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Cecil Womack 2/2013

Cecil WomackFebruary 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.

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Sugarfoot Bonner 1/2013

leroy-bonnerJanuary 27, 2013 – Sugarfoot Bonner was born Leroy 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. Leroy’s rip-it-up guitar work and taste for something funky the band 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 followed, including “Who’d She Coo?” and their double No.1 hit songs “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fire” in January 1976.

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Michael Dunford 11/2012

Michael DunfordNovember 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.

 

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Joe South 9/2012

Joe-South1September 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.

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Larry Hoppen 7/2012

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.
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Jon Lord 7/2012

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

 

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Bob Welch 6/2012

bob-welchJune 7, 2012 – Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac) was born on July 31, 1945 in Los Angeles, California, into a show business family. His father was the successful Hollywood movie producer Robert Welch, best known for his work with Bob Hope. Neighbors were Yul Brunner and Jonathan Winters. As a youngster, he learned clarinet, switching to guitar in his early teens and developed an interest in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music.

After graduation from high school, the younger Welch moved to Paris for a while, but returned to Los Angeles shortly after. After dropping out of university he joined the Los Angeles-based interracial vocal group The Seven Souls as a guitarist in 1964. When the band broke up in 1969 Bob moved to Paris and started a trio and became friends with future CBS correspondent Ed Bradley.

In 1971 while living there, he received a phone call from Mick Fleetwood asking him to come to London. Fleetwood met him at the airport, Welch told the Nashville Tennessean in 2003. “He was driving a yellow VW. He was 6-6 and weighed about 120 pounds. He was a strange-looking human being.”Welch was invited to join Fleetwood Mac, and along with fellow newcomer Christine McVie, Bob helped to steer the band away from Peter Greene/Jeremy Spencer’s blues roots into a more melodic direction.

During the time he spend with Fleetwood Mac they released their album Future Games in 1971, Bare Trees in 1972, this album included Welch’s song Sentimental Lady, Mystery To Me in 1973 (included Bob’s son Hypnotized), also that year the band released Penguin and Bob’s final album with Fleetwood Mac Heroes are Hard To Find in 1974.

Things became problematic between Bob and other guitarist Danny Kirwan, due to the latter’s alcohol abuse. Kirwan left the band in August 1974 after he refused to go on stage at a concert after an argument with Welch and Mick Fleetwood fired him. Welch then left the band in December 1974, after a brief affair with Christine McVie, much to the dislike of bass player John McVie and was replaced  by Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham.

Welch left the band amid the chaos of the McVie divorce, just prior to mainstream success with the 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” and then “Rumors,” Fleetwood Mac’s acclaimed 1977 superhit album.

The following year he created Paris, the Hard Rock band with Todd Rundgren, Thom Mooney, Hunt Sales and bassist Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull). Paris released their first album “Paris” and “Big Towne, 2061” in 1976, the band split up the following year, after which Welch then embarked on his solo career.

He scored a massive hit with “Ebony Eyes” in 1977. The album from which it was culled, “French Kiss,” featured a number of former Fleetwood Mac members, as well as a rendition of “Sentimental Lady,” a song originally recorded with Mac but reworked by Welch.

French Kiss his first solo album was released in September 1977, Three Hearts in 1979, The Other One that same year followed by Man Overboard in 1980 and Bob Welch in 1981. The albums contained several singles successes including “Hot Love, Cold World”, “Ebony Eyes”,  and “Precious Love”. His next album Eye Contact was released in 1983 the same year he became addicted to heroin.

Bob then met his wife Wendy Armistead Welch at Johnny Depp’s club the Viper Room, when it still was called Central. They got married in 1985, moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1990, and had no children.
Wendy Welch was given credit by her husband, in his own words he said:

The time frame between 1984-1998 was a story for me of pulling out of major depression, drug addiction and extreme negativity, which I was able to do, thanks to a. the LA Sheriff’s Dept (busted), b. Cedars Sinai hospital (in a coma 2 weeks), and, especially, c. a lovely lady named Wendy Armistead, who helped me stop beating my head against a brick wall ! During this time Wendy helped me to get back into reading music again, to want to do a band again, (the Touch, Ave. M), and to regain my musical and personal identity, which had gotten pretty trashed.

In 1999,  after three years  clean of drugs he released Bob Welch Looks At Bop. Between 2003 and 2004 he released His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond I and II, and Live at Roxy in 2004.

After having spinal surgery and been told he would not get better, Bob pulled the trigger on himself in his Nashville home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest on June 7, 2012. He was 66.

Wendy found her husband with wound shot to the chest at their home around noon. Media later quoted Wendy talking about the spinal surgery Bob had, the doctor telling him he would not get better and adding that he did not want her to have to take care of an invalid. He left a suicide note, but its content were not  revealed.

Fleetwood Mac and its former and some current members were inducted in  the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, however Bob was not.

“My era was the bridge era,” Welch told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was excluded from the Fleetwood Mac line-up inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac.’ Now they want to write me out of the history of the group.”

• Mick Fleetwood, who hired Welch in 1971 after the departure of Peter Green, said Welch was a key part of the band’s evolution. “He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. Mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us,” said Fleetwood. “If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.”

 although Stevie Nicks and Welch weren’t in Fleetwood Mac at the same time, she released a statement expressing her admiration and regrets: “The death of Bob Welch is devastating …. I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player — he was funny, sweet — and he was smart — I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac — so, so sad …”

• David Adelstein, who served as Welch’s keyboard player from 1977 through 1982 said: “For me, they were very exciting times back then. We were the opening act for Dave Mason back around February 12, 1978, our first show at Rocklyn College, NY. A short time later, Bob was leading us up the stairs to what was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen, Cal-Jam II. We opened the show with a 10:00 AM call! That was a rush — 250,000 people in the crowd at the old Ontario Motor Speedway. During that tour, Bob opened shows for not only Dave Mason, but for Jefferson Starship, Heart, Beach Boys, Styx, Allman Bros. and of course [Fleetwood] Mac (a great billing — the best of both worlds)”When it came to the follow up album, Bob and his producer, John Carter, gave me my first opportunity to play on that album. When it came around to the third album, Bob gave myself and guitarist Todd Sharp the opportunity to include an original song on the album. This launched my songwriting career. All in all, I have awesome memories from my time playing with Welch, sharing dinners at some wonderful restaurants (he appreciated great food), along with his love of music and that included all kinds of music! The circle of friends here in the LA area … are already missing him much.”

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Robin Gibb 5/2012

robin-gibbMay 20, 2012 – Robin Hugh Gibb (BeeGees) was born on 22 December 1949 in Douglas, Isle of Man, to Hugh and Barbara Gibb. He was the fraternal twin of Maurice Gibb and was the older of the two by 35 minutes. Apart from Maurice, he had one sister, Lesley Evans, and two brothers, Barry and Andy. They lived in utter poverty.

In 1953, the Gibbs watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the television. Their neighbour in Willaston, Isle of Man, Marie Beck who was the friend of his mother and her sister Peggy. Another neighbour, Helen Kenney was living in Douglas Head as Kenney recalls “Barry and the twins used to come into Mrs. Beck’s house and we would mind them, Robin once said to me, ‘We’re going to be rich one day, we’re going to form a band!’ “Little did I realise he meant it”.

His family moved to Manchester where at aged 8, Robin started out performing alongside his brothers as a child act encouraged by their father Hugh, a drummer and band leader. The Gibb brothers formed The Rattlesnakes which consisted of Barry on guitar and vocals, Robin and Maurice on vocals, Paul Frost on drums and Kenny Horrocks on tea-chest bass, and the quintet performed in local theatres in Manchester, their influences at that time such as The Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard and Paul Anka. In May 1958, the Rattlesnakes were disbanded as Frost and Horrocks left, and the name changed to Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats. In August 1958, the family traveled to Australia on the same ship as Australian musician Red Symons; it is rumored that the brothers began committing petty crimes such as arson, which may have been the reason the family moved to Australia.

While schoolboys in Manchester, Barry, the oldest Gibb brother, and his younger twins Maurice and Robin perfected the art of singing in close harmony. They first performed, aged nine and six, in the toilets of John Lewis, because that was where the best acoustics in town could be found. That shared bond as performers helped them escape from their handto-mouth existence; the family moved house every few weeks at one stage in order to stay ahead of the bailiffs.

Robin explained: “The real world was just too real and we didn’t want to be a part of normal life. We wanted to create a magic world for the three of us. The three of us were like one person, and we were doing what we needed to do: make music. It became an obsession.”

The brothers also developed a taste for truanting and getting into trouble. “Barry and Robin were pilfering right, left and centre from Woolies and getting away with it,” recalled Maurice in an interview before his death in 2003.

“One day, I was walking home and all the billboards in the main street in Chorlton were blazing away, firemen and policemen running around everywhere. That was Robin, the family arsonist. Another time he set the back of a shop on fire.” The family were advised about assisted passage to Australia by the neighbourhood policeman, who seems to have hinted that it was that or legal action. The three boys performed in their pyjamas every night on the deck of the ship which took them away.

Once in Australia, the brothers continued to perform and took the name Bee Gees, an abbreviation of brothers Gibb.

In 1963 their first single, “The Battle of The Blue and The Grey”, made the charts in Sydney and led to an appearance on a local TV station. In 1965 their single “The Spicks and Specks” gave them their first Australian No.1.

Dreaming of more than the Australian market, they returned to the UK in 1966 where they were auditioned by impresario Robert Stigwood, who got them a recording contract with Polydor, here they had their first major hit with “To Love Somebody”, co-written by Robin, followed by hits including “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”, “Massachusetts”, “Words” and “World”. But the lead vocals were credited to Barry, this eventually led to tension and in 1969, Robin left the group…

Once back in the UK in 1967, success came quickly; legendary music impresario Robert Stigwood took them on and they had their first hit in Britain with New York Mining Disaster. Robin was only 17, and fell in love with the first woman he met: Molly Hullis, Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s secretary. They were married within a year, and quickly had two children, Spencer and Melissa.

The BeeGees second single – To Love Somebody, co-written by Robin – became a pop standard and over the years was covered by hundreds of artists. The lead vocals on the record were taken by Barry. This led to considerable tension in the band, with Robin accusing Stigwood of favouring his brother as the lead vocalist.  The band hung together for more chart successes, including Massachusetts and Words. But when his song Lamplight was relegated to the B-side of Barry’s First of May in 1969, Robin quit the group.

The pressure of fame was simply too much for vulnerable Robin, and his drug use became uncontrollable. “We used to go to America for a tour and I would stay up all night, collapse and then wake up in hospital suffering from exhaustion. I didn’t know what I was doing.” His parents had him made a ward of court because they were so concerned. He even quit the band – the first of many attempts to walk away from his brothers.

He had one hit single, Saved by the Bell, but was unable to follow it up and decided he was not cut out for a solo career. In 1970 the band reunited and achieved an immediate chart hit in the US with Lonely Days, which they followed up with How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? But it was clear that The Bee Gees’ brand of soulful ballads was no longer in fashion and there was a real danger they would fade into obscurity. Stigwood persuaded the brothers to switch their sound towards disco and their next single, Jive Talkin’, saw them make a chart comeback in both the US and UK.

His marriage was falling apart as the band became more famous, with Robin jetting around the world while Molly stayed at home with the children in Epsom, Surrey. A gulf opened up between the brothers, too. Maurice was a drinker, but Barry and Robin continued to share a taste for amphetamines. Each had their own manager, the arguments were frequent and Robin walked out several times.

At the summit of the band’s incredible success with the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever in 1977, (How Deep is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever, their most successful track), when the Bee Gees were at the height of their reincarnated fame as tight-trousered, bouffant-haired, nutmeg-tanned sex symbols, Molly told him their marriage was over.

“I loved my wife, but I was still very young and still attracted to other people,” he admitted. “I have a high sex drive and I was unfaithful. I’ve had quite a few physical encounters – probably more than 100. Some of them were disappointing. They were mostly a distraction, almost like notches on a belt. I didn’t have sex for love, just for fun.”

The separation was acrimonious, and Robin did not see the children for four years, although he got on better terms later. He recalls being unable to eat while the divorce dragged on. “I felt I was going to die from complete misery,” he said. Robin even ended up in prison in 1983 after the divorce judge found that he had breached an agreement by talking publicly about the marriage. Sentenced to two weeks in jail, he appealed and spent only a couple of hours inside.

Gibb continued writing songs for other artists, co-writing four of the tracks – among them hit song Woman in Love – on Barbra Streisand’s Guilty album with brother Barry. Robin also co-wrote material for Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers.

At a low ebb in 1980, he was introduced to his second wife Dwina. Sharing a birthday and an interest in history, Robin says it was love at first sight, and once contended that he might have known her in a former life. The birth of their son Robin John a year after his divorce from Molly was not publicly revealed until the kid was nearly one.

Early in the marriage, his younger brother Andy sought sanctuary with Robin and Dwina at their Oxfordshire home. He was just 30, and running away from a failed marriage, failing career and the rumored chaotic after-effects of cocaine addiction. He died suddenly at Robin’s home from natural causes of an inflammation of the heart muscle, as it turned out later.

The Bee Gees however continued to record and perform and achieved some chart success, even though Barry had also been suffering from a number of health problems including arthritis, while in the early 1990s Maurice sought treatment for his alcoholism.

In 1997 they released the album Still Waters, which sold more than four million copies, and were presented with a Brit award for outstanding contribution to music.

In January 2003 tragedy struck again with the sudden death of Maurice at the age of 53. Following his death, Robin and Barry disbanded the group. Andy’s death had hit Robin hard, but a harder blow was the death of his twin Maurice, always the peacemaker and the extrovert in the group. Maurice died suddenly after his intestine burst. Robin was so grief-stricken that for months he couldn’t come to terms with his brother’s death. “I can’t accept that he’s dead,” he said later that year. “I just imagine he’s alive somewhere else. Pretend is the right word.”

Robin continued to tour and record and reunited with Barry in Miami in 2006 for a charity concert, prompting rumours of a possible reformation. In 2008 he was at the forefront of the campaign for a permanent memorial in London to the men of Bomber Command.
Two years later he sang the Bee Gees hit I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You with a group of soldiers in support of the Poppy Day appeal.
Also in 2008, Robin performed at the BBC’s Electric Proms, marking the 30th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever topping the UK charts.
But ill health dogged him. In 2010, he cancelled a series of shows due to severe stomach pains and went on to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine, something his twin brother had died from.

In late 2011 it was announced that Robin had been diagnosed with liver cancer. His gaunt appearance prompted suggestions that he was close to death. However, he went into temporary remission and had been in recovery for several months. “I feel fantastic,” he told BBC Radio 2 in February. “I am very active and my sense of well-being is good.”
His final work was a collaboration with his son, RJ, on The Titanic Requiem, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the naval disaster.

Robin transitioned after contracting pneumonia while bravely battling against liver cancer on May 20, 2012.

From their early incarnation as pop troubadours to their dramatic reinvention as the kings of disco in the mid-1970s, The BeeGees notched up more than 200 million album sales worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Robin Gibb was a talented singer and songwriter whose best work came from his collaboration with his brothers.

“There are songs we wrote in 1968 that people are still singing,” he told one interviewer in 2008. “There’s very few artists with that kind of history.

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Adam Yauch 5/2012

adam-yauchMay 4, 2012 – Adam Yauch aka MCA (Beastie Boys) was born in Brooklyn New York on August 5th 1964.  While in high school, he taught himself to play the bass guitar and formed the Beastie Boys with John Berry, Michael Diamond and Kate Schellenbach.

They played their first show, then still a hardcore punk band on his 17th birthday. At age 22, he and the Beastie Boys, had turned into a hip hop trio and were touring with Madonna in 1985. A year later they released their debut album Licensed to Ill, which was followed by 7 other albums, the last being their 2011 album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

Under the pseudonym “Nathanial Hörnblowér“, Adam directed many of the Beastie Boys’ music videos and in 2002, he built a recording studio in New York City called Oscilloscope Laboratories. He also began an independent film distributing company called Oscilloscope Pictures. Yauch directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film, Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!, although in the DVD extras for the film, the title character in “A Day in the Life of Nathanial Hörnblowér” is played by David Cross.

He also directed the 2008 film Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot about eight high school basketball prospects at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, New York City. Yauch produced Build a Nation, the comeback album from hardcore/punk band Bad Brains. In addition, Oscilloscope Laboratories also distributed Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Oren Moverman’s The Messenger (2009).

2009 was the year that he was diagnosed with a lymph node cancer.

By 2010 The Beastie Boys had sold 40 million records worldwide and in 2011, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, the college he attended for two years. The award was “given in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage.”.

In April 2012, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yauch was inducted in absentia due to his illness. His bandmates paid tribute to Yauch; a letter from Yauch was read to the crowd.

As a Buddhist, he was involved in the Tibetan independence movement and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in the mid 1990s.

Adam died battling cancer on May 4, 2012. He was 47.

“There is a lot of misconception in all layers of society about what actually brings happiness. We’re caught up in all these promoted ideas that having a lot of money or having somebody beautiful to have sex with or owning some cool objects -a cool car, a cool stereo – a Gibson Les Paul 1957 – a cool house in a cool neighborhood or whatever……… is going to make us happy. All that actually does not bring us happiness. Compassion, empathy, altruism, sharing brings happiness. Those are values that make us smile when practiced.” 

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Greg Ham 4/2012

greg-hamApril 19, 2012 – Greg Ham (Men at Work) was born September 27, 1953 in Melbourne where he attended Camberwell Grammar School.

A virtuoso multi-instrumentalist, he played saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, harmonica and guitar as well as vocals and is best known for playing multiple instruments as a key member in the 1980s band Men at Work.  They are the only Australian artists to have a simultaneous No.1 album and No.1 single in the United States with Business as Usual and “Down Under” respectively. They achieved the same distinction of a simultaneous No.1 album and No.1 single in the UK.

They also won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best New Artist; that same year, Canada awarded them a Juno Award for “International LP of the Year”. As an actor, Greg was a regular cast member on While You’re Down There. Later in life, he taught guitar at Carlton North Primary School in Melbourne.

Even though the circumstances of Greg’s death were initially circumspect, the autopsy confirmed a massive heart attack killed him at the age of 58, some days prior to the day he was found on April 19, 2012.

By some accounts, Ham’s personal demons of drug and alcohol dependency began as far back as Men at Work’s glory year: 1983. It was in that pivotal year that the band was touring nonstop as well as worldwide. The stress by all accounts was horrific, and fights between band mates were all too commonplace.

In regard to the band’s in-fighting, Hay told me in 1997, “The band broke into two sectors: me and Greg on one end and (John) Rees and (Jerry) Speiser on the other, with Ronny (Strykert) struggling to stay in a neutral corner.” One can only imagine what the lack of sleep, breakneck tour schedule and in-fighting must have done to a delicate, sensitive man like Greg Ham.

With his posh, two-story former home studio sold to help ease his financial woes, Ham purchased a rather dismal, smallish home (complete with a multitude of telephone poles and wires encircling it) just a few miles away from his former home. There he sat, in the heart of the business section of downtown Carlton North, Victoria, Australia, alone. Greg Ham found himself-despite his fame and high esteem among Australia’s music community-on very shaky ground.

On April 19, 2012, Greg Ham’s friends became alarmed when Ham’s telephone answering machine went unheeded for days on end. A subsequent inquiry among Ham’s neighbors revealed that no one had seen him for days. Ham’s long-time friend and pharmacist David Nolte went to the house in the afternoon, where he discovered Ham’s body in the front room of Ham’s home. An autopsy revealed that Ham had been dead for days.

Mr. Nolte, who runs a Rathdowne Street pharmacy, had known Ham for 30 years. He told the Australian press that he went to check on Ham after a friend was unable to contact him for some days. By the time that Nolte arrived at Ham’s home, it was already too late; Greg Ham was dead. His lifeless body was found in a sitting position against the wall in the home’s front room. He had suffered a fatal heart attack.

Said Nolte, ”Greg’s friend told me they tried to ring him over a number of days and … it kept going to voicemail and the cats obviously hadn’t been fed.”

In the aftermath of Ham’s sudden demise, an unnamed friend of Ham’s stepped forward with the alarming claim that Ham’s abuse issues were far more serious than what had been previously reported. This “mystery man” alleged that Ham had been heavily using heroin, and that Ham’s abuse of alcohol had intensified after the Kookaburra case. Observed the friend, sadly shaking his head, ”The whole case had undone him.”

Immediately following the death of Greg Ham, furious fans began a barrage of hate mail and threatening phone calls to Larrikin Music Publishing Company and Norman Lurie retired not long after.

Greg Ham’s family and friends held a private funeral for Ham at the Fitzroy Town Hall in Melbourne, on May 2, 2012. Gregory Norman Ham was finally laid to rest at The Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Roman Catholic area of plots, Compartment O, Section 3, Row 1 Grave 55.

Said Colin Hay, fondly recalling his band mate (and beloved friend of 40 years) “He was the funniest person I knew. We shared countless, unbelievably memorable times together, from stumbling through Richmond after playing the Cricketers Arms, to helicoptering into New York City to appear on ‘Saturday Night Live’, or flying through dust storms in Arizona, above the Grand Canyon. We played in a band and conquered the world together. I love him very much. He’s here forever. He was a beautiful man!”

I heartily agree, Colin.

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Ronnie Montrose 3/2012

ronnie montroseMarch 3, 2012 – Ronnie Montrose. There are credible sources that claim he was born November 29, 1947 in Denver, Colorado, and others say he was born in San Francisco, California. No confusion is there about his early childhood in Colorado.

In his own words Montrose was born in San Francisco, California. When he was a toddler, his parents moved back to his mother’s home state of Colorado (his father was from Bertrand, Nebraska, and his mother was from Golden, Colorado). He spent most of his younger years in Denver, Colorado until he ran away at about 16 years old to pursue a musical career. He ultimately spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay area, where he became an influential, highly-rated player whose crunchy riffs, fluid licks and mesmerising solos lit up FM radio during the 1970s.

Continue reading Ronnie Montrose 3/2012

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Clive Richard Shakespeare 2/2012

Clive-Shakespeare_-picFeb 15, 2012 – Clive Richard Shakespeare (Sherbet) was born in Southampton, Hampshire on June 3, 1949.

With his family he emigrated to Australia and settled in Sydney. As lead guitarist, he joined various bands including The Road Agents in 1968 in Sydney with Terry Hyland on vocals. He was a founding member of Down Town Roll, which was a Motown covers band, alongside Adrian Cuff (organ), Frank Ma (vocals), Doug Rea (bass guitar), Pam Slater (vocals) and Danny Taylor on drums.

In April 1969 Rea, Shakespeare and Taylor founded pop, rock band, Sherbet with Dennis Laughlin on vocals (ex-Sebastian Hardie Blues Band, Clapham Junction) and Sammy See on organ, guitar, and vocals (Clapham Junction). See had left in October 1970 to join The Flying Circus and was replaced by New Zealand-born Garth Porter (Samael Lilith, Toby Jugg) who provided Hammond organ and electric piano. Sherbet’s initial singles were cover versions released by Infinity Records and distributed by Festival Records.

From 1972 to 1976, Sherbet’s chief songwriting team of Porter and Shakespeare were responsible for co-writing the lion’s share of the band’s material, which combined British pop and American soul influences. For their debut album, Time Change… A Natural Progression (December 1972), Shakespeare co-wrote five tracks including the top 30 single, “You’ve Got the Gun”. Other Sherbet singles co-written by Shakespeare include “Cassandra” (peaked at number nine in 1973), “Slipstream” and “Silvery Moon” (both reached number five in 1974), and their number-one hit “Summer Love” from 1975. Sherbet followed with more top five singles, “Life” and “Only One You” / “Matter of Time” and their worldwide hit “”Howzat” in ’76.

In January 1976, Shakespeare left Sherbet citing ‘personal reasons’. He later explained “I couldn’t even go out the front of my house because there were all these girls just hanging on the fence […] There was always a deadline for Garth and me – another album, another tour. When it did finally end, I was relieved more than anything because I had had enough. I left the band early in 1976 for reasons I don’t want to discuss fully … but let’s just say I wasn’t happy about where all the money went”.[6] The last single he played on was “Child’s Play”, which was a No. 5 hit in February. Shakespeare was soon replaced by Harvey James (ex-Mississippi, Ariel). In 1977, Shakespeare issued a solo single, “I Realize” / “There’s a Way” on Infinity Records.

Shakespeare set up Silverwood Studios and worked in record production, including co-producing Paul Kelly’s debut solo album, Post (1985).

Shakespeare rejoined Sherbet for reunion concerts including the Countdown Spectacular tour throughout Australia during September and October 2006. That year also saw the release of two newly recorded tracks on the compilation album, Sherbet-Super Hits, “Red Dress” which was written by Porter, Shakespeare, Daryl Braithwaite, James, Tony Mitchell, and Alan Sandow; and “Hearts Are Insane” written by Porter. In January 2011 bandmate Harvey James died of lung cancer – the remaining members except Shakespeare, who was too ill, performed at Gimme that Guitar, a tribute concert for James on 17 February. Clive died on February 15, 2012 from prostrate cancer at age 64.

“You go thru life doing what you feel is your utmost best,” he wrote a week before his death. “We all wonder what sort of impression we leave, to get the acceptance of your peers, then when a crisis like this comes along and your peers are there for you not because they are making a lot of money, not because they are contracted, not because it is a good career move, but because they want to be there for you.

“I am, and will be eternally humbled.”

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Johnny Otis 1/2012

johnny otis (1)17 January 2012 – Johnny Otis was born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes on December 28th 1921 in Vallejo, a predominantly black neighborhood in California.

Otis began playing drums as a teenager, when he purchased a set by forging his father’s signature on a credit slip. Soon after he dropped out of Berkeley High School during his junior year, Otis joined a local band with pianist friend ‘Count’ Otis Matthews called the West Oakland Houserockers. By 1939, they were performing at many of the local functions, primarily in and around the Oakland and Berkeley area, and became quite popular among their peers.

He then started out playing drums in a variety of swing orchestras, including Lloyd Hunter’s Serenaders, and Harlan Leonard’s Rockets, after which he founded his own band in 1945 and had one of the most enduring hits of the big band era, “Harlem Nocturne”. A true pioneering rhythm and blues singer, talent scout, disc jockey, composer, arranger, author, record producer, vibraphonist, drummer, bandleader, pastor, he was commonly referred to as the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues”.

He discovered tenor saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, who then performed on his uptempo “Barrelhouse Stomp”. He began recording Little Esther and Mel Walker for the Newark, New Jersey-based Savoy label in 1949 and began releasing a stream of hit records, including “Double Crossing Blues”, “Mistrustin’ Blues” and “Cupid Boogie”; all three reached no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Other of his hits included “Gee Baby”, “All Nite Long” “Mambo Boogie”, “Sunset to Dawn” and “Ma He’s Making Eyes At Me”.

In 1950, Otis was presented the R&B Artist of the Year trophy by Billboard. He also began featuring himself on vibraphone on many of his recordings. In 1951, Otis released “Mambo Boogie” featuring congas, maracas, claves, and mambo saxophone guajeos in a blues progression. This was to be the very first R&B mambo ever recorded.

Around the time Otis moved to the Mercury label in 1951, he discovered vocalist Etta James, who was only 13 at the time, at one of his talent shows. He produced and co-wrote her first hit, “The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)”.

In 1952, Otis auditioned singer Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton. He also produced, co-wrote, and played drums on the original 1953 recording of “Hound Dog” (he and his band also provided the backup ‘howling’ vocals). It was also co-written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, He had a legal dispute with the songwriting duo over the credits after he learned that Leiber and Stoller revised the contractual agreement prior to a new version of the song being recorded by singer Elvis Presley, which became an instant no. 1 smash hit. Claiming Leiber and Stoller illegally had the original contract nullified and rewrote a new one stating that the two boys (who were both 17) were the only composers of the song, Otis litigated. However, the presiding judge awarded the case to the defendants based on the fact that their signing of the first contract with Otis was ‘null and void’ since they were minors at the time.

One of Otis’ most famous compositions is the ballad “Every Beat of My Heart”, first recorded by The Royals in 1952 on Federal Records but then became a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961. He also produced and played the vibraphone on singer Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love”, which was at no. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts for 10 weeks. Another successful song for Otis was “So Fine”, which was originally recorded by The Sheiks in 1955 on Federal and was a hit for The Fiestas in 1959. As an artist and repertory man for King Records he discovered numerous young prospects who would later become successful, including Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, and Little Willie John, among others.

In addition to hosting his own television show titled “The Johnny Otis Show”, he also became an influential disc-jockey in Los Angeles, hosting his own radio show in 1955.

In April 1958, he recorded his best-known recording, “Willie and the Hand Jive”, a clave-based vamp, which relates to hand and arm motions in time with the music, called the hand jive. This went on to be a hit in the summer of 1958, peaking at no. 9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and becoming Otis’ only Top 10 single. The single reached no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Otis’ success with the song was somewhat short-lived, and he briefly moved to King Records in 1961, where he worked with Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

In 1969, Otis landed a deal with Columbia Records and recorded “Cold Shot!” and the sexually explicit Snatch and the Poontangs (which had an “X” rating), both of which featured his son Shuggie and singer Delmar ‘Mighty Mouth’ Evans.

A year later, he recorded a double-live album of his band’s performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival titled Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey!  A portion of the performance was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me.

Although Otis’ touring lessened throughout the 1970s, he started the Blues Spectrum label and released a fifteen album series entitled Rhythm and Blues Oldies, which featured 1950’s R&B artists Louis Jordan, Roy Milton, Richard Berry, and even Otis himself.

During the 1980s, he had a weekly radio show which aired Monday evenings from 8 to 11 pm on Los Angeles radio station KPFK, where he played records and had guest appearances by such R&B artists as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Otis also recorded with his sons Shuggie on guitar and Nicky on drums, releasing a slew of albums, including The New Johnny Otis Show(1982), Johnny Otis! Johnny Otis! (1984), and Otisology (1985). In the summer of 1987, Otis hosted his own Red Beans & Rice R&B Music Festival in Los Angeles which featured top-name acts and hosted a Southern-style red beans and rice cook-off. He moved the festival site to the city of San Dimas, where it ran annually in association with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation for twenty years until 2006.

Otis and his family moved from Southern California to Sebastopol, California, a small apple farming town in Sonoma County. He continued performing in the U.S. and Europe through the 1990s, headlining the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1990 and 2000. In 1993, he opened The Johnny Otis Market, a deli-style grocery store/cabaret, where he and his band played sold-out shows every weekend until its doors closed in 1995. He was inducted to both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Blues Hall of Fame in 1994.

Aside from his many accomplishments, Johnny was held responsible for launching the career of the late Etta James Hawkins; who passed 3 days later in the same week. It is rumored that they had a long lovers relationship that produced singer Beyonce, who’s real rumored age would be 42.

Johnny Otis was 90 years old when he died of natural causes on 17 January 2012.

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Mark Reale 1/2012

mark realeJanuary 25, 2012 – Mark Reale, heavy metal guitarist best known for being the only constant original member in the band Riot, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1955. He grew up listening to The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Ritchie Blackmore and lists George Harrison as one of his greatest influences. After attending concerts by Ronnie Montrose, Rick Derringer and Edgar Winter he decided to become a rock guitarist, forming the band Riot in 1975 who are still active today.

Mark Reale was the principal songwriter and main creative force behind Riot starting with the band’s 1977 debut album Rock City. The group’s most acclaimed album was 1981’s seminal Fire Down Under, the last of three studio albums to feature original vocalist Guy Speranza. Other notable records include Restless Breed (1982), the band’s comeback album, Thundersteel (1988), and its follow-up, The Privilege of Power (1990). Riot’s most recent album was Immortal Soul in 2011. Riot has toured all around the world and been a support act for major acts such as Kiss, AC/DC, Sammy Hagar, Molly Hatchet, and Rush while maintaining a particularly strong fanbase in Japan and Continental Europe.

In the early to mid 70’s his influences included the likes of Edgar Winter, Ronnie Montrose and Rick Derringer. He also loved a range of bands and artists from Al Di Meola to Deep Purple. In 1975 Mark formed his band RIOT, then at a block party Mark’s father found vocalist Guy Speranza. Mark’s guitar style and his passion for writing songs that told stories that were so deep and moving had made a real connection with those who would become lifelong fans. The fans felt so connected to Mark because the lyrics in RIOT’s songs were extremely close to the stories of their own lives. His song writing style could weave tales of anything from old lore to battle fields and warriors, personal loss and triumph. And heavy metal anthems that will be with us for decades to come.

After Riot’s temporary breakup following the Born In America (1983) release, Reale formed a short-lived outfit named Narita with former members of S.A. Slayer, including future Riot bassist Don Van Stavern. The band recorded a sole demo in 1984 before calling it quits. Reale decided to re-activate Riot which led to a new record deal with CBS Records and the Thundersteel album in 1988. In 1998, Reale co-founded the group Westworld with vocalist Tony Harnell of TNT fame. Westworld released three studio albums and one live disc between 1999 and 2002.

The brethren of brothers that Mark spent his life long career in music with and whom he leaves behind or joins in heaven are, Guy Speranza, L.A Kouvaris, Kip Leming, Peter Bitelli, Rhett Forrester, Rick Ventura, Jimmy Iommi, Sandy Slavin, Tony Moore, Don Van Stavern, Mike Flyntz, Pete Perez, Bobby Jarzombek, Mike Dimeo, John Macaluso, Bobby Rondinelli, Mike Tirelli, Frank Gilchriest and Damon Di Bari who was always like the “6th” member of the band being Riot’s lighting director / production manager / tour manager and Mark’s personal assistant from 1988 through 2008. Mark’s final days were spent with Damon at his hospital bedside, sharing the fans’ thoughts, well wishes and prayers. Even though Mark began his career in New York, San Antonio was a special place he loved and not only lived here for a while but had planned on moving back here to make San Antonio his permanent home.

On January 25, 2012, Reale died of complications related to Crohn’s disease. Reale, who had Crohn’s disease most of his life, had been in a coma since January 11 due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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Larry Butler 1/2012

larry-butlerJanuary 20, 2012 – Larry Butler  was born March 26, 1942 in Pensacola, Florida. He began his career at the age of six with the Harry James Orchestra; at age ten he sang with Red Foley, and before he was old enough to drive he had hosted his own radio show and played piano on The Lynn Toney Show, a live television show in his market.At age ten he sang with Red Foley and before he was old enough to drive he had hosted his own radio show and co-hosted a live TV show in his market.

He moved to Nashville and soon his unique style of piano playing supported such hits as “Hello Darlin” by Conway Twitty and “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro. He was in high demand as a Nashville session player and backed up such as Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Bobby Goldsboro, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Lynn Anderson and more.

In 1973 Butler made one of his most significant career moves by joining United Artists Records as head of the label’s Nashville division. His leadership and vision brought in such acts as Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Dottie West and The Kendalls and established the label as one of the most successful and respected in Nashville.

Butler and Chips Moman and penned the number 1 hit “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”. Topping the charts for both Pop and Country, the song became one of B. J. Thomas’ greatest career hits. It was a BMI 3 million performance song and earned Butler a Grammy for Song of the Year.

Unquestionably, Butler’s biggest success was producing Kenny Rogers. Their studio collaboration yielded many of Kenny’s greatest hits. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, he worked with Kenny Rogers. Many of his albums with Rogers went gold or platinum and accumulated many millions of sales around the world.

These albums include Kenny Rogers-1976, The Gambler-1978, Gideon-1980, I Prefer The Moonlight-1987 and If Only My Heart Had A Voice-1993. Larry also participated in Rogers 2006 retrospective DVD The Journey. In 1984 Larry formed his own music company, Larry Butler Music Group, Inc. where he produced the likes of George Strait, Charlie Rich, Keith Whitley, Eddy Raven, Billie Jo Spears, Kenny Rogers, Don McLean, John Denver and Vern Gosdin. Larry was the only Nashville producer to win the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year.

Eventually Butler left UA and started his own independent company, Larry Butler Productions. His acts included

  • Charlie Rich (“You’re Gonna Love yourself In The Morning”)
  • Mac Davis (“It’s Hard To Be Humble”)
  • Debbie Boone (“Are You On The Road To Loving Me Again”)
  • Billie Jo Spears (“Blanket On The Ground”)
  • Don McLean (“Crying”)
  • John Denver (“Some Days Are Diamonds”)

Butler died in his sleep in Pensacola, Florida on January 20, 2012.

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Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman 11/2011

Moogy KlingmanNovember 15, 2011 – Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman was born on September 7, 1950 in GreatNeck New York where he grew up.

His music career reads like a Who is Who of Rock and Roll from his trip as a 15 year old to see Dylan go electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to playing at 16 with Jimi Hendrix and Randy California in Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.

His jug band performance with schoolmate Andy Kaufman in a controversial civil rights concert resulted in his expulsion from high school in 1966, after which he went to Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in New York City. By then, his band Glitterhouse had made records with the star producer Bob Crewe, as well as Crewe’s soundtrack to the 1968 Roger Vadim film Barbarella with Jane Fonda.

His association with Todd Rundgren commenced in 1968 when they met outside the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village after which Moogy was the original keyboardist for Todd and also Utopia. In his Manhattan loft, he and Todd constructed the “Secret Sound” recording studio where they recorded Todd’s ‘A Wizard’, ‘A True Star’, ‘Todd’, and other albums. He played on ten Todd Rundgren albums, as well as several Utopia albums.

Over his long career, Moogy has played, recorded and/or had his songs recorded by artists including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, Chuck Berry, Luther Vandross, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Allan Woody and Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule and has also worked with Carly Simon, Cindy Lauper, Shawn Colvin, Irene Cara, and Thelma Houston.

He was the co-founder of the band The Peaceniks, along with Barry Gruber, he also played in the “Moogy/Woody Band” with Allman Brothers alumni Allan Woody, and Warren Haynes, as well as having solo albums out on Capitol, EMI records, and on his own label.

He was the executive producer and musical director of the Music From Free Creek “supersession” project. The sessions featured the participation of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Emerson, Mitch Mitchell, Harvey Mandel and Linda Ronstadt.

Klingman also performed live at many venues with various groups, playing for Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Buzzy Linhart and then in the 1990s, with members of the Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule, and a summer tour with Bo Diddley.

A benefit concert was held in January 2011, to help pay Klingman’s medical expenses(sic), which saw the original Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, featuring Ralph Schuckett, Kevin Ellman, John Siegler and Klingman, reunite on stage for the first time in over thirty years. Sad that a man of his calibre and talent needs his friends to organize several benefits to help pay for medical expenses.

Sadly Klingman died of bladder cancer in New York City on November 15, 2011, at the age of 61.

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Honeyboy Edwards 8/2011

Delta Blues Pioneer Honeyboy EdwardsAugust 29, 2011 – David “Honeyboy” Edwards  American blues guitarist and singer, born in Shaw, Mississippi on June 28th 1915. At 14 he he left home to travel with bluesman Big Joe Williams.

Honeyboy was a part of many of the seminal moments of the blues.  As Honeyboy writes in “The World Don’t Own Me Nothing”, “…it was in ’29 when Tommy Johnson come down from Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He was just a little guy, tan colored, easy-going; but he drank a whole lot. At nighttime, we’d go there and listen to Tommy Johnson play.” Honeyboy continues, ” Listening to Tommy, that’s when I really learned something about how to play guitar.”
Honeyboy’s life has been intertwined with almost every major blues legend, including Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Rice “Sonny Boy Williamson” Miller, Howlin’ Wolf, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sunnyland Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter,  Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, and … well, let’s just say the list goes on darn near forever!

He performed with and was a friend of blues legend Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, and was reportedly present on the night Johnson drank poisoned whiskey which eventually killed him three days later. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.

“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his peripatetic years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.

On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin’ and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I’d go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then…we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off – a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin’ on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn’t have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I’m gone.”

American music roots Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded David in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942 for the Library of Congress, recording 15 album sides of music.
The songs included “Wind Howlin’ Blues” and “The Army Blues”. He did not record again commercially until 1951, when he recorded “Who May Be Your Regular Be” for Arc Records under the name of Mr Honey. Honeyboy also cut “Build A Cave” as ‘Mr. Honey’ for Artist.

Having moved to Chicago in the early fifties, Honeyboy played small clubs and street corners with Floyd Jones, Johnny Temple, and Kansas City Red. In 1953, Honeyboy recorded several songs for Chess that remained un-issued until “Drop Down Mama” was included in an anthology release.
He claims to have written several well-known blues songs including “Long Tall Woman Blues” and “Just Like Jesse James”. His discography for the 1950s and 1960s amounts to nine songs from seven sessions.

In 1972, Honeyboy met Michael Frank, and the two soon became fast friends. In 1976, they hit the North Side Blues scene as The Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, as well as performing as a duo on occasion. Michael founded Earwig Records, and in 1979 Honeyboy and his friends Sunnyland Slim, Kansas City Red, Floyd Jones, and Big Walter Horton recorded “Old Friends”. From 1974 to 1977, he recorded material for a full length LP, I’ve Been Around, released in 1978.

Honeyboy’s early Library of Congress performances and more recent recordings were combined on “Delta Bluesman”, released by Earwig in 1992.

His release, Roamin and Ramblin, on the Earwig Music label, featured Honeyboy’s old school guitar and vocals – fresh takes on old gems and first time release of historic recordings. New 2007 sessions with harmonica greats Bobby Rush, Billy Branch and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones, previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings of Honeyboy and Big Walter Horton, and circa 1976 concert tracks — solo and with Sugar Blue. Michael Frank, Paul Kaye, Rick Sherry and Kenny Smith also play on the album on various tracks. Honeyboy and Bobby Rush also tell some short blues tales.

David Honeyboy Edwards, the “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen” continued his rambling life, touring the world well into his 90s, only just retiring July 17th 2011. A little over a month later he passed away from heart failure on August 29, 2011 at the age of 96.

He was inducted in 1996 into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Honeyboy was awarded a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Blues Album, on which he appeared with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Pinetop Perkins and in 2010 was warded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jerry Leiber 8/2011

songwriting partners leiber and stollerAugust 22, 2011 – Jerome ‘Jerry’ Leiber was born on April 25th 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland, where his parents, Jewish immigrants from Poland, ran a general store. When Jerry was 5, his father died and his mother tried, with little success, to run a small store in one of the city’s worst slums. When he was 12, she took him to Los Angeles. At aged 17, as a senior at Fairfax High, Jerry met his composer-songwriting partner Mike Stoller, a blues fanatic pianist, and they formed the legendary 6 decade plus, writing partnership of Leiber and Stoller.

It was while attending Fairfax High in Los Angeles and working in Norty’s Record Shop that he met Lester Sill, a promoter for Modern Records, and confessed that he wanted to be a songwriter. After Sill urged him to find a pianist who could help him put his ideas onto sheet music he met Mr. Stoller through a friend, and the two began writing together

“Often I would have a start, two or four lines,” Mr. Leiber told Robert Palmer, the author of “Baby, That Was Rock & Roll: The Legendary Leiber and Stoller” (1978). “Mike would sit at the piano and start to jam, just playing, fooling around, and I’d throw out a line. He’d accommodate the line — metrically, rhythmically.”

Within a few years they had written modestly successful songs for several rhythm-and-blues singers: “K.C. Lovin’ ” for Little Willie Littlefield, which under the title “Kansas City” became a No. 1 hit for Wilbert Harrison, years later in 1959.

In 1952, Sill arranged for Mr. Leiber and Mr. Stoller to visit the bandleader Johnny Otis and to listen to several of the rhythm-and-blues acts who worked with him, including Big Mama Thornton, who sang “Ball and Chain” for them. Inspired, the partners went back to Mr. Stoller’s house and wrote “Hound Dog.”

“I yelled, he played,” Mr. Leiber told Josh Alan Friedman, the author of “Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll” (2008). “The groove came together and we finished in 12 minutes flat. I work fast. We raced right back to lay the song on Big Mama.”

Together they played a key role in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, writing and composing iconic hits as “Hound Dog” which originally topped the “race” music charts as a rhythm and blues single by Big Mamma Thornton in 1953. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. (All totaled, Presley recorded more than 20 Leiber and Stoller songs.)

In 1953 Leiber and Stoller formed Spark Records, an independent label, with Sill, but without national distribution it failed to score major hits. Atlantic Records, which had bought the Leiber and Stoller song “Ruby Baby” and “Fools Fall in Love” for the Drifters, signed them to an unusual agreement that allowed them to produce for other labels. The golden age of Leiber and Stoller began.

They wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.

Their hits for the Drifters remain some of the most admired songs in the rock ’n’ roll canon, notably “On Broadway,” written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. “Spanish Harlem,” which Mr. Leiber wrote with Phil Spector, gave Ben E. King his first hit after leaving the Drifters. King’s most famous recording, “Stand By Me,” was a Leiber-Stoller song on which he collaborated.

They wrote a series of hits for the Coasters, including “Charlie Brown,” “Young Blood” with Doc Pomus, “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy” and “Yakety Yak.”

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a 1954 hit written for the Robins, became the title of a Broadway musical based on the Leiber and Stoller songbook.

In the mid-1960s, Leiber and Stoller started concentratinbg more on production. They founded Red Bird Records, where they turned out hit records by girl groups like the Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”) and the Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack,” “Walking in the Sand”). They sold the label in 1966 and then worked as independent producers and writers. Peggy Lee, who had recorded their song “I’m a Woman” in 1963, recorded “Is that All There Is?” in 1969, a song that earned her a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy.

Their last major hit production was “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel, taken from the band’s 1972 eponymous debut album, which the duo produced. In 1975, they recorded Mirrors, an album of art songs with Peggy Lee. A remixed and expanded version of the album was released in 2005 as Peggy Lee Sings Leiber and Stoller.

In the late 1970s, A&M Records recruited Leiber and Stoller to write and produce an album for Elkie Brooks; Two Days Away (1977) proved a success in the UK and most of Europe. Their composition “Pearl’s a Singer” (written with Ralph Dino & John Sembello) became a hit for Brooks, and remains her signature tune. In 1978, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her pianist-composer husband William Bolcom recorded an album, Other Songs by Leiber and Stoller, featuring a number of the songwriters’ more unusual (and satiric) works, including “Let’s Bring Back World War I”, written specifically for (and dedicated to) Bolcom and Morris; and “Humphrey Bogart”, a tongue-in-cheek song about obsession with the actor. In 1979, Leiber and Stoller produced another album for Brooks: Live and Learn.

In 1982, Steely Dan member Donald Fagen recorded their song, “Ruby Baby”, on his album, The Nightfly. That same year, former Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald released “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”, adapted from Leiber and Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin'”.

In all, Leiber and Stoller wrote or co-wrote more than 200 tunes, producing over 70 chart hits. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985.

In 1987, the partners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have written some of the most spirited and enduring rock ’n’ roll songs,” the hall said in a statement when they were inducted. “Leiber and Stoller advanced rock ’n’ roll to new heights of wit and musical sophistication.”

In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography, written by Leiber and Stoller with David Ritz.

On August 22, 2011, Leiber died in Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, aged 78, from cardio-pulmonary failure.

Leiber and Stoller dawned on the music scene at a time of stylistic rumblings and movement into new territory of popular music, a time when the authentic American rhythm and blues of the black world was beginning to be embraced by the general music-buying public, a time when the phenomenon of crossover became apparent with the daily programming assistance of legendary disc jockeys like Alan Freed, a Cleveland on-air personality who is said to have coined the phrase, rock and roll.

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Nick Ashford 8/2011

nick ashford of ashford and simpsonAugust 22, 2011 – Nickolas ‘Nick’ Ashford (70) was born on May 4th 1941 in Fairfield, South Carolina. Ashford’s father, Calvin, was a construction worker and Nick got his musical start at Willow Run Baptist Church, singing and writing songs for the gospel choir. He briefly attended Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, before heading to New York, where he tried but failed to find success as a dancer. In 1963, while homeless, Ashford went to White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Simpson, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate, born in the Bronx, who was studying music. They began writing songs together, selling the first bunch for $64.

After having recorded unsuccessfully as a duo, they joined aspiring solo artist and former member of the Ikettes, Joshie Jo Armstead, at the Scepter/Wand label where their compositions were recorded by Ronnie Milsap-“Never Had It So Good”, Maxine Brown-“One Step At A Time”, as well as the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson.

Their first major success occurred when they and writing partner Jo Armstead came up with “Let’s Go Get Stoned” for Ray Charles. The bluesy, gospel-tinged song became a huge hit for Charles, and Ashford and Simpson soon came to the attention of Motown Records and began penning hits for the label’s artists.

They started out writing soulful, romantic works for the duo of Gaye and Terrell that would become instant classics, like “Your Precious Love,” “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Ross later recorded “Ain’t No Mountain” with a new arrangement that had sweeping pop grandeur and made it her signature song.

That same year Ashford & Simpson joined Motown, where their best-known songs included “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”.

Ross may have been Ashford & Simpson’s greatest muse: They had some of their biggest songs with her and helped give her career-defining hits that would distinguish her solo career apart from the Supremes. Among the songs Ross made hits were “Reach Out and Touch,” “The Boss,” “My House,” and “Missing You,” a tribute to the late Gaye and others.

Among the other artists who had hits with their songs were Gladys Knight and the Pips (Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime) and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (Who’s Gonna Take the Blame).

Over nearly five decades, Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson wrote songs together also had success writing for themselves, with perhaps the biggest known hit being the 1980s hit Solid As A Rock.

The duo got married in 1974 and carefully nurtured both the personal and professional aspects of their relationship. “A long time ago I accepted that this would be an all-consuming relationship,” Simpson said in a 1981 interview with The Times. “To keep it going we’ve worked out ways to get along so we don’t drive each other crazy.…

“We don’t hold things in,” she said. “We can’t stay mad and get any work done. Other couples can stay mad at each other for days because they don’t have to work together. We don’t have that luxury, and it’s been good for us that we don’t.”

Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire said: “They had magic, and that’s what creates those wonderful hits, that magic. Without those songs, those artists wouldn’t have been able to go to the next level.”

The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Ashford and Simpson were also recipients of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1999, and ASCAP’s highest honor, the Founder’s Award, which they received on March 18, 1996. They also received a songwriting credit on Amy Winehouse’s song Tears Dry on Their Own, which contains a sample from Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

In later years, the pair continued to perform mostly as the owners of the New York City restaurant Sugar Bar, where many top names and emerging talents would put on showcases.

Nick died fighting throat cancer on August 22, 2011. He was 70.

When I heard the news Nick Ashford passed this week the first person I thought of was Valerie. I hope she is getting the support she needs from her friends and family. Ashford and Simpson were a great writing team that penned gems for the late Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terell, Diana Ross, Ray Charles; I can go on and on. What made me admired them the most was that their love was something that fairy tales were made of. Black marriages have gone to the form of extinction, and now we just have the cases of an overabundance of just baby mothers and fathers. Ashford and Simpson was the symbol on what love stands for. I’m sure their marriage had their ups and downs, but they did not give up, they continued to make it work which resulted in over 36 years of unity. Therefore, the old-school song of the week is “Solid (As A Rock). If you did not believe in soul mates, then you are sadly mistaken. They were the quintessential of soul mates, and I truly believe everyone has one. Valerie hang in there and rest in peace Nick. – Ms. Scripter

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Jani Lane 8/2011

Jani Lane Of WarrantAugust 10, 2011 – Jani Lane, (Warrant) born on February 1, 1964 as John Kennedy Oswald later changed to John Patrick Oswald. The youngest of Eileen and Robert Oswald’s five children, John grew up just east of Akron in Brimfield, along with his older brother (Eric) and 3 older sisters (Marcine, Michelle and Victoria). Eric was an accomplished guitarist and Lane himself learned to play drums, guitar and piano by ear at age 6 with his brother, Eric and sister, Vicky, guiding, teaching, and participating with him. Lane grew up listening to Cleveland rock station WMMS “The Buzzard”), and was introduced to all types of bands and music by his brother, Eric. With his sister Vicky’s connections in the music scene with many bands and with his parents Bob and Eileen’s aid, he quickly made a name for himself at a very young age. Lane played drums under the name “Mitch Dynamite” in clubs by age 11, again with the prompting of his sister and her boyfriend’s band “Pokerface”, he started his climb to bigger and better things. (“Mitch Dynamite” is listed as the drummer in the credits for Warrant’s Latest and Greatest CD). Throughout the years, Lane would sometimes jump behind the kit to play with his band, and he had played the drums in various formats and gigs, always enjoying “jam sessions” at home and in public with his brother and sister as back-ups.

By the time Lane was 11, his siblings had left for college or marriage. He graduated from Field High School in 1982 with many options available to him in the immediate future, including football scholarships at Kent State and Ohio State, drama scholarships, etc. He was an Honor Roll and above-average, intelligent student from kindergarten through high school. He chose his passion much to the chagrin of his parents, who wanted him to continue his education.

After making a name for himself in Ohio, Jani relocated to Florida in 1983 with Dorian Gray. He eventually formed Plain Jane in FL with future Warrant bandmate Steven (Chamberlin) Sweet and longtime friend/bassist Al Collins. It was at this time Lane adopted the stage name “Jani Lane.” Lane got the name from his German grandparents’ pronunciation and spelling of Johnny as “Jani.” They said it as Yay-nee and that stuck. While living in FL, Lane began vocal training with vocal coach/trainer Ron Feldman.

Jani, Al and Steven recorded the first Plain Jane 4-track demos at their rented house in Winter Park, FL before relocating to CA in the spring of ’84. Jani loved FL and was not interested in moving to Los Angeles at first but the music scene on the Hollywood Sunset Strip seemed like the place to be if a band wanted to get a record deal so they rented a trailer and headed west. They broke down in almost every state on the way to CA, leaving the boys broke by the time they landed at the Hollywood Bowl Motel. They put the last of their change together, bought a quart of milk and a loaf of bread and made sandwiches with mustard packets while taking turns calling their parents for cash.

Now living in Los Angeles, the boys took various odd jobs to survive. Struggling to make ends meet as a musician, Lane resorted to working in a pornographic video warehouse. It was harder to pay the bills in CA, so the band and new road crew plus a few girlfriends pooled their wages and lived in a 2 bedroom condo rented by new Plain Jane guitarist Paul Noble. At one time there were 13 people living in the crowded space. Everyone pitched in to have a stage show built that included a spinning drum riser. The band rehearsed for months until Plain Jane was ready to take on Hollywood.

By 1985, Plain Jane had become a regular feature in the L.A. club circuit and opened many shows for a band called Warrant. Coincidentally, Plain Jane’s bassist and guitarist left the band on the same day Warrant’s singer and drummer quit. It seemed as though the stars were lining up for the camps to merge into one monster of a rock band. Erik Turner, who had founded Warrant in July 1984, was impressed by Plain Jane’s songwriting and vocal performance, and invited Lane and Sweet to jam with his band at Hollywood’s db Sound in September 1986.

After generating more notoriety on the club circuit, Warrant began to attract the attention of record labels. Following an abortive deal with A&M records over a contribution to the soundtrack for the motion picture Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the band signed with Columbia Records. The Columbia deal came via the partnering of Warrant and manager Tom Hulet (known for working with The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, and others). In true heavy metal fashion, Lane bought and smashed a black Corvette with his share of the money from the band’s record deal advance. Tom Hulet then became Lane’s mentor and friend until his death from cancer in 1993.

The group began to work on its legendary debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, a process that led Lane into a psychiatric hospital for a nervous breakdown after he caught his best friend having an affair with his girlfriend. Once he fully recovered, Lane recorded his vocals and the album went on to be one of the biggest-selling records of the glam metal era.

As lead vocalist with Warrant, Lane wrote all of the band’s material including four Top 40 hit singles: “Down Boys”, “Sometimes She Cries”, “Big Talk” and the number 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Heaven” for Warrant’s debut double platinum album, which peaked at number 10 on The Billboard 200. Lane also wrote another four Top 40 hit singles: “Cherry Pie,” “I Saw Red,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Blind Faith” for the second album, the double platinum Cherry Pie in 1990, which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200. Lane also co-wrote and performed with Warrant the song “The Power” in the 1992 movie Gladiator. The band also released their third album in 1992, the critically acclaimed Gold record Dog Eat Dog which peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200.

Even though the band’s follow-up Cherry Pie reached double platinum ranking over time, it failed to meet the debut’s success; this, combined with the emergence and popularity of grunge, led to Warrant being dropped by their label. Lane left for the first time in 1993 to pursue a solo career (also enforced by the death of his friend Tom Hulet) he returned several months later, helping the band to secure a new record with Tom Lipsky of CMC International. The band then recorded Ultraphobic in 1995, Belly to Belly in 1996, Greatest & Latest in 1999 and a cover album Under the Influence in 2001.

Lane left Warrant again in 2002 to pursue a solo career. He released Back Down to One in 2003, but shortly after was admitted to a rehab center for alcohol and drug-related exhaustion. He rebounded, and after a few acting roles and appearances on compilations, attempted to restart his own version of Warrant. Lawyers for the original band quickly struck this down. He later participated in VH1’s reality series Celebrity Fit Club. He left for the last time in 2008, citing writing differences.

In summer 2010, Lane toured with Great White, filling in for singer Jack Russell, who was recuperating from surgery after suffering internal complications.

In a genre of music where survival of the fittest is not just a cliché but a way of life, Jani Lane embodied the spirit of a decade of excess, hedonism, and rock & roll. As the lead singer of Warrant, he helped to propel the band into the upper stratosphere with such hits as “Heaven,” “Down Boys,” and “Cherry Pie.”

On August 11, 2011 Jani was found dead at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Woodland Hills, California. Although no official cause of death was determined, it was most likely alcohol poisoning related. He was 47.

A mysterious identification note was found on Warrant singer Jani Lane’s person when his body was discovered. The note, written by a friend, said simply ‘I am Jani Lane’ and contained a phone number. Law enforcement sources revealed that this was not the first time such a note had been written in case someone found the rocker, who had not carried formal identification for for some time.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash tweeted: ‘Just heard about Jani Lane. What a shame. RIP man.’

Poison frontman Bret Michaels wrote: ‘We’d like to offer our deepest condolences to the family of Jani Lane regarding their loss. Respectfully, Bret and all at MEGI.’

VH1’s Jennifer Gimenez said: ‘It is very sad and my heart is saddened to hear the news that I lost my lovable friend Jani Lane.’

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx tweeted: ‘I just heard the sad news about Janie Lane. So hard to swallow when people have kids. RIP.’

And comic Jim Florentine wrote: ‘So sad to hear about the passing of Jani Lane. He just taped an episode of That Metal Show 3 weeks ago and was in great spirits. RIP Buddy.’

Stryper frontman Michael Sweet posted online: ‘I’m still in shock… I was just sitting in a dressing room with him less than a month ago. Had I known, I would have spent more time with him.

‘He was a good-hearted guy with a gentle soul. I know he had a tough life and many battles, but who doesn’t? He seemed to be genuinely working so hard at sorting things out and getting things in order. It’s a true shame.’

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Gene McDaniels 7/2011

July 29, 2011 – Eugene Booker “Gene” McDaniels was born on February 12th 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

His first performing group, the Echoes of Joy (later the Sultans) — organized when he was 11 — specialized exclusively in gospel music, but McDaniels later started to work popular tunes into their repertoire. Following a citywide singing competition in which he managed to distinguish himself amid the best of all of his peers, he started looking toward music as a career. He later forsook traditional academics in favor of study at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, and made his professional debut as a member of the Mississippi Piney Woods Singers, whose touring got him to the West Coast, where he began performing jazz as a solo singer in his spare time. There, he began singing in jazz clubs, achieving note with the Les McCann Trio, and came to the attention of Sy Waronker of Liberty Records.

After recording two unsuccessful singles and an album, he was teamed with producer Snuff Garrett, with whom he recorded his first hit, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay”, which reached number 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1961 and sold over one million copies, earning gold disc status. Its follow-up, “A Tear”, was less successful but his third single with Garrett, “Tower of Strength”, co-written by Burt Bacharach, reached number 5 and won McDaniels his second gold record. “Tower of Strength” reached number 49 in the UK Singles Chart, losing out to Frankie Vaughan’s chart-topping version.

His hits of the early 1960s, such as A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength, cast him as a suave performer of upbeat pop songs aimed at white teenagers; in his last years he would occasionally take the stage to deliver standards with all the graceful inventiveness of the great jazz singer he might have been.

In between came the event that changed his life, when his protest song Compared to What became an unexpected hit after being released on an album recorded at the 1969 Montreux jazz festival by his first employer, the pianist Les McCann, and the saxophonist Eddie Harris. The song went on to be covered more than 270 times by other artists, including Ray Charles, Della Reese and John Legend. Its success enabled McDaniels to stop performing in night-clubs, an environment he detested because of the lack of respect he felt was shown towards the music by their audiences.

 The series of albums he made after the royalties from Compared to What started flowing in, joined in 1974 by those from Feel Like Makin’ Love, which he wrote for Roberta Flack, failed to earn further chart success but attracted a small cult following which grew as the artists of the hip-hop generation discovered them and recycled their distinctive grooves in the form of samples. He was delighted by the attention from musicians 30 and 40 years his junior. “It’s a great source of pride,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of the hip-hop movement – however remotely, however intimately.”

In 1962 he appeared performing in the movie It’s Trad, Dad!, directed by Richard Lester. He continued to have minor hit records, including “Chip Chip”, “Point Of No Return” and “Spanish Lace”, each in 1962, but his suave style of singing gradually became less fashionable. In 1965 he moved to Columbia Records, with little success, and in 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he left the US to live in Denmark and Sweden, where he concentrated on songwriting. He returned to the US in 1971, and recorded thereafter as Eugene McDaniels. In 1965 his “Point Of No Return” was covered by the British R&B band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames on their EP Fame At Last.

After the late 1960s, McDaniels turned his attention to a more black consciousness form, and his best-known song in this genre was “Compared to What”, a jazz-soul protest song made famous (and into a hit) by Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their album Swiss Movement, and also covered by Roberta Flack, Ray Charles, Della Reese, John Legend, the Roots, Sweetwater and others. McDaniels also attained the top spot on the chart as a songwriter. In 1974, Roberta Flack reached number 1 with his “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (not to be confused with the Bad Company song of the same name), which won a Grammy Award. McDaniels also received a BMI award for outstanding radio airplay; at the time of the award, the song had already had over five million plays.

In the UK, his career was hindered when British music publishers diverted his hit songs to local artists; Craig Douglas and Frankie Vaughan recorded A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength respectively, their popularity ensuring that the covers overshadowed the original versions. Nevertheless McDaniels was invited to Britain to appear alongside Douglas and Helen Shapiro in the 1961 film It’s Trad, Dad, whose director, Dick Lester, shot him wreathed in cigarette smoke against a black background, like a Herman Leonard photograph, as he delivered the ballad Another Tear Falls, later to be recorded with greater success by the Walker Brothers.

Garrett also encouraged him to sing such mainstream ballads as And the Angels Sing and Portrait of My Love, using sophisticated arrangements by Marty Paich and Hank Levine in an attempt to turn him into a younger version of Nat King Cole. But perhaps his best recording of the 60s, although not the most successful at the time, was of a powerful song called Walk With a Winner, for which he wrote the lyric. Jack Nitzsche’s driving arrangement and dense production helped make it an enduring favourite with Britain’s Northern Soul dancers.

At the end of the decade, Compared to What came out of the blue. Inspired by the civil rights and Vietnam war protests, its uncompromising lyric was first heard on Flack’s debut album in 1969: “The president, he’s got his war/Folks don’t know just what it’s for/Nobody gives us rhyme or reason/Have one doubt, they call it treason …” Flack’s version was accompanied by a delicately funky rhythm, but when McCann and Harris performed it in Montreux they added muscle to the groove so effectively that their nine-minute version quickly became a favourite with dancers, sending Swiss Movement, the LP on which it was featured, to the top of the jazz album charts.

Liberated from financial worries, McDaniels revived his own recording career with two albums, Outlaw (1970) and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971), in which, now rechristened Eugene McDaniels, he presented a strong and sometimes bitter social and political message set to stripped-down street-funk and quasi-rock rhythms. According to one source: “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is a standard-bearer for psychedelic soul/funk/jazz rhythms and is borrowed frequently for its samples.”

The cover photograph of Outlaw depicted a multiracial group of armed urban guerrillas, an explicit statement that seemed to align him more closely with the rage of Amiri Baraka and the Last Poets than with the gentler black protest music of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Back to the World. Their impact, however, was minimal until they were unearthed by hip-hop’s crate-digging obsessives, who put such tracks as Cherrystones and Jagger the Dagger to new use. The album Natural Juices (1975) showed a more romantic side, but there was no audience for such fine love songs as Shell of a Man and Dream of You and Me. He moved into record production, working with the organist Jimmy Smith (for whom he produced the album Sit On It! in 1977) and the singers Nancy Wilson and Merry Clayton.

In the 1980s, he recorded an album with the percussionist Terry Silverlight, which has not yet been released. In 2005, McDaniels released Screams & Whispers on his own record label. In 2009, it was announced that he was to release a new album, Evolution’s Child, which featured his lyrics, and a number of songs composed or arranged with pianist Ted Brancato. Some of the songs featured jazz musician Ron Carter on concert bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. McDaniel’s “Jagger the Dagger” was featured on the Tribe Vibes breakbeat compilation album, after it had been sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.

McDaniels also appeared in films. They included It’s Trad, Dad! (1962, released in the United States as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm), which was directed by Richard Lester. McDaniels also appeared in The Young Swingers (1963). He is briefly seen singing in the choir in the 1974 film Uptown Saturday Night. He was the original voice actor for “Nasus”, a champion in the computer game League of Legends.

McDaniels lived as a self-described celebrity “hermit” by the ocean in Kittery Point, Maine.

 

In 2010 he launched a series of YouTube videos on his website, featuring his music and thoughts on some of his creations. McDaniels died peacefully on July 29, 2011, at his home. He was 76.

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Dan Peek 7/2011

July 24, 2011 – Dan Peek (America) was born on November 1st 1950 in Panama City, Florida as his dad was in the US Airforce.

Via a short stay in Pakistan, the family ended up in London, England and it was at London Central High School, a school for children of U.S. armed services personnel, where he met Bunnell and Beckley. All three were musically inclined, and when they decided to form a band, they wanted to avoid anyone thinking they were Brits trying to sound American, so they settled on the name America.

Continue reading Dan Peek 7/2011

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Rob Grill 7/2011

July 11, 2011 – Robert Frank “Rob” Grill (the Grass Roots) was born on November 30th 1943 in Hollywood, California. Soon after graduation, he began working at American Recording Studios with musician friends Cory Wells and John Kay (who later formed Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf, respectively).

Grill was asked to join The Grass Roots, which grew out of a project originating from Dunhill Records owned by Lou Adler. Writer/producers P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri (The Mamas & the Papas, Tommy Roe, Four Tops and Dusty Springfield) were asked by Dunhill to write songs that would capitalize on the growing interest in the folk-rock movement.

Their song “Where Were You When I Needed You”, recorded as a demo with P.F. Sloan as lead singer was released under the name “The Grass Roots” and started to get airplay in San Francisco Bay area. Dunhill searched for a band to become The Grass Roots. After the first group they chose departed, a Los Angeles band composed of Creed Bratton, Rick Coonce, Warren Entner, and Kenny Fukomoto, was recruited to become The Grass Roots.

When Fukumoto was drafted into the army, Grill was brought in as his replacement. With Grill as lead singer, they recorded another version of “Where Were You When I Needed You” and he became the band’s longest serving member, appearing with them for more than four decades.

Mega-hit producer Steve Barri (The Mamas & the Papas, Tommy Roe, Four Tops and Dusty Springfield) took the band to chart twenty nine singles, thirteen of which went gold, followed by two gold albums and two platinum albums. Grill played with The Grass Roots on sixteen albums, seven of which charted. He took part in thirty-two Grass Roots singles released, twenty-one of which charted. In the new millennium, he released two live albums and one with a symphonic quartet.

Grill went on to produce and manage the band and became owner of The Grass Roots name.

In 1979 Grill launched a solo career  and was assisted on his solo album by several members of Fleetwood Mac. Responding to 60s nostalgia, Grill then led The Grass Roots (billed “The Grass Roots Starring Rob Grill”) and toured the United States until his death in 2011. While in the arms of his wife Nancy, Grill died July 11, 2011 in an Orlando, Florida hospital from complications after a stroke and head injuries resulting from a fall several days earlier. He was 67.

Between 1967-1972, the band set a record for being on the Billboard charts for 307 straight weeks and sold over 20 million records worldwide. They also hold the all time attendance record for a one act, at the US concert of 600,000 people on July 4th, 1982 in Washington, DC. Their hit singles include: Let’s Live For Today, I’d Wait A Million Years, Midnight Confessions, Sooner Or Later, Two Divided By Love

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Würzel 7/2011

July 9, 2011 – Michael “Würzel” Burston was born on 23 October 1949 in Cheltenham, England.

Before joining Motörhead in 1984, Burston had been a corporal in the Army, serving in Germany and Northern Ireland with the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and had played in the bands Bastard and Warfare. Joining another relatively unknown guitarist, Phil Campbell at a Motörhead audition, both were hired. The new four-piece line-up made its debut recording a backing track for The Young Ones on 14 February 1984.

 

Burston acquired the nickname Würzel whilst in the Army, being compared to the character Worzel Gummidge due to his scarecrow-style hair and bumpkin-like manner. Motörhead singer Lemmy encouraged Würzel to add an umlaut to the ‘U’ in his name, for heavy metal effect.

Würzel saw a number of changes to the line-up in the band, each involving the drummer, until he left in 1995. Although he played on Sacrifice, he left the band before the tour. He was not replaced and Motörhead reverted to a three-piece. He had made a few guest appearances with the band: at the 2008 Download Festival and at the 2009 Guilfest, as well as a few other appearances on the band’s 2008 UK tour. He played on six studio albums, and one live album.

Few fans of the English heavy metal band Motörhead would recognise the name Michael Burston, but if presented with his stage name, Würzel, the majority would respond with unequivocal enthusiasm. The guitarist came closer than any of the group’s many members to being the face of the band, with the exception of Motörhead’s founder, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. Much of Burston’s enduring popularity came from his unaffected good nature, his reluctance to avoid playing the role of the rock star and his expert musicianship.

Fans also identified with Burston because of the unlikely manner of his emergence into the public eye. Before joining the band, he worked as a builder and played rock guitar at small club and pub gigs. Although he had developed a dexterous, blues-indebted style that impressed local audiences, his childhood dream of stardom was fading rapidly. “I knew deep down that the only thing I would really be happy doing was playing rock’n’roll,” he recalled, “but I did think, ‘I’m 30 years old – am I going to do anything? How am I going to carry on playing these pubs forever?'”

Burston read, in an interview with Lemmy, that the guitarist Brian Robertson had recently left Motörhead. As he remembered, “I wrote Lemmy a letter and sent a tape, and he phoned me up for an audition. He also said, ‘We’ll probably end up with an unknown guitarist’, and there was no one in the country who was more unknown than I was.”

Born in Cheltenham, Burston served in the army as a corporal before playing in a series of unsuccessful local rock bands. He earned the nickname “Wurzel” as a soldier because of his West Country background and dishevelled appearance, which led his fellow recruits to compare him with the TV character Worzel Gummidge. When Burston joined Motörhead in 1984, Lemmy – who described him as “nearly a basket case” in his 2002 autobiography – encouraged him to add an umlaut, in line with the spelling of the band’s name. Würzel became the madcap court jester and counterfoil to Lemmy’s sterner image.One of his first performances with the band was in an episode of the cult comedy The Young Ones, in which Motörhead performed their signature tune, Ace of Spades.

For the next decade, the British rock press regularly reported on Burston’s antics, including a memorable encounter with the Rolling Stones at the 100 Club in London. “It was downstairs in the basement,” remembered Lemmy. “Würzel ran down there, all excited, and, just as he comes to the bottom, Stones bassist Bill Wyman comes along, and he hits him full-on and lands him flat on his back … Great start to the evening, you know? ‘Hello, Bill, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Oh sorry, have I knocked you out?'”

Despite his comic image, Burston was a serious musician whose composing and performing skills benefited Motörhead greatly. He played on nine studio and live albums between 1984 and his departure in 1995, with the interplay of his guitar and that of his fellow six-stringer Phil Campbell lending the music great versatility and power. Motörhead’s lineup, never a particularly stable entity, changed frequently during Burton’s time in the band. He never really came to terms with living in America, where Motörhead had relocated, and finally left the band after the departure of his good friend, the drummer Phil Taylor.

Burston then performed as a guest on releases by metal bands such as Warhead, and on the 2001 album Artful Splodger by the punk group Splodgenessabounds. He had accumulated a loyal fanbase during his time in Motörhead and many expected him to commence a solo career, but apart from a 1998 album of ambient music, Chill Out Or Die, this failed to materialise.

His friendship with Lemmy remained strong, despite their earlier troubles, and he was often invited to perform guest spots at Motörhead’s shows, including the Guiltfest event in 2009. In recent years, Burston had formed a new band, Leader of Down, but none of their music has been released.

In 1987 Würzel recorded his first solo E.P., “Bess”, that was not so far removed from the Motörhead sound, but also allowed for slightly different ideas. The E.P. included the instrumental title track, two Rock pieces, ‘Midnight in London’ and ‘People Say I’m Crazy’, and an instrumental Jazz Rock-orientated track, ‘E.S.P.’.

In 1998, quasi-inspired by psychedelically-informed experiences in Ghent, Belgium in the early eighties, Würzel played in a Cheltenham band named originally “made in England” then “the Meek” the lead singer Kevin Keane played Brian Eno to Würzel for many hours. Würzel recorded and released an ambient, improvised avant-garde album entitled Chill Out Or Die.

On 9 July 2011, Tim Butcher — longtime bass technician of Motörhead leader Lemmy — reported that Würzel had died. The cause of death was ventricular fibrillation triggered by cardiomyopathy. Before he died, Würzel was working on new material with his new band, Leader of Down, who had previously announced the release of their debut single for early 2010. The following day, Lemmy dedicated Motörhead’s performance at Sonisphere Festival in Knebworth to his memory, as well as dedicating their entire set to him.

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Wild Man Fisher 6/2011

larry-wild-man-fischerJune 16, 2011 – Larry “Wild Man” Fischer was born November 6, 1944 in Los Angeles, California.

He was institutionalized at age 16 for attacking his mother with a knife and later diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Following his release from the hospital, he wandered LA singing his unique brand of songs for 10¢ to passers-by. Discovered by Frank Zappa, with whom he recorded his first album, Larry became an underground concert favorite, earning him the title “godfather of outsider music”.

Zappa was responsible for Larry’s initial foray into the business of music, an album called An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, contains 36 tracks of “something not exactly musical”.

Zappa and Larry remained close, until he threw a jar at Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit, barely missing her. Due to this falling out, Zappa’s widow Gail did not release An Evening with Wild Man Fischer until long after Frank’s death in the early 1990s.

Fischer’s story is a rather sad one, as he was by all accounts genuinely off his nut and never fully reaped the benefits of his cult musical status. Still, he had a Zelig-like ability to turn up all over the place: His debut album, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, was one of the first albums released on Zappa’s Bizarre Records in 1969. He appeared on Laugh-In in the ’60s. When Rhino Records was just a retail store in the ’70s, they got Fischer to record a promotional jingle, “Go to Rhino Records,” and released it as their first single, thus launching what would go on to become one of the biggest novelty and reissue labels in the industry. In the ’80s, Fischer recorded albums with Barnes and Barnes and cut a single with legendary jazz singer (and George’s aunt) Rosemary Clooney. It’s fair to say the man rarely let his mental illness interfere with his productivity.

The Wild Man was re-decovered in 1999, Rhino released The Fischer King, a two-CD package comprising 100 tracks and a 20-page booklet, which sold out within weeks. In October 2004, he appeared on ABC-TV’s late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! He sang “Monkeys vs. Donkeys” while tapping on a backwards acoustic guitar.

In 2005, Josh Rubin and Jeremy Lubin, premiered their documentary about Wild Man Fischer, entitled Derailroaded: Inside The Mind Of Wild Man Fischer, at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Fischer didn’t release any new music since the 1980s and had apparently been holed up in an assisted-living facility in Van Nuys since 2004, where he was taking medication to control his mental illness. Unfortunately, the meds also dulled what he called “the pep,” his frequent manic episodes that were responsible for most of his musical outbursts.

Fischer died of heart failure at age 66 on June 16, 2011.

Obituary: Los Angeles attracts more than its fair share of wingnuts (like this guy), but the loss of Wild Man Fischer really is a blow to the city’s offbeat charm. No longer will Sunset Strip crawlers and UCLA students be able to “buy an original song for a dime” (a favorite Wild Man sales pitch when he was out busking) on their way to happy hour. Wild Man Fischer might be an acquired taste at best, but his is the kind of crazy that makes the world a richer place (even if it too often fails to enrich the person behind the craziness).

We’ll miss you, Larry.

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Carl Gardner 6/2011

carl-gardnerJune 12, 2011 – Carl Gardner (the Coasters) was born on April 29, 1928 in Tyler, Texas.  As a singer, his first major career success came with The Robins, a rhythm and blues group that had a big hit in 1955, “Smokey Joe’s Café”.

After leaving that group, in 1956 Gardner formed the Coasters with the Robins’ bass singer Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes and Billy Guy. The Coasters became the musical vehicle for the songs of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who used rock ‘n’ roll to create a hilarious chronicle of American life, particularly American teenage life.

“Along Came Jones” satirized TV Westerns and “Charlie Brown” honored the original slacker. “Poison Ivy” may be the only pop hit ever to mention Calamine lotion, and “Searchin'” turned a routine love song into a pop culture drama by having the elusive girl pursued by contemporary TV stars like Sugarfoot and Paladin from “Have Gun Will Travel.”

Gardner took pride in the group’s ability to deliver tongue-in-cheek humor while still creating songs that sounded compelling on a car radio.

With the line-up that included new members Cornel Gunter and Will “Dub” Jones, the Coasters went on to produce several enduring classics of 1950s rock and roll music including “Yakety Yak”, “Charlie Brown”, and “Poison Ivy”. They also had a two-sided hit in 1957, “Youngblood” (on which Gardner sang lead) and “Searchin”.

 

At the 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, where the Coasters became the first vocal group inducted, he said he considered the group professional entertainers rather than the streetcorner singers who were popular in the late 1950s.

“People may have called it doo-wop or novelty music,” he said. “But we sang songs that lasted.”

Carl died at age 83 from congestive heart failure and vascular dementia on June 12, 2011.

Musings from Carl:

The flight home after last night’s performance had been successful, but had left me for some reason more stressed out than usual. You see I actually hate flying, but it sort of comes with the job. I still love to perform, but not as much as I have had to. However, I also like to eat good. I’m at the stage though where I find myself getting kind of bored, I’m also at the age. You know the age. It’s when you realize your eyes have seen it all and you are beginning to see it all over again. And yet you don’t really want to. But like I said, I gotta eat.
Thank God I’m back home now, safe and sound. Although it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I’m emotionally drained and weak I simply cannot sleep. I’ve wandered my way through the house, like some sort of Charlie Brown who was missing something. Something earned, something promised, but not yet delivered. So I sat myself down in my home office and for some reason began to think about a few of the unknown oddities in my career. Things like acid rocker Jimi Hendrix once backing my Coasters group, and Paul McCartney, cornering me years ago in some small club and bending my ear, saying that he and the other Beatles had enjoyed my work, and warning me that in the very near future I might just recognize some of their upcoming stuff as my own. I sat there in the dark, surrounded by the entrapments of businesses around the world. Fax machines, files, multiple phone lines, computers, publicity photos, bios, live answering service, and all the rest. I couldn’t help but wonder if Paul McCartney, or any of the others in the multitude of superstars I had the joy of meeting, ever experienced this same exact moment. A moment when you wonder what actually happened? You sort of peer back into the period of your life when you arrived at your peak. Then as your mind wanders through your heyday, you find yourself heading towards your present situation when you are just coasting.

I was a pioneer, until they changed the sound. And then they became the pioneers, until somebody like Michael Jackson came along and changed not only the sound, but also the rules on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and everybody else. I’m trying hard not to be bitter here in the dark. After all, I am still the lead singer of the very first group to ever be inducted to the legendary ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME. But can I now pioneer the sound back on myself, like fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Tina Turner has done? Like Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner, at my million selling zenith my group was considered a “novelty act”, but unlike the others I ran a clean act. And that I feel has been one of the key ingredient of our continued success. Novelty acts have been notoriously hard to place without a current hit record. But despite that fact, I comfort myself here in the dark, that almost forty years into a career that people still want my type of act. And that’s something to be proud about.

I’m proud of the accomplishments in my career. The list of television performances that span the decades and include everything from the show biz staples of yesteryear, like the Ed Sullivan Show, several Dick Clark Shows, all the way up to the staples of today, Entertainment Tonight and even tabloid TV’s Inside Edition.

My concern appears as my group’s lead singer covers the scope from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, all the way around the world to the London Palladium. Also, the New York “Fearsome Foursome”, the Apollo, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Queen Mother of them all Carnegie Hall.

My lead vocals have been coveted by Hollywood in many movies including Stand By Me, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger – Danny DeVito blockbuster, TWINS. I have also several TV commercials to my credit.

I’ve tangled with the mob, broken the color barrier in Las Vegas, cursed out racist audiences who had come to hear “race music”, and at times carried a gun on stage. At times I got run off of stage, and right out of town. But yet and still I managed to sell over thirty million records on the National Record Charts, in my time. My group has often been ripped off by many claiming to be me, using my name with their voice and cashing my check. I steeled myself and stood up to it all. The glamour, the danger, the glory and the bullshit. In my weakest moment I still marched on.

Through all the ups and downs of a joyous and yet painful career, I have come out unlike many others. Still performing, still standing, still sane, and intact. The goal was to be rich and famous. And I became both, for a while. But in the end I have ended up coasting on the fame, and trying to see just who had gotten rich.

Now I know why I’m sitting here in my office in the wee hours of the morning staring down the dawn. I know what I’m missing. I know what I earned, I know what was promised, and I realize now with some bitterness what little I got. Granted it’s comfortable and not the nightmare and losing battle that many other artists of my time have endured, but it is not what was promised.

I’m a long way from my hometown of Tyler, Texas. Although I didn’t put Tyler, Texas on the map, the way the Branch Davidians put Waco, Texas on the map, that was never my original intention. All I ever wanted to do was sing, what I actually did was much more.

I never dreamed that so many problems and dangers came with being a star. And so little money, even though I’ve sold millions and millions of records. My story is wonderful given the circumstances, yet shocking given the outcome. Thank God, I’ve moved past the bitterness and anger that for years plagued me. With only faith and sheer determination I was able to overcome all of the horror, and begin to write about it.

This is my story, straight forward and explicit. My name is Carl Gardner, and I am lead singer and founder of THE COASTERS.

Unfinished! from Carl’s ‘BLACK GOLD TEXAS TEA’.

I never had any intention of staying in Tyler, Texas. Never in my life. My first thoughts were, “I ‘m going to be somebody in my time and get the hell out of here.” When I was ten years old, I knew I was ready. I had been singing since I was five and from the day I started singing I just felt that I was going to be a singer.

When I was coming up, black people didn’t dare do a thing. Most of them wouldn’t have even thought of it. Not at that time, and definitely not in that town. Tyler was a prosperous town located in hot and humid east Texas. It was extremely racially segregated during that time. You probably would have considered Tyler the deep south or even worse, called it Dixie. However, it did have one redeeming feature for some. Unlike Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, the state of Texas had gone and passed one good law for blacks. As I remember, that made it just a little different for us living there during those horrendous times of blatant racism and almost total segregation.

Strangely enough, the law had to do with food. As I recall, any colored person, as we were called at that time, could go right into any of our local restaurants and purchase food right at the counter. Mind you, we didn’t dare sit down and eat it there, but we could get it to go. An added bonus was you could also enter and leave by the establishment’s front door. In any other part of the south, if you would have been crazy enough to try something like this, you would probably have been murdered or worse, dragged through the streets and hung like a piece of fruit from a tree by your neck until dead. In that day, southern trees were known to bear strange fruit. Publicly, my father, Robert Gardner, was very much a gentleman. He never went down the street without a shirt and tie on. Some of the neighbors said he had a little spirit that lived in him that they called Uncle Tom. But the things that he did for white people in our town I didn’t think were terribly Uncle Tom-ish. He wore a hat everywhere he went, when he saw a white man or a white lady, he’d go over to them and say, “Good evening, ma’am. Good evening, sir. How are you today?” He tipped his hat to one and all, black or white. He was a hell of a gentleman. And even if he was Uncle Tom-ish in his ways, he fed his family. Sometimes he would embarrass me. He would go around to some of the rich people in town and say, “Good evening, Mr. Grayson. Nice day today. Don’t forget, it’s Christmas coming up. “And I used to get very angry with Dad when he would do things like this. But Mr. Grayson would say, “Bob, I won’t forget you. “Everybody called him Bob. When Christmas would come, Mr. Grayson would give him a twenty dollar bill. Some of his other white friends that he had been kind to would give him a ten, a twenty, and that was one way that he knew of getting money in that time and in that town.

Dad came from a family of an interracial heritage. My dad would often say he really didn’t know how old he was. Some of his family were so white in appearance that they were often mistaken for white people. I can remember his one cousin, Alice, that was so white looking that as a young child I was afraid to walk downtown with her. People of any color would always approach her as a white woman. Dad would often comment, it how he and his brothers and sisters had almost been born into slavery. When I asked my father what he meant by this, he began explaining to me what life on the plantation had been like for those in his family that were born before him. “Well, you know,” he’d start, “if you go back into our years of slavery, you’ll discover that many of the white slave owners would split their slaves into two groups. The lighter ones worked in and around the plantation house, thus earning themselves the title of “house niggers.” They were taught to serve the owners graciously and also to be gentlemen and ladies to the owners’ guests. They were trained in a very genteel manner and some received a very minimal education. The darker slaves were placed to work hard in the fields and were called “field hands” and received the roughest and cruelest of treatment from the master. He continued explaining to me how black people came in so many different colors and hues. He said, “Almost always, if you had a particularly good and sexy looking young black girl, or even a black boy, for that matter, working in the mansion, they would usually become the bed partners of either the master himself, his wife, his daughters or his sons, and sometimes both. More often than not, children were conceived from these various unions. These children would usually be very light in complexion and color. They would have the fortune of being raised within the plantation house itself instead of in the fields with the other slave children.” My Dad felt this is how his family had come to be so light in complexion.

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John Walker 5/2011

john-walkerMay 7, 2011 – John Walker was born John Joseph Maus on November 12th 1943 in New York City from German parents who had fled from the Nazis and war-torn Germany, but moved to California in 1947.

He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and The Missouri Traveler (1958). He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens’ funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was unhappy at how people pronounced his real name.

From 1957 onwards, he worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii.

They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer “Spider” Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. Maus obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as “The Surfaris”, although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris’ records. Walker also released his first solo record, “What a Thrill”, on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers.

After singing at local venues, John went on to form The Walker Brothers in 1964 along with bassist Scott Engel, and drummer Al “Tiny” Schneider. American singer, songwriter and guitarist,

Their song “Make It Easy On Yourself”, reached No.1 in the UK chart in September 1965. The following year they had their second UK No.1, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”, it was also their biggest hit in the US, where it made No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In early ’68, The Walker Brothers split up and John began performing solo releasing a single, “Annabella”, and the album, ‘If You Go Away’. In 1974, he reformed The Walker Brothers and in 1975, they released an album, No Regrets and recorded two further albums together, Lines and Nite Flights.

In 2000, he set up his own record label and released a CD, You. He toured Britain again as part of a nostalgia package tour in 2004, and released an album, Silver Sixties Tour 2004.

He was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2010 and sadly dies from the disease on May 7, 2011 at age 67.

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Phoebe Snow 4/2011

Phoebe SnowApril 26, 2011 – Phoebe Snow was born Phoebe Ann Laub on July 17, 1950 in New York City. When Phoebe Laub was little, she loved to watch the Lackawanna Railroad’s ”Phoebe Snow” train go by her family’s home in Teaneck. One day, she promised herself, she would become Phoebe Snow.

It was at the Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, club owner with Leon Russell and a promotions executive for Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording. She released an eponymous album, Phoebe Snow, in 1974, featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg and Dave Mason. It spawned the Billboard Hot 100 No.5 hit single, “Poetry Man”, reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, won Phoebe a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and established her as a formidable singer/songwriter.

She performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. 1975 also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which she performed both solo and in duets with Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt.

And then she got married to a guy who later turned out to be gay and had a brain damaged daughter a year later and from there on her career as one of the deciding voices of a generation, went on permanent hold.

Her story was never told better then  in Esquire Magazine by Don Shewey in 1982.

“The Blues of Phoebe Snow”

“The other night I met a person on the business side of this business who I decided it would be a real neat idea to get to know. So I went up to him with my Pepsodent smile and my hand outstretched, you know, and said, ‘How ya doin’?'”

Phoebe Snow was chewing bubble gum and sipping Diet Pepsi in an office at Atlantic Records. This was a little over a year ago, after her album Rock Away came out.

“He put his arm on my shoulder and said, ‘May I be blunt with you?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you level with me? You know and I know that you had it all. You could have been the biggest thing since I don’t know what. But you blew it. You killed it! What did you do that for?’
“He said, ‘Now I’ve heard about you, we’ve all heard about you, we know you’re very sick. So why don’t you face facts — you’re very mentally disturbed, am I right? You’re, like, really nuts?’ He was facing me, and I went, ‘Look, what’s over there?’ He turned, and I grabbed his head and said right into his ear, ‘My daughter is severely brain-injured, and I don’t want you to start nothin’ with me, okay?’

“He jumped back and said, ‘Hey! Eighty-six! Forget it!’ And I said, ‘And tell your friends who are saying I’m nuts that I say hi and the same to them. If they wanna start with me…'”

“Ah-oooh-yeaaah-ee-yeah-hyea-ee-yeah, oo-ooh-yee-eah…”

It was the summer of 1974, and everywhere you turned there was this voice wafting out of car radios, record stores, open windows on the street. The song was a classy, catchy pop ditty called “Poetry Man,” but the voice! It was a voice bigger than any song. Fluid, delicate, moody — instantly that voice had authority.

If one was curious enough — and most were — one looked for the song and discovered a whole album by this woman, this singer with the breathy, girlish vibrato and the knowing, bluesy growl. The session musicians on her record were the cream of the crop — jazz legends like Teddy Wilson and Zoot Sims, along with the Persuasions and such pop notables as David Bromberg and Dave Mason — and the woman, Phoebe Snow, did them all proud.

With a single stroke she proved herself to be one of the most exciting, versatile performers of her time. In 1975, the album went gold. She was nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy. Paul Simon invited her to sing with him on “Gone at Last,” and the resulting hit single revealed both her terrific gospel chops and a sky-scraping upper range. She turned twenty-five. She married her boyfriend, Phil Kearns. They had a baby girl, Valerie Rose. All in one year.

What happened then? Did she go nuts? Did she blow it? Well…not exactly. She continued to make records; some of them were very good, but none quite matched the crystalline perfection of her first album. In the process, she experimented with different kinds of material — jazz, Motown, rock — not all of which projected well on a record. That’s not surprising; after all, the essence of Ella Fitzgerald comes across not on a polite album like Cole Porter Songbook but during those moments in concert when she lifts her hankie to her face and starts scatting like some swing-injected Pentecostal priestess. Phoebe Snow has the same kind of once-in-a-generation voice. She needs an audience to urge her on to those shameless displays of sheer lung power. For years, what kept her career aloft in lieu of hits was her phenomenal concert appearances — including her memorable stint on Saturday Night Live singing “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” with Linda Ronstadt.

Touring tends to take its toll, however, and before too long Phoebe, once Queen Midas, had become pop’s Pandora with a boxful of problems. Did she crack up? Maybe. She will tell you: “I shouldn’t have been in the studio during that time. I was not in control of my mental faculties. I was orbiting Venus.” In 1979, she asked to be released from her contract, and the following April she declared bankruptcy. In the summer of ’81, things began to turn around as her duet with Jackson Browne on the old song “Have Mercy” started climbing the charts. But then, shortly into the promotional tour, she broke a blood vessel in her throat onstage. There went the tour, there went the hit, there went the comeback.

It must be unspeakably frustrating to be one of the greatest singers of your generation and find yourself sitting out in suburban New Jersey with a brain-injured baby girl and your career on hold. But when we met last fall, Phoebe Snow was in high spirits. Done with her financial and medical problems, done with her insecurities and agonizing — at least for now — she was preparing to go back into the studio and start singing again. Raring to go.

“Notice anything different?” she hints, pirouetting in the doorway of her spacious apartment. She’s lost a lot of weight recently, and she’s very proud of it. “When I was out in L.A. mixing my last record, I got really close to two hundred pounds. That’s not funny for a five-foot- four-inch person. One night my friend Marci was driving me home and I bought six cookies the size of roofs of outhouses. I don’t think I was really going to eat them all; I just wanted to have them around. So we pull up in front of the house and I start to unwrap the paper on one of the cookies, and Marci, who’d just lost a bunch of weight, said to me, ‘You don’t want that cookie,’ and I said, ‘Yes. I do. I want it.’ She said, ‘No, you wanna throw it like a discus. Let me see you throw it like a discus.’ I went like that” — she mimes tossing a Frisbee — “and it went smash against the building. I said, ‘Hey, that was good. Lemme try another one.'”

The first thing you notice when you meet Phoebe Snow is not how she looks but what she says. Both as a performer and as a person, the most astonishing thing about her is what comes out of her mouth. While she’ll say there are certain subjects she’d rather not get into, she’ll talk about them anyway because they’re on her mind. And the first thing you know, she’s telling you why she broke up with her husband, what David Bowie whispered to her at a party, what shocking things she used to say to tease CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff. These are things you can’t print, things in fact that you shouldn’t be hearing, maybe you don’t even want to be hearing, but they’re very funny. If you laugh at her stories, she’ll tell you more; if your attention starts to drift, she’ll reach for stories that seem a little hard to believe. Whatever it takes to make you laugh.

The most famous picture of Phoebe Snow is the painting on the cover of her first album. With a cloud of kinky hair topping a bespectacled face distinguished by full lips and seven prominent moles, you can’t tell whether she’s young or old, black or white. The “natural beauty” of that image appealed to many of her early fans in the antifashion ’70s, the I’m-okay-you’re-okay years. Her audiences were full of Phoebe Snow lookalikes — chubby women with curly hair, glasses, and moles, who, she says, sort of gave her the creeps. Back then, she didn’t help matters much; once, when the theater was cold, she went onstage in a ski parka, looking like the neighborhood babysitter. Today contact lenses have replaced the eyeglasses. And when she puts on a little makeup and changes into an embroidered black pullover for dinner, she even shows a touch of real glamour. But it’s still a little awkward talking about her appearance. We both know that if she sang like Phoebe Snow but looked like Deborah Harry, she’d be a superstar by now.

“I’m not a natural gorgeous person,” she shrugs. “I mean, if I’m gonna look presentable, I have to work at it. I didn’t even used to try. I’ve discussed that with my parents since my career died down a lot.” She says “my career” as though it had satirical quotes around it. “They think that I botched everything up purposely, that I did a whole neurotic anti-success thing.” She stops for a sidelong glance at me to see if that’s a likely story. Then she adds, “There’s probably some truth to that.”

She starts talking about having just seen a Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which reminds her of a Midnight Special “where I look like a hot-dog salesman. I don’t know what that thing, that shmatte, was that I was wearing, but it was so ugly.” She cracks up, we both laugh, but she keeps an eye out to see if I’m making the same distinction between Then and Now that she is. Some people could tell these stories and make you feel uncomfortable because it sounds like they’re putting themselves down. But Phoebe does it with the coolness of someone accustomed to digging into herself for her art and entertainment. “I think I tried to flaunt whatever ugliness I could find as a way of saying ‘I don’t deserve this success.’ I guess I learned that early on.” She stops. “It wasn’t blatant — my parents didn’t say, ‘You don’t deserve to be nothing.’ They’d say, ‘Gee, I suspect you’re never gonna be nothing.’ My dad was full of that.”

Phoebe Snow was born to Merrill and Lili Laub in 1950 and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Her parents were, in their own way, an arty duo. Her mother, a dance teacher, was in the Martha Graham company and used to double date with Woody Guthrie and his first wife. Her father worked for Viking Press and had a background in theater; his father had been a stand-up comedian in vaudeville. Now Phoebe’s dad is an exterminator — she snickers and apologizes immediately. “I think he’s a real frustrated character actor and a comedian. He had aspirations to the stage, and when he saw me doing it, performing, that just totally blew his fuse. He was wiped out.”

Unlike her husband, Mother Laub understood the full extent of her daughter’s talents. She took Phoebe to dance classes, sent her to summer camps for “gifted children,” and bought her six years’ worth of piano lessons. “I led a very cloistered, sheltered life, like ‘Don’t go out and play; practice the piano.’ Well, don’tcha know how funny the mind is? I don’t remember anything on the piano. And I was good, too, man,” says Phoebe. “I was this weird genius kid.”

Teaneck High School is Normal City, U.S.A. Every boy is a football hero and every girl a cheerleader. If you’re a “weird genius kid,” and fat and Jewish to boot, you might as well be from Mars. Phoebe was not popular. She would go to make-out parties and be odd girl out. She took to hanging around with other outcasts and getting drunk. Her crummy grades made college prospects dim; she went to night school in Teaneck, but in between classes she would catch the train to Greenwich Village with her girlfriends. The Village was the center of a thriving folk-music scene, and Phoebe, who had started taking guitar lessons from Eric Schoenberg when she was fifteen, liked to sit in on jams at the Folklore Center. Anything to get out of Jersey, and when she finally did, her ticket was Charlie.

Charlie was a young jug-band musician Phoebe met at an audition and fell in love with. Charlie didn’t make fun of her looks. He didn’t tell her she was stupid. He encouraged her to sing and turned her on to blues and old jazz. “It was a very personal and private thing of ours to sit and listen to jazz with the lights out. He used to play me Billie Holiday records and Lester Young and Johnny Hodges.”

At Charlie’s insistence, she made the rounds of talent nights at the folk clubs; to earn a guest spot between the opening act and the headliner, she’d wipe tables and scrub the vomit off carpets. She paid her dues at places like Aunt Rhoda’s Daycamp Center, a bikers’ hangout on East Twenty-first Street, and Earth Life, an organic health bar in Lodi, New Jersey. She billed herself as just Phoebe in those days, and sometimes Charlie would sit in on harmonica. She sang old blues greats, but when someone suggested she could make more money if she wrote her own songs, she started writing like crazy. One night an executive from Leon Russell’s label, Shelter Records, heard Phoebe sing, flipped, and approached her with a record deal. It was everything she and Charlie had dreamed of, and then just as the dream was coming true, Charlie checked out.

Phoebe never talks about Charlie’s death; she usually just says that he died in “a tragic accident” and not by suicide, as was rumored. But several months after we met, in one of those free-floating late-night phone conversations, she surprised me by bringing up the subject. 

Apparently, one night Charlie took an overdose of some pills that had been prescribed for depression. He was rushed to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped; the hospital wanted to keep him overnight, but he insisted that he had to go to work in the morning and he was sent home in a cab still drowsy from the OD. His mother found him the next day in his apartment, dead from a heart attack. “I just wonder what my life would have been like if he hadn’t died,” Phoebe mused. “He might have managed my career, ’cause he was a real take-charge person. And he never doubted me. He was the only one. It was almost spooky, the way he’d chuckle to himself about it. He always knew.”

After the funeral Phoebe poured all her energies into recording her debut album. The scared, shy girl had developed a confident blues guitar style and an exhilarating, out-front vocal delivery that conjured images of singers twice her age. The jazz inflections that crept into such haunting tunes as “Harpo’s Blues” and “I Don’t Want the Night to End” were Phoebe’s way of paying homage to the man who first introduced her to music as a way of life, and those inflections were what attracted the record company and the critics and the record buyers. The album was completed in December 1973 and came out in June 1974; by the end of the year, “Poetry Man” was riding high on the charts and the airwaves. And the love she had once received from the one man who had understood her music now came pouring back from legions of adoring strangers.

Along the way, the legendary voice had gained a legendary name. It went back to childhood, when other kids would tease her for being called Phoebe — it sounded funny. With pride, she’d point to the freight trains that rolled through Teaneck, and there it was, big as life: PHOEBE SNOW. As a stage name, it stuck.

The name on the doorbell of her apartment is Kearns, even though Phil doesn’t live there anymore. The building is one of those tastefully nondescript doorman dwellings; the apartment, cozy and cluttered, is dominated by an imposing parallel-bar rack structure used for Valerie’s physical therapy. A babysitter named Debbie helps to take care of six-year-old Valerie, who has been diagnosed as autistic and doesn’t really walk or talk yet. Valerie is a wee brunette with shoulder-length hair and big, gorgeous eyes; she’s wearing an I LOVE GRANDMA T-shirt, watching TV in the nursery. When Debbie tucks her in for her afternoon nap, Phoebe and I pop out for lunch at the Royal Crown Diner in Englewood Cliffs.

Phoebe places her order — veal parmigiana and iced tea — then the conversation veers toward Valerie, touchy territory. The first time we tried this, her eyes started tearing and we stopped. Today Phoebe speaks more matter-of-factly. “Valerie couldn’t move, couldn’t talk at first,” she recalls, “and we were told to forget it. She spent four months in the Rusk Institute when she was eighteen months old, and they told me she’d made no progress and there was a place where kids could go when they make no progress. In other words, these people’s answer was to put her away. And I said no.”

Phoebe looks out the window, far away for a minute. It’s a rainy afternoon, and station wagons race down the shiny streets. “There was a time when it was almost killing me,” she continues. “At the end of ’77, I toured for five weeks while this young couple looked after Valerie. When I came home, she was literally starving herself, and I was virtually insane. I would say that I had a breakdown. I took her down South for treatments, and the doctor at a clinic there said to me, ‘Have you ever thought about a little voluntary rest commitment for yourself?’ I said, ‘I’ve been away from my kid for over a month, and I’m not gonna do it again.’ He said, ‘What are you going to do when you tour again?’ He said he knew a woman who would take Valerie while I was on tour, and I agreed to talk to her.

“That night, from my hotel room, I called the woman. She was a sweet, gentle lady. She told me she looked after five other kids, and so when she came to the clinic to meet me, I was gung ho. She asked when I was going on tour again. I said probably not for another six months. She said, ‘Well, then, we’ll take care of the adoption papers now.’

“I looked at her and said, ‘You adopt them?’ ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘I don’t just babysit. I’m the adopted mother of these children.’

“I thought, ‘Oh, God.’ And for one hot minute I looked at her — you know how someone just oozes kindness and beauty? — and I thought, ‘Well, maybe…maybe it’ll be best.’ And then I looked at my little girl who was lying there so messed up and I just said, ‘No, thanks.’ I never thought about it after that.”

With that simple “No, thanks,” Phoebe Snow turned a corner in her life. People she’d trusted had long had their own expectations of her and little faith in her ability to make decisions on her own. That could drive a person crazy, but it drove Phoebe to summon up her common sense, her love, maybe even her craziness, and to make a choice for once based on her own instincts.

“I’ve given up a lot,” she says — how else? — bluntly. “You have to understand that when I say giving up a life, that’s an understatement. ‘Poetry Man’ came out in late ’74, Valerie was born in late ’75, and it’s all been downhill from there in my career, which is my means of support for her. It’s a cyclical thing, because she cuts into my career and even if she were a normal kid my career would cut into her life. yet I’m virtually the only thing she’s got. When she’s sick or has a nightmare, if I’m around, she goes like this.” Phoebe raises her arms like a child asking to be held. “To have a kid who’s never done anything do that…that’s heavy. The first time she did it I was — whoooa. The first time she does anything is like New Year’s Eve. Champagne! Confetti! That’s the best part. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does — paaar-ty!”

The waiter clears away what’s left of the meal, and Phoebe lingers lovingly over the dessert menu. “I could tell you exactly why I got fat. I’m like most people walking around on the planet who want their gratification when they want it. They want their drink now and their TV now and their sex now. As soon as I couldn’t be gratified with Valerie, I started overcompensating, gaining humongous amounts of weight. I could explain that to you perfectly, intellectually. But it’s no excuse. So what I’m learning from all this is patience.” The waiter returns for our order, and Phoebe recommends the house specialty, some divine chocolate-chip cake. For herself, she abstains.

Phoebe’s dazzling technique and extraordinary sophistication pegged her as a jazz singer from the outset, and at first she was happy to encourage this impression. “The audiences want to boogie,” she complained in a 1975 interview, “and I’m a jazz singer…or a pop singer…anyway, I’m not a rock singer.” But eventually she began to chafe under this narrow definition. More to the point, the spell of Charlie’s influence began to wear off, and she realized that she was just going through the motions. “I began to feel like a real supermimic. And the deeper I got into jazzy stuff, the more contrived it started to sound.” On her next four albums, Phoebe watched her musical direction grow more and more diffused. When she called a halt to her recording career in 1979, it was because she had finally figured out exactly what it was she wanted to do: “Rock.” She sighs — she remembers saying “I’m not a rock singer.”

“Before I met Charlie, rock’s all I listened to,” she says. “Ask my mom. I spent every Saturday night at the Fillmore East. Give me Jeff Beck! Please, get Eric Clapton out here!” In the summer of 1980, Phoebe took Billy Joel’s band into the studio to make Rock Away.

“That album had been in my heart for eight or nine years,” Phoebe insists. “We all have fantasies of doing what Roger Daltrey does with the microphone, whipping ourselves into a frenzy. It’s like wanting to be Superman when I was four. I’d take a pair of my little cotton Fruit of the Looms and put them on over my pants and tie a bath towel around my neck and go, ‘Soop-erman,’ running down the block looking like a complete schlemiel. And all the neighbors would say, ‘There’s Phoebe with her underwear on over her pants again. Tell her to go in the house.’ That’s the first superpower fantasy you have, and the second is being a rock star. You can’t deny that’s a very viable fantasy. Everybody else was doing it, so I wanted to try.”

She tried, and a lot of critics approved, but now she says, “The rock ‘n’ roll thing worked and it didn’t work — something was still missing.” She’s changed her mind about dessert and is forking her way through a chunk of watermelon. “What I really wanna do, if the truth be known, is something I blatantly rejected on the last album. I guess I was nervous. On my next album, I’m gonna go back to funk.”

It makes sense that her taste for rock would send Phoebe Snow back to its origins in black music. Her best work has always involved a blending of the two, rhythm and blues and pop, singing that’s sweet and rough at the same time. It’s certainly no coincidence that a healthy number of blacks always frequent her shows. “I feel like an honorary black, and I’m flattered,” she jokes. “But when they yell out, ‘Get down, sis-tuh,’ I tend to feel whiter than ever. ‘Thank you,’ I say. ‘I believe I will get down now.’

“My favorite album, probably up there in the Top Ten of all time, is Sly Stone’s Fresh,” Phoebe says. “After that comes George Clinton, and after that comes the Ohio Players. I don’t know where Sly Stone is, but if he called me up tomorrow and said, ‘Let’s do a couple of tracks,’ I’d go in a minute.

“The other guy I’ve always tuned in to is James Brown, who was probably doing that stuff before anybody was doing it. They didn’t even know what to call it, they just called it Mr.-Please-Please-the- Hardest-Working-Man-in-Show-Biz music. I used to go up to the Cheetah to see him, me and one other white girl. I just fell in love with him.”

Phoebe loves to talk about other singers. She listens to everything, for fun and profit. “I’m looking for a sound,” she confesses, shoving her watermelon rind aside. “You know in The Glenn Miller Story where James Stewart goes to New Orleans and listens to Satchmo, then hears a regular dance band, then he goes to a strip club, and he tries to score all this music for his band? Then he crumples up the paper and goes, ‘That’s not it! That’s not the sound!’ It’s so Hollywood, but every time I see the movie I wait for that identity crisis. I do have a sound in my head,” she says, “but I’ve never gotten it.” She brightens up like a model in a TV commercial. “It’s the Phoebe Idea.”

Anyone who’s heard Phoebe Snow can get the general Idea. She has the kind of voice your imagination can apply to every song in the universe, because what you usually remember is not the words she sings but the sounds in between the words — the moans, the shrieks, the sensuously drawn-out syllables. But it doesn’t take a genius to notice that the Phoebe Idea keeps changing. First it was Memphis Minnie, then it was Billie Holiday, then it was Jeff Beck, then it was James Brown…no wonder she’s never quite gotten the Phoebe Idea.

On her new album, tentatively called Stand Your Ground and due out whenever a new round of record-company problems can be solved, the Idea remains as elusive as ever. The funk fantasy never materialized. Instead, Phoebe went into the studio with Elliot Scheiner, who engineered several Steely Dan albums. The result is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, pleasant, even exciting at times, but…it’s not the sound. Maybe the Phoebe Idea is destined to be like Robert Browning’s idea of heaven. Or Mick Jagger’s modern-day adaptation of the same thought: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Back from lunch in time for a quick visit from Phoebe’s doctor- boyfriend, we put away the business side of this business and just play. Phoebe digs through stacks of records, puts on the Beatles’ Christmas albums, a reggae band called Matumbi, and a little Aretha Franklin, then pulls out a creepy bootleg of Billie Holiday singing during a studio session. Smacked out of her mind, Billie starts a different song every seventeen bars or so. Phoebe takes it off and puts on a tape she herself made while recording her third album, It Looks Like Snow. Between fart noises and rude remarks about the music industry, a familiar voice howls with mock self-pity: “I hate my mother, I hate myself, and I wanna die.” Phoebe grooves along with the song, casting a sideways glance to see what I think. It’s hilarious. The tape is labeled KOMPLAINING BLUES.

Out in New Jersey Phoebe may be isolated, but that’s not one of her complaints. “I’m accustomed to it,” she says. “I don’t go to parties. I’ve never been to the Mudd Club. I went to Studio 54 once and a man who was dressed like a bug followed me around all night and fanned me. Partying is not my scene at all. You know how a puppy is before it’s housebroken, all panting and peeing on everybody’s leg? I get so stupid at parties.

“I did go to the party for No Nukes, and I was incredibly self- conscious. There were all these celeboids there hugging each other, and they had their white wine, and I don’t…I can’t…you know? I mean, I’m really impressed by famous people. And I was so fat, the fattest I’ve ever, ever been. El Blimpoid.

“After a while I left the party and sat out on the curb in front of the club with two girlfriends I’d brought. Limos kept pulling up, and I was going, ‘Hey, celebs! Get your celebs here, get your limos, get your Quaaludes, your groupies, your cocaine!’ I wasn’t high or anything, I was just being obnoxious. The doors of one limo opened up, and I went over. I said, ‘Hey, celebrities! Eat me.’ And it was Jackson Browne! He walked over to me with this face like, ‘Who the hell is this person?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Pheeb? Hi!'”
So this is Phoebe Snow. What did you expect? A normal person? She’s got a gold record on the wall. She’s got a brain-injured six-year-old in the nursery. She’s got the Phoebe Idea kicking around in her head. And she’s got something in her closet she just has to show me.

Phoebe rummages through the closet and finally drags out a bunch of cassette tapes with a rubber band wrapped around them. In 1974 and 1975, Phoebe tells me, she and some friends began to do occult experiments. They had heard that if you sat in a room without speaking and turned a tape recorder on, you could play the tape back and receive communications from…spirits, spacemen, whatever. They did this “silent taping” a lot. Finally, Phoebe, who says she is psychic, stopped because she got too freaked out. But she keeps the tapes around to remind herself, and any skeptical party, that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

The tapes are unsettling. “‘The receiver has been planted in their brains,'” she translates. “You hear that?” It sounds like a scratchy, faraway voice coming over a transatlantic cable, but Phoebe says it came out of thin air onto the tape. From silence there’s a blast of static, then two thumps. Then silence. Then a weird scraping sound, then another two thumps.

“Sometimes it’s just a lot of tapping,” says Phoebe, snapping the tape off and sticking another cassette into the deck. “This is just so      you know I’m not making this up.” A bizarre, metallic voice speaks, garbled and distant. It speaks again. “‘Contact us, contact us,'” Phoebe translates more reasonably. A whirring sound and a slight chiming, very faint. Then the voice again, sounding agitated and otherworldly. 

“‘Prepare the'” — something, we can’t make it out — “‘has come closer.'” “You hear all those noises?” she asks. I hear weird slow beeps, then the voice. A burst of unearthly music. And silence again.

Esquire, 1982

Phoebe died on April 26, 2011 as the result of a brain hemorrhage which she suffered on January 9, 2010 and went into a coma. She was almost 60 years old when she finally passed.

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Jack Hardy 3/2011

Jack-HardyMarch 11, 2011 – John Studebaker “Jack” Hardy (November 23, 1947 – March 11, 2011) was an American lyrical singer-songwriter and playwright based in Greenwich Village, who was influential as a writer, performer, and mentor in the North American and European folk music scenes for decades.

He was cited as a major influence by Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, and many others who emerged from that scene in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Hardy was the author of hundreds of songs, and toured tirelessly for almost forty years.

He was also the founding editor of Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a periodical famous within music circles for twenty years that shipped with a full album (and later, compact disc) in each issue, whose entire catalog is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

Hardy died on the morning of March 11, 2011 in Manhattan. He was 63. The cause was complications of lung cancer.

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Ronnie Hammond 3/2011

Ronnie HammondMarch 14, 2011 – Ronnie Hammond was born on November 10th 1950.

Ronnie became lead singer for the southern rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1972 after original vocalist Rodney Justo left. The band had a string of hits during the 1970s, including “Doraville,” “Jukin,” “Champagne Jam,” “Imaginary Lover,” “So Into You,” “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight,” and a remake of the Classics IV hit “Spooky”.

ARS did not achieve the commercial top success of Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers Band, but was solidly anchored in the second echelon of Southern Rock performers such as The Outlaws, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchett, Marshall Tucker and the Kentucky Haedhunters.

The group had (and still has) a strong following in the South and charted a consistent string of hits. The band also influenced a number of rock and country artists, notably Travis Tritt, who covered the ARS songs “Back Up Against the Wall” and “Homesick”. The group Shudder to Think covered “So Into You”.

Noted Christian Music artist and Southern rocker Mylon LeFevre appeared on “Jesus Hearted People”, from the band’s album Third Annual Pipe Dream. Before they became founding members of Atlanta Rhythm Section, members of LeFevre’s backup band included Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard and Dean Daughtry.

Hammond left ARS in the early 1980s, but even during his years off the road, he continued to write music, with songwriting partner and producer Buddy Buie, who is listed first on almost all of the band’s songwriting credits. Hammond, who was also a carpenter, built houses around Macon, including his own near Lake Tobesofkee.

He returned in 1987, and 1989 ARS released their first album in 8 years ‘Truth in a Structured Form’. He continued to record and tour wit the band until 2001 when Ronnie decided to leave ARS and join the band Voices of Classic Rock, but left the touring business altogether soon afterward to focus on family and songwriting.

Ronnie died from a heart attack at age 60 on March 14, 2011 in Forsyth, Georgia.

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Gerry Rafferty 1/2011

Gerry RaffertyJanuary 4, 2011 – Gerald “Gerry” Rafferty was born on 16 April 1947 into a working-class family in Underwood Lane in Paisley, Scotland, a son and grandson of coal miners. He grew up in a council house on the town’s Foxbar estate and was educated at St Mirin’s Academy. His Irish-born father, a violent alcoholic, was a miner and lorry driver who died when Rafferty was 16. His mother taught him both Irish and Scottish folk songs as a boy; later, he was influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

In 1963 he left St. Mirin’s Academy and had several jobs while playing in a local group, the Mavericks. In 1966 Gerry and his school friend Joe Egan released a single, “Benjamin Day”/”There’s Nobody Here”, as members of The Fifth Column.In 1969 he joined comedian Billy Connolly in a folk band The Humblebums, recording 2 albums, ‘The New Humblebums‘ and ‘Open Up the Door‘. A 1970 appearance at the Royal Festival Hall, supporting Fotheringay with Nick Drake, earned a positive review from critic Karl Dallas, who noted that all three acts showed “promise rather than fulfilment”, and observed that “Gerry Rafferty’s songs have the sweet tenderness of Paul McCartney in his ‘Yesterday’ mood”.

In his own stand-up shows, Connolly has often recalled this period, telling how Rafferty made him laugh and describing the crazy things they did while on tour.It was Gerry who urged Connolly to go it alone as a comic, after which Gerry recorded a first solo album, ‘Can I Have My Money Back’. Billboard praised the album as “high-grade folk-rock”, describing it as Rafferty’s “finest work” to date: “His tunes are rich and memorable with an undeniable charm that will definitely see him into the album and very possibly singles charts soon”. 

Yet although the album was a critical success, it did not enjoy commercial success. According to Rafferty’s daughter Martha, it was around this time that her father discovered, by chance, Colin Wilson’s classic book The Outsider, about alienation and creativity, which became a huge influence both on his songwriting and his outlook on the world: “The ideas and references contained in that one book were to sustain and inspire him for the rest of his life.” Rafferty later confirmed that alienation was the “persistent theme” of his songs; “To Each and Everyone”, from Can I Have My Money Back?, was an early example.

In 1972, having gained some airplay from his Signpost recording “Make You, Break You”, Rafferty joined Egan to form Stealers Wheel and recorded three albums with the American songwriters and producers Leiber & Stoller. The group was beset by legal wranglings, but had a huge hit “Stuck in the Middle With You”, which earned critical acclaim as well as commercial success: a 1975 article in Sounds described it as “a sort of cross between white label Beatles and punk Dylan yet with a unique Celtic flavor that has marked all their work”. Twenty years later, the song was used prominently in the 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs, although Rafferty refused to grant permission for its re-release. Stealers Wheel also produced the lesser top 50 hits, “Everything’ll Turn Out Fine”, followed by “Star”, and there were further suggestions of Rafferty’s growing alienation in tracks such as “Outside Looking In” and “Who Cares”. The duo disbanded in 1975 and what followed was three years of legal misery, before he smashed the world with the mega hit Baker Street.

According to producer Murphy, interviewed by Billboard in 1993, he and Rafferty had to beg the record label, United Artists, to release “Baker Street” as a single: “They actually said it was too good for the public.” It was a good call: the single reached #3 in the UK and #2 in the US. The album sold over 5.5 million copies, toppling the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the US on 8 July 1978. Rafferty considered this his first proper taste of success, as he told Melody Maker the following year: “…all the records I’ve ever done before have been flops. Stealers Wheel was a flop. ‘Can I Have My Money Back?’ was a flop. The Humblebums were a flop… My life doesn’t stand or fall by the amount of people who buy my records.”

The lyrics of “Baker Street” reflected Rafferty’s disenchantment with certain elements of the music industry. “Baker Street” was about how uncomfortable he felt in the star system, and what do you know, it was a giant world hit. The album City to City went to No. 1 in America, and suddenly he found that as a result of his protest, he was a bigger star than ever. And he now had more of what he didn’t like. And although he had a few more hit singles in the United States, by 1980 it was basically all over, and when I say ‘it’, I mean basically his career, because he just was not comfortable with this.

Gerry Rafferty was an anti-superstar, one that can only be described by the people that lived with and around him. Following is from his website biography, maintained by his daughter.

How do you put into a few lines the sum of a persons life and their work? Many of you will already know and have read the ‘Wiki’ version of events, which seems to be where we are supposed to turn for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but etc… And yes, times, dates and places are all present and correct and it’s definitely a useful reference point.

But when looking through that window at the life and work of Gerry Rafferty, or ‘Faither’ to me, there is so much more to say. So here’s my own, more personal summing up, which hopefully will resonate with some of you out there, to whom his music and song have meant so much.

My earliest memories are of hearing my Dad sitting at the piano late into the night, singing his heart out. He was always alone, just his voice and the piano. Listening through the walls, it didn’t seem strange that he was alone, beacuse there was definitely an interaction going on, a giving and receiving, at some level. He was much more of a night person than a day person. He seemed to long for the darkness to come down and shroud him with it’s anonymity. It was in that darkness that he could open up, let his light shine. He didn’t need or want anyone in that space, his songs were mainly born out of those long nights, alone at the piano.

Daytimes were my Mum’s responsibility, which is just as well, otherwise I’d never have gone to school. Father would appear late afternoon, exchange a few pleasantries, generally crack a few jokes but the main event was when he would get back to work.

He had an incredibly strong work ethic and had little respect for those that didn’t share that drive. He hated the waiting around bits in life and was incredibly impatient. He despised the mindless passing of time and the general level of mediocrity which he witnessed in society. Perhaps as an antidote to that general malaise, he read.

He was incredibly well educated, all off his own back. Having left school at 15 years old and, by his own admission, having learnt nothing, he went on to be able to converse on pretty much any subject thrown at him. There were literally whole walls of book shelves at home and he’d read every single word. Mainly Philosophy, Art, Religion, Psychology and many a Biography.

He loved to talk, not shallow, party chit chat, which he loathed, but long, intelligent and illuminating conversation. Conversations which inspired you to strive and live and laugh and left you with the warm glow of possibility and that deep down knowledge that everything was, is and always will be, just fine.

He identified with the struggles and creativity of other artists, with their pain and often with their sense of isolation. That was one of the big themes in his life, isolation. Whether self imposed or just an awareness of the reality of the human condition, it’s hard to say, probably a bit of both. In that respect, a key book he discovered at the age of 23 was Colin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’. He often told me the story of how we’d just moved into a house in Sandhurst Road, near Tunbridge Wells and one morning as he lay in bed he leaned over the side and found that book lying there.

It was a pivotal moment. The ideas and references contained in that one book were to sustain and inspire him for the rest of his life. The album ‘City to City’ which was namely about travelling from London to Glasgow, was largely influenced by this book. Wilson, only 24 at the time, wrote the book in The British Library whilst sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. Its themes are alienation, creativity and the banality of the modern mind-set. It was exactly these themes which my Father experienced during those frequent trips down to London to deal with the machinations of the music business and it was ‘The Outsider’ which introduced him to the possibility that there was a way out, the means to transcend the ordinary. Hope.

‘Baker Street’ was born directly from these experiences and in that saxophone solo one can hear the soaring, transcendent optimism of the promise of a new life, a new way of living, the discovery that life could, indeed, be ultimately meaningful.

He would have loved to have written that book, I’m sure. But, having received very little by way of a formal education, he used the medium of the popular song, in very much the same capacity. His music has left an indelible mark on the lives of many and so, I hope, it will continue to do so far into the future, wherever that is…..

Thanks for listening

Martha Rafferty
Edinburgh.
October 10th 2011.

Gerry Rafferty was 63 years 8 months 19 days old when he died on 4 January 2011. His liver just gave out.

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Teena Marie 12/2010

teena marieDec 26, 2010 – Teena Marie was born Mary Christine Brockert on March 5, 1956 in Santa Monica, CA. She was of Belgian, Portuguese, Irish, Italian, and Native American ancestry.

She took to singing naturally, performing Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song by age two. She also developed a fondness for singing Motown songs, and her self-professed “gift from God” would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.

When she was eight years old, her parents began sending Tina on auditions which, among other things, netted her an acting role on The Beverly Hillbillies, credited as Tina Marie Brockert. She also sang at the wedding of Jerry Lewis’ son when she was 10 years old. Reared in a Roman Catholic household, she learned to play the piano under the tutelage of two nuns, and later taught herself the guitar, bass, and congas. She would go on to form a semi-professional R&B band with her younger brother Anthony and their cousin.

In the early 1970s, after the family moved to Venice, Los Angeles, Brockert spent her adolescent years in the historically black Venice enclave of Oakwood, nicknamed “Venice Harlem”. There, she would acquire a strong spiritual influence from neighborhood matriarch Berthalynn Jackson, an African American who would become her godmother.

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Michael Been 8/2010

the call's frontman Michael BeenAugust 19, 2010 – Michael Kenneth Been (the Call, Aorta, H.P. Lovecraft) was born on April 15, 1950 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He spent his childhood in Oklahoma City. At the age of seven he won a talent contest at a local fair and began performing on local television and radio as “Little Elvis”.”I grew up on rock and roll,” he recalled. “I saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show and I was never the same. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. I started playing guitar as soon as I was old enough. When I was a kid, music just seemed to take up so much of my day voluntarily. That’s how I wanted to spend my time.”

In the mid-1960s the Been family moved to Chicago, where he attended high school and the University of Illinois, and experimented with comedy, beating his friend John Belushi to second place in the Illinois state competition. In Chicago, he saw the blues greats Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed, and started a group called Aorta, which was strongly influenced by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and The Band, whose members Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson would later record with The Call.

Between 1969 and 1971 Been was in Lovecraft, a spin-off of the psychedelic group HP Lovecraft, and, after relocating to California in 1972, he joined Fine Wine, which featured two former members of another legendary psychedelic outfit, Moby Grape. However, he really made his mark in 1979 when he started Moving Pictures, soon renamed The Call, with a fellow Oklahoman, drummer Scott Musick, and two Santa Cruz locals, guitarist Tom Ferrier and bassist Greg Freeman. “It all fell together so naturally,” he said. “We played together so effortlessly and trusted each other.”

In 1980 they travelled to the UK to record demos and saw Joy Division and the Gang Of Four. “The British weren’t so concerned with technique and orthodox standards, they just played like their lives depended on it,” Been said. “In fact, everyone thought we were an English band.” In 1982, they signed to Mercury and recorded their eponymous debut in Britain with noted producer Hugh Padgham. Through him, they met Gabriel, who called them “the future of American music.”

The Call made a big impression with their 1983 follow-up, the hard-hitting Modern Romans. Been recalled then: “There was a great deal happening politically – Grenada, the Lebanon – the US government saying the Russians are evil. That kind of thinking inspired me to write the last lines of ‘The Walls Came Down’. The album reflected the times.”

Unfortunately, a dispute between the group, their management and Mercury affected the release of Scene Beyond Dreams in 1984 and left them in limbo until they signed to Elektra two years later. Keyboard-player Jim Goodwin replaced Freeman, while Been switched from guitar to an Ampeg fretless bass, and they made Reconciled at the Power Station studio in New York. Gabriel and Kerr sang background vocals on “Everywhere I Go”, the album’s strong opener, and both that track and “I Still Believe” gained considerable airplay, though they lost momentum with the more introspective Into The Woods in 1987 before moving to the MCA label. The following year, The Call achieved their highest chart placings with the big-sounding Let The Day Begin album, which featured the actor Harry Dean Stanton, whom Been had met while making The Last Temptation of Christ, on harmonica.

The Call’s anthemic, socially conscious, spiritually influenced music drew critical comparisons to Irish superstars U2, and the admiration of people such as film director Martin Scorsese, who in 1988 cast Been as John the Apostle in “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

“I had the pleasure and honor to spend a fair amount of time with Michael Been while touring America. It really was an honor. Simple Minds may have been the headliners, but there was no doubt that is was us who looked up to our opening act The Call. All of which stood to reason. We may have just topped the Billboard charts, but we all knew it was Michael who was the ‘real deal’ in comparison to ourselves who, at that time, had buckets of chutzpah, well enough to disguise the fact that, by and large we were still well wet behind the ears. By that time, Michael had already lived ‘an artist’s life’ and travelled far and wide, both in body and mind, from the dusty backroads of Oklahoma.
“A preacher and a teacher, Michael was always much more than your usual ‘ten-a-penny’ careerist ’80s rock star. As driven as he was with his beliefs, he was far from sanctimonious and always a hoot to be around. He had a similar soul that one perceives in true American greats such as Robbie Robertson, but he also had the wickedly spirited comedy of John Belushi draped all around him. Both Charlie [Burchill, the Simple Minds guitarist] and myself adored Michael.”

Following 1990’s Red Moon, which had Bono on the gospel-tinged “What’s Happened To You”, The Call disbanded, though they returned with one more studio album in 1997. Been composed and recorded the music for Light Sleeper, the 1992 offbeat drama starring Willem Dafoe and Susan Sarandon and directed by Paul Schrader, and also collaborated with Rosie Vela and Bruce Cockburn.

In 1994, Been released a solo album, On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakthrough. Vice President Al Gore adopted The Call’s high-blooded “Let the Day Begin” as the theme for his presidential campaign, and Been’s music was used in such films as “The Lost Boys,” “Tango & Cash” and “Light Sleeper.”
Over the last decade, he devoted most of his time and energy to mentoring Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the indie rock trio formed in San Francisco by his son, Robert Levon Been, and Peter Hayes. He engineered and co-produced several of their albums and is listed as sole producer of their most recent recording, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. He was working as BRMC’s sound engineer when he suffered a heart attack backstage at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium.

Been died from a heart attack suffered while he was at Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival) on August 19, 2010. He was 60.

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Kenny Edwards 8/2010

kenny edwards with linda ronstadtAugust 18, 2010 – Kenneth Michael ‘Kenny’ Edwards was born on February 10, 1946 in Santa Monica California. He had the good fortune to begin life in the Southern California community of Santa Monica where much musical history would be recorded. Little did he know that he would eventually be in the thick of the most active of all the entertainment media, and more impressively, be an integral part of its growth. All types of music captivated him at an early age, which made him a willing and able student of diverse ethnic sounds, including early American bluegrass, country, folk, and rock. In 1965, Edwards teamed up with Bob Kimmel, a transplant from Tuscon, and formed a folk group which would soon after be embellished by the powerful vocals of Linda Ronstadt, whom Kimmel knew from Arizona. The group called themselves the Stone Ponys and, with the help of their new manager, Herb Cohen, quickly managed to secure a recording contract with Capitol Records, gaining considerable recognition by the American folk-rock mass. Their first album was, by many accounts, considered to be a masterpiece that displayed lush harmonies provided by Edwards and Kimmel, although the record did not spawn a hit. The second attempt, released in 1967, contained the hit song “Different Drum,” which induced Capitol to send the band out on tour. However, just before the tour, the Stone Ponys decided to terminate their relationship, leaving Ronstadt to fulfill the final album commitment on the contract. Edwards would rejoin Ronstadt in 1974 and spend the next five years as a key force behind her successful run.

After leaving the Stone Ponys in 1968, Edwards united with Wendy Waldman, Andrew Gold and Karla Bonoff, each of whom were prolific songwriters, accomplished musicians, and great singers. They had aspirations of launching individual careers, but enjoyed singing together so much that they decided to join forces and become a group. The quartet called themselves Bryndle and would win a recording contract with A&M Records in 1970, but their only album remained in the can, and just the single “Woke Up This Morning” was released. The frustrating end to their dream caused Bryndle to disband, but they would re-form two decades later.

In 1974, Edwards was approached by Ronstadt and she asked him to rejoin her band and help to ignite her floundering career. It turned out to be one of the best moves she ever made because he also brought along Andrew Gold. Edwards, who would play bass, remained the standing foundation in Ronstadt’s band for the next five years, and with Gold, served as the spark that did indeed ignite her career. Edwards stuck with Ronstadt through her glory years, touring extensively and providing invaluable input in the studio which took full advantage of his multi-instrumental prowess, not to mention vocals, collaborative songwriting, and creative production ideas.

By the late ’70s, Edwards grew to become a talented, well-rounded, aspiring record producer whose next step would be commander of his own project. His former bandmate from Bryndle, Karla Bonoff, landed a record deal with Columbia Records in 1977 and she called upon him to produce her. He produced all three albums. The first, titled Karla Bonoff, was the most successful. After Bonoff’s contract expired, Edwards continued to get more and more calls for his services as producer as well as studio musician and vocalist. He put in more than his share of air miles between L.A. and Nashville, but still found enough time to branch out into other areas, taking on the production of feature films, one of which was Vince Gill’s version of “When Will I Be Loved” for the movie Eight Seconds that he co-produced with Andrew Gold.

Other credits include writing and scoring films and teleplays such as Miami Vice, Crime Story, The Street, The Secret Sins of the Father, and others. In the early ’90s, having enjoyed successful careers individually, Edwards, Waldman, Bonoff, and Gold decided to put Bryndle back in action. Their first CD was released on Music Masters/BMG Records. Entering 2001, they continued to write and record new material, and tour throughout the U.S. and Asia. By the end of 2002, Edwards had finished his first solo album.

His session work has seen Edwards work either live or in the studio with acts such as Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, J.D. Souther, Don Henley, Brian Wilson, Warren Zevon, Art Garfunkel, Vince Gill, Mac McAnally, David Lee Murphy, Jennifer Warnes, Danny Kortchmar, Lowell George, as well as a younger generation of artists including Glen Phillips and Natalie D-Napoleon. Edwards released his first, self-titled solo album in 2002. In his later years, he performed as a singer-songwriter, often with Nina Gerber accompanying, and completed the recording and release of a second solo album in 2009.

Edwards’ career had spanned four decades, consumed thousands of studio hours, and countless thousands of air miles, and he has participated in the creation of libraries full of hit songs. His is not a household name except to those in the industry, but he has played an influential part in musical history, especially where it pertains to the development of country-rock music and its boom during the ’70s. With the release of his 2nd solo cd, Resurrection Road” Edwards, who for most of his career was the consummate backup ace, took a more prominent position on stage and had planned to play an important part in the future development of music for some time to come.

Sadly Kenny lost his battle with prostate cancer on August 18, 2010. He was 64.

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Bobby Hebb 8/2010

Booby Hebb wrote SunnyAugust 3, 2010 – Robert Von Bobby Hebb was born on July 26, 1938 in Nshville, Tennessee.

His parents were both blind musicians. Hebb and older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance team in Nashville beginning when Bobby was three and Harold was nine.

Hebb performed on a TV show hosted by country music record producer Owen Bradley, which earned him a place with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff. Hebb played Spoons and other instruments in Acuff’s band. Harold later became a member of Johnny Bragg and the Marigolds. Bobby Hebb sang backup on Bo Diddley’s “Diddley Daddy”. Hebb played “West-coast-style” trumpet in a United States Navy jazz band, and replaced Mickey Baker in Mickey and Sylvia.

In 1960 he reached the New York Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff’s “Night Train To Memphis”.

On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Bobby Hebb’s brother, Harold, was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and sought comfort in songwriting. Though many claim that the song he wrote after both tragedies was the optimistic “Sunny”, Hebb himself stated otherwise. He immersed himself in the Gerald Wilson album, You Better Believe It!, for comfort.

“All my intentions were just to think of happier times – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low tide. After I wrote it, I thought “Sunny” just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”.
“Sunny” was recorded in New York City after demos were made with the record producer Jerry Ross. Released as a single in 1966, “Sunny” reached No. 3 on the R&B charts, No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 12 in the United Kingdom. When Hebb toured with The Beatles in 1966 his “Sunny” was, at the time of the tour, ranked higher than any Beatles song then on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[citation needed] BMI rated “Sunny” number 25 in its “Top 100 songs of the century”.

In 1966 Bobby after recording “Sunny”, he toured with The Beatles.

BMI rates “Sunny” number 25 in its Top 100 songs of the century, it sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It is also one of the most covered popular songs, with hundreds of versions released, by the likes of Cher, Boney M, Georgie Fame, Johnny Rivers, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Seasons, the Four Tops, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Dusty Springfield.

Hebb also had lesser hits with his “A Satisfied Mind” in 1966 (No. 39 on the Billboard chart and No. 40 on the R&B chart) and “Love Me” in 1967 and wrote many other songs, including Lou Rawls’ 1971 hit “A Natural Man” (co-written with comedian Sandy Baron). Six years prior to “Sunny”, Hebb reached the New York City Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff’s “Night Train to Memphis”. In 1972, his single “Love Love Love” reached No. 32 on the UK charts.

In 1976, Hebb released a newly recorded disco version entitled “Sunny ’76”. The single was a minor hit reaching No. 94 on the R&B chart.

After a recording gap of thirty five years he recorded a new album; That’s All I Wanna Know was his first commercial release since Love Games in 1970. It was released in Europe in late 2005 by Tuition, a new pop indie label. New versions of “Sunny” were also issued two duets: one with Astrid North, and one with Pat Appleton. In October 2008 Bobby toured and played in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan.

On August 3, 2010 Bobby lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 72.

Ipanema Films of Germany was involved in a biographical film which included Hebb, his biographer Joseph Tortelli, and Billy Cox.

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Fred Carter 7/2010

July 17, 2010 – Fred F. Carter Jr. was born on December 31, 1933 in the delta country in Winnsboro, the northeastern part of Louisiana.

(Photo: Fred with his daughter and award winning country star Deanne Carter)

Carter grew up with the heavy musical influences of jazz, country & western, hymns, and blues. His first instrument was the mandolin which he began playing at the age of 3. He later learned to play fiddle as well. While in the Air Force in his late teens, he was the band leader for the USO variety show entertaining troops across Europe. His bunkmate during the tour was the MC and fellow serviceman Larry Hagman who went on to television fame. After leaving the Air Force, Carter attended Centenary Music College on scholarship as a violist despite the fact he could not read music but instead had to memorize all of his orchestral pieces.

After leaving Centenary, Carter began his professional career in the 1950s, his first partner in music was another Franklin Parish native, Allen “Puddler” Harris. He started taking up guitar seriously and got his first taste of fame playing in the house band of the popular Louisiana Hayride radio program, which led to a gig with Roy Orbison during the late ’50s when Orbison was signed to famed Memphis label Sun Records. Carter  became part of his band and moving to Hollywood with Roy. Later, he worked with Orbison in Nashville on the Monument Sessions notably heard on Dream Baby as the opening guitar.

He subsequently worked with Dale Hawkins of “Suzie Q” song fame, and then joined Dale’s cousin Ronnie Hawkins whose group The Hawks later became The Band, (sans Hawkins). He played a key role in the career of Ronnie Hawkins, serving as his lead guitarist from 1959 to 1960 and mentoring his eventual replacement, a young Toronto, Ontario guitarist named Robbie Robertson. During this busy and formative time, Carter also toured and became lifelong friends with Conway Twitty.

Carter’s career as a musician began at the birth of rock’n’roll, and over the next four decades he branched off into songwriting, production and label management.

In the early 1960s, Carter settled into the Nashville session scene. He quickly earned a place as part of Nashville’s famous A Team. His discography for the next 3 decades is extensive and wide ranging: Carter played guitar and mandolin for two of Joan Baez’s albums in the late 1960s. He then worked on Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Notably, Carter provide numerous memorable guitar performances including five guitar parts for “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel (the iconic opening riff is Carter’s creation), “I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal” by John Anderson, “I’ve Always Been Crazy” and “Whistlers and Jugglers” by Waylon Jennings. He also played guitar and bass on the Bob Dylan albums “Self Portrait”, “Nashville Skyline” , “John Wesley Harding” and on the Connie Francis hit single, “The Wedding Cake”. During this time Carter was also a member of the supergroup Levon Helm and the RCO All Stars, composed of Levon Helm, Booker T. Jones, Dr. John, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and the Saturday Night Live horns.

Carter owned Nugget Records in Goodlettsville, TN for many years. Songs such a Jesse Colter’s “I’m Not Lisa” were originally recorded at Nugget. Willie Nelson famously recut his famed Phases and Stages album with Fred at Nugget after Willie expressed dissatisfaction with the first version of the album cut in Muscle Shoals, AL.

Production credits for Carter include Levon Helm’s American Son album on MCA Records, and Bobby Bridger’s “Heal in the Wisdom”. He also helped Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker land their first record deals.

Carter was a member of the band Levon Helm and The RCO All-Stars. This band was composed of Levon Helm, Carter, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, and the NBC Saturday Night Live horns.

Although Carter recorded with top country stars such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson, it could be argued that his biggest contribution was being a crucial member of the group of Nashville session players that enabled artists such as Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, Ian & Sylvia and Leonard Cohen to record some of their most memorable music there.

Carter was a complete guitarist. He was accomplished as both a flat picker and fingerpicker and could play any genre fluently. Carter was widely recognized as being the “earthiest” player in Nashville with an ability to add subtle flavor to any recording. He is known for distinctive fills with both soulful and playful colorations. He also had small roles in several films including The Adventures of Huck Finn starring Elijah Wood.

He died of a stroke on July 17, 2010 in Nashville at the age of 76.

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Crispian St. Peters 6/2010

crispian st. petersJune 8, 2010 – Crispian St. Peters was born Robin Peter Smith on April 5, 1939 in Swanley, Kent, England. He learned guitar and left school in 1954 to become an assistant cinema projectionist. As a young man, he performed in several relatively unknown bands in England. In 1956, he gave his first live performance, as a member of The Hard Travellers. Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as undertaking National Service, he was a member of The Country Gentlemen, Beat Formula Three, and Peter & The Wolves.

While a member of Beat Formula Three in 1963, he was heard by David Nicholson, an EMI publicist who became his manager. Nicholson suggested he use a stage name, initially “Crispin Blacke” Crispin Blacke, in keeping with a saturnine image similar to that of Dave Berry, but subsequently changed to C
, and deducted five years from his client’s age for publicity purposes. In 1964, as a member of Peter & The Wolves, St. Peters made his first commercial recording. He was persuaded to turn solo by Nicholson, and was signed to Decca Records in 1965. His first two singles on this record label, “No No No” and “At This Moment”, proved unsuccessful on the charts. He made two television UK appearances in February of that year, featuring in the shows Scene at 6.30 and Ready Steady Go!

In 1966, St. Peters’ career finally yielded a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart, with “You Were on My Mind,” a song written and first recorded in 1964 by the Canadian folk duo, Ian & Sylvia, and a hit in the United States for We Five in 1965. St. Peters’s single eventually hit No. 2 in the UK and was then released in the US on the Philadelphia-based Jamie Records label. It did not chart in the US until after his fourth release, “The Pied Piper,” became known as his superhit signature song. It reached No.4 in the US and No.5 in the UK.

As with most pop phenomena, Crispian St. Peters became the object of massive press attention, and that was where the first of his outlandish self-promoting statements achieved notice – he claimed that he’d written 80 songs that were better than anything John Lennon or Paul McCartney had ever authored, and subsequently described himself as a singer better than Elvis Presley, sexier than Dave Berry (“The Crying Game”), and more exciting than Tom Jones.

Later in 1966, St. Peters’ “The Pied Piper” soared into the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic, and, with its infectious chorus and beat and flute ornamentation, seemed to captured the glow of the pre-psychedelic era. It proved to be the last of his successes, however, a fact that can only be explained, in part, by the controversy surrounding his statements. There was something bizarre and off-putting seeing his name attributed to statements announcing that the Beatles “are past it.” His sound was also strangely inconsistent, crossing between upbeat folk-rock and brooding ballads — he could sound like an aspiring rival to Tom Jones, but on a number like “Your Love Has Come,” reached for a high register that made him seem more like an aspiring Tiny Tim. His folk-rock inclinations were also undone by numbers like the pre-Beatles British beat-style “Jilly Honey,” complete with ornamentation that sounds like a honking sax (or is it a fuzz bass?). In fairness, he did have the wisdom to record a rocked-up version of Phil Ochs’ “Changes,” but it was still difficult to tell whether St. Peters was trying to be Tom Jones, half of Peter & Gordon, a pop version of Donovan, or a mid-’60s version of Marty Wilde.

Although his next single, a version of Phil Ochs’ song “Changes,” also reached the charts in both the UK and US, it was much less successful. In 1967, St. Peters released his first LP, Follow Me…, which included several of his own songs, as well as the single “Free Spirit”. One of them, “I’ll Give You Love,” was recorded by Marty Kristian in a version produced by St. Peters, and became a big hit in Australia.

By 1968, he’d moved on to country music, but found little success with that repertory. A 1970 release, Simply…Crispian St. Peters, compiled many of his early sides, and he periodically reappeared on the ’60s revival circuit in England.

St. Peters’ album was followed by his first EP, Almost Persuaded, yet by 1970, he was dropped by Decca. Later in 1970, he was signed to Square Records. Under this new record deal, St. Peters released a second LP, Simply, that year, predominantly of country and western songs. Later still they released his first cassette, The Gospel Tape, in 1986, and a second cassette, New Tracks on Old Lines in 1990. His third cassette, Night Sessions, Vol. 1 was released in 1993.

Several CDs also came from this record deal, including Follow Me in 1991, The Anthology in 1996, Night Sessions, Vol. 1 in 1998, The Gospel Tape in 1999, and, finally, Songs From The Attic in 2000. He also performed on various Sixties nostalgia tours, and continued to write and arrange for others until his later ill health.

On 1 January 1995, at the age of 55, he suffered a stroke but continued to write songs thereafter and performed live up to 1999. His music career was severely weakened by this however, and in 2001 he announced his retirement from the music industry. He was hospitalised several times with pneumonia after 2003.

St. Peters died on 8 June 2010 at his home in Swanley, after a long illness, at the age of 71.

 

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Stuart Cable 6/2010

stuart-cableJune 7, 2010 – Stuart Cable was born on May 19 1970. The former Stereophonics drummer grew up in Cwmaman near Aberdare in Wales, UK.
Cable lived on the same street as Stereophonics singer Kelly Jones. The larger than life joker of the band, the pair – alongside childhood friend Richard Jones – began playing in a series of outfits in their early teens, playing classic rock and soul covers.

They began writing and performing music in working men’s clubs together in 1992 as a teenage cover band known as Tragic Love Company. The band later changed their name to The Stereophonics, after the manufacturer of a record player belonging to Stuart Cable’s father.

In May 1996, they were the first artists to be signed to newly formed record label V2, created by Virgin’s Richard Branson.
Upon signing, they dropped “The” from their name and simply became Stereophonics.
Stuart Cable’s distinctive driving drumming style was a feature of their early records, “On tunes such as Not Up To You his drum patterns breathe life into the song and momentum into the show,” enthused The Times, at the time.

The drummer was the man with the big character and the hair to match. It was no surprise then that this extrovert personality embarked on a media career.
In 2002, Cable was given his own TV chat show, Cable TV, by BBC Wales., leading to his departure from the band in September 2003 when he was sacked by Stereophonics. In an acrimonious split it was claimed he was spending too much time on his new media career at the expense of rehearsals and was believed to have said that in his opinion Stereophonics couldn’t get any better.

His media career had blossomed. He had another BBC Wales show Cable Connects in 2005 and had his own radio show on BBC Radio Wales – Cable Rock.
In 2005, Cable co-hosted the Kerrang! Awards, and he also presented two shows on Kerrang! 105.2: the Cable and Caroline Show with Caroline Beavon on Sunday mornings and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Years on weekday mornings.

In November 2007, he joined XFM South Wales and hosted weekend shows until the station was sold on May 30, 2008 and got back into music, forming a band Killing For Company. Cable guest drummed for hard rockers Stone Gods in 2008 when the band – formed by ex-Darkness members – sacked their sticksman

In 2009 he was one of 582 drummers who broke the Guinness World Record for the largest group of drummers playing the same beats at the same time. Mike Joyce of The Smiths also took part. In 2009 Cable also published his autobiography Demons & Cocktails: My Life With Stereophonics

In April 2010, Stuart returned to BBC Radio Wales as the presenter of Saturday Night Cable, a show devoted to playing the best rock music, both old and new. He also had been drumming with his new band, Killing for Company, who not only were the first band to play the new Liberty Stadium in Swansea, but in doing so, opened for The Who.

Cable was found dead at his home in Llwydcoed at 5:30 am on 7 June 2010, aged 40. His death came just hours after Stereophonics played in Cardiff. Cable was said to have been presenting on the radio at the same time that Stereophonics were performing. Later that weekend, he began drinking at the local pub, the Welsh Harp Inn, where he left his car, and walked home with friends to continue drinking at his house. On arriving home, he continued drinking and choked to death on his own vomit during his sleep.

 

 

 

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Ronnie James Dio 5/2010

ronnie-james-dioMay 16, 2010 – Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona  on July 10th 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Dio listened to a great deal of opera while growing up, and was influenced vocally by American tenor Mario Lanza. His first and only formal musical training began at age 5 learning to play the trumpet.

During high school, Dio played in the school band and was one of the youngest members selected to play in the school’s official Dance Band. It was also during high school that Dio formed his first rock-n-roll group, the Vegas Kings (the name would soon change to Ronnie and the Rumblers, and then Ronnie and the Red Caps). Though Dio began his rock-n-roll career on trumpet, he quickly added bass guitar to his skillset once he assumed singing duties for the group.

Ronnie James Dio’s main interests were music and romantic fantasy literature, such as the works of Sir Walter Scott and the Arthurian legend. He always liked science fiction literature, spaceships, aliens and the like, as well as sports – that is probably because his father played softball for some local team when Ronnie was a child and the whole family went to watch the games.

“I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember, but I never fancied myself a singer when I was young.” Having always wanted to be a performer, Ronnie’s main interest was sport. “…Though my first idea of performing was to play sports – A Sort of unrealistic goal for a guy who topped out at 5 foot 4 inches and 130 pounds.”

“I began playing the trumpet when I was 5 years old. It was baseball I really wanted to play, so I asked my dad if he’d buy me a bat. He said “No. You need a musical education” When he got me a trumpet, I said, “You can’t hit a ball with this thing!” I didn’t know why I had it. The next day I started music lessons – four hours of practice every day until I was seventeen.”

Ronnie himself credits his voice to that trumpet, he says that without the breathing exercises with trumpet he wouldn’t have his voice.

Explanations vary for how he adopted the stage name “Dio”. One story is that Dio was a reference to mafia member Johnny Dio. Another has it that Padavona’s grandmother said he had a gift from God and should be called “Dio”. (“God” in Italian.) Whatever the inspiration, Padavona first used it on a recording in 1960, when he added it to the band’s second release on Seneca. Soon after that the band modified their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The Prophets lineup lasted for several years, touring throughout the New York region and playing college fraternity parties

In late 1967 Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called The Electric Elves and added a keyboard player. Following recovery from a deadly car accident in February 1968 (which killed guitarist Nick Pantas and put Dio and other band members in the hospital briefly), the group shortened its name to The Elves and used that name until mid 1972 when it released its first proper album under the name Elf. Over the next few years, the group went on to become a regular opening act for Deep Purple. Elf recorded three albums until the members’ involvement recording the first Rainbow album in early 1975 resulted in Elf disbanding.

Dio’s vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s, who was planning on leaving them due to creative differences over the band’s new direction. Blackmore invited Dio along with Gary Driscoll to record two songs in Tampa, Florida on December 12, 1974.

Blackmore stated in 1983, “I left Deep Purple because I’d met up with Ronnie Dio, and he was so easy to work with. He was originally just going to do one track of a solo LP, but we ended up doing the whole LP in three weeks, which I was very excited about.” Being satisfied with the results, Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf’s musicians and form his own band, initially known as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. They released the self-titled debut album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in early 1975. After that, Dio recorded two more studio albums (Rising and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll) and two live albums (“Live in Munich 1977”) and (Live in Germany 1976) with Blackmore. During his tenure with Rainbow, Dio and Blackmore were the only constant members. Dio is credited on those albums for all lyrical authorship as well as collaboration with Blackmore on musical arrangement. Dio and Blackmore split, with Blackmore taking the band in a more commercial direction, with Graham Bonnet on vocals and the album “Down to Earth”.

Dio left Rainbow in 1979 and soon joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Dio met Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. Both men were in similar situations, as Dio was seeking a new project and Iommi required a vocalist. Dio said of the encounter, “It must have been fate, because we connected so instantly.” The pair kept in touch via telephone until Dio arrived at Iommi’s Los Angeles house for a relaxed, getting-to-know-you jam session. On that first day the duo wrote the song, “Children of the Sea”, which would appear on the Heaven and Hell album, the first the band recorded with Dio as vocalist in 1980.

Three albums later Dio left that band in 1982 and formed the group Dio, but he had a brief reunion with Black Sabbath under the name Heaven & Hell a decade later. Dio continued to perform until his illness manifested itself.

His last public appearance was in April 2010 at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards when he accepted a vocalist of the year award for his work on the Heaven and Hell album. Dio appeared frail, but he was able to speak when accepting his award.

Widely hailed as one of the most powerful singers in heavy metal, he died on May 16, 2010 from stomach cancer. He was 67.

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Lesley Duncan 3/2010

lesley_duncanMarch 12, 2010 – Lesley Duncan was born in Stockton-on-Tees in England on August 12th 1943.

She left school while only 14 years old. At 19, while working in a London coffee bar, she and her brother were placed on weekly retainers by a music publisher. Within a year Duncan had signed her first recording contract, with EMI, and appeared in the film What a Crazy World.

Her songs were often about life and its problems, “Everything Changes” and “Sing Children Sing”.

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Kate McGarrigle 1/2010

kate mcgarrigleJanuary 18, 2010 – Kate McGarrigle was born on February 6th 1946 in Montreal, but grew up in the Laurentian Mountains village of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, Quebec.

The McGarrigle sisters, Kate, Anna and Jane, grew up in musical family, where they learned songs from their French-Canadian mother Gaby, and piano from their father Frank and nuns in the village. Later they picked up the guitar, banjo and accordion, and in the early 1960s, with a couple of friends, formed a coffeehouse folk group, the Mountain City Four.

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Bobby Charles 1/2010

Bobby CharlesJanuary 14, 2010 Bobby Charles was born Robert Charles Guidry on February 21, 1938 in Abbeville, Louisiana. As a kid grew up listening to Cajun music and the country and western music of Hank Williams. At the age of 15, he heard a performance by Fats Domino, an event that “changed my life forever,” he recalled.

Charles helped to pioneer the south Louisiana musical genre known as swamp pop. His compositions include the hits See You Later, Alligator, which he initially recorded himself as “Later Alligator”, but which is best known from the cover version by Bill Haley & His Comets which sold more than 1 million records, and “Walking to New Orleans“, written for Fats Domino.

He led a local group, the Cardinals, for whom he wrote a song called Hey Alligator at the age of 14. The song was inspired by an incident at a roadside diner, when his parting shot to a friend – “See you later, alligator” – inspired another customer to respond with: “In a while, crocodile.”

The popularity of the song led a local record-store owner to recommend Guidry to Leonard Chess of the Chicago-based Chess Records label. After Bobby had sung it over the phone, Chess signed him up. He travelled to New Orleans to record the song and several others under the name Bobby Charles. On his first visit to Chicago, he shocked the label’s owners, who had been expecting to meet a young black singer and had arranged a promotional tour of the “chitlin’ circuit” of African-American venues.

(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” was an early 1960s song that Charles composed, which Clarence “Frogman” Henry had a major hit with, and which was on the soundtrack of the 1994 film Forrest Gump. His composition “Why Are People Like That?” was on the soundtrack of the 1998 film Home Fries.

Although Charles performed alongside big names such as Little Richard, the Platters and Chuck Berry on tours in the late 1950s, his own records for Chess, Imperial and Jewel did not sell that well. Nevertheless, he enjoyed songwriting royalties from hit versions of songs he had co-written, such as Walking to New Orleans, recorded by Fats Domino in 1960, and But I Do, recorded by Clarence “Frogman” Henry in 1961.

Charles’s laidback, drawling vocal style was also a formative influence on a style of music made by white and black Louisiana teenagers that came to be called swamp pop – primarily slow, rolling two-chord ballads drawing from all the musical traditions of south Louisiana, such as country, soul and Cajun.

Charles was invited to play with the Band at their November 26, 1976, farewell concert, The Last Waltz, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. In the concert, Charles played “Down South in New Orleans”, with the help of Dr. John and the Band. That song was recorded and released as part of the triple-LP The Last Waltz box set. The performance was also captured on film by director Martin Scorsese, but did not appear in the final, released theatrical version. Charles did, however, appear briefly in a segment of the released film—in the concert’s final song, “I Shall Be Released“. In that segment, his image is largely blocked from view during the performance. That song, sung by Bob Dylan and pianist Richard Manuel, featured backup vocals from the entire ensemble, including Charles.

He co-wrote the song “Small Town Talk” with Rick Danko of the Band. “Promises, Promises (The Truth Will Set You Free)” was co-written with Willie Nelson.

Charles continued to compose and record (he was based out of Woodstock, New York, for a time) and in the 1990s he recorded a duet of “Walking to New Orleans” with Domino.

His songs continued to attract other singers. Joe Cocker recorded The Jealous Kind (in 1976), as did Ray Charles and Etta James. Kris Kristofferson was among several singers to record the wistful Tennessee Blues. Charles returned to the studio rarely in later years, recording Wish You Were Here Right Now (1995) and Secrets of the Heart (1998). The 2004 double CD Last Train to Memphis was a retrospective of his compositions, with guest appearances by Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Fats Domino. In 2008, his friend and collaborator Dr John co-produced the album Homemade Songs.

Charles lived for some years in quiet seclusion at Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. After his house was destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005, he returned to Abbeville. His contribution to the music of his home state was recognised when he was inducted into the Louisiana music hall of fame in 2007. He had been in poor health recently with diabetes and was in remission from kidney cancer. He died on January 14, 2010 at age 71.

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Ramses Shaffy 12/2009

Ramses ShaffyDecember 1, 2009 – Ramses Shaffy was born in Paris on August 29th 1933  in the suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine. His father was an Egyptian diplomat and his mother was a Polish-Russian countess. He grew up with his mother in Cannes. When she was infected with tuberculosis, Shaffy was sent to an aunt in Utrecht in the Netherlands and eventually ended up in a foster family in the city of Leiden.

He did not finish high school, but he was accepted at the Amsterdam school of theatre arts in 1952. In 1955, he made his debut with the Nederlandse Comedie. He went to Rome’s Civitavecchia in 1960 aspiring to be a film actor, but was unsuccessful in the endeavor.

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Eric Woolfson 12/2009

eric-woolfsonDecember 2, 2009 – Eric Woolfson was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 18th March 1945. Eric had an uncle in Glasgow who played the piano masterfully and who inspired Eric to want to become a musician. After a very short spell of piano lessons which were soon abandoned, Eric started playing by himself and became a self-taught pianist who never was able to read music!

In his teens, following a brief but somewhat unsuccessful foray into the profession of Chartered Accountancy where they said he’d be better apprenticed to a circus, Eric went to London via Manchester where he got involved with music business agency, Kennedy Street Enterprises. He joined one of their acts HERMAN’S HERMITS as a guest pianist for a short spell, and had high hopes of becoming a permanent member of one of their other groups, but they wouldn’t guarantee him a retainer and so he decided to carry on further south to London. The musicians Eric left behind in Manchester, shortly afterwards became known as 10CC. Finally arriving in London he hung around Denmark Street a.k.a. ‘Tin Pan Alley’ where he managed to get work as a session pianist and worked with musicians such as Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones who went on to form LED ZEPPELIN and managed to fix a meeting with the Record Producer & Co. Manager of THE ROLLING STONES, Andrew Loog Oldham.

After being kept waiting for over four hours for his meeting, Oldham finally showed up and asked Eric to play something he’d written himself. After playing just one song, Oldham stood up and said ‘You’re a fucking genius’ and immediately offered Eric a publishing deal with Oldham’s newly formed company ‘Immediate Records’.

Oldham placed Eric’s work with a number of well known artists of the day such as MARIANNE FAITHFULL and FRANK IFIELD as well as using Eric as a session pianist on many of his independent productions.

Other songs written by Eric found their way into various record producers’ hands, including MICK JAGGER’s first attempt as a record producer with a singer called CHRIS FARLOWE – although Eric’s song eventually was consigned to the B-side, the single OUT OF TIME went to number one in the UK Charts.

Eric signed other publishing deals with other companies as his repertoire flourished and more and more of his songs found their way to major recording artists, both in Europe and America.

He signed a deal with Southern Music where he joined the ranks of composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Eric remembered Lloyd Webber and Rice’s decision to create stage musicals as a vehicle for their songs, rather than the more difficult route of trying for covers by the big artists of the day. As time went by, Eric realized how well founded their idea was.

Later, Eric was taken on as an independent record producer by several record companies working with artists including DAVE BERRY, THE EQUALS and THE TREMELOES.

Around this time, Eric had the idea to make an album inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. He wrote some of the material which later found its way into the Alan Parsons Project and at that time he recorded some demos with guitarist Rick Westwood of THE TREMELOES. Eric produced the recordings but was not sure that he had the necessary skill to realize such a grandiose project and shelved the idea.

Despite having many of his songs recorded all over Europe, Eric found that earning a living as a songwriter was not easy and so he decided to try his hand at artist management.

His first two clients were a singer CARL DOUGLAS who had just reached the top of the charts with KUNG FU FIGHTING and a record producer called ALAN PARSONS who he had met while on a session at Abbey Road Studios.

Alan had decided to become a producer and with Eric as his manager, he enjoyed a string of successes including consecutive number one hits with PILOT and COCKNEY REBEL. Other notable successes were JOHN MILES and AL STEWART with YEAR OF THE CAT.

At that time, the film business had become a director’s medium with luminaries such as Stanley Kubrick being more influential in the making of a film than the stars who appeared in it. Now having access to Alan’s production and engineering talent, Eric saw an opportunity to mirror this in the record business by combining his own writing talents with Alan’s. His Edgar Allan Poe idea came off the shelf and the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT was born.

The first album entitled TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, EDGAR ALLAN POE was released in 1976. It was immediately obvious that there was more to the idea than one album, but as the original record deal was for only the first album, a new deal was done with Arista Records for nine further albums.

Despite there being no live performances and few obvious hit singles the venture was a great success. There were however hit singles (many on which Eric sang lead vocal) including EYE IN THE SKY, TIME and DON’T ANSWER ME, three of which in addition to record sales, have been played on American radio more than 1 million times.

After ten albums Eric wanted to develop in other areas and decided it was time to move into the area of stage musicals. His first attempt, inspired by Sigmund Freud, was entitled FREUDIANA which was premiered in 1990 in Vienna’s historic THEATER AN DER WIEN where Beethoven premiered ‘Fidelio’, his one and only opera. Eric had always been inspired by creative minds and his wife Hazel had been studying psychology and began to leave books on Freud lying around the house. Intrigued by the titles, Woolfson became fascinated by their content and started researching Freud and spent a lot of time in the Freud Museum in London, even lying on the couch on which Freud’s patients recounted their dreams.

The success of this first musical work led to Woolfson’s second musical GAUDI which premiered in 1994 in Aachen, Germany and went on to be staged in Alsdorf (1995) and Cologne (1996) where a 1,700-seat theatre was specially built in the heart of the city to stage the show. Half a million people saw GAUDI in the five years that it ran and every performance received a standing ovation. A german tour of GAUDI was later planned for 2009/2010 and an Asian production planned for 2010.

For his next musical GAMBLER, Eric drew on his experiences of living in Monte Carlo (in the late 70s) which had also been the inspiration for the Alan Parsons Project TURN OF A FRIENDLY CARD album. Many of the songs from this album (Eye in the Sky, Turn of a Friendly Card, Snake Eyes, Games People Play and Time) were included in the show. It was premiered in Germany in Monchengladbach in 1996. GAMBLER has so far had seven productions in Korea, one of which also toured Japan in 2002 and 2005 (the first time a Korean language production had been staged in this way) and it won several Korean Tony Awards.

In 2007 Eric’s musical DANCING SHADOWS premiered in Asia. This was a unique musical project inspired by a famous Korean play entitled A FOREST FIRE based on the anti-war play Forest Fire by the Korean playwright Cham Bum-Suk. The noted playwright and author Ariel Dorfman wrote the book and Eric wrote the music and lyrics. The production won 5 Korean Tony awards including Best Musical. International production plans for the show are in development.

Eric’s work POE re-visits his original Tales of Mystery and Imagination inspiration, Edgar Allan Poe. It had its world premiere concert showcase at Abbey Road Studios in 2003 and a studio album was released containing 10 songs from the piece ‘POE, More Tales of Mystery and Imagination’.

The latest project that Eric worked on was the result of having gone through the APP archives to find bonus tracks for the 2007/2008 Sony and Universal releases of all 10 Alan Parsons Project albums in remastered expanded edition versions, plus a new Essential APP compilation. Eric discovered a number of songs which hadn’t been included on the original APP albums for a variety of reasons. These were later included, in their unfinished form as bonus tracks on the expanded edition APP albums, and Eric also completed and recorded some of these songs which are included on the ‘Eric Woolfson sings The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was‘ album which was released in January 2009.

Eric died of kidney cancer in the early hours of the 2nd December 2009, aged 64.

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The Rev Sullivan 12/2009

James the rev sullivanDecember 28, 2009 – 
The Rev Sullivan (The Reverend Tholomew Plague) or more affectionately called “The Rev”, by his many fans, was born James Owen Sullivan on 
February 10, 1981. He attended a Catholic school at Huntington Beach, California, until 2nd grade along with future A7X lead singer M. Shadows.

Jimmy was influenced by musicians such as Vinnie Paul, Dave Lombardo, Mike Portnoy, Paul Bostaph and bands like Metallica, Rancid and Transplants. At the age of 17, he did a brief stint with the third-wave ska band Suburban Legends recording their debut album “Origin Edition”.

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Tim Hart 12/2009

Tim HartDecember 24, 2009 – Tim Hart (Steeleye Span) was born  January 9, 1948 in Lincoln, grew up in St.Albans Hertfordshire, where several young British music careers started in the sixties. His father was a vicar. At St Albans school, he was a member of the Rattfinks, a pop band that never rivalled the school’s best-known alumni, the hit-making Zombies. He worked, briefly, as a bookbinder, blacksmith, cost clerk, civil servant and hospital washer-up, while diversifying his musical interests and singing at St Albans folk music club. He met Maddy Prior there in 1965 and, by January 1966, they were singing together professionally.

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Pim Koopman 11/2009

pimkoopman1November 23, 2009 – Pim Koopman was born in Hilversum, the Netherlands on March 11th 1953. In 1972 he co-founded the progressive rock band Kayak along with Ton Scherpenzeel, Johan Slager and Max Werner.

He left the band in 1976 because of health reasons and some issues with the band manager and went on to become a record producer, and was successful with acts such as Maywood, Petra Berger, Valensia and Robby Valentine.

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Ellie Greenwich 8/2009

ellie greenwich picAugust 26, 2009 – Eleanor Louise “Ellie” Greenwich (October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009) was born in Brooklyn New York into an immigrant family with an amateur music tradition. At age ten she was quite proficient on the accordion which she later replaced for piano when she started writing music and performing. In the sixties she was the driving force of a music partnership that brought rock and roll to the foreground with classic pop songs such as “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Doo Wah diddy” and “Be My Baby”.

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Willy DeVille 8/2009

romantic punk rocker Willy DevilleAugust 6, 2009 – Willy DeVille was born William Paul Borsey Jr. on  August 25th 1950 in Stamford, Connecticut. The son of a carpenter, he grew up in the working-class Belltown district of Stamford.

DeVille said about Stamford, “It was post-industrial. Everybody worked in factories, you know. Not me. I wouldn’t have that. People from Stamford don’t get too far. That’s a place where you die.” DeVille said about his youthful musical tastes, “I still remember listening to groups like the Drifters. It was like magic, there was drama, and it would hypnotise me.

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Billy Lee Riley 8/2009

billy lee riley -rockabilly starAugust 2, 2009 – Billy Lee Riley was born on October 5, 1933 in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and taught to play guitar by black farm workers.

After a four year stint he first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1955 before joining Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. His first hit was “Flyin’ Saucers Rock and Roll” / “I Want You Baby” in early 1957 after which he recorded “Red Hot” /”Pearly Lee” released in September 1957 both backed by Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.

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Marmaduke 7/2009

John “Marmaduke” Dawson

July 21, 2009 – Marmaduke aka John Collins Dawson IV was born on June 16th 1945 in Detroit. The son of a Los Altos Hills, California filmmaker, he took guitar lessons from Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez’s sister, before attending the Millbrook School near Millbrook, New York. While at Millbrook, he took courses in music theory & history and sang in the glee club.
After stints at Foothill College and Occidental College, Dawson’s musical career began in the mid-1960s folk and psychedelic rock music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He soon became part of the of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, a jug band that included Jerry Garcia and several other future members of the Grateful Dead. It is here where he also met fellow guitarist David Nelson.

John “Marmaduke” Dawson had original tunes in his pocket and a guitar in his hands in 1969 when a buddy just learning to play pedal steel guitar often joined his weekly gig at the Underground, a San Francisco Bay Area hofbrau house. The friend was Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, and those sessions set the stage for the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group they considered “the original psychedelic cowboy band.”

John decided that it was his life’s mission to combine the psychedelia of the San Francisco rock with his beloved electric country music and by 1969, he had written a number of country rock songs, so with Jerry Garcia the two began playing coffeehouse concerts together while the Grateful Dead was off the road.

By the summer of ’69 John and Jerry decided to form a full band, David Nelson was recruited from Big Brother to play electric lead guitar, Robert Hunter on electric bass and Grateful Dead Mickey Hart on drums. This was the original line-up of the band which became known as the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

In 1970 and 1971, the New Riders and the Grateful Dead performed many concerts together. John also appeared as a guest musician on three Grateful Dead albums — Aoxomoxoa, Workingman’s Dead, and American Beauty and he co-wrote the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”.

Buddy Cage replaced Jerry Garcia as the New Riders’ pedal steel player, John and David Nelson led a gradually evolving lineup of musicians in the New Riders of the Purple Sage, playing their psychedelic influenced brand of country rock and releasing a number of studio and live albums.

In 1982, David Nelson and Buddy Cage left the band. John Dawson and the New Riders carried on without them, taking on more of a bluegrass influence with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier to the group. John continued to tour with the band and released the occasional album, until their eventual retirement in 1997 when John relocated to Mexico to become an English teacher and made several guest appearances at the revival of the New Riders concerts in the mid 2000s onwards.

He died in Mexico from stomach cancer on July 21, 2009. He was 64.

• Rob Bleetstein, archivist for the New Riders, wrote in an e-mail, “Dawson’s songwriting brought an incredible vision of classic Americana to light with songs like ‘Glendale Train’ and ‘Last Lonely Eagle.’ “

• With that material and such other “wonderful” Dawson songs as “Garden of Eden” and “Henry,” the band “simply had to become a reality,” claimed Dennis McNally, a Grateful Dead publicist.

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Tim Krekel 6/2009

tim-krekelJune 24, 2009 – Tim Krekel (Jimmy Buffett) was born on October 10, 1950 in Louisville, Kentucky. He became interested in music early and his first lessons were on the drums. He began taking guitar lessons at age 10 or 11, when it dawned on him that “the guitar player was up front getting all the attention, like Rick Nelson”. He was singing and playing his guitar for audiences by the time he was 12, gigging in Lebanon, Kentucky, at places like The Golden Horseshoe and Club 68. He began to write his own songs in high school, although he was reluctant to share them with anyone for a few years.

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Barry Beckett 6/2009

barry-beckettJune 11, 2009 – Barry Beckett was born on February 4, 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama. His father, Horace, was an insurance salesman who also dabbled on guitar and for a time hosted a local radio program. He attended the University of Alabama, where, according to The Times Daily of Florence, Ala., he first heard the music of two of the Swampers, Johnson and Hawkins, who were then playing in a band called the Del-Rays. He was working with a blues producer in Pensacola, Fla., when he was asked to join the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

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Kenny Rankin 6/2009

kenny-rankinJune 7, 2009 – Kenny Rankin was born in Los Angeles on February 10, 1940 but raised in the Washington Heights area of Brooklyn, New York.

He was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. Early in his career he worked as a singer-songwriter, while a well-regarded guitarist, he played in Bob Dylan’s backup band on the influential 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home.”

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Hugh Hopper 6/2009

hugh-hopperJune 7, 2009 – Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine) was born on April 29, 1945 in Canterbury, England.

Hugh C. Hopper was perhaps the central figure of the whole famous Canterbury scene. In a career spanning forty years, he played with litterally everyone : Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Phil Miller, Dave Stewart, Pip Pyle…

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England Dan 3/2009

England-Dan-&-John-Ford-8March 25, 2009 – England Dan was born Danny Wayland Seals on February 8th 1948.

He was the younger brother of Jim Seals from the duo Seals & Crofts. Dan joined with fellow W.W. Samuell High School classmate and longtime friend John Ford Coley to perform first as part of Dallas pop/psych group Southwest”Freight on Board”/” F.O.B“, before going under the name of England Dan, and forming the soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley in 1970.

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Hank Locklin 3/2009

Hank LocklinMarch 8, 2009 – Hank Locklin was born on February 15th 1918 in McLellan in the Florida Panhandle.

His pop hits, the only reason why he shows up on this listing, include “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On”, “Geisha Girl”, and “Please Help Me I’m Falling”, which went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart. Billboard Magazine’s 100th Anniversary issue also listed it as the second most successful country single of the Rock and Roll era.

As a songwriter, many of his songs were covered by by many other artists, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Roy Rogers, Dwight Yoakam and even Dean Martin.

Hank had a strong following in Europe, and Ireland, so much so that in 1963 he recorded an album called Irish Songs Country Style, which includes the beautiful song Wild Irish Rose. Also he has a fanclub situated in Langeli, Norway.

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John Martyn 1/2009

John MartynJanuary 29, 2009 – John Martyn born Iain David McGeachy OBE on September 11, 1948.  He began his professional musical career when he was 17, playing a blend of blues and folk that resulted in a unique style that made him a key figure in the London folk scene during the mid-1960s, releasing his first album, ”London Conversation”, in 1968.

By 1970 he had developed a wholly original and idiosyncratic sound: acoustic guitar run through a fuzzbox, phase-shifter, and Echoplex. This sound was first apparent on album Stormbringer! in 1970.

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Bluzman Taylor 1/2009

Sam Bluzman TaylorJanuary 5, 2009 – Bluzman Taylor was born Sam Willis Taylor Jr. on October 25th 1934 in Crichton, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Taylor began singing gospel at the age of three. His Long Island connection began in 1957, during his service in the Air Force.

Widely known as a jump blues songwriter and performer, he wrote songs that have been recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley and Son Seals to DMX and EPMD . Jump blues is an up-tempo blues usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments.

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Delaney Bramlett 12/2008

Delaney Bramlett December 27, 2008 – Delaine Alvin “Delaney” Bramlett  was born on July 1st, 1939 in Pontotoc Mississippi. Life in his hometown wasn’t for the budding music man and the only way to survive was to pick cotton or join the Armed Services. As a young kid however he was hanging around a studio in town watching everything and did some early demos for another Mississippian, Elvis Presley, as well as played a cardboard box as a drum on a George Jones record.

Delaney joined the Navy for three years and said goodbye to Mississippi. After his release from the Navy with Mississippi in his heart and his feet in Los Angeles he moved his family to be with him, where he has remained ever since.

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Rick Wright 9/2008

Richard-Wright-Live-48September 15,  2008 – Rick Wright (Pink Floyd) was born on July 28, 1943 in Hatch End, London.
He taught himself to play guitar, trumpet and piano at age 12 after he was recuperating from breaking a leg. His mother helped and encouraged him to play the piano. He took private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music and became influenced by the traditional jazz revival, learning the trombone and saxophone as well as the piano. Uncertain about his future, he enrolled in 1962 at the Regent Street Polytechnic which was later incorporated into the University of Westminster. There he met fellow musicians Roger Waters and Nick Mason, and all three joined a band formed by classmate Clive Metcalf called Sigma 6.

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Ronnie Drew 8/2008

ronnie drew of the dublinersAugust 16, 2008 – Ronnie Drew (The Dubliners) was born Joseph Ronald Drews on September 16, 1934 in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland.
Ironically, and although he was so intimately associated with being “a Dubliner”, he would somewhat tongue-in-cheek say that “I was born and grew up in Dún Laoghaire, and no true Dubliner would accept that at all!”

Despite his aversion to education, he was considered the most intelligent in his class by schoolfriend and future Irish film censor, Sheamus Smith.

“Ronnie Drew in his fine suit of blue
And a voice like gravel that would cut you in two
We thought he was Dublin through and through
But he blew in from Dún Laoghaire”

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Isaac Hayes 8/2008

Soul Superstar Isaac HayesAugust 10, 2008 – Isaac Hayes Jr.  was born on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. The child of a sharecropper family, he grew up working on farms in Shelby County, Tennessee, and in Tipton County. At age five Hayes began singing at his local church; he later taught himself to play the piano, the Hammond organ, the flute, and the saxophone.

Hayes dropped out of high school, but his former teachers at Manassas High School in Memphis encouraged him to complete his diploma, which he finally did at age 21. After graduating from high school, Hayes was offered several music scholarships from colleges and universities. He turned down all of them to provide for his immediate family, working at a meat-packing plant in Memphis by day and playing nightclubs and juke joints several evenings a week in Memphis and nearby northern Mississippi. His first professional gigs, in the late 1950s, were as a singer at Curry’s Club in North Memphis, backed by Ben Branch’s houseband.

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Erik Darling 8/2008

erik darling of the weaversAugust 2, 2008 – Erik Darling  (the Weavers) was born on September 25, 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Darling actually spent his childhood in Canandaigua, NY, and by the time he was in his early twenties, he was a regular fixture in New York City’s Washington Square folk scene. A superb banjo player and perhaps an even better 12-string guitarist, and possessing a clear, warm, and expressive tenor singing voice, Darling was an expert at bringing out the best in the musicians around him. The Folksay Trio, recording an album in 1951 that included Darling’s arrangement of “Tom Dooley” became a huge hit.

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Artie Traum 7/2008

July 20, 2008 – Artie Traum was born on April 13th 1943 in the Bronx where he was raised as well.  He became a regular visitor to Greenwich Village clubs in the 1960s, hearing blues, folk music and jazz. Soon he was performing there, too. He made his first recording in 1963 as a member of the True Endeavor Jug Band Early.  Traum co-wrote songs for the Brian De Palma debut film Greetings – the first role for Robert De Niro – with Eric Kaz and Bear.

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Colin Cooper 7/2008

colin-cooperJuly 3, 2008 – Colin Cooper (Climax Blues Band) was born on October 7th, 1939 in Stafford, England.

He grew up in Stafford and began playing the harmonica as a child. Aged 12 he switched to clarinet before mastering guitar, flute and saxophone. His initial influences were American jazz musicians and in 1963 he formed the Climax Jazz Band. He first recorded in 1965 as vocalist for the Hipster Image. Their Decca single Can’t Let Her Go/Make Her Mine was not a 60s hit, yet when Make Her Mine was used to advertise Levi jeans in Japan in 1999, the song became a hit across much of Asia.

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Mel Galley 7/2008

mel-galleyJuly 1, 2008 – Mel Galley (Whitesnake/Trapeze) was born Melvin John Galley on March 8th 1948 in Cannock, Staffordshire, England.

Mel Galley became a leading light of the Midlands rock scene and played with the bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes and the drummer Dave Holland, first as Finders Keepers, then forming the group Trapeze. In 1969, they signed to Threshold, the Moody Blues label, and issued three critically acclaimed albums. Hughes departed to join Deep Purple in 1973. Galley took over lead vocals and the group signed to Warner Brothers and concentrated on the US market, where they developed a substantial following for their robust rock. A high-water mark for Trapeze was a support slot with the Rolling Stones and the Eagles in front of 120,000 people at Dallas Cotton Bowl in July 1975.

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Sean Costello 4/2008

Blues phenomenon Sean CostelloApril 15, 2008 – Sean Costello. Born in Philadelphia on April 16, 1979, Sean was a beautiful and precocious baby who walked, talked and read at an incredibly early age. His interest in music was evident as early as the age of 2, and after he moved to Atlanta at age 9, he began playing guitar. While his early influences were hard rock bands, he soon discovered the blues after picking up a Howlin’ Wolf tape in a bargain bin at a local record store. Sean never looked back. Soon local Atlanta bluesman Felix Reyes took Sean under his wing, and the rest is history.

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Chuck Day 3/2008

Chuck DayMarch 10, 2008 – Chuck Day (Mamas & Papas)  was born on August 6th 1942 in Chicago, Illinois.

At age 15 in 1957, he recorded the single “Pony Tail Partner” under the name Bing Day at Federal Records. He recorded several singles over the next ten years as ‘Bing Day’ and, also, ‘Ford Hopkins’, before moving to L.A. in 1965. He worked with the likes of the Johnny River band on the tracks “Here We GoGo Again” and “Rivers Rocks the Folk”.

Chuck wrote the distinctive riff in “Secret Agent Man”. He next joined the Mamas and Papas as their bass guitarist and was second guitarist on “Monday, Monday” and “California Dreamin’.

Day was the father of Mama Cass Elliott’s daughter, Owen, but Elliott, who died of a heart attack in 1974, never identified him as the father. He was stunned when his daughter, then 21, sought him out. They met for the first time in Fairfax.

Day was a musical prodigy who recorded the teeny-bopper tune “Pony Tail Partner” on a regional record label in 1957, when he was 15.

Two years later, he came tantalizingly close to the big time, recording a jazz-oriented single, “Mama’s Place,” for Mercury Records, a major label. It broke into Billboard’s Top 100 at No. 98, but fell off the chart the next week. He never got that close to stardom again.

“I’m very often frustrated that people make it who don’t have as much talent as I do,” he said in 1983, when he was tending bar and playing a couple of nights a week. “But I reconciled myself to that a long time ago.”

After moving to Fairfax in 1969, he played on Shel Siverstein’s “Freaker’s Ball,” the soundtrack for the movie “Fritz the Cat” and other projects in the ’70s and ’80s.

An imposing bear of a man, Mr. Day played guitar left-handed and sang in a bluesy baritone. He almost always played sitting down, commanding the stage from a stool.

For 15 years, he hosted the Blue Monday Jam at the 19 Broadway saloon in Fairfax, providing the limelight for countless Marin musicians who were influenced by him.

“He was the soul of the music scene in Fairfax,” said 19 Broadway co-owner Garry Graham, a close friend. “He had a lot of musical disciples. He meant a lot to a lot of guys. This is a great loss for our town.”

Tim Bush, who played bass in Chuck Day’s band, the Burning Sensations, called him “the best musician I’ve ever played with in my life. He had the most soulful voice.

As a bandleader, Bush added, “He could be the sweetest guy on the planet or a tough SOB.” In 1997, the band recorded a CD, “Desperate Measures.”

In an Independent Journal interview, Charles “Chuck” Day conceded that he smoked and drank too much. Last summer, he was too ill to attend a tribute day at the Fairfax Festival. It included a concert in his honor featuring his many musician friends and proteges, who billed themselves as “Chuck’s Chilluns.”

“The whole town turned out for it,” said Mike McShea, who helped organize the show. “It was the biggest crowd ever.”

While renowned for his musicianship, he also was remarkably astute and highly intelligent. “He was a brilliant conversationalist,” Graham said. “People should know how smart he was.”

Chuck also recorded with The Young Gyants, Shel Silverstein and in 2006 with Steve Wolf.

Chuck Day died after a long illness on March 10, 2008 at the age of 65.

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Mike Smith 2/2008

Mike SmithFebruary 28, 2008- Michael George ‘Mike’ Smith (the Dave Clark Five) was born on December 6, 1943 in in Edmonton, North London. His parents found he had a natural ability as a pianist that surfaced as early as age five. Smith started lessons in classical piano, and at age 13 passed the entrance exams at Trinity Music College in London.

He met Dave Clark first when they were both members on the same football team for the St. George Boys Club. At age 17, Dave asked him to join his band; his debut recording with the band was “I Knew It All the Time”/”That’s What I Said” in 1963. The band had 19 UK Top 40 hits, including ‘Bits and Pieces‘ and the No.1 single ‘Glad All Over’. They had US hits with ‘Because’, ‘I Like it Like That’ and ‘Glad All Over’, and set a record among British acts after appearing on the Ed Sullivan show 13 times.

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John Stewart 1/2008

John StewartJanuary 19, 2008 – John Coburn Stewart was born September 5th 1939 in San Diego, California, Stewart was the son of horse trainer John S. Stewart and spent his childhood and adolescence in southern California, living mostly in the cities of Pasadena and Claremont.

He graduated in 1957 from High School, which at the time was a coeducational school. He demonstrated an early talent for music, learning the guitar and banjo. He composed his first song, “Shrunken Head Boogie,” when he was ten years old. In an interview in Michael Oberman’s Music makers column (The Washington, DC Star Newspaper) on Oct. 30, 1971, Stewart said, “I bought a ukelele when I was in Pasadena. I would listen to Sons of the Pioneers records. Tex Ritter really turned me on to music. ‘I Love My Rooster’ was Top Ten as far as I was concerned.”

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Dan Fogelberg 12/2007

Dan FogelbergDecember 16, 2007 – Daniel Grayling “Dan” Fogelberg was born on August 13, 1951 in Peoria, Illinois into a musical family; his father being a high school band director and his mother a classically trained pianist.

So it comes as no surprise Dan’s first instrument, at a very early age, was the piano but he soon took an interest in the Hawaiian slide guitar and when his grandfather presented him with one, he spent hour upon hour teaching himself the skills.

This, combined with his admiration for The Beatles, he taught himself electric guitar and by the age of 13 he had joined his first band, a Beatles cover band, The Clan. This stint was followed by a band called The Coachmen, which in 1967 released two singles “Maybe Time Will Let Me Forget” and “Don’t Want To Lose Her”.

With his third band Frankie and the Aliens he started touring with  covering the blues masters .. such as Muddy Waters and the rock of Cream.

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Karlheinz Stockhausen 12/2007

Karlheinz StockhausenDecember 5, 2007 – Karlheinz Stockhausen was born on August 22, 1928 near Cologne in Germany. I have hesitated celebrating him in this Ode to Rock and Roll, because strictly spoken he is a composer of music. In the end I felt in favor of inclusion because so many rock performers have admitted to be influenced by the man’s incredible body of work created in electronic music. Pink Floyd, Zappa, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Bjørk, Kraftwerk, the Beatles, all reflect his influence on their own avant-garde experiments as well as the general fame and notoriety he had achieved by that time.

As a composer he is widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Critics have called him “one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music”. He is known for his ground-breaking work in electronic music, aleatory in serial composition, and musical.

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Ike Turner 12/2007

Ike TurnerDecember 12, 2007 – Ike Wister Turner  was born on November 5th, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. By the time he was 8 years old he was working at the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, as an elevator boy, soon he was helping the visiting musicians and doing all sorts around the radio stations.

He met many musicians such as Robert Nighthawk, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and his idol Pinetop Perkins taught the young Ike to play boogie-woogie on the piano.

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Hughie Thomasson 9/2007

Hughie Thomasson 300September 9, 2007 – Hughie Thomasson (The Outlaws) Born Hugh Edward Thomasson Jr., Hughie Thomasson joined a fledgling Tampa-area bar band named the Outlaws in the late ’60s. With David Dix on drums, Thomasson quickly made a name for himself as a no-nonsense guitar master. The group disbanded, but Thomasson reformed the Outlaws in 1972 with guitarist Henry Paul, drummer Monte Yoho and bassist Frank O’Keefe. (Paul later enjoyed a successful country career as a member of BlackHawk) Guitarist Billy Jones joined in 1973, completing the guitar army rock approach.

Known as the Florida Guitar Army for their triple-lead guitar attack, the Outlaws were the first group signed by former Columbia Records head Clive Davis when he formed Arista Records. He flew to Columbus, Ga., in 1974 to see the Outlaws perform with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Columbus Civic Center and went to the Ramada Inn after the show and made an offer.

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Lee Hazlewood 8/2007

August 4, 2007 – Barton Lee Hazlewood (These Boots Are Made for Walkin’) was born on July 9, 1929 in Mannford, Oklahoma. The son of an oil man, he spent most of his youth living between Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana. He grew up listening to pop and bluegrass music. He spent his teenage years in Port Neches, Texas, where he was exposed to a rich Gulf Coast music tradition. He studied for a medical degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

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Ron Miller 7/2007

July 23, 2007 – Ron Miller was born Ronald Norman Gould on October 5, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. He served in the U.S. Marines and then sold washing machines, before he was discovered by Motown founder Berry Gordy while playing in a bar. Gordy invited him to write songs for his new company, Motown, and Miller responded by writing the lyrics to “For Once in My Life”, to music by Orlando Murden. The lyrics were written the night his daughter Angel was born, and was first recorded at Motown by Barbara McNair before being covered in a more upbeat style by Stevie Wonder.

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George McCorkle 6/2007

george mccorkleJune 29, 2007 – George McCorkle (Marshall Tucker Band) was born on August 23, 1947 in Chester, South Carolina, but raised in nearby Spartanburg from the age of two. As the youngest of three brothers he grew up aware of the long and hard hours mother Mildred worked at the cotton mill.

“We were a typical South Carolina mill family,” George recalled in his web page bio. “Very poor.”So he developed a strong and active work ethic. Although his greatest achievements were from music, he took gigs as a dental lab technician, race-car driver, and car salesman, owner of both a glass company and a car lot to supplement his professional music livelihood. He believed his work ethic has its roots in his “meagre beginnings” and “growing up Southern”.

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Luther Ingram 3/2007

Luther IngramMarch 19, 2007 – Luther Ingram was born in Jackson, Tennessee on November 30, 1937. Starting out with his brothers as The Gardenias in Alton, Ill., Ingram went on to a solo career with Koko Records, which was distributed by the famous Stax label.

 His early interest in music led to him making his first record in 1965 at the age of 28. His first three recordings failed to chart but that changed when he signed for KoKo Records in the late 1960s, and his first hit “My Honey And Me” peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 14 February 1970. Many of his songs appeared in the pop and R&B charts, even though Koko was only a small label, owned by his manager and record producer, Johnny Baylor. Koko and Baylor were closely associated with the Memphis based Stax Records label during the height of its commercial success.

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Pierre Delanoë 12/2006

Pierre DelanoeDecember 27, 2006 – Pierre Delanoë was born Pierre Charles Marcel Napoléon Leroyer on December 16, 1918 in Paris, France.

After studying and receiving a law degree, Delanoë began worked as a tax collector and then a tax inspector. After World War II he met singer Gilbert Bécaud and started a career as a lyricist. He did sing with Bécaud in clubs in the beginning, but this did not last long.

He has written some of France’s most beloved songs with Bécaud, including “Et maintenant“, translated into English as “What Now My Love“, which was covered by artists including Agnetha Fältskog, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Sonny & Cher, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, and The Temptations. Another international hit “Je t’appartiens” (“Let It Be Me”) was covered by The Everly Brothers, Tom Jones, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Nina Simone and Nofx. “Crois-moi ça durera” was covered as “You’ll See” by Nat King Cole.

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Arthur Lee 8/2006

arthur lee of love with jimi hendrixAugust 2, 2006 – Arthur Lee (Love) was born Arthur Taylor Porter on March 7, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee. During his parents’ divorce proceedings in early 1950, Lee and his mother packed their things and took a train to California, while his father was at work.

Lee’s first musical instrument was the accordion, which he took lessons from a teacher. He adapted to reading music and developed a good ear and natural musical intelligence. While he was never formally taught about musical theory and composition, he was able to mimic musicians from records and compose his own songs. Eventually, he persuaded his parents to buy him an organ and harmonica. Graduating from High School, Lee’s musical ambitions found opportunities between his local community and classmates. As opposed to attending a college under a sports scholarship, he strived for a musical career. His plan of forming a band was under the influence of Johnny Echols,(lead guitarist for LOVE, after seeing him perform “Johnny B. Goode” with a five-piece band at a school assembly.

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Sam Myers 7/2006

July 17, 2006 – Sam Myers was born on February 19, 1936 in Laurel, Mississippi. He acquired juvenile cataracts at age seven and was left legally blind for the rest of his life despite corrective surgery. He could make out shapes and shadows, but could not read print at all; he was taught Braille. Myers acquired an interest in music while a schoolboy in Jackson, Mississippi and became skilled enough at playing the trumpet and drums that he received a non-degree scholarship from the American Conservatory of Music (formerly named the American Conservatory School of Music) in Chicago.

Myers attended school by day and at night frequented the nightclubs of the South Side, Chicago. There he met and was sitting in with Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Hound Dog Taylor, Robert Lockwood, Jr., and Elmore James.

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Charles Smith 6/2006

claydes-charles-smithJune 20, 2006 – Claydes “Charles” Smith (Kool & the Gang) was born on September 6, 1948 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was introduced to jazz guitar by his father at age 13, when in 1961, his father bought him a Kay Electric guitar at a pawnshop for $32.

Thomas Smith was so keen for his son to have a career in music that, in 1963, he financed the recording of the first single by Claydes & the Rhythms, the group the boy had formed with his schoolfriends George Brown (drums) and Richard Westfield (keyboards), although the end product – “I Can’t Go On Without You” – only served as a calling card for the embryonic band.

Claydes Smith left Lincoln High School in New Jersey in 1965 and, with Brown and Westfield, eventually joined forces with the Jazziacs, a group comprising the brothers Robert “Kool” Bell (bass) and Ronald Bell (saxophones, flute, keyboards), Robert ‘Spike’ Mickens (trumpet) and Dennis Thomas (alto sax), to become the Soul Town Revue.

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Freddie Gorman 6/2006

freddie_gormanJune 13, 2006 – Freddie Gorman, born Frederick Cortez Gorman, April 11, 1939 in Detroit, was a musician, singer, songwriter and record producer for Motown.

Gorman developed his bass harmonizing on local street corners, and was still in high school when he made his recorded debut on the Qualitones’ 1955 Josie Records single “Tears of Love”. Two years later Gorman and longtime best friends Brian Holland and Sonny Sanders formed the Fideletones. After issuing “Pretty Girl” on Aladdin Records in 1959, the group splintered and Gorman resumed his day job as a mail carrier. He was a vital unsung component of the Motown label’s formative development as he co-wrote the label’s first #1 pop hit “Please Mr. Postman”, by the Marvelettes. In 1964 the biggest selling group of all time, the Beatles released their version, and in 1975 the Carpenters took it back to #1 again. This was the second time in pop history (after “The Twist” by Chubby Checker) that a song reached #1 in the US twice. In 2006, “Please Mr. Postman” was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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Billy Preston 6/2006

billy-prestonJune 6, 2006 – William EverettBilly” Preston (Beatles/Stones/etc.) was born on September 2, 1946 in Houston, Texas but raised mostly in Los Angeles, California.

When he was three, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Preston began playing piano while sitting on his mother Robbie’s lap. Noted as a child prodigy, Preston was entirely self-taught and never had a music lesson. By the age of ten, Preston was playing organ onstage backing several gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Andraé Crouch. At age eleven, Preston appeared on Nat King Cole’s national TV show singing the Fats Domino hit, “Blueberry Hill” with Cole. Also at eleven, he appeared in the W.C. Handy biopic starring Nat King Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958), playing W.C. Handy at a younger age.

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Johnny Grande 6/2006

johnny-grandeJune 3, 2006 – John A. Johnny Grande (Bill Haley and the Comets) was born on January 14th 1930 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a musical family. His uncle once played in the band of John Philip Sousa, but his father wanted Grande to follow him into the coal hauling business. Grande preferred music, and learned to play the music from “La Traviata” on the accordion.

He played backup for polka and country players like Tex Ritter until he signed a partnership with Bill Haley in the late 1940s to form Bill Haley and His Four Aces of Western Swing. Haley was a great yodeler.

They later called themselves the Saddlemen, before settling on the Comets, which was the name of the band in 1951, when it covered Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” considered by many the very first rock and roll song.

The Comets had a more urbane image: They traded in their Stetsons for suits and ties, and Grande played piano on most numbers.

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Desmond Dekker 5/2006

desmond_dekkerMay 25, 2006 – Desmond Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres on July 16th 1941 in Saint Andrew Parrish, Kingston, Jamaica. Dekker spent his early formative years in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. From a very young age he would regularly attend the local church with his grandmother and aunt. This early religious upbringing as well as Dekker’s enjoyment of singing hymns led to a lifelong religious commitment. Orphaned in his teens following his mother’s death as a result of illness, he moved to the parish of St. Mary and then later to St. Thomas. While at St. Thomas, Dekker embarked on an apprenticeship as a tailor before returning to Kingston, where he secured employment as a welder.

His workplace singing had drawn the attention of his co-workers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in the music industry. In 1961 he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), though neither audition was successful. The young unsigned vocalist then successfully auditioned for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label and was awarded his first recording contract. He auditioned before the stable’s biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man’s potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.

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Gene Pitney 4/2006

Gene PitneyApril 5, 2006 – Gene Pitney was born February 17, 1940 in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Rockville, now part of Vernon, Connecticut. He once recalled how his first solo performance at school degenerated into an embarrassing whimper as Pitney was petrified by the expectant audience. Overcoming his nerves over the next few years, Pitney learned to play the guitar, drums and piano and formed a schoolboy band, Gene & the Genials.

He was nicknamed “the Rockville Rocket”. Pitney was an avid doo wop singer and sang with a group called the Embers. He made records as part of a duo called Jamie and Jane with Ginny Arnell (who in late 1963 had a solo hit, “Dumb Head”), and in 1959 recorded a single as Billy Bryan. By the time he had dropped out of the University of Connecticut, he was performing with Ginny Arnell as the male half of Jamie and Jane, then as singer/songwriter under the name Billy Bryan for Blaze Records and under his own name for Festival Records in 1960.

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Wilson Pickett 1/2006

Wilson-Pickett-2January 19, 2006 – Wilson Pickett was born March 18th 1941 in Prattville, Alabama and sang in Baptist church choirs in his young years. He was the fourth of 11 children and called his mother “the baddest woman in my book,” telling historian Gerri Hirshey: “I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood — (one time I ran away) and cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog.” Pickett eventually left to live with his father in Detroit in 1955.

Pickett’s forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he referred to as “the architect of rock and roll”.

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Chris Whitley 11/2005

Chris WhitleyNovember 20, 2005 – Christopher Becker Whitley was born August 31, 1960, in Houston, Texas to a restless, artistic couple: His mother was a sculptress and painter; his father worked as an art director in a series of advertising jobs. As a family, they traveled through the Southwest, with many of the images the young boy absorbed finding their way later into songs. He once described his parents’ music taste as formed “by race radio in the South.” The real deal — Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf — seeped into their son’s soul, eventually leading to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Chris’s parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he moved with his mother to a small cabin in Vermont. It was there that he learned to play guitar. Hearing Johnny Winter’s “Dallas” was the seed for what would develop as Chris’s keening instrumental style.

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Little Milton 8/2005

August 4, 2005 – Little Milton was born James Milton Campbell on September 7, 1934, in the small Delta town of Inverness, Mississippi, and grew up in Greenville. (He would later legally drop the “James” after learning of a half-brother with the same name.)

His father Big Milton, a farmer, was a local blues musician, and Milton also grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio program. At age 12, he began playing the guitar and saved up money from odd jobs to buy his own instrument from a mail-order catalog.

By 15, he was performing for pay in local clubs and bars, influenced chiefly by T-Bone Walker but also by proto-rock & roll jump blues shouters.

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Laurel Aitken 7/2005

July 17, 2005 – Laurel Aitken/Lorenzo Aitken (the Godfather of Ska) was born in Cuba of mixed Cuban and Jamaican descent on April 22nd 1927. His family settled in Jamaica in 1938 and he went on to become Jamaica’s first real recording star.

His first recordings in the late 1950s were mento tunes such as “Nebuchnezer”, “Sweet Chariot” and “Baba Kill Me Goat”. Progressing to a pre-ska shuffle, his 1958 single “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in My Bones” was one of the first records produced by Chris Blackwell, who founded his Island Records label that year, and the first Jamaican popular music record to be released in the UK.

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Luther Vandross 7/2005

luther_vandrossJuly 1, 2005 – Luther Vandross was born on April 20th 1951 in Manhattan, New York to Luther and Mary Ida Vandross. He was the youngest of the four Vandross children.

He attended Taft High School but cut short his formal education at the Western Michigan University to answer his musical calling. He was studying Engineering. After leaving college, Luther worked a series of odd jobs, including a Teacher’s aide at a Junior High School and a customer service rep at S&H Green Stamps.

As a teenager, he worked with the musical theatre workshop, Listen My Brother. The workshop was affiliated with Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.

It was at this workshop he met lifetime friends and colleagues Nat Adderly Jr (who later became his band director), Carlos Alomar, and Robin Clark. Listen My Brother” performed on the very first episode of Sesame Street aired in November 1969.

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Obie Benson 7/2005

the four topsJuly 1, 2005 – Obie Benson (the Four Tops) was born on June 14th 1937 in Detroit, Michigan. The Four Tops were products of Detroit’s North End where Benson attended Northern High School with Lawrence Payton. They met Levi Stubbs and Abdul “Duke” Fakir while singing at a friend’s birthday party in 1954 and decided to form a group called the Four Aims. Roquel Billy Davis, who was Payton’s cousin, was a fifth member of the group for a time and a songwriter for the group. Davis played an instrumental role in the group being signed by Chess Records who were mainly interested in Davis’s songwriting ability. The group changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers and had one single “Kiss Me Baby” released through Chess which failed to chart. The Four Tops left Chess although Davis stayed with the company.

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John Fred 4/2005

john-fred-and-his-playboy-band-judy-in-disguisewith-glasses-californiaApril 15, 2005 – John Fred Gourrier (John Fred & His Playboy Band) was born on May 8th 1941 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father, Fred Gourrier, had played professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers organization. In 1956 John formed a band that he called John Fred and the Playboys, a white group that played primarily rhythm and blues music. While still in high school, they cut their first record in late 1958 with Fats Domino’s band. The song was titled Shirley and John Fred and the Playboys saw their song rise as high as number 82 on the national record charts. The group also cut other singles that were not as successful, working at times with Mac Rebennack and with the Jordanaires. John Fred was a 6 foot 5 inch, blue-eyed soul singer who originally formed John Fred And The Playboys in 1956 and attended Southeastern Louisiana University from 1960 to 1963 and spent some time as a college basketball player.

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Wally Tax 4/2005

wally taxApril 10, 2005 – Wally Tax (the Outsiders) was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 14 February 1948. His Dutch father and his Russian Romani mother had met in a concentration camp during World War II. He grew up in Amsterdam and learned English at an early age from contacts with American sailors, for whom he acted as a pimp.
In 1959, at age 11, he was one of the founding members of the beat band The Outsiders. The band sang English lyrics, with Tax as the main songwriter; Tax sang and played guitar and harmonica. Even while playing with The Outsiders, Tax recorded a solo album (with a symphonic orchestra), Love-In.

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Danny Joe Brown 3/2005

Danny Joe BrownMarch 10, 2005 – Danny Joe Brown (Molly Hatchett) was born on August 24th 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Terry Parker High School in 1969. Shortly after graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed in New York for two years. Once he left the Coast Guard, Brown’s focus turned solely to music and he joined Molly Hatchet in 1974.

He is best known for writing and singing on such songs as “Flirtin’ with Disaster” and “Whiskey Man.” He was also the vocalist on “Dreams I’ll Never See,” a faster-tempoed cover of the Allman Brothers song. The band’s sound was immediately recognizable by Brown’s distinct voice: a deep, raspy, throaty growl.

Brown left Molly Hatchet in 1980 because of chronic diabetes and pancreatic problems, but soon started his own band, The Danny Joe Brown Band, which released a single studio album in 1981.

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Chris Curtis 2/2005

Chris CurtisFebruary 28, 2005 – Chris Curtis (the Searchers) was born August 26, 1941 as Christopher Crummey in Oldham, Lancashire. Curtis moved to Liverpool when he was four and went to primary school where he met Mike Pendergast (Mike Pender).

He taught himself how to play the piano on the family instrument. He passed the 11-plus and went to St Mary’s College, Crosby, where he was taught violin although he wanted to play the double-bass. His father bought him a drum set during his late teens when he left school and he learned these in his spare time, when he was not selling prams at Swift’s Furniture store at Stanley Road, Liverpool. He developed a fascination for American music and particularly liked Fats Domino. He also grew the unusually long hair that would be his trademark in the early years.

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Keith Knudsen 2/2005

Keith KnudsenFebruary 8, 2005- Keith Knudsen (Doobie Brothers) was born in Le Mars, Iowa on February 18th 1948. He began drumming while in high school. After short stints playing in a club band and the Blind Joe Mendlebaum Blues Band, he became the drummer for the organist-vocalist Lee Michaels.

In 1974 he was invited to join The Doobie Brothers, joining the band during the recording of the 1974 platinum album, ‘What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits‘, on which he made his debut. After the Doobies disbanded in ’82, he and fellow Doobie John McFee, who he had also formed a writing partnership with, founded the country rock band Southern Pacific. The group was successful in the country charts but disbanded in the early 1990s. By then the two men had formed a writing partnership and despite not rejoining the group at that time, co-wrote the song Time Is Here And Gone with Doobies’ percussionist Bobby LaKind, featured on the Doobies reunion album Cycles in 1989.

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