Songwriters were essential to the rise of rock and roll. This category highlights those composers and lyricists that never or hardly ever made it to the stage, but nevertheless wrote the tunes that sold the music.
December 30, 2017 – Lord Luther McDaniels, lead singer of vocal group the 4 Deuces, was born in Panola County, Texas in 1938. He never knew his father, who was killed in an accident soon after Luther was born. Mostly raised by his grandmother, he joined the Mitchell Brothers gospel group when he was about 11 or 12. While Luther had no musical training, he still traveled with the group all over East Texas, appearing in many gospel group “battles.” Around the end of World War 2, his mother remarried and moved to Salinas, California, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco (his new stepfather was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, only a few miles away). Luther went to California, decided he didn’t like it, went back to Texas, decided California wasn’t that bad, and returned to California to stay, settling in the fertile Salinas Valley south of the Bay Area, a region often referred to as America’s Salad Bowl. Continue reading Lord Luther McDaniels 12/2017
December 12, 2017 – Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens) was born October 12, 1955 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where he actually lived his entire life. As a youngster, he was inspired by the pop music emanating from his transistor radio in the ‘60s and the hit tunes being written by his musical idols Buddy Holly, The Beatles, and The Beau Brummels among others.
He began playing music with several local bands in the early 1970s, but got serious around 1975 when he joined three classmates from nearby Cateret High School – guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken and formed the Smithereens. That lineup would remain in place for nearly 25 years. Continue reading Pat DiNizio 12/2017
November 24, 2017 – Mitch Margo (The Tokens) was born on May 25, 1947 in New York City. He began singing a cappella at age 9 alongside his brother Phil.
Young Margo learned to play piano in those early days, but over the years established himself as a multi-instrumentalist, also playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion.
Margo was a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn when he and his brother joined the Linc-Tones, also featuring Neal Sedaka, Hank Mendress and original member Tokens founder Jay Siegel, who soon renamed themselves the Tokens and recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” while Mitch was just 14 years old. Continue reading Mitch Margo 11/2017
November 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017
November 18, 2017 – Malcolm Young (AC/DC) was born on January 6, 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland, into a rather large musical family. When he was 10 years old, the family decided to move to Australia, after surviving the worst winter on record in Scotland and TV spot that offered assisted travel for families for a different life in Australia. In late June of 1963, 15 members of the family flew to a new life in “Down Under”, including his older brother George and younger brother Angus.
Malcolm later described the family’s musical background as, “All the males in our family played, Stevie, the oldest played accordion, Alex and John were the first couple to play guitar, and being older, it was sort of passed down to George, then myself, then Angus.”
November 12, 2017 – Chad Hanks (American Head Charge) was born in 1971 in Los Angeles, California.
With vocalist friend Cameron Heacock he formed American Head Charge in 1997 after they met in 1995 in rehab in Minneapolis and emerged as major players from the late ’90s nu-metal boom. The success of their 1999 indie debut, Trepanation, caught the ear of mega-producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers), who signed the band to his American Recordings label and got the group out to his allegedly haunted Los Angeles mansion to record 2001’s “The War of Art.” Metal magazines Kerang and Rough Edge each gave the album four-star reviews (out of five), and VH1 picked it as one of the “12 Most Underrated Albums of Nü Metal.” Continue reading Chad Hanks 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Fred Cole was born August 28, 1948 in Tacoma, Washington and he moved with his mother to Las Vegas where he attended high school. Here he began his recording career in 1964, with his band, the Lords, at the Teenbeat Club, releasing a single titled “Ain’t Got No Self-Respect. “His next single, from 1965, was a promo-only called “Poverty Shack” b/w “Rover,” with a band named Deep Soul Cole.
In 1966 Cole’s band The Weeds gained notice in garage rock circles, and their only single, a 60s punk track called It’s Your Time (b/w Little Girl, Teenbeat Club Records), has become a collectors’ favorite. The A-side appeared on one of the Nuggets anthologies. The band was promised an opening slot on a Yardbirds bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco, but on their arrival found that the venue hadn’t heard of them. Continue reading Fred Cole 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Hans Vermeulen (Sandy Coast) was born on September 18, 1947 in Voorburg, the Hague in the Netherlands. He grew up in what was to become the birthplace of Nederpop, which produced bands like Golden earring (Radar Love) and Shocking Blue (Venus), Q 65, Rob Hoeke and many others.
He scored hits like I See Your Face Again , Capital Punishment and my favorite True Love That’s a Wonder with his first group Sandy Coast which he had formed in 1961.
When the first run of late sixties rock and roll ran dry, Sandy Coast disbanded in the early seventies, and did not reform until 1981, with a big comeback hit. In 1975 Vermeulen founded Rainbow Train, a open door clearing house formation for musicians, in which he sang with his then-wife Dianne Marchal . In those years he made impact as a much in demand EMI producer for popular Dutch singers like Margriet Eshuijs (Lucifer) and Anita Meyer. For Meyer he wrote in 1976 the number 1 hit The Alternative Way, on which he also sang and for Eshuijs he produced the still today hugely popular “House for Sale” hit.Continue reading Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017
October 23, 2017 – George Young (with his bandmate and songwriting partner Harry Vanda-right in the picture) – Easybeats was born on November 6, 1946 in Glasgow Schotland. The lower middle class Young family were all musicians, but when the worst winter on record in Schotland arrived in post Christmas into January 1963, the family split as a result of 15 family members taking the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, including almost 16 year old George. Continue reading George Young 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Skip Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger in Franklin Park Illinois in 1946. He graduated East Leyden High School in 1963. When it comes to rock music being the sound track to our boomer generation, there are certain songs that stand out and stay a perennial anthem such as Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Wear some flowers in your hair), Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans and the song Skip Haynes wrote and performed about Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.
Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger, but a club manager told him early in his career there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for that. Since his grandfather called him Skippy, he decided to take the name Skip Haynes. Continue reading Skip Haynes 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Tom Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville Florida. Growing up in the town that houses the University of Florida, music became the young Petty’s refuge from a domineering, abusive father who despised Tom’s sensitivity and creative tendencies—but would later glom on to his son’s rock-star fame for status. In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley’s film Follow That Dream in nearby Ocala, and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot. He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday, he was greeted by his friend Keith Harben, and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis 45s.
September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017
September 18, 2017 – Mark Selby was born in September 2, 1961. Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Selby spent his youth harvesting wheat and playing in bands throughout the Midwest before moving to Hays, Kansas to attend Fort Hays University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music.
He was musically gifted in three ways: as a songwriter, a singer with a soulful voice and a guitarist with some impressive chops. His future as a blues rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer started in Germany, where he signed as a solo artist to ZYX Records. Continue reading Mark Selby 9/2017
September 13, 2017 – GrantHart (Hüsker Dü) was born in St. Paul, MN on March 18, 1961 and at the age of 10, he inherited his older brother’s drum set and records, after he was killed by a drunk driver. Hart described his family as a “typical American dysfunctional family. Not very abusive, though. Nothing really to complain about.” He soon began playing in a number of makeshift bands throughout high school. Continue reading Grant Hart 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Dave Hlubek was born on August 28, 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 5 or 6, Hlubek and his family moved to the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, where he attended Waikiki Elementary School. From there, Hlubek’s father was transferred and the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, then to Mountain View, and finally settling in San Jose. It was the South Bay that Dave called home during the next few years, before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, around 1965. There he attended and graduated from Forrest High School.
Hlubek, founded the band Molly Hatchet in 1971. Vocalist Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, along with Steve Holland, guitarist in 1974. Duane Roland, Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump completed the line up in 1976. Continue reading Dave Hlubek 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Walter Becker (Steely Dan) was born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York. Becker was raised by his father and grandmother, after his parents separated when he was a young boy and his mother, who was British, moved back to England. They lived in Queens and as of the age of five in Scarsdale, New York. Becker’s father sold paper-cutting machinery for a company which had offices in Manhattan.
He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan in the class of 1967. After starting out on saxophone, he switched to guitar and received instruction in blues technique from neighbor Randy Wolfe, better known as Randy California of the psychedelic westcoast sensation “Spirit”, a nickname he got from Jimi Hendrix while playing with him in New York in the mid sixties.
September 1, 2017 – Mick Softley was born in 1939 in the countryside of Essex, near Epping Forest.
His mother was of Irish origin (from County Cork) and his father had East Anglian tinker roots, going back to a few generations. Softley first took up trombone in school and became interested in traditional jazz. He was later persuaded to become a singer by one of his school teachers, and this led to him listening to Big Bill Broonzy and promptly changed his attitude to music, to the extent of him buying a mail-order guitar and some tutorial books and teaching himself to play.
By 1959, Mick Softley had left his job and home and spent time traveling around Europe on his motorbike, with a friend, Mick Rippingale. He ended up in Paris, where he came into the company of musicians such as Clive Palmer, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Wizz Jones. Here he improved his guitar skills and spent time busking with friends until his return to England in the early 1960s. Continue reading Mick Softley 9/2017
August 8, 2017 – Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas. He was the seventh son of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry. He received his first guitar when he was four years old. Learning the instrument from various relatives, especially Uncle Boo, he played consistently throughout his childhood, eventually gravitating toward jazz players like Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt. While he was learning guitar, he also sang in a local church, where he developed his vocal skills. By the time he was 14, he had begun performing with a number of country bands in the Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico area, including his uncle’s group, the Dick Bills Band. When he was 18, he formed his own country band, the Western Wranglers, and began touring the South with the group. Four years later in 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a session musician.Continue reading Glen Campbell 8/2017
July 20, 2017 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was born on 20 March 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. The son of a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases, Bennington had a troubled youth. “Growing up, for me, was very scary and very lonely,” he told Metal Hammer magazine in 2014. “I started getting molested when I was about seven or eight,” he said, describing the abuser as an older friend. “I was getting beaten up and being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. It destroyed my self-confidence. Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience,” he told the magazine.
His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he went to live with his father, whom he described as “not emotionally very stable then”, adding that “there was no-one I could turn to”. Soon after his parents divorced he began abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
After years of intense drug use as a teenager, he got sober and moved to Los Angeles, where he successfully auditioned to join Linkin Park.
An early line-up of Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, surfed the popular wave of nu-metal, Rolling Stone magazine writes. The album’s canny mix of pop, hip-hop, and melodic alt-rock drove it to sales of more than 11 million copies early on, making it the top-selling rock record of the ’00s. Given the rapid changes to the music industry in the immediate aftermath of Hybrid Theory, it’s plausible to suggest that no rock record will ever come close to achieving those sorts of sales figures ever again. The album single-handedly initiated Bennington into a small (now rapidly shrinking) fraternity of arena-rock vocalists — Bennington was one of the few guys on the planet with the qualifications to front a big-time rock band.
Hybrid Theory eventually sold more than 30 million albums and became one of the top-selling albums since the start of this millennium.
The angst-ridden vocals of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington helped lead the group to global critical acclaim.
The frontman’s brooding charisma – added to the group’s blend of rap, metal and electronic music – spawned a string of chart-topping hits.
Later in the 2000s, as the band’s success took off, he again began using drugs before returning to sobriety, telling Spin Magazine in 2009: “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic.
“It’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass.
“It’s cool to be a part of recovery.
“Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another,” he added.
The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards.
Linkin Park had a string of hits including Faint, Numb, What I’ve done, In The End and Crawling, and collaborated with rapper Jay-Z.
Their latest music video for the song ‘Talking to Myself’ was released on the same day this father of six took his life. Another coincidence of his day of departure: Sound Garden’s Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May, would have turned 53. Bennington and Cornell were close for many years. The two had toured together and joined each other onstage, and Bennington even performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s private Los Angeles funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26. He was also the Godfather to Cornell’s son Christopher.
Upon hearing the horrible news of Cornell’s death, the night before Linkin Park’s Kimmel tribute, Bennington posted a heart-wrenching open letter to Cornell, writing:
“I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with their song ‘Rocky Raccoon’ playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept.
“I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.
“I just watched a video of you singing ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. Send me love to your wife and children, friends, and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
With All My Love
In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also sang for the Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 replacing Scott Weiland, for his side project Dead by Sunrise, and Kings of Chaos.
Bennington leaves six children from two marriages and an early relationship as he moves on to another life at 41.
For millennials, who were in their teens when Linkin Park’s blockbuster debut Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Bennington looms as a defining rock star of the era. A singer capable of both piercing bombast and pained sensitivity, Bennington’s nimble tenor initially played off the rapping of Mike Shinoda, but over time his versatility and soulfulness made him the band’s primary frontman. For kids who found solace in Linkin Park’s music, Bennington was the band member they were most likely to connect with.
May 21, 2017 – Jimmy LaFave was born July 12, 1955 in Willis Point, Texas where he was also raised. Music was his destiny from very early on, but he started his journey on drums.
Some years later he moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma and played in the school band but at age 15 LaFave switched to guitar and began writing and singing his own songs in a band called The Night Tribe.
After graduating from high school LaFave played music at night while working during the day. He had a job as the manager of a music club called Up Your Alley and during this period recorded the albums Down Under in 1979 and Broken Line in 1981. Continue reading Jimmy LaFave 5/2017
9 May 2017 – Robert Miles was born Roberto Concina on 3 November 1969 in Fleurier Switzerland to an Italian military family stationed there. He did not return to Italian soil until the age of ten, settling in the town of Fagagna. Raised primarily on the classic American soul sound of the 1970s, Miles began studying piano as a teen, and at 13 began DJ’ing local house parties. By the late ’80s he was regularly spinning hardcore trance sets at Venice area clubs under the name Robert Milani, eventually adopting the name Miles as symbolic of the musical journey awaiting him. In time, he assembled a basic studio system comprising a sampler, mixer, keyboard, and 32-track digital board, accepting production work with the Italian label Metromaxx. In 1990, he used his savings to establish his own recording studio and a pirate radio station. Continue reading Robert Miles 5/2017
April 14, 2017 – Bruce Langhorne was born on May 14, 1938 in Tallahassee, Florida.
At age 4 he moved with his mother to Spanish Harlem, New York. When he was a 12-year old violin prodigy living in Harlem in the fifties, he accidentally blew several of his finger tips off with a cherry bomb that he held onto for too long. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Bruce looked up at his distraught mom and said, “At least I don’t have to play violin anymore.” In a gang fight, he got involved in a stabbing and left the country for Mexico for 2 years. By age 17 he started to pick the guitar. Continue reading Bruce Langhorne 4/2017
April 11, 2017 – Toby Smith (Jamiroquai) was born Toby Grafftey-Smith on October 29, 1970.
Growing up he received classical training on piano and early on developed a keen interest in the “nerdy” side of music. At age 14 he started recording his own tunes on a Tascam and produced his first record at 17, then signed his track “Kleptomaniacs” to London Records. At about the same time his sister took him clubbing in London and he developed an interest in house (dance) music. Continue reading Toby Smith 4/2017
April 5, 2017 – Paul O’Neill (Trans Siberian Orchestra) was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City on February 23, 1956.
The second born child in a household with ten children he was raised in a home filled with art and literature. “Back then, in the 60s, it was OK to be smart and artistic,” he said. “I loved books. I loved music. I loved Broadway — and I had it right down the street, y’know? It really was a special, magical time.” He learned to play guitar and became a rock fan and began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. Continue reading Paul O’Neill 4/2017
April 3, 2017 – Brenda Jones was born on December 7, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Frazier Jones, she was raised in a gospel singing family. The Jones Girls Valorie, Brenda and Shirley spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis, between Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the ’60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the latter part of the decade, but sales of those records weren’t much more encouraging.
It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities — the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists’ singles. Aretha Frankling, Lou Rawls, Betty Everett, Peabo Bryson and dozens of other charting soul acts. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson’s activities as a producer and arranger. Continue reading Brenda Jones 4/2017
April 1, 2017 – Lonnie Brooks, Chicago bluesman who achieved fame in the late 70s, was born Lee Baker Jr. on December 18, 1933 in Dubuisson, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. He learned to play blues from his banjo-picking grandfather but did not think about a career in music until after he moved to Port Arthur, Texas, in the early 1950s. There he heard live performances by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Long John Hunter, Johnny Copeland and others and began to think about making money from music.
He focused on the guitar comparatively late in life, when he was already in his 20s. But he learned fast and a little while later, Award winning Zydeco king Clifton Chenier heard Brooks strumming his guitar on his front porch in Port Arthur and offered him a job in his touring band. Continue reading Lonnie Brooks 4/2017
March 4, 2017 – Valerie Carter was born on February 5, 1953 in Winterhaven, near Orlando, Florida.
Being an “army brat” she moved between many cities in her young years. Her first break in music came while living with her family in Tucson, where she joined a band fronted by Gretchen Ronstadt, sister of Linda Ronstadt.
Next she was off to New York City where she formed the folk band Howdy Moon. They headed to California, released a self-titled album in 1974 and regularly played at the West Hollywood rock club, the Troubadour.
In the early 1970s in Los Angeles, she became known as a songwriter, penning tunes such as Cook With Honey for Judy Collins and Love Needs a Heart for Jackson Browne, who was introduced to her by Lowell George of Little Feat fame.
March 4, 2017 – Tommy Page was born on May 24, 1970 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He began playing the piano at age eight and learned keyboards at age 12, joining his brother in a band. Obviously gifted, he graduated from Highschool at age 15 and found himself in New York attending the Stern School of business at age 16.
To help support himself during his freshman year at Stern (then 16), Page worked as a cloakroom attendant in a popular New York nightclub called Nell’s. The job gave Page a chance to play his demo tape to the house DJ, who then used the demos as part of his club mixes. The unknown sounds were so impressive that soon Page was introduced to Sire Records founder Seymour Stein. Continue reading Tommy Page 3/2017
February 17, 2017 – Peter Skellern was born in Bury, Lancashire on March 14, 1947.
He played trombone in a school band and served as organist and choirmaster in a local church before attending the Guildhall School of Music, from which he graduated with honors in 1968. Because “I didn’t want to spend the next 50 years playing Chopin,” he joined the vocal harmony band March Hare which, after changing their name to Harlan County, recorded a country-pop album before disbanding in 1971.
Married with two children, Skellern worked as a hotel porter in Shaftesbury, Dorset, before music struck lucky at the end of 1972 with a self-composed U.K. number three hit, “You’re a Lady.” The record featured the Congregation, who had previously recorded the top ten hit “Softly Whispering I Love You”.
“You’re a Lady” reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and number 50 in the United States Billboard Hot 100 and sold several million copies world wide. Continue reading Peter Skellern 2/2017
February 5, 2017 – David Axelrod was born on April 17, 1931 in Los Angeles, California. His father was active in radical labour union politics who died when he was 13 and he was raised in tumultuous LA’s South Central Crenshaw neighborhood, where Axelrod’s future musical direction was influenced by the multicultural environment of the mostly black neighborhood.
At the time Axelrod’s parents moved into the area, it was changing from a working-class white district south of downtown Los Angeles into an area of predominantly African American stores, businesses, and homes. Even today, Crenshaw remains one of the most notable African-American communities in Los Angeles, with a cultural scene that includes museums devoted to black history and an active political life strengthened by some of the city’s most ardent black activists. During Axelrod’s youth, the Crenshaw district included the main thoroughfare of African-American cultural life in Los Angeles: Central Avenue–a street filled with music clubs, barber shops, beauty parlors, and other institutions of the African-American community. The fact that Axelrod was white did not prevent him from absorbing many of these influences.
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.Continue reading John Wetton 1/2017
January 23, 2017 – Bobby Freeman was born on June 13, 1940 in Alameda County and raised in San Francisco.
By his early teens Bobby was not only literally singing on street corners in the city’s Fillmore District but also spending every hour not in school dancing at the Booker T Washington community centre. He got his first taste of the record business as a tenor with a local vocal group led by Alvin Thomas; the Romancers, who made two singles for Dootsie Williams’ Dootone label in 1955. The group cut a further single for the local Bay Tone label (on which Freeman does not appear) before splintering, while Bobby formed another team, the Vocaleers. Having learned piano from Thomas, Freeman also began to write his own material in the mould of Little Richard and Fats Domino.
Itinerant deejay Jim “Specs”Hawthorne caught the group at a football rally at Mission High School in early 1958 and called for an audition at Sound Recorders. The rest of the Vocaleers weren’t interested, and so it was just Freeman and a bongo-playing pal who showed up at Sound Recorders in San Francisco. “Hawthorne asked, do you have any original songs, and I said yeah,” Bobby recounted to me in 2000. “He said OK, when I do this [points], start doing the material. There were some other songs, ‘Follow The Rainbow’, ‘Responsible’, and then we got into ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. Where the break is, the song was over. But Hawthorne wanted to get his money’s worth with whatever he was being charged, so he told me, do some more. That’s why the song starts up again – it wasn’t designed that way. But now, they call that a hook.”Continue reading Bobby Freeman 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Walter “Junie” Morrison was born sometime in 1954 in Dayton, Ohio. The exact date has not been found as if intentionally hidden by his later alter ego J.S. Theracon, showing up on an infrequent basis during his life, mostly when contractual obligations got in the way of making music.
Morrison sang and played piano as a child in church, soon learning a range of other instruments such as guitar , bass, drums and brasses, making gospel a foundation for his music. He soon became a student school choir director and orchestra conductor at Roosevelt High School in Dayton. In 1970, in his mid-teens, after graduating from high school, he joined the funk band the Ohio Players.
He became their lead singer, trumpeter and keyboardist, and soon their musical director and producer, involved in some of their major hits and the albums Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy. He was largely responsible for writing and arranging the band’s 1973 hit single, “Funky Worm“. The band members nicknamed him Junie, he told the Red Bull Music Academy, because they were older. “It took quite a while before they let me forget my age and lack of experience in the ‘ways of the world,’ ” he said.Continue reading Junie Morrison 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Maggie Roche was born on October 26, 1951 in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Together with her sister Terre, she dropped out of Park Ridge High School to tour as a duo in the late sixties. Maggie wrote most of the songs, with Terre contributing to a few. The sisters got a big real break when Paul Simon brought them in as backup singers on his 1973 #2 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. In return they got his support and an appearance by the Oakridge Boys, when they recorded their only album as a duo in 1975 titled Seductive Reasoning.
A year later their youngest sister Suzzy completed the Irish singer/songwriting trio The Roches. Maggie was their main songwriter in the beginning as they became increasingly known for their unusual harmonies, quirky lyrics and comedic stage presence. Continue reading Maggie Roche 1/2017
January 16, 2017 – Steve Wright (Greg Kihn Band) was born in El Cerrito California in 1950.
Wright had played in a band called Traumatic Experience with El Cerrito residents John Cuniberti and Jimmy Thorsen.
After changing their name to Hades Blues Works (later, Hades) they expanded into a quartet with Craig Ferreira in 1970
In 1975 Greg Kihn had already signed to Berserkley Records and had a song included on the album Beserkley Chartbusters before entering the studio to record the debut album with a new band consisting of Wright, Robbie Dunbar and Larry Lynch – the Greg Kihn Band.
January 8, 2017 – Peter Eardley Sarstedt was born on Dec 10, 1941 in Delhi, India where his parents Albert and Coral Sarstedt, worked in the British civil service as India was still a British possession in 1942.
The following year, his parents moved the family to Kurseong near Darjeeling, in the shadow of Mt. Everest, where Albert took over the management of a tea plantation. Peter Sarstedt was one of six children and, like his siblings, was educated at boarding schools favored by the British living in India for much of his childhood. From the time he was five years old, the family relocated to Calcutta, and later — amid the turmoil and uncertainty following independence in 1947 — the family finally moved to England in 1954. Albert Sarstedt had passed away during the extended preparation for the relocation, and it was a truly new existence that they began in South London that year. Continue reading Peter Sarstedt 1/2017
January 6, 2017 – Sylvester Potts (the Contours) was born on January 22, 1938 in Detroit and attended North Eastern High, the same school where Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, and Bobby Rogers were educated at.
His love of music and the excitement he got from performing, made him once say he wanted to die on stage. In the fall of 1960, a Detroit group called The Contours (consisting of Joe Billingslea, Billy Gordon, Billy Hoggs, Leroy Fair and Hubert Johnson) auditioned for Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Gordy turned the act down, prompting the group to pay a visit to the home of group member Hubert Johnson’s cousin, R&B star and Gordy associate Jackie Wilson. Wilson in turn got The Contours a second audition with Gordy, at which they sang the same songs they had at the first audition, the same way they claim, but this time were signed to a seven-year contract.Continue reading Sylvester Potts 1/2017
December 25, 2016 – George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, North London, England on June 25, 1963. His father, was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, who moved to England in the 1950s and his mother, was a dancer. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth.
While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire where he attended Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, and where he also befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. Continue reading George Michael 12/2016
December 24, 2016 – RickParfitt (Status Quo) was born in Woking, Surrey on 12 October 1948. His father was an insurance salesman “who was a drinker and a gambler” and his mother worked in cake shops. He described his upbringing as “wonderful”, and has described his childhood self as a “typical naughty boy”.
Parfitt first started to learn to play the guitar at the age of 11. He began playing a guitar when he was 11. In 1963 Parfitt was playing guitar and singing in The Feathers, a pub on Goodge Street in Camden, London, when his father was approached by an agent from Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, who gave Parfitt a performing job. At the camp Parfitt joined Jean and Gloria Harrison, performing at the time as the double act The Harrison Twins, to form a cabaret trio called The Highlights.
December 7, 2016 – Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born on 10 November 1947 in Poole, Dorset near Bournemouth, England. Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor called Don Strike.
first learned to play guitar at age 12. After 12 months of guitar lessons, Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows but his instructor “wouldn’t have any of it.” After he left school, Lake worked as a draughtsman for a short period of time before he joined The Shame, where he is featured on their single “Don’t Go Away Little Girl”, written by Janis Ian. Lake then became a member of The Gods, which he described as “a very poor training college”.
November 12, 2016 – Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1941. An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play.
He started classical piano lessons when he was 4 years old, played baritone horn in his high school marching band and also learned trumpet. At 14 he started gigging in Oklahoma; since it was a dry state at the time, he could play clubs without being old enough to drink. Soon after he graduated from high school, Jerry Lee Lewis hired him and his band to back him on tour for two months.
October 23, 2016 –Pete Burns was born on August 5, 1959 in Port Sunlight, Cheshire, England. His mother was the daughter of a German Jew and had escaped Nazi Germany before the war. She met Burns’s father, Francis Burns, then a soldier, in Vienna, from where they returned together to Liverpool.
Burns described his upbringing as unconventional. His mother was an alcoholic, and attempted suicide several times when Burns was growing up.
“As far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn’t a mother, but she’s the best human being that I’ve ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me,” he said. “She called me ‘Star Baby’ and she knew that there was something special in me.”
March 10, 2016 – Keith Noel Emerson (Emerson,Lake,Palmer ELP) was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 2 November 1944. His family had been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the Second World War. He grew up in Goring-by-Sea, in the borough of the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex and attended West Tarring School. His parents were musically inclined and arranged for him to take piano lessons starting at the age of 8. His father, Noel, was an amateur pianist, and thought that Emerson would benefit most as a player from being versatile and being able to read music. However, he never received any formal musical training, and described his piano teachers as being “local little old ladies”. He learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz and rock themes. Continue reading Keith Emerson 3/2016
March 8, 2016 – George Martin (the Fifth Beatle) A trained musician, George Martin worked in the BBC’s classical department before moving to EMI and its subsidiary, Parlophone, producing jazz and classical as well as comedy records for Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov. He was the genius producer behind a wave of hit British acts in the 1960s, including Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, but it was his work with four other Liverpudlians that understandably overshadowed them all.
The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June 1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best’s drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay, that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.
February 4, 2016 – Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the eldest of nine siblings. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his grandmother in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones, with whom he formed a “cookin’ little band” while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He made frequent trips to Chicago to visit his mother, Edna, and stepfather, Verdine Adams, who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.
January 28, 2016 – Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane founding guitarist) was born on March 17, 1941, in San Francisco, California. Kantner had a half-brother and a half-sister by his father’s first marriage, both much older than he. His father was of German descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His mother died when he was eight years old, and Kantner remembered that he was not allowed to attend her funeral. His father sent him to the circus instead. After his mother’s death, his father, who was a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner to Catholic military boarding school. At age eight or nine, in the school’s library, he read his first science fiction book, finding an escape by immersing himself in science fiction and music from then on. As a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and he decided to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero, Pete Seeger. He attended Saint Mary’s College High School, Santa Clara University and San Jose State College, completing a total of three years of college before he dropped out to enter the music scene.
December 27, 2015 – Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) was born Stephen Carlton Wright on December 20, 1947 in Leeds, England. When he was 9, his family moved to Melbourne, Australia and four years later to Sydney where they lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel. He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws, and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells, which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music, but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.
November 10, 2015 – Allen Toussaint was born January 14, 1938 in New Orleans.
Allen Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years plus career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with music giants The Judds, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Mac “Dr. John” Rebannac, Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original) Meters, Glen Campbell, The Band, Little Feat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Eric Gale and the countless others.
Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon) was born on October 18, 1949.
Gary Richrath provided much of the creative and driving force in the early days of the band, Gary Richrath wrote much of the material for REO Speedwagons first twelve albums. In 1977, Gary Richrath and other members of the band took over their own production, which resulted in the band’s first platinum album. Gary Richrath wrote many of the band’s most memorable songs including “Golden Country” from 1972, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” 1973, “Only the Strong Survive” 1979 and “Take It On the Run” from 1981.
July 8, 2015 – Ernie Maresca was born on August 21st 1938 in the Bronx, New York City.
He began singing and writing in a doo-wop group, the Monterays, later renamed as the Desires, and, after Maresca left, as the Regents, who had a hit with “Barbara Ann”.
In 1957, his demo of his song “No One Knows” came to the attention of Dion DiMucci, who recorded it successfully with the Belmonts on Laurie Records, the record reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart in 1958.
Ernie Maresca was a fairly successful songwriter in the New York doo wop/rock & roll scene in the first half of the 1960s, most known for writing several of Dion’s biggest hits (by himself or in collaboration with Dion): “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” “Lovers Who Wander,” “A Lover’s Prayer,” and “Donna the Prima Donna.”
27 June 2015 – Christopher Russell Edward ‘Chris’ Squire was born March 4, 1948 in the Kingsbury area of London. was an English musician, singer and songwriter. He was best known as the bassist and founding member of the progressive rock band Yes. He was the only member to appear on each of their 21 studio albums, released from 1969 to 2014.
Squire took an early interest in church music and sang in the local church and school choirs. After he took up the bass guitar at age sixteen, his earliest gigs were in 1964 for The Selfs, which later evolved into The Syn. In 1968, Squire formed Yes with singer Jon Anderson; he would remain the band’s sole bassist for the next 47 years.
June 9, 2015 – James Last was born Hans Last on April 17, 1929 in Bremen Germany, the third son for Louis and Martha Last, and christened Hans. His father, a post-office worker, was a keen amateur musician, competent on both drums and bandoneon. He learned to play piano as child, and bass as a teenager. He joined Hans-Gunther Oesterreich’s Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946, when he was 17 years old.
The brothers Last, Robert, Werner and young Hans, enjoyed their game of street football and so father Louis was pleased when all three expressed more than just an passing interest in music.
By the age of nine, young Hans could play “Hanschen Klein”, a German folk song on the piano, but his first music teacher, a lady, claimed at the age of ten he was totally unmusical. A year or so later with tutor number two, a gentleman, things started to happen. At the age of fourteen Hans was off to military school in Frankfurt where he studied brass, piano and tuba.
June 3, 2015 – Andrew Maurice Gold was born on August 2, 1951 at Burbank, Los Angeles, into a musical family. His father, Ernest Gold, composed the scores for dozens of Hollywood films, including Exodus (1960) — for which he won an Oscar — Too Much Too Soon (1958) and On The Beach (1959); his mother, the classically-trained soprano Marni Nixon, was best known for supplying the singing voices for film actresses, notably Deborah Kerr in The King And I (1956), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964). She also appeared as Sister Sophia in The Sound Of Music (1965).
Andrew was 13 when he started writing pop songs, although he never learned to read music. At Oakwood School in north Hollywood, he introduced himself to the singer Linda Ronstadt when she played a gig there with her group the Stone Poneys . By the early 1970s he had joined her band, and in 1974 played a variety of instruments and made the musical arrangements for Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough album Heart Like A Wheel, as well as for her next four albums. Among other accomplishments, he played the majority of instruments on “You’re No Good,” Ronstadt’s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the same on “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave” and many other classic hits. He was in her band from 1973 until 1977, and then sporadically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.Continue reading Andrew Gold 6/2015
May 6, 2015 –Errol Brown was born on December 11, 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his family, to the UK when he was twelve years old. In the late 60s, Errol and his friend Tony Wilson formed a band which was first called ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ but this was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, but Errol was told he needed permission. He was contacted by Apple Records, discovered that Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended. But it was in the disco era of the mid-1970s when Hot Chocolate became a big success.
May 1, 2015 – John Tout was reportedly born in Hackney South London in September of 1944.
He got a piano on his 8th birthday and studied music for the next 8 years. He was mostly into classical Russian composers. By age 18 he joined his first band, got entangled with the Rupert’s People line up and replaced John Hawken on the keys for Renaissance between 1970 and 1980 and again from 1999 to 2002. When he joined the band, in 1970, Renaissance had undergone a complete overhaul from its beginnings as a project founded by Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, and by the end of 1970, no original members remained.
April 30, 2015 – Ben E King was born on September 28, 1938, became perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a US Top 10 hit evergreen, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the UK in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group the Drifters.
When you think of Ben E. King, you don’t think of teenage crushes, even though his songs were the soundtrack for hundreds of millions of them. You think of eternal life and everlasting love, or at least the desire for these things.
March 16, 2015 – Andy Fraser (Free) was born on Andrew McLan “Andy” Fraser 3 July 1952 in the Paddington area of Central London and started playing the piano at the age of five. He was trained classically until twelve, when he switched to guitar. By thirteen he was playing in East End, West Indian clubs and after being expelled from school in 1968 at age 15, enrolled at Hammersmith F.E. College where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, pioneering blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner, who became a father-figure to him.
Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a telephone call from John Mayall, who was looking for a bass player, Korner suggested Fraser and, still only 15, Andy was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.
Korner was also instrumental in Fraser’s next move, to the ultimately very influential rock band Free, which consisted of Paul Rodgers (vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums). Fraser produced and co-wrote the song “All Right Now” with Rodgers, a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering over 1,000,000 radio plays in the United States by late 1989. In October 2006 a BMI London Million-Air Award was given to Rodgers and Fraser to mark over 3 million radio and television plays of “All Right Now“.
Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
Fraser also co-wrote two other hit singles for Free, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. Free initially split in 1971, and Fraser formed a trio, Toby, with guitarist Adrian Fisher (later with Sparks), and drummer Stan Speake. Material was recorded but not released, and Fraser re-joined Free in December 1971. He left for the second time in June 1972.
After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding plus drummer, Marty Simon. Despite being well received by the critics, especially for Spedding’s tasteful guitar work, Fraser left after their debut album, First Water(1973).
He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. They released two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975, before that too folded. Attempts to form a band with Frankie Miller came to nothing, and Fraser re-located to California, to concentrate on songwriting. He crafted hits for Rod Stewart, Chaka Khan, Paul Young, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, Bob Seger, Randy Crawford, Etta James, Frankie Miller, and Ted Nugent.
Fraser’s most famous compositions remain “All Right Now” and “Every Kinda People”, which Robert Palmer recorded in 1978 for his Double Fun album. In 1984, Fraser released another album of his own. Fine, Fine Line featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel, Bob Marlette (keyboards), Michael Thompson (guitar) and David Faragher (bass), with Fraser contributing vocals.
Having been diagnosed with HIV, he was later diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer that had been very rare until the onset of the AIDS epidemic. This time-line was called into question by Fraser’s subsequent revelation that he was homosexual. He played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at Woodstock ’94, but otherwise kept a low profile until 2005, when a new release, Naked and Finally Free, appeared. At the time of the new album’s release, Fraser was interviewed by Dmitry M. Epstein for the DME website and revealed: “To be quite honest, I never thought of myself as a bass-player. I actually only used the bass-guitar because the other kids in our school-band wanted to be the singer, or drummer, or guitarist. I have always thought of myself as doing whatever was necessary to make the whole thing work. I’m happy adding piano, or tambourine, or anything that helped”.
In early 2006, writing for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra conducted a comprehensive interview with Fraser, covering his career, influences and instruments and, in April, Fraser responded to the revival of interest in his music by announcing two rare live shows at Southern California’s Temecula Community Arts Theatre on 4 May. The shows, highlighted by an eight-piece band, were his first live performances since the 1994 Woodstock reunion.
In his later years Fraser was very active as CEO of his record label/multi-media company Mctrax International, which lead him to sign to his label UK protégé Tobi Earnshaw in 2008. He enjoyed getting back on the road in recent years, touring in the US, UK and Japan, as well as performing on stage playing bass for TOBI. Andy was currently working on a multitude of projects including the Summer release of “Standing At Your Window”, which he co-wrote with Frankie Miller, planning a UK/European Tour that included the Sweden Rock Festival alongside former Free bandmate Simon Kirke in Spike’s Free House, scheduling the release of his autobiography, and the release of “Tears of a Mermaid”, a film he was co-producing with his daughter Hannah “Mermaid” Fraser.
In 2008, Fraser wrote and sang the song “Obama (Yes We Can)”, to support the campaign to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States.
In May 2010, Andy Fraser was interviewed for BBC2’s documentary series titled Rock ‘n’ Roll. The project includes a five-part documentary, narrated by British music show anchor-man Mark Radcliffe plus online and radio content. “The documentary aims to explain the success of some of the greatest bands of the past 50 years, including the Who, the Police, the Doors, Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters”.
In mid-2013, Fraser played a supporting role as bassist in the band of protege Tobi Earnshaw for a short series of UK dates. Accompanying Earnshaw and Fraser was a veteran ally, guitarist Chris Spedding. Fraser has produced and mentored Earnshaw on a number of album releases.
Fraser died on 16 March 2015 at his home in California. He was 62 and had been battling cancer and AIDS. The cause of his death however was a heart attack as result of hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
A survivor of both cancer and AIDS, Fraser had a close brush with death in the 90’s, so he took his health very seriously. “Andy practiced a dedicated daily exercise routine and followed a strict healthy diet, he was in excellent shape. We celebrated with him as he performed onstage just weeks before he passed. Andy was bouncing and jamming, flying high on life right to the end!”, states his daughter Hannah Fraser.
He was also a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights, dedicating much of his time and resources to humanitarian and environmental causes. “Andy was such a passionate musician, such a good man, such an unconditional support to me as a father. He had a burning desire to do good in this world, and he single-mindedly dedicated himself to promoting the causes which he believed in.”, states other daughter Jasmine Fraser.
On the news of his death tributes began flooding in from all over the world, Joe Bonamassa dedicated 4 shows at the Apollo Hammersmith in his honor, Gov’t Mule played a tribute to the Free song Little Bit of Love, co-written by Fraser and a show he was slated to perform at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on May 25th, and many feature articles in Newspapers and Magazines, worldwide.
March 4, 2015 – Jim McCann, Irish guitarist and singer, was born in Dublin on October 26th 1944. He dropped out of University College Dublin where he was studying medicine, when he became interested in folk music during a 1964 summer in Birmingham, UK. He began to perform in folk clubs in the area, and, upon his return to Dublin, he joined a group called the Ludlow Trio in 1965. They had an Irish No.1 hit 1966, with “The Sea Around Us”, but the band broke up the following year.
Jim began a solo career, releasing an album, McCann and making several appearances on several folk programs for Telefis Éireann.
March 11, 2015 – Jimmy Greenspoon aka Maestro was born on February 7, 1948 in Los Angeles and raised in Beverly Hills. He was taught the piano at aged 7 by his mother, the silent screen star, Mary O’Brien. While a senior at school he formed a surf group The New Dimensions, in 1963, before attending the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to studiy piano. Jimmy worked on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s with the groups Sound of the Seventh Son and The East Side Kids. His bands held residence at The Trip, Stratford on Sunset later The House Of Blues, Brave New World, Bidos Litos, Ciros, and The Whiskey.
Feb 22, 2015 – Chris Rainbow (Camel) was born Christopher James Harley in Glasgow, Scotland on November 18, 1946.
He started out in a band called Hopestreet, in 1972-3. Following this he adopted the stage name “Rainbow” to avoid confusion with Steve Harley and recorded as Christopher Rainbow, then Chris Rainbow and released three solo albums: Home of the Brave in 1975, Looking Over My Shoulder in 1977 and White Trails in 1979 which produced hits including “Give Me What I Cry For” and “Solid State Brain”.
February 12, 2015 – Sam Andrew III was born in Taft, California on December 18, 1941, but having a military father he moved a great deal as a child. His early musical influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard and by the time he was seventeen living in Okinawa, he already had his own band, called the “Cool Notes”, and his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand. He also listened to a great deal of Delta blues. His brother Leland Andrew frequently stated his brother was the “Benny Goodman of Japan”.
He attended the University of San Francisco, and became involved with the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s. However it was not until he returned from over a year in Paris and almost a year in Germany, that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street. After playing together at Albin’s home, Sam suggested they form a band. They found guitarist James Gurley and drummer Chuck Jones, and Big Brother and the Holding Company was formed ready for their first gig, at the Trips Festival in January 1966. Soon after painter and jazz drummer David Getz, replaced Jones. As Big Brother and the Holding Company began to gel, Andrew brought many songs into the band.Continue reading Sam Andrew III 2/2015
January 31, 2015 – Don Covay was born Donald Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina on March 24, 1938. Covay was the son of a Baptist preacher who died when his son was eight. The family soon after relocated to Washington, D.C., where he and his siblings formed a gospel group dubbed the Cherry Keys; while in middle school, however, some of Covay’s classmates convinced him to make the leap to secular music, and in 1953 he joined the Rainbows, a local doo wop group that previously enjoyed a national smash with “Mary Lee.”
By the time Covay joined the Rainbows the original lineup had long since splintered, and his recorded debut with the group, 1956’s “Shirley,” was not a hit. He stuck around for one more single, “Minnie,” before exiting; contrary to legend, this iteration of the Rainbows did not include either a young Marvin Gaye or Billy Stewart, although both fledgling singers did occasionally fill in for absent personnel during live performances.
January 29, 2015 – Rod McKuen was born on April 29th, 1933 in Oakland, CA. He ran away from home at the age of 11 and drifted along the West Coast, supporting himself as a ranch hand, surveyor, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy, lumberjack, stuntman and radio disk jockey.
He went on to become one of the best-selling poets in the USA during the late 60s and throughout his career. He produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. His songs include “Jean”, “Seasons in the Sun”, “The Loner”, and “I Think of You”.
He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions. In the early 1960s, he moved to France, where he first met the Belgian singer-songwriter and chanson singer Jacques Brel. He was instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world.
Jan 20, 2015 – Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream) was born in Tilsit, East Prussia, on D-Day 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. Members of his family, including his father, had been killed by the Nazis and his mother and surviving family settled in West Berlin after the war.
He took piano lessons from the age of 12, and started playing guitar at 15. After showing an early aptitude for art, Froese enrolled at the Academy of the Arts in West Berlin to study painting and sculpture. In 1965, he formed a band called The Ones, who played psychedelic rock, and some rock and R&B standards.
While playing in Spain, The Ones were invited to perform at Salvador Dalí’s villa in Cadaqués. Froese’s encounter with Dalí was highly influential, inspiring him to pursue more experimental directions with his music. The Ones disbanded in 1967, having released only one single (“Lady Greengrass” / “Love of Mine”).
Dec 21, 2014 – Udo Jürgens wasborn Udo Jürgen Bockelmann on September 30, 1934 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Udo grew up in the family castle Ottmanach in Kärnten with his brothers John (1931) and Manfred (1943). In 1939 he gets a harp (harmonica) as a present and he teaches himself to play national anthems on it. In 1942 he moves up the ladder with an accordeon and six years later he gets his formal music education at the conservatory of Klagenfurt in piano, singing and compositions.
In the 1950 he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime” and he gets his music education on the road with the Udo Bolan band and several other reincarnations. The 50s is a long learning curve and his first record deal comes apart in a big flop and in 1956 he changes his artist name into Udo Jürgens.
December 18, 2014 – Lawrence Joel – LarryHenley was born on June 30, 1937 in Arp, Texas. He grew up in Odessa, Texas. Little is known about his early years other than that he had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter. He met the Mathis brothers Dean and Mark when he auditioned for their band the Newbeats in 1962 in Shreveport Louisiana, singing in a distinctive falsetto that would bring them their first and only global hit song “Bread and Butter” in 1964 when it charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. Subsequently they toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour. There were some lesser known hits such as “Run Baby Run”, but the group never reached the Bread and Butter popularity again.
August 31, 2014 – Jimi Jamison (Survivor) was born in rural Durant, Mississippi, but moved with his mother to Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his birth.
In his teens, he taught himself to play the guitar and piano while honing his vocal abilities. By middle school (Messick Jr. High, Memphis), he was playing in a band called The Debuts, who recorded what became a local hit song (“If I Cry” (1968) on the Scudder label. He also was part of the band D-Beaver, who released one album (Combinations, 1971).
By late 1970, Jamison was fronting the local Memphis band, Target. Jamison and the group released a pair of albums, Target (1976) and Captured (1977), on A&M Records, plus a live concert at the High Cotton school (which marked the beginning of a contract with the record company) and opened concerts for Black Sabbath, Boston, and KISS.
July 30, 2014 –Dick Wagner was born on December 14th 1942 in Oelwein, Iowa, but grew up in Saginaw, Michigan area and graduated from Waterford Township high school in 1961. His first band, called the Bossmen, was a favourite in the Detroit area and scored radio play with the Wagner-penned composition “Baby Boy”, “You’re the Girl for Me” and others.
Wagner formed his next band, the Frost, with Donny Hartman, Bobby Rigg and Gordy Garris, in the late 1960s and built up a substantial following in the Michigan area. The band featured the dual lead guitars of Wagner and Hartman. The band released three albums during their tenure together on Vanguard Records: 1969’s Frost Music and Rock and Roll Music, plus 1970’s Through the Eyes of Love. Wagner was the principal songwriter, arranger and lead singer of The Frost. Their live appearances brought out large crowds of young fans throughout the region.
June 19, 2014 – Gerald “Gerry” Goffin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 11, 1939 and grew up in Queens. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School. After spending a year at the U.S. Naval Academy, he resigned from the Navy to study chemistry at Queens College.
While attending Queens College in 1958 he met Carol Klein, who had started writing songs under the name Carole King. They began collaborating on songwriting, with Carol writing the music and Gerry the lyrics, and…. began a relationship. Goffin had written the lyrics for a musical but needed someone to write the music. King didn’t like musicals; she liked rock ‘n’ roll. King was driven; Goffin went along. When King became pregnant, they married in August 1959, he was 20 and she was 17.
June 27, 2014 – Robert Dwayne Bobby Womack was born on March 4, 1944 into the songwriting and performing Womack family in Cleveland, Ohio’s Fairfax neighborhood.
Since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group The Valentinos and as Sam Cooke’s backing guitarist, Womack’s career spanned more than 60 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.
June 4, 2014 –Doc Neeson (the Angels) was born on January 4, 1947 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He became best known as the charismatic lead singer for the Australian hard rock band The Angels. His father, Bernard James Neeson, was a British Army soldier, and his mother was Kathleen née Corrigan. Doc was the eldest of six children. They were raised as Catholics although the family lived in a Protestant area of Belfast. He attended boarding school at Terenure College in Dublin.
April 11, 2014 – James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born in Bossier City, Louisiana on May 17th 1944. He had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.
During the height of the Vietnam War in 1967 he moved to Canada, where he began his career as a solo artist. After he became a Canadian citizen in 1973, he gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977, but did not resettle there until 2002.
Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field and raised in northern Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine, expressing a viewpoint most intelligent people harbored.
March 15, 2014 – Cees Veerman (the Cats) was born on October 6th 1943 in the Dutch town of Volendam, near Amsterdam. He initially played in the bands Electric Johnny & The Skyriders, Sputniks, Mystic Four and The Blue Cats, prior to becoming one of the founders of The Cats.
From the late 60s to the mid 70s, The Cats of which Cees was frontman and main song writer too, the band saw a large number of successes, including ‘Sure He’s a Cat’ and ‘Lea’ (1968), ‘Why’ (1969), ‘Marian’ (1970), ‘Where Have I Been Wrong’ (1970) and ‘Be My Day’ (1974). Their best-selling single was ‘One Way Wind’ from 1972, which reached No.3 in the Top 40.
The Cats are considered the founders of the Palingsound (Eel Sound), a category that is used to indicate a classic, typical Dutch style in pop music coming from the fishing village Volendam, famous for its wooden shoes.
24 February, 2014 –Franny Beecher was born on September 29, 1921 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Franny Beecher joined Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954, replacing guitarist Danny Cedrone, who had died. Frank Beecher had already enjoyed fame as the lead guitarist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1948-49. He appeared on The Toast of the Town show (which later became The Ed Sullivan Show) on CBS television with the Benny Goodman band in December, 1948. He is featured on two Benny Goodman albums, Modern Benny on Capitol and Benny Goodman at the Hollywood Palladium. Personnel lists generally refer to him as Francis Beecher.
Jan. 13, 2014 – Freddie Fingers Lee was born Frederick John Cheesman in Chopwell, Durham, England in 1937. As a child an accident with a dart led to the loss of his right eye. Throughout his life he made light of his disability and refused to let it be a handicap. Though hardly a household name, Lee was a wild and notorious presence on the UK rock and roll scene from the early ’60s up to his death. Born in 1937, he lost his right eye at the age of three after an accident with a stray dart thrown by his father. According to the North Hampton Chronicle, Lee’s daughter remembers her father occasionally dropping his glass eye in people’s drinks while they weren’t looking. “He was the most unconventional dad ever, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way.”
December 23, 2013 – Ricky Lawson was born on November 8, 1954. The Detroit native learned to play drums as a young teenager in Cooley High School. He would borrow his uncle’s drum set and carry it to his house across town via the Detroit bus system. He then played in the high school jazz band, which consisted of only five members, including the band director. Outside of the school jazz band he also played for The Sons of Soul, who performed at the 1969 Michigan State Fair, opening for The Jackson Five along with The Blazer, a band from Cooley High School in Detroit that included La Palabra.
While in high school, he had a talent for such sports as water polo and swimming. His swimming talent eventually earned him a scholarship to college. He only spent one year at college though, being invited to play drums for Stevie Wonder and from there developing into one of the nation’s top studio musicians in the 1980s.
August 14, 2013 – Allen Glover Lanier (Blue Öyster Cult) was born on June 25th 1946 on Long Island New York. In 1967 together with Eric Bloom, he was a founding member of the band Soft White Underbelly, but after a bad review in 1969 they changed their name to Oaxaca, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, to the Santos Sisters, until the band settled on Blue Öyster Cult in 1971.
They released their debut album Blue Öyster Cult in January 1972. Because of their unique sound and diversity, Blue Öyster Cult has been influential to many modern bands that span many genres and are important pioneers of several different styles of rock music that came to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Many heavy metal bands have cited them as a major influence, and bands such as Metallica and Iced Earth have covered their songs.
August 10, 2013 – Eydie Gormé was born Edith Garmezano on August 16, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.
She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.
Straight out of high school, she also started singing with various big bands in 1950 such as the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown.
She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”
July 26, 2013 – John Weldon,J.J. Cale was born on December 5, 1938 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was also raised and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1956.
As well as learning to play the guitar he began studying the principles of sound engineering while still living with his parents in Tulsa, where he built himself a recording studio. After graduation he was drafted into military service, studying at the Air Force Air Training Command in Rantoul, Illinois. Cale recalled, “I didn’t really want to carry a gun and do all that stuff so I joined the Air Force and what I did is I took technical training and that’s kind of where I learned a little bit about electronics.” Cale’s knowledge of mixing and sound recording turned out to play an important role in creating the distinctive sound of his studio albums.
June 4, 2013 – Joey Covington(Hot Tuna)was born Joseph Edward Michno on June 27, 1945 in East Conemaugh, Pennsylvania. He became a professional drummer as a young teenager, taking gigs in, among other things, polka bands and strip clubs in his hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A colorful character, on his website he listed among his fondest early memories “Getting to New York City on a Greyhound bus with a suitcase, a set of drums, and a hundred dollars in my pocket.
He built a long storied career starting at age 10 as a self-taught drummer/percussionist, along with becoming an award-winning songwriter and ultimately recording on over 22 albums, of which 16 went gold and platinum.
May 23, 2013 – Georges Moustaki was born on May 3, 1934 in Alexandria, Egypt as Giuseppe “Yussef” Mustacchi. His parents, Sarah and Nessim Mustacchi, were Francophile, Greek Jews from the island of Corfu, Greece. They moved to Egypt, where their young child first learned French. They owned the Cité du Livre – one of the finest book shops in the Middle East – in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria where many ethnic communities lived together.
At home, everyone spoke Italian because the aunt categorically refused to speak Greek. In the street, the children spoke Arabic.
May 25, 2013 – Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley & His Comets) was born on September 1st 1933 in Old Fort, North Carolina. He was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley’s country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951, but was hired to play double bass for the group, so Haley taught Marshall the basics of slap bass playing.
In September 1952, they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, he co-wrote with Haley the band’s first national hit, “Crazy Man, Crazy” although he did not receive co-authorship credit for it until 2002.
He played on all of Haley’s recordings between 1951 and the summer of 1955, including “Rock Around the Clock”. In September 1955, he, along with drummer Dick Richards and saxophone player Joey Ambrose, quit The Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own musical group, The Jodimars. They became one of the first rock ‘n’ roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas.
May 2, 2013 – Jeffrey John “Jeff” Hanneman was born on January 31, 1964 in Oakland CA, but grew up further south in Long Beach. He is best known as a founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer.
The story goes that in 1981 he approached Kerry King, when King was auditioning for a southern rock band “Ledger”. After the try-out session, the two guitarists started talking and playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs and decided to form their own band, and Slayer was born.
May 20, 2013 – Ray Manzarek Jr. was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating sound. His evocative keyboard playing fused rock, jazz, blues, classical and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new, and his restless artistic explorations continued unabated for the rest of his life.
He was born on February 12, 1939 to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven.
April 23, 2013 – Robert Charles “Bob” Brozman was born to a Jewish family living on Long Island, New York, United States. He began playing the guitar when he was 6.
He performed in a number of styles, including gypsy jazz, calypso, blues, ragtime, Hawaiian music, and Caribbean music. He also collaborated with musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds, from India, Africa, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Réunion. He has been called “an instrumental wizard” and “a walking archive of 20th Century American music”. Brozman maintained a steady schedule throughout the year, touring constantly throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. He recorded numerous albums and has won the Guitar Player Readers’ Poll three times in the categories Best Blues, Best World and Best Slide Guitarist. In 1999, Brozman and Woody Mann founded International Guitar Seminars, which hosts over 120 students annually at sites in California, New York, and Canada. From 2000 to 2005 his collaborations landed in the European Top 10 for World Music five times.Continue reading Bob Brozman 4/2013
April 22, 2013 – Richard Pierce Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013), known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He is best known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock. Richie Havens sang every song he knew when he was called in to open legendary Woodstock Festival in August 1969.
The Brooklyn born 6’6″ tall singer came out of a mixture of folk, blues, gospel and soul that he fine tuned during the sixties in New York’s Greenwich Village. A local celebrity he was originally scheduled as the fifth performer for the festival, but long artist travel delays forced him to play for 3 hours on end. Previously only regionally known, he came upon the world stage when he ran out of tunes and improvised his performance of ‘Freedom’ based on and incorporated into the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child‘, made famous by Nina Simone.
April 21, 2013 –Chrissy Amphlett was born on October 25, 1959. She grew up in Geelong, Australia as a singer and dancer and left home as a teenager to travel around England, France and Spain where she was imprisoned for three months for singing on the streets.
In 1976, Amphlett played the role of Linda Lips in the R-rated musical Let My People Come. In 1980 back in Australia, Amphlett met Mark McEntee at a concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1980 and they formed Divinyls with Jeremy Paul (Air Supply).
After several years performing in Sydney, they recorded several songs for the film Monkey Grip, in which Amphlett also acted. Amphlett made her film debut in Monkey Grip (1982) in a supporting role as the temperamental lead singer of a rock band. Monkey Grip’s author, Helen Garner, claimed that the film’s director preferred Amphlett in the role of Jane Clifton as “Clifton was neither good looking enough or a good enough singer to play herself.”
April 15, 2013 – Scott Miller was born on April 4th 1960; he committed suicide April 15, 2013, aged 53.
Miller’s father recorded his son singing the theme from the TV show Have Gun—Will Travel when Scott was four years old. Soon Miller was making up his own songs to sing. By age nine, he was taking folk and classical guitar lessons from a man named Tiny Moore, who had played with Bob Wills.
By 1971, Miller had switched to rock, and he was in his first band just a year later. Throughout his childhood, he had been interested in anything having to do with recording, and when he turned fifteen he finally got the TEAC four-track machine he’d been coveting. Like many others his age, Scott Miller loved the Beatles, the space program, and those shows that counted down to the number one song for the week. He started making his own countdown lists when he was twelve. Continue reading Scott Miller 4/2013
April 14, 2013 – George Jackson was born on March 12th 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He sang southern soul from the 1960s into the 1980s. As a writer, he provided scores of songs for Goldwax and Fame in the 1960s and Hi and Sounds Of Memphis in the 1970s. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.
His songwriter relationship with Malaco Records, however saw him pen material for dozens of artists, such as “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds, “Old Time Rock & Roll” for Bob Seeger and “The Only Way Is Up”, which became a UK No.1 for Yazz and Coldcut, having been written originally for Otis Clay.
Jackson recorded dozens of singles in the 1960s but made his mark as a writer, beginning with FAME Studios. He later was a songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. When Malaco bought Muscle Shoals Sound, they hired Jackson to write songs.
April 13, 2013 – Chi Cheng was born on July 15th 1970 in Davis, California, to Jeanne and Yin Yan Cheng. His father, a prominent Stockton cardiologist, was a Chinese immigrant. Cheng graduated from Tokay High School and attended California State University in Sacramento, enrolling in 1989. He worked on campus, wrote poetry, and played as the original full time bassist of the alternative metal band Deftones from Sacramento, founded in 1988.
Deftones released seven albums, with three Platinum: Adrenaline, Around the Fur, and White Pony and one Gold certification for Deftones.
Their many hit singles include “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”, “Change (In the House of Flies)”, “Minerva” and “Hole in the Earth”. Chi was also the author of a collection of poetry titled The Bamboo Parachute released in 2000 as a spoken word album. Cheng gave proceeds from the CD to various charities and to buy musical instruments for kids in the Sacramento area. He was a practicing Buddhist and maintained an interest in Taoism and Shamanism. In addition to his conversion to Buddhism during his college years, he also became a vegetarian.
April 11, 2013 – Don Blackman was born on September 1st 1953 in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
A childhood neighbor was Charles McPherson, and while still a teenager (15) he played in McPherson’s ensemble with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. At the beginning of the 1970s, he played electric piano with Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Roy Ayers, before becoming a member of Lenny White’s group Twennynine, for whom he penned songs such as “Peanut Butter” and “Morning Sunrise”, key pieces in Jamaica Queens’ ’70s’ jazz-funk explosion.
He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1982 on Arista Records, including the songs “Holding You, Loving You”, “Heart’s Desire” and “Since You’ve Been Away So Long” that became minor hits in Europe.
February 18, 2013- Kevin Ayers (Soft Machine) was born August 16, 1944 in Herne Bay, Kent, the son of journalist, poet and BBC producer Rowan Ayers, who later originated the BBC2 rock music program The Old Grey Whistle Test.
After his parents divorced and his mother married a civil servant, Ayers spent most of his childhood in Malaysia, where, he would later admit, he discovered a fondness for the slow and easy life.
At age 12, he returned to Britain and settled in Canterbury. There, he became a fledgling musician and founder of the “Canterbury sound”, an often whimsical English take on American psychedelia that merged jazz, folk, pop and nascent progressive rock. As psychedelic rock songwriter, guitarist and bassist, he was quickly drafted into the Wilde Flowers, a band that featured Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.
February 14, 2013 – Kevin Peek (Sky) was born Dec 21, 1946 in Adelaide, Australia. He initially played classical percussion in the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, before teaching himself the guitar.
In 1967 Peek formed a Psychedelic pop, progressive rock group, James Taylor Move but left by May 1968, moving to London. He returned to Adelaide, Australia, to join a newly formed rock band Quatro which, despite a contract from England’s Decca Records, proved artistically unsuccessful.
For a time, following their move to London, he and his fellow Adelaide-born bandmates—guitarist Terry Britten, bassist Alan Tarney, and drummer Trevor Spencer—made their livings as session musicians together, playing with everyone from the New Seekers and Mary Hopkin (Earth Song, Ocean Song) to Cliff Richard, whose regular backing band they became on stage and on record during the 1970s. Peek also worked with Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne (War of the Worlds), and Shirley Bassey, among others. He also wrote the theme music for the internationally-broadcast “Singapore Girl” television advertisements for Singapore Airlines.
February 4, 2013 – Reg Presley (The Troggs) was born Reginald Maurice Ball on 12 June 1941, was the lead singer with the 1960s British rock and roll band The Troggs, whose best known hit was “Wild Thing”, written by actor Jon Voight’s brother Wes (James Wesley) who went by the stage name Chip Taylor.
Presley, whose stage name was given to him in 1965 by the New Musical Express journalist and publicist Keith Altham, was born in Andover, Hampshire He joined the building trade on leaving school and became a bricklayer. He kept at this occupation until “Wild Thing” reached the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart in 1966.
Wild Thing made it to no.2 in England, but reached no.1 in the US as it sold 13 million copies worldwide. Presley then wrote the band’s only UK number one single with the follow-up “With a Girl Like You”. He also wrote the song “Love Is All Around”, which was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other hits from their short-lived career (1965-1968) were ‘ I can’t control myself’ and ‘Anyway that you want me’.
February 1, 2013 – Cecil Womack aka Zekuumba Zekkariyas was born on September 25th 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his brothers Bobby, Harry, Friendly and Curtis, began as a gospel group appearing on the gospel circuit in the mid 50s where they were seen by Sam Cooke of the Soul Stirrers. As Cooke’s protégés they changed their name to The Valentinos and in 1961 began to sing and record for secular audiences, producing hits such as “It’s All Over Now” and “Lookin’ for a Love”.
Cooke’s death at a L.A. motel in December 1964, had dramatic consequences for the Womack Brothers as SAR folded and Bobby Womack, who was now married to Sam Cooke’s widow, Barbara, left the group for a solo career. The Valentinos briefly disbanded before regrouping as a quartet in 1966, signing with Chess Records where they recorded the Northern Soul hit, “Sweeter than the Day Before”, written by Cecil Womack and Mary Wells. However, the group got dropped from Chess in 1968 after only two singles and Cecil Womack who had married former Motown artiste Mary Wells decided to leave the Valentinos.
January 27, 2013 – Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner was born on March 14th 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Cincinnati, the oldest of 14 children. He ran away from home as a young teenager and played the harmonica on street corners for change.
He joined the The Ohio Untouchables when they regrouped in 1964, which with Leroy’s rip-it-up guitar work and taste for something funky went on to become The Ohio Players, with Leroy as their front man, lead singer and guitarist.
Their first big hit single “Funky Worm”, reached No.1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1973. Other hits include “Who’d She Coo?” and their double No.1 hit songs “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fire” in January 1976.
The Ohio Players had seven Top 40 hits in the 1970s and helped define a funk movement that included Parliament Funkadelic and Kool & the Gang. The band’s success stemmed substantially from Bonner’s playfully commanding lead vocals and gusto.
Humble yet charismatic, soft spoken and of few words, the weight of his thoughts, lyrics, and music has influenced countless other artists, songs, and trends. The band’s lineup changed over the years, but its instrumentation and sound remained basically the same: a solid, driving groove provided by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, punctuated by staccato blasts from a horn section. Vocals were a secondary consideration. “We were players,” Bonner told The Dayton Daily News in an interview in 2003. “We weren’t trying to be lead singers.” The core members of the band did not originally sing, he explained, but “we got so tired of having singers leave us that we decided we’d just do the singing ourselves.”
“I used to play with my back to the audience in the old days,” he added. “I didn’t want to see them because they were distracting. Then the first time I turned around and opened my mouth, we had a hit record with Skin Tight. That’s amazing to me.”
After their break up Sugarfoot, assisted by Roger Troutman and his Zapp brethren, went solo in 1985 with Sugar Kiss – the same year Zapp released The New Zapp IV U (featuring “Computer Love”), while Shirley Murdock was on the verge of scoring with the Troutman-produced “As We Lay.”
From 1973 to 1976 the Ohio Players had seven singles in the Billboard Top 40. Both “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” reached No. 1. Although the band’s heyday was four decades ago, its sound has been kept alive by others. “Love Rollercoaster” gained new fans through a 1996 cover version by Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Funky Worm” has been sampled by many hip-hop artists.
With a career spanning 56 years, he had remained active in recent years with a spinoff band called Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players. Bonner passed barely short of his 70th birthday, fighting cancer on January 27, 2013.
November 20, 2012 – Michael Dunford (Renaissance) was born in 1944 in Surrey, England.
The reclusive and soft-spoken composer, a mainstay in the world of progressive rock, was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a stint as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which lead to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road. On leaving them, he formed several other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.
Dunford entered the band during a period of transition. Though he wrote (and played guitar on) ‘Mr. Pine’ from 1971’s largely ignored ‘Illusion,’ his influence wasn’t truly felt until Renaissance’s third album, 1972’s ‘Prologue.’ This was the beginning of the band’s classic ’70s period, cementing their trademark brand of epic, symphonic prog. Dunford wrote two tracks on his own and co-wrote two others, though he didn’t actually contribute to the recording. Nonetheless, his writing gave the band focus: The elegant title-track (written by Dunford) is one of Renaissance’s most powerful instrumentals, featuring Haslam’s towering voice, John Tout’s jazzy, Latin-tinged piano, and Jon Camp’s furious bassline.
From that point forward, Dunford (along with writing partner, lyricist Betty Thatcher) was the band’s guiding creative force. He co-wrote all but one track on the band’s 1973 breakthrough, the orchestra-backed ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ making his studio debut and showcasing his signature acoustic guitar playing: subtle, misty, and slightly majestic.
And with each subsequent release, both Dunford and Renaissance grew more powerful. Their masterpiece was delivered in 1975 with ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories,’ their most cinematic and densely layered work, concluding with the 25-minute epic ‘Song of Scheherazade’ (which was also captured–in an arguably more thrilling context — on the 1976 live double-album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’).
Though Renaissance were a British band, most of their success during this peak period came in the United States: ‘Scheherazade’ landed at No. 48 on the Billboard Album Charts, and their 1977 follow-up, ‘Novella,’ reached the same spot. The band’s biggest success, however, came in their home country with 1978’s ‘A Song for All Seasons,’ which peaked at No. 35 in the UK, thanks in large part to the success of that album’s hit single, ‘Northern Lights,’ which was built on Dunford’s shimmering strums and John Tout’s newly utilized synthesizers.
But these were also dark times. Punk and disco were diminishing the prog-rock’s relevance, leaving bands like Renaissance with a choice: either adapt or face extinction. As a result, Renaissance–under Camp’s guiding presence–went through a radical makeover in the 1980s. They released two albums, 1981’s ‘Camera Camera’ and 1983’s ‘Time-Line,’ both of which sought to blend the band’s artful rock with a more streamlined, synth-heavy approach leaning toward new-wave. After both albums tanked, the band’s remaining core trio (Dunford, Haslam, and Camp) dissolved into their own factions, with Dunford and Haslam seeking to continue the Renaissance name separately. Without each other, the magic wasn’t there.
But Dunford managed to reunite with Haslam, the magical voice behind his band’s best music, for 2001’s ‘Tuscany’ (also featuring Tout on keyboards, along with original drummer, Terence Sullivan), an album that recaptured some of the original Renaissance spirit.
Sadly, both Dunford and his old band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their prog peers like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson. Part of the reason is exposure: Even during their mid-to-late ’70s prime, Renaissance were never chart-toppers or stadium sell-outs (though they did manage one UK top-ten single, 1978’s ‘Northern Lights’). And they were never as technically flashy or boldly experimental as those bands: Throughout the group’s quietly excellent lifespan, the Renaissance catalogue is middle-of-the-road, but in a good way — consistently built on Annie Haslam’s soaring, operative, five-octave vocals, Jon Camp’s propulsive and melodic basslines, and Dunford’s tasteful guitar playing and arrangements. They were never prog’s trailblazers or sonic innovators — but they were certainly one of the most consistently great, album-to-album.
Dunford, the guitarist and chief composer behind Renaissance’s sweeping, symphonic progressive rock, passed away on November 20, 2012 after suffering an Instantaneous Cerebral Hemmorage at his Surrey, England home. He is survived not only by his wife, two sons, and sister — but also by some of the most hauntingly beautiful progressive rock albums ever recorded.
Before his death, Dunford was as musically active as he’d been in a decade: He’d just finished the first leg of a well-received tour (with Haslam and a new Renaissance line-up), with a newly recorded follow-up album, ‘Grandine il Vento,’ scheduled for a 2013 release. Ironically, what began as an incredibly exciting year for Renaissance turned into its final chapter. And considering the circumstances, ‘Vento’ should be the band’s swan song.
Though Dunford’s never been one of prog-rock’s most visible icons, he’s a crucial player in the genre’s rich history. He should be remembered that way.
September 5, 2012 – Joe South, aka Joseph Alfred Souter was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Atlanta, Georgia on February 28, 1940. He started his pop career in July 1958 writing the novelty hit “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor”. In 1959, he wrote 2 songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: “I Might Have Known” and “Gone Gone Gone”. He began his recording career with the National Recording Corporation, where he was staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed.
He was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on the likes of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, Tommy Roe’s “Sheila”, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album.
His 1969 “Games People Play”, a hit on both sides of the Atlantic was accompanied by a lush string sound, organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
His compositions have been recorded by many artists, including Billy Joe Royal’s songs “Down in the Boondocks”, “I Knew You When”, “Yo-Yo”, later a hit for the Osmonds, and “Hush” later a hit for Deep Purple and Kula Shaker. Joe’s most commercially successful composition was Lynn Anderson’s 1971 monster hit “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden”, which was a hit in 16 countries and translated into many languages. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and Joe won a Grammy Award for writing the song.
Joe was inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame. On September 5, 2012 he died from heart failure.
July 24, 2012 – Larry Lewis Hoppen (Orleans) was born on January 12, 1951 in Ithaca New York. From a musical family, Larry learned to play keyboards, guitar, bass, melodica and trumpet. His mom took him on her nightclub gigs when he was 10!
After briefly trying Music Ed. at Ithaca College (1967-69), he left to pursue a career as a musical artist and never looked back. Between 1969 and 1971 his Ithaca band Boffalongo made 2 LPs for United Artists Records, including the original recording of “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”, later a hit by friends King Harvest. Soon after Boffalongo disbanded in late 1971, Larry got a call from singer/songwriter (then-future, now-former US Congressman, D-NY, 19) John Hall, inviting him to come to Woodstock, NY to join with the late Wells Kelly and himself to form Orleans, which he did in early 1972. Larry’s younger brother, Lance, joined the band in the fall of that year.
The band initially found its core audience touring the clubs and college circuit of the northeastern United States and it was not until their third album, Let There Be Music, released in March 1975, that the band scored its first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Let There Be Music”followed by Orleans biggest hits “Still the One“, “Dance With Me” and “Love Takes Time“. It was Larry’s remarkable tenor that clearly defined the success of these hits.
In 1977 Larry joined Jerry Marotta in the backing band for Garland Jeffreys. He and Orleans continued to tour with the likes of Stephen Stills and Chicago. In the early 80s Larry and his brother Lance formed a side group, Mood Ring. After a stint in Nashville, Larry and Orleans returned to Woodstock, and slowly re-established their presence in the Northeast over the next couple of years.
During off times with the band Larry also performed and/or recorded with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Livingston Taylor, Lulu, Graham Parker, Blues Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, Michael Franks, Levon Helm, the late great Michael Brecker, the late great Chet Atkins, the late great Artie Traum, John Sebastian, Bela Fleck, Felix Cavaliere, Edgar Winter, Robbie Dupree, Spencer Davis, Rick Derringer, Mark Farner, John Ford Coley, Jimi Jamison, John Cafferty and many more.
Larry released 3 solo albums: “HandMade” and “Looking for the Light”, the latter being a flagship fundraising vehicle for his 501(c)3 nonprofit Sunshine for HIV Kids, and One of the Lucky Ones.
Larry continued to write, tour and record with Orleans until his death on July 24, 2012 from “a perfect storm of life’s pressures” as it states on the band’s website. They were scheduled to perform in a concert sponsored by morning TV’s “Fox & Friends” on Friday July 27th.
July 16, 2012 – John Douglas “Jon” Lord ( Deep Purple/Whitesnake) was born in Leicester, England on June 9th 1941 and retained a strong bond with the city throughout his life. His father was an amateur saxophone musician and encouraged Lord from an early age. There was an old upright piano in the house and Jon showed an early interest in the instrument so his parents enrolled him for formal piano lessons when he was seven. At nine he found another teacher, Frederick All, who gave recitals for the BBC and played the church organ. “He was a marvelous teacher”, says Lord. “He could impart a love of music to his students as well as teaching them to play it. He taught me to enjoy music and to want to play well.” Those influences were a recurring trademark in Jon’s work.
He attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys between 1952 and 1958 and then worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office for two years, but was fired for taking too much time off work.
Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and “Brother” Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy”), as well as the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis and performers like Buddy Holly, whom he saw perform at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester in March 1958.
Lord moved to London in 1959–60, intent on an acting career and enrolling at the Central School of Speech and Drama, in London’s Swiss Cottage. Following a celebrated student rebellion he became a founder of Drama Centre London, from where he graduated in 1964. From here on his life became a Who’s Who in the early London years of the British Invasion and beyond.
Small acting parts followed, and Lord continued playing the piano and the organ in nightclubs and as a session musician to earn a living. He started his band career in London in 1960 with the jazz ensemble The Bill Ashton Combo. Ashton became a key figure in jazz education in Britain, creating what later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Between 1960 and 1963, Lord and Ashton both moved on to Red Bludd’s Bluesicians (also known as The Don Wilson Quartet), the latter of which featured the singer Arthur “Art” Wood, brother of guitarist Ronnie Wood. Wood had previously sung with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and was a junior figure in the British blues movement.
In this period, Lord altered the spelling of his name from his birth name “John” to “Jon” and his session credits included playing the keyboards in “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks number one hit of 1964, however in a Guitar World interview Ray Davies of The Kinks stated it was actually Arthur Greenslade playing piano on that particular track.
Following the break-up of Redd Bludd’s Bluesicians in late 1963, Wood, Lord, and the drummer Red Dunnage put together a new band, The Art Wood Combo. This also included Derek Griffiths (guitar) and Malcolm Pool (bass guitar). Dunnage left in December 1964 to be replaced by Keef Hartley, who had previously replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. This band, later known as “The Artwoods”, focused on the organ as the bluesy, rhythmic core of their sound, in common with the contemporary bands The Spencer Davis Group (Steve Winwood on organ) and The Animals (with Alan Price). They made appearances on the BBC’s Saturday Club radio show and on such TV programs as Ready Steady Go!. It also performed abroad, and it appeared on the first Ready Steady Goes Live, promoting its first single the Lead Belly song “Sweet Mary” — but significant commercial success eluded it. Its only charting single was “I Take What I Want”, which reached number 28 on 8 May 1966.
The jazz-blues organ style of black R&B organ players in the 1950s and 1960s, using the trademark blues-organ sound of the Hammond organ (B3 and C3 models) and combining it with the Leslie speaker system (the well-known Hammond-Leslie speaker combination), were seminal influences on Lord. Lord also stated later that he was heavily influenced by the organ-based progressive rock played by Vanilla Fudge after seeing that band perform in Great Britain in 1967, and earlier by the personal direction he received from British organ pioneer Graham Bond.
The Artwoods regrouped in 1967 as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre“. This was an attempt to cash in on the 1930s gangster craze set off by the American film Bonnie and Clyde. Hartley left the band in 1967 to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Lord next founded the “Santa Barbera Machine Head”, featuring Art’s brother, Ronnie Wood, writing and recording three powerful keyboard-driven instrumental tracks, giving a preview of the future style of Deep Purple. Soon thereafter, Lord went on to cover for the keyboard player Billy Day in “The Flower Pot Men”, where he met the bass guitarist Nick Simper along with drummer Carlo Little and guitarist Ged Peck. Lord and Simper then toured with this band in 1967 to promote its hit single “Let’s Go To San Francisco”, but the two men never recorded with this band.
In early 1967, through his roommate Chris Curtis of the Searchers, Lord met businessman Tony Edwards who was looking to invest in the music business alongside partners Ron Hire and John Coletta (HEC Enterprises). Session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was called in and he met Lord for the first time, but Chris Curtis’s erratic behaviour led the trio nowhere. Edwards was impressed enough by Jon Lord to ask him to form a band after Curtis faded out. Simper was contacted, and Blackmore was recalled from Hamburg. Although top British player Bobby Woodman was the first choice as drummer, during the auditions for a singer, Rod Evans of “The Maze” came in with his own drummer, Ian Paice. Blackmore, who had been impressed by Paice’s drumming when he met him in 1967, set up an audition for Paice as well. The band was called the “Roundabout” at first and began rehearsals at Deeves Hall in Hertfordshire. By March 1968, this became the “Mark 1” line-up of “Deep Purple”: Lord, Simper, Blackmore, Paice, and Evans. Lord also helped form the band “Boz” with some of its recordings being produced by Derek Lawrence. “Boz” included Boz Burrell (later of King Crimson and Bad Company), Blackmore (guitar), Paice (drums), Chas Hodges (bass).
Lord pushed the Hammond-Leslie sound through Marshall amplification, creating a growling, heavy, mechanical sound which allowed Lord to compete with Blackmore as a soloist, with an organ that sounded as prominent as the lead guitar. Said one reviewer, “many have tried to imitate [Lord’s] style, and all failed.” Said Lord himself, “There’s a way of playing a Hammond that’s different. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that you can play a Hammond with a piano technique. Well, you can, but it sounds like you are playing a Hammond with a piano technique. Really, you have to learn how to play an organ. It’s a legato technique; it’s a technique to achieve legato on a non-legato instrument.”
In early Deep Purple recordings, Lord had appeared to be the leader of the band. Despite the cover songs “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” becoming hits in North America, Deep Purple never made chart success in the UK until the Concerto for Group and Orchestra album (1970). Lord’s willingness later to play many of the key rhythm parts gave Blackmore the freedom to let loose both live and on record.
On Deep Purple’s second and third albums, Lord began indulging his ambition to fuse rock with classical music. An early example of this is the song “Anthem” from the album The Book of Taliesyn (1968), but a more prominent example is the song “April” from the band’s self-titled third album (1969). The song is recorded in three parts: 1. Lord and Blackmore only, on keyboards and acoustic guitar, respectively; 2. an orchestral arrangement complete with strings; and 3. the full rock band with vocals. Lord’s ambition enhanced his reputation among fellow musicians, but caused tension within the group.
Simper later said, “The reason the music lacked direction was Jon Lord fucked everything up with his classical ideas.” Blackmore agreed to go along with Lord’s experimentation, provided he was given his head on the next band album.
The resulting Concerto For Group and Orchestra (in 1969) was one of rock’s earliest attempts to fuse two distinct musical idioms. Performed live at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 September 1969 (with new band members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, Evans and Simper having been fired), it was recorded by the BBC and later released as an album. The Concerto gave Deep Purple its first highly publicised taste of mainstream fame and gave Lord the confidence to believe that his experiment and his compositional skill had a future
Purple began work on Deep Purple in Rock, released by their new label Harvest in 1970 and now recognised as one of hard rock’s key early works. Lord and Blackmore competed to out-dazzle each other, often in classical-style, midsection ‘call and answer’ improvisation (on tracks like “Speed King”), something they employed to great effect live. Ian Gillan said that Lord provided the idea on the main organ riff for “Child in Time” although the riff was also based on It’s a Beautiful Day’s 1969 psychedelic hit song “Bombay Calling”. Lord’s experimental solo on “Hard Lovin’ Man” (complete with police-siren interpolation) from this album was his personal favourite among his Deep Purple studio performances.
Deep Purple released another six studio albums between 1971 (Fireball) and 1975 (Come Taste the Band). Gillan and Glover left in 1973 and Blackmore in 1975, and the band disintegrated in 1976. The highlights of Lord’s Purple work in the period include the 1972 album Machine Head (featuring his rhythmic underpinnings on “Smoke on the Water” and “Space Truckin'”, plus the organ solos on “Highway Star”, “Pictures of Home” and “Lazy”), the sonic bombast of the Made in Japan live album (1972), an extended, effect-laden solo on “Rat Bat Blue” from the Who Do We Think We Are album (1973), and his overall playing on the Burn album from 1974.
Roger Glover would later describe Lord as a true “Zen-archer soloist”, someone whose best keyboard improvisation often came at the first attempt. Lord’s strict reliance on the Hammond C3 organ sound, as opposed to the synthesizer experimentation of his contemporaries, places him firmly in the jazz-blues category as a band musician and far from the progressive-rock sound of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. Lord rarely ventured into the synthesizer territory on Purple albums, often limiting his experimentation to the use of the ring modulator with the Hammond, to give live performances on tracks like Space Truckin’ a distinctive ‘spacy’ sound. Instances of his Deep Purple synthesizer use (he became an endorser of the ARP Oyssey) include “‘A’ 200”, the final track from Burn, and “Love Child” on the Come Taste the Band album.
In early 1973 Lord stated: “We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven.”
Lord continued to focus on his classical aspirations alongside his Deep Purple career. The BBC, buoyed by the success of the Concerto, commissioned him to write another piece and the resulting “Gemini Suite” was performed by Deep Purple and the Light Music Society under Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall in September 1970, and then in Munich with the Kammerorchester conducted by Eberhard Schoener in January 1972. It then became the basis for Lord’s first solo album, Gemini Suite, released in November 1972, with vocals by Yvonne Elliman and Tony Ashton and with the London Symphony Orchestra backing a band that included Albert Lee on guitar.(Ritchie Blackmore had played the guitar at the first live performance of the Gemini Suite in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the studio version, which led to the involvement of Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Tony Ashton).
In March 1974, Lord and Paice had collaborated with friend Tony Ashton on First of the Big Bands, credited to ‘Ashton & Lord’ and featuring a rich array of session talent, including Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd saxophonist/sessioner, Dick Parry. They performed much of the set live at the London Palladium in September 1974.
This formed the basis of Lord’s first post-Deep Purple project Paice Ashton Lord, which lasted only a year and spawned a single album, Malice in Wonderland in 1977, recorded at Musicland Studios Musicland Studios at the Arabella Hotel in Munich. He created an informal group of friends and collaborators including Ashton, Paice, Bernie Marsden, Boz Burrell and later, Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs, Simon Kirke and others. Over the same period, Lord guested on albums by Maggie Bell, Nazareth and even folk artist Richard Digance. Eager to pay off a huge tax bill upon his return the UK in the late-1970s (Purple’s excesses included their own tour jet and a home Lord rented in Malibu from actress Ann-Margret and where he wrote the Sarabande album), Lord joined former Deep Purple band member David Coverdale’s new band, Whitesnake in August 1978 (Lord’s job in Whitesnake was largely limited to adding color or, in his own words, a ‘halo’ to round out a blues-rock sound that already accommodated two lead guitarists, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody.
A number of singles such as “Here I Go Again”, “Wine, Women and Song”, “She’s a Woman” and “Till the Day I Die” entered the UK chart, taking the now 40-something Lord onto Top of the Pops with regularity between 1980 and 1983. He later expressed frustration that he was a poorly paid hired-hand, but fans saw little of this discord and Whitesnake’s commercial success kept him at the forefront of readers’ polls as heavy rock’s foremost keyboard maestro. His dissatisfaction (and Coverdale’s eagerness to revamp the band’s line-up and lower the average age to help crack the US market) smoothed the way for the reformation of Deep Purple Mk II in 1984.
During his tenure in Whitesnake, Lord had the opportunity to record two distinctly different solo albums and was later commissioned by producer Patrick Gamble for Central Television to write the soundtrack for their 1984 TV series, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, based on the book by Edith Holden, with an orchestra conducted by Alfred Ralston and with a distinctly gentle, pastoral series of themes composed by Lord. Lord became firmly established as a member of UK rock’s “Oxfordshire mansion aristocracy” – with a home, Burntwood Hall, set in 23.5 acres at Goring-on-Thames, complete with its own cricket pitch and a hand-painted Challen baby grand piano, previously owned by Shirley Bassey. He was asked to guest on albums by friends George Harrison (Gone Troppo from 1982) and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (1984’s About Face), Cozy Powell (Octopus in 1983) and to play on an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the Willows. He composed and produced the score for White Fire (1984), which consisted largely of two songs performed by Limelight. In 1985 he made a brief appearance as a member of The Singing Rebel’s band (which also featured Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais-scripted film Water (1985) (Handmade Films).
In the 1980s he was also a member of an all-star band called Olympic Rock & Blues Circus fronted by Pete York and featuring a rotating line-up of the likes of Miller Anderson, Tony Ashton, Brian Auger, Zoot Money, Colin Hodgkinson, Chris Farlowe and many others. Olympic Rock & Blues Circus toured primarily in Germany between 1981 and 1989. Some musicians, including Lord, took part in York’s TV musical extravaganza Superdrumming between 1987 and 1989.
Lord’s re-emergence with Deep Purple in 1984 resulted in huge audiences for the reformed Mk II line-up, including 1985s second largest grossing tour in the US and an appearance in front of 80,000 rain-soaked fans headlining Knebworth on 22 June 1985, all to support the Perfect Strangers album. Playing with a rejuvenated Mk. II Purple line-up (including spells at a health farm to get the band including Lord into shape) and being onstage and in the studio with Blackmore, gave Lord the chance to push himself once again. His ‘rubato’ classical opening sequence to the album’s opener, “Knocking at Your Back Door” (complete with F-Minor to G polychordal harmony sequence), gave Lord the chance to do his most powerful work for years, including the song “Perfect Strangers”. Further Deep Purple albums followed, often of varying quality, and by the late-1990s, Lord was clearly keen to explore new avenues for his musical career.
In 1997, he created perhaps his most personal work to date, Pictured Within, released in 1998 with a European tour to support it. Lord’s mother Miriam had died in August 1995 and the album is a deeply affecting piece, inflected at all stages by Lord’s sense of grief. Recorded largely in Lord’s home-away-from-home, the city of Cologne, the album’s themes are Elgarian and alpine in equal measure. Lord signed to Virgin Classics to release it, and perhaps saw it as the first stage in his eventual departure from Purple to embark on a low-key and altogether more gentle solo career. One song from Pictured Within, entitled “Wait A While” was later covered by Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø on her 2003/2004 album My Heart. Lord finally retired from Deep Purple amicably in 2002, preceded by a knee injury that eventually resolved itself without surgery. He said subsequently, “Leaving Deep Purple was just as traumatic as I had always suspected it would be and more so – if you see what I mean”. He even dedicated a song to it on 2004’s solo effort, Beyond the Notes, called “De Profundis”. The album was recorded in Bonn with producer Mario Argandoña between June and July 2004.
Lord slowly built a small, but distinct position and fan base for himself in Europe. He collaborated with former ABBA superstar and family friend, Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad,) on the 2004 track, “The Sun Will Shine Again” (with lyrics by Sam Brown) and performed with her across Europe. He subsequently also performed European concerts to première the 2007-scheduled Boom of the Tingling Strings orchestral piece.
In 2003 he also returned to his beloved R-n-B/blues heritage to record an album of standards in Sydney, with Australia’s Jimmy Barnes, entitled Live in the Basement, by Jon Lord and the Hoochie Coochie Men, showing himself to be one of British rock music’s most eclectic and talented instrumentalists. Lord was also happy to support the Sam Buxton Sunflower Jam Healing Trust and in September 2006, performed at a star-studded event to support the charity led by Ian Paice’s wife, Jacky (twin sister of Lord’s wife Vicky). Featured artists on stage with Lord included Paul Weller, Robert Plant, Phil Manzanera, Ian Paice and Bernie Marsden.
In July 2011, Lord performed his final live concert appearance, the Sunflower Jam at the Royal Albert Hall, where he premiered his joint composition with Rick Wakeman. At that point, they had begun informal discussion on recording an album together. Up until 2011, Lord had also been working on material with the recently formed rock supergroup WhoCares, also featuring singer Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, guitarist Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, second guitarist Mikko Lindström from HIM, bassist Jason Newsted formerly from Metallica and drummer Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, specifically the composition “Out of My Mind,” in addition to new compositions with Steve Balsamo and a Hammond Organ Concerto. Lord subsequently cancelled a performance of his Durham Concerto in Hagen, Germany, for what his website said was a continuation of his medical treatment (the concert, scheduled for 6 July 2012, would have been his return to live performance after treatment).
Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra was effectively recommissioned by him, recorded in Liverpool and at Abbey Road Studios across 2011 and under post-production in 2012 with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performing, conducted by long-time collaborator, conductor Paul Mann. The recording was at completion at the time of Lord’s death, with Lord having been able to review the final master recordings. The album and DVD were subsequently released in 2012.
In July 2011, Lord was found to be suffering from pancreatic cancer. After treatment in both England and in Israel, he died on 16 July 2012 at the London Clinic after suffering from a pulmonary embolism. He was 71.
• On 11 November 2010, he was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of Stevenson College in Edinburgh, Scotland. On 15 July 2011, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree at De Montfort Hall by the University of Leicester. Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 8 April 2016 as a member of Deep Purple.
• Lars Ulrich, founding member and drummer in Metallica commented, “Ever since my father took me to see them in 1973 in Copenhagen, at the impressionable age of 9, Deep Purple has been the most constant, continuous and inspiring musical presence in my life. They have meant more to me than any other band in existence, and have had an enormous part in shaping who I am. We can all be guilty of lightly throwing adjectives like ‘unique,’ ‘one-of-a-kind’ and ‘pioneering’ around when we want to describe our heroes and the people who’ve moved us, but there are no more fitting words than those right now and there simply was no musician like Jon Lord in the history of hard rock. Nobody. Period. There was nobody that played like him. There was nobody that sounded like him. There was nobody that wrote like him. There was nobody that looked like him. There was nobody more articulate, gentlemanly, warm, or fucking cooler that ever played keyboards or got anywhere near a keyboard. What he did was all his own.”
• Former keyboard player of rock band Yes, Rick Wakeman, who was a friend of Lord’s, said he was “a great fan” and added “We were going to write and record an album before he became ill. His contribution to music and to classic rock was immeasurable and I will miss him terribly.” In mid-2013, Wakeman presented a BBC One East Midlands-produced TV program about Lord and his connection to the town of his birth.
• Singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad (ABBA), who described Jon Lord as her “dearest friend”, paid him tribute at the 2013 edition of Zermatt Unplugged, the annual music festival which both he and she served as patrons. “He was graceful, intelligent, polite, with a strong integrity,” she said. “He had a strong empathy and a great deal of humor for his own and other people’s weaknesses.”
• Keyboardist Keith Emerson said of Lord’s death, “Jon left us now but his music and inspiration will live forever. I am deeply saddened by his departure.” In a later interview in November 2013, he added, “In the early years I remember being quite jealous of Jon Lord – may he rest in peace. In September 1969 I heard he was debuting his “Concerto For Group & Orchestra” at the Royal Albert Hall, with none other than Malcolm Arnold conducting. Wow! I had to go along and see that. Jon and I ribbed each other, we were pretty much pals, but I walked away and thought: ‘Shit, in a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to be recording The Nice’s Five Bridges Suite … not at the Albert Hall but at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon!’ A much more prosaic venue. Later, Jon wanted me to play on his solo album, Gemini Suite, but that was around the time ELP were breaking big and we were touring. He was a lovely guy, a real gentleman.”
• A concert tribute to Lord took place on 4 April 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall. Performers and presenters included Deep Purple, Bruce Dickinson, Alfie Boe, Jeremy Irons, Joe Brown, Glenn Hughes, Miller Anderson and Steve Balsamo.
• In December 2012 the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, joined the campaign to honor Lord with a blue plaque at his childhood home at 120 Averill Road, where he lived until he was twenty, saying it would be “an important reminder of the city’s contribution to the world of contemporary music.”
• Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple in April 2016