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Doc Neeson 6/2014

doc-neesonJune 4, 2014 – Doc Neeson (the Angels) was born on January 4, 1947 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

He became best known as the charismatic lead singer for the Australian hard rock band The Angels. His father, Bernard James Neeson, was a British Army soldier, and his mother was Kathleen née Corrigan. Doc was the eldest of six children. They were raised as Catholics although the family lived in a Protestant area of Belfast. He attended boarding school at Terenure College in Dublin.

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Jesse Winchester 4/2014

Jesse WinchesterApril 11, 2014 – James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born in Bossier City, Louisiana on May 17th 1944.  He had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.

During the height of the Vietnam War in 1967 he moved to Canada, where he began his career as a solo artist. After he became a Canadian citizen in 1973, he gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977, but did not resettle there until 2002.

Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field and raised in northern Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine, expressing a viewpoint most intelligent people harbored.

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Cees Veerman 3/2014

Cees VeermanMarch 15, 2014 – Cees Veerman (the Cats) was born on October 6th 1943 in the Dutch town of Volendam, near Amsterdam. He initially played in the bands Electric Johnny & The Skyriders, Sputniks, Mystic Four and The Blue Cats, prior to becoming one of the founders of The Cats.

From the late 60s to the mid 70s, The Cats of which Cees was frontman and main song writer too, the band saw a large number of successes, including ‘Sure He’s a Cat’ and ‘Lea’ (1968), ‘Why’ (1969), ‘Marian’ (1970), ‘Where Have I Been Wrong’ (1970) and ‘Be My Day’ (1974). Their best-selling single was ‘One Way Wind’ from 1972, which reached No.3 in the Top 40.

The Cats are considered the founders of the Palingsound (Eel Sound), a category that is used to indicate a classic, typical Dutch style in pop music coming from the fishing village Volendam, famous for its wooden shoes.

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Nossi Noske 2/2014

Bernd_NoskeFeb 18, 2014 – Nossi Noske (Birth Control) was born on August 17, 1946 in West Berlin. At age eight he was already singing in the School choir even though music was in those days competing with soccer. He was a very talented soccer player. He played his first gig with the Black Phantoms in the city of Spandau in 1961, but before he enrolled fully into a career as musician he packed food and drove trucks.

His first Band „The Odd Persons“ played gigs in West Germany which included the famous Starclub in Hamburg. In 1969 he succeeded Hugo Egon Balder, in the Band Birth Control, where he played drums and sang until his death in 2014.

In 1983 the band split for ten years after the death of their guitarist Bruno Frenzel; Nossi reunited the band in 1993. In those years he played with Bands such as HardbeatsMr. Goodtrip and Lilly & the Rockets.

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Bunny Rugs 2/2014

BunnyRugsFebruary 2, 2014 – Bunny Rugs (Third World) aka Bunny Scott was born William Clarke on February 2nd 1948 in Mandeville, Jamaica and raised in the capital of Kingston. In the mid 60s he joined Charlie Hackett and the Souvenirs, the resident band at the Kitty Club on Maxfield Avenue, before leading the early lineup of Inner Circle in 1969. In 1971 he did a stint in New York where he was a member of the dance band Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers and the Bluegrass Experience.

He returned to Jamaica in 1974 and recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry, initially as a backing singer, then with Leslie Kong’s nephew Ricky Grant as the duo Bunny & Ricky. They released singles such as “Freedom Fighter” and “Bushweed Corntrash”.

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Fergie Frederiksen 1/2014

fergie-frederiksenJanuary 18, 2014 – Dennis Hardy “Fergie” Frederiksen was born May 15th, 1951, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He started his musical career at the age of 13 and he played clubs and pubs at the age of 15 with a group called the Common People. In 1975, while attending college at Central Michigan, he was asked by his friend Tommy Shaw to replace him as the lead vocalist for the band MSFunk, as Shaw was leaving to join Styx.

The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Dennis began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds. Frederiksen was with MSFunk for a year before disbanding in 1976. While living in Chicago, he helped form a local progressive rock band called Trillion with keyboardist Patrick Leonard. Trillion’s debut album was released in 1978 and was produced by Gary Lyons (producer of Foreigner’s debut album); all but one of its nine tracks were co-written by Frederiksen. The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Frederiksen began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds, a gimmick he would continue with later bands. Frederiksen would leave the group after one album, and was replaced by Thom Griffin.

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Fingers Lee 1/2014

Freddie Fingers LEEJan. 13, 2014 – Freddie Fingers Lee was born Frederick John Cheesman in Chopwell, Durham, England in 1937. As a child an accident with a dart led to the loss of his right eye. Throughout his life he made light of his disability and refused to let it be a handicap. Though hardly a household name, Lee was a wild and notorious presence on the UK rock and roll scene from the early ’60s up to his death. Born in 1937, he lost his right eye at the age of three after an accident with a stray dart thrown by his father. According to the North Hampton Chronicle, Lee’s daughter remembers her father occasionally dropping his glass eye in people’s drinks while they weren’t looking. “He was the most unconventional dad ever, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way.”

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Phil Everly 1/2014

Phil EverlyJanuary 3, 2014 – Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family. His father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.

Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7, through early high school, in Shenandoah before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.

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Jay Traynor 1/2014

Jay and the AmericansJanuary 2, 2014 – John “Jay” Traynor was born on March 30th 1943 in Brooklyn New York. He was a lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on “The White Cliffs of Dover” and lead on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star”.

The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harbourlites“. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, John “Jay” Traynor, a stand-in singer with a group called “The Mystics” was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane.

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Bob Allison 11/2013

Bob AllisonNovember 24, 2013 –  Bob Allison was born Bernard Colin Day on February 2nd 1941 in the UK. He became a pop singer and one half of the duo The Allisons, who were marketed as being brothers, using the surname of Allison. Both Bob and John were born in Wiltshire and started harmonizing very early on in life.

The Allisons represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Festival in 1961 with the song “Are You Sure?”. They came second with 24 points and the song spent 16 weeks in the top 40 (six weeks at No. 2 and a further three weeks in the top 4), and became a solid million copy seller.

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Pete Haycock 10/2013

pete-haycock-58October 30, 2013 – Pete Haycock was born on March 4, 1951 in Stafford, England. He attended St.John’s Primary School, then King Edward VI Boys Grammar School and played his first gig at a miners club at the age of 12.

In 1968 at 17, as lead guitarist, vocalist he founded the Climax Chicago Blues Band along with Richard Jones on bass, guitarist-vocalist Derek Holt, keyboardist Arthur Wood, George Newsome on drums and harmonica player- vocalist Colin Cooper. Two years later they changed their name to the Climax Blues Band in 1970. Continue reading Pete Haycock 10/2013

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Donna Hightower 8/2013

soul diva donna hightowerAugust 19, 2013 – Donna Hightower was born on December 28, 1926 in Caruthersville, Missouri to a family of sharecroppers. She listened to singers such as Ella Fitzgerald in her youth, but never planned to have a singing career and by the age of 23 had been married with two children, and divorced.

While working in a diner in Chicago, she was heard singing by Bob Tillman, a reporter with the Chicago Defender newspaper, who then won her a booking as a singer at the Strand Hotel. Initially billed as Little Donna Hightower, she won a recording contract with Decca Records and recorded her first single, “I Ain’t In The Mood”, in 1951.

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Eydie Gormé 8/2013

singer/songwriter eydie gorméAugust 10, 2013 – Eydie Gormé was born Edith Garmezano on August 16, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.

She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.

Straight out of high school, she also started singing with various big bands in 1950 such as the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown.

She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”

 

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J.J. Cale 7/2013

JJ CaleJuly 26, 2013 – John Weldon, J.J. Cale was born on December 5, 1938 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was also raised and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1956.

As well as learning to play the guitar he began studying the principles of sound engineering while still living with his parents in Tulsa, where he built himself a recording studio. After graduation he was drafted into military service, studying at the Air Force Air Training Command in Rantoul, Illinois. Cale recalled, “I didn’t really want to carry a gun and do all that stuff so I joined the Air Force and what I did is I took technical training and that’s kind of where I learned a little bit about electronics.” Cale’s knowledge of mixing and sound recording turned out to play an important role in creating the distinctive sound of his studio albums.

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Bobby Bland 6/2013

BOBBY BLAND June 23, 2013 – Bobby Bland was born Robert Calvin Brooks  in Rosemark, Tennessee on January 27, 1930.

Sometimes called “Lion of the Blues” and “Sinatra of the Blues”, Bobby Bland earned his enduring blues superstar status the hard way: without a guitar, harmonica, or any other instrument to fall back upon. All Bland had to offer was his magnificent voice, a tremendously powerful instrument in his early heyday, injected with charisma and melisma to spare. Just ask his legion of female fans, who deemed him a sex symbol late into his career.

For all his promise, Bland’s musical career ignited slowly. He was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, the fabled Memphis aggregation that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace. Singles for Chess in 1951 (produced by Sam Phillips) and Modern the next year bombed, but that didn’t stop local DJ David Mattis from cutting Bland on a couple of 1952 singles for his fledgling Duke logo.

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Pickford Hopkins 6/2013

gary-pickford-hopkinsJune 22, 2013 – Gary Pickford-Hopkins was born in 1948 in Abergarwed near Neath Wales. He attended the Alderman Davies Church and was a member of the Church Choir. After graduation Gary’s first job was as an apprentice painter.

His musical career started as frontman for the Vern Davies Band and as a 16 year old, he was a member of a local band called Smokestacks, made up of musicians from Neath and Port Talbot. After a couple of years, the band broke up and Gary joined the popular band The Eyes of Blue.
The band played at clubs and halls throughout South Wales and they went on to win the Melody Maker Battle of the Bands in 1966, of which the first prize was a recording contract.

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Piano C Red 6/2013

Piano C RedJune 3, 2013 – Piano C Red was born Cecil Fain in Montevallo, Ala. in 1933.

His mother sang spirituals and his father made moonshine, both endeavors playing a role in his musical career. He told the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich in 2006 that he traded pints of his father’s moonshine for piano lessons from the local boogie-woogie player, Fat Lily.

By age 16 he was playing in Atlanta, Georgia as James Wheeler and later took his stage name from his instrument, the red piano, and the trademark red outfits he wore onstage.

Relocating to Chicago when he was 19 he performed with the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B King, Fats Domino and Buddy Guy, before becoming a cab driver to make the money necessary to pay the bills.

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Georges Moustaki 5/2013

georges-moustakiMay 23, 2013 – Georges Moustaki was born on May 3, 1934 in Alexandria, Egypt as Giuseppe “Yussef” Mustacchi. His parents, Sarah and Nessim Mustacchi, were Francophile, Greek Jews from the island of Corfu, Greece. They moved to Egypt, where their young child first learned French. They owned the Cité du Livre – one of the finest book shops in the Middle East – in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria where many ethnic communities lived together.

At home, everyone spoke Italian because the aunt categorically refused to speak Greek. In the street, the children spoke Arabic.

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Richie Havens 4/2013

Richie HavensApril 22, 2013 – Richard Pierce Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013), known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He is best known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock. Richie Havens sang every song he knew when he was called in to open legendary Woodstock Festival in August 1969.

The Brooklyn born 6’6″ tall singer came out of a mixture of folk, blues, gospel and soul that he fine tuned during the sixties in New York’s Greenwich Village. A local celebrity he was originally scheduled as the fifth performer for the festival, but long artist travel delays forced him to play for 3 hours on end. Previously only regionally known, he came upon the world stage when he ran out of tunes and improvised his performance of ‘Freedom’ based on and incorporated into the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child‘, made famous by Nina Simone.

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Chrissy Amphlett 4/2013

The Divinyls

April 21, 2013 – Chrissy Amphlett was born on October 25, 1959. She grew up in Geelong, Australia as a singer and dancer and left home as a teenager to travel around England, France and Spain where she was imprisoned for three months for singing on the streets.

In 1976, Amphlett played the role of Linda Lips in the R-rated musical Let My People Come. In 1980 back in Australia, Amphlett met Mark McEntee at a concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1980 and they formed Divinyls with Jeremy Paul (Air Supply).

After several years performing in Sydney, they recorded several songs for the film Monkey Grip, in which Amphlett also acted. Amphlett made her film debut in Monkey Grip (1982) in a supporting role as the temperamental lead singer of a rock band. Monkey Grip’s author, Helen Garner, claimed that the film’s director preferred Amphlett in the role of Jane Clifton as “Clifton was neither good looking enough or a good enough singer to play herself.”

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Scott Miller 4/2013

scott millerApril 15, 2013 – Scott Miller was born on April 4th 1960; he committed suicide April 15, 2013, aged 53.

Miller’s father recorded his son singing the theme from the TV show Have Gun—Will Travel when Scott was four years old. Soon Miller was making up his own songs to sing. By age nine, he was taking folk and classical guitar lessons from a man named Tiny Moore, who had played with Bob Wills.

By 1971, Miller had switched to rock, and he was in his first band just a year later. Throughout his childhood, he had been interested in anything having to do with recording, and when he turned fifteen he finally got the TEAC four-track machine he’d been coveting. Like many others his age, Scott Miller loved the Beatles, the space program, and those shows that counted down to the number one song for the week. He started making his own countdown lists when he was twelve. Continue reading Scott Miller 4/2013

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George Jackson 4/2013

george jacksonApril 14, 2013 – George Jackson was born on March 12th 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He sang southern soul from the 1960s into the 1980s. As a writer, he provided scores of songs for Goldwax and Fame in the 1960s and Hi and Sounds Of Memphis in the 1970s. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.

His songwriter relationship with Malaco Records, however saw him pen material for dozens of artists, such as “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds, “Old Time Rock & Roll” for Bob Seeger and “The Only Way Is Up”, which became a UK No.1 for Yazz and Coldcut, having been written originally for Otis Clay.

Jackson recorded dozens of singles in the 1960s but made his mark as a writer, beginning with FAME Studios. He later was a songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. When Malaco bought Muscle Shoals Sound, they hired Jackson to write songs.

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Daevid Allen 3/2013

Daevid AllenMarch 13, 2015 – Daevid Allen, was born Christopher David Allen on 13 January 1938 in Melbourne, Australia.

In 1960, inspired by the Beat Generation writers he had discovered while working in a Melbourne bookshop, Allen traveled to Paris, where he stayed at the Beat Hotel, moving into a room recently vacated by Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. While selling the International Herald Tribune around Le Chat Qui Pêche and the Latin Quarter, he met Terry Riley and also gained free access to the jazz clubs in the area.

In 1961 Allen traveled to England and rented a room at Lydden, near Dover, where he soon began to look for work as a musician. He first replied to a newspaper advertisement for a guitar player to join Dover-based group the Rolling Stones (no connection with the later famous band of that name) who had lost singer/guitarist Neil Landon, but did not join them. After meeting up with William S. Burroughs, and inspired by philosophies of Sun Ra, he formed free jazz outfit the Daevid Allen Trio (‘Daevid’ having been adopted as an affectation of David), which included his landlord’s son, 16-year-old Robert Wyatt. They performed at Burroughs’ theatre pieces based on the novel The Ticket That Exploded.

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Bobby Smith 3/2013

Bobby SmithMarch 16, 2013 – Bobby Smith was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 10, 1936. He became the principal lead singer of the classic Motown group, The Spinners at the group’s inception in 1954.

The group, first called The Domingoes, was formed at Ferndale High School, where Bobby took over from James Edwards who lasted only 2 weeks. The Spinners also known as the Detroit Spinners or the Motown Spinners, had their first hit, with Bobby singing lead, “That’s What Girls Are Made For” in 1961, (which has been inaccurately credited to the group’s mentor and former Moonglows lead singer, the late Harvey Fuqua).

Over the years, the group earned half a dozen Grammy award nominations and around a dozen gold records including “Truly Yours”, “I’ll Always Love You”,in 1965. “I’ll Be Around”, “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”, “They Just Can’t Stop It the (Games People Play)”. In 1974 they scored their only No.1 hit with “Then Came You”, (sung by Smith, in a collaboration with superstar Dionne Warwick).

Smith sang lead on most of the group’s Motown material during the 1960s, and almost all of the group’s pre-Motown material on Fuqua’s Tri-Phi Records label, and also on The Spinners’ biggest Atlantic Records hits. These included “I’ll Be Around”, “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”, “They Just Can’t Stop It the (Games People Play)”. In 1974, they scored their only #1 Pop hit with “Then Came You”

Despite the fact that Bobby Smith led on many of the group’s biggest hits, many have erroneously credited most of the group’s success to only one of its three lead singers, the late Philippé Wynne. (Henry Fambrough also sang lead on many of the Spinners’ songs.) The confusion between Smith and Wynne may be due to the similarities in their voices, and the fact that they frequently shared lead vocals on many of those hits.

In fact Wynne was many times inaccurately credited for songs that Smith actually sang lead on, such as by the group’s label, Atlantic Records, on their Anthology double album collection (an error corrected in the group’s later triple CD set, The Chrome Collection). Throughout a succession of lead singers (Wynne, John Edwards, G. C. Cameron etc.), Smith’s lead voice had always been The Spinners’ mainstay.

With the March 16, 2013 death of Bobby Smith at age 76, from pneumonia and influenza, as well as fellow Spinners members C. P. Spencer in 2004, Billy Henderson in 2007, and bass singer Pervis Jackson in 2008, Henry Fambrough is now the last remaining original member of the group. Fambrough may still be performing with a current day line-up of the Spinners.

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Alvin Lee 3/2013

Alvin Lee 68March 6, 2013 – Alvin Lee,(Ten Years After) born Graham Anthony Barnes on Dec. 19, 1944, was a truly inspired blues rock guitarist-vocalist, whose performance with Ten Years After during Woodstock 1969, catapulted him into superstardom. The song “I’m Going Home” became legendary and his speed earned him the title “The Fastest Guitarist in the West”. A lifelong search for freedom resulted in more than 20 albums of superb blues rock. Ten Years After would ultimately tour the US twenty-eight times in seven years – more than any other UK band.

He was born in Nottingham and attended the Margaret Glen-Bott School in Wollaton. He began playing guitar at the age of 13 and in 1960, Lee along with Leo Lyons formed the core of the band Ten Years After. Influenced by his parents’ collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that sparked his interest.

He began to play professionally in 1962, in a band named the Jaybirds, they began that year to perform in the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. After a couple of name changes by 1966 they had finally decided on the name Ten Years After.

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Bobby Rogers 3/2013

bobby rogersMarch 3, 2013 – Bobby Rogers (The Miracles) was born on February 19, 1940, on the same day and in the same hospital as his future singing partner Smokey Robinson. While not in the original version of the Miracles that formed in 1955 (then known as the Five Chimes), he joined a year later when another member dropped out.

The group auditioned for Brunswick Records, including label songwriter Barry Gordy, but were rejected. Gordy however soon followed up with them and, in 1958, recorded their first single, Got a Job. The record, released on End, didn’t chart but, at Robinson’s urging, Gordy decided to start his own label, Tamla Records. The Miracles first few singles for Tamla were licensed out to other labels and failed to score. It was in 1960 when the group released Shop Around/Who’s Lovin’ You, that their career took off. The song topped the R&B singles chart for eight weeks and made it to number 2 on the Hot 100.

Two years later, they scored again with You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me (1962/#1 R&B/#8 Pop) that started a long string of hits that would span into the early-70’s, including Mickey’s Monkey, Ooo Baby Baby, The Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion, Baby Baby Don’t Cry and their only number 1 pop hit, Tears of a Clown.

At the same time, each of the members of the Miracles were also writing songs that were recorded by other members of the Motown roster, including The Way You Do the Things You Do which Rogers and Robinson wrote and was a the first hit for the Temptations.

In 1972, Smokey Robinson left the group and was replaced by Billy Griffin as the lead singer. For many groups, the loss of their most visible member would mean the end, but not the Miracles, who struck out with their new line-up and recasting their sound to the 70’s. In 1974, they hit the R&B top ten with Do It Baby (#4 R&B/#13 Pop) and, a year later, topped the pop charts with Love Machine (Part 1) (1975/#1 Pop/ #5 R&B).

When the group disbanded in the late 1970s, Rogers started an interior design business. But even after their hitmaking days, the Miracles continued to tour and occasionally record with Rogers and Ronnie White as the consistent members. The original lineup reconvened for the Motown 25 television special and, in 1993, a 35th anniversary compilation album once again reignited interest in the group.

In late 2006, Bobby re-united with original Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore for the group’s first-ever extended interview on the Motown DVD release, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: The Definitive Performances.

Rogers continued to perform throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe with members Dave Finley, Tee Turner, and Mark Scott in the current incarnation of The Miracles, which made him, as of 2009, the longest-serving original Miracles member. On March 20, 2009, Bobby was in Hollywood to be honored along with the other surviving original members of the Miracles (Smokey Robinson, Claudette Robinson and Pete Moore) as they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also on hand were Gloria White, the wife of original Miracles member Ronnie White who is deceased (White is responsible for discovering Motown artist Stevie Wonder), and Bill Griffin was in attendance. He replaced Smokey Robinson when he left the group in the early 1970s.

Rogers’ cousin, Claudette Rogers, was also a member of the Miracles, and later married Smokey Robinson. Bobby Rogers stayed with the group, through every lineup, from 1956 through 2011 when he was forced to leave because of poor health and the Miracles disbanded for good.

Bobby Rogers died on March 3, 2013, at the age of 73, due to complications of diabetes. Nine days later, on March 12, 2013 on their website, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid tribute to Bobby with the article, “Remembering Bobby Rogers of The Miracles”.

His final honor had come with the Rock Hall induction in 2012 with fellow member Claudette Rogers-Robinson

Over his 56 years with the Miracles, Bobby has been on all their hit singles including their 1960 single “Shop Around”, which was Motown’s first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and was also Motown’s first million selling hit single. Other hit singles include “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, “My Girl Has Gone”, “I Second That Emotion”, “Mickey’s Monkey”, “Going to a Go-Go”, “Ooo Baby Baby”, “Tracks of My Tears”, “Baby Baby Don’t Cry”, and “Tears of a Clown”. Referred to as Motown’s “soul supergroup”, the Miracles recorded 26 Top 40 hits and 6 top 20 singles.

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Jewel Akens 3/2013

Jewel AkensMarch 1, 2013 – Jewel Akens was born September 12, 1933 in Houston, Texas, the seventh of nine children in a working-class family. He became interested in music early in life, singing for the church choir as a child. In 1950, Akens moved with his family from Texas to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Fremont High School. There, he met his future wife, Eddie Mae, whom he married in 1952.

Akens began his career in the late 1950s, working with Eddie Daniels and guitar legend Eddie Cochran, and later recorded singles with the Four Dots doo-wop group.

In 1965, he was singing with an ensemble called the Turnarounds when record producer Herb Newman brought them “The Birds and the Bees,” written by his teenage son. The rest of the group disliked the tune, but Akens decided to record it solo. It became an instant hit, rising to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard pop chart in 1965.

“Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees,” went the catchy tune, which was later covered by Dean Martin and others.

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Richard Street 2/2013

richard streetFebruary 27, 2013 – Richard Street (The Temptations) was born on October 5, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan.

Born and raised  in Motown, he was the first member of the Temptations to actually be a native of the city which served as Motown’s namesake and hometown; all of the previous members were born and at least partially raised in the southern United States. He was a member of The Temptations from 1971 to 1993.

Street was the lead singer of an early Temptations predecessor, Otis Williams & the Distants, and took the spotlight on their local hit “Come On”. The Distants also included future Temptations Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant, who left The Distants and their record deal with Johnnie Mae Matthews’ Northern Records to form The Elgins (later The Temptations) with Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. After their departure, Matthews had Street briefly lead a new Distants group in the early 1960s.

During the mid-1960s, Street performed with a Motown act called The Monitors, who had a hit in 1965 titled “Say You” which the Temptations included on one of their albums, and a minor hit with 1966’s “Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)”.

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Magic Slim 2/2013

Magic SlimFebruary 21, 2013 – Magic Slim was born Morris Holt on August 7, 1937 in Torrance near Grenada, Mississippi. The son of sharecroppers, he followed blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to Chicago, claiming and developing his own place in the Chicago blues scene.

He gave up the piano and turned to guitar after losing his right pinky finger in a cotton gin accident at age 13. In 1955 he moved to Chicago with his friend and mentor Magic Sam. The elder, Magic Sam/Samuel Maghett let Morris play bass in his band, and gave him his nickname Magic Slim.

However, he soon returned to Mississippi to work and got his younger brother Nick interested in playing bass.

By 1965 he was back in Chicago and in 1970 brother Nick joined him in his group, the Teardrops. Slim’s recording career began in 1966, with the song “Scufflin'”, followed by a number of singles leading into the mid 1970s.

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Tony Sheridan 2/2013

tony sheridanFeb 16, 2013 – Tony Sheridan was born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity  was born May 21, 1940 in Norwich, England. To the rest of the world he was best known as the only non-Beatle to appear as lead singer on a Beatles recording which charted as a single, even though the record was labelled as being with “The Beat Brothers”. In Europe he was at times a superstar.

In his early life, Sheridan was influenced by his parents’ interest in classical music, and by age seven, he had learned to play the violin. He eventually came to play guitar, and in 1956, formed his first band. He showed enough talent that he soon found himself playing in London’s “Two I’s” club for some six months straight. In 1958, aged 18, he began appearing on Oh Boy, made by the ITV contractor ABC, playing electric guitar on such early rock classics as “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Glad All Over”, “Mighty Mighty Man” and “Oh Boy!”. He was soon employed backing a number of singers, reportedly including Gene Vincent and Conway Twitty while they were in England. In 1958 Johnny Foster sought to recruit Sheridan as a guitar player in Cliff Richard’s backing band (soon renamed the Shadows), but after failing to find him at the 2i’s Coffee Bar opted for another guitarist who was there, Hank Marvin.

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Reg Presley 2/2013

The TroggsFebruary 4, 2013 – Reg Presley (The Troggs) was born Reginald Maurice Ball on 12 June 1941, was  the lead singer with the 1960s British rock and roll band The Troggs, whose best known hit was “Wild Thing”, written by actor Jon Voight’s brother Wes (James Wesley) who went by the stage name Chip Taylor.

Presley, whose stage name was given to him in 1965 by the New Musical Express journalist and publicist Keith Altham, was born in Andover, Hampshire He joined the building trade on leaving school and became a bricklayer. He kept at this occupation until “Wild Thing” reached the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart in 1966.

Wild Thing made it to no.2 in England, but reached no.1 in the US as it sold 13 million copies worldwide. Presley then wrote the band’s only UK number one single with the follow-up “With a Girl Like You”. He also wrote the song “Love Is All Around”, which was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other hits from their short-lived career (1965-1968) were ‘ I can’t control myself’ and ‘Anyway that you want me’.

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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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Patti Page 1/2013

January 1, 2013 – Patti Page was born Clara Ann Fowler on November 8, 1927 in Claremore, Oklahoma (although some sources give Muskogee ) into a large and poor family. Her father worked on the MKT railroad, while her mother and older sisters picked cotton. As she related on television many years later, the family went without electricity, and therefore she could not read after dark. She was raised in Foraker, Hardy, Muskogee and Avant, Oklahoma, before attending Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa, from which she graduated in 1945.

Clara Ann Fowler started off her career as a songstress with Al Clauser and his Oklahoma Outlaws at KTUL. Fowler became a featured singer on a 15-minute radio program on radio station KTUL, Tulsa, Oklahoma, at age 18. The program was sponsored by the “Page Milk Company.” On the air, Fowler was dubbed “Patti Page,” after the Page Milk Company. In 1946, Jack Rael, a saxophone player and band manager, came to Tulsa to do a one-night show. Rael heard Page on the radio and liked her voice. Rael asked her to join the band he managed, the “Jimmy Joy Band.” Rael would later become Page’s personal manager, after leaving the band.

Page toured with the “Jimmy Joy Band” throughout the country in the mid-1940s. The band eventually ended up in Chicago, Illinois, in 1947. In Chicago, Page sang with a small group led by popular orchestra leader, Benny Goodman. This helped Page gain her first recording contract with Mercury Records the same year. She became Mercury’s “girl singer”.

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Scott McKenzie 8/2012

August 18, 2012 – Scott McKenzie was born Philip Wallach Blondheim III in Jacksonville, Florida on January 10, 1939.

His family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, when he was six months old and he grew up in North Carolina and Virginia, where he became friends with the son of one of his mother’s friends, John Phillips. In the mid-1950s, he sang briefly with Tim Rose in a high school group called The Singing Strings, and later with Phillips, Mike Boran, and Bill Cleary when they formed a doo wop band, The Abstracts.

In New York, The Abstracts became The Smoothies and recorded two singles with Decca Records, produced by Milt Gabler. During his time with The Smoothies, Blondheim decided to change his name for business reasons:

“We were working at one of the last great night clubs, The Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario. We were part of a variety show … three acts, dancing girls, and the entire cast took part in elaborate, choreographed stage productions … As you might imagine, after-show parties were common.
“At one of these parties I complained that nobody could understand my real name…and pointed out that this was a definite liability in a profession that benefited from instant name recognition. Everyone started trying to come up with a new name for me. It was comedian Jackie Curtis who said he thought I looked like a Scottie dog. Phillips came up with Laura’s middle name after Jackie’s suggestion. I didn’t like being called “Scottie” so everybody agreed my new name could be Scott McKenzie.”

In 1961 Phillips and McKenzie met Dick Weissman and formed the folk group, The Journeymen, at the height of the folk music craze. They recorded three albums and seven singles for Capitol Records. After The Beatles became popular in 1964, The Journeymen disbanded. McKenzie and Weissman became solo performers, while Phillips formed the group The Mamas & the Papas with Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips and moved to California.

McKenzie originally declined an opportunity to join the group, saying in a 1977 interview, “I was trying to see if I could do something by myself. And I didn’t think I could take that much pressure”. Two years later, he left New York and signed with Lou Adler’s Ode Records.

San Francisco was written with McKenzie in mind. Phillips orchestrated the session, playing the acoustic guitar himself and bringing in bassist Joe Osborn and drummer Hal Blaine, who had played on most of the Mamas and the Papas recordings, plus Gary L. Coleman on bells and chimes, to give the song a happy, springtime feel.
San Francisco, as its parenthetical subtitle suggested, implored listeners to make their way west, flowers strategically placed:”For those who come to San Francisco Summertime will be a love-in there. In the streets of San Francisco Gentle people with flowers in their hair

It was released on 13 May 1967 in the United States and was an instant hit, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 in the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. It was also a number 1 in the UK and several other countries, selling over seven million copies globally.
Perhaps too ironically, the song was written and recorded by people from Los Angeles.

The song is credited with having added to the mass of youths arriving in the city for what became known as the Summer of Love. Whether San Francisco was equipped to handle such an invasion and its attendant problems was a bone of contention at the time. Many residents, including hippies who’d already been enjoying the city’s freedoms, resented the newcomers as well. Some of the local bands openly scoffed at the song, calling it nave and hokey, not to mention intrusive on their scene.

You know who really hated San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair?
The city officials of San Francisco!
It was apparent by the early months of 1967 that their city was going to be receiving an influx of young people once school let out and the weather warmed up some higher-ups were predicting that thousands of them might besiege the city, jobless, homeless, many of them taking drugs and congregating on the streets without a care in the world.
The migration had already begun in 1965-66, the city’s population swelling with seekers of love and life (many of them runaways escaping boring lives in boring midwest places), drawn to the vibrant, freewheeling culture and physical beauty of the city. In particular they were swarming to the Haight-Ashbury district, adjacent to Golden Gate Park. They’d spend their days lying about in that park and their evenings at one of the city’s newly sprouted rock music ballrooms, where they’d listen and dance to new bands with odd names like Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead.
For the youth, San Francisco was a mecca, a place one could go to be around similarly inclined outcasts from around the country. Living was cheap and no one minded sleeping on the floor of a crash pad in one of the Haight’s trippy Victorian houses with a dozen new friends, toking on joints (or maybe popping a tab of Owsley acid) and passing bottles of cheap wine while the record player blasted out newly released albums like the Beatles’  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced. In January 1967 they held a Human Be-In to celebrate the very existence of their community.

Nonetheless, San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair) and its message of communality and gentle vibes struck a chord with a growing segment of the nation (and abroad) for which the phrase flower power was a new rallying cry against the Vietnam War. Many came to San Francisco to have a look, including both George Harrison and Paul McCartney and some even came to stay, like Janis. Most hung out for a little while and then moved on, either back home or, perhaps, to rural communes or other communities built around like-minded folks. Millions who never got near the Golden Gate Bridge simply liked the easy-flowing song enough to make it a quick success.

McKenzie followed the song with “Like An Old Time Movie”, also written and produced by Phillips, which was a minor hit (number 27 in Canada). His first album, The Voice of Scott McKenzie, was followed with an album called Stained Glass Morning. McKenzie also penned the song “Hey! What About Me” that launched the career of Canadian singer Anne Murray in 1968.

Scott ‘dropped out’ in the late 60’s. In 1970 he moved to Joshua Tree, a California desert town near Palm Springs. In 1973 he went to Virginia Beach, VA, where he lived for 10 years.
In 1986, original Papa’s Denny Doherty and John Phillips, with Mackenzie Phillips (John Phillips’ daughter) and Spanky McFarlane (ex Spanky and Our Gang) as female vocalists took a new version of the group onto the nostalgia circuit. Later, when Denny left the group, Scott joined John Phillips as the second Papa. However, when John left due to ill health, Denny returned and Scott took the role vacated by John Phillips.

In 1988 Scott co-wrote the Beach Boys hit Kokomo with John Phillips, Beach Boy Mike Love and the late Terry Melcher, long time producer of the Beach Boys.
Scott spent much of the 1990’s touring with the Mamas and Papas. Eventually, with no original members left, the group disbanded in 1998.

In the 21st Century Scott still performed on occasion. He performed in Germany and in 2003 performed on a PBS Folk special. During March 2005, PBS broadcast a concert called “My Generation — the 60’s Experience.” In the show Scott sings San Francisco and at the end of the program ‘unannounced’ a song called We’ve Been Asking Questions, one of the last songs written by John Phillips before his death in 2001.
In 2009 Scott recorded the Denny Doherty song Gone To Sea Again.

In retirement Scott lived in LA and became a big fan of Facebook where he had many friends in his “Asylum”. Scott was in and out of hospital since 2010 after falling ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system. It is thought he may have had a heart attack in early August, 2012. Staff did not want him to leave the hospital, but he wanted to be at home and passed away on 18th August 2012. He was 73.

 

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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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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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Donna Summer 5/2012

donna-summerMay 17, 2012 – Donna Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. Summer was one of seven children. She was raised in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. Her father was a butcher and her mother was a schoolteacher.

She began singing at a young age in the church. Summer’s performance debut occurred at church when she was eight years old, replacing a vocalist who failed to show up. In her early teens, she formed several musical groups imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. She attended Boston’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School where she performed in school musicals and was considered popular.

In 1967, just weeks before graduation, Donna left for New York where she joined the psychedelic blues rock band Crow as lead singer. It was a move influenced by Janis Joplin’s life story that she dropped out of school, she later stated. After they were passed on by a record label that was only interested in the band’s lead singer, the band broke up and Summer stayed in New York to audition for a role in the counterculture musical, Hair. She landed the part of Sheila and agreed to take the role in the Munich production of the show, moving to Munich, Germany after getting her parents’ reluctant but not needed approval. Continue reading Donna Summer 5/2012

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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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Eddie King 3/2012

eddie-kingMarch 14, 2012 – Eddie King (Blues Guitarist) was born Edward Lewis Davis Milton on April 21st 1938 in Lineville, near Talladega, Alabama. His parents were both musical: his father played the guitar, and his mother was a gospel singer. After his mother died in 1950 he moved to Kentucky with some of his brothers and sisters, and then on to Chicago in 1954 with an uncle. His earliest musical influences were his parents. His dad played guitar and his mom sang. “My dad played country blues just like John Lee Hooker.

For a blues musician to change his surname to King to get attention may seem a bit on the ludicrous side, kind of like an actor or actress changing his or her name to Barrymore. But this is just what guitarist Eddie Milton did when he transformed himself into Eddie King, becoming in the process the least well-known of the blues guitar King dynasty; despite his tireless efforts as a sideman with many blues greats, as well as a career as a bandleader during the later part of his life. He was born Edward Lewis Davis Milton in Alabama, eventually gravitating toward the busy blues scene of Chicago’s South and West Side in the late ’50s and ’60s. His earliest musical influences were his parents, including a father who apparently played country blues guitar in the John Lee Hooker style. His mother was also a blues and gospel singer.

As a youngster, he was too young to get into blues clubs, but learned guitar by smushing his face up against the windows, watching the guitarists in action, memorizing the patterns and runs he saw on the fret board, then finally sprinting home to see if he could remember any of it. Milton’s musical peers were players from the second generation of Windy City bluesmen who came up on the sounds of artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. Some of these associates, such as Luther Allison, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Freddie King, became fairly big on the international blues scene; while others, such as the wonderful Eddie C. Campbell or Milton, became better known as typical examples of high quality blues artists that were basically laboring in obscurity.

A fairly short fellow, he learned to get around the taller and sometimes somewhat better guitar competition by learning to be a showman. “Little Eddie” was actually his first stage name, obviously leading to confusion with the rhythm & blues artist Little Milton. When he began picking in a style heavily influenced by B.B. King, Little Eddie King became first a nickname only used by friends, but evolved into a stage name as well. Another diminutive bluesman, Little Mac Simmons, gave him his first big break, although the reason for the hiring might have had more to do with not wanting to have any taller sidemen on-stage than his musical ability. Eddie King’s first recordings were with bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon, leading to a second guitar position on several Sonny Boy Williamson II sides in 1960.

The next major period in his career was as lead guitarist with Koko Taylor. He was with this fiery blues singer for more than two decades. In 1969, he and bassist Bob Stroger formed Eddie King & the Kingsmen, a group that worked together off and on for the next 15 years, at first overlapping with the Taylor stint. From the early ’80s onward, he had been based out of Peoria, IL.

Besides his exciting guitar work, King is also known as a superior soul shouter, again in a style modeled after the singing of B.B. King. He presented a mixed bag from blues history, ranging from modern urban blues to the type of country blues he grew up with. He also ventured into the Southern soul genre, and would mix up the material of a given gig based on what the audience is responding best to. Young players such as bassist Jamie Jenkins, drummer Kevin Gray, and Doug Daniels doubling on sax and keyboards were regular members of his combos. As a bandleader, King demonstrated that he may have been a late bloomer as a songwriter, but that in blues it is never too late to come up with good material.”

The Swamp Bees was the name of his own group since the ’90s, and this outfit has swarmed onto stages at blues venues nationally and internationally and his output incorporated Chicago blues, country blues, blues shouter, and soul.

Shy, but with a lots of soulful feeling and no wasted notes, he played a variety of styles from the urban blues of Albert King, to the some county blues, to southern soul, to a more sophisticated B.B. King style and pulled it all together with an approach that quickly earned your respect. He also liked to mix up his songs for the crowd, playing blues, soul and R&B depending on how he was reading the audience at the moment.

Into his 60s, he still was playing with the energy of a young man. His first solo record finally came out when others his age were busy concentrating on collecting their senior citizen’s benefits. The album, The Blues Has Got Me (1987), was issued by the Netherlands-based record label Black Magic and later re-released by Double Trouble. It featured one of his sisters, Mae Bee May, on vocals.

In 1997, King recorded the well-received but obscure Another Cow’s Dead album on a small label co-owned by a belly dancer. This album won a W.C. Handy Award for best comeback album of the year. It was arranged by Lou Marini. His songwriting credits include “Kitty Kat”, described by one music journalist as “hilarious”.

King died in Peoria, Illinois on March 14, 2012, at the age of 73. In October 2012, the Killer Blues Headstone Project, a nonprofit organization, placed a headstone on King’s unmarked grave at the Lutheran Cemetery in Peoria.

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Jimmy Ellis 3/2012

Jimmy-Ellis-The-Trammps-400x276March 8, 2012 – Jimmy Ellis (The Trammps) was born on November 15th 1937.

The history of the Trammps grew from the 1960s group the Volcanos, who later became the Moods. With a number of line-up changes by the early 1970s, the band membership included gospel-influenced lead singer Jimmy Ellis, drummer and bass singer Earl Young, with brothers Stanley and Harold ‘Doc’ Wade. Members of the Philadelphia recording band MFSB played with the group on records and on tour in the 70s with singer Robert Upchurch joining later. The group was produced by the Philadelphia team of Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Young, all MFSB mainstays who played on the recording sessions and contributed songs.

Already in his thirties success came as the lead singer with the Philadelphia disco band, The Trammps. The band’s first major success was with their 1972 cover version of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”. The first disco track they released was “Love Epidemic” in 1973. They are best known for their Grammy winning song, “Disco Inferno”, immortalized in the film Saturday Night Fever, released in 1976 becoming a UK pop hit and US R&B hit, then re-released in 1978 becoming a US pop hit.

Other major hits included “Hold Back the Night”-75 and “That’s Where the Happy People Go”-76. In late 1977, they released “The Night the Lights Went Out” to commemorate the electrical blackout in New York on July 13th 1977 .

Music journalist Ron Wynn noted “the Trammps’ prowess can’t be measured by chart popularity; Ellis’ booming, joyous vocals brilliantly championed the celebratory fervor and atmosphere that made disco both loved and hated among music fans.”

He died from Alzheimer complications on March 8, 2012 at age 74.

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Davy Jones 2/2012

davy jonesFebruary 29, 2012 – David “Davy” Jones (The Monkees) was born on December 30th 1945 in Manchester, England and at age 11 began an acting career, appearing on the soap opera ‘Coronation Street’, produced by Granada Television in Manchester, where in 1961 he played Colin Lomax, the grandson of Ena Sharples.

However, after the death of his mother when he was 14, Davy made a career change and became a jockey, training with Basil Foster for awhile. (Jones cared for Foster in his later years, bringing him to the United States and providing him with financial support).

Even though he could have been one of the greats according to insiders, he was soon back in the public entertainment eye, first on stage in London’s West End and then on Broadway, playing the Artful Dodger, in the show Oliver!, which was nominated for a Tony Award. He also had a starring cameo role in a hallmark episode of The Brady Bunch television show and later reprised parody film; Love, American Style; and My Two Dads.

On February 9th 1964, Davy appeared with the Broadway cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show, the same episode on which The Beatles made their first appearance. Jones said of that night, “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.” At that time Jones was considered one of the great teen idols.

Following his Ed Sullivan appearance, Jones signed a contract with Ward Sylvester of Screen Gems (then the television division of Columbia Pictures). A pair of American television appearances followed, as Jones received screen time in episodes of Ben Casey and The Farmer’s Daughter.

Jones debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week of 14 August 1965, with the single “What Are We Going To Do?” The 19-year-old singer was signed to Colpix Records, a label owned by Columbia. His debut album David Jones, on the same label, followed soon after. In 1967 the album was issued in the UK, in mono only, on the Pye Records label. A collector’s item today.

From 1966 to 1971, Jones was a member of the Monkees, a pop-rock group formed expressly for a television show of the same name. With Screen Gems producing the series, Jones was shortlisted for auditions, as he was the only Monkee who was signed to a deal with the studio, but still had to meet producers Bob Rafelson’s and Bert Schneider’s standards. Jones sang lead vocals on many of the Monkees’ recordings, including “I Wanna Be Free” and “Daydream Believer”.

The NBC television series the Monkees was popular, and remained in syndication. After the group disbanded in 1971, Jones reunited with Micky Dolenz as well as Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart in 1974 as a short-lived group called Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In the period after disbanding the Monkees he went back to TV and fashion and some half assed efforts in music.

A Monkees television show marathon (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”) broadcast on 23 February 1986 by MTV resulted in a wave of Monkeemania not seen since the group’s heyday. Jones reunited with Dolenz and Peter Tork from 1986 to 1989 to celebrate the band’s renewed success and promote the 20th anniversary of the group. A new top 20 hit, “That Was Then, This Is Now” was released (though Jones did not perform on the song) as well as an album, Pool It!.

Monkees activity ceased until 1996 when Jones reunited with Dolenz, Tork and Michael Nesmith to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band. The group released a new album entitled Justus, the first album since 1967’s Headquarters that featured the band members performing all instrumental duties. It was the last time all four Monkees performed together.

In February 2011, Jones confirmed rumors of another Monkees reunion. “There’s even talk of putting the Monkees back together again in the next year or so for a U.S. and UK tour,” he told Disney’s Backstage Pass newsletter. “You’re always hearing all those great songs on the radio, in commercials, movies, almost everywhere.” The tour (Jones’s last) came to fruition entitled, An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.

Not much later on February 29, 2012, the leap year day, Davy died from a massive heart attack at age 66.

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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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Etta James 1/2012

etta jamesJanuary 20, 2012 – Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25th 1938 in Los Angeles, California, but due to her 14 year old mother Dorothy Hawkins, being often absent, Etta lived with a series of caregivers, most notably ‘Sarge’ and ‘Mama’ Lu. Her father was long gone, and young James Etta never knew for sure who he was, although she recalled her mother telling her that he was the celebrated pool player Rudolf Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats.

She sang at the church from the age of 5 and at home was beaten and forced by Sarge to sing in the early hours at drunken poker games. She began singing at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles at 5 and turned to secular music as a teenager, forming a vocal group with two friends. In 1950 after Mama Lu died, Etta’s real mother took her to the Fillmore, in San Francisco.

Within a couple of years, Etta inspired by doo-wop, formed a girl group, called the Creolettes. Johnny Otis took the group under his wing, helping them sign to Modern Records and changing their name to the Peaches and gave Etta her stage name, reversing Jamesetta into Etta James. Continue reading Etta James 1/2012

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Dobie Gray 12/2011

dobie-grayDecember 6, 2011 – Dobie Gray was either born Lawrence Darrow Brown on July 26, 1940 in Brookshire Texas or Leonard Victor Ainsworth, possible born around the same time in Houston’s suburb Simonton. Born into a family of sharecroppers in and greatly influenced by his grandfather, a Baptist Minister, Dobie’s early life revolved around family, the church and music. Thus, Gospel, Country, Tex-Mex and R& B all found a comfortable home in his repertoire.

Moving from Texas to California in the early 60’s, Dobie met Sonny Bono (Sonny & Cher), then A&R manager for Specialty Records. That encounter led to his first notable single, “Look At Me.” (later recorded by The Righteous Brothers). Although “Look At Me” remained on the charts a healthy five weeks, Dobie’s real breakthrough came in 1965 with the release of “The ‘In’ Crowd.”

In Hollywood he enrolled in acting classes, and appeared in Theatre-group Productions, including “A Raisin In The Sun,” “The Amen Corner,” “Look Homeward Angel” and “Rhinoceros.” His dramatic gifts eventually landed him a role in the L.A. production of the Mega – Hit, Musical “Hair,” in which he remained for two and a half years.

In 1972, he won a recording contract with Decca Records (shortly before it became part of MCA) to make an album with producer Mentor Williams in Nashville. Among the songs they recorded was Mentor Williams’ “Drift Away”, featuring a guitar riff by Reggie Young. Released as a single, the song rose to #5 on the US pop chart and remains Dobie Gray’s signature song. It placed at #17 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973, sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on July 5, 1973.

“Drift Away” became a hit again in 2003, when he covered the song as a duet with Uncle Kracker on the latter’s No Stranger to Shame album. The re-recording hit #9 and placed at #19 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2003 as well as logging a record-setting 28 weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart in 2003-2004.

In the 30 years that had passed in between Dobie Gray increasingly concentrated on songwriting for a variety of ‘country’ artists including Ray Charles, George Jones, Johnny Mathis, Charley Pride, and Don Williams. He also toured in Europe, Australia and Africa in the 1970s. He performed in South Africa only after persuading the apartheid authorities to allow him to play to integrated audiences, becoming the first artist to do so.

He died on December 6, 2011, from complications of cancer surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 71

 

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Hubert Sumlin 12/2011

Bluesman Hubert SumlinDecember 4, 2011 – Hubert Sumlin was born on November 16, 1931 near Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up across the river in Hughes, Arkansas, where he took up the guitar as a child; by his teens he was playing for local functions, sometimes with the harmonica player James Cotton. The first time Sumlin saw Howlin’ Wolf in action, as he told Living Blues magazine in 1989, he was too young to get into the club, so he climbed on to some Coca-Cola boxes to peer through a window; the boxes shifted and Sumlin fell into the room, landing on Wolf’s head. After the gig, Wolf drove him home and asked his mother not to punish him. “I followed him ever since,” Sumlin said.

At the time Wolf was working with the guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, but Sumlin was occasionally permitted to sit in. Then, in 1953, Howlin’ Wolf left the south for Chicago, where he would develop his music on the bustling club scene and in the studios of Chess Records. In spring 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join him, and soon afterwards the 23-year-old guitarist was heard on records such as Evil and Forty-Four, and a couple of years later the sublime Smokestack Lightning, though for a while he played second to more experienced guitarists like Johnson and Jody Williams.

Continue reading Hubert Sumlin 12/2011

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Keef Hartley 11/2011

 keefhartleyNovember 28, 2011Keith “Keef” Hartley  was born on 8 April 1944 in Preston, Lancashire. He studied drumming under Lloyd Ryan, who also taught Phil Collins the drum rudiments. His music career began as the replacement for Ringo Starr as a drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a Liverpool-based band. Later he played and recorded with The Artwoods, then achieved some notability as John Mayall’s drummer (including his role as the only musician, other than Mayall, to play on Mayall’s 1967 “solo” record The Blues Alone).

He then formed The Keef Hartley (Big) Band, mixing elements of jazz, blues, and rock and roll; the group played at Woodstock in 1969 but noone really knew. The resulting film and albums were highly successful but hardly anyone knows that the Keef Hartley Band was on the bill. One of the few British acts to be invited, Hartley’s band took the stage on Saturday afternoon after Santana, and their managerwas approached by Martin Scorsese, who was obtaining consents to record and film the acts. With no money upfront, he refused permission and so the equipment was switched off. The act that was the closest musically to Hartley’s band, Ten Years After, was a sensation when the film was released, catapulting them into superstars.

Together with Colosseum, the Keef Hartley Band of the late 60s, forged jazz and rock music sympathetically to appeal to the UK progressive music scene. Drummer Hartley had already seen vast experience in live performances as Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm And The Hurricanes. When Merseybeat died, Hartley was enlisted by the London based R&B band the Artwoods, whose line-up included future Deep Purple leader Jon Lord. Hartley was present on their only album, “Art Gallery” (now a much sought-after collectors item). He joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and was present during one of Mayall’s vintage periods. Both “Crusade” and “Diary Of A Band” highlighted Hartley’s economical drumming and faultless timing. The brass-laden instrumental track on John Mayall’s “Bare Wires” is titled “Hartley Quits”. The good-natured banter between Hartley and his ex-boss continued onto Hartley’s strong debut, “Halfbreed”. The opening track “Hearts And Flowers” has the voice of Mayall on the telephone officially sacking Hartley, albeit tongue-in-cheek, while the closing track “Sacked” has Hartley dismissing Mayall! The music in-between features some of the best ever late 60s jazz-influenced blues, and the album remains an undiscovered classic.

The band for the first album comprised: Miller Anderson, guitar and vocals, the late Gary Thain (b. May 15, 1948 Christchurch, New Zealand – d. December 8, 1975 Norwood Green, England; bass), later with Uriah Heep; Peter Dines (organ) and Spit James (guitar). Later members to join Hartley’s fluid lineup included Mick Weaver (aka Wynder K. Frog) organ, Henry Lowther (b. 11 July 1941, Leicester, England; trumpet/violin), Jimmy Jewell (saxophone), Johnny Almond (flute), Jon Hiseman and Harry Beckett. Hartley, often dressed as an American Indian, sometimes soberly, sometimes in full head-dress and war-paint, was a popular attraction on the small club scene. His was one of the few British bands to play the Woodstock Festival, where his critics compared him favourably with Blood Sweat And Tears. “The Battle Of NW6” in 1969 further enhanced his club reputation, although chart success still eluded him. By the time of the third album both Lowther and Jewell had departed, although Hartley always maintained that his band was like a jazz band, in that musicians would come and go and be free to play with other aggregations.

In 2007, he released a ghostwritten autobiography, Halfbreed (A Rock and Roll Journey That Happened Against All the Odds). He wrote about his life growing up in Preston, and his career as a drummer and bandleader, including his band’s appearance at Woodstock.

Tragically Keef died at at Royal Preston Hospital from complications from surgery on November 28, 2011 at age 67.

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“Cuby” Muskee 9/2011

Harry MuskeeSeptember 26, 2011 – Harry Muskee, (June 10, 1941 – Sept 26, 2011) better known as leadsinger of the legendary Dutch Blues band “Cuby and the Blizzards” was born in the northern town of Assen in 1941. His father was a German POW at the time of his birth. As a toddler, Muskee reportedly once shouted at a German officer in a hair salon “Wait ’til my father gets home – he’ll get you.”

His father returned to the Netherlands when Muskee was four years old. His mother developed multiple sclerosis soon after, leaving Muskee to be raised mainly by his grandmother. His mother died in 1961. Muskee got to the hospital too late to say goodbye, which, he said, left him with a lingering sadness.

He made his breakthrough in the music scene after the death of his grandmother a year later.

In high school he came into contact with jazz and Dixieland music. Together with the brothers Henk and Jaap Hilbrandie he founded the band The Mixtures. From this band emerged later on the ‘Old Fashioned Jazz Group’. This band mostly played at school dances in his hometown.

Through listening to the American Forces Network radio station – for U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany – Muskee came into contact with blues music. When he discovered the album Live at Newport by John Lee Hooker, he decided that he also wanted to make this kind of music.

Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling are the foundation of Cuby & The Blizzards. As singer and guitarist of The Mixtures, Harry performs songs of The Everly Brothers and other bands, before playing the contra bass in the Old Fashioned Jazz Group. (see also the guestpage) Harry is first introduced to jazz and blues through listening to the American discjockey Wilis Conover from the army stations like American Forces Network and The Voice of America on an old radio
Eelco Gelling is guitarist in the Rocking Hurricanes, later The Rocking Strings, with Hans Kinds (rhythm guitar), Wim Kinds (Drums) and Nico Schröder (bass). Their repertoire mainly consisted of Shadow-instrumentals and the group even made two records: “Autumn Leaves” and an EP “Black Rock”. The musicians meet each other on a stage in Drenthe and it is only a matter of time before Harry starts singing Elvis Presley covers with the Rocking Strings.
In 1964, Willy Middel (bass, ex-Sinister Silhouettes) replaces Nico Schröder, who is not allowed to play on Sundays. After Dick Beekman (drums) replaces Wim Kinds, Harry Muskee completes the line-up .

In 1965 The Rocking Strings become Cuby & The Blizzards. ‘Cuby’ after the neighbour’s dog, and ‘Blizzards’ is randomly picked out of an English dictionary. It is the start of a legend. Muskee and Gelling take the musical lead and introduce Holland to the blues: music with emotion.

Singer Harry (“Cuby”) Muskee and leadguitarist Eelco Gelling, both working (as a reporter and a photographer) with a local newspaper in Assen, were forced to turn professional after one year as three of the bandmembers were fired from their jobs, because of their long hair.

As the five excellent musicians refused to do any commercial types of music, they struggled almost three years for recognition. Their music was highly influenced by the Chicago blues. Most of their tunes were been composed by Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling, though the group also recorded songs by a.o. John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Boyd and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Over time Muskee became known as the man who brought the blues to the Netherlands. As lead singer in Cuby and the Blizzards, his raucous voice shot to the Top 40 with hits like Window of my Eyes, Another Day Another Road and Appleknockers Flophouse.

Cuby & the Blizzards became one of the most in demand groups in Europe in between 1965 and 1972.The group played on International Festivals in Plumpton (England), Essen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt (Germany), Prague (Czechoslovakia), Bilzen and Turnhout (Belgium). At these Festivals Cuby & the Blizzards were on stage with international top-groups like The Fugs, The Nice, John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, The Mothers of Invention, The Spencer Davis Group, The Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, etc. After the first British tour ( October 3-13 ’68), the group also toured in Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Germany.  On stage they produced exactly the sound and feel as on their records. All members became much-in demand session-musicians for recordings, radio and TV. As a group they accompanied a.o. BB King, Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner and Eddie Boyd.

Too autocratic

The band opened for Fleetwood Mac in 1969 when they toured the Netherlands. Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner, they all visited Muskee on his farm in the northern Dutch village of Grolloo, where the Blizzards lived. Critics say Muskee’s music reflects the rawness and simplicity of his rural roots.

In the 1970s, the band that also incorporated monster guitarist Eelco Gelling and frontman keyboards player Herman Brood, split up when members claimed that Muskee was too dictatorial as  band leader.

Cuby and the Blizzards won several music awards. They reformed in the early 1990s and Muskee surprised his fans in 2009 by releasing Cats Lost, the band’s first studio album for 11 years.

Harry died from cancer on September 26, 2011.

 

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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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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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Amy Winehouse 7/2011

July 23, 2011 – Amy Winehouse. Born on September 14th 1983 in Southgate, London. At nine years old, Amy attended the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and at ten, she founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour. She stayed at the Earnshaw school for four years before seeking full time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School; she appeared in an episode of The Fast Show in 1997 before allegedly being expelled at 14 for “not applying herself” and for piercing her nose. Amy had taken up the guitar at 13 and was writing songs by the age of 14. She began working soon after, including as a showbiz journalist for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with local group the Bolsha Band.

Much in the style of ‘musical heroes’ before her like Billie Holliday, Amy Winehouse was a powerhouse of soul who took alcohol as her companion. An singer-songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul), rhythm and blues, jazz and even reggae

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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.

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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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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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Loleatta Holloway 3/2011

Loretta HollowayMarch 21, 2011 – Loleatta Holloway was born on November 5, 1946. Holloway began singing gospel with her mother in the Holloway Community Singers and recorded with Albertina Walker in the Caravans gospel group. Holloway was also a cast member of the Chicago troupe of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. Around this time, she met her future producer, manager, and husband Floyd Smith, and recorded “Rainbow ’71” in 1971, a Curtis Mayfield song that Gene Chandler had recorded in 1963. It was initially released on the Apache label, but was picked up for national distribution by Galaxy Records.

In the early 1970s, Holloway signed a recording contract with the Atlanta-based soul music label Aware, part of the General Recording Corporation (GRC), owned by Michael Thevis. Holloway recorded two albums for the label, both of them produced by Floyd Smith — Loleatta (1973) and Cry to Me (1975). Her first single from the second album, the ballad, “Cry to Me” rose to #10 Billboard R&B and #68 on the Hot 100, but before the label could really establish Holloway, it went out of business.

Top Philadelphia arranger and producer Norman Harris signed Holloway in 1976 for his new label, Gold Mind, a subsidiary of New York’s Salsoul Records. The first release from the album Loleatta was another Sam Dees ballad, “Worn Out Broken Heart,” which reached #25 R&B, but the B-side, “Dreaming,” climbed to #72 on the pop chart and launched her as a disco act.
She contributed vocals to “Re-Light My Fire” for Dan Hartman, who then wrote and produced the title track of her fourth and final album for Gold Mind, Love Sensation (1980). 18 of her songs charted on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, including four #1s. However, it was a ballad that proved to be another big R&B hit for her. “Only You” was written and produced by Bunny Sigler, who also sang with Holloway on the track, and it reached #11 in 1978.

In the early 1980s, she had another dance hit with “Crash Goes Love” (#5 on the U.S. Dance chart, #86 on the US R&B Chart). She also recorded one single, “So Sweet,” for the fledgling house-music label DJ International Records. In the late 1980s, her vocals from “Love Sensation” were used in the UK #1 hit “Ride On Time” by Black Box. Holloway, however, was uncredited for her vocals and Holloway successfully sued the group, which led to an undisclosed court settlement in Holloway’s favor.

In 1992, she also had a hit with dance band Cappella. There, she appeared billed as Cappella featuring Loleatta Holloway on the single “Take Me Away” (UK #25). Holloway’s fortunes dramatically improved, however, when she had her first US #1 hit when Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch featured her vocals in the chart-topping “Good Vibrations” (1991). According to Andrew Barker in Variety (March 22, 2011), Holloway also performed with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to promote the single and she received full vocal credit as well as a share of the royalties. This was shortly after the backlash against various acts such as Milli Vanilli and the groups that used the vocals of Martha Wash, but refused to give her credit until she sued.

More recent dance chart entries included “What Goes Around Comes Around” (credited to “GTS Featuring Loleatta Holloway”) in 2000, and “Relight My Fire” (credited to Martin featuring Holloway), which hit #5 in 2003. Whilst not a single, “Like a Prayer”,  a Madonna cover, was a track on the Madonna tribute album Virgin Voices. “Love Sensation ’06” and reached #37 on the UK Singles Chart.

Holloway died aged 64 on March 21, 2011 from heart failure.

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Pinetop Perkins 3/2011

pinetop perkinsMarch 21, 2011 – Pinetop Perkins was born Joseph William Perkins on July 7th 1913 in Belzoni, Mississippi. He early on began his music career as a guitarist, but then injured the tendons in his left arm and switched to the piano.  and also switched from Robert Nighthawk’s KFFA radio program to Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Time.

In the 1950s, Perkins joined Earl Hooker and began touring. He recorded “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (written by Pinetop Smith and originally recorded by him in 1928) at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee. (“They used to call me Pinetop,” he recalled, “because I played that song.”) Perkins then relocated to Illinois and left the music business until Hooker persuaded him to record again in 1968. Perkins replaced Otis Spann when Spann left the Muddy Waters band in 1969. After ten years with that organization, he formed the Legendary Blues Band with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, recording through the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.  Pinetop played a brief musical cameo on the street outside Aretha’s Soul Food Cafe in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, having an argument with John Lee Hooker over who wrote “Boom Boom”. He also appeared in the 1987 movie Angel Heart as a member of guitarist Toots Sweet’s band.

Perkins was a sideman on countless recordings but never had an album devoted solely to his artistry until the release of After Hours on Blind Pig Records in 1988. The tour in support of the album featured Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Hubert Sumlin. In 1998 Perkins released the album Legends, featuring Sumlin.

Perkins was driving his automobile in 2004 in La Porte, Indiana, when his car was hit by a train. The car was wrecked, but the 91-year-old driver was not seriously hurt. Until his death, Perkins lived in Austin, Texas. He usually performed a couple of nights a week at Nuno’s, on Sixth Street. In 2005, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The song “Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins”, performed by Perkins and Angela Strehli, played on the common misconception that he wrote “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”:

Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins
I got a question for you
How’d you write that first boogie woogie
The one they named after you

In 2008, Perkins, together with Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas. He was also nominated in the same category for his solo album Pinetop Perkins on the 88’s: Live in Chicago.

Then at age 97, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined at the Hip, an album he recorded with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. At the time of his death, Pinetop had more than 20 performances booked for 2011 including a headliner at the inaugural Amelia Island Blues Festival in September of that year (Willie “Big Eyes had  taken over the headliner slot on the festival, but sadly died on the morning of his intended performance). Pinetop Perkins was 97 at the time of his death. His death closed the era of the old blues men; he was the last one that had a personal recollection of Blues Great Robert Johnson.

 

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St.Clair Lee 3/2011

St.Claire LeeMarch 8, 2011 – Bernard St. Clair Lee (Hues Corporation) was born on April 24th 1944  in San Francisco, California. It has often been erroneously stated that his full birth name was Bernard St. Clair Lee Calhoun Henderson, but he asserts in an interview that, while his ancestry included Calhouns and Hendersons, neither of these were ever part of his official name. When he was born, someone at the hospital mistakenly wrote “St. Clair” instead of his originally intended name, Sinclair. When he was a young man, he found out that “Sinclair” means “Big Bear” and that the American Indian side of his family were Blackfoot that had migrated down from Canada to Oklahoma. It was this discovery that led him to decide to wear his trademark headband. He attended Santa Monica College and became one of the original members of the pop and soul trio Hues Corporation formed in Santa Monica, California in 1969 along with Hubert Ann Kelley and Fleming Williams. The group was originally built one three instrumentalists and three singers.

The group’s name was a pun on the (Howard) Hughes Corporation, with the ‘hue’ being the group’s African-American heritage. They started out as an opening act for the likes of Flash Cadillac, Ike Turner, and Delaney Bramlett.

In 1972 they were asked to appear in and also record three songs for the film ‘Blacular’ soundtrack; “There He Is Again”, “What The World Knows” and “I’m Gonna Catch You”. Shortly after, RCA signed them, their first single, “Freedom For The Stallion”, from the album of the same name, reached No.63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.This was followed by their 1974 single, “Rock the Boat” which became a No.1 hit on the Billboard chart and the group’s signature song.

Other hits included “Rockin’ Soul, “Love Corporation”, and “I Caught Your Act”.

Touring with the band took Lee to Europe, South America, The Far East Australia and New Zealand. He performed for Queen Elizabeth at the same event with Dionne Warwick. He performed with The Jackson 5 in Radio City Music Hall. Lee also shared bills with The Commodores, The Spinners, Dolly Parton and Dinah Shore. After a second moderate success (“Rockin’ Soul”) with the band and a few more records, The Hues Corporation disbanded in 1978.

In later years Lee was responsible for the reactivation of the group and the recruiting of two new members, Elaine Woodard and Bruce Glover. He continued to tour and perform with the band up until his death.

He died of natural causes on March 8, 2011 at age 66.

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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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Johnny Preston 3/2011

Johnny PrestonMarch 4, 2011 – Johnny Preston was born John Preston Courville in Port Arthur Texas on August 18th 1939. He sang in high school choral contests throughout the state of Texas and formed a rock and roll band called ‘The Shades’, who were seen performing at a local club by J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Big Bopper offered him the chance to record a teenage tragedy song he had written, “Running Bear”, which they did in Houston, Texas in 1958. It became his first and only international No.1 hit in January 1960, titled “Running Bear”.

The “Indian” sounds on the record were performed by Richardson and George Jones. The record was released after Big Bopper’s death in Buddy Holly-Ritchie Valens plane crash entering the U.S. Hot 100 in October 1959, reaching No.1 in January 1960 and remaining there for three weeks. It was a transatlantic chart-topper, reaching No.1 in the UK in March 1960.

The sales of the record exceeded one million copies, earning Johnny his first gold disc. This was followed up with “Cradle of Love”, “Feel So Fine”, and others.

On the strength of Running Bear and Cradle of Love, Preston toured Britain in 1960, heading an all-star rock and roll bill with Conway Twitty, Wee Willie Harris and Freddie Cannon. But his hit-making recording career was short-lived. A third single, Feel So Fine, made the Top 20 but his strongest follow-up, a revival of Little Willie John’s Leave My Kitten Alone, failed to make the charts.

I slowly slipped by the wayside,” Preston reflected, adding that he had bought a ranch with the proceeds of Running Bear alone. In later life he appeared on golden oldie tours, and in 1997 sang the Indian chant for a version of Running Bear recorded by The Big Bopper Jr.

His pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He also performed at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

In 2009, Johnny performed at the Lamar State College, in his hometown. Johnny had coronary artery bypass surgery in 2010, but died of heart failure on March 4, 2011 after years of heart related illnesses. He was 71.

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Gladys Horton 1/2011

Gladys HortonJanuary 26, 2011 – Gladys Horton was born in Born in Gainesville, Florida on May 30, 1945, according to her son Vaughn Thornton, even though there is some dispute on the correct date being May 30, 1944.

By the time she was nine months old, her son said, she was an orphan and consigned to foster care, growing up mostly in different towns in Michigan. Her full name was Gladys Catherine Horton. She was married once and divorced, and had three sons. Besides Mr. Thornton, one other son, Sammy Coleman, survives her, along with two grandchildren.

She was raised in the western Detroit suburb of Inkster by foster parents. By the time of her high school years at Inkster High School on Middlebelt Road, Gladys had taken a strong interest in singing, joining the high school glee club.

In 1960 Horton formed a group with her former highschool glee club members Georgeanna Tillman, Katherine Anderson and Juanita Coward. The origin of the Marvelettes is variously recounted in music encyclopedias and other sources, and they usually describe Ms. Horton as a co-founder of the group. But in an interview Ms. Schaffner, one of the original Marvelettes, gave her full credit: “We only started singing together because Gladys asked us,” she recalled. “Usually we’d go to Georgeanna’s house and play canasta.”

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Mick Karn 1/2011

Mick Karn-JapanJanuary 4, 2011 – Mick Karn was born July 24, 1958 as Andonis Michaelides in Nicosia, the capital of Greek Cyprus. The family emigrated to London when he was 3 years old and from an early age was looking for ways to express himself. He began with the harmonica (chromatic mouth organ) at the age of 7 and then the violin when 11, both lasted just 3 years before he was offered the chance to take up the bassoon with the school orchestra and later chosen as a member of the London School Symphony Orchestra.

Of that time he said in his biography: “It looked as if musicians were enjoying themselves and I was intrigued by their ability to escape into another world but frustrated with my own attempts to join in, however, it was only a matter of time before I found the right instrument and direction to aim for, purely by chance. The truth is I bluffed my way into the orchestra. I never learnt to read music and played purely by ear, so was always very nervous about being heard in case of mistakes. Although it worked wonders with my memory for retaining music, I can’t remember even one day that I actually enjoyed playing, until in front of an audience at the first LSSO concert”.

By this time, he had already made friends with like-minded teenagers David Sylvian and younger brother, Steve Jansen who were coincidentally both learning their own instruments, David an acoustic guitar and Steve, bongos. It seemed a natural progression that David move on to an electric guitar, and if Steve were then to progress to drums, they could form a band together and escape the confines of south London. That was the plan and a month later they performed for the first time as Japan on June 1st 1974 when Mick was 15.

In the next 6 years and several albums later his highly distinctive fretless bass voice became renowned, an accolade placing him next to Jaco Pastorius. According to Karn, bass went unnoticed and his mission was to get it noticed. Even on early Japan recordings, his wiggly bass can be heard. By their swan song, Tin Drum in 1981, he was dubbed one of the best bass players in the world.  “I wanted to be able to slide and bend notes as I’d learnt to do with the violin and so decided to take all the frets off the bass guitar. I also began playing bass directly after the bassoon which, although a bass instrument, often plays lead melodies, both of these factors were major influences in shaping the way I play. I couldn’t help but feel that bass players were always hidden somewhere in the background whereas I was determined to be heard”.

In 1981 Mick surprised the art world by holding his first sculpture exhibition to outstanding critical acclaim, with many reviews and features in columns and magazines not usually frequented by musicians. Proving himself as an accomplished artist with his often disturbing works of art, he has held 5 exhibitions in London, Japan and Italy.

In that same year he’d already supplied bass and sax work to Gary Numan’s Dance album and was the first Japan member with a solo record: Titles. His unique style had musicians from all types of genres wanting his contribution to their own work, from Jeff Beck to Gary Numan. That same year, he was chosen by Pete Townshend to be part of a supergroup to perform for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in celebration of their engagement. It was to be the first Prince’s Trust Gala performance. Pete Townshend explained to the press that Mick was by far the best bassist in the U.K. and therefore the obvious choice.MK-live aid-small

In 1983, Japan’s live album, Oil on Canvas, brought his playing to new ears: jazz legend Jan Garbarek. The following year brought an unlikely collaboration with Peter Murphy of Bauhaus as Dalis Car. The Waking Hour became Dalis Car’s only album and soon Karn was again a solo agent teaming up with close friend Steve Jansen to produce Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters.

Session work with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading bridged Karn’s solo efforts, which were few and far between, often odd in title and texture (Beard in the Letter Box, Plaster the Magic Tongue). The early ’90s saw a more prolific Karn who formed the label Medium with Jansen and Richard Barbieri. All three joined guitarist David Torn to produce his best efforts: Bestial Cluster(1993) and The Tooth Mother in 1995. Between these came an experimental project, Polytown, again with Torn and drummer Terry Bozzio.

In 2004 he moved back to Cyrpus with his family to spend time writing and making sculptures. The results were muscular and at times funky prog rock, not always for the fainthearted. Karn found time to spend on his sculpture and a San Francisco sabbatical eventually bore the album Each Eye a Path. The Concrete Twin was his last album released in 2010.

Having been diagnosed with advanced cancer he moved back to London for treatment and was working with his old Dalis Car partner Peter Murphy on a new album, when he died on 4 January 2011 at the age of 52 years 5 months and 11 days.

The recordings were posthumously released on an EP titled: InGladAloneness

Mick Karn was not just a musician, he was a talented sculptor and photographer too. His sculptures were often treated like his music. Each work, once completed, would be sold, given away to (sometimes forgotten or lost) friends or just destroyed. Likewise, Karn never, or rarely listened again to any music he wrote or contributed to. He described the sustainability, validity and timelessness of his two main creative outputs on his website: “During a short interval between [musical]pieces, we are acutely aware of time as we wait for it to restart but oblivious to how long has passed when enjoying a piece. Sculpture defies time. A piece of bronze will outlive all of us and stretch far into the future.” – “Unlike music, the older a piece of visual art, the more valuable it becomes.”

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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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Captain Beefheart 12/2010

Captain BeefheartDecember 17, 2010 – Captain Beefheart was born Donald Glen Vliet on January 15, 1941 in Glendale California. To try and describe Don Vliet as Captain Beefheart (his musician alter ego) or Don Van Vliet (his visual artist alter ego) in normal words is almost impossible. As Captain Beefheart he became one of the most influential and most unique performers in rock history. For a more complete impression of this man’s inner workings I recommend a couple of hours on a website that is still maintained about him five years after his passing.

While attending Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster – California Desert, he became close friends with fellow teenager Frank Zappa, bonding through their interest in Chicago blues and R&B; they sporadically competed and collaborated throughout their lives, mostly as friends, sometimes as competitors and sometimes as opponents, like two geniuses on ego-trips. It’s almost uncanny that they were born within a couple of weeks of eachother, met in the desert in their teens and from there became individually two of the most avant garde musical explorers of a generation, often resulting in an exchange of ultimate “weirdness”. Yet it happened and it created 2 rock geniuses that left the music changed in a way, only matched by the Velvet Underground Greenwich Village experience in Manhattan.

Don was noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, while he also played the harmonica, saxophone and other wind instruments. His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with free jazz, avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition.

His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians he called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12 studio albums. The name of the band was an extension of the “Captain Beefheart” persona that Frank Zappa, Vic Mortenson and others helped him create; the idea being that Captain Beefheart was magic, and thus would have a “magic band”. He would simply drink a Pepsi, and the band would appear behind him. The original Magic Band was rhythm and blues guitarist Alex Snouffer, Doug Moon on guitar, Jerry Handley on bass, and Mortenson on drums, the latter soon replaced by Paul (P.G.) Blakely. The Magic Band still tours and has now passed the count of 40 members during the years.

Personnel of the Magic Band for Beefheart’s first album were John “Drumbo” French, Ry Cooder, Snouffer and Handley. For their album ‘Trout Mask Replica’ he locked the Magic Band in a house in Woodland Hills for eight months, continually rehearsing and reworking the songs. Virtually broke, they often had nothing but bread to eat but when they finally got into the studio, they recorded the entire double album in four and a half hours.

Their 1970’s album ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ was an album with “a very coherent structure” in the Magic Band’s “most experimental and visionary stage”, it was Don’s most commercially successful in Britain, spending twenty weeks on the UK Albums Chart and peaking at number 20. In 1982, Vliet became tired of the rock and roll business culture, visibly resented by the hypocritical atmosphere that manages it and by the consumerist mechanisms that regulate it, so he abandoned music and became somewhat reclusive stating (and proving) that he could make far more money with his painting. Beefheart’s actual first exhibition had been at Liverpool’s Bluecoat Gallery during the Magic Band’s 1972 tour of the UK, but his debut exhibition as a full time painter was at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York’s Soho district in 1985.

The last recording sessions, in 1984, never saw the light of day. Captain Beefheart had disappeared forever, like an exotic animal chased back into the jungle by civilization.

Ironically, Don Vliet gave up the Captain Beefheart persona, just as the world started noticing his music. Captain Beefheart’s influence on alternative rock and the new wave of the 80s has been matched only by the Velvet Underground.

It was then that finally the critics had noticed that blues had little to do with Van Vliet’s music. Once recognized, Don Van Vliet became the rock equivalent of Vincent Van Gogh. To claim that Captain Beefheart was a blues man would be like claiming that Van Gogh was an impressionist painter, a taxonomic fact that says nothing about Van Gogh’s art, other than indicating in which section of the museum Van Gogh’s paintings were probably displayed.

After his retirement from music, he was rarely seen in public and he lived near Trinidad, California with his wife Janet “Jan” Van Vliet. Sadly by the early 1990s he had become wheelchair-bound, suffering from multiple sclerosis. One of his last public appearances was in the 1993 short documentary Some Yo Yo Stuff  by Dutch  filmmaker Anton Corbijn; van Vliet is a true Dutch name, so that maybe the reason why he agreed to this.

Don Van Vliet also published a book of poetry and drawings and moved back to his native California desert, where he lived on the proceeds of his paintings until his passed at age 69, on December 17, 2010.

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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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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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JoJo Billingsley 6/2010

jojo-billingsleyJune 24, 2010 – JoJo Billingsley was born Deborah Jo Billingsley on May 28, 1952 in Memphis Tennessee and raised in Tennessean country communities. She started singing at age three; took dance lessons (tap and jazz) from the time she was three to about age 14. She also was church soloist by the time I was 10 or 12 and deeply involved in the music program at school; choral group, girl’s vocal ensemble, as a soloist coloratura soprano. She received a scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) but had a difficult time because she never had music theory. When she was 16 she was invited to attend Juliard School but her dad would not let her because it was in New York City.

After her dad passed in 1971 she took up singing as a profession and first joined Oil Can Harry with whom she toured the US and Europe in 1973/74, and then joined Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Honkettes”.

A friend of mine named Bob O’Neal was doing the lights for Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac; he turned my name into them and Kevin Elson (the sound producer) invited me to come to Nashville to a concert. It was there I met Ronnie Van Zant for the first time and he hired me on the spot. When I entered the room backstage where he was sitting with his bare feet propped up on a table, he took one look at me, tipped his hat back, smiled and said, “she’ll do just fine!” and hired me without ever hearing me sing. Good thing I knew how!

The next 3 years were magic with numerous tours around the world until on October 20, 1977 the airplane crash killed several members of the band and road crew, but Billingsley was the only band member not on the flight.

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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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Marva Wright 3/2010

Marva-WrightMarch 23, 2010 – Marva Wright was born March 20th 1948 in New Orleans Louisiana. Marva sang blues all her life, starting as a child at home and in church, but she didn’t start her professional career as a blues singer until 1987, almost 40 years old, when she began singing on Bourbon Street and became the powerhouse of New Orleans’ blues and gospel scene. Even then, she only began singing as a way to support her family with a second job.

Early in 1989 during a live set at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, Wright made her first recording, Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean and made her debut on national television in 1991, when her hometown was the setting for a special that revolved around the Super Bowl where she met CBS news anchorman Ed Bradley, who thought at that time that she only sang Gospel.

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Ron Banks 3/2010

Ron BanksMarch 4, 2010 – Ron Banks (The Dramatics) was born in Redford, Michigan on May 10, 1951.

Ron was a singer with the soul music vocal group, The Dramatics from the 1960s until his death. The Dramatics originally known as the Dynamics, changed their name around 1967, when they had their first minor hit single, “All Because of You”.

They did not break through however until their single, “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” broke into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No.9, this was their first million selling disc and was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in December 1971.

Through the 1970s, they appeared on Soul Train and continued to have hits, including the No.1 R&B hits, “In the Rain”, “Toast to the Fool”, “Me and Mrs. Jones”, “I’m Going By The Stars In Your Eyes” and “Be My Girl”.

Banks left the group in 1983 to start a solo career which failed as he rejoined the Dramatics.

Ron with The Dramatics also were guests on the Snoop Doggy Dogg song, “Doggy Dogg World”. The song appeared on Snoop’s 1993 debut album, Doggystyle. “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” appeared in the 2005 documentary Sunday Driver, as well as the movies, Wattstax and Darktown Strutters, and the 2007 Petey Greene biopic, Talk To Me. The Dramatics were also interviewed at (but have yet to be inducted into) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on February of 2012 .

He died of a heart attack on March 4, 2010 at age 59.

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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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Alex Chilton 3/2010

220px-Big_Star_at_Hyde_Park_2_croppedMarch 17, 2010 – William Alexander “Alex” Chilton was born in Memphis, Tennessee on December 28, 1950 . He became best known for his work with pop-music bands the Box Tops and Big Star. In 1966, while at Memphis’ Central High School, Alex was invited to join a local band The Devilles as their lead singer, after learning of the popularity of his vocal performance at a talent show; this band was later renamed Box Tops.

He was 16 years old when he and the Boxtops had their No.1 international hit “The Letter”. In 1971 Alex along with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel formed the rock band Big Star. They released two albums “No.1 Record” and “Radio City” before breaking up in 1974.

He continued as a solo artist and in 1979 he co-founded, played guitar with, and produced some albums for Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, which began as an offbeat rock-and-roll group deconstructing blues, country, and rockabilly music.

From the late-1980s through the 1990s with bassist Ron Easley and eventually drummer Richard Dworkin, he gained a reputation for his eclectic taste in cover versions, guitar work, and laconic stage presence. After which he performed live yearly, with sporadic solo, Box Tops and Big Star shows in theatres and at festivals around the world.

He died sadly of a suspected heart attack on March 17, 2010 at the age of 59.

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Doug Fieger 2/2010

doug fiegerFebruary 14, 2010 – Doug Fieger (The Knack) was born on August 20th 1952 and raised in Oak Park, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, and attended Oak Park High School. While still at school he sang lead and played bass in the group Sky, eventually recording two albums in 1970 and 1971. Doug also played bass guitar in the German progressive rock band Triumvirat for a short period in 1974. After which he founded the New Wave rock quartet The Knack based in Los Angeles that rose to fame with their first single, “My Sharona”, an international No.1 hit.

With a six-week run at No. 1, “My Sharona” was the inescapable hit of the summer of 1979, and it became a staple of high school dance parties for years to come. Built on a simple riff that was as perky as it was sexy, the song, by Mr. Fieger and the band’s lead guitarist, Berton Averre, celebrated teenage lust in unabashed terms. “When you gonna give it to me?” Mr. Fieger sang in the impatient whine that was his hallmark.

The song, written about a 17-year-old high school student who had caught the eye of the 26-year-old Mr. Fieger, displaced Chic’s disco anthem “Good Times” on Billboard’s singles chart and came to symbolize the commercial arrival of new wave, the poppier, snazzier-dressed cousin of punk rock. (That girl, Sharona Alperin, became a high-end real estate agent in Los Angeles.) With a carefully executed marketing plan, the members of the Knack seemed to position themselves as a new Beatles, adopting a uniform of white shirts and skinny black ties, even recreating a group pose from the film “A Hard Day’s Night” for the back cover of their debut album, “Get the Knack”. “My Sharona,” Fieger once said, had been written in 15 minutes. Billboard listed it as the No. 1 song of 1979.

The follow-up hit was “Good Girls Don’t” which stopped one notch short of the Top 10 – peaking at No.11, and Get The Knack spent five straight weeks at No.1 and eventually sold 3 million copies in the United States – 6 million globally. In addition to performing, Doug also produced the Rubber City Rebels debut album for Capitol Records and another album for the Los Angeles-based band, Mystery Pop

He died on 14 February 2010 from lung cancer on Feb. 14, 2010 at the age of 57.

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Dale Hawkins 2/2010

Dale HawkinsFebruary 13, 2010 – Delmar Allen “Dale” Hawkins was born on August 22, 1936. He was often called the architect of swamp rock boogie. Fellow rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins was his cousin.

In 1957, Hawkins was playing at Shreveport, Louisiana clubs, and although his music was influenced by the new rock and roll style of Elvis Presley and the guitar sounds of Scotty Moore, Hawkins blended that with the uniquely heavy blues sound of black Louisiana artists for his recording of his swamp-rock classic, “Susie Q.” Fellow Louisiana guitarist and future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton provided the signature riff and solo. The song was chosen as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of the song on their 1968 debut album helped launch their career and today it is probably the best-known version.

In 1958 Hawkins recorded a single of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” at the Chess Records studio in Chicago, featuring Telecaster guitarist Roy Buchanan. He went on to a long and successful career, recording more songs for Chess. In 1998, Ace Records issued a compilation album, Dale Hawkins, Rock ‘n’ Roll Tornado, which contained a collection of his early works and previously unreleased material. Other recordings include the cult classic “L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas” and a 1999 release, “Wildcat Tamer,” of all-new recordings that garnered Hawkins a 4-star review in Rolling Stone. However, his career was not limited to recording or performing. He hosted a teen dance party, The Dale Hawkins Show, on WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.

He then became a record producer, and found success with The Uniques’ “Not Too Long Ago,” the Five Americans’ “Western Union,” Jon & Robin’s “Do It Again – A Little Bit Slower.” He served as executive vice president of Abnak Records; Vice President, Southwest Division, Bell Records (here he produced Bruce Channel, Ronnie Self, James Bell, the Festivals, the Dolls, and the Gentrys); and A&R director, RCA West Coast Rock Division, working with Michael Nesmith and Harry Nilsson. In the 1990s, he produced “Goin Back to Mississippi” by R. L. Burnside’s slide guitarist, Kenny Brown.

Hawkins’ pioneering contributions have been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

In 2005, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and began chemotherapy while continuing to perform in the US and abroad. In October 2007, The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored him for his contributions to Louisiana music by inducting him into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame. At the same time, he released his latest recording, “Back Down to Louisiana,” inspired by a trip to his childhood home. It was recognized by the UK’s music magazine, Mojo, as #10 in the Americana category in their 2007 Best of issue, while “L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas” was awarded #8 in the reissue category.

Hawkins died on February 13, 2010, from colon cancer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was

 

 

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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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Teddy Pendergrass 1/2010

Teddy PendergrassJanuary 13, 2010 –  Teddy Pendergrass was born March 26th 1950 in Kingstree, South Carolina. When he was still very young, his father left the family; Jesse Pendergrass was murdered when Teddy was 12. Pendergrass grew up in Philadelphia and sang often at church. He dreamed of being a pastor and got his wish when, at 10, he was ordained a minister (according to author Robert Ewell Greene). Pendergrass also took up drums during this time and was a junior deacon of his church. He attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys in North Philadelphia (now closed). He sang with the Edison Mastersingers. He dropped out in the eleventh grade to enter the music business, recording his first song “Angel With Muddy Feet”.

Pendergrass played drums for several local Philadelphia bands, eventually becoming the drummer of The Cadillacs. In 1970, the singer was spotted by the Blue Notes’ founder, Harold Melvin (1939–1997), who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. When, during a performance, Pendergrass began singing along, Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Pendergrass’s successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

In 1972, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes released their first single, a slow, solemn ballad entitled “I Miss You”. The song was originally written for the Dells, but the group passed on it. Noting how Pendergrass sounded like Dells lead singer Marvin Junior, Kenny Gamble decided to build the song with Pendergrass, then only 21 at the time of the recording. Pendergrass sings much of the song in a raspy baritone wail that would become his trademark. The song also featured Blue Notes member Lloyd Parks singing falsetto in the background and spotlighted Harold Melvin adding in a rap near the end of the song as Pendergrass kept singing, feigning tears. The song, one of Gamble and Huff’s most creative productions, became a major rhythm and blues hit and put the Blue Notes on the map.

The group’s follow-up single, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” brought the group to the mainstream with the song reaching the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 while also reaching number-one on the soul singles chart. Like “I Miss You” before it, the song was originally intended for a different artist, fellow Philadelphian native Patti LaBelle and her group Labelle but the group could not record it due to scheduling conflicts. Pendergrass and LaBelle developed a close friendship that would last until Pendergrass’ death.

The group rode to international fame with several more releases over the years including “The Love I Lost”, a song that predated the upcoming disco music scene, the ballad “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon”, and socially conscious singles “Wake Up Everybody” and “Bad Luck,” the latter song about the Watergate scandal. One of the group’s important singles was their original version of the Philly soul classic “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, which turned into a disco smash when Motown artist Thelma Houston released her version in 1976. By 1975, Pendergrass and Harold Melvin were at odds, mainly over monetary issues and personality conflicts. Despite the fact that Pendergrass sang most of the group’s songs, Melvin was controlling the group’s finances. At one point, Pendergrass wanted the group to be renamed “Teddy Pendergrass and the Blue Notes” because fans kept mistaking him for Melvin. Pendergrass left the group in 1975 and the Blue Notes struggled with his replacements. They eventually left Philadelphia International and toiled in relative obscurity, until Melvin’s death in 1997. As of 2014, a version of the group still tours the old school circuit, performing as Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes.

Embarking on a solo career Pendergrass enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums throughout the 1970s, including The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me, Close the Door, Love T.K.O and Turn Off The Lights. Between 1977 and 1981, Pendergrass landed four consecutive platinum albums, which was a then-record setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

Pendergrass’ popularity became massive at the end of 1977. With sold-out audiences packing his shows, his manager soon noticed that a huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. They devised a plan for Pendergrass’ next tour to play to just female audiences, starting a trend that continues today called “women only concerts.” With four platinum albums and two gold albums, Pendergrass was on his way to being what the media called “the black Elvis“, not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis’ Graceland, located just outside his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was the leading R&B male artist of his day, usurping competition including closest rivals Marvin Gaye and Barry White. In 1980, the Isley Brothers released “Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time for Love)” to compete with Pendergrass’ “Turn Off the Lights”, which sensed Pendergrass’ influence on the quiet storm format of black music.

Tragically, on March 18, 1982, a car crash with his Rolls Royce Silver Shadow left Teddy paralyzed from the chest down. He kept recording but filed to chart at first, eventually signing a deal and completing physical therapy, he released Love Language in 1984. The album included the pop ballad “Hold Me”, featuring a then-still unknown Whitney Houston.

He performed on 13 July ’85, at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, and continued to record throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Five times Grammy Award nominee, Teddy retired in 2006, but he did briefly return to performing to take part in the 2007, Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities, an awards ceremony that marked the 25th anniversary of his accident, raised money for his charity, The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance.

On June 5, 2009, Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer and returned home to recover. A few weeks later he returned to the hospital with respiratory issues. After seven months, he died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010, at age 59

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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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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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Mary Travers 9/2009

101864-mary_travers_617x409September 16, 2009 – 

Mary Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 9th 1936, but at the age of 2, her family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she attended the Little Red School House, she left school in the eleventh grade to pursue her singing career.

But while still in high school, she joined The Song Swappers, a group who sang backup for Pete Seeger when he recorded the album Talking Union, in 1955. The Song Swappers recorded a total of four albums in 1955, all with with Peter Seeger. Mary was also cast in the Broadway-theatre show, The Next President.

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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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Danny McBride 7/2009

July 23, 2009 – Danny McBride (Sha Na Na) was born Daniel Hatton on November 20, 1945 in Reading, Massachusetts, where he graduated at Reading Memorial High School in 1963, where he would entertain his childhood friends with puppet shows, and then graduated from Boston University in 1970. After graduating he went into broadcasting, starting as a news reporter on a North Carolina radio station.

McBride and his group, the Cavaliers, had been popular in the early/mid 60’s Boston music scene, but McBride later became widely known as lead guitarist and lead singer for Sha Na Na during their heyday and on their own TV series of the same name.

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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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Gordon Waller 7/2009

July 17, 2009 – Gordon Waller  (Peter & Gordon) was born in Braemar, Scotland, on June 4th 1945. The son of a surgeon, Gordon met fellow student, Peter Asher while attending the prestigious Westminster School, and they began playing together as the duo Peter & Gordon.

Both were keen guitarists and soon they were entertaining their fellow students. By 1963, they were playing (initially as Gordon and Peter) in pubs and small clubs at lunchtimes and evenings for small fees or for a meal, often singing their own compositions in the close harmony style of the Everly Brothers.

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Sky Sunlight Saxon 6/2009

skysaxonJune 25, 2009 – Sky Sunlight Saxon was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 20, 1937. Different sources suggest a birth year of 1937, 1945 or 1946. His widow has said that his birthday was August 20, but would not confirm the year because he believed age was irrelevant. However, 1940 census records indicate he was born in Utah in 1937.

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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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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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Koko Taylor 6/2009

koko-taylorJune 3, 2009 – Koko Taylor was born Cora Walton on September 28, 1928 on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee. Her daddy was a sharecropper. She lived with her parents and five brothers and sisters in a “shotgun shack” with neither electricity nor running water. Although never professional singers, her parents used to sing enthusiastically while working the cotton fields, and she began to sing gospel in church. She also soaked up the blues played on local radio, which she and her siblings would surreptitiously perform with improvised home-made instruments, despite their father’s opposition.

By the time she was 11, both her parents had died and she too was forced to work in the cotton fields. But growing up, she and her five brothers and sisters had amused themselves by singing the blues, accompanying themselves on homemade instruments. (Their father did not discourage them, although he would have rather they sang gospel music.) Continue reading Koko Taylor 6/2009