman and Dicky Betts’ furious guitar soloing, he was also the glue behind the band’s egos and domestic arrangements. He played a Fender Jazz bass with a Guild pick up system because he liked the sound of a Guild but not the guitar itself.

“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post” from the At Fillmore East live album capture Oakley’s magic at its best.

He died on Nov 11, 1972 at age 24 in a motorcycle accident three blocks from the intersection where his friend and former band member Duane Allman had died a year earlier. Oakley and Allman are buried next to each other in Macon Georgia. His son, Berry Duane Oakley was born after his passing and is also a bass player, who played with Joe Bonamassa in the early 1990s in a band named “Bloodline”.

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Bobby Ramirez 7/1972

July 24, 1972 – Bobby Ramirez (White Trash, Rick Derringer) was born late in 1949 in Mexico. At first in his early twenties, he worked as drummer with Rick Derringer, then LaCroix and finally Edgar Winter’s White Trash.

He appeared on two of the band’s album, their self titled debut album in 1971 and Roadwork in 1972.

On July 24, 1972 23-year old Bobby Ramirez had every reason in the world to celebrate. He and his buddy Jerry LaCroix were playing in one of the hottest bands in America: Edgar Winter’s White Trash. They were touring the country with the Top 20 UK prog rockers Uriah Heep, their double live album Roadwork was on its way to gold and they’d just put on a stellar show that night in Chicago.

Ramirez, LaCroix and the band manager stopped at the wrong bar to celebrate. The story is that Ramirez went to the bathroom where a man, looking at Bobby’s long hair, suggested maybe he’d missed the sign on the door. The ladies room was next door. When Ramirez shot back something with attitude the man punched him, drawing blood. The bar owner tried to intervene but when he refused to call the police, Ramirez followed his attacker out of the bar. LaCroix followed too. The next thing LaCroix remembers is waking up to see Bobby bloodied up and dying in the band manager’s arms. His assailant had steel tipped boots and kicked Ramirez to death.

LaCroix says when Bobby died so did the band’s spirit. White Trash broke up that summer.

Of Ramirez’s drumming skills, Derringer told Modern Drummer “When I hear the recordings of our rhythm section-Bobby, me, and bassist Randy Jo Hobbs-on Edgar’s Roadwork album, it blows my mind how tight we are. I miss him even now. He was also a good human being. In the future, I know we’ll be grooving together for the Lord in heaven.

• “Bobby had the best groove of any drummer I’ve ever played with.” — Rick Derringer

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Clyde McPhatter 6/1972

clyde-mcphatterJune 13, 1972 – Clyde McPhatter (the Drifters) was born on November 15, 1932 in the tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina.

His high-pitched tenor voice was steeped in the gospel music he sang in much of his younger life.

Starting at the age of five, he sang in his father’s church gospel choir along with his three brothers and three sisters. When he was ten, Clyde was the soprano-voiced soloist for the choir. In 1945, Rev. McPhatter moved his family to Teaneck, New Jersey, where Clyde attended Chelsior High School. He worked part-time as a grocery store clerk, and was eventually promoted to shift manager upon graduating high school. The family then relocated to New York City, where Clyde formed the gospel group The Mount Lebanon Singers.

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Les Harvey 5/1972

les-harveyMay 3, 1972 – Leslie Cameron “Les” Harvey was born in Glasgow, Scotland on September 13, 1944.

In the early 1960s he was asked to join The Animals by keyboardist Alan Price, but chose to stay with his brother Alex in the Alex Harvey Soul Band. He later joined Blues Council, recording one record, ‘Baby Don’t Look Down’. But when in March 1965 their tour van crashed killing vocalist Fraser Calder and bassist James Giffen, the rest of the band went their separate ways.

Les joined Scottish band Cartoone to record some tracks for their 2nd album, and accompanied Cartoone on their live tour of USA supporting Led Zeppelin. Les and Cartoone were given a standing ovation in Chicago when they supported the US band Spirit in 1969.

John Lee Hooker, whose songs both Harvey and Cartoone used to cover on their tour of the UK, was their opening act. In December 1969 Harvey played guitar on BeeGees Maurice Gibb’s The Loner album, but only the single “Railroad” was released.

Harvey was a co-founder of Stone the Crows in late 1969, the rock/blues band formed in Glasgow, which had previously been known as ‘Power’.

It was while on stage with Stone the Crows at Swansea Top Rank in 1972, on a rainy day with puddles on the stage, that he was electrocuted after touching a microphone that was not earth-grounded. A roadie attempted to unplug the guitar, but was unsuccessful.

He died on May 3, 1972 at the age of 27, making him a somewhat less known member of the 27Club.

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King Curtis 8/1971

Two legends of Blues RockAugust 13, 1971 – King Curtis (The Kingpins) was born Curtis Ousley on February 7, 1934. He was adopted and brought up in Fort Worth where he started playing the saxophone locally when he was 12.

He turned down college scholarships in order to join the Lionel Hampton Band and in 1952 moved to New York to become a session musician, recording for such labels as Prestige, Enjoy, Capitol and Atco.

He recorded with Nat Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Buddy Holly, Andy Williams, The Coasters, The Five Keys, Aretha Franklin and many more. His saxophone virtuosity was widely admired in rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, blues, funk and soul jazz, his band The Kingpins also backed Aretha Franklin.

It was at this time that he put together his band The Kingpins which included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, and Bernard Purdie.

Curtis was best known for his distinctive sax riffs and solos such as on “Yakety Yak”, which later became the inspiration for Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” and his own “Memphis Soul Stew”.

In 1970, he won the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Grammy for “Games People Play” and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 6th 2000.

Curtis was stabbed to death by Juan Montanez, a vagrant drug addict on the front steps of his New York home) on August 13, 1971. He was 37.

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Alan Wilson 9/1970

Alan WilsonSeptember 3, 1970 – Alan Christie Wilson, co-founder, leader, and primary composer for the American blues band Canned Heat was born on July 4, 1943. He played guitar, harmonica, sang, and wrote several songs for the band, notably among which the monster hits “On the Road Again” and “Going Up the Country”.

Nicknamed “Blind Owl”, he majored in music at Boston University and often played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit, before forming the blues-rock/boogie band Canned Heat. Alan played guitar, harmonica and wrote most of the songs for Canned Heat. After Eddie ‘Son’ House’s ‘rediscovery’ in 1964, the producer John Hammond Sr. asked Alan, who was just 22 years old, to teach “Son House how to play like Son House,” because Alan had such a good knowledge of the blues styles. The album “The Father of Delta Blues – The Complete 1965 Sessions” was the result. Son House played with Alan live and can be heard on the album “John – the Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions”.

With Canned Heat, Alan performed at two legendary concerts, the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band’s “Going Up the Country,” which Alan sang, has been referred to as the festival’s unofficial theme song

Canned Heat enjoyed considerable artistic and commercial success, crowned by an appearance at Woodstock in 1969. But guitarist Al “Blind Owl” Wilson, a nick name that was given to him by John Fahey, was a troubled man. He was estranged from his family; he lacked confidence and suffered from depression, possibly even undiagnosed autism. One of his eccentric habits was sleeping outdoors, as he did at lead vocalist Bob Hite’s house in Los Angeles on the last night of his life. Wilson’s body was found in Hite’s yard on September 3rd, 1970. His hands were crossed over his chest and there was a bottle of Seconal by his side. Cause of death was officially given as an accidental overdose of barbiturates, but drummer Fito de la Parra believes Wilson committed suicide, at age 27, starting out a crop month for the 27 Club with Jimi Hendrix expiring on the 18th of that month and Janis Joplin 16 days late on October 4th, all at age 27.

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Otis Spann 4/1970

otis-spannApril 24, 1970 – Otis Spann was born on March 21st 1930 in Jackson, Mississippi. Spann’s father was reportedly a pianist called Friday Ford. His mother, Josephine Erby, was a guitarist who had worked with Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith, and his stepfather, Frank Houston Spann, was a preacher and musician. One of five children, Spann began playing the piano at the age of seven, with some instruction from Friday Ford, Frank Spann, and Little Brother Montgomery. By the age of 14, he was playing in bands in the Jackson area. He moved to Chicago in 1946, where he was mentored by Big Maceo Merriweather. Spann performed as a solo act and with the guitarist Morris Pejoe, working a regular spot at the Tic Toc Lounge.

Spann replaced Merriweather as Muddy Waters’s piano player in late 1952, and participated in his first recording session with the band on September 24, 1953. He continued to record as a solo artist and session player with other musicians, including Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf, during his tenure with the group. He stayed with Waters until 1968 before leaving to form his own band. In that period he also did session work with other Chess artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley..

Spann’s work for Chess Records includes the 1954 single “It Must Have Been the Devil” / “Five Spot”, with B.B. King and Jody Williams on guitars. During his time at Chess he played on a few of Chuck Berry’s early records, including the studio version of “You Can’t Catch Me”. In 1956, he recorded two unreleased tracks with Big Walter Horton and Robert Lockwood.

The 60s also so him touring and recording in Europe and in the UK appearing on records with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac and others. He recorded a session with the guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. and vocalist St. Louis Jimmy in New York on August 23, 1960, which was issued on Otis Spann Is the Blues and Walking the Blues. A 1963 effort with Storyville Records was recorded in Copenhagen. He worked with Waters and Eric Clapton on recordings for Decca and with James Cotton for Prestige in 1964.

The Blues Is Where It’s At, Spann’s 1966 album for ABC-Bluesway, includes contributions from George “Harmonica” Smith, Waters, and Sammy Lawhorn. The Bottom of the Blues (1967), featuring Spann’s wife, Lucille Spann (June 23, 1938 – August 2, 1994), was released by Bluesway. He worked on albums with Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, Peter Green, and Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s.

Spann died of liver cancer in Chicago on April 24, 1970 at age 40. He was buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. His grave was unmarked for almost thirty years, until Steve Salter (president of the Killer Blues Headstone Project) wrote a letter to Blues Revue magazine, saying “This piano great is lying in an unmarked grave. Let’s do something about this deplorable situation”.

Blues enthusiasts from around the world sent donations to purchase a headstone. On June 6, 1999, the marker was unveiled in a private ceremony. The stone reads, “Otis played the deepest blues we ever heard – He’ll play forever in our hearts“.

He was posthumously elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.

 

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Slim Harpo 1/1970

Slim HarpoJanuary 31, 1970 – Slim Harpo aka Harmonica Slim was born James Isaac Moore on January 11th 1924 in Lobdell, West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After his parents died he worked as a longshoreman and construction worker in New Orleans, during the late 1930s and early 1940s. A musical late bloomer influenced by blues harmonica legends such as Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, Harpo began moonlighting in Baton Rouge bards as Harmonica Slim in the mid-1950s, also gigging with brother-in-law singer-guitarist Otis Hicks, aka Lightnin’ Slim, who was the region’s most established bluesman.

Known as one of the masters of the blues harmonica; the name “Slim Harpo” was a humorous takeoff on “harp,” the popular nickname for the harmonica in blues circles, as suggested by his wife, after discovering that someone else performed under the name Harmonica Slim.

At the time, Lightnin’ was recording with producer J. D. “Jay” Miller, who had an agreement with Excello Records, under which Miller sent the blues and R & B cuts he produced in his studio in Crowley to the Nashville, Tenn.,-based label, which distributed the records nationally. Slim’s own recording career didn’t start until 1957. His solo debut coupled “I’m a King Bee” with “I Got Love If You Want It.”

“King Bee” took off, launching a recording and touring career that lasted more than a dozen years. Although their relationship was at times contentious, Harpo and Miller created a distinctive, easily recognizable sound. Harpo’s vocals were deliberate and steady, sometimes even slowing down to a spoken drawl. By draping a handkerchief over his harmonica, Harpo coaxed the instrument to produce a muddy but rich sound that complemented Miller’s creative use of reverberation and other studio magic.

Further influenced by Jimmy Reed, he began recording for Excello Records, and enjoyed a string of popular R&B singles which combined a drawling vocal with incisive harmonica passages. Among them were “Rainin’ In My Heart”, “I Love The Life I Live”, “Buzzin'” (instrumental) and “Little Queen Bee”. The result was something altogether matchless. Says Baton Rouge Blues Foundation Director Johnny Palazzotto, “When you hear a Slim Harpo song, you know it’s Slim Harpo.”

Harpo co-wrote many of his records with his wife, Lovelle Casey (though Miller, in a managerial trick common in the 1950s and ‘60s, frequently added his name to the writing credits). Numerous sidemen backed Harpo in the studio and on tour during his career, but his favorite lineups featured guitarist Rudy Richard, bassist James Johnson and drummer Jesse Kinchen.

Harpo’s bandmates remember the bluesman as an easygoing, relaxed man. But when it came to music, they say, a very exacting Harpo was all business.

“You had to do what Slim say,” Johnson says with a reflective laugh. “He wasn’t a real hard guy to get along with, but he had his ways.”

Adds Richard: “He was a nice, nice guy, but he really meant business. He wanted everybody trying to do it right.”

The group worked the regional club and juke-joint scene constantly, but occasionally they would venture to metropolises such as New York and Los Angeles to play at the Apollo Theater and the Whiskey A-Go-Go.

Harpo and his band needed to tour constantly and play as much as possible; times were frequently lean financially, and the men had to scrape up whatever they could get. It didn’t help that Harpo was frequently shortchanged by Miller over song royalties and other financial matters, a large reason the musician and the producer often had trouble getting along.

“Miller knew how to run a business,” says Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler. “My father just wanted to record. But Miller really wasn’t doing anything other [executives] weren’t doing.”

On top of being a musician and business owner, Harpo strived to be a good father and family man, even through the lean times. Often, Harpo was forced to work straight jobs, including operating a trucking business.

“He worked hard,” says Gambler. “He was always looking for a way to make things better for us.”

Still, despite the financial hardships, day jobs and grueling gig schedule, Harpo loved what he did — playing the swamp blues and representing his hometown — and that enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him.

“If you’re into the blues like Slim, it’s going to be all right,” says Kinchen. “Anytime we do it, if we do it with Slim, it’s gonna be all right. Slim always had a good feeling.”
Adds Johnson: “He wasn’t making money then. We just wanted to play, so we fell right in with Slim. He was all about the music.”

Unfortunately, Harpo never really broke through to the blues big time. Despite producing three pop hits, he never reached the heights of popularity that such blues luminaries as B.B. King, Jimmy Reed or Muddy Waters attained.
In a Nov. 29, 1968, review, New York Times writer Mike Jahn outlined his explanations for Harpo’s muted popularity. Jahn asserted that Harpo was less theatrical than his more popular contemporaries, saying Harpo “is not a showman like B.B. King, and he is nowhere near as flashy as Albert King.”

Jahn argued that Harpo and his band “perform with consummate cool, quiet dignity and at a relatively low volume” and that the group “deals in authenticity, not fireworks.”

However, Jahn added, that might be a good thing: “All [Harpo] does is play the blues — authentic, country blues — and invite people to come and hear it if they want to.” Concludes Jahn: “The blues is all around. Slim Harpo has just gone deeper into it than most people.”

Also contributing significantly to Harpo’s lack of exposure was his sudden, early death from a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 46. Aside from a standard obituary, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate did nothing to acknowledge his passing, and it took nearly two months for the news of his death to reach the pages of Rolling Stone, which published a lengthy and well-researched obituary in its March 19, 1970, edition.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Harpo’s untimely passing was that he was poised to possibly and at long last reach the upper echelons of blues stardom. He was about to record a new album and embark on a massive tour in Europe that would have exposed thousands of potential new fans to his music.

“If Slim had lived long enough,” says Chris Thomas King, another contemporary blues artist with roots in Baton Rouge, “those fans who were new to the blues would have discovered him. He’s just one of those guys who died too soon, before his impact could be truly felt.”

However, over the intervening four decades, Harpo’s legacy and impact has blossomed, thanks partially to the legions of Louisiana-rooted blues artists who infuse their own music with shades of Harpo’s blues and openly espouse Harpo’s influence on their careers.

Contemporary musicians such as Kenny Neal, Chris Thomas King and Tab Benoit continue to carry the swamp blues banner originally planted by Harpo. Benoit notes that practically any blues or rock band rooted in the Baton Rouge area features a Harpo song in its repertoire.

In addition, the blues community has embraced Harpo and his work, especially in his old stomping grounds in Baton Rouge. Harpo and his music are virtually the bedrock on which the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation has been built; the organization’s annual regional blues honors are called the Slim Harpo awards. For many years now, Palazzotto — who’s also filming a documentary about the bluesman — has gone into area schools to teach new generations about music and the blues, and he does it with Harpo in mind.

At its foundation, Harpo’s ever-burgeoning popularity continues to stem from his ability to perfectly capture the essence of both the swamp blues and the culture that created it.
His music is country but accessible, distinctive yet universal.

“It’s not like Chicago blues or Texas blues,” Benoit says. “It’s a very laid-back, bayou style of playing, like someone’s just playing on his porch on the bayou.”

The riff from Harpo’s 1966 hit “Shake Your Hips”, which itself was derivative of Bo Diddley’s “Bring It to Jerome”, was used in the ZZ Top 1973 hit “La Grange”, and the Rolling Stones covered the song on their 1972 album Exile On Main Street. “Shake Your Hips” was also covered by Joan Osborne on her 2012 album Bring It On Home. Other notable covers of Slim Harpo songs include “I Got Love If You Want It” by the Kinks, “I’m the Face” by the Who (when they were still called the High Numbers), “I’m A King Bee” by the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and the Doors and “Don’t Start Crying Now” by Them with Van Morrison.

Harpo’s recordings were also widely covered in modern African-American circles, including “I’ll Take Care of You” by Gil Scott-Heron on his final album, I’m New Here. The song is also featured on the remix album featuring Jamie XX called We’re New Here. In 2012 a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey commercial featured Harpo’s song “I’m a King Bee” covered by San Francisco blues band the Stone Foxes.

“He was the leader of the swamp blues movement,” says researcher and author John Broven. “All of those artists have followed in his slipstream.”

The Slim Harpo Music Awards, awarded annually in Baton Rouge, are named in his honour. Proceeds from the awards benefit the “Music in the Schools” outreach program.

He died suddenly in Baton Rouge on January 31, 1970 of a heart attack at the age of 46, despite being “one of the cleanest living bluesmen of his era.”

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Wynonie Harris 6/1969

wynonie-harrisJune 14, 1969 – Wynonie Harris was born on August 24th 1915 in Omaha Nebraska.

At a young age already he became a blues shouter and rhythm and blues singer of upbeat songs featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. In 1931 at age 16, he dropped out of high school in North Omaha. The following year his first child, a daughter, Micky, was born to Naomi Henderson. Ten months later, his son Wesley was born to Laura Devereaux. Both children were raised by their mothers.

In 1935 Harris, age 20, started dating 16-year-old Olive E. (Ollie) Goodlow, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who came to neighboring Omaha to watch him perform. On May 20, 1936, Ollie gave birth to a daughter, Adrianne Patricia (Pattie). Harris and Ollie were married on December 11, 1936. Later they lived in the Logan Fontenelle projects in North Omaha. Ollie worked as a barmaid and nurse; Harris sang in clubs and took odd jobs. His mother was Pattie’s main caretaker. In 1940, Wynonie and Ollie Harris moved to Los Angeles, California, leaving Pattie with her grandmother in Omaha.

Harris formed a dance team with Velda Shannon in the early 1930s. They performed in North Omaha’s flourishing entertainment community, and by 1934 they were a regular attraction at the Ritz Theatre. In 1935 Harris, having became a celebrity in Omaha, was able to earn a living as an entertainer, in the depths of the Great Depression. While performing at Jim Bell’s Club Harlem nightclub with Shannon, he began to sing the blues. He began traveling frequently to Kansas City, where he paid close attention to blues shouters, including Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner.

His break in Los Angeles was at a nightclub owned by Curtis Mosby. It was here that Harris became known as “Mr. Blues”.

During the 1942–44 musicians’ strike, Harris was unable to pursue a recording career. Instead, he relied on personal appearances. Performing almost continuously, in late 1943 he appeared at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago. Harris was spotted by Lucky Millinder, who asked him to join his band on tour. Harris joined on March 24, 1944, while the band was in the middle of a week-long residency at the Regal in Chicago. They moved on to New York City, where on April 7 Harris took the stage with Millinder’s band for his debut at the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem. It was during this performance that Harris first publicly performed “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well” (a song recorded two years earlier by Doc Wheeler’s Sunset Orchestra).

After the band’s stint at the Apollo, they moved on to their regular residency at the Savoy Ballroom, also in Harlem. Here, Preston Love, Harris’ childhood friend, joined Millinder’s band, replacing the alto saxophonist Tab Smith. On May 26, 1944, Harris made his recording debut with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra. Entering a recording studio for the first time, Harris sang on two of the five cuts recorded that day, “Hurry, Hurry” and “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”, for Decca Records . The embargo on shellac during World War II had not yet been rescinded, and release of the record was delayed.

Harris’s success and popularity grew as Millinder’s band toured the country, but he and Millinder had a falling out over money, and in September 1945, while playing in San Antonio, Texas, Harris quit the band. Three weeks later, upon hearing of Harris’s separation from the band, a Houston promoter refused to allow Millinder’s band to perform. Millinder called Harris and agreed to pay his asking price of one hundred dollars a night. The promoter reinstated the booking, but it was the final time Harris and Millinder worked together. Bull Moose Jackson replaced Harris as the vocalist in the band.

In April 1945, a year after the song was recorded, Decca released “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”. It became the group’s biggest hit; it went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart on July 14 and stayed there for eight weeks. The song remained on the charts for almost five months, also becoming popular with white audiences, an unusual feat for black musicians of that era. In California the success of the song opened doors for Harris. Since the contract with Decca was with Millinder (meaning Harris was a free agent), Harris could choose from the recording contracts with which he was presented.

Wynonie went on to have fifteen Top 10 hits between 1946 – 1952, he is generally considered one of rock and roll’s forerunners, influencing Elvis Presley among others. His hits include “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”, “Bloodshot Eyes”, “Good Rocking Tonight”, “Good Morning Judge” and “All She Wants to Do Is Rock”.

His final large-scale performance was at the Apollo, New York in November 1967, where he performed with Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon and T-Bone Walker.

He sadly died of esophageal cancer at the USC Medical Center Hospital in Los Angeles on June 14, 1969. He was 53.

Wynonie was the subject of a 1994 biography by Tony Collins. Since the end of the twentieth century, there has been a resurgence of interest in his music. Some of his recordings are being reissued and he has been honored posthumously:

• 1994 Inducted into the W.C. Handy Blues Hall of Fame by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.
• 1998 Inducted into the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Lincoln.
• 2000 Inducted into the High School Hall of Fame at Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska.
• 2005 Inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame

Elvis Presley saw Harris perform in Memphis in the early 1950s. According to Henry Glover, Harris’s record producer, Elvis “copied many of the vocal gymnastics of Wynonie as well as the physical gyrations. When you saw Elvis, you were seeing a mild version of Wynonie”. Harris remarked in a 1956 interview that Elvis’s hip movements were stirring controversy in a way his own never did: “Many people have been giving him trouble for swinging his hips. I swing mine and have no trouble. He’s got publicity I could not buy”.

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Martin Lamble 5/1969

martin_lambleMay 12, 1969 – Martin Francis Lamble was born on 28 August 1949, in St John’s Wood, northwest London. The eldest of three brothers, Martin was educated at Priestmead primary school, Kenton, and later at UCS, Hampstead.

He was the drummer for British electric folk band, Fairport Convention, from just after their formation in 1967, until his death in the Fairport Convention van crash in 1969. He joined the band after attending their first gig and convincing them that he could do a better job than their current drummer, Shaun Frater.

Britain’s answer to The Band, in many ways, Fairport Convention experimented with the fusion of traditional English folk music and rock and roll, just as bands in the U.S. were rushing to blend rock with country and folk.

While never as well-known as their North American contemporaries like The Band, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, Fairport Convention were massively influential, not least for launching guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson.

Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol started it all in London 1966 as the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra. When guitar prodigy Thompson joined in 1967, they became Fairport Convention and added drummer Martin Lamble and a female singer Judy Dyble. Signed by producer Joe Boyd to Polydor, they added another singer, Iain Matthews and issued their self-titled debut album and were quickly dubbed the “British Jefferson Airplane.”

After Dyble was replaced by Sandy Denny, the band put out two critically adored albums, What We Did On Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking.  The future looked bright indeed.

Then, one night, after a gig at Mothers in Birmingham, most of Fairport were travelling back south in a van when they crashed on the M1 motorway. It would prove a tragic and devastating accident that would change the band forever.

Lamble played on the band’s first three albums, the self titled ‘Fairport Convention’, ‘What We Did on Our Holidays‘ and ‘Unhalfbricking’ but shortly after recording Unhalfbricking on 12 May 1969, Fairport’s van crashed on the M1 motorway, near Scratchwood Services, on the way home from a gig at Mothers. Lamble and famed groupie Blue Jean Baby Jeannie Franklyn, guitarist Richard Johnson’s girlfriend, was dead by the time the ambulance arrived. At the hospital, they weren’t able to bring Martin Lamble back to life.

Lamble was only 18 years old when he died and already tipped by many who’d seen him as a future great with the sticks. Nicol says: “He would have gone on to have been so much more than just another drummer, another musician: there was something very special about him.”

He also played on Al Stewart’s album Love Chronicles, released in September 1969.

Eventually tFairport Convention did recuperate enough to record their classic Liege & Lief album that reached #17 on the U.K. album chart. But soon the band’s co-founder Hutchings would leave to pursue his growing interest in traditional music. It was something Nicol feels was caused in part by the accident and death of Lamble.

 

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Benny Benjamin 4/1969

BennyBenjaminApril 20, 1969 – Benny Benjamin nicknamed Papa Zita was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 25th 1925. Benjamin originally learned to play drums in the style of the big band jazz groups.

By 1958, Benjamin was Motown’s first studio drummer, where he was noted for his dynamic style. Several Motown record producers, including founder Berry Gordy, refused to work on any recording sessions unless Benjamin was the drummer and James Jamerson was the bassist.

The Beatles singled out his drumming style upon meeting him in the UK. Among the Motown songs Benjamin performed the drum tracks for are early hits such as “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong and “Do You Love Me” by The Contours; as well as later hits such as “Get Ready” and “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & the Pips and “Going to a Go-Go” by The Miracles.

Benjamin was influenced by the work of drummers Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. He recorded with a studio set composed of Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers and Gretsch components and probably Zildjian cymbals.

By the late 1960s, Benjamin struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and fellow Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and Richard “Pistol” Allen increasingly recorded more of the drum tracks for the studio’s releases.

Benjamin died on April 20, 1969 of a stroke at age 43, and was inducted into the “Sidemen” category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

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Little Willie John 5/1968

little-willie-johnMay 26, 1968 – Little Willie John was born William Edward John on November 15, 1937 in Cullendale, Arkansas, one of ten children; many sources erroneously give his middle name as Edgar. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was four, so that his father could pursue factory work.

In the late 1940s, the eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel singing group, and Willie also performed in talent shows, which brought him to the notice of Johnny Otis and, later, musician and producer Henry Glover. He sang with Count Basie at age 14 and won a talent contest. In 1955, had his first moderate hit with “All Around the World” which reached #5 on the R&B Chart, and #6 on the Pop Chart. After seeing him sing with the Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams orchestra, Glover signed him to a recording contract with King Records in 1955. He was nicknamed “Little Willie” John for his short stature.

He followed up with a string of R&B hits, including the original version of “Need Your Love So Bad“, written by his elder brother Mertis John Jr. One of his biggest hits, “Fever” (1956) (Pop #24), was more famously covered by Peggy Lee in 1958. However, John’s version alone sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Another song, “Talk to Me, Talk to Me” recorded in 1958, reached #5 in the R&B chart and #20 in the Pop chart, and also sold over one million. A few years later it was a hit once again by Sunny & the Sunglows. He also recorded “I’m Shakin'” by Rudy Toombs, “Suffering With The Blues”, and “Sleep” (1960) (Pop #13). In all, John made the Billboard Hot 100 a total of fourteen times. A cover version of “Need Your Love So Bad” by Fleetwood Mac was also a hit in Europe. Another of his songs to be covered was “Leave My Kitten Alone”, (1959). The Beatles recorded a version in 1964, intended for their Beatles for Sale album, but it went unreleased until 1995.

John had a volatile temper, fueled by a taste for liquor and an insecurity regarding his slight height (5 feet 4 inches). He was known to pack a gun and knife; in 1964, he stabbed a man and was sent to the Washington State penitentiary. He appealed his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album. Because of contractual wrangling and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six).

Back in prison, Little Willie John died on May 26, 1968 at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Despite counterclaims (Rolling Stone reported that the death occurred after John had checked into the prison hospital with pneumonia), the official cause of death was listed in his death certificate as a heart attack. Rumor also says he was strangled. He was 30 years old.

James Brown recorded a tribute album to John that year, and his material has been recorded by scores of artists from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to the Blasters. Nevertheless, Little Willie John remains a stranger to most listeners and has never received the respect his talent deserved.

He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He never received the accolades given to the likes of Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, and James Brown, but Little Willie John ranks as one of R&B’s most influential performers. His muscular high timbre and enormous technical and emotional range belied his young age (his first hit came when he was 18), but his mid-’50s work for Syd Nathan’s King label would play a great part in the way soul music would sound. Everyone from Cooke, McPhatter, and Brown to Jackie Wilson, B.B. King, and Al Green have acknowledged their indebtedness to this most overlooked of rock and soul pioneers.

 

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Little Walter 2/1968

little-walter-jacobsFeb 15, 1968- Little Walter was born Marion Walter Jacobs on May 1st 1930 (although recently uncovered census data suggests he may have been born earlier, possibly as early as 1925) in Marksville, Louisiana, and raised in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, where he first learned to play the harmonica. After quitting school by the age of 12, Jacobs left rural Louisiana and travelled around working odd jobs and busking on the streets of New Orleans; Memphis; Helena, Arkansas; and St. Louis. He honed his musical skills on harmonica and guitar performing with much older bluesmen, including Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards and others.

Arriving in Chicago in 1945, he occasionally found work as a guitarist but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica work. According to fellow Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones, Little Walter’s first recording was an unreleased demo recorded soon after he arrived in Chicago, on which Walter played guitar backing Jones. Jacobs, reportedly frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by electric guitarists, adopted a simple but previously little-used method: He cupped a small microphone in his hands along with his harmonica and plugged the microphone into a public address system or guitar amplifier.

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Otis Redding 12/1967

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

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

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Bobby Fuller 7/1966

July 18, 1966 – Bobby Fuller was born on October 22nd 1942 in Baytown, Texas. As a small child to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he remained until 1956, when he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas. His father got a job at El Paso Natural Gas at that time. It was the same year that Elvis Presley became popular, and Bobby Fuller became mesmerized by the new rock and roll star. Fuller soon adopted the style of fellow Texan Buddy Holly, fronting a four-man combo and often using original material.

During the early 1960s, he played in clubs and bars in El Paso, and he recorded on independent record labels in Texas with a constantly changing line-up. The only constant band members were Fuller and his younger brother, Randy Fuller (born on January 29, 1944, in Hobbs, New Mexico) on bass. Most of these independent releases (except two songs recorded at the studio of Norman Petty in Clovis), and an excursion to Yucca Records, also in New Mexico, were recorded in the Fullers’ own home studio, with Fuller acting as the producer. He even built a primitive echo chamber in the back yard. The quality of the recordings, using a couple of microphones and a mixing board purchased from a local radio station, was so impressive that he offered the use of his “studio” to local acts for free so he could hone his production skills.

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Mike Millward 3/1966

Mike MillwardMarch 7, 1966 – Mike Millward (The Fourmost) was born May 9th 1942.  In the late 50’s he played rhythm guitar and sang with Bob Evans and the Five Shillings, which became “The Vegas Five”, then “The Undertakers”, after which he became an original member the Four Jays in 1961.

In the summer of 1963, the group, considered a Mersey Beat act, now called The Fourmost – signed up with Brian Epstein. This led to their being auditioned by George Martin and signed to EMI’s Parlophone record label.

Their first two singles were written by John Lennon. “Hello Little Girl”, one of the earliest Lennon songs dating from 1957. Their follow-up single, “I’m in Love” a Lennon/McCartney song, was released on 15 November 1963.

Their biggest hit “A Little Loving”, written by Russ Alquist, reached Number 6 in the UK Singles Chart in mid 1964. The band appeared in the 1965 film, Ferry Cross the Mersey and are on the soundtrack album of the same name. The group’s only album, First and Fourmost, was released in September 1965.

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Sam Cooke 12/1964

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

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Stu Sutcliffe 4/1962

paul-and-stuart-sutcliffeApril 10, 1962 – Stu Sutcliffe was born on June 23rd 1940 in Edinburgh, Scotland; an art school friend of John Lennon, he was the original bassist of The Beatles for almost two years and is credited with Lennon and his first wife Cynthia of naming the group after Buddy Holly’s band the Crickets. As a member of the group when it was a five-piece band, Stuart is one of several people sometimes referred to as “the fifth Beatle”. He used the stage name “Stu de Staël” while playing with the Beatles in 1960.

Lennon was introduced to Sutcliffe by Bill Harry, a mutual friend, when all three were studying at the Liverpool College of Art. According to Lennon, Sutcliffe had a “marvellous art portfolio” and was a very talented painter who was one of the “stars” of the school. He helped Lennon to improve his artistic skills, and with others, worked with him when Lennon had to submit work for exams. Sutcliffe shared a flat with Murray at 9 Percy Street, Liverpool, before being evicted and moving to Hillary Mansions at 3 Gambier Terrace, where another art student lived, Margaret Chapman, who competed with Sutcliffe to be the best painter in class. The flat was opposite the new Anglican cathedral in the rundown area of Liverpool 8, with bare lightbulbs and a mattress on the floor in the corner. Lennon moved in with Sutcliffe in early 1960. (Paul McCartney later admitted that he was jealous of Sutcliffe’s relationship with Lennon, as he had to take a “back seat” to Sutcliffe).

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Billie Holiday 7/1959

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

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

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Guitar Slim 2/1959

Eddie Guitar Slim JonesFebruary 7, 1959 – Guitar Slim was born Eddie Jones on December 10, 1926 in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother died when he was five, and his grandmother raised him, as he spent his teen years in the cotton fields. He spent his free time at the local juke joints and started sitting in as a singer or dancer; he was good enough to be nicknamed “Limber Leg.”

After returning from World War II military service, he started playing clubs around New Orleans, Louisiana. Bandleader Willie D. Warren introduced him to the guitar, and he was particularly influenced by T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. About 1950 he adopted the stage name ‘Guitar Slim’ and started becoming known for his wild stage act.

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Big Bopper 2/1959

Big BopperFebruary 3, 1959 – Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr. aka “the Big Bopper’  was born on October 24, 1930 in  Sabine Pass, Texas.
He worked part time at Beaumont, Texas radio station KTRM. He was hired by the station full-time in ’49, so he quit his law studies. Being a disc jockey, singer, and songwriter whose big voice and exuberant personality made him an early rock and roll star.

In March 1955, he was drafted into the United States Army and did his basic training at Fort Ord, California. He spent the rest of his two-year service as a radar instructor at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Following his discharge as a corporal in March 1957, Richardson returned to KTRM radio, where he held down the “Dishwashers’ Serenade” shift from 11 am to 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday. One of the station’s sponsors wanted Richardson for a new time slot, and suggested an idea for a show. Richardson had seen the college students doing a dance called The Bop, and he decided to call himself “The Big Bopper”. His new radio show ran from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Richardson soon became the station’s program director.

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Ritchie Valens 2/1959

Ritchie ValensFebruary 3, 1959 – Ritchie Valens was born Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes on May 13, 1941 in Pacoima, California. Of Mexican decent he was brought up hearing traditional Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, R&B and jump blues. He expressed an interest in making music of his own by the age of 5.

Growing in Pacoima, Valens developed a love of music early on and learned to play a number of different instruments. But the guitar soon became his passion. And he found inspiration from various sources, ranging from traditional Mexican music to popular R&B acts to innovative rock performers like Little Richard.

At 16, Valens joined his first band, the Silhouettes. The group played local gigs, and Valens was spotted at one of these performances by Bob Keane, the head of the Del-Fi record label. With Keane’s help, the young performer was about to have a career breakthrough.

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Big Bill Broonzy 8/1958

Big Bill Laney, Blues PioneerAugust 14, 1958 – Big Bill Broonzy, (real name Lee Conly Bradley) was born either on June 26th 1893 or 1898 or even 1903 . Like with any of the true blues musician of the early days, there is a lot of unproven claims about names, dates of birth and even location of births. Big Bill’s story was no different.

Despite years of research, the details of William Lee Conley Broonzy’s birth date remain problematic. He may have been born on 26 June 1893 – the date of birth he often gave – or according to Bill’s twin sister Laney, it may have been in 1898. Laney claimed to have documents to prove that. However, definitive research undertaken by Bob Reisman has changed the picture.

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W.C. Handy 3/1958

w.c. handyMarch 28, 1958 – WC Handy was born November 16, 1873 in Florence, Alabama.

He became widely known as the “Father of the Blues” and remains among the most influential of songwriters, blues singers, composer, pianist, cornet and trumpet player of the early blues rock scene.

Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a not very well-known regional music style to one of the dominant forces in American music.

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Danny Cedrone 6/1954

danny-cedroneJune 17, 1954 – Donato Joseph “Danny” Cedrone was born on June 20th 1920 Born in Jamesville, New York. He began his musical career in the 1940s, but he came into his own in the early 1950s, first as a session guitarist hired by what was then a country and western musical group based out of Chester, Pennsylvania called Bill Haley and His Saddlemen.

In 1951, Danny played lead on their recording of “Rocket 88” which is considered one of the first acknowledged rock and roll recordings. At this time he also formed his own group, The Esquire Boys recording hits such as “Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie”.

He never joined Haley’s group as a full-time member. In 1952, he played lead guitar on Haley’s version of “Rock the Joint”, and his swift guitar solo, which combined a jazz-influenced first half followed by a lightning-fast down-scale run, was a highlight of the recording. He worked with Haley’s group in 1954, by which time it had been renamed The Comets.

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Lead Belly 12/1949

Lead BellyDecember 6, 1949 – Lead Belly was born Huddie William Ledbetter sometime around January 20, 1888/89 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. The 1900 United States Census lists “Hudy Ledbetter” as 12 years old, born January 1888; and the 1910 and 1930 censuses also give his age as corresponding to a birth in 1888. The 1940 census lists his age as 51 with information supplied by wife, Martha. However, in April 1942, Ledbetter filled out his World War II draft registration with a birth date of January 23, 1889, and a birthplace of Freeport, Louisiana. His grave marker has the date on his draft registration.

His life was as colorful as the confusion on dates. He was notable for his clear, forceful singing and his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar. Pre-dating blues, he was an early example of a folksinger whose background had brought him into direct contact with the oral tradition by which folk music was handed down on the Southern Plantations. Continue reading Lead Belly 12/1949

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Jimmie Rodgers 5/1933

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

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

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