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Oliver 2/2000

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February 12, 2000 – William Oliver Swofford was born on February 22, 1945 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He began singing as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid 1960s. He was a member of two popular music groups — The Virginians and, later, The Good Earth — and was then known as Bill Swofford.

His clean-cut good looks and soaring tenor voice were the perfect vehicle for the uptempo single entitled “Good Morning Starshine” from the pop/rock musical Hair, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled “Jean” (the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) bested his previous effort by one, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Written by poet Rod McKuen, “Jean” also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months. Performing both hits on a number of TV variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including The Ed Sullivan Show, helped both songs.

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Doris Coley 2/2000

Doris ColeyFebruary 4, 2000 – Doris Coley (The Shirelles) was born August 2nd 1941 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, but spend her formative and teenage years in Passaic New Jersey, where Doris became a founding member and occasional lead singer of the Shirelles in 1958. The four teenagers, Beverly Lee of Passaic and Shirley Alston Reeves (born Shirley Owens) of Hillside and Addie “Mickie” Harris did not graduate with their class of 1958, but they earned diplomas later.

Instead they went on to release a string of hits including “Baby It’s You” , “Mama Said”, “Foolish Little Girl”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Soldier Boy” and “Sha La La”. Doris sang lead on “Dedicated to the One I Love”, “Welcome Home Baby”, “Blue Holiday” and a number of ‘b’ sides and album cuts.

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Curtis Mayfield 12/1999

Curtis MayfieldDecember 26, 1999 – Curtis Mayfield was born on June 3rd 1942 in Chicago Illinois. Curtis began his music career in 1956 while still at Wells High School, when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler.  Two years later they became the Impressions.

From his website Biography:

In 1958, Curtis Mayfield has his first taste of a hit recording, “For Your Precious Love,” by The Impressions. He is 16, from Chicago’s wild side, the Cabrini Green Public Housing Projects, just developing his distinctive high tenor voice that blended into falsetto and become his (and the group’s) trademark. It will allow Mayfield the freedom to produce some of the most perceptive and significant popular music of his and any other generation. The Impressions go on to define the Chicago sound of the 1960s, a mix of soul/R & B/gospel that challenges Motown’s grip in the market. But Mayfield himself will take the music, his music, further… A lot further.

In 1996, Curtis Mayfield is making his last recordings.

He has transitioned in four decades from the eager, young, black kid into a seasoned singer/songwriter/producer, a motivating force in black music, black capitalism and a quiet voice for social change and civil rights. These final recordings will take every bit of courage and will that Mayfield possesses, as he probably realizes that this is, indeed, his last go-round. He is paralyzed from the neck down, the result of an onstage accident in 1990. He lies on his back in the recording studio, allowing gravity to assist his diaphragm and his breathing, recording one line of the lyric at a time, but still singing and still composing. He dies, aged 57, in December, 1999.

“Broke his back. But not his spirit,” says Altheida Mayfield, his widow and keeper of the Mayfield Flame, a flame that has never gone out. More than a half century after that first hit, a decade plus, after his death, Curtis Mayfield remains alive and well, through his music, his recordings and the recognition by his peers in the music and recording world. His music is the gift that keeps on giving…

Curtis Mayfield was, as one obituary writer put it, “a well respected man.”

Around the age of seven or eight, Curtis Lee Mayfield fell in love. The object of his affection was a guitar, found in a closet in the small overcrowded apartment where he lived with his mother and seven siblings. The music Mayfield had been exposed to at this point come via his grandmother, gospel songs from her Travelling Soul Spiritualists’ Church, the place where a seven year old Mayfield sang in public for the first time. He was also listening to the rich mother lode that was the Chicago electric blues scene which surrounded and informed him.

Mayfield played a little piano but the guitar was different, very personal. “My guitar was like another me,” he said later. Mayfield literally transferred his piano knowledge to his new instrument. Singer Jerry Butler, a childhood friend who formed The Impressions, recalled how: “He used to love playing boogie woogie on the piano and he learned to play that in F sharp which meant he was playing all the black keys. That’s how he came about his unique sound on the guitar because he tuned it that way.” (Standard guitar tuning is E-A-G-B-E.) Mayfield used his instantly recognizable and eccentric open F sharp tuning for the rest of his career. He would also become proficient on bass, drums and saxophones.

Mayfield’s individualism on the guitar later put him in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Top Guitarists of All Time and admiration from such guitar giants as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Recalled Hendrix’ drummer, Mitch Mitchell: “Jimi was the only man I knew who knew how to play that Curtis Mayfield style. He would occasionally break into Mayfield’s guitar style and falsetto onstage.”

It was now evident that Mayfield’s future was music, his way out of the poverty that blighted Chicago’s North Side. At 16, over family objections, he dropped out of high school, joining The Roosters, a group led by his friend Jerry Butler. The name quickly became the more commercial – The Impressions. Butler has noted: “There’s something called the Chicago Soul sound that began in the late Fifties. The Impressions pioneered that… and Curtis was the heart of The Impressions.” Chicago’s take on soul music which evolved throughout the 1960s, had its roots firmly into gospel music, albeit laid back and melody focused (“soft soul” is another term for the style). It was refined by the addition of horns and strings as integral elements of the arrangements. The Impressions’ literal high flying harmonies, with Mayfield later as lead singer – were front and center here.

The first Impressions hit “For Your Precious Love” was co-written by Butler; Mayfield had no hand in it. The lead singer was Butler; Mayfield’s more idiosyncratic voice was relegated to the backfield. “For Your Precious Love” hit the R&B charts and, more importantly for a black group, the pop charts. In one two week period, the song sold 150,000 copies. Butler, getting most of the credit, immediately went solo.

This was a good thing. It gave Mayfield his first taste of control and responsibility, factors that would thread through his future life and career. He held the group together as lead singer, producer and writer. In 1961 the revamped restyled Impressions had its first Mayfield-era hit, “Gypsy Woman.” For the rest of the 1960s The Impressions remained hot with 14 Top 40 hits including an amazing run of five Top 20 songs in 1964 alone – the year that The Beatles arrived and gave a hard time to everyone else.

Mayfield perfected the group’s singular harmonies – the trademark upper register detonations. Throughout his recordings, Mayfield was devoted to the falsetto register rather than the more usual model range. Johnny Pate, a jazz musician and arranger/producer, one of the “professionals” often brought in to soften the rough edges of a label’s teenage talent, remembered the effect the Impressions had on him: “The group went into some high falsetto harmonic things that were really unheard of. Nobody had done it before. The amazing part was, it’s all in tune, in perfect harmony, in tune…”

Black popular music, soul, R & B and the like, had a tried and true business plan in the 1960s, governed by dance music and love songs. But Mayfield had some different ideas, concepts that were to place his music and his career on a new track. Things were happening outside the music and recording worlds. America, in particular Black America, was facing the Civil Rights Movement. There was inner city poverty, a rise in drug use and abuse, the move to Black Power and then on to Black Pride. Unprompted, Mayfield decided to address these matters the only way he knew how – his music. It was an unusual and provocative step but it would make him a groundbreaking music voice for change in the Black community at this time, alongside James Brown and Sly Stone. Singer Mavis Staples (of the Staples Singers who recorded for Mayfield) defined this transformation: “[He] had a long history of writing wonderful love songs that made you want to dance slow to in the basement. And then, all of a sudden, he went and wrote some of the best message songs that could be out there. Curtis was a poet; his lyrics came straight from the heart and make me shudder.”

Mayfield was angry over the social and political turmoil affecting his America and he reacted by writing material with a point and purpose. But they were delivered to the public in a singular way, subtle and intelligent but still layered with gospel, R & B and soul, served Chicago style. Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who called Mayfield “a giant of gentleness,” observed that his music “used love and encouragement, not anger, to say important things.” Mayfield’s (frankly) sexy tenor voice, with its appeal to the ladies, could moderate any hostility in the lyric without destroying its significance. And the new Mayfield songbook was still aimed squarely at a mainstream audience, social observation for the people not the radical. Politics apart, Mayfield still wanted his chart hits.

Mayfield himself explained: “These songs were an example of what has laid in my subconscious for years… the issues of what concerned me as a young black man…. The musical strands and themes of gospel singers and preachers I’d heard as a child. It wasn’t hard to take notice of segregation and the struggle for equality at this time.”

In the mid-1960s Mayfield wrote three songs that defined his songwriter vision in this era: “Keep on Pushing,” “People Get Ready” and “We’re A Winner.” All managed – along with several other Mayfield songs – to insinuate social commentary into the pop charts and bring awareness to the struggles going on. No wonder Martin Luther King Jr. loved Mayfield’s work. The civil rights icon embraced “Ready” and “Pushing” as unofficial anthems for the Movement. “Keep On Pushing” was the theme music, part of the experience on the Freedom Ride buses that took activists into an unfriendly American South in the fight against segregation. The album “Keep On Pushing” by The Impressions was released in 1964 and quickly became the group’s biggest album to date. It also secured a longevity outside of its initial success, such as, when then-State Senator Barack Obama gave the Keynote Speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. The music that brought him onstage was “Keep On Pushing.”

The powerful gospel grooved “People Get Ready,” recorded by The Impressions in 1965 as a single (and later album) is one of Mayfield’s half dozen most important songs. Well over 100 artists worldwide have covered it bringing royalties to the composer, the kind of homage the businesslike Mayfield appreciated. As the years progressed “People Get Ready” amassed any number of accolades: No. 24 in the Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone Magazine) and in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. One of Top 10 Best Songs of All Time (a British poll) and it made the Grammy Hall of Fame. Mayfield said the song “… came from my church… or a message from my church. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song.”

For all his guitar prowess, “People Get Ready” marked the first time that Mayfield’s guitar work had actually been featured on record. It was enough for Rolling Stone Magazine to place it at No. 20 in the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks of all time!

The 1967 recording “We’re A Winner,” another Mayfield song with a life outside the music business, was more direct and confrontational than the other “anthems” aimed directly at Mayfield’s African American audience. Mayfield, as producer, recorded it in front of a live audience, bringing an emotional commitment from them to underscore the song’s substance. “We’re A Winner” was so direct that during the rioting in 1967 several radio stations refused to air the recording, citing its provocative, forceful lyrics. Civil rights activist and associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Ambassador Andrew Young presented his assessment of this newly charged Mayfield music in the Mayfield documentary “Move On Up” – “You have to think of Curtis Mayfield as a prophetic, visionary teacher of our people and our time.”

Statements like this, and there were many, made Mayfield uncomfortable. He never truly accepted that position, remaining modest and clear eyed about it, specifically when people called him “The Preacher” or “The Reverend.” “I’m an entertainer first,” he often stated. “I don’t claim to be a preacher or anything else, even though maybe there are signs of these things in my lyrics. With all respect I’m sure that we have enough preachers in the world. Through my way of writing I was capable of being able to say these things and yet not make a person feel as though they’re being preached at.”

While focused on recording with, and writing for, The Impressions, Mayfield was also moonlighting as the staff producer for Okeh Records, a Chicago label that was recording black music and black musicians back in the Roaring 20s. Here he wrote and produced hits for such artists as Major Lance, Gene Chandler, Jan Bradley, Walter Jackson and other hot chart names at the time. Also to give himself a measure of economic stature, he launched a couple of minor labels, Windy C Records and Mayfield Records, with some success in 1966. Mayfield, despite being the high school dropout, knew how to take care of business. Or at least to surround himself with people who did. Unhappy with his royalty rewards at age 18, he turned around and formed his own music publishing company.

In 1968 he went further and created another label, Curtom Records (the Tom was manager Eddie Thomas). This time he was in control of his recording, his song publishing, his own recording studio, all under one roof. Control was important to Mayfield as his friend and sometime business partner, singer Jerry Butler, testifies: “Curtis came to me one day and said, ‘Jerry, I want to buy you out.’ My feelings were hurt a little bit and I said, ‘Why, what did I do?’ He said: ‘You didn’t do anything. I just want to own as much of me as possible.’”

With Curtom Records, Mayfield achieved this. Not the first African American to run his own label but it was still highly unusual for a black recording artist to do so and his move would be observed by those who followed him. The present day music industry is notable for the number of African American recording stars who are in charge of this part of their business world destinies. The line runs from Mayfield to Jay Z., Kanye West, Dr. Dre, P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, etc. Mayfield had showed that successful Black Capitalism was possible, perhaps necessary.

Now, as the 1970s began, Mayfield released his first solo album, “Curtis” very successfully and made another transformative move, his most successful and certainly his most audacious – taking his music to the movies… He commented later: “We showed that you didn’t need a room the size of a football field to lay music in. You didn’t have to be a Henry Mancini.” (Mayfield was now doing all his recording in a tiny demo. producing studio he had bought from RCA Records in Chicago.) African American names on movie music soundtrack credits were not exactly thick on the ground in 1970 – Quincy Jones being the most prominent – and there was a not-exactly-unspoken question in Hollywood, “Can African Americans write film music? “ The 1970s was the time when the “Blaxploitation” movie was in vogue, films that would never make any all-time Best Film listings but were lively, energetic, quickly produced, low budget, starred black actors and beamed to a target audience that lived in the inner cities.

“Super Fly” was a zero budget production, shot in New York’s mean streets and coming across a little ambiguous in the drug/pimp/violence/badass culture department. By now, Mayfield was busy producing, for himself and others, all manner of music and knew how to lay some pretty harsh lyrics against really forceful funk grooves. Ideal, someone had thought, for a “Super Fly” soundtrack. That someone was not Mayfield. He was no fan of the movie’s characters or plot… until he saw a way to subvert it. Altheida Mayfield remembers her husband’s early reaction: “Curtis thought ‘Super Fly’ was a commercial to sell cocaine and he wanted to turn that around. That was his main purpose there, to say ‘This is nothing pretty.’ This man was raised poor and that’s what he saw on the streets every day and could express in song.” Express it he did – songs for “Super Fly” came pouring out, a running counterpoint to onscreen action, each track showing a different view of the problems – “Freddie’s Dead,” “Super Fly” (both became million selling singles), “Pusherman,” “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” – hits when the album was released and able to take on a new life decades later as the rap and hip hop generation discovered the art of sampling.

Mayfield’s “Super Fly” album became an instant classic of 1970s soul and funk and is a rare example of a soundtrack outselling the movie from which it was taken. The album spent four weeks at No. 1 on the album chart while singles, “Freddie’s Dead” and the title track were both million sellers. Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums list ranked it No. 69. VH1 placed it at No. 63 in the same category. “Super Fly,” which few thought initially had any hope of commercial success, “ignited a whole genre of music and influenced everybody from soul singers to TV music composers for decades to come. “ (AllMusic). Along with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield had introduced soul funk music with “Super Fly” that also said something; a groove that was socially aware.

Movie work now took up much of Mayfield’s time – with Gladys Knight and the Pips (the film “Claudine”), Aretha Franklin (“Sparkle”), Staple Singers (“Let’s Do It Again”), Mavis Staples (“A Piece of the Action”). A funk and now disco alliance ”Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here” for the movie “Short Eyes” was a 1977 hit for Mayfield, who also made a cameo appearance in the film (as he did in “Super Fly”).

By 1980 Mayfield had moved, with his family of six children, from Chicago to Atlanta, effectively bringing the Chicago Soul era to a close. He continued working as a solo artist, releasing (as he had in the previous two decades) a series of well received albums, and as a writer and producer. He rejoined his original colleagues for The Impressions Reunion Tour of 1983 – 25 years after that very first hit record. He started another record label, revived Curtom Records and had a full concert datebook, both in the U.S. Japan and Europe, especially Britain. Mayfield revisited “Super Fly” in 1990 – sort of. A remake, “Return of Super Fly” was produced with a Mayfield soundtrack. The film went nowhere but the soundtrack was important. Released as the album “Super Fly 1990” it marked a collaboration between Mayfield and Ice T. , one of the first signs that the emerging rap and hip hop constituency regarded Mayfield as an important influence.

Mayfield now had what he always wanted – control of a successful career that allowed him entry into every facet of the music and recording business. Then came August 13, 1990 and tragedy onstage at an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, New York. Mayfield arrived for the sound check on a rain swept afternoon and high winds blew down the lighting rig. Mayfield was trapped underneath, his spine crushed in three places, paralyzing him from the neck down. He would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.

But he continued. Perhaps he had no control over his body now, but he would still control his career. Slowly at first, his strength returned – his will was always there – and then there was a moment in 1994 that convinced him he could get back into the recording studio. The occasion was an all star, all Mayfield concert that Warner Bros. Records organized. Everybody sang Mayfield – Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, B. B. King, Elton John, Aretha Franklin and more. It was for a Mayfield Tribute album, “All Men Are Brothers.” The climax, the emotional core of the evening, was Curtis Mayfield, back at the microphone singing for the first time since the accident four years ago. This experience provided the motivation to return to his second home, the recording studio for what would be his last album, “New World Order,” a collection of original material. And Mayfield, the lion in winter, produced his last great song, “Here But I’m Gone” with an unsettling anti-drug lyric delivered with typical Mayfield flair, the light touch carrying the heavy message. While “New World Order” was Mayfield’s last hurrah, it does not signify the end of Mayfield’s recordings. He had always been at home in the recording studio and had probably written around 1400 songs in his four professional decades. Author Peter Burns estimated that 140 recordings lay in the Mayfield vaults in various stages of completion but all capable of being released. They included live performances from all over the world, collaborations, many with both Jerry Butler and the original Impressions, and more.

Mayfield’s physical condition now began to really deteriorate; diabetes forced the amputation of his right leg and he died in Roswell, Ga. on December 26, 1999 at age 57. That year he had been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a solo performer – he was already there as a member of The Impressions – and before he died he learned that he was to be inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. He was already in the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture has plans to honor Mayfield’s career. Following his death the music industry mounted any number of special tribute concerts and events to honor his memory and his talent.

But the real tribute to Curtis Lee Mayfield lies with his music and its lasting influence on public and peers alike. The fact that Mayfield music is still being played, still being picked up by new generations of musicians in almost every genre, paying respect to the gentle genius of song. “Here, But I’m Gone,” indeed. His last appearance on record was with the group Bran Van 3000 on the song “Astounded” for their 2001 album Discosis.

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Rick Danko 12/1999

rick dankoDecember 10, 1999 – Richard Clare Rick Danko was born on December 29, 1943 in Blayney, Ontario-Canada, a farming community 6 miles outside of the town of Simcoe, six miles from Delhi and ten miles from Turkey Point. There were three stores, a couple of fruit stands, and a juke box. He grew up in a musical family of Ukrainian descent. Dank knew very early on that music was going to be his life.

Like his father, Rick also played accordion, violin, mandolin, guitar, and fiddle.

He quit school at 14 to purse music full-time and in 1960, when he was 17, he joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins’ group, the Hawks, initially as rhythm guitarist. He soon moved to bass and, with the help of the Hawks’ piano player Stan Szelest.

Under Ronnie Hawkins’ tutelage, Danko began a three-year tenure of non-stop gigging and rigorous rehearsals that fellow Band-mate Richard Manuel once likened to ‘boot camp.’ By the time he was 20, he was a seasoned pro, having spent most of his teenage years playing in bars that you were supposed to be 21 to play in.

By the early 60s, Rick and the other Hawks had outgrown the limited roadhouse and honky-tonk circuit and left Hawkins to pursue greener pastures. Bob Dylan saw them perform in the mid-60s and was so impressed that he signed the Hawks to accompany him on his 1965-66 world tour.
The Band’s collaboration with Dylan, initially greeted with boos and catcalls around the globe, changed the course of popular music by spawning one of the most significant musical hybrids of the rock era, ‘Folk Rock.’

After the tumultuous world tours with Dylan (the European leg of which was documented in the obscure film, Eat the Document), Danko relocated from Manhattan to upstate New York, along with Dylan and the other members of the still un-named Band. He rented a big pink house in West Saugerties, near Woodstock, and with Dylan and The Band began recording songs which soon surfaced on bootlegs and were officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes. In 1968, after toying with a host of politically incorrect names, like the Crackers and the Honkies, The Band made its official debut with ‘Music From Big Pink’.

The album shot The Band into folklore. A succession of albums and tours followed, and, The Band, now a firm fixture in the rock aristocracy, played virtually every major festival from Woodstock to Watkins Glen. In 1976, on Thanksgiving day, The Band officially called it quits with a farewell concert at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom.
The concert, which featured an unprecedented all-star lineup to which The Band graciously played back-up, was documented in Martin Scorsese’s much lauded film, The Last Waltz, regarded by many as the finest concert film of all time.

Following ‘The Last Waltz’, Danko continued to perform and record as a solo artist. His 1978 self-titled debut, though overshadowed at first by The Band, later gained critical and popular acclaim. During the early 1980s, he maintained a low profile, and in 1983, reunited with The Band (minus Robbie Robertson, who pursued a solo career). During that period, he began playing acoustic guitar as well as bass on-stage, and his unique style of tuning and playing (revealing the bass player in his soul), has become another of his signature sounds. Throughout the 80s, never one to ‘sit at home’, Rick continued to play solo, with The Band, in pairings with Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Paul Butterfield, Jorma Kaukonen and others. In 1985, he appeared (with Manuel, Helm and Hudson) in a feature film, Man Outside, and in 1987 he released an instructional video, ‘Rick Danko’s Electric Bass Techniques’ (Homespun).

In 1989, he and Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm toured as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. That same year, The Band was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall Of Fame. In 1990, Danko, along with Helm, Hudson, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and others appeared in Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall’ concert in Berlin.

Danko recorded with Folk legend Eric Andersen and Norwegian singer/songwriter Jonas Fjeld in 1991 and one sidebar of the trio’s collaboration was an award-winning album, Danko Fjeld Andersen (Stageway), which was honored in Norway with a Spellemans Pris (the Norwegian Grammy) for ‘Record of the Year’ and was released in late 1993 by Rykodisc. The Rykodisc release was honored by NAIRO the following year.

In October, 1992 he performed with The Band at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute at Madison Square Garden and, in January 1994, he and The Band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Eric Clapton.

1993 saw The Band record their first studio album in 17 years, ‘Jericho’, which featured a radically extended line-up of members including Richard Bell. They followed this up with another album, ‘High On The Hog’, in 1996.

In February, 1997, Rykodisc released ‘Ridin’ On The Blinds’, the follow-up to Danko/ Fjeld/ Andersen, which was recorded in Norway in 1994.

Danko passed away in his upstate New York home on Friday, December 10, 1999 three days after his last performance, just weeks before his 56th birthday.

                             

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Rob Fisher 8/1999

rob fisher of climie fisher and naked eyesAugust 25, 1999 – Robert ‘Rob’ Fisher  was born on November 5th 1959 in Cheltenham, England.

He attended Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, where he was a member of a band called Cirrus.

Fisher’s early bands were Whitewing (1975–1978) and the Xtians (1978), both during his time at the University of Bath. In 1979 he joined up with Pete Byrne to form Neon, whose first single “Making Waves/Me I See You” was released on their own 3D Music label. The band later went on to recruit Neil Taylor, Manny Elias, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, before they finally broke up in December 1981. In 1982, Fisher and Pete Byrne, who were key figures in the early days of synthpop, formed the duo Naked Eyes, while in 1981 Smith and Orzabal formed Tears for Fears.

I was walking across Pultney Bridge (in Bath) when I saw Rob being accosted by a girl with a large temper. My group ‘Studio’ had recently broken up, and by the look of it so had Rob’s (the girl was the singer in his band ‘Whitewing’). I intervened on his behalf (she could have taken both of us) and we retired to a local hostelry to debate the pros and cons of being in a band. Two hours later we had a brilliant plan! We would write songs, get a publishing deal, use that to get a record deal and then have a hit record. Four years later we were an overnight success. – Pete Byrne

Naked Eyes’ two biggest hits were their rendition of the Burt Bacharach song “Always Something There to Remind Me”, and the self-penned “Promises, Promises”. They had two more US Top 40 hits, “When the Lights Go Out” and “(What) In the Name of Love”, before going their separate ways. They resumed their writing partnership after a five-year break, and some of the songs written during this period were on the Naked Eyes album released in 2010.

In 1986, Climie and Fisher met whilst they were both doing session work at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, Fisher on keyboards, and Climie on backing vocals, working for Lillywhite. Fisher was looking for a singer/songwriter and Climie was looking for someone to write and record with, and so Climie Fisher was born. Together they took “Love Changes (Everything)” to the UK No. 2 spot, while the hip-hop inspired “Rise to the Occasion” also cracked the Top Ten in the United Kingdom.

Fisher and Climie also composed for other artists including Jermaine Stewart, Jermaine Jackson, Five Star, Rod Stewart, Freddie McGregor, Milli Vanilli, Fleetwood Mac and they wrote ‘You’re Not Alone’, a big hit for Amy Grant. Fisher also collaborated on several songs with the 80’s ‘Stock Aitken and Waterman’ star, Rick Astley.

After the break-up of Climie Fisher, Fisher collaborated on several songs with Rick Astley and Jules Shear. For some years, Fisher had owned his own studio, The StoneRoom, in Shepherd’s Bush, where, until shortly before his death, Fisher had been working with old buddy Pete Byrne on a new Naked Eyes studio album.

Fisher died on 25 August 1999, aged 42, following bowel surgery for cancer.

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Screaming Lord Sutch 6/1999

screaming-lord-sutchJune 16, 1999 – Screaming Lord Sutch was born David Edward Sutch, also known as the 3rd Earl of Harrow, despite having no connection with the peerage.

He was the UK’s first long-haired pop star, boasting hair over 18 inches long and the self-styled lord was Britain’s longest-serving political leader, standing (and losing in nearly 40 elections). His most famous party was the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

David Sutch was born in Kilburn, North-West London on November 10, 1940. His father was a policeman who was killed in World War II, when the boy was ten months old.

After leaving school, David worked as a plumber’s mate before becoming a singer. His stage name came from his main influence, Screaming Jay Hawkins, and from the fur-lined crash helmet which he wore on stage, topped with bobbles so that it resembled a coronet.

In 1968, he changed his name by deed poll to Lord David Sutch. Although he never had any ranking hits, his antics on and off stage brought him great notoriety, and he was to record with, among others, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding, Ritchie Blackmore, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon.

In 1963, he stood for Parliament as the National Teenager’s Candidate in Stratford-on-Avon, following the resignation of John Profumo after the sex scandal with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.

Although he gained only 209 votes, nearly all the policies he advocated – reducing the voting age to 18, commercial radio, calling for pubs to be open all day – were to become law long before his death.

In 1963, Sutch and his manager, Reginald Calvert, took over Shivering Sands Army Fort, a Maunsell Fort off Southend and in 1964 started Radio Sutch, intending to compete with other pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline. Broadcasts consisted of music and Mandy Rice-Davies reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sutch tired of the station, and sold it to Calvert, after which it was renamed Radio City, and lasted until 1967. In 1966 Calvert was shot dead by Oliver Smedley over a financial dispute. Smedley was acquitted on grounds of self-defence. About this time Ritchie Blackmore left the band. Roger Warwick left to set up an R&B big band for Freddie Mack.

He was to contest 44 elections and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as having stood for Parliament more times than anyone else. In the 1980’s, he tried to change his name again, to Mrs. Thatcher, but was refused permission, allegedly on the grounds that it might cause confusion if he did make it to the House of Commons. He was to become Great Britain’s longest serving party leader, having formed the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He was never elected and, indeed, never retained his deposit. However, in May 1990 at Bootle, he received 418 votes to the Social Democratic Party’s 156; following which Dr. David Owen, the leader of the S.D.P and a former Labour Foreign Secretary, retired from politics.

Sutch’s album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin’s book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time, despite the fact that Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.

For his follow-up, Hands of Jack the Ripper, Sutch assembled British rock celebrities for a concert at the Carshalton Park Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival. The show was recorded (though only Sutch knew), and it was released to the surprise of the musicians. Musicians on the record included Ritchie Blackmore (guitar); Matthew Fisher (keyboard); Carlo Little (drums); Keith Moon (drums); Noel Redding (bass) and Nick Simper (bass).

What was not known to the general public was that Sutch suffered from depression and had been on medication for many years. This became more acute following the death of his mother in 1997. In the same year, he met a lady named Yvonne Elwood. (Sutch never married but, in 1975, had a son, Tristram, with an American model.) His last years were dogged with financial troubles, but he seemed to be more cheerful in his last weeks and was looking forward to concerts in Belgium and Las Vegas.

However, in June 1999, he was found by Yvonne at his late mother’s house, 10 Parkfield Road, near South Harrow Station, having hanged himself. The last entry in his diary read : “Depression, depression, depression is all too much.” The coroner at the inquest described Sutch as “A comedian with tragedy in his heart. The public saw the public face, a cheery outgoing character, yet, in the privacy of his room, his true sadness emerged.

“During the 60s, he was known for his horror-themed stage show, dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the shock rock antics of Alice Cooper. Accompanied by his band, The Savages, he started by coming out of a black coffin. Other props included knives and daggers, skulls and “bodies”. He booked themed tours, such as ‘Sutch and the Roman Empire’, where he and the band members would be dressed up as Roman soldiers. Despite self-confessed lack of vocal talent, he released horror-themed singles during the early to mid-’60s, the most popular “Jack the Ripper”, covered live and on record by garage rock bands including the White Stripes, The Black Lips and The Horrors.

His album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin’s book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time, despite the fact that Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.

He killed himself by hanging on June 16, 1999 at age 58.

He was definitely an original:

His bad time-keeping was the inspiration for his policy of decimal time – where there would be 100 seconds to the minute, and 100 minutes to the hour!

“What can we say about the man who posed the impossible question: Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?

He gave his age as 10 years younger than it was, then added ‘plus VAT’.”

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Skip Spence 4/1999

skip spenceApril 16, 1999 – Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence was born on April 18, 1946 in Windsor Ontario, Canada. His parents moved to San José, California in the mid 1950s where his father found work in the aviation industry, having been a decorated bomber pilot during the war.

He was given a guitar by his parents at the age of 10. A precocious talent, he also played the drum in his school band, a skill which would come in handy when, having moved to California in the late fifties, he dived into the burgeoning hippie scene of the Bay Area.
Spence had already been approached to join Quicksilver Messenger Service as a guitarist when he bumped into Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin at the Matrix, a San Francisco club also used as a rehearsal room. Dissatisfied with the drummer Jerry Peloquin, who was only in so the group could use his apartment in Haight Ashbury, the frontman offered the drumming stool to Spence, who looked the part. Spence jumped at the chance and joined a Jefferson Airplane line-up which also featured the guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen and singer Signe Toly Anderson. “It’s No Secret”, the Airplane’s first single, was released in February 1966, just as Jack Cassidy replaced the original bassist Bob Harvey.

Spence stayed with the Airplane for over a year and contributed several songs (notably “Blues From An Airplane”) to their debut album, entitled Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, eventually issued by RCA Records later that year. Further personnel changes saw Anderson quit to have children and Grace Slick, formerly lead vocalist with the Great Society, take over, bringing with her “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love”, two seminal compositions which became the Airplane’s first hits and true flower-power anthems. Anderson coincidentally died last January on the same day Airplane founding member Paul Kantner passed away.

By the time these million-selling singles reached the US Top Ten in 1967, Spence, who felt his songwriting was being eclipsed by the other members’ (though his “My Best Friend” was included on Surrealistic Pillow, the group’s second album), had stopped attending rehearsals and was dismissed in favor of Spencer Dryden, who was dating Slick at the time. At the same time, the Jefferson Airplane switched their management to a local concert promoter Bill Graham, leaving Matthew Katz in the lurch.

Katz kept Spence on his books and hatched a plan to form a band around him in San Francisco. He asked the guitarist Peter Lewis and bassist Bob Mosley to come up from Los Angeles to see if they fitted in. Adding a drummer, Don Stevenson, and guitarist, Jerry Miller, the group, Moby Grape, started to rehearse and instantly found a distinctive sound, blending three guitar parts, vocal harmonies and distinctive compositions of all five members, with Spence often at the helm. “Skippy was always `high’ on this other level,” said Peter Lewis in the sleeve notes to a 1993 compilation, Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape.

He recalled:
His mind was always churning with stuff. It was hard for him to sit and talk. He didn’t deal in words but in ideas. He was the most unique songwriter I’d ever heard. Like in “Indifference” on the first album, the way he changed keys right in the middle of the song. Skippy was definitely not copying anybody I’d ever heard. Yet it always came out great.

The name Moby Grape reflected the crazy times. According to Jerry Miller,
Skip and Bob (Mosley) went out to have a little lunch and they came back laughing like crazy with a name for the band. They were thinking of this joke: what’s purple and swims in the ocean? So they came back in and said: Moby Grape, we’ll just be Moby Grape. That’s how it happened. We all laughed and got along with that pretty good. Our manager liked Bentley Escort because it related to Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock but we hated that one. Moby Grape sounded good and it was made up by the band. Skippy appeared to be crazy but he was crazy like a fox. He was a full- on Aries, laughing all the time.

After two months of solid rehearsals in Sausalito, the group played the Fillmore in San Francisco in November 1966 and instantly started a bidding war between record companies. “When I first saw them play,” remembers David Rubinson, the A&R man who won the battle and signed the group to Columbia, “I knew this was a band that could go around the country, around the world and really kill!” Sam Andrews, guitarist with Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) was full of praise too. “You guys are better than the Beatles,” he told Lewis.

Indeed, the quintet’s debut album, simply entitled Moby Grape, remains a classic of its time, worthy of inclusion alongside The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Love’s Forever Changes, also released in 1967. Unfortunately, an over-eager record company and inept manager conspired to oversell the group with a lavish launch in June at the Avalon Ballroom during which thousands of purple orchids fell from the ceiling. The next day, Miller, Lewis and Spence were found in Marin County with three under-age girls and duly arrested, though charges were later dropped.

Columbia also simultaneously issued five singles from the album when they should have been concentrating on the stunning “Omaha”, a Spence composition which nevertheless crept into the Top 100. Moby Grape reached No 24 on the LP charts (though drummer Don Stevenson’s raised finger had to be erased from the sleeve). ” `Omaha’ was pure Spence energy,” declared David Rubinson later.
He was the maniacal core of the band, the guy who would say fuck it, let’s do it anyway. He was an idiot savant. He couldn’t add a column or figures, couldn’t pay a check in a restaurant. But he saw things in a clear light. He could see through immediately to the truth of what was going on.

The truth was that the five members didn’t get on. “Six months after we met, we were rock stars. That was horrible,” admitted Lewis. Later that year, following abortive sessions in Los Angeles, the group were sent to New York to complete Wow, the follow-up album, which made the Top Twenty. The relocation seemed to have pushed Spence, who consumed psychedelic drugs at an alarming rate, over the edge. Considering that the singer had howled “Save me, save me!” when recording a demo of “Seeing”, the others should have seen the writing on the wall. One day in 1968, Spence went looking for them with an axe. He was jailed and committed to the Bellevue Hospital for six months.
The four remaining musicians attempted to carry on, even touring the UK, despite becoming embroiled in a dispute with Katz, who claimed all rights to the Moby Grape name and put together a bogus version of the band which played the ill-fated 1969 Altamont gig. The legal dispute would rumble on for years; the original group members attempting to reform even resorted to calling themselves Maby Grope or Legendary Grape.

Following his discharge from hospital in 1968, Spence went to Nashville and in four days recorded the dark and whimsical Oar, a truly solo album on which he played every single instrument. Over the years, this record gained something of a cult following and, after its reissue on CD in 1993, was even the subject of a “Buried Treasure” feature in Mojo magazine. By then, Spence had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had been in and out of mental institutions for most of the Seventies and Eighties. Sometimes, he managed to rejoin his former cohorts but, more usually, he would contribute the odd track to one of their albums before disappearing again.

Spence wrote some music for an episode of the revived television series The Twilight Zone and the X-Files film, but neither score was used. He struggled on with various illnesses and, before his death, heard More Oar, a tribute album assembled by the likes of Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Wilco, and Michael Stipe of REM.

It was with Moby Grape however, that Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s first album in 1967, a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a full time career in the music industry. He remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California.

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence, singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer and married father of three sons and one daughter, died from lung cancer in Santa Cruz, California on April 16, 1999. He was 52.

Below video is dedicated to one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands to emerge from the San Francisco underground scene, yet who shared in very little of the fame and fortune many of the other SF bands did. Nevertheless, today they are hailed as one of the most influential and iconic rock bands of the psychedelic period. The group was formed in late 1966 by drummer Skip Spence of the original Jefferson Airplane (back when Signe Anderson was still sharing the lead vocals with Marty Balin, a year before leaving and being replaced by Grace Slick). Spence ditched his drum sticks and played rhythm guitar for the new group which consisted of a guitar trio that switched taking turns on lead, often on the same song (much like The Buffalo Springfield). The result was absolutely WILD … and I mean WILD! Dancers went crazy on the discotheque floor keeping in time with the fast-paced frenzy of Moby Grape’s guitar-playing nirvana. Bliss on speed. 

The LP, Moby Grape, was released on June 6, 1967. This video is of the Grape’s song “Omaha” .. probably their most popular tune. In recent years, “Omaha” has been listed as number 95 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”. Released as a single, along with four other singles from the album simultaneously, it peaked at #88 on Billboard and #70 on Cash Box on July 29, 1967 (it debuted on Cash Box with a big red bullet at #72 with a strong upwards surge predicted, but dropped off the chart completely a week after reaching #70 .. the times were so fickle!). Sit back and for the next few minutes enjoy the way it was: Moby Grape and “Omaha”!

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Dusty Springfield 3/1999

dusty_springfieldMarch 2, 1999 – Dusty Springfield was born Mary O’Brien on April 16th 1939 in West Hampstead, North London, England. She was given the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy. Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage her to guess the musical piece. She listened to a wide range of music, including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. At the age of twelve, she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” at a local record shop in Ealing. Continue reading Dusty Springfield 3/1999

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Charles Brown 1/1999

Charles BrownJanuary 21, 1999 – Tony Russell “Charles” Brown was born in Texas City on September 13, 1922. Brown demonstrated his love of music as a child and received a classical music training on the piano. He graduated from Central High School of Galveston, Texas in 1939 and Prairie View A&M College in 1942 with a degree in chemistry. He then became a chemistry teacher at George Washington Carver High School of Baytown, Texas, a mustard gas worker at the Pine Bluff Arsenal at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and an apprentice electrician at a shipyard in Richmond, California before settling in Los Angeles in 1943.

In Los Angeles, the great influx of blacks created an integrated nightclub scene in which black performers tended to minimize the rougher blues elements of their style. The blues club style of a light rhythm bass and right-hand tinkling of the piano and smooth vocals became popular, epitomized by the jazz piano of Nat King Cole. When Cole left Los Angeles to perform nationally, his place was taken by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, featuring Charles Brown’s gentle piano and vocals.

His style dominated the Southern California club scene during the 40s and 50s, he influenced such performers as Floyd Dixon, Cecil Gant, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ray Charles, Percy Mayfield and Johnny Ace. On February 1st 1946 “Driftin’ Blues,” by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, enters the R&B chart. Written and sung by Charles the song reached No.2 and remains on the R&B chart for half a year, a significant milestone of the early postwar blues, it also received ‘Cashbox’ magazine’s award for R&B record of the year. This was the first of a string of hits for the Three Blazers.

Charles had his first solo hit in January 1949 with “Get Yourself Another Fool,” it reaches No.4 on the R&B chart, quickly followed by “Trouble Blues” which topped the charts for 15 weeks. His 1951 hit “Black Night” topped the R&B charts for 14 weeks. Over a two-year period, Charles’ two biggest hits occupied the No.1 spot for a combined 29 weeks, a phenomenal feat.

His chart hit “Please Come Home for Christmas” in Dec 1960, has been covered by dozens of artists like many of his other songs.

He began a recording and performing career again, under the musical direction of guitarist Danny Caron, to greater success than he had achieved since the 1950s. Other members of Charles’ touring ensemble included Clifford Solomon on tenor saxophone, Ruth Davies on bass and Gaylord Birch on drums. Several records received Grammy Award nominations, and in the 1980s he made a series of appearances at New York City nightclub Tramps. As a result of these appearances he signed a new recording contract with Blue Side Records and recorded One More for the Road in three days. Blue Side Records closed soon after but distribution was picked up by Alligator Records. Soon after the success of One More for the Road, Bonnie Raitt helped usher in a Charles Brown comeback tour. His last studio album ‘So Goes Love’, was released in May 1998.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2 months after his death.

Brown died of congestive heart failure in 1999 in Oakland, California at age 76.

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Barry Pritchard 1/1999

The Original Fortunes in 1963January 11, 1999 – Barry Pritchard (the Fortunes) was born on April 3rd 1944 in war-torn Birmingham, England. In 1963, in Birmingham, he formed a vocalist trio called the Fortunes with Glen Dale and Rod Allen, and they were signed by the eccentric promoter Reg Calvert. Backed by the Clifftones in their first recording, they decided soon that playing an instrument would create a better pay-scale for each of them.

So The Fortunes, as a five-piece with David Carr and Andy Brown, were signed to Decca, and their first single, “I Love Her Still” (1963), was written by Pritchard. Their second, songwriter Tony Hiller’s infuriatingly catchy “Caroline” (1964), became the theme music for the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, and was a European hit. The Fortunes stood out from other 1960s beat groups because of their distinctive four-part harmonies. “Barry Pritchard had the high voice,” says Tony Hiller, “and he was sensational. His high notes really made `Caroline’ work for me.”

The Fortunes recorded two numbers for a live album from the Cavern club in Liverpool (1964), but their subsequent singles failed to sell. The record producer Noel Walker remembers: “The Fortunes’ contract came up for renewal and Decca didn’t want to renew it. I had recorded them at the Cavern and I told Decca that they sung wonderfully and deserved another chance. I wanted to use them as singers backed by professional musicians and I found a beautiful song, “You’ve Got Your Troubles“. The record turned out exactly how I wanted and I regard Barry’s harmonies as fundamental to the Fortunes’ sound.”

“You’ve Got Your Troubles” (1965) climbed to No 2 in Britain and No 7 in the United States, but the Fortunes bravely admitted that they had not played their own instruments on the record. As with the Monkees and Love Affair, the public became suspicious of their abilities. However, they played well in concert, where their hit song was stripped of its middle-of-the-road arrangement. And, as the songwriter Roger Greenaway says, “There are 160 versions of `You’ve Got Your Troubles’, but the Fortunes’ is very much the best.”

Their follow-up single, “Here It Comes Again” (1965), despite its similarities to “You’ve Got Your Troubles”, was an international hit, and “This Golden Ring” (1966) was also successful. Then the hits stopped. Noel Walker recalls: “Barry was the most outgoing of the Fortunes and was a calming influence when things went wrong. He took the ups and downs much better than the rest.” The Fortunes released some fine singles – “The Idol” (1967), “Seasons in the Sun” (1968) and “Loving Cup” (1968) – but they didn’t sell. “We were like wet fish on a slab,” said Pritchard, “and it took us some years to get back.

The comeback finally came with a cover version of Pickettywitch’s “That Same Old Feeling” for the American market. It was followed by “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again”, which made the US Top Twenty in 1971. Then came two Top Ten hits in Britain – the reggae-influenced “Freedom Come Freedom Go” (1971) and “Storm in a Teacup” (1972, written by Lynsey De Paul).

In 1984 the Fortunes were part of the successful double album Hooked On Number Ones, but by then they were resigned to cabaret dates and oldies shows. In 1995, suffering from heart trouble, Pritchard was forced to leave the group. He and his family opened a bar and restaurant on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

But health issues took their toll once again and in 1999 the family returned to England

Barry Pritchard, vocalist extra-ordinaire and guitarist died in Swindon, Wiltshire  on  January 11 1999.

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Bryan MacLean 12/1998

Bryan MacLean of the LoveDecember 25, 1998 – Bryan Andrew MacLean was born in Beverley Hills, California on September 25, 1946. Bryan’s father was an architect to the Hollywood stars and his mother an artist and a dancer. Neighbour Fritz Loew of the composers Lener & Loew recognized him as a melodic genius at the age of three as he doodled on the piano. Bryan’s gift for music was duly noted and he was given piano lessons and taught classical arrangement theory. Bryan’s early influences were more Billie Holliday and George Gershwin rather than Robert Johnson, although he confessed a strong obsession for Elvis Presley. During his childhood he wore out show music records from ‘Guys & Dolls’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘South Pacific’ and ‘West Side Story’.

His first girlfriend was Liza Minelli and they would sit at the piano together and sing songs like ‘The Wizard of Oz’. He learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor’s pool and his father’s best friend was Robert Stack from T.V’s ‘Untouchables’. At 17 Bryan encountered the Beatles, “Before the Beatles I had been into folk music. I had been showing my art work at a panel shop (I wanted to be an artist in the bohemian tradition) – where we would sit around with banjos and do folk music, but when I saw ‘A Hard Days Night’ everything changed. I let my hair grow out and I got kicked out of three high schools.”

Bryan started playing guitar in 1963/64. He got a job at the Balladeer before it changed its name to the Troubadour Club, playing back-up blues guitar. It was here he met the pre Byrds Jet Set while dating Jackie De Shannon and he became ‘fast friends’ with David Crosby. He moved away from home and by early 1965 he became road manager for the Byrds on their first Californian tour with the Rolling Stones. He managed one more cross-country tour with the group after they hit big with ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ but the exhausting 30 one nighters broke him physically and when the Byrds left for their first U.K. tour in the summer of 1965 they left Bryan behind.

After an unsuccessful audition for a part in the Monkees Bryan got into a car on Sunset Strip which Arthur Lee was driving. Arthur had a band called the Grass Roots doing a residency at the Brave New World Club and being street wise knew Bryan’s ‘connections’ with the Byrds. He knew all of the scene that followed the Byrds would follow Bryan if he invited him to see the band play at the club as the Byrds were out of town and sure enough after a couple of weeks the crowds were lined up and down the street for blocks. Bryan desperately wanted to join the band and he said, “I’d give my right arm to be in your group.” To which Arthur responded “No – you’re going to need it!” The Grass Roots became Love when another group registered a hit with the name.

Love were rapidly gaining a reputation as the ‘street band’ and Jac Holzman’s Elektra Records snapped them up and they hit big with their version of the Bacharach/David song ‘Little Red Book’ and a very successful first album to which Bryan contributed the beautiful ‘Softly To Me’ as well as co-writing two others and the Byrds arrangement of ‘Hey Joe’ which he sang. In a staggering progression in just nine months Love put out their second album “Da Capo” and the storming hit single – a pre punk blast of a song ‘7 & 7 is’. Bryan’s beautiful ‘Orange Skies’ was just one of the “6 sides of an uncut diamond” that formed side one of this classic “flower power” album. As the band threatened to implode with addiction to hard drugs taking hold; sessions for what would turn out to be one of the classic albums of the “summer of love” began. Bryan’s ‘Alone Again Or’ was the opening cut on ‘Forever Changes’ and although Arthur mixed Bryan’s lead vocal under his own harmony vocal it is still Bryan’s song that Love are remembered for as it has gone on to become a radio classic and Bryan lived most of his life on its royalties as it was covered by the Damned and UFO amongst others. Although Arthur’s songs crowded out Bryan’s, it is Bryan who believed he influenced Arthur more than the other way around. “What you have on the second and third Love albums is a black guy from L.A. writing show tunes.”

Bryan admits to an addiction to heroin at this point in his life and had a near death experience where he overdosed after leaving Love. Meanwhile band members Ken Forssi (bass) and Johnny Echols (lead guitar) were busted for heroin and armed robbery – they were known as the ‘Doughnut Stand Robbers!’ – and served time in San Quentin and the original Love fell apart.

After an aborted attempt at a solo career – his demos were rejected by Elektra – Bryan wrote film music that wasn’t used and tried without success to record an album for Capitol records in New York. He hit a real low point and shortly afterwards became a Christian, “I was alone in a hotel room in New York and I had lost practically everything. It occurred to me that I was in a tail-spin so I thought ‘well, why don’t I pray?’ So I did and nothing happened for about two or three weeks. At the end of that time, I was sitting in a drug store on 3rd Avenue having a drink and suddenly the drink turned to sand in my mouth and I left the bar and when I reached the pavement and daylight I knew something had changed and from that point on my life has been totally different.

Bryan joined a Christian Fellowship Church called the Vineyard, “The guy that led the church was the guy that converted Bob Dylan.” During Friday night Bible stints Bryan took the concert part of the session and was so amazed at the reaction he gradually assembled a catalogue of his Christian songs. His next move was to open a Christian night club in Beverley Hills called ‘The Daisy’ and when it closed in 1976 Bryan considered going full-time into the ministry but decided once again to devote himself to music. He played an unsuccessful reunion with Arthur in 1978 on two dates but wasn’t paid so he turned down the offer to join Arthur in a U.K. tour as the ‘original’ Love. Ironically the Bryan MacLean band got a gig supporting Arthur Lee’s Love at the Whisky in 1982 which resulted in a stoned Arthur constantly interrupting Bryan’s show and when physically rejected from the stage he threw a cup of hot coffee over Bryan, leaving him with, “a great sense of loss, over someone who’d once been a close friend.”

There were several attempts in the early 80’s to make a solo album for Rhino, which never came out due to Bryan’s continued problems with alcohol. In 1986 Bryan agreed to take Arthur’s place at a gig, as Arthur was too unwell to play the date.

Debbie Boone had a hit with Bryan’s song ‘You Light Up My Life’ which was on her album for which she won a Grammy in 1990 and he worked for a period with his half sister, Maria McKee writing one song for the debut album by Lone Justice ‘Don’t Toss Us Away’ while she went on to success, Bryan sank into obscurity. Then along with Arthur in the early 90’s he started to make a comeback.

Bryan freely admitted that the small amount of success he had with Love nearly killed him and indeed it was some thirty years on from his late 60’s hey day with Love that his Love demos were discovered by his mother Elizabeth in their garage and after 2 years of persistent and patient shopping around record companies a deal was struck with Sundazed and the CD ‘ifyoubelievein‘ was released in 1997 and was critically well received. He had completed a spiritual album of “spooky Christian music” and was about to record a brand new studio album. His famous song ‘Alone Again Or’ had been used on a Miller Draft advert in the U.S. and he’d just recorded a Spanish language version of the same song for the large Hispanic audience.

The mantle of Love had fallen on Bryan as his Love partner Arthur Lee was just two years into a twelve-year jail sentence for firearm offences.

It is a cruel irony that fate should deal him such a blow just as he was finally beginning to resurrect his career. Bryan died from a heart attack on December 25, 1998 in a restaurant. He was 52.

In the album’s liner notes, MacLean adds, “The music that is presented in this collection was written decades ago, when I was in the band Love, and was written with that band in mind, and had been intended to be performed by, and associated with the band, Love. I firmly believe that if things had been the other way around, by now, you probably would’ve already heard a great deal, if not all of what is assembled here. For one thing, I would’ve stuck around the band a lot longer, not feeling the frustration of having such a backlog of unpublished, and unperformed material, and the natural unfulfilled desire for recognition, or even vindication.”

“It’s, in a sense, the Love record that never was: solo demos and home recordings of fourteen original MacLean songs, all written in the earliest and most vital years of Love and all but three virtually unheard in any form since MacLean wrote them,” said David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine.

 

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Johnny Moore 12/1998

Johnny MooreDecember 30, 1998 – Johnny Moore was born Born John Alfred Moore in Selma, Alabama on December 14th 1934. He moved to Cleveland when he was a teenager. After singing in the church choir, he made his name with the Hornets, a doo-wop and gospel group. When the Drifters came to town, the young Johnny introduced himself backstage, showed off his falsetto and was hired on the spot at age 21.

He was first heard with the group on “Adorable”, a single recorded in September 1955 under the supervision of Nesuhi Ertegun (Ahmet’s brother) in Los Angeles. The song was a big hit and Atlantic soon released “Ruby Baby”, a Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller composition culled from the same session. Backing Moore at the time were Gerhard Trasher (tenor), his brother Andrew (baritone) and Bill Pinkney (bass).

By the time the Drifters recorded “Fools Fall in Love” in New York the following year, Andrew Trasher and Pinkney had been replaced by “Carnation” Charlie Hughes (baritone) and Tommy Evans (bass). They lost momentum and were soon eclipsed by the discharged McPhatter as Moore in turn was also drafted.

By 1958, major surgery was needed and Treadwell, who owned the rights to the group’s name, sacked the entire line-up and hired the Crowns – whose lead singer was Charlie Thomas – to fulfil the Drifters’ contractual obligations; they also assumed their name. Ben E. King was only in the studio to teach them his “There Goes My Baby” when he was asked to take over from Thomas (who continued to sing with the group) by the engineer Jerry Wexler.

Using soaring strings and a symphonic approach that prefigured the Spector wall of sound, Leiber and Stoller helped the Drifters cross over from the R&B market and hit No 2 on the pop charts. Following “Dance With Me”, “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance For Me” (a US No 1), Ben E. King argued with Treadwell over salaries and royalties and left for a solo career which started on a high. The immortal “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand By Me” (which Treadwell had turned down) looked like overshadowing the Drifters but, thanks to Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s “Sweets for My Sweet” (a British No 1 for the Searchers in 1963) and Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s sublime “Up on the Roof” the group came back in 1962.

After the gospel-like “On Broadway”, the Drifters, now comprising Rudy Lewis, Charlie Thomas, Gene Pearson, Johnny Terry, Abdul Samad and the returning Johnny Moore – who had briefly attempted a solo career as Johnny Darrow – were due to record with the producers Bert Berns and Mike Leander in June 1964.

After returning from the forces, he recorded as a soloist under the name “Johnny Darrow”, before rejoining the Drifters, now comprised of four new members, and became the lead singer in 1964 when their lead Rudy Lewis was found dead of a heart attack on the day of the session, Moore stepped into the lead role once again and the Drifters cut the poignant “Under the Boardwalk”, which reached No 4 in America. Johnny took over the lead vocals. Subsequently, he became permanent lead.

On another roll, the Moore-led Drifters worked with the finest writers from the Brill Building, the New York song factory. They cut Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann’s “Saturday Night at the Movies” and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich’s “I’ll Take You Where the Music’s Playing” before losing direction as Atlantic made inroads into the rock market.

By 1971, the Drifters were relying on compilation albums and the cabaret circuit to earn a living. George Treadwell died and Faye, his second wife, assumed managerial control of the group still led by the trusted Johnny Moore (she later documented her trials and tribulations in Save the Last Dance For Me: the musical legacy, a book written with Tony Allan and published in 1993). The following year, Clyde McPhatter died but the Drifters came back stronger than ever.

Reissues of “At the Club” and “Come On Over to My Place” had been unlikely UK Top 10 hits in 1972 and the Drifters signed a deal with Bell Records the following year. Moving to Britain, they soon found another great bunch of songwriters in Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Geoff Stephens, Barry Mason, Les Reed and Tony Macaulay who proved apt at recreating the group’s classic ballad sound.

Starting with the soulful “Like Sister and Brother” and carrying on with the bouncy “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies”, “There Goes My First Love”, “Can I Take You Home Little Girl”, “Hello Happiness” and “You’re More Than a Number in My Little Red Book”, the Drifters’ easy-listening incarnation became regulars on Top of the Pops in the mid-Seventies. However, none of the singles charted in America and the advent of disco saw the group retreat into nostalgia again.

In early 1982, the exhausted Moore quit and, with Joe Blunt and Clyde Brown, launched his own outfit, Slightly Adrift, based in London, where he had settled and married. Confusion reigned as Faye Treadwell ended an 11-year-old agreement with Henry Sellers, the group’s British promoter.

Various former members of the Drifters (by then numbering a conservative 50 plus) toured under the group’s name, incurring the wrath of supper- club promoters and punters alike who would see the act billed in different cities on the same night. Reuniting briefly with Ben E. King in 1984, Moore re-established his claim to the mantle but King left again when “Stand By Me” reached number one in 1987 after being featured in a Levi’s television commercial.

By then the Drifters had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of only three vocal groups at the time. Their huge repertoire of perennial million-sellers had become a staple of golden oldies stations and Bruce Willis thought nothing of impersonating Johnny Moore when covering “Under the Boardwalk” with the Temptations.

Beaming and smiling, Johnny Moore remained at the helm of the Drifters to the end. This versatile vocalist and supreme interpreter could claim to have sung on more than 80 per cent of their records. Indeed, he sang “Come On Over to My Place” on the BBC television show Winton’s Wonderland alongside Jimmy Nail, Jimmy Tarbuck and Barbara Windsor two weeks prior to his death. It was a measure of how far Moore and the Drifters had travelled into the mainstream.

He remained with the group when it moved to the United Kingdom in the 1970s, and remained the group’s longest serving member- he was in the group until his death in 1998. He died suddenly in London, while on the way to hospital on Dec 30, 1998 at age 64. He was given a posthumous Pioneer Award in 1999 by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

 

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Frank Sinatra 5/1998

Frank SINATRAMay 14, 1998 – Frank Sinatra  was born on December 12, 1915

American singer and actor; arguably the most important popular music figure of the 20th century, his only real rival for the title being Elvis Presley. He began his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, he became a successful solo artist in the early to mid-40s, being the idol of the “bobby soxers.”

His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1954 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums, In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy. Continue reading Frank Sinatra 5/1998

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Eddie Rabbitt 5/1998

eddie-rabbittMay 7, 1998 – Eddie Rabbitt was born on November 27th 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in New Jersey from where he moved to Nashville to start a career as a songwriter in the late 1960s, springboarding to a recording career after penning such hits as “Kentucky Rain” for Elvis Presley in 1970 and “Pure Love” for Ronnie Milsap in 1974.

One of country music’s most innovative crossover artists during the late ’70s and early ’80s, Eddie Rabbitt made contributions to the format that have often gone overlooked. Especially in songs like the R&B-inflected “Suspicions” and the rockin’ “Someone Could Lose a Heart Tonight,” Rabbitt challenged the commonly recognized creative boundaries of the idiom. After he moved to Nashville, it took a few years to get his recording career off the ground, while he paid the rent through songwriting, authoring Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” and Ronnie Milsap’s “Pure Love.”

Eddie continued to write professionally until 1975, when he signed with Elektra Records’ newly established country division. Initially, Rabbitt made recordings that were decidedly country — mostly uptempo material, like “Two Dollars in the Jukebox” and “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind)” — with thick, inimitable harmonies, most of them overdubbed by Rabbitt himself.

However, with the assistance of his then-associates David Malloy and Even Stevens, Rabbitt’s records became “progressively progressive.” In 1976, he started a string of Top Ten hits that ran uninterrupted until 1989. During that time, he had 16 number one singles, including “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind)” (1976), “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” (1978), “Every Which Way But Loose” (1979), “Drivin’ My Life Away” (1980), “I Love a Rainy Night” (1980), “Step by Step” (1980), and “You and I,” a 1982 duet with Crystal Gayle, all of which which also topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.

His duets “Friends and Lovers” and “You and I”, with Juice Newton and Crystal Gayle respectively, later served as the themes for the soap operas Days of Our Lives and All My Children.

In the late ’80s he returned to more traditional sounds, as his country shuffle “On Second Thought” demonstrates, but it was too late for Rabbitt to return to the top of the country charts, since he had already been supplanted by a newer generation of artists. The terminal kidney ailment of his son Timmy also factored in his decision to only sporadically record and perform during the ’90s.

In 1997, Rabbitt was diagnosed with lung cancer; the disease claimed his life on May 7, 1998. The LP From the Heart was issued posthumously.

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Wendy Williams 4/1998

wendy-o-williamsApril 6, 1998 – Wendy Williams was born on May 28, 1949 in Webster, New York. She studied clarinet at the Community Music School program of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and later was a clarinetist in her high school’s concert band. At the age of six, she appeared tap-dancing on the Howdy Doody show as a member of the “Peanut Gallery”.

She had her first run-in with the law at the age of 15, when she was arrested for sun bathing nude. Williams attended R. L. Thomas High School in Webster at least partway through the tenth grade, but left school before graduating. Her schoolmates and teachers recalled Williams as a “shy and pretty girl, an average student who played in the junior high band, paid attention to her hair and clothes, and who spoke so softly you had to lean toward her to hear her.

Continue reading Wendy Williams 4/1998

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Rob Pilatus 4/1998

Milli VanilliApril 2, 1998 – Robert ‘Rob’ Pilatus  (Milli Vanilli) was born June 8th 1965 in Munich, Germany. The son of an African American soldier and a German mother, he was later adopted by a German family and raised in Munich. He worked as a model and break dancer before joining Milli Vanilli, a pop/dance music project formed by Frank Farian in Germany in 1988, fronted by Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.

Their debut platinum album “Girl You Know It’s True” became a worldwide platinum hit and produced five hit singles including 3 No.1 hits, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” and “Blame It On The Rain”. The album won them the 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. In reality however Pilatus and Morvan served as the public faces for singers Charles Shaw and Brad Howell, whom Farian thought were vocally talented but lacked a marketable image.

Despite the enormous success, the duo were a frequent target of rumours and allegations of onstage lip-synching and not having sung on the album. Charles Shaw, one of the actual vocalists, told a reporter the truth, but retracted his statement after Farian paid him $150,000.

When Pilatus and Morvan pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album, Farian admitted to reporters on 15 November 1990 that they had not performed on the recordings. Milli Vanilli’s Grammy Award was withdrawn four days later, and Arista Records dropped them from its roster and deleted their album and songs from their catalog, making Girl You Know It’s True the largest-selling album to ever be taken out of print. A court ruling in the United States allowed anyone who had bought the album to receive a refund.

Farian later attempted an unsuccessful comeback for the group without Pilatus and Morvan. Months after the scandal, Pilatus and Morvan appeared in a commercial for Carefree sugarless chewing gum. In it the duo lip-synched to an opera recording. An announcer asked, “How long does the taste of Carefree Sugarless Gum last?” The record began to skip and the announcer added, “Until these guys sing for themselves.”

In 1991, Pilatus called the Los Angeles Times threatening suicide; he had to be retrieved from a hotel balcony by police.

In 1992, Pilatus and Morvan signed with a new label, Taj, and released Rob & Fab, an album featuring their own voices, but the album only sold around 2,000 copies. The label went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

After this failed comeback attempt, Rob turned to a life of crime and in 1996, he served three months in jail for assault, vandalism and attempted robbery. He also spent six months on drug rehabilitation, before returning to Germany.

He died from a drug overdose on April 2, 1998 at the age of 32 in a Frankfurt hotel room — possibly the victim, former producer Frank Farian told the German media, of a combination of alcohol and prescription pills.

On February 14, 2007, it was announced that Universal Pictures was developing a film based on the story of Milli Vanilli’s rise and fall in the music industry.

Milli Vanilli partner Fabrice Morvan released a statement, saying in part, ”Milli Vanilli was not a disgrace. The only disgrace is how Rob died, all alone….Where were the ones that pushed us to the top, who made the millions?”

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Judge Dread 3/1998

Judge DreadMarch 13, 1998 – Judge Dread was born Alex Minto Hughes on May 2nd 1945.

Although often dismissed as a novelty act, Judge Dread was actually a groundbreaking artist. Not only did he put more reggae records onto the U.K. chart than anyone else (Bob Marley included), he was also the first white artist to actually have a reggae hit in Jamaica. The Judge also holds the record for having the most songs banned by the BBC, 11 in all, which incidentally is precisely the number of singles he placed on the charts.
Judge Dread was born Alex Hughes in Kent, England. In his teens, he moved into a West Indian household in the Caribbean neighborhood of Brixton. Hughes was a large man, which helped determine his early career as a bouncer at the Brixton’s Ram Jam club. He also acted as a bodyguard for the likes of Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid. There was a spell as a professional wrestler, under the mighty moniker the Masked Executioner, and even a job as muscle for Trojan Records, collecting debts.

By the end of the ’60s, Hughes was working as a DJ with a local radio station and running his own sound system. It was Prince Buster who provided the impetus for Hughes’ metamorphosis into a recording artist. The DJ was so taken by Buster’s seminal “Big Five” that he went into Trojan’s studio to record his own follow-up. Over the rhythm of Verne & Son’s “Little Boy Blue,” Hughes recited a slew of hilariously rude nursery rhymes. It was by sheer chance that Trojan label head Lee Gopthal walked by during the recording; impressed, he immediately signed the DJ. His song was titled “Big Six” and Hughes chose the name Judge Dread in honor of Buster. The single was released, aptly enough, on the Trojan label imprint Big Shot. Initially an underground hit, once Trojan signed a distribution deal with EMI later in 1972, the single rocketed up the charts, even though the distributors refused to carry the record. The song was also a hit with a radio ban as well, and Trojan’s disingenuous cries that it wasn’t about sex were met with the same scorn as Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream,” the first of the rude reggae hits. The ban was no more effective this time either, and the single rocketed to number 11, spending six months on the chart. “Big Six” was just as enormous in Jamaica, and before the year was out Dread was in Kingston performing before an excited crowd. Those nearest the stage assumed the white man milling around was Dread’s bodyguard or perhaps his manager, at least until he stepped up to the mic. An audible gasp arose from the crowd as no one in Jamaica had considered the possibility that the Judge was white.

Back in Britain, “Big Seven” was even bigger than its predecessor, thrusting its way up to number eight. It too was an innuendo-laced nursery rhyme, toasted over a perfect rocksteady rhythm and reggae beat. In the new year, “Big Eight” shot up the chart as well. Amazingly though, Judge Dread’s debut album, Dreadmania, failed to even scrape the bottom reaches of the chart. However, the British continued to have an insatiable desire for his singles. In the midst of all this rudeness, in faraway Ethiopia people were dying, so he helped organize a benefit concert starring the Wailers and Desmond Dekker, and also released the benefit single “Molly.” The single was the first of Dread’s releases not to boast a single sexual innuendo, but radio stations banned it anyway and the charity record failed to chart. In an attempt to receive some airplay, Dread released singles under the pseudonym JD Alex and Jason Sinclair, but the BBC wasn’t fooled and banned them regardless of content.

The artist’s second album, Working Class ‘Ero, which arrived in 1974, also failed to chart. “Big Nine,” released that June, and “Grandad’s Flannelette Nightshirt,” which arrived in December, turned out to be just as limp. Judge Dread seemed to have lost his potency and both singles lacked the thrusting naughtiness of their predecessors. However, the DJ shot back up the chart the following year with “Je T’aime,” a cover which managed to be even more suggestive than the original. The ever-enlarging “Big Ten” took the artist back into the Top Ten that autumn; and the “Big” series eventually ended at a ruler-defying 12. A new album, Bedtime Stories, just missed the Top 25, while the double A-sided single “Christmas in Dreadland”/”Come Outside” proved to be the perfect holiday offering. The hits kept coming, although none would again break into the Top 25. In the spring, The Winkle Man sidled its way up Number 35. The Latin flair of “Y’Viva Suspenders” proved more popular in August 1976, but failed to give a leg up to the Last of the Skinheads album.

Britain was now in the grips of punk, but Judge Dread was bemoaning the lack of reggae in clubs, and wishing to “Bring Back the Skins,” one of a quartet of songs on his February 1977 5th Anniversary EP. However, the artist was capable of writing more than rude hits. One of his songs, “A Child’s Prayer,” was picked out by Elvis Presley, who intended on recording it as a Christmas present for his daughter. However, he died before he had the chance. In the autumn, the delightfully daft barnyard mayhem of “Up With the Cock” scraped into the Top 50. Dread’s raging affair with the charts ended in December 1978, with the holiday flavored “Hokey Cokey”/”Jingle Bells.” It had been quite a run and 1980’s 40 Big Ones summed it all up.

Dread sporadically continued releasing albums, which were still bought by hardcore fans. He also continued touring, playing to small, but avid audiences. His last show was at a Canterbury club, on March 13, 1998. As the set finished, the consummate performer turned to the audience and said, “Let’s hear it for the band.” They were his final words. As the mighty Judge walked offstage, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 52.

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Falco 2/1998

FalcoFebruary 6, 1998 – Falco was born Johann (Hans) Hölzel in Vienna, Austria on February 19th 1957. Falco began to show signs of unusual musical talent very early. As a toddler, he was able to keep time with the drumbeat in songs he heard on the radio. He was given a baby grand piano for his fourth birthday; a year later, his birthday gift was a record player which he used to play music by Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and the Beatles. At age five, he auditioned for the Vienna Music Academy, where it was confirmed that he had perfect pitch.

In 1963, Hölzel began his schooling at a Roman Catholic private school; four years later, at age ten, he switched to the Rainer Gymnasium in Vienna. Shortly thereafter his father Alois Hölzel left the family. From then on, Hölzel was raised by his mother and grandmother and remained very close to them all his life.

He left school at sixteen in 1973 due to absenteeism. His mother then insisted he begin an apprenticeship with the Austrian employee pension insurance institute, but this only lasted a short time. At seventeen, he volunteered for eight months of military service with the Austrian army.

In 1974 he became the bassist for the music group, Umspannwerk. He had entered the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977, but left after one semester to “become a real musician”. For a short time, he lived in West Berlin while singing in a jazz-rock band and exploring the club scene. When he returned to Vienna he was calling himself “Falco”, reportedly in tribute to the East German ski jumper Falko Weißpflog (he changed one letter to make the name more international), and playing in the Austrian bands Spinning Wheel and Hallucination Company.

En route to becoming an international rock star in his own right, he was bass player in the Austrian hard rock-punk rock band Drahdiwaberl (from 1978 until 1983). With Drahdiwaberl he wrote and performed the song “Ganz Wien” (“All of Vienna”), which he would also include on his debut solo album, Einzelhaft (Solitary Confinement). He also played bass with the space disco band Ganymed in 1981.

In 1981, a solo effort written by Robert Ponger and Falco, ‘Der Kommissar,’ reached number one in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia by January 1982 and was followed by his first album, ‘Einzelhaft.’ In 1985 he recorded the single ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ which became a worldwide hit by 1986 topping the charts in the United States, Austria, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, and New Zealand. The follow up album, ‘Falco 3′ included ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ as well as a second international hit, ‘Vienna Calling.’

With “Rock Me Amadeus” he is the first and only artist to date whose principal language was German to score a number-one hit in the U.S. His estate claims he has sold 40 million albums and 20 million singles to date, which makes him one the second best selling Austrian singers ever. Udo Jurgens outranks every one with more than 100 million album sales worldwide.

Later that year, he was awarded a Golden Bambi as the most successful German-language pop singer of the year. His international fame faded as quickly it had grown however, and he failed to chart any of his five released albums outside of Germany and Austria after 1987. His attempt to re-enter the American charts with the 1992 song ‘Titanic’ which netted him a number of awards, but failed to chart.

In the spring of 1993 he headed a successful tour of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and European Russia, but he would not record again for three years. In 1996 he released the single, ‘Naked’ which sold well in Austria, but was a flop elsewhere. He began work on an album in the summer of 1997, but remained unhappy with the work throughout, postponing the release date several times.

On February 6, 1998, while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, his car collided with a bus while he reportedly was attempting to merge into highway traffic near the resort city of Puerto Plata. He succumbed to injuries sustained, his body was returned to Austria for burial. The coroner revealed that he was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana at the time of the accident.

Falco died of severe head injuries He was 40 years 11 months 18 days old.

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Carl Wilson 2/1998

Carl WilsonFebruary 6, 1998- Carl Dean Wilson was born on December 21, 1946 in Hawthorne, California. From his pre-teens he practiced harmony vocals under the guidance of his brother Brian, who often sang in the family music room with his mother and brothers.

Inspired by country star Spade Cooley, at the age of 12, Carl asked his parents to buy him a guitar, for which he took some lessons. In 1982, Carl remembered from this time: “The kid across the street, David Marks, was taking guitar lessons from John Maus, so I started, too. David and I were about 12 and John was only three years older, but we thought he was a shit-hot guitarist. John and his sister Judy did fraternity gigs together as a duo. Later John moved to England and became one of the Walker Brothers. He showed me some fingerpicking techniques and strumming stuff that I still use. When I play a solo, he’s still there.”

While Brian perfected the band’s vocal style and keyboard base, Carl’s Chuck Berry-esque guitar became an early Beach Boys trademark. While in high school, Carl also studied saxophone.

Turning 15 as the group’s first hit, “Surfin'”, broke locally in Los Angeles, Carl’s father and manager, Murry (who had sold his business to support his sons’ band), bought him a Fender Jaguar guitar. Carl developed as a musician and singer through the band’s early recordings and the early “surf lick” sound quickly evolved into the rock sophistication of “Fun, Fun, Fun”, recorded in 1964 when Carl was 17. By the end of 1964, he was diversifying, favoring the 12-string Rickenbacker that was also notably used by Roger McGuinn in establishing the sound of the Byrds and by George Harrison of The Beatles during this era. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (1976), stated that Pete Townshend of The Who expanded on both R&B and white rock “influenced heavily by Beach Boy Carl Wilson.”

Carl’s lead vocals in the band’s first three years were infrequent. Although all members of the band played on their early recordings, Brian began to employ experienced session musicians to play on the group’s instrumental tracks by 1965. Unlike the other members of the band, Carl often played alongside with session musicians. He also recorded his individual guitar leads during the Beach Boys’ vocal sessions, with his guitar plugged directly into the soundboard. His playing can be heard on tracks like 1965’s “Girl Don’t Tell Me” and 1966’s “That’s Not Me”.

In 1965 he took over as lead singer in and part running the band in 1966, and then fully in 1970.

In 1969, the Beach Boys’ rendition of “I Can Hear Music” was the first track produced solely by Carl Wilson. By then, he had effectively become the band’s in-studio leader, producing the bulk of the albums during the early 1970s.

Though Carl had written surf instrumentals for the band in the early days, he did not gain prominence as a songwriter until the 1971 album Surf’s Up, for which he composed “Long Promised Road” and “Feel Flows”, with lyrics by the band’s then manager Jack Rieley. Carl considered “Long Promised Road” his first real song. After producing the majority of Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” (1972) and Holland (1973), Carl’s leadership role diminished somewhat, due to Brian’s brief public reemergence and because of Carl’s own substance abuse problems.

For L.A. (Light Album) (1979), Carl contributed three songs, among them “Good Timin'”, co-written with Brian five years earler, which became a Top 40 American hit. Carl’s main writing partner in the late 1970s was Geoffrey Cushing-Murray, but for Keepin’ the Summer Alive (1980) he wrote with Randy Bachman of the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Carl told Michael Feeney Callan, writer-director of the 1993 documentary The Beach Boys Today (a celebration of the Beach Boys’ 30th anniversary), that Bachman was his favorite writing partner, accordingly: “Basically because he rocked, and I love to rock”.

As a producer and vocalist, Carl’s work was not confined to the Beach Boys. He was widely regarded to have had one of the finest voices in rock and his voice appears as a backing vocal on many recordings by groups and solo singers during the 1970s, while he also produced records for other artists, such as Ricci Martin (son of Dean Martin) and South African group the Flame, two members of which later temporarily joined the Beach Boys’ line-up. He lent backing vocals to many works, including Chicago’s hits “Baby, What a Big Surprise” and “Wishing You Were Here” (with Al Jardine and brother Dennis), Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (with Bruce Johnston), David Lee Roth’s hit cover of “California Girls”, Warren Zevon’s “Desperados Under the Eaves”, and the Carnie/Wendy Wilson holiday track “Hey Santa!” Carl also recorded a duet with Olivia Newton-John, titled “You Were Great, How Was I?”, for her studio album, “Soul Kiss” (1985). It was not released as a single.

In 1981 he released a solo album, Carl Wilson, followed by Youngblood, in 1983. By the time of its release in 1983 he had rejoined the Beach Boys. Although Youngblood did not chart, a single, the John Hall-penned “What You Do To Me”, peaked at number 72, making Wilson the second Beach Boy to land a solo single on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, the song cracked the top 20 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.[6] Wilson frequently performed that song and “Rockin’ All Over the World” (from the same album), as well as “Heaven” from the 1981 album, at Beach Boys’ concerts in the 1980s. “Heaven” was always announced as a tribute to brother Dennis, who drowned in December 1983.

The Beach Boys’ 1985 eponymous album prominently featured Wilson’s lead vocals and songwriting, highlighted by his “It’s Gettin’ Late” (another top 20 Adult Contemporary hit) and the “Heaven”-like “Where I Belong”.

In 1988, the Beach Boys scored their biggest chart success in more than 20 years with the US Number 1 song “Kokomo”, co-written by Mike Love, on which Carl sang lead in the chorus. After this, Love increasingly dominated the band’s recorded output and became the driving force behind the album Summer in Paradise (1993), the first and only Beach Boys album with no input from Brian in any form. In 1992, Carl told Michael Feeney Callan his hope was to record new material by Brian. “Speaking for myself”, he told Callan, “I only want to record inspired music“.

Carl continued recording through the 1990s and participated in the Don Was-led recordings of Brian’s “Soul Searchin'” and “You’re Still a Mystery”, songs conceived as the basis of an aborted Brian Wilson/Beach Boys album.[citation needed] He also recorded the album Like a Brother with Robert Lamm and Gerry Beckley, while continuing to tour with the Beach Boys until the last months of his life.

A cigarette smoker since the age of 13, Carl was diagnosed with lung cancer after becoming ill at his vacation home in Hawaii, in early 1997. Despite his illness, Carl continued to perform while undergoing chemotherapy. He played and sang throughout the Beach Boys’ entire summer tour which ended in the fall of 1997. During the performances, he sat on a stool, but he stood while singing “God Only Knows”.

Carl died of lung cancer at the age of 51 in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family, on February 6, 1998, just two months after the death of his mother.

 

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Carl Perkins 1/1998

Carl Perkins19 January 1998 – Carl Perkins was born April 9th 1932 near Tiptonville, Tennessee, the son of poor sharecroppers, Buck and Louise Perkins (misspelled on his birth certificate as “Perkings”). He grew up hearing Southern gospel music sung by whites in church, and by African American field workers when he started working in the cotton fields at age six. During spring and autumn, the school day would be followed by several hours of work in the fields. During the summer, workdays were 12–14 hours, “from can to can’t.” Perkins and his brother Jay together would earn 50 cents a day. With all family members working and not having any credit, there was enough money for beans and potatoes, some tobacco for Perkins’ father Buck, and occasionally the luxury of a five-cent bag of hard candy.

During Saturday nights Perkins would listen to the radio with his father and hear the Grand Ole Opry, and Roy Acuff’s broadcasts on the Opry inspired him to ask his parents for a guitar. Because they could not afford a real guitar, Perkins’ father fashioned one from a cigar box and a broomstick. When a neighbor in tough straits offered to sell his dented and scratched Gene Autry model guitar with worn-out strings, Buck purchased it for a couple of dollars.

For the next year Perkins’ taught himself parts of Acuff’s “Great Speckled Bird” and “The Wabash Cannonball”, which he had heard on the Opry. He also cited the fast playing and vocals of Bill Monroe as an early influence.
Perkins began learning more about playing his guitar from a fellow field worker named John Westbrook who befriended him. “Uncle John,” as Perkins called him, was an African American in his sixties who played blues and gospel on his battered acoustic guitar. Most famously, “Uncle John” advised Perkins when playing the guitar to “Get down close to it. You can feel it travel down the strangs, come through your head and down to your soul where you live. You can feel it. Let it vib-a-rate.

Because Perkins could not afford new strings when they broke, he retied them. The knots would cut into his fingers when he tried to slide to another note, so he began bending the notes, stumbling onto a type of “blue note.”
Perkins was recruited to be a member of the Lake County Fourth Grade Marching Band, and because of the Perkins’ limited finances, was given a new white shirt, cotton pants, white band cap and red cape by Miss Lee McCutcheon, who was in charge of the band.
In January 1947, Buck Perkins moved his family from Lake County, Tennessee, to Madison County, Tennessee. A new radio that ran on house current rather than a battery and the proximity of Memphis made it possible for Perkins to hear a greater variety of music.

At age fourteen years, using the I IV V chord progression common to country songs of the day (three chords and the truth), he wrote what came to be known around Jackson as “Let Me Take You To the Movie, Magg” (the song would convince Sam Phillips to sign Perkins to his Sun Records label). In these years Perkins  also worked during the day at Colonial Baking Company in Jackson Tennessee as a baker.

Most of the music stuff Perkins did in the early years was early country with an occasional rock-a-billy influence. Sun label owner Sam Phillips commenting on Perkins’ playing, has been quoted as saying that, “I knew that Carl could rock and in fact he told me right from the start that he had been playing that music before Elvis came out on record … I wanted to see whether this was someone who could revolutionize the country end of the business.

That same autumn in 1955, Perkins wrote “Blue Suede Shoes” after seeing a dancer get angry with his date for scuffing up his shoes. Several weeks later, on December 19, 1955, Perkins and his band recorded the song during a session at Sun Studio in Memphis. Phillips suggested changes to the lyrics (“Go, cat, go”) and the band changed the end of the song to a “boogie vamp”. Presley left Sun for a larger opportunity with RCA in November, and on December 19, 1955, Phillips, who had begun recording Perkins in late 1954, told Perkins, “Carl Perkins, you’re my rockabilly cat now.

Released on January 1, 1956, “Blue Suede Shoes” was a massive chart success. In the United States, it scored No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s country music charts (the only No. 1 success he would have) and No. 2 on Billboard’s Best Sellers popular music chart. On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to score No. 3 on the rhythm & blues charts. That night, Perkins performed the song during his television debut on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee (Presley performed it for the second time that same night on CBS-TV’s Stage Show; he’d first sung it on the program on February 11).

In the United Kingdom, the song became a Top Ten success, scoring No. 10 on the British charts. It was the first record by a Sun label artist to sell a million copies. The B side, “Honey Don’t”, was covered by the Beatles, Wanda Jackson and (in the 1970s) T. Rex. John Lennon sang lead on the song when the Beatles performed it before it was given to Ringo Starr to sing. Lennon also performed the song on the Lost Lennon Tapes.

In the next four decades as singer, guitarist, songwriter, a pioneer of rockabilly music, his influence as the quintessential rockabilly artist played a big part in the development of every generation of rockers since, from Jimi Hendrix to the Beatles’ George Harrison to the Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer.

Other Perkins’ songs include “Turn Around”, “Gone Gone Gone” “Dixie Fried”, “Put Your Cat Clothes On”, “Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo”, “You Can’t Make Love to Somebody”, “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”, “That Don’t Move Me”, “Boppin’ the Blues” “Jive After Five”, “Rockin’ Record Hop”, “Levi Jacket (And a Long Tail Shirt)”, “Pop, Let Me Have the Car”, “Hambone”, “Pink Pedal Pushers”, “Anyway the Wind Blows”, “Pointed Toe Shoes”, and “Sister Twister” among many others. Carl was inducted into the Rock and Roll, the Rockabilly, and the Nashville Songwriters Halls of Fame; and was a Grammy Hall of Fame Award recipient.

Following the death of his brother Jay in 1958, Carl signed a deal with Columbia. Songs by country influenced singers such as Buddy Knox and the Everly Brothers were crossing over to the pop charts. Carl had some more minor pop hits with records such as Pink Pedal Pushers and Pointed Toe Shoes, but he eventually went back to country music. He signed with the Dollie label in 1963 and joined his friend Johnny Cash’s road show in 1965. He stayed with Cash for ten years, performing solo at times, and occasionally writing songs. Carl continued recording country songs into the 70’s. His brother Clayton passed away in 1974.

In the mid-70’s he appeared at the Wembley Festival in England and advertised his new album, Old Blue Suede Shoes Is Back Again, on British television. He worked with a five-man band that included his sons Stan and Gregg. He also collaborated with other notable artists over the years, including his work on the album The Million Dollar Quartet with Cash, Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis and on The Trio Plus with Lewis, Charley Pride, and The Judds and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Carl Perkins appeared in the 1985 film Into The Night and won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1986 for Blue Suede Shoes. He took his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Carl Perkins was not only an international legend and entertainer, but locally he was a civic minded patron and founder of the Exchange Club – Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. In 1979, the news media in Jackson carried a local story about a child who died as a result of child abuse. Carl, a resident of Jackson, saw the child’s picture and thought the child resembled one of his own children. He was so moved by the tragic story, he helped to organize a successful concert and the proceeds generated were combined with funds received through a National Exchange Club Grant. This allowed the center to open its doors in October 1981. This was the first Exchange Club Center in Tennessee and the fourth nationwide.

In later years, Carl suffered a series of strokes. Though he had been ill, the news still stunned us all on January 19, 1998 when it was announced that Carl Perkins had died in Jackson. Carl had battled serious illness before. He was such a gentle soul. It just seemed he had always been and would continue to be the quiet king of rockabilly music.

The tributes were appropriate. A local radio special that included comments from everyone from Dolly Parton to Chet Atkins, Paul Simon to Johnny Rivers, Willie Nelson to Tom T. Hall.

A funeral service at Lambuth University that had everyone from Rufus Thomas to George Harrison, Jerry Lee Lewis to Ricky Scaggs, Garth Brooks to Sam Phillips, Narvel Felts to Wynona Judd in the chapel.

Only Carl Perkins could have drawn together such diversity in talent and generations. They all came because he had touched their lives. We still remember because he touched ours. Whether the music, the man, or the child abuse center named in his honor and for which he did so much, he lived, we shared and it all continues. Thanks, Carl for it all!

He died after two strokes on 19 January 1998 at 65 years of age.

Casey_Jones_Village_Jackson_TN_011

 

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Junior Wells 1/1998

Junior WellsJanuary 15, 1998 – Junior Wells was born Amos Blakemore on December 9th 1934.

There is dispute however whether he was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, or that his birth was in West Memphis, Arkansas. Initially taught by his cousin, Junior Parker, and Sonny Boy Williamson II, Wells learned how to play the harmonica by the age of seven with surprising skill. He moved to Chicago in 1948 with his mother after her divorce and began sitting in with local musicians at house parties and taverns.

Wild and rebellious but needing an outlet for his talents, he began performing with The Aces (guitarist brothers Dave and Louis Myers and drummer Fred Below) and developed a more modern amplified harmonica style influenced by Little Walter. In 1952, he made his first recordings, when he replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ band and appeared on one of Muddy’s sessions for Chess Records in 1952.

His first recordings as a band leader were made in the following year for States Records. In the later 1950s and early 1960s, he also recorded singles for Chief Records and its Profile Records subsidiary, including “Messin’ with the Kid”, “Come on in This House”, and “It Hurts Me Too”, which would remain in his repertoire throughout his career. His 1960 Profile single “Little by Little” (written by Chief owner and producer Mel London) reached #23 in the Billboard R&B chart, making it the first of two Wells’ singles to enter the chart.

Wells’ album Hoodoo Man Blues (1965) on Delmark Records featured Buddy Guy on guitar. The two worked with the Rolling Stones on several occasions in the 1970s. His album South Side Blues Jam came out in 1971) and On Tap in 1975. His 1996 release Come on in This House includes slide guitarists, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Derek Trucks, and others.[Wells made an appearance in the film Blues Brothers 2000, the sequel to The Blues Brothers, which was released in 1998.]

From Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues” album cover Junior gives this story: “I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica priced at $2.00. I got a job on a soda truck… played hookey from school … worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I had to have that harp. He walked away from the counter – left the harp there. So I laid my dollar-and-a-half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up, the judge asked me why I did it. I told him I had to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when I did he gave the man the 50 cents and hollered “Case dismissed!” (1948)

In 1997 Wells began to have serious health problems. He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and suffered a heart attack while undergoing treatment, which sent him into a coma. in the Fall. Sadly Wells stayed in the coma until he passed away in Chicago on January 15, 1998.

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Sonny Bono 1/1998

Sonny BonoJanuary 5, 1998 – Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono  was born on February 16, 1935 in Detroit Michigan to a first-generation Sicilian-American family. His family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was seven years old. Bono began his music career working for music producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s as a promotion man, percussionist and “gofer.” Even Spector – in his crazy haze – could see that this Salvatore kid was dedicated, so he eventually bumped him up to co-producing and backup singer. However, money was still tight, so as a struggling musician, Bono reportedly made deliveries for a butcher shop. A few industry people still remember the strange but ambitious man with the cutting-edge Caesar haircut who used to come to studios to promote new songs while still wearing a bloodstained butcher’s apron.

Not having finished High School, in the 1950s he works a variety of odd jobs including truck driver and waiter. His professional music career began as singer and songwriter at Dig Records, owned by R&B legend Johnny Otis. His first marriage in 1954 ends in divorce after one child, Christy.

The song “Needles and Pins,” released in 1963 was one of his first hits, but it was not until Bono became the other half of the singing duo Sonny & Cher that his career took off. But much drama ensued before the soon-to-be-couple became the oddball duet hitmakers that they became during the still straight-laced mid-1960s. At the age of 16, a certain Cherilyn Sarkisian had quit school and headed to Hollywood, where she worked odd jobs and spent nights immersed in the music scene of the Sunset Strip. Through a mutual friend she met Bono, who offered the runaway a spare bed in his apartment, allaying her fears by assuring her that he “didn’t find her attractive in the slightest.” The 16-year-old Cher also allayed the 27-year-old’s fears by assuring him she was 18. Despite his initial comments to her, Bono saw a spark in the intensely frightened oddball teen, and helped land her work as a session singer with Spector hitmakers like The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers. By the time Cher turned 18 in 1964, she and Bono’s friendship had turned into love. The couple were married, and shortly after, Spector gave the new bride her first shot at music stardom with the Bono-penned and Beatle-inspired novelty single, “Ringo, I Love You” (1964), which was released (and flopped) under the name Bonnie Jo Mason.

Having fallen for the young Cher, Bono wrote, arranged and produced a number of hit records for the new singing duo, including the classic pop tunes “I Got You Babe”, “Little Man” and “The Beat Goes On” in the mid-1960s. They also produced something even more meaningful: a daughter, Chastity Bono, born March 4, 1969. With gold records in hand, the pair moved on to conquering another medium: television. Bono and Cher shared billing in the quintessential variety show, “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Bono’s self-deprecating humor worked well for the show and fans lapped up Cher’s constant putdowns of Bono’s inability to sing and his height (he was 5’ 5”). The show lasted until 1974, when the couple’s divorce took its toll on them personally and professionally. In fact, Cher would later site the show and Bono’s control issues as two of the reasons their marriage ended. Bono continued with “The Sonny Comedy Revue” (CBS, 1974) that only lasted a few episodes. Audiences were not ready to see Sonny solo. Realizing this, in a surprising move, the now defunct couple decided to give another shot at a variety show even though their divorce had finalized. “The Sonny and Cher Show” premiered in the fall of 1976, although audiences felt the magic and chemistry between the couple was gone for good. In the meantime, Cher had also remarried, to Allman Brothers Band‘s rocker and in those days notorious drug addict Greg Allman – with whom she had her second child, Elijah Blue in 1976 – and it made for an awkward and unfunny two seasons before getting cancelled just a year later.

Post-Cher, Bono continued acting, appearing in TV shows such as “Fantasy Island” (ABC, 1978-1984) and “The Love Boat” (ABC, 1977-1986). He reportedly became disillusioned with his showbiz career on the set of “Fantasy Island,” with some people on the set recalling that while he was shooting a scene with the pint-sized Herve Villechaize as Tattoo, Bono forgot Tattoo’s name. As second lead, Villechaize did not take this very lightly and lashed out at Bono. In an interview about the incident, Bono said that he “literally asked himself what the hell he was doing there.” It appeared as though he had had enough of acting, yet Bono continued to appear in movies, albeit in small roles. On the big screen, he played the part of mad bomber Joe Seluchi in “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982) and the part of Franklin Von Tussle in John Waters’ “Hairspray” (1988).

In the 1990s, Bono appeared as one of several celebrities seen on a wall of video screens monitoring aliens running amok in Earth in the 1997 film “Men in Black” starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. In 1992, FOX-TV announced that it was making an autobiographical movie about Sonny & Cher. True to form, Bono suggested that distinguished actor Kevin Costner play him and outrageous (and oversized) TV personality Roseanne Arnold be cast as Cher. Another film titled “And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story” aired on ABC in 1999, based on Bono’s autobiography, which Cher was reportedly not happy with. In fact, for the vast majority of the rest of Bono’s life, Cher and her ex were often at odds, with little good to say of the other. Their one touchstone was their daughter, Chastity, who eventually came out as a lesbian. Being that Bono was definitely the more conservative – i.e. Republican – of the two parents – and with Cher being a gay icon at that point – it was surprising to learn years later that Bono was far more accepting of his daughter’s sexual identity than his liberal-minded ex-wife. However, the often at-odds couple did have one last grasp at glory – though they did not know it at the time. In 1987, both were guests on “Late Night with David Letterman” (NBC, 1982-1993) and during the show, Letterman was able to convince the reluctant couple to reunite in song. When Sonny and Cher sang “I Got You Babe” together for the first time in decades, it was a moment in television history and was surprisingly affectionate, with the couple singing with arms around one another.

Despite being off the radar in light of Cher’s comeback as an Academy Award-winning actress, Bono’s personal life was just as interesting as his career. Married four times, he had had a daughter, Christine, with his first wife, Donna Rankin, whom he married in 1954 and divorced in 1962. It is recorded that Cher considered briefly committing suicide because of Bono’s infidelities during their marriage but after Cher and Chastity, he married Susie Coelho in 1981, from whom he split in 1984. Bono married again in 1986 at age 51, this time to the much younger Mary Whitaker. The couple had two children, Chianna and Chesare. In an interview, Bono acknowledged an illegitimate son, Sean, born in 1964, from an affair with Mimi Machu. Fortunately for Bono, the fourth time was the charm, as his marriage to Mary Bono finally brought him the personal happiness and calm he had longed for all his life.

Enter Politics

Bono became interested in politics late in life, when he wanted a bigger sign for a restaurant he was opening in Palm Springs, CA where he had relocated. He encountered so much red tape from the city that he resolved to change things by running for mayor. It was a surprising move for someone who had never even registered or voted before. With conservative talk radio announcer Marshall Gilbert as his campaign manager, Bono ran for mayor and won the election. He served from 1988 to 1992. He also initiated the creation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, now held each year in his memory.

After an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1992, Bono then tried his luck in Congress, where he was elected in 1994 to represent California’s 44th District. He quickly made his stamp on the floor; he was one of 12 co-sponsors of a House Bill extending copyright. While the bill never made it to the Senate, a similar bill was passed later, named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his honor. ( I wonder if it covers royalties due for the current revival of Little Man in an Amazon commercial with a mini pony). During his tenure in Congress, he became an advocate of the restoration of the Salton Sea, where a park was named in his honor. He also tried to get federal aid to preserve the habitats of the endangered species in Riverside, CA. But he was not a bleeding heart either; when the Endangered Species Act required millions of dollars from local government and property owners to protect Stephens’ Kangaroo rat in Riverside, he remarked, “We all love the environment, but we have placed creatures above people. A rat is a rat.” When asked about illegal immigration, Bono once said, “What’s to talk about? It’s illegal.”

Bono was an avid skier, frequenting the Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, CA, for more than 20 years. Ironically, it was his much-beloved sport that eventually took his life. On Jan. 5, 1998, while on a family vacation at the resort, the former Singer-TV personality-turned-politician died of injuries after hitting a tree while skiing. In newspaper accounts, the resort manager said that Bono was skiing alone at the top of the Orion slope when he crossed beneath a chairlift and struck a tree. He was only 62. Bono’s widow, Mary, was elected to finish the remainder of the Congressional term. His former co-star and ex-wife Cher gave a moving, tear-inducing eulogy at his funeral – one which even she was not emotionally prepared to make after years of estrangement – after which the attendees sang the song “The Beat Goes On.” The epitaph on Bono’s headstone at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, read: “And the beat goes on.

Salvatore ”Sonny” Bono (62) American record producer, singer, actor, and politician born in Detroit but attended Inglewood High School in Inglewood, California, but did not graduate. He began his music career working at Specialty Records where his song “Things You Do to Me” was recorded by Sam Cooke, and went on to work for the legendary record producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s as a promotion man, percussionist and “gofer”. One of his earliest songwriting efforts was “Needles and Pins” which he co-wrote with Jack Nitzsche. Later in the same decade, he achieved commercial success, along with his then-wife Cher, as part of the singing duo Sonny and Cher. Bono wrote, arranged, and produced a number of hit records with singles like “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On”. He also played a major part in Cher’s early solo career with recordings such as “Bang Bang” and “You Better Sit Down Kids”. Sonny later went into acting and politics

He was 62 years, 10 months and 20 days old when he died on 5 January 1998. 

Enjoy one of my favorites in a Russian video back in the 1960s. Little Man

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Floyd Cramer 12/1997

Floyd CramerDecember 31, 1997 – Floyd Cramer was born in Shreveport Louisiana on October 27th 1933 but grew up in Huttig, Arkansas where he taught himself the piano.

After finishing high school in 1951, he returned to Shreveport, where he worked as a pianist for the Louisiana Hayride radio show where he performed with the likes of Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Webb Pierce, and, in his debut, Elvis Presley.

In 1953, he cut his first single, “Dancin’ Diane”, backed with “Little Brown Jug”, for the local Abbott label. During 1955 he played dates with an emerging talent who would later figure significantly in his career, Elvis Presley.

Cramer moved to Nashville in 1955 where the use of piano accompanists in country music was growing in popularity. By the next year he was, in his words, “in day and night doing session”. Before long, he was one of the busiest studio musicians in the industry, playing piano for stars such as Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, the Browns, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Roy Orbison, Don Gibson, and the Everly Brothers, among others. It was Cramer’s piano playing, for instance, on Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”.

In 1957, Cramer released his own solo debut, That Honky-Tonk Piano, and in the next year scored a minor pop hit with the single “Flip, Flop and Bop.” As his solo career was largely secondary in relation to his session work, he recorded his own music sporadically, but in 1960 notched a significant country and pop hit with the self-penned instrumental “Last Date.”

The instrumental exhibited a relatively new concept for piano playing known as the “slip note” style. The record went to No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100. He went on to make numerous albums and toured with guitar maestro Chet Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph, also performing with them as a member of the Million Dollar Band.

From 1965 to 1974, Cramer annually released a Class Of… album, a collection of the year’s top hits done in his own inimitable style. In 1971, he also teamed with Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph for the album Chet, Floyd and Boots. By 1977, Cramer was exploring modern technology, and on the LP Keyboard Kick Band, he played eight different keyboard instruments, including a synthesizer.

In 1980, he released his last significant hit, a recording of the theme from the hit TV drama Dallas. Though largely quiet for most of the decade, in 1988 Cramer released three separate albums — Country Gold, Just Me and My Piano!, and Special Songs of Love.

In 2003, he was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1961 he was quoted saying: “Trying to launch myself on a solo career, after being Elvis Presley’s pianist for so long, placed me in an unenviable position. Some people thought I was trying to cash in. If I had wanted to cash in on my association with Elvis, I would have done it five years ago.”

He died in Nashville, Tennessee after a fight with lung cancer on Dec 31, 1997 at the age of 64.

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Jimmie Rogers 12/1997

jimmie rogers - blues guitaristDecember 19, 1997 – Jimmie Rogers was born Jay Arthur Lane in Ruleville, Mississippi on June 3, 1924. Raised in Atlanta, St.Louis and Memphis, he adopted his stepfather’s surname Rogers. He learned to play the harmonica with his childhood friend Snooky Pryor and as a teenager he took up the guitar.

Big Bill Broonzy, Joe Willie Wilkins, and Robert Lockwood all influenced him, the latter two when he passed through Helena.
He started playing professionally in his late teens with Robert Lockwood Jr. in East St. Louis, Illinois .

Rogers then moved to Chicago in the mid-1940s. By 1946, he had recorded as a harmonica player and singer for the Harlem record label, run by J. Mayo Williams. Rogers’s name however did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of Memphis Slim and His Houserockers.

In that same year he began playing professionally, gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, and Broonzy.

Rogers was playing harp with guitarist Blue Smitty when Muddy Waters joined them. When Smitty split, Little Walter was welcomed into the configuration and Rogers switched over to second guitar and as a direct consequence the entire post-war Chicago blues genre felt the stylistic earthquake that instantly followed.

Rogers made his recorded debut as a leader in 1947 for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo, but then saw his efforts for Regal and Apollo go unissued. Those labels’ monumental errors in judgment were the gain of Leonard Chess, who recognized the comparatively smooth-voiced Rogers’ potential as a blues star in his own right. (He first played with Muddy Waters on an Aristocrat 78 in 1949 and remained his indispensable rhythm guitarist on wax into 1955.)

With Walter and bassist Big Crawford laying down support, Rogers’ debut Chess single in 1950, “That’s All Right,” has earned standard status after countless covers, but his version still reigns supreme.
Rogers’ artistic quality was remarkably high while at Chess. “The World Is in a Tangle,” “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” “Back Door Friend,” “Left Me with a Broken Heart,” “Act Like You Love Me,” and the 1954 rockers “Sloppy Drunk” and “Chicago Bound” are essential early-’50s Chicago blues.

In 1955, Rogers left Muddy Waters to venture out as a bandleader, cutting another gem, “You’re the One,” for Chess. He made his only appearance on Billboard’s R&B charts in early 1957 with the driving “Walking by Myself,” which boasted a stunning harp solo from Big Walter Horton (a last-second stand-in for no-show Good Rockin’ Charles). The tune itself was an adaptation of a T-Bone Walker tune, “Why Not,” that Rogers had played rhythm guitar on when Walker cut it for Atlantic.

By 1957, blues was losing favor at Chess, the label reaping the rewards of rock and roll via Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Rogers’ platters slowed to a trickle, though his 1959 Chess farewell, “Rock This House,” ranked with his most exciting outings (Reggie Boyd’s light-fingered guitar wasn’t the least of its charms).

In the early 1960s Rogers briefly worked as a member of Howling Wolf’s band, before quitting the music business altogether for almost a decade. He worked as a taxicab driver and owned a clothing store, which burned down in the 1968 Chicago riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rogers gradually began performing in public again, and in 1971, when fashions made him somewhat popular in Europe, he began occasionally touring and recording, including a 1977 session with Waters. By 1982, Rogers was again a full-time solo artist. He continued touring and recording albums until his death.

He returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell’s Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more fine albums – notably Ludella, a 1990 set for Antone’s – but Rogers never fattened his discography as much as some of his contemporaries did.

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.

Rogers died on December 19, 1997 from colon cancer. At the time of his death, he was working on an all-star project featuring contributions from Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; upon its completion, the disc was issued posthumously in early 1999 under the title Blues, Blues, Blues.

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Nicolette Larson 12/1997

Nicolette-LarsonDecember 16, 1997Nicolette Larson was born on July 17th 1952 in Helena, Montana. Her father’s employment with the U.S. Treasury Department forced frequent relocation on Larson’s family, not an easy task for a family of eight. The Larsons moved every couple of years and the young Nicolette was exposed to every genre of music from soul to pop via country. She especially liked Hank Williams and her singing was undoubtedly influenced by Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, but her peripatetic childhood and varied taste would later be reflected in albums containing Tamla Motown material alongside songs by Sam Cooke, Burt Bacharah and Jackson Browne.

Continue reading Nicolette Larson 12/1997

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Michael Hutchence 11/1997

Michael Hutchence-INXSNovember 22, 1997 – Michael Hutchence was born on January 22nd 1960 in Sydney Australia, but spent much of his early childhood in Hong Kong where at the age of eight he made his professional debut singing in a commercial for a toy company.

Back in Australia as a young teenager in high school he befriended Andrew Farriss who was a talented lyricist, with whom he co-wrote almost all of INXS’ (inExcess) songs, and who in tun has attributed his own success as a songwriter to Hutchence’s ‘genius.’

Hutchence and Farriss would spend a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew’s brothers. Farriss then convinced Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin, alongside two classmates, Kent Kerny and Neil Sanders. From a nearby High School, bass guitarist Garry Beers and Geoff Kennelly on drums filled out the line-up and they became serious about the idea of starting a proper band. However his parents’ breakup saw him spending time in California and it was not until 1977 that the band formally took shape as the Vegetables, followed by the Farriss Bros band and finally in 1979 as INXS. Their first album INXS put them on the map with several no 1 hits and Hutchence became the epitomy of the typical rock and roll frontman.

Hutchence became the main spokesperson for the band and, according to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, “He was the archetypal rock showman. He exuded an overtly sexual, macho cool with his flowing locks, and lithe and exuberant stage movements”. Close friends and family, however, maintain he was more introverted than his on-stage persona, even though his moves into the arena of movie acting in the 1980s would dispute that statement.

He died a victim of love on Nov 22, 1997 at the age of 37 (Asphyxiation)

The Coroner’s Conclusion:

On consideration of the entirety of the evidence I am satisfied Michael Hutchence was in a severe depressed state on the morning of November 22, 1997. Hutchence’s blood showed traces of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and prescription drugs.
This was due to a number of factors, including the relationship with Paula Yates and the pressure of the ongoing dispute with Sir Robert Geldof, combined with the effects of the substances that he had ingested at that time.
I am satisfied the cause of death was “hanging”.
I am also satisfied there was no other person involved in causing the death.
Nothing will be gained by holding a formal inquest.

Hutchence co-founded the rock band INXS, which sold over 75 million records worldwide.

 Hutchence attended Davidson High School, where he met and befriended Andrew Farriss. Around this time, Hutchence and Farriss spent a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew’s brothers. Farriss then convinced Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin.

Hutchence, the Farriss brothers, Kerny, Sanders, Beers and Kennelly briefly performed as The Vegetables, singing “We Are the Vegetables”. Ten months later, they returned to Sydney and recorded a set of demos. The Farriss Brothers regularly supported hard rockers Midnight Oil on the pub rock circuit, and were renamed as INXS in 1979.

In May 1980, the group released their first single, “Simple Simon”/”We Are the Vegetables” which was followed by the debut album INXS in October. The early records demonstrated their new wave/ska/pop style, and were followed by near constant touring with almost 300 shows during 1981 as the band developed their status as a live act. 

In October 1981, their second album Underneath the Colours was released and became a hit in Australia peaking at No. 15. 

 In October 1982, Shabooh Shoobah was released internationally on Atlantic/Atco Records, peaking at No. 52 on the US Billboard 200 and No. 46 on the Hot Pop Albums chart. In Australia it peaked at No. 5 and remained in the albums charts for 94 weeks. The single “The One Thing” brought them their first Top 30 hit in United States peaking at No 30. 

INXS undertook their first US performance in San Diego in March 1983, to a crowd of 24 patrons. Their first tour was as support for Adam and the Ants, then support for Stray Cats, The Kinks, Hall & Oates followed by The Go-Go’s. 

The album The Swing, released in April 1984, received significant attention from around the world, as “Original Sin” became the band’s first No. 1 single in Australia and was popular worldwide. During 1984, INXS toured non-stop, performing across Europe, the UK, the US and Australia. By December 1984, The Swing had gone double platinum, making it one of the five biggest domestic albums in the history of Australian music at the time.

In March 1985, the band re-entered Sydney’s Rhinoceros Studios to record their next album, together with producer Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, The Pretenders, Elton John). As the band was finishing the recording sessions, Thomas stated that the album was not good enough and still had no “killer” track. Andrew produced a demo tape of a funk song he had been working on called “Funk Song No. 13” and evolved it into “What You Need”.

Listen Like Thieves was released in October 1985 to critical approval, reaching No. 3 on the Australian charts and No. 11 on the US charts. With the release of Listen Like Thieves, the band developed a rock sound influenced by Led Zeppelin and XTC while remaining true to the band’s original roots in Aussie pubs. It was also the first album to feature songs written by a combination of band members, with Andrew Farris and Hutchence becoming the primary songwriters.

Kick was released in October 1987 and provided the band with worldwide popularity. The album peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. It was an upbeat, confident album that yielded four Top 10 US singles: No. 1 single “Need You Tonight”, “Devil Inside”, “New Sensation”, and “Never Tear Us Apart”.

In October 1990, INXS released X, and scored hits with “Suicide Blonde” and “Disappear”. INXS performed at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1991, during their “Summer XS” tour stop in London to a sold-out audience of 74,000 fans.This performance was recorded and filmed to become Live Baby Live, a live album that was released in November 1991.

From that point on, they released albums with decline in popularity but still was a major live act draw.

 On 22 November 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in his Sydney Ritz-Carlton hotel room.

 Hutchence and English television presenter Paula Yates had a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

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John Denver 10/1997

John DenverOctober 12, 1997 – John Denver, was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr  in Roswell, New Mexico on December 31st 1943. At the age of 12, he received a 1910 Gibson acoustic jazz guitar from his grandmother and he taught himself to play it well enough to play locally as a teenager in groups such as the folk-music group “The Alpine Trio”.
John went on to become one of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s in terms of record sales, he recorded and released around 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed himself.
He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Songs such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso” attained worldwide popularity.

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Iz Kamakawiwo’ole 6/1997

iz-ukeJune 27, 1997 – Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole was born on May 20, 1959 in Honolulu, Hawaii, three months before the Hawaiian Islands would become America’s 50th state. In Hawaiian his last name translates to “the fearless eye, the bold face”. Notable Hawaiian musician Moe Keale was his uncle and became a major musical influence. He was raised in the community of Kaimuki, where his parents had met and married. He began playing music with his older brother Skippy and cousin Allen Thornton at the age of 11, being exposed to the music of Hawaiian entertainers of the time such as Peter Moon, Palani Vaughn and Don Ho, who frequented the establishment where Kamakawiwoʻole’s parents worked. Hawaiian musician Del Beazley spoke of the first time he heard Israel play, when, while playing for a graduation party, the whole room fell silent on hearing him. Israel continued his path as his brother Skippy entered the Army in 1971 and cousin Allen parted ways in 1976 for the mainland.

A Biography by his closest friend.

In his early teens, he studied at Upward Bound (UB) of the University of Hawaii at Hilo and his family moved to Mākaha. There he met Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. Together with his brother Skippy they formed the Makaha Sons of Niʻihau. A part of the Hawaiian Renaissance, the band’s blend of contemporary and traditional styles gained in popularity as they toured Hawaii and the continental United States, releasing fifteen successful albums. Kamakawiwo’ole’s aim was to make music that stayed true to the typical sound of traditional Hawaiian music. During that time period, the songs that many people associated with Hawaii, typically, were not traditional-sounding songs.

The Makaha Sons of Niʻihau recorded No Kristo in 1976 and released four more albums, including Kahea O Keale, Keala, Makaha Sons of Niʻihau and Mahalo Ke Akua. In 1982, Kamakawiwoʻole’s brother, Skippy, died at age 28 of a heart attack related to obesity. In that same year, Kamakawiwoʻole married his childhood sweetheart Marlene. Soon after, they had a daughter whom they named Ceslie-Ann “Wehi”.

The group became Hawaii’s most popular modern traditional group with breakout albums 1984’s Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha and its follow-up, 1986’s Hoʻola. Kamakawiwoʻole’s last recorded album with the group was 1991’s Hoʻoluana. It remains the group’s top-selling CD.

In 1990, Kamakawiwoʻole released his first solo album Ka ʻAnoʻi, which won awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993 by The Mountain Apple Company. It featured his most popular song, the medley “Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”, along with “Hawaiʻi 78”, “White Sandy Beach of Hawaiʻi”, “Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man”, and “Kaulana Kawaihae”. The decision to include a cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was said to be a last-minute decision by his producer Jon de Mello and him.

Facing Future debuted at #25 on Billboard magazine’s Top Pop Catalogue chart. On October 26, 2005, Facing Future became Hawaii’s first certified platinum album, selling more than a million CDs in the United States, according to figures furnished by the Recording Industry Association of America. On July 21, 2006, BBC Radio 1 announced that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (True Dreams)” would be released as a single in America. Facing Future became the best-selling Hawaiian album of all time.

In 1994, Iz, nicknamed Bruddah Iz was voted favorite entertainer of the year by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts. E Ala E released in 1995, featured the political title song “ʻE Ala ʻE” and “Kaleohano”, and N Dis Life (1996) featured “In This Life” and “Starting All Over Again”.

In 1997, Kamakawiwoʻole was again honored by HARA at the Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary Album of the Year. He watched the awards ceremony from a hospital room.

Alone in Iz World (2001) debuted at #1 on Billboard’s World Chart and #135 on Billboard’s Top 200, #13 on the Top Independent Albums Chart, and #15 on the Top Internet Album Sales charts.

Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole was morbidly obese and at one point weighed 757 pounds (343 kg; 54.1 st) standing 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) tall (body mass index = 97.2). He endured several hospitalizations because of health problems caused by his weight. Beset with respiratory, heart, and other medical problems, he died at the age of 38 in Queen’s Medical Center at 12:18 a.m. on June 26, 1997.

The Hawaiian state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the state capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997. Scenes from the funeral and scattering of Kamakawiwoʻole’s ashes were featured in official music videos of “Over the Rainbow” released posthumously by Mountain Apple Company. As of October 2016, the two videos as featured on YouTube have collectively received over 279 million views.

 

 

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Lawrence Payton 6/1997

lawrence-paytonJune 20, 1997 – Lawrence Payton (the Four Tops) was born on March 2, 1938 in Detroit, Michigan.

At age 15 he became a founding member of The Four Tops, founded in Detroit, Michigan as The Four Aims. The four members -Lawrence, Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, and Renaldo “Obie” Benson- met at a party in Detroit in 1953 and the next year began singing around town as the Four Aims. To avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers, they soon changed their name and in 1956 signed a recording contract with Chess Records in 1956, with the help of Payton’s cousin, Roquel Davis, who joined the group as a songwriter.

For Chess they recorded the song, “Kiss Me Baby” but it was a flop and went onto record with the Red Top and Riverside Record Labels. In 1960 they signed with Columbia and had a better success with jazz and pop music.

In 1963 they recorded with Berry Gordy’s Motown Label, and released the album, ‘Breaking Through.’ Gordy later put them back into R&B material and put them with Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team.

After a full decade the group had numerous hits including “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” a Top Ten hit in 1964, “Ask The Lonely,” a hit in 1965, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugarpie, Honeybunch),” #1 in the spring of 1965, “It’s The Same Old Song,” a Top Five hit in 1965, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” one of their finest singles ever, released in 1966, “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” a Top Ten hit in 1967, “Bernadette,” a Top Five hit in 1967, “7 Rooms of Gloom,” a Top Twenty hit in 1967, “You Keep Running Away,” a Top Twenty hit in 1967, and two 1968 hits, “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Walk Away Renee.”

In 1970 they joined producer Frank Wilson and they recorded a pop standard of Tommy Edward’s, “It’s All In The Game” and a ballad with ‘the Supremes’ entitled, “River Deep, Mountain High” in 1971.

In 1972 they left Motown and joined ABC-Dunhill, teaming up with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, and released, “Keeper Of The Castle” a Top Ten hit, and “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)” a smash hit that was their last Top Five Pop hit. In 1973 they recorded the theme song for the film, “Shaft In Africa” and released the song, “Catfish” in 1976. In 1981 they signed with the Casablanca Record Label and released, “When She Was My Girl” a Top Ten hit. In 1983 they rejoined Motown and in 1988 left and signed with Arista Records, where they recorded, “Indestructible” a Top 40 Pop hit, which was their last.

They remained together for over four decades, having gone from 1953 until 1997 without a single change in personnel and they helped define the Motown Sound of the 1960s.

After their hey days, the Four Tops worked steadily, performing in Las Vegas showrooms, small clubs and large arenas, emerging occasionally with a hit record, such as “When She Was My Girl” in 1981. Among their performing venues in Southern California were Humphrey’s on Shelter Island in San Diego, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and several clubs in Los Angeles, where they recorded with ABC-Dunhill records.

In 1990 they were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Lawrence was the one who created the smooth, sharp jazz – pop hamonies for the group on their many hits such as “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There”. Levi Stubbs, the group’s over-shadowing popular lead singer, said that Payton was crucial to the Tops because “he was responsible for the harmony.”

Payton died in June 1997 of liver cancer at the age of 59. He was later replaced by Theo Peoples.

 

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Bobby Helms 6/1997

bobby-helmsJune 19, 1997 – Robert Lee “Bobby” Helms was born on August 15, 1933 in Helmsburg near Bloomington, Indiana.

Though his name is unfamiliar to most, Bobby Helms rules the airwaves every year around December 25th. His single “Jingle Bell Rock” first became a hit in 1957, and it reappeared on the charts four of the following five years to become an all-time Christmas classic. Before he was pigeonholed, though, Helms had a successful country career with two number one hits to his credit.

Helms first performed on his father Fred’s Monroe County Jamboree, singing while brother Freddie played guitar. The Helms Brothers, as they were billed, became a regional attraction. Bobby later cut a single called “Tennessee Rock and Roll,” but then returned to Bloomington to appear on the Hayloft Frolic television show. While on the program, he was encouraged to go to Nashville to sing background vocals on an Ernest Tubb session. Tubb recommended him to Decca Records, and the label signed him in 1956. His debut single, “Fraulein” initially flopped in January 1957 but then hit number one on the country chart in April. (The song also hit the pop Top 40 in July of 1957.) In October, Helms released another number one, “My Special Angel,” which stayed four weeks at the top and crossed over to number seven on the pop charts.

Helms’ next recording was “Jingle Bell Rock”; though Decca released it only two days before Christmas 1957, the single still peaked at number six on the pop chart. It took five years for the song to become a second million-seller for Helms. It reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent 21 weeks in the chart.
The record gained gold disc status. Accounts that Helms wrote and recorded the song with Hank Garland seem to be apocryphal—ASCAP and Allmusic list the writers of the song as Joseph Beal, Joseph Carlton, James Ross and James Boothe.
Two 1958 singles – “Just a Little Lonesome” and “Jacqueline” – hit the country Top Ten but flopped elsewhere, though a reissue of “Jingle Bell Rock” made the pop Top 40. The country single “Lonely River Rhine” hit the Top 20 in 1960, but subsequent new material from Helms had little success. (Decca reissued his Christmas hit each year from 1960 to 1962 with diminishing returns.)

Helms toured throughout the ’60s and recorded two albums for Kapp in 1966, I’m the Man and Sorry My Name Isn’t Fred — a nod either to brother Freddie or father Fred. Two years later, he released All New Just for You on the Little Darlin’ label. Several singles placed modestly on the country charts during 1967-1968, including “He Thought He’d Die Laughing” and “So Long.” The 1970 Certron single “Mary Goes ‘Round” was his last hit, but Helms recorded Pop-a-Billy for MCA as late as 1983.

Helms spent most of his later years living just outside Martinsville, Indiana, until his death from emphysema and asthma at the age of 63 on June 18, 1997.
He was portrayed by actor Brad Hawkins in the 2007 film Crazy.
Another record by Helms was “Schoolboy Crush”, which was a hit in the UK. It was released in the USA on June 23, 1958 on Decca. The same song was then covered by UK teen star Cliff Richard about the same time as the UK release.

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Ronnie Lane 6/1997

ronnie-laneJune 4, 1997 – Ronald Frederick “Ronnie” Lane (The Small Faces) was born on April 1, 1946 in Plaistow, a working class area in the East End of London, England.

He described his father, a truck driver, as a “saint”, who would work a long work day and then return home to nurse his wife and two sons, all of whom were diagnosed with M.S. at differing points in their lives. Doctors assured Lane as a child that the destructive disease was not necessarily inherited, although he found out later in his life that he had indeed inherited it.

After leaving school at the age of sixteen, Lane met Kenney Jones at a local pub, and they formed a group they named The Outcasts. Initially playing lead guitar, Lane quickly switched to bass. When shopping for a Harmony bass guitar, Lane visited the J60 Music Bar in Manor Park, London, where he met Steve Marriott, who was working there. Lane bought his bass guitar and went to Marriott’s house after work, where Marriott introduced him to his Motown and Stax collection. Lane and Marriott set out to form a band, recruiting friends Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston, who switched from guitar to organ. Marriott was chosen to be the frontman and singer. (by 1966 Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan as the band’s keyboardist). The name the Small Faces came from the fact that all band members were less than 5′.5″ tall.

Lane and Marriott began writing hit song after hit song, including “Itchycoo Park”, “Tin Soldier”, Lazy Sunday” and “All or Nothing”. At least a dozen successful songs credit Lane, and their concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, they later evolved into one of the UK’s most successful psychedelic acts before disbanding in 1969 when Steve Marriott left to pursue a solo career.

Lane then formed the Faces with McLagan, Jones, Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart in 1969. He shared primary songwriting duties with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, composing, or co-composing, many of their best-loved pieces and taking a central role during the recording of their fourth and final album, Ooh La La, particularly, as the band’s front man Rod Stewart focused on his own solo career. Unhappy due to poor reviews of the album and Stewart’s lack of commitment, Lane quit in 1973, making his last appearance at the Sundown Theatre in Edmonton, London, on 4 June. He was replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi but tellingly, the group made no further studio albums following Lane’s departure and split in 1975. After which Ronnie, Ian and Kenney were joined by Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (lead vocals), both from The Jeff Beck Group, and the new line-up was renamed Faces.

Ronnie left Faces in 1973 to form his own band, Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance. The same year they recorded the hit singles “How Come” and “The Poacher”, then the album “Anymore For Anymore”, showcasing his own blend of UK rock, folk, and country music.

During the recording of Rough Mix, (lauded as contender for best album of the year by many critics, but the label did not promote it and sales were lackluster), Lane’s multiple sclerosis was diagnosed. Nonetheless he toured, wrote and recorded (with Eric Clapton among others) and in 1979 released another album, See Me, which features several songs written by Lane and Clapton. Around this time Lane travelled the highways and byways of England and lived a ‘passing show’ modern nomadic life in full Gypsy traveller costume and accommodation.

In 1983 his girlfriend Boo Oldfield contacted Glyn Johns with a view to organising a concert to help fund Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis. Johns was already arranging Clapton’s Command Performance for Prince Charles so they decided to book the Royal Albert Hall for a further two nights and host a benefit concert. The resulting ARMS Charity Concerts. featured Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones, Andy Fairweather-Low, Steve Winwood, Ray Cooper, James Hooker, Fernando Saunders, Chris Stainton, Tony Hymas, Simon Phillips and others. With the addition of Joe Cocker and Paul Rodgers they all toured the US. It was during this time that Rodgers and Page started the band, The Firm.

Ronnie and his Family moved to Texas in 1984, where the climate was more beneficial to his health, and continued playing, writing, and recording. He formed an American version of Slim Chance. For close to a decade Ronnie enjoyed his rock status in the Austin area and even toured Japan.

His health continued to decline, and his last performance was in 1992 at a Ronnie Wood gig. Also in the band that night was Ian McLagan.

In 1994 Ronnie and his wife Susan moved to the small town of Trinidad, Colorado. Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood continued to fund his medical care because no royalties from the Small Faces’ work was forthcoming until Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan were eventually able to secure payments, by which time Steve Marriott had died in a house fire and Lane had also died.

Lane succumbed to pneumonia, in the final stages of his progressive multiple sclerosis, on June 4, 1997 and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Trinidad, Colorado. He was 51. An album of live BBC recordings was about to be released to raise money for his care when he died.

For his work in both Small Faces and Faces, Lane was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Jeff Buckley 5/1997

jeff-buckley-recording-artists-and-groups-photo-u4

May 29, 1997 – Jeff Buckley was born in California’s Orange County on November 17, 1966 and died in a tragic drowning accident in Memphis on May 29, 1997. He had emerged in New York City’s avant-garde club scene in the 1990’s as one of the most remarkable musical artists of his generation, acclaimed by audiences, critics, and fellow musicians alike. His first commercial recording, the four-song EP Live At Sin-é, was released in December 1993 on Columbia Records. The EP captured Buckley, accompanying himself on electric guitar, in a tiny coffeehouse in New York’s East Village, the neighborhood he’d made his home.

By the time of the EP’s release during the fall of 1993, Buckley had already entered the studio with Mick Grondahl (bass), Matt Johnson (drummer), and producer Andy Wallace and recorded seven original songs (including “Grace” and “Last Goodbye”) and three covers (among them Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Benjamin Britten’s “Corpus Christi Carol”) that comprised his debut album Grace. Guitarist Michael Tighe became a permanent member of Jeff Buckley’s ensemble and went on to co-write and perform on Grace’s “So Real” just prior to the release of the album.

In early 1994, not long after Live At Sin-é appeared in stores, Jeff Buckley toured clubs, lounges, and coffeehouses in North America as a solo artist from January 15-March 5 as well as in Europe from March 11-22. Following extensive rehearsals in April-May 1994, Buckley’s “Peyote Radio Theatre Tour” found him on the road with his band from June 2-August 16. His full-length full-band album, Grace, was released in the United States on August 23, 1994, the same day Buckley and band kicked off a European tour in Dublin, Ireland; the 1994 European Tour ran through September 22, with Buckley and Ensemble performing at the CMJ convention at New York’s Supper Club on September 24. The group headed back into America’s clublands for a Fall Tour lasting from October 19-December 18.

On New Year’s Eve 1994-95, Buckley returned to Sin-é to perform a solo set; on New Year’s Day, he read an original poem at the annual St. Mark’s Church Marathon Poetry Reading. Two weeks later, he and his band were back in Europe for gigs in Dublin, Bristol, and London before launching an extensive tour of Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom which lasted from January 29-March 5. On April 13 1995, it was announced that Jeff Buckley’s Grace had earned him France’s prestigious “Gran Prix International Du Disque — Academie Charles CROS — 1995”; an award given by a jury of producers, journalists, the president of France Culture, and music industry professionals, it had previously been given to Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Yves Montand, Georges Brassens, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell, among other musical luminaries. France also awarded Buckley a gold record certification for Grace.

From March 5 through April 20, Buckley and his band rehearsed for an American spring tour with gigs running from April 22-June 2. From June through August, Jeff and company toured the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland. The band took off for Down Under to play six Australian shows between August 28-September 6, 1995. In November 1995, Buckley played two unannounced solo shows at Sin-é.He performed songs including the new “Woke Up In A Strange Place” on Vin Scelsa’s “Idiot’s Delight” show on WXRK-FM on December 17 and celebrated New Year’s Eve 1995-96 with performances at New York’s Mercury Lounge and Sin-é.

Jeff Buckley and his touring ensemble went back to Australia, where Grace had earned a gold record certification, for the “Hard Luck Tour,” which ran from February 9-March 1 of 1996. Drummer Matt Johnson left the group after the final Australian show. The posthumous album Jeff Buckley-Mystery White Boy brings together some of the high points from Jeff’s 1995-1996 live performances. The DVD/home video release Jeff Buckley-Live In Chicago documents, in its entirety, Jeff’s concert at The Cabaret Metro in Chicago on May 13, 1995.

In May of ’96, Jeff played four gigs as a bass player with Mind Science of the Mind, a side-project of Buckley’s friend, Nathan Larson of Shudder To Think. In September ’96, Buckley played another unannounced solo gig at his old favorite haunt Sin-é. December of 1996 found Jeff Buckley embarking on his “phantom solo tour”; designed to experiment with new songs in a live setting (as in his Sin-é days), these unannounced solo gigs throughout the Northeast U.S. were played under a succession of aliases: the Crackrobats, Possessed By Elves, Father Demo, Smackrobiotic, the Halfspeeds, Crit Club, Topless America, Martha & the Nicotines, and A Puppet Show Named Julio.

At midnight on February 9, 1997, Jeff Buckley debuted his new drummer, Parker Kindred, in a show at Arlene Grocery on New York’s Lower East Side. He also played a couple of solo gigs in New York during the first months of 1997: a gig at the Daydream Cafe (featuring band members Mick Grondahl and Michael Tighe as “special guests”) and a solo performance February 4 as part of the Knitting Factory’s 10-Year Birthday Party.

Buckley and his band had recorded intermittently — with Tom Verlaine as producer — during Summer/Fall 1996 and early winter 1997 in New York and in February 1997 in Memphis. After the conclusion of those sessions, Jeff sent the band back to New York while, during March and April 1997, he remained in Memphis and continued to craft his work-in-progress, making various four-track home recordings of songs to present to his bandmates. Some of these were revisions of the songs recorded with Verlaine, some were brand new compositions, and some were surprising cover versions. The new lineup debuted Buckley’s new songs at Barrister’s in Memphis on February 12 and 13. Beginning March 31, Jeff began a series of regularly scheduled Monday night solo performances at Barrister’s. His last show there was on Monday, May 26, 1997. The night Buckley died, he was on his way to meet his band to begin three weeks of rehearsals for my sweetheart, the drunk; producer Andy Wallace, who’d helmed the boards on Grace, was to join them in Memphis in late June to record his new album.

On the evening of May 29, 1997, Buckley’s band flew to Memphis intending to join him in his studio there to work on the newly written material. That same evening, Buckley went swimming in Wolf River Harbor,[108] a slack water channel of the Mississippi River, while wearing boots and all of his clothing, and singing the chorus of the song “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.[109] Buckley had gone swimming there several times before.[110] A roadie in Buckley’s band, Keith Foti, remained on shore. After moving a radio and guitar out of reach of the wake from a passing tugboat, Foti looked up to see that Buckley had vanished. Despite a determined rescue effort that night, Buckley remained missing. On June 4, two locals spotted his body in the Wolf River near a riverboat, and he was brought to land.

Buckley’s autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system and the death was ruled as an accidental drowning.

In addition to his Columbia Records releases, Live At Sin-é and Grace, Jeff Buckley has appeared as a guest artist on several other recordings. He can be heard singing “Jolly Street,” a track on the Jazz Passengers 1994 album In Love. He contributed tenor vocals to “Taipan” and “D. Popylepis,” two recordings on John Zorn’s Cobra Live At The Knitting Factory (1995). On Rebecca Moore’s Admiral Charcoal’s Song, Buckley plays electric six-string bass on “If You Please Me,” “Outdoor Elevator,” and “Needle Men” (on which he also plays drums). He both plays guitar and sings backup vocals on Brenda Kahn’s “Faith Salons,” a key track on her Destination Anywhere album (released 1996). Patti Smith’s critically acclaimed Gone Again album features Buckley adding “voice” to the song “Beneath the Southern Cross” and “essrage” (a small fretless Indian stringed instrument) to “Fireflies.” On kicks joy darkness, a various artists’ spoken word tribute to beat poet Jack Kerouac, Jeff Buckley performed on “Angel Mine”; Jeff plays guitar, sitar, and mouth sax (adding words at the poem’s conclusion) on the track. Buckley can be heard reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ulallume – A Ballad,” on Closed On Account Of Rabies (Poems & Tales by Edgar Allan Poe) on Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records. He sang “I Want Someone Badly” (Epic) for Shudder To Think’s soundtrack to First Love, Last Rites. Sandy Bell, a friend of Buckley’s during his L.A. days, released the resurrected track “Hollywould” in 2000, which she co-wrote and recorded with Buckley.

An ardent enthusiast for a myriad of musical forms, Jeff Buckley was an early champion among young American musicians for the work of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the world’s foremost Qawwali (the music of the Sufis) singer. Buckley conducted an extensive interview with Nusrat in Interview magazine (January 1996) and wrote the liner notes Nusrat’s The Supreme Collection album, released on Mercator/Caroline records in August 1997. On May 9, 2000, Columbia Records released Jeff Buckley-Mystery White Boy, an album of live performances, and Jeff Buckley-Live In Chicago, a full-length concert (available on DVD or VHS) recorded live at The Cabaret Metro in Chicago on May 13, 1995, in the midst of Jeff’s “Mystery White Boy” tour.

As stated, following the release of Grace on August 23, 1994, Jeff and his group spent much of 1994-1996 performing around the world on the Unknown, Mystery White Boy, and Hard Luck tours. The May 2000 release of Jeff Buckley – Mystery White Boy brought together, for the first time, some of the high points of those shows. Produced by Michael Tighe (guitarist for Jeff’s band throughout their international touring and the recording of Grace) and Mary Guibert (Jeff’s mother) and Jeff Buckley-Mystery White Boy provides an evocative cross-section of Jeff’s repertoire: previously-unreleased Buckley compositions, electrifying live interpretations of songs from Grace, and obscure and marvelous cover choices. The recordings heard on Jeff Buckley-Mystery White Boy have been hand-picked from scores of concert tapes by Mary Guibert and the members of Jeff’s band who played such a large role in helping Jeff realize his musical vision.

 

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Laura Nyro 4/1997

Laura NyroApril 8, 1997 – Laura Nyro was born October 18th 1947 in The Bronx, New York. Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, the daughter of Gilda (née Mirsky) Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura had a younger brother, Jan Nigro, who became a well-known children’s musician. Laura was of Russian Jewish, Polish, and Italian ancestry.

As a child, Nyro taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskills, where her father played trumpet at resorts.

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Harold Melvin 3/1997

Harold MelvinMarch 24, 1997 – Harold Melvin (The Blue Notes)  was born on June 25, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He became one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia soul, leading his group the Blue Notes. The group formerly known as The Charlemagnes took on the name “The Blue Notes” in 1954, with a lineup consisting of Harold as lead singer, Bernard Wilson, Roosevelt Brodie, Jesse Gillis, Jr., and Franklin Peaker.

The 1960 single “My Hero” was a minor hit and 1965’s “Get Out (and Let Me Cry)” was an R&B hit.

In 1970, Harold recruited Teddy Pendergrass as the drummer for his backing band. When that same year Teddy took over as lead singer from John Atkins, he became the undeniable superstar of the group, until his departure and subsequent death. The group had a string of hits “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, “I Miss You”, “The Love I Lost”, and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, and socially conscious songs such as “Wake Up Everybody” and “Bad Luck” which holds the record for longest-running number-one hit on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. (eleven weeks).

After Pendergrass left in 1976 for a solo career, Melvin continued to tour with various lineups of Blue Notes until suffering a stroke in 1996. Melvin died on March 24, 1997 at the age of 57. Lawrence Brown died of a respiratory condition on April 6, 2008 at age 63. In addition, three former members of the group would die during the year 2010. First, Teddy Pendergrass died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010 at age 59, after having previously dealt with colon cancer. Six months later, original member Roosevelt Brodie, who was the second tenor for the original Blue Notes, died July 13, 2010 at age 75 due to complications of diabetes. And just five months later in that year, Bernard Wilson died on December 26, 2010 at age 64 from complications of a stroke and a heart attack. Pendergrass’ predecessor, John Atkins, died of an aneurysm in 1998. David Ebo, who succeeded Pendergrass, died of bone cancer on November 30, 1993 at age 43. Lloyd Parks is still living and is the sole survivor of the original Blue Notes.

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Jermaine Stewart 3/1997

Jermaine StewartMarch 17, 1997 – Jermaine Stewart was born on September 7, 1957 in Columbus, Ohio. In 1972 he and his family moved from Ohio to Chicago, where he started in show business by joining a local dance group.

From there he went on the road with the ‘Chi-lites’ and the ‘Staple Singers,’ then to the television shows “American Bandstand” and “Soul Train.” In the early 1980s he joined the group ‘Shalamar’ as a backup singer and dancer, from which he launched his own solo career.

First singing backup for the group ‘The Temptations’ and on ‘Culture Club’s’ hit “Miss Me Blind,” with the help of Mickey Craig from Culture Club he got his first record deal with Clive Davis Arista records. His first single, “The Word Is Out,” was released in 1984, followed by “I like It” and “Get Over It” (a single was only released in Europe). e had a string of hits including “The Word Is Out”, “Frantic Romantic”, and “Versatile”. Also his singles “Get Lucky”, “Don’t Talk Dirty to Me” and “Is It Really Love” found European success, especially in Germany.

In 1991 he released “We Don’t have To Take Our Clothes Off,” a song that reached Number 5 on the Top 50 Pop Charts. In the 1990s Jermaine Stewart battled the disease AIDs. He was working on a new album when he passed away in March 1997.

Stewart died of AIDS-related liver cancer on March 17, 1997 at age 39 in the Chicago suburb of Homewood, Illinois

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Lavern Baker 3/1997

Laverne BakerMarch 10, 1997 – LaVern Baker was born Delores LaVern Baker on November 11, 1929 in Chicago. She began singing gospel as a child, but she was familiar with more secular styles, as well. Her aunt, Merline Baker, was better known as Memphis Minnie, a blues singer and guitarist. LaVern was blessed with a powerful voice, which she put to use as a teenager singing in nightclubs under the stage name Little Miss Sharecropper. She wore a straw hat and a dress made of patches.

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Brian Connolly 2/1997

Brian ConnollyFebruary 9, 1997 – Brian Connolly was born on October 5th 1945 in Govanhill, Glasgow. Whilst the true identity of Brian’s father was never officially made public, his mother was a teenage waitress named Frances Connolly who left him in a Glasgow hospital as an infant whilst he was possibly suffering from meningitis. He was fostered, aged two, by Jim and Helen McManus of Blantyre and took their family name. In his earliest years Connolly was also affectionately known as “snowball” referring to his almost white blonde hair. In a radio interview, Connolly reported that singing was a large part of growing up since there was no television, and that he was regularly called upon to sing for family and friends. Connolly has credited the Everly Brothers as being his earliest musical influence. After inadvertently discovering his lineage he eventually reverted to the name Connolly. Numerous sources have incorrectly asserted that he was a half-brother of the late actor Mark McManus (who found fame in the title role of detective series “Taggart”) but they were not related ( Mark “Taggart” McManus was actually the nephew of Brian’s foster father)

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Tiny Tim 11/1996

tiny-tim-isle of wright 1970November 30, 1996 – Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury, and gave his birth date as April 12, 1932. The son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother, he grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and was a loner, eventually dropping out of high school.

His interest in American popular music (chiefly from the 1890s to the 1930s) began at a young age, as did his desire to be a singer, and accordingly he learned guitar and ukulele. His first performances — under the alias Larry Love — took place in the early ’50s, and according to legend, he debuted at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called the Page 3, where he became a regular. Khaury performed at small clubs, parties, and talent shows under a variety of names; his parents tried to discourage him at first, but relented when they saw that not every gig ended in ridicule.

By the early ’60s, he had gained a cult following around the thriving Greenwich Village music scene, particularly after he began to incorporate bizarre renditions of contemporary songs into his repertoire. He finally settled on the name Tiny Tim after the character in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (according to some accounts, it was suggested by a manager accustomed to working with midgets). Tim’s appearance in the film You Are What You Eat led to a booking on the hugely popular comedy series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

He was an instant sensation; whether or not he was seen as an object of ridicule, no one had ever seen anything like him. He appeared several more times on Laugh-In, and became a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, also performing on the Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason variety shows. His eccentric personality became as well-known as his music: he was obsessed with bodily cleanliness, and his distaste for sex seemed logical when paired with his gentle, asexual demeanor.

A hot commodity, Tim signed a record deal with Reprise and issued his debut album, God Bless Tiny Tim, in 1968. His signature rendition of “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” became a hit, and the LP sold over 200,000 copies. Striking while the iron was hot, Tim recorded a follow-up, Tiny Tim’s Second Album, which was released at the end of 1968. Its follow-up, an album of children’s songs titled For All My Little Friends was released in August of 1969.

On December 17 of that year, Tim exchanged vows and tungsten wedding bands when he married his girlfriend, 17-year-old Victoria Budinger (known as Miss Vicki, in typically respectful Tim fashion), on the Johnny Carson show. The couple later had a daughter, Tulip, but mostly lived apart, and divorced after eight years. Following his wedding, Tim continued to perform around the country, including some lucrative gigs in Las Vegas; unfortunately, many of his business associates took advantage of his naïveté, leaving him with few savings from his run of success.

By the early ’70s, perhaps due to simple familiarity, America’s fascination with Tiny Tim had waned. Even after the TV appearances and high-profile gigs dried up, Tim kept plugging away, performing whenever and wherever he could. He recorded steadily for a series of mostly small labels throughout the 70’s and 80’s.

He remarried in 1984 to 23-year-old Miss Jan. They lived apart most of the time and the marriage lasted until 1994. Tim joined a circus for 36 weeks.

In the late ’80s, he moved to Des Moines, IA. In 1992. In August of 1995 he married for a third time to Miss Sue, and he moved to Minneapolis.

During the mid-’90s, Tim raised his public profile with appearances on the Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern shows; however, in September of 1996, he suffered a heart attack while performing at a ukulele festival in Massachusetts. Upon his release from the hospital, Tim resumed his concert schedule, but sadly, on November 30, he suffered another heart attack in Minneapolis while performing “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips,” and died an hour later at age 64.

 

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Eva Cassidy 11/1996

Eva CassidyNovember 2, 1996 – Eva Marie Cassidy was born on February 2, 1963 in Washington DC.
She died at the age of 33 following a three-month battle with bone cancer. She was, for sure, a diamond, no longer in the rough but not yet in the proper setting that would showcase a voice so pure, so strong, so passionate that it should have found a home just about anywhere.

Cassidy didn’t have any concept of target audiences or musical distinctions. She could sing anything — folk, blues, pop, jazz, R&B, gospel — and make it sound like it was the only music that mattered.

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Tupac Shakur 9/1996

tupac-shak-484098September 13, 1996 – Tupac Amaru Shakur or Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor with a net worth of US$40 Million mostly earned since he died. He started his career as a roadie, backup dancer and became one of the best-selling music artist in history, who sold over 75 million of his albums worldwide as of 2010. He ranked at number two in the list of The Greatest MCs of All Time and Rolling Stone named him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time. He made his debut in the film, “Nothing But Trouble” in 1991. Five years later he was dead.

Shakur was shot several times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane on September 7, 1996. He died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996. Continue reading Tupac Shakur 9/1996

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Alan Blakley 6/1996

alan-blakley-2June 11, 1996 – Alan Blakley (the Tremeloes) was born on April 1st 1942 in Bromley, Kent, England. Being a teenager in the mid fifties in England with so many new music influences (Skiffle, blues, rock and roll), a young lad learned to play an instrument, or 3 in Alan’s case.

Drummer, rhythm guitarist, keyboardist, he became a founding member of the Tremeloes with fourteen UK and two U.S. Top 20 hit singles to their name. The band first got together in 1958, when they were all in their mid-teens. In the original line-up Alan was on drums, with Brian Poole as vocals and guitarist, Alan Howard playing saxophone and Graham Scott on guitar. Alan very soon took over on guitar to leave Brian as front man – singer.

By 1961, a few line-up changes and Alan now on keyboards, they had turned professional. The original quintet consisted of lead vocalist Brian Poole, lead guitarist Rick West (born Richard Westwood), rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Alan Blakley, bassist Alan Howard and drummer Dave Munden.

On New Year’s Day, 1962, Decca, looking for a Beat group, auditioned two promising young bands: Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and a somewhat similar combo (also heavily influenced by Buddy Holly) from Liverpool, the Beatles. Decca chose Brian Poole and the Tremeloes over the Beatles, reportedly based on location – the Tremeloes were from the London area, making them more accessible than the Liverpool-based Beatles.

As Brian Poole and the Tremeloes they first charted with a version of “Twist and Shout” in 1963, quickly followed by their chart topping “Do You Love Me” making them the first south of England group to top the chart in the beat boom era.

In 1964 they made tours of South Africa and Australia, followed by a film A Touch of Blarney. When Brian Poole left the band for a solo career in 1966, Alan took over the leadership and the hits kept coming with among others “Even the Bad Times Are Good”; “(Call Me) Number One”; “Me And My Life”; ” Hello World “; “Suddenly You Love Me”; “Helule Helule”; “My Little Lady”; “Silence is Golden” and “Here Comes My Baby”. The latter two also entered the Top Twenty of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, in addition both tracks sold a million copies globally, each earning gold disc status, as did “Even the Bad Times Are Good”. A

lan wrote or co-wrote many of the Tremeloes songs and after their decline, he produced records for other acts, including The Rubettes, Bilbo and Mungo Jerry. In 1983 the original quartet reformed and made a cover version of the Europop hit “Words”

He died after battling cancer on June 11, 1996 at 54.

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Johnny Watson 5/1996

johnny-guitar-watsonMay 17, 1996 – Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was born on February 3rd 1935 in Houston Texas. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught his son the instrument. But young Watson was immediately attracted to the sound of the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as played by T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

His grandfather, a preacher, was also musical. “My grandfather used to sing while he’d play guitar in church, man,” Watson reflected many years later. When Johnny was 11, his grandfather offered to give him a guitar if, and only if, the boy didn’t play any of the “devil’s music”. Watson agreed, but later said “that was the first thing I did, play the devil’s music”. A musical prodigy, he played with Texas bluesmen Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland.

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Bradley Nowell 5/1996

Brad NOWELLMay 25, 1996 – Bradley James Nowell  was born February 22, 1968 and was the founding frontman/guitarist of the ska rock group Sublime. He tragically did not live to see the success of the band’s best-known album, Sublime, having overdosed on heroin in 1996 before it was released.

He truly could have become a legend.

The story of Sublime is full of sad, strange twists, but this is perhaps the strangest: Since frontman Brad Nowell overdosed before his band became a phenomenon, before he had a chance to become a bona fide rock star, his death has been oddly free of the mythic impact of so many rock star flameouts.

Sublime’s success has come as a slow-building surprise, rather than in a rush of mourning, and it’s been based on the sweet funk Nowell cooked up during his too-short 28-year love affair with punk, hip-hop, reggae and whatever other music he could lay his hands on. Bradley Nowell died on May 25, 1996, in a San Francisco hotel room, after shooting up some heroin that was much more potent than the brown Mexican tar he was used to. His death came seven days after his wedding to Troy den Denkker, who’d given birth to their son, Jakob, 11 months earlier; it was two months before the release of Sublime, the album that would make his band famous. The heroin death of the Smashing Pumpkins’ touring keyboard player, Jonathon Melvoin, got more attention in the press. In fact, plenty of Sublime fans don’t even know that Nowell is gone. “We still get lots of letters for him,” says Brad’s father, Jim, who handles his son’s estate. “I have a boxful of them in my office.”

At least a boxful. By April 1997, a little less than a year after Nowell’s OD, Sublime had entered Billboard‘s Top 20, and the album’s first single, the breezily grooving, mostly acoustic hip-hop toaster “What I Got,” went to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart. And that was only the beginning. Throughout 1997, Sublime produced hit after hit, and the album has sold more than 2 million copies to date. The follow-up to “What I Got” was the reggae-tinged ballad “Santeria”; then came the shuffling ska of “Wrong Way” and the dance-hall-flavored “Doin’ Time,” which Nowell constructed around the melody of the Gershwin standard “Summertime.”

Eighteen months after Nowell’s death, Sublime sold about 40,000 records every week; in November, MCA released Second-Hand Smoke, a collection of early songs, unissued material, remixes and alternate takes. Sublime’s surviving members recently inked a deal to release at least three more albums of archival material over the next few years. Incredibly, the band that was no longer a band became perhaps the biggest American rock act of 1997.

These are a few of the things Brad Nowell loved: surfing; eating; drugs; his dog, Louie; his son, Jakob; his wife, Troy; and music – maybe music most of all. He grew up gifted and musically inclined: His mother was a singer with perfect pitch, and his father liked to strum folk songs on the guitar. At Christmas, the acoustic guitars would come out and Brad would spend hours playing and singing with his father, grandfather and uncle. He devoured sounds, and could pick out a tune on the guitar after hearing it once. By the time he was 13, he’d started his own band, Hogan’s Heroes.

Nowell was 10 when his parents split up. He lived with his mom, Nancy, for four years before moving back to his dad’s house in Long Beach, Calif., in 1981. He was a smart kid who got good grades and had the brains to make his younger sister, Kellie, do his homework whenever he didn’t want to. “He was probably twice as intelligent as I am,” she says, “but he just wasn’t real school-minded.” Guidance counselors had a name for what was wrong with kids like Brad who failed to live up to their obvious potential – attention-deficit disorder – and a drug for it, too: Ritalin.

Unlike the wealthier, whiter suburbs of Orange County, where Brad’s mom lived, Long Beach is a funky old port town of 450,000, with affluent bayside communities – Belmont Shore and Naples – and Latino, African-American and Southeast Asian neighborhoods farther inland. With cheaper rents than Hollywood and lots of available space, Long Beach had a thriving art underground in the ’80s, as well as a music scene in which punk, surf and hip-hop cultures clashed and blended freely.

Nowell was a master at melding these sounds into something new. From Sublime’s earliest recordings, his combination of ska, dub, punk, funk, rap, reggae and heavy metal seemed less like a synthesis than a natural byproduct of Long Beach’s youth culture. Though there were few local clubs to play, house parties could bring a couple hundred bucks every weekend – enough to buy all the beer, pot and gasoline the band needed. In 1990, one semester before graduating from California State University Long Beach with a degree in finance, Nowell dropped out to devote all his time to the band. By then, Sublime were well-known up and down the coast; from San Diego to Santa Barbara, beach towns were their turf.

In photographs from this period, Nowell looks like the prototypical SoCal surf rat: sun-bleached hair, wraparound shades and Hawaiian shirts. With his round face and easy smile, the cherubic singer gave off an air of bemused calm. But behind the mellow exterior, Nowell was troubled. “There was always a part of him that wasn’t satisfied,” says his widow, Troy Nowell. Sitting on the patio of Nowell’s dad’s house, overlooking the calm waters of Alamitos Bay, she recalls her three-year life with Brad. “As happy as he was 80 percent of the time, there was 20 percent that could not be made happy, and it ate him up.”

Nowell battled with his addiction for most of the time Troy knew him, kicking when his record deal with MCA was in the offing, in 1994, and again when Troy got pregnant a year later. But friends say he could never be comfortable without the drug. Troy blames the Ritalin he was given as a child for having created his craving for drugs, but she blames something else as well: “He wanted to be a rock star. He said it was very rock & roll, you know. Perry Farrell and Kurt Cobain and all those guys did drugs, and Brad wanted to see what it was like. Then they honestly begin to think that they write better music! I mean, Robbin’ the Hood [Sublime’s second album] was written when Brad was at his worst of being strung out. It’s a great album, but it’s all about his heroin abuse: ‘Now I’ve got the needle/I can shake but I can’t breathe/Take it away and I want more, more/One day I’m gonna lose the war.’ ”

Sublime were a party band. They played house parties, beach parties, frat parties; and if there wasn’t a party, they brought one with them. They were, people will tell you, lovable, but they were also, the same people will attest, out of control. They loved to get fucked up, they loved to fuck things up, and they had many ways of doing it. Sometimes Nowell hocked the band’s instruments before a gig in order to pay for his habit. Other times, the band would party too much on the day of a major gig and squander a golden opportunity. For instance: June 17, 1995 – Sublime are invited to play the KROQ Weenie Roast in Los Angeles alongside Bush and Hole, at a time when they have nothing more than two indie albums and a hot local single, “Date Rape.” They print up 40 backstage passes for their friends, family and dogs. By the end of the day, Nowell’s beloved Dalmatian, Louie, has bitten a record exec’s little girl, and one of their pals just missed puking on MTV’s Kennedy while she was interviewing the band.

Here’s the latest variant: In September 1997, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh – Sublime’s bassist and drummer – fly to New York for the MTV Video Music Awards. The band has been nominated for best alternative video. The duo’s been drinking for most of the evening, and by the time their category comes up, Gaugh is melted into his seat and Wilson is sucking down a vodka tonic at the lobby bar.

MCA reps corral them just before they win, and they’re shoved onstage, followed by Troy Nowell and Marshall Goodman, the group’s DJ. Dazed in the spotlight, Gaugh performs a little jig and mumbles a few thank-yous to friends and family. Then, the hulking Wilson holds up the band’s shiny statuette, raises a fist and incongruously blurts out, “Lynyrd Skynyrd!” Gaugh, realizing that his band mate’s comment might need clarification, adds, “for writing the tune ‘Workin’ for MCA.'” In the midst of this stoned spectacle, Goodman comes to the rescue, pointing out very soberly, “This is all for Bradley Nowell – peace.”

A month later, Wilson and Gaugh are in more familiar environs – sitting with their girlfriends around a picnic table at Long Beach Sport Fishing, a tackle shop, seafood restaurant and boat-charter operation that looks like it’s been perched on this rusty waterfront since long before oil refineries dotted the landscape. Wearing wraparound sunglasses, a loose T-shirt, shorts that reveal several tattoos, and a fresh buzz cut, Gaugh is itching to explain his and Wilson’s onstage blunders back in New York.

“It all started with the tequila,” Gaugh begins. The day before the show, the drummer had been fishing with his girlfriend in Cabo San Lucas, a party town at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and he purchased an $85 bottle of tequila as a gift for his dad. But by the time he met up with Wilson the next day in New York, the bottle looked too good to save. So the two decided to “have a little victory shot,” as Gaugh puts it. “We thought, ‘Fuck it, even if we don’t win, let’s drink this shit.’ So by the time we got onstage, man, we were wasted.” He gazes out at the fishing boats swaying by the docks. “I guess we forgot to thank a couple of people.”

Wilson, clutching a jet-fueled margarita, shudders at the memory. “See, we were already pretty buzzed back at the hotel when I said to Bud, ‘You know, if we win, we should say “Lynyrd Skynyrd!”‘ Bud had mentioned something about the song they did about working for MCA. So when we actually got up there, I was so flabbergasted that I just go, ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd!’ That’s all I could say.”

The conversation drifts to memories of Sublime’s early days. “It was [the most] fun for us when we were traveling around in a van and crashing on people’s floors,” Wilson says wistfully. These days, Wilson and Gaugh start most mornings with a bong hit and continue smoking well into the night. Wilson’s thrashed two-story Victorian house in Long Beach is their headquarters and the practice space for their new band, the Long Beach Dub All-Stars. It has the feel of a college hangout, with a revolving cast of characters lounging on the couches and chairs, beer bottles covering every flat surface, bongs on the end tables and three Rottweilers that bark viciously and gnash their teeth at newcomers.

Wilson and Gaugh whose families lived across an alleyway from each other, have been friends since childhood, when they first started playing music together and surfing at nearby Seal Beach. When punk bands like the Minutemen came to town, Gaugh and Wilson were always at the edge of the stage. (In fact, the Minutemen lyric “punk rock changed our lives” was sampled as the first line on Sublime’s 1992 debut, 40 Oz. to Freedom.)

Wilson’s dad, Billy, a drummer who toured with big bands in his youth and played on a cruise ship during the Depression, was Gaugh’s drum teacher. Though Billy Wilson was much older than the parents of Eric’s friends, he was also much cooler; it was he who introduced his son to marijuana. “He got into it while he was hanging out with all those jazz cats, I guess,” Eric says of his dad. “He smoked now and then, and to hide the odor he carried around a little bottle of Binaca.”

Wilson played trumpet for a while but says he sucked at it and switched to guitar and then bass. When he was in sixth grade, he met Nowell. The two began playing music together before Nowell took off for Santa Cruz, to start college at the University of California. During one of Nowell’s breaks from school, Wilson introduced him to Bud Gaugh, and the three started jamming together. After recording several DIY cassettes and selling them at shows, Sublime went into a Long Beach studio in 1992 to record 40 Oz. to Freedom. The album, which the band released on its own label, Skunk, did well on a word-of-mouth basis.

But by then Nowell had begun experimenting with hard drugs, and by the time Sublime began work on the followup, Robbin’ the Hood – most of which was recorded in a Long Beach crack house – his addiction was out of control. Gaugh attempted to reach out to his band mate – though often in destructive ways. “I felt like kicking his ass,” recalls Gaugh, who himself had been hooked on speed and heroin for years. “I mean, I’d been there and was still struggling with it. So I was all things that I could be to him during that time. I tried to be his conscience; I tried to be his nurse. I even tried to be his drug buddy; I mean, we got loaded together a couple of times.”

Nowell met Troy in 1993, at a Sublime show in San Diego. “We were just friends at first and we stayed friends for a long time,” she says. “It wasn’t until ’95 that we started seeing each other.” As Nowell alienated his friends, family and band mates, Troy was the one person who was there for him to talk to. “He’d already promised everybody that he would stop doing it and had asked for help,” she says. “People would help him and then he’d hurt them. So when I came along, I hadn’t been fooled by him yet.”

The prospect of signing to a major label was a big deal for Nowell, so when Sublime began talking with MCA, in 1994, he was determined to really clean up. “He decided on his own that he wanted to go to rehab,” says Troy. “He knew he had to get clean before the MCA thing could happen.” Nowell did get clean for a while, but in February 1996, when the band traveled to Austin, Texas, to begin recording Sublime at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio with producer Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers, Nowell went back to heroin more vigorously than ever. “They’re the sweetest bunch of guys, [but] it was chaos in the studio,” Leary says. On good days, they’d show up at 9 a.m. with margaritas in one hand and instruments in the other and go to work; on bad days, they nearly burned the place down. “There were times where someone had to go into the bathroom to see if Brad was still alive,” he says. Nowell’s drug use became so intense that Leary sent him home to Long Beach before the record was completed. “It took him three days to get back on his feet,” Jim Nowell recalls. “It was the worst I’d ever seen him.”

The skies above Long Beach are clear today, and Troy Nowell is sprawled on a lounge chair on the back patio of her in-laws’ house, a modest yellow-paneled, two-story home in a well-kept neighborhood. She has long, blond-streaked hair and is dressed in black running shorts and a white baby tee that partially exposes a rose tattoo on her right arm. When she speaks, her voice has a coarse, cigarette-wrecked edge. “Did you see the tattoo on my back?” she asks, turning to reveal a pair of Chinese characters. “The top one means ‘to be in mourning,’ and the bottom one means ‘husband.'” She laughs and lights another Marlboro as 2-year-old Jakob runs around in a tiny T-shirt with Big Kahuna scrawled across the front. “He was very bad at the grocery store this morning,” she says. “He’s acting much better now, aren’t you, Jake?” Jakob nods vigorously, and you can see Brad in his face and Troy in his half-moon eyes. “Sometimes Jake will say something that I want Brad to hear so bad,” she says, “but he can’t, because he’s gone.”

Troy den Denkker was born and raised in a San Diego household where drugs and alcohol were always around. Her mother was hooked on speed throughout Troy’s childhood, and her father was a biker who held frequent parties at the house. “They were wonderful people,” Troy stresses. “I loved them all. I mean, they were real.” Troy will look you straight in the eye and tell you exactly why she was attracted to Brad Nowell. “I love drug addicts,” she says. “I went to see that movie Boogie Nights the other night, and, you know, I knew all those people. When it was over, I turned to my girlfriend and that’s just what I said: ‘I love drug addicts.’ I guess they’re just the kind of people I’m used to being around. They’re great; they’re crazy.”

Troy, who is studying to be a substance-abuse counselor, says she and Brad spent a lot of time talking about his problems. “I was very understanding,” she says. “And Brad was so open about it. He used it as a way of getting attention. That’s the sick thing about heroin addicts. They’re like, ‘Take care of me.’ They’re like puppy dogs. And I guess I wanted to take care of him.” She was also more than ready for him to clean up when he decided to go back to rehab in 1995, soon after Troy found out she was pregnant.

“In the beginning I was real accepting of his behavior, but then there was much more at stake,” she says. “We’d bought this beautiful house, we had our beautiful son, we were about to get married and it was driving me crazy. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to. His whole attitude was, ‘Look at everything we’ve got – I can have a reward every now and then.’ He wanted to reward himself. It was like, ‘I’m not hurting anyone, I’m just doing it this one day.’ ”

But one day turned into a week, and pretty soon Brad was in trouble again. “It scared the hell out of me,” Troy says. “And the thing that was so horrible is that when he would get high, he’d be so euphoric and so happy. I was like, ‘Why can’t you be this happy when you’re not on it?’ ” She pauses and looks away. “It got really ugly,” she finally says, “and that tore him up.

“You know, the one thing that gave me the most peace after Brad died,” she continues, “was when his first love, Eileen, came to me and said, ‘He did everything that he wanted to do, and he went to sleep. He was tired and went to sleep.’ The way she put it was exactly true. Brad was so tired – he really was. He was tired of letting everyone down, of letting himself down; he was tired of trying to stay clean, tired of everything.”

Even though Nowell died too soon to experience his band’s success, for Troy his death was like the final chapter in a long, exhausting journey. “Brad had accomplished everything he wanted,” she says. “He always wanted to have a baby: ‘We gotta have a kid,’ he said. He wanted to get his family back, ’cause he had hurt them so bad with his drug use. And he did. He wanted to get this album written, and he wanted it to be the best one he ever wrote. And he did. He wanted his band to have glory. And they did.”

She lights another cigarette. “I’m not saying that it’s OK that Brad died, because it’s not OK. So many things have happened that I wish he could see – Sublime being nominated for awards and their videos being on MTV all the time and their songs played on the radio. Or things will happen with me, and Brad’s the first person I want to tell, ’cause we were best friends. I want to see his reaction to all this. What’s OK is [that] there’s no more struggle, no more war. That struggle took up a lot of our energy and our time, and it was horrible. He’s at peace now.”

Jim Nowell and his second wife, Jane, are flipping through a photo album that shows Brad from birth through his teen and college years, his emaciated drug years, and his wedding, a Hawaiian-themed extravaganza in Las Vegas, when he had filled out again and gotten some color back in his face. Jim, a burly, affable guy, was a contractor until he retired to manage Sublime’s affairs. Last Fourth of July, he and Jane threw a big backyard barbecue and invited Brad’s old posse. The Long Beach Dub All-Stars jammed most of the afternoon. When they got around to playing Brad’s songs, Jim and Jane were shaken and had to go inside – they didn’t want their grief to spoil anyone’s good time.

The first time she met Brad, says Jane, she was astonished at his good behavior. “I remember telling Jim, ‘Gee, you did something really good with this kid. I’ve never seen a boy who is so polite and interested in his elders.’ Even when he got into his teens, he would always offer his chair to you.” She loved Brad from day one, helping him through his best years as a student and musician, as well as his worst years as a drug addict. Jane defended her stepson’s decision to get a tattoo – even when his father opposed it. “It was kind of like an Aztec design that went from his knee to his ankle,” she says, remembering the day he came home with it. “Well, Jim’s sitting here looking at it, and he says to Brad, ‘So, how long is that thing going to be on there?'”

“I said, ‘It does wash off, doesn’t it?’ ” Jim adds.

Jane laughs. “Brad and I just look at each other because we’re thinking, ‘He’s kidding,’ you know. And then we look at Jim and we see that he’s not kidding. So I go, ‘Jim, that’s not the wash-off kind of tattoo.’ And Jim goes, ‘It’s not?’ I mean, it was a huge tattoo!” To prove her loyalty to her stepson, Jane hikes up her pant leg and shows me her own new tattoo. It’s the image of the sun from the cover of 40 Oz. to Freedom.

There’s a party going on at Eric Wilson’s house, which is on the edge of one of Long Beach’s more unsavory neighborhoods. Wilson and the Dub All-Stars are jamming on an old Skatalites tune when Jim Nowell drops by for a visit. Before long, Nowell picks up an acoustic guitar and joins in, playing and singing. As the group moves from the Skatalites to a silly version of “Puff the Magic Dragon” and then to a free-form Dead-like jam, everyone in the house – including a gangly couple who’d been playing pool in the front room, a couple of dudes just back from a beer run, and Opie Ortiz, a shirtless tattoo artist who had earlier been working on a customer – packs into the room, listening intently to the deep, warm croon of the elder Nowell’s voice.

At one point, Wilson, hunched over his upright bass in a Surf and Sail tank top and mismatched sneakers, turns to Nowell and smiles. “Hey, Jimbo,” he says, “play some of those real old songs that you know. How ’bout ‘Minnie the Moocher’?” Over the next hour, the group runs through a set of pop, folk and country hits, like “Ain’t She Sweet?” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Okie From Muskogee.” By the end, the blue-collar cool of this posse of tattooed skate-punks has turned to blissful, drunken, giddy exuberance.

Then, suddenly, the mood turns wistful. “Hey, Jimbo,” asks Jack Maness, who’s been playing acoustic lead guitar, “what about ‘Sunny’?” He is referring to the old Bobby Hebb song that Jim and Brad used to play together at backyard parties at the Nowells’ home. “I remember one day Brad said to you, ‘I wanna do it like this, Dad,’ and you told him, ‘Yeah, son, but this is how it goes.’ ”

Everyone in the room erupts in laughter. The kind of laughter that brings tears. It’s a laughter that has positively conjured the ghost of Brad Nowell – right here, right now, in the wee hours of an October morning in Long Beach. It’s a few moments before Wilson’s gregarious girlfriend, Kat Rodriguez, breaks the silence: “Now, that’s Brad for you – in a nutshell,” she says. “He was going to do things his way or no way. That’s why no band will ever sound like Sublime.”

This story is from the December 25th, 1997 issue of Rolling Stone.

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Terry Stafford 3/1996

Terry StaffordMarch 17, 1996 – Terry LaVerne Stafford was born on November 22, 1941. A native of Hollis, Oklahoma, he is best remembered for his 1964 hit song, ‘Suspicion.’ The song, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, and originally recorded by Elvis Presley, became Stafford’s only hit song and a Top Ten single. He sounded uncanningly like Elvis.

Stafford grew up in Amarillo, Texas, and then moved to Los Angeles, California, after high school, so that he could pursue a music career. Stafford began performing at social events and local dances, until he got his break in 1964, to record the single, ‘Suspicion.’

The song was remastered by a local Disc Jockey and the song was released, going to number three on the pop chart. Although he was never able to duplicate his first success, he did have a Top 30 with his follow-up recording, ‘I’ll Touch A Star.’ He later turned to acting and writing, he appeared in the film, “Wild Wheels,” and wrote the song, ‘Big In Vegas,’ for country singer Buck Owens.

In 1973, Stafford signed with the Atlantic Record Company and released a country album entitled, “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose,” with the title track landing on the Top 40. He also the wrote the song, ‘Amarillo By Morning,’ which was later a major hit for country singer George Strait. In 1974, after a year or so with the Atlantic Record Label, Stafford left music. Stafford’s other recordings include, ‘If You Got The Time,’ ‘Am I Fooling Myself,’ ‘Kiss Me Quick,’ ‘For Your Love,’ ‘Pocket Full Of Rainbows,’ ‘Hoping,’ ‘Sospeto,’ and ‘Soldier Boy.

Stafford passed away in Amarillo, Texas, on March 17, 1996, from the effects of liver problems at age 54.

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Joseph Pope 3/1996

Joe PopeMarch 16, 1996 – Joseph Pope (The Tams) was born on November 5th 1933 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The band formed in 1960, and took their name from the Tam o’shanter hats they wore on stage. By 1962, they had a hit single on Arlen Records. “Untie Me”, a Joe South composition, became a Top 20 on the Billboard R&B chart. The follow-up releases largely failed until 1964, when “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)”, reached the Top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Cash Box R&B chart. Many of their popular hits were written by Ray Whitley.

“Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” was also a modest US hit the same year. The Tams had only one further major US hit (in 1968) when “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy”, peaked at #26 on the US R&B chart, and subsequently made the UK Top 40 in 1970.
Their 1965 recording “I’ve Been Hurt” was their biggest regional hit (based on sales and airplay) prior to 1980.
The group reached the Number one slot in the UK Singles Chart in September 1971, with the re-issue of “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me”, thanks to its initial support from the then thriving UK Northern soul scene. The song also went to number one in Ireland, making them the first black soul group to top the Irish Charts.

The group didn’t chart again until 1987, when their song “There Ain’t Nothing Like Shaggin'” reached #21 in UK, propelled by a regionally-popular dance known as the Carolina shag, which featured heavily in the subsequent 1989 film, Shag. However, the track was banned by the BBC because the word “shag” means “to have sexual intercourse” in colloquial British English.
Still quite popular in the Southeastern United States, they continue to record new music and perform at well-attended concerts. In 1999, they were featured performers with Jimmy Buffett on his CD, Beach House on the Moon, and also toured with him around the country.
American singer-songwriter Tameka Harris, born in 1975, is the daughter of Dianne Cottle-Pope and Charles Pope.

For decades two separate lineups of the group continued to perform and record. One lineup, called ‘The Original Tams with R. L. Smith’, features original member Robert Lee Smith, and the other lineup was under the leadership of Charles Pope, the brother of co-founder Joe Pope.

Joe died on March 16, 1996 at the age of 62 and Charles Pope died from Alzheimer’s disease on July 11, 2013, at the age of 76.

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Brownie McGhee 2/1996

Browny McGhee with Sonny TerryFebruary 16, 1996 – Walter Brownie McGhee  was born on November 30, 1915 in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee.

As a child of about four he contracted polio, which incapacitated his leg. His brother Granville “Sticks” or “Stick” McGhee, who also later became a musician and composer of the famous song, “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-dee,” was nicknamed for pushing young Brownie around in a cart. His father, George McGhee, was a factory worker known around University Avenue for playing guitar and singing. Brownie’s uncle made him a guitar from a tin marshmallow box and a piece of board. McGhee spent much of his youth immersed in music, singing with local harmony group the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet and teaching himself to play guitar. He also played five string banjo, ukulele and studied piano. A March of Dimes-funded leg operation enabled McGhee to walk.

At age 22, Brownie McGhee became a traveling musician, working in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and befriending Blind Boy Fuller, whose guitar playing influenced him greatly. After Fuller’s death in 1941, J. B. Long of Columbia Records had McGhee adopt his mentor’s name, branding him “Blind Boy Fuller No. 2.” By that time, McGhee was recording for Columbia’s subsidiary Okeh Records in Chicago, but his real success came after he moved to New York in 1942, when he teamed up with Sonny Terry, whom he had known since 1939 when Sonny was Blind Boy Fuller’s harmonica player. The pairing was an overnight success; as well as recording, they toured together until around 1980. As a duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee did most of their work from 1958 until 1980, spending 11 months of each year touring, and recording dozens of albums.

Despite their later fame as “pure” folk artists playing for white audiences, in the 1940s Terry and McGhee also attempted to be successful black recording performers, fronting a jump blues combo with honking saxophone and rolling piano, variously calling themselves “Brownie McGhee and his Jook House Rockers” or “Sonny Terry and his Buckshot Five,” often with Champion Jack Dupree and Big Chief Ellis. They also appeared in the original Broadway productions of Finian’s Rainbow and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

During the blues revival of the 1960s, Terry and McGhee were very popular on the concert and music festival circuits, occasionally adding new material but usually remaining faithful to their roots and their audience.

Late in his life, McGhee began appearing in small film or TV roles. With Sonny Terry, he appeared in the 1979 Steve Martin comedy The Jerk. In 1987, McGhee gave a small but memorable performance as ill-fated blues singer Toots Sweet in the supernatural thriller movie, Angel Heart. In his review of Angel Heart, critic Roger Ebert singled out McGhee for praise, declaring that he delivered a “performance that proves [saxophonist] Dexter Gordon isn’t the only old musician who can act.” McGhee appeared in a 1988 episode of “Family Ties” titled “The Blues, Brother” in which he played fictional blues musician Eddie Dupre, as well as a 1989 episode of Matlock entitled “The Blues Singer.”

Happy Traum, a former guitar student of Brownie’s, edited a blues guitar instruction guide and songbook for him. Using a tape recorder, Traum had McGhee instruct and, between lessons, talk about his life and the blues. Guitar Styles of Brownie McGhee was published in New York in 1971. The autobiographical section features Brownie talking about growing up, his musical beginnings, and a history of the early blues period (1930s onward).

One of McGhee’s final concert appearances was at the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival.

McGhee died from stomach cancer in February 1996 in Oakland, California, at age 80.

 

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Shannon Hoon 10/1995

Shanon_hoonOctober 21, 1995 – Richard Shannon Hoon was born on September 26, 1967 and raised in Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating from McCutcheon High School in 1985 he joined and fronted two local bands Styff Kitten and Mank Rage. He also composed his first song at this time titled “Change”. Several years later he relocated to Los Angeles where he met musicians Brad Smith and Rogers Stevens and they formed the band Blind Melon, and in 1991 got a recording contract with Capitol Records.

In LA he also met up with Axl Rose of Guns ‘n’ Roses, a high school friend of his half-sister Anna, who was recording the albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Hoon sang backing vocals on several of the tracks, including “The Garden” and “Don’t Cry”.

Axl Rose also invited him to appear in the video for “Don’t Cry”. In 1992, Blind Melon released their self-titled debut album, it sold poorly until the single “No Rain” was released in September of 1993 and the album went quadruple-platinum.

In 1994, they recorded their second album ‘Soup’, which was released in 1995. They went on tour to promote the album, which sadly was Hoon’s last album and tour. He was found dead on the band’s tour bus; tragically he had died from a heart attack, due to a cocaine overdose, while in New Orleans on October 21, 1995 at age 28.

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Jerry Garcia 8/1995

Jerry Garcia300August 9, 1995 – Jerry Garcia was the frontman/guitarist for the most famous psychedelic jamband in the history of Rock and Roll: the Grateful Dead.

Jerome John Garcia is born on August 1, 1942 in San Francisco, CA to Jose Ramon “Joe” Garcia and Ruth Marie “Bobbie” Garcia, joining older brother Clifford “Tiff” Ramon. “My father played woodwinds, clarinet mainly. He was a jazz musician.”

In 1947 a wood chopping accident with his older brother at the Garcia family cabin causes Jerry to lose much of the middle finger on his right hand at the age of five. That winter, Jerry’s father drowns while on a fishing trip.

Continue reading Jerry Garcia 8/1995

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Rory Gallagher 6/1995

rory-gallagher-stadium-1981-ch-018June 14, 1995 – William Rory Gallagher was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal on March 2, 1948 and raised in Cork. His father was employed constructing a hydro electric power plant on the nearby Erne river.

Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. He was a very talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, UK at the age of 47. Continue reading Rory Gallagher 6/1995

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Vivian Stanshall 3/1995

Vivian Stanshall1March 5, 1995 – Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) was born Victor Anthony Stanshall on 21 March 1943  in Shillingford, Oxfordshire.

Stanshall family moved to the Essex coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea. He attended Southend High School for Boys until 1959. As a young man, Victor Stanshall (known as Vic) earned money doing various odd jobs at the Kursaal fun fair in nearby Southend-on-Sea. They included working as a bingo caller and spending the winter painting the fairground attractions. To set aside enough money to get through art school (his father having refused to fund this), Stanshall spent a year in the merchant navy. He said he was a very bad waiter, but became a great teller of tall tales

He was best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his exploration of the British upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (as a radio series for John Peel, as an audio recording, as a book and as a film), and for acting as Master of Ceremonies on Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells.

How do you explain The Bonzo Dog Band to people who have never heard of The Bonzo Dog Band? More complicated, how do you explain Vivian Stanshall?

The Bonzo Dog Band were one of the premier Outrageous/Spoof Rock bands of the 1960s. Alumni included members who eventually became members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and more recently The Rutles. In between, they offered some of the enduring classics, such as Can The Blue Men Sing The Whites? The Intro and The Outro, Canyons Of Your Mind, I Am The Urban Spaceman – and on and on. One of their classic songs, Death Cab For Cutie, was featured in The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour movie and eventually became the name of another band of admirers who are currently making the rounds.

So you kind of know who they are – even if you can’t put your finger exactly on how.

Formed in the early 1960s, the Bonzo Dog Band took to reworking songs of the 1920s and 1930s as their model. They quickly gained a reputation as one of the most outrageous bands to perform on stage, and were subsequently hugely admired by everyone from Paul McCartney to Steve Winwood. Vivian Stanshall’s association with The Who’s Keith Moon became the stuff of legend and Stanshall was later credited as the Narrator on Mike Oldfield‘s legendary Tubular Bells. And that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

The Bonzos, including Viv, were all art students who formed the band originally as a sort of Twenties-style jazz band which eventually turned into a hilariously anarchic revue. They were the darlings of the college circuit, but quickly became accepted on the rock scene, where they supported such bands as Cream. They went to San Francisco with the Byrds and won a dedicated American following. Armed with robots and dummies, the band’s show became ever funnier and more elaborate. Stanshall’s Elvis Presley impersonations and mimed striptease routine were brilliantly done, and they endeared him not just to their regular audience, but to many starts of the rock fraternity. Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Steve Winwood were just some of Viv and Bonzo’s greatest fans.

But the strain of touring and the lack of money contributed to turn what had been fun into hard work and misery. On one famous trip to Ireland on a package show that included Yes and the Nice, the band found themselves expected to play on a football pitch near an abattoir, with only an old electric kettle flex for the band’s power supply. When it blew up on the first attempt to use it, Stanshall chased his manager across the pitch shouting “De-bag the rotter!”

Eventually Stanshall stunned the band and their followers by announcing their break-up after a gig at the Lyceum Ballroom, in London, in January 1970.

It was naturally expected that Stanshall, regarded by many as a genius, would embark on a consistently productive solo career. Yet his life after the Bonzos was mixture of frustrations and disappointments, mixed with some notable successes. In a sense his thunder was stolen by the more organised and better-disciplined Monty Python team. Stanshall, despite his occasional outburst of aggression, seemed to suffer from a lack of self-confidence and often tried to take on more work than he could comfortably accomplish.

Like most of the rock musicians of the Sixties, he became a heavy drinker, enjoying the company of friends like Keith Moon. They set out on many wild forays, perhaps the most notorious being when they dressed up as Nazi officers and headed for the East End, where they caused some shock and dismay. But drinking bouts invariably led to Stanshall’s gaining a reputation for unreliability, and even the most sympathetic radio and record producers began to find him too much of a wayward genius to handle.

One of his most loyal friends and assistants was Glen Colson, who had played drums with the Bonzos during their last tour dates. The Bonzos were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith, of Charisma Records, and were later handled by Gail Colson, Glen’s sister. “It was around that time I got to know him. I was terrified of him, he was such a powerful personality. But he got on very well with my father, as they had both been in the Navy, and would talk about those days.”

Stanshall heard Colson practising his drums and invited him to join the Bonzos to take over from Legs Larry Smith, their regular drummer. “I went out on the road with them. It was after he had shaved off all his hair and told the audience at the Lyceum he was breaking up the band. Nobody knew what he meant and my sister explained they still had some dates to do to pay off their bills. I hung out socially with Viv and he became like a teacher. He was a complete rogue as well. It’s strange – there were two sides to him. There was the very personal, friendly guy and the public side. There was a song he wrote called `Ginger Geezer’, on his album Teddy Boys Don’t Knit, and that’s how I remember him – a big ginger geezer!”

After the Bonzos, Stanshall worked on a variety of projects, acting as the master of ceremonies on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and also writing lyrics with Steve Winwood, for whom he composed “Arc of a Diver”. His most successful solo project was Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, a bizarre tale, narrated on record and at live appearances by Stanshall in his best BBC Home Service manner. This was later turned into a film starring Trevor Howard. “Vivian had a wonderful voice and he could have earned millions doing voice-overs; but he didn’t really want to sell out,” Colson says. There was a follow-up album called Sir Henry at Ndidis Kraal on Demon Records. Viv claimed that he didn’t remember making it.”

Stanshall recorded two solo albums which have recently been discovered by a new generation of admirers: Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead (1974), and Teddy Boys Don’t Knit (1981). There was also a Bonzos reunion album on which he appeared, Let’s Make Up And Be Friendly, released in 1972. During the early Eighties while living on a boat moored in Bristol, with his American wife Pamela, he worked on a stage project called Stinkfoot.

As a surreal humorist Stanshall has been rated alongside Peter Cook, and in the view of his admirers he had the potential to become a successful as John Cleese, if he had not succumbed to personal problems, including excessive drinking and bouts of depression.

“He was an all-rounder who worked in different fields of art, but in the last 10 years he could never actually finish anything,” Colson says. “Most recently he was working on a feature film called Loch Ness, doing the voice-overs, and he had signed to Warner Brothers to do another Sir Henry album. He also had some 25 songs recorded which I hope will be put on another solo album.”

Stanshall remained a wayward rebel, once holding a reporter captive for three hours, until he would listen to his favourite early rock ‘n’ roll records like Link Wray’s “Rumble”. He needed a producer to channel his energies, but always wanted to remain his own boss, having suffered too many perceived indignities in his early experience of the music business.

“He wanted to be really good at everything,” Colson says, “the best actor, musician, poet and painter, and it frustrated him that he couldn’t be best at everything. He was great friends with Stephen Fry, and they were rather similar in their outlook. But he didn’t have many friends in show business, as he was very intimidating. He had an agent, but never wanted to be a rich star. He just wanted to be himself.”

After The Bonzos called it a day in early 1970, Vivian Stanshall along with ex-Bonzo’s Dennis Cowan and Ruger Ruskin Spear formed the short-lived Big Grunt in March of that year.

A band that defied description, but achieved major cult status over their relatively short period of existence. Originally put together as a take-off on the 20’s craze in the 60’s, and known as the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, they quickly morphed into more of an art-school band run amok and replaced the Doo-Dah with Da-Da and eventually just became known as The Bonzo Dog Band.

Though they may not be familiar to some today, you might hear aspects of them via Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which shared the involvement of Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall, the Bonzo’s co-founders and musical brains behind the Pythons.

Neil Innes provided the melodic music and the happy Beatly-type face of the Bonzos, but Vivian provided a sense of danger and fascination, which came to the fore during the band’s first album, ‘Gorilla’, in 1967, which featured such cuts as ‘Jollity Farm’. ‘Look Out There’s A Monster Coming’, ‘Mickey’s Son and Daughter’ and the delightfully subversive ‘I’m Bored’.  Vivian’s posh vowels and droll delivery livened up the songs and made them different to the mop-top popular music or the dreary psychedelic epics of the time.

On 5th March 1995 this wonderfully weird singer, musician, wit, poet, artist, mystic, songwriter and all-round ‘definitely not normal’ Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995) left our world for somewhere far more colourful, wild and magnificent, victim to a house fire. Stanshall was found dead on the morning of 6 March 1995, after an electrical fire had broken out as he slept in his top floor flat in Muswell Hill, North London.

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Dino Valenti 11/1994

dino valentiNovember 16, 1994 – Dino Valenti was born Chester “Chet” William Powers Jr on October 7, 1937 in Danbury CT to Carnival entertainment parents. He became known by the stage name “Dino Valenti” and as a songwriter he was known as Jesse Oris Farrow in the Greenwich Village folk music scene. His first claim to fame came after he wrote the famous 1960s song “Get Together”, the quintessential 1960s love-and-peace anthem.

In first years of the 1960s, he performed in Greenwich Village coffeehouses such as the Cock ‘n’ Bull/Bitter End and the Cafe Wha?, often with fellow singer-songwriter Fred Neil, and occasionally with Karen Dalton, Bob Dylan, Lou Gossett, Josh White, Len Chandler, Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary) and others. He influenced other performers including Richie Havens, who continued to perform some of Powers’ early “train songs”. Powers was prevented from acquiring a cabaret license due to an earlier arrest, a requirement that was beginning to be imposed on Village entertainers at the time.

Moving west was the only route left for him, and upon arriving there, he became a member of the band Big Sur in the LA area and later received greatest acclaim as the lead singer of San Francisco psychedelic rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service.

He played in an early line-up of the Quicksilver Messenger Service when John Cipollina, David Freiberg, and Jim Murray all joined this group in 1964. He later rejoined the group as its lead singer and main songwriter. He was busted for marijuana and amphetamines on several occasions and unfortunately had to sell the publishing rights to his greatest composition GET TOGETHER, to pay for legal defense.

In 1970 he tried with fellow bandmate Gary Duncan to start a band called “the Outlaws” which however went nowhere. Back in the Quicksilver fold he wrote eight of the nine songs on the group’s next album, Just for Love (August, 1970), six of them under the pseudonym of “Jesse Otis Farrow”. He remained the primary songwriter on their next album, in December, What About Me?. Despite occasional personnel changes the band released Quicksilver (1971) and Comin’ Thru (1972) before calling it quits. The 2-LP Anthology was issued in 1973 and a tour and album, Solid Silver, appeared in 1975.

Dino underwent brain surgery for an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) in the late 1980s. In spite of suffering from short-term memory loss and the effects of anti-convulsive medications, he continued to write songs and play with fellow Marin County musicians. His last major performance was a benefit at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on July 27 sometime in the late 80s.

He died unexpectedly at his home in Santa Rosa, California on November 16, 1994, although his younger sister mentioned on his website that Dino was getting bored with life around him and was ready for something new. “The night he died, he called a lot of people…some of whom he hadn’t talked to in quite a while.  It’s my understanding that it was all casual conversation, no revelations, or profundity, or theatrics, but more like he was saying hello one final time.  I think, just as the Phoenix knows, he knew that his time was at hand, and being the “Gypsy soul” that he was, must have felt that such an event was about to take place.  I think, too, that he grew weary of his “home” on this planet, and he felt he had done the best he could here, and was ready to try something else – see the next place, meet the next people, and move on.  After all, Dino was a carnie.

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Eddie Boyd 7/1994

July 13, 1994 – Eddie Boyd  (Blues Musician) was born on November 25th 1914 near Clarksdale, on Stovall’s Plantation, Mississippi. He moved to Memphis where he formed his Dixie Rhythm Boys, after which he relocated to Chicago in 1941.

In the ’50s he wrote and recorded the hit songs “Five Long Years”, “24 Hours”, and “Third Degree”. In 1965 Eddie toured Europe with Buddy Guy’s band as part of the American Folk Blues Festival.

Later he toured and recorded with Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Tired of racial discrimination he experienced in the United States, he first moved to Belgium, where he recorded with the Dutch band, Cuby and the Blizzards, then in 1970 he settled in Finland. He continued to record 10 more blues albums, and played at his last blues concert in 1984. After which he performed only gospel music.

He died in Helsinki, Finland on July 13, 1994, just a few months before Eric Clapton released a chart-topping blues album that included Eddie’s “Five Long Years” and “Third Degree”. He was 79.

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Kurt Cobain 4/1994

Kurt-Cobain300April 5, 1994 – Kurt Cobain. (Nirvana) A very talented and very troubled rock grunge frontman, Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the early 1990s with his band, Nirvana. He committed suicide at his Seattle home in 1994. Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1988, he started the grunge band Nirvana. Nirvana made the leap to a major label in 1991, signing with Geffen Records. Cobain also began using heroin around this time. Nirvana’s highly acclaimed album In Utero was released in 1993.

On April 5, 1994, in the guest house behind his Seattle home, Cobain committed suicide. Continue reading Kurt Cobain 4/1994

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Lee Brilleaux 4/1994

lee brillieauxApril 7, 1994 – Lee Brilleaux (Dr. Feelgood) was born Lee John Collinson on May 10, 1952 in in Durban, South Africa. At 13, he moved with his family to Canvey Island, the oil refinery community in the Thames Estuary, United Kingdom.

Lee co-founded Dr. Feelgood in 1971, with the guitarist Wilko Johnson and went on to co-found the Stiff record label in 1976, and the band’s own record label Grand Records. Their breakthrough 1976 live album, Stupidity, reached No.1 in the UK albums chart and their Top 10 hit single “Milk and Alcohol” charted in 1979.

The band’s name was reputedly derived from an old Johnny Kidd and the Pirates record, ‘Dr Feelgood and the Interns’, a cover of an original song by the Atlanta blues pianist Willie Perryman.
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates were something of an influence on the early Dr Feelgood, especially on the stage act of Wilko Johnson, who modelled himself on the Pirates’ guitarist Mick Green. Johnson’s guitar slinging was a significant image reflecting the pub-rock character for which Dr Feelgood will be remembered. Brilleaux and Johnson developed a frantic act, often charismatically dressed in dark suits and loose ties, shabby rather than smart. The rough, and almost ruthless, edge which ran through his vocal and harmonica style reflected the character and philosophy of the band.

Dr Feelgood evolved from a conscious decision to react against the rock of the mid-Seventies. A rougher sound than the blues groups of the London Sixties, Brilleaux’s band was probably closer to the reality of the street. Brilleaux was known as a hard- drinking, hard-living man. Dr Feelgood almost certainly influenced a range of early punk groups and similar, such as the Clash, Eddie and the Hot Rods and more significantly the Boomtown Rats.

In the early years Dr Feelgood provided backing for Joe Meek’s protege Heinz (the ex-Tornadoes guitarist) but the growth of their cult following and rave reviews resulted in their being signed up by United Artists and their pursuing an individual direction. In 1975, after releasing a medley of live rock songs, they produced their debut LP, Down by the Jetty, recorded in mono ‘to reflect the band’s raw, basic R & B sound’.
Dr Feelgood made a successful transition from club appearances to concert tours, many of which were a sell-out. However, they were never able to transfer and capture the energy and atmosphere of their live act to the recording studio. Their No 1 album in 1976, Stupidity, was recorded live, ‘live’ was always best. Brilleaux went on to co-found the Stiff record label in 1976, with a loan from the singer/songwriter John Hiatt, and the band’s own record label Grand Records.

In 1977 the American producer Bert de Couteaux was brought in to supervise their studio album Sneakin’ Suspicion. The title track was their first No 1 hit. Shortly afterwards Johnson left the band after a row concerning the recording of the album Be Seeing You. Ironically, Johnson’s resignation occurred in the wake of Dr Feelgood’s pre-occupation with the Sixties Patrick McGoohan television series The Prisoner (about an agent who resigns his post without giving a reason). Johnson’s departure left Lee Brilleaux without a foil for his live performance, and the band lost a talented writer.

In the Eighties the band continued to perform regularly, sometimes achieving almost 300 gigs a year. By 1984 Brilleaux was the last remaining original member. The album Brilleaux 86 featured songs by Johnny Cash and he returned to recording for the Stiff label.
Brilleaux’s last performance was at the Dr Feelgood Music Bar in Canvey Island in January 1994. Another recording, Down at the Doctors, was  released as a tribute.

 

He died from throat cancer on 7 April 1994 at age 41. Every year since Lee’s death, a special concert, known as the Lee Brilleaux Birthday Memorial, is held on Canvey Island.

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Harry Nilsson 1/1994

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Doug Hopkins 12/1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mia Zapata 7/1993

July 6, 1993 – Mia Zapata (The Gits) entered this world August 25, 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also was raised. As the story goes, Mia’s father was distantly related to Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican revolution.

She grew up a smart and sensitive kid with a natural connection to music and performing. Influenced by rock as well as jazz, blues and R&B singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke, Mia learned how to play the guitar and the piano by age nine.

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Duncan Browne 5/1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Toy Caldwell 2/1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tony Williams 8/1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mary Wells 7/1992

July 26, 1992 – Mary Wells was born in Detroit on May 13, 1943. When she was three years old, she contracted spinal meningitis and had to remain in bed for two years. Wells also suffered from tuberculosis as a young woman. Her family was poor, and at the age of 12 she began to help her mother with housecleaning work. “Daywork they called it,” Wells was quoted as saying in Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. “And it was damn cold on hallway linoleum. Misery is Detroit linoleum in January–with a half-froze bucket of Spic-and-Span.”

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Sharon Redd 5/1992

sharon-reddMay 1, 1992 – Sharon Redd was born October 19, 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia

Her parents were Gene Redd and Katherine Redd. Gene Redd was a producer and musical director at King Records, and her stepfather performed with Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Her brother Gene Redd Jr. was a songwriter and producer for Kool & the Gang and BMP. Her sister Pennye Ford is also a singer with two albums to her credit and known for her work as the main singer for Snap!

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Johnny Shines 4/1992

Johnny ShinesApril 20, 1992 – Johnny Ned Shines was born April 26th 1915 in Frayser, Tennessee and grew up in Memphis from the age of six. Part of a musical family, he learned guitar from his mother, and as a youth he played for tips on the streets and local “jukes” of Memphis with several friends, inspired by the likes of Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, and the young Howlin’ Wolf. In 1932, he moved to Hughes, AR, to work as a sharecropper, keeping up his musical activities on the side; in 1935, he decided to try and make it as a professional musician.

Shines had first met Robert Johnson in Memphis in 1934 when he was 19, and he began accompanying Johnson, who was 23, on his wanderings around the Southern juke-joint circuit, playing wherever they could find gigs; the two made their way as far north as Windsor, Ontario, where they appeared on a radio program. After around three years on the road together – which made Shines one of Johnson’s most intimate associates, – the two split up in Arkansas in 1937, and never saw each other again before Johnson’s death in 1938.

In his early days, Shines was one of the top slide guitarists in Delta blues, with his own distinctive, energized style; one that may have echoed Johnson’s spirit and influence, but was never a mere imitation.

After splitting up with Johnson, Shines continued to play around the South for a few years, and in 1941 decided to make his way north in hopes of finding work in Canada, and from there catching a boat to Africa. Instead, when he stopped in Chicago, his cousin immediately offered him a job in construction, and Shines wound up staying. He started making the rounds of the local blues club scene, and in 1946 he made his first-ever recordings; four tracks for Columbia that the label declined to release. In 1950, he resurfaced on Chess, cutting sides that were rarely released (and, when they were, often appeared under the name “Shoe Shine Johnny”). Meanwhile, Shines was finding work supporting other artists at live shows and recording sessions.

From 1952-1953, he laid down some storming sides for the JOB label, which constitute some of his finest work ever (some featured Big Walter Horton on harmonica). They went underappreciated commercially, however, and Shines returned to his supporting roles. In 1958, fed up with the musicians’ union over a financial dispute, Shines quit the music business, pawned all of his equipment, and made his living solely with the construction job he’d kept all the while.

Shines did, however, stay plugged into the local blues scene by working as a photographer at live events, selling photos to patrons as souvenirs. Eventually, he was sought out by blues historians, and talked into recording for Vanguard’s now-classic Chicago/The Blues/Today! series; his appearance on the third volume in 1966 rejuvenated his career.

Shines next cut sessions for Testament (1966’s Master of the Modern Blues, Vol. 1, a couple with Big Walter Horton, and more) and Blue Horizon (1968’s Last Night’s Dream), which effectively introduced him to much of the listening public. The reception was much greater this time around, and Shines hit the road, first with Horton and Willie Dixon as the Chicago All-Stars, then leading his own band. In the meantime, his daughter died unexpectedly, leaving Shines to raise his grandchildren; concerned about bringing them up in an urban environment, he moved the whole family down to Tuscaloosa, AL.

He was vastly under-recorded during his prime years, even quitting the music business for a time, but when rediscovered in the late ’60s, he recorded and toured steadily for quite some time. During the early ’70s, Shines recorded for Biograph and Advent, among others, and enjoyed one of his most acclaimed releases with 1975’s more Delta-styled Too Wet to Plow (for Tomato). He also taught guitar locally in Tuscaloosa in between touring engagements. Despite his own generally high-quality work, Shines was a fascinating figure to many white blues fans simply because of the mythology surrounding Robert Johnson, and he was interviewed repeatedly about his experiences with Johnson to the exclusion of discussing his own music and contemporary career; which understandably frustrated him after a while. However, that didn’t stop him from rediscovering his roots in acoustic Delta blues, or including many of Johnson’s classic songs in his own repertoire; in fact, during the late ’70s, Shines toured and recorded often with Robert Jr. Lockwood, a teaming that owed much to Johnson’s legacy if ever there was one. Unfortunately, in 1980, Shines suffered a stroke that greatly affected his guitar playing, which would never return to its former glories, his voice however remained a powerfully emotive instrument, and helped by some of his students, he continued to tour America and Europe.

In the early ’90s, Shines appeared in the documentary film Searching for Robert Johnson, and he also cut one last album with Snooky Pryor, 1991’s Back to the Country, which won a Handy Award. Shines’ health was failing, however, and he passed away on April 20, 1992, in a Tuscaloosa hospital.

He may have been best known as a traveling companion of Robert Johnson, but his own contributions to the blues have often been unfairly shortchanged, simply because Johnson’s cross roads legend casts such a long shadow.

He died from heart complications on April 20, 1992 at the age of 76.

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Champion Jack Dupree 1/1992

Champion Jack DupreeJanuary 21, 1992 – William Thomas Dupree best known as Champion Jack Dupree  was arguably born on July 4, 10, or 23, in the years 1908, 1909, or 1910. What is not argued is however that New Orleans was the place he was born. His father was from the Belgian Congo, his mother was part Black and Cherokee.

He was orphaned at the age of 2 and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, also the alma mater of Louis Armstrong, where he taught himself piano and later apprenticed with Tuts Washington and Willie Hall, whom he called his ‘father’ and from whom he learned “Junker’s Blues”.

He was also “spy boy” for the Yellow Pochahantas tribe of Mardi Gras Indians and soon began playing in barrelhouses and other drinking establishments.

His life of traveling took him to Chicago, where he worked with Georgia Tom, and to Indianapolis, where he met Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In Detroit he met Joe Louis, who encouraged him to become a boxer. So he fought in 107 bouts, winning Golden Gloves and other championships and picking up the nickname ‘Champion Jack’, which he used the rest of his life.

He returned to Chicago at aged 30 and joined a circle of recording artists, including Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, who introduced him to the record producer Lester Melrose, who claimed composer credit and publishing on many of Jack’s songs. Dupree’s career was interrupted by military service in World War II. He was a cook in the United States Navy and spent two years as a Japanese prisoner of war.

After the war his biggest commercial success became “Walkin’ the Blues”, which he recorded as a duet with Teddy McRae. This led to several national tours, and eventually to a European tour.

He was accompanied on guitar by Larry Dale, on his best known album, ”Blues from the Gutter” in 1959 whose playing inspired Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. He was also noted as a raconteur and transformed many of his stories into songs. “Big Leg Emma’s” takes its place in the roots of rap music as the rhymed tale of a police raid on a barrelhouse.

Dupree’s playing was almost all straight blues and boogie-woogie. He was not a sophisticated musician or singer, but he had a wry and clever way with words: “Mama, move your false teeth, papa wanna scratch your gums.” He sometimes sang as if he had a cleft palate and even recorded under the name Harelip Jack Dupree. This was an artistic conceit, as Dupree had excellent, clear articulation, particularly for a blues singer. Dupree would occasionally indulge in a vocalese style of sung word play, similar to Slim Gaillard’s “Vout”, as in his “Mr. Dupree Blues” included on The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions album.

He sang about life, jail, drinking and drug addiction; although he himself was a light drinker and did not use other drugs. His “Junker’s Blues” was also transmogrified by Fats Domino into his first hit, “The Fat Man”. Dupree’s songs included not only gloomy topics, such as “TB Blues” and “Angola Blues” (about Angola Prison, the infamous Louisiana prison farm), but also cheerful subjects like the “Dupree Shake Dance”: “Come on, mama, on your hands and knees, do that shake dance as you please”.

Dupree moved to Europe in 1960, first settling in Switzerland and then Denmark, England, Sweden and, finally, Germany. During the 1970s and 1980s he lived at Ovenden in Halifax, England and a piano used by Dupree was later re-discovered at Calderdale College in Halifax.

Dupree continued to record in Europe with Kenn Lending Band, Louisiana Red and Axel Zwingenberger and made many live appearances, all the while still working as a cook specializing in New Orleans cuisine. In later years he recorded with John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton and The Band.He returned to the United States from time to time and appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

He died in Hanover, Germany of cancer on January 21, 1992 at age 82.

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Freddie Mercury 11/1991

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

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

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Mort Schuman 11/1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vince Taylor 8/1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David Ruffin 6/1991

davidruffinjrJune 1, 1991 – Davis Eli ‘David’ Ruffin  (The Temptations) was born January 18, 1941 in the rural unincorporated community of Whynot, Mississippi, 15 miles from Meridian, Mississippi. He was the third born son of Elias “Eli” Ruffin, a Baptist minister, and Ophelia Ruffin (born Davis). Ruffin’s father was strict and at times violently abusive. Ruffin’s mother died ten months after his birth in 1941; and his father married Earline, a schoolteacher, in 1942. As a young child, Ruffin, along with his other siblings (older brothers Quincy and Jimmy, and sister Rita Mae), traveled with their father and their stepmother as a family gospel group, opening shows for Mahalia Jackson and The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, among others. Ruffin sang in the choir at Mount Salem Methodist Church, talent shows and wherever else he could. In 1955, at the age of 14, he left home under the guardianship of a minister and went to Memphis, Tennessee, with the purpose of pursuing the ministry.

But at the age of 15, he went to Hot Springs, Arkansas with the jazz musician Phineas Newborn, Sr. They played at the Fifty Grand Ballroom and Casino. He continued to sing at talent shows, worked with horses at a jockey club, and eventually became a member of the The Dixie Nightingales.

He also sang with the Soul Stirrers briefly after the departure of Johnnie Taylor. He met and came under the guardianship of Eddie Bush and Dorothy Helen who took David to Detroit, Michigan and introduced him to Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Berry Gordy’s sister, and Billy Davis.

In 1957, Ruffin met Berry Gordy, Jr., then a songwriter with ambitions of running his own label. Ruffin lived with Gordy’s father, a contractor, and helped “Pops” Gordy do construction work on the building that would become Hitsville USA, the headquarters for Gordy’s Tamla Records (later Motown Records) label. Ruffin’s brother Jimmy would eventually be signed to Tamla’s Miracle Records label as an artist.

Ruffin also worked alongside another ambitious singer, Marvin Gaye, as an apprentice at Anna Records, a Chess-distributed label run by Gordy’s sister Gwen Gordy Fuqua and his songwriting partner Billy Davis. Asked about Ruffin in the Detroit Free Press in 1988, Gordy Fuqua said: “He was very much a gentleman, yes ma’am and no ma’am, but the thing that really impressed me about David was that he was one of the only artists I’ve seen who rehearsed like he was on stage”. According to Ruffin, both he and Gaye would pack records for Anna Records.

Ruffin created music as both the vocalist and drummer in the Voice Masters, a doo-wop style combo and eventually started recording at Anna Records, and recorded the song “I’m in Love” b/w “One of These Days” (1961), with the Voice Masters, a group which included future Motown producer, Lamont Dozier. Other group members included members of The Originals: Ty Hunter, CP Spencer, Hank Dixon and (Voice Masters and The Originals founder) Walter Gaines. (At one time, The Voice Masters also included another future Temptations member, Melvin Franklin, one of numerous people David would claim as a cousin). Ruffin did sign to Anna Records as a solo artist, but his work in that time was unsuccessful.

Ruffin eventually met an up-and-coming local group by the name of The Temptations. His older brother Jimmy went on a Motortown Revue tour with the Temptations, and he told David that they needed someone to sing tenor in their group. David showed interest in joining the group to Otis Williams whom he lived very close to in Detroit. In January 1964, Ruffin became a member of the Temptations after founding member Elbridge “Al” Bryant was fired from the group. Ruffin’s first recording session with the group was January 9, 1964. Though both David and Jimmy were considered, David was given the edge, thanks to his performance skills. These were displayed when he joined the Temptations on stage during the label’s New Year’s Eve party in 1963.

At Motown he started as a background singer, joining The Tempations in 1963, while also working at the Ford Motor Company.

In Nov ’64, songwriter/producer Smokey Robinson wrote a single especially for him to sing lead on. That song, “My Girl”, became the group’s first #1 single and its signature song, and elevated David to the role of lead singer and front man during the group’s “Classic Five” period as it became later known.

In the late 1967/68’s tensions grew on account of his cocaine addiction, tardiness and he was sacked from the the group, but was legally forced to continue with Motown as a solo artist. His first solo single “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” reached the US pop & R&B Top Ten.

His final Top Ten hit was 1975’s “Walk Away From Love”.

After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 with the other Temptations, Ruffin, Kendrick, and Dennis Edwards began touring and recording as “Ruffin /Kendrick/ Edwards: Former Leads of The Temptations”. Sadly the project was cut short, when David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 from a drug overdose at age 50.

After a successful month-long tour of England with Kendricks and Edwards, David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991, in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hospital of “an adverse reaction to drugs” – namely cocaine. Although the cause of death was ruled an accident, Ruffin’s family and friends suspected foul play, claiming that a money belt containing the proceeds from the tour ($300,000) was missing from his body.

Known for his unique raspy and anguished tenor vocals, David was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2008.

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Gene Clark 5/1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was 49.

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Johnny Thunders 4/1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steve Marriott 4/1991

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

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

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

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Dave Guard 3/1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bobby Day 7/1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jim Hodder 6/1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stiv Bators 6/1990

stiv-batorJune 4, 1990 – Stiv Bators was born Steven John Bator on October 22, 1949 in Youngstown , Ohio.

As the frontman for the Dead Boys, Stiv Bators terrorized audiences with his snotty, in-your-face punk rock style. But after the Dead Boys, Bators embarked on a musical journey that saw him touch upon new wave (the Wanderers), goth rock (the Lords of the New Church), and power pop (during a brief solo career), as well as a fling with movie acting. Born Steve Bator on October 22, 1949, in Youngstown, OH, Bators took a liking to garage rock and proto-punk early on — a story he liked to tell is that it was he who handed Iggy Pop the jar of peanut butter that he smeared across his chest and threw around while walking on the audience during the Stooges’ televised infamous 1970 rock festival in Ohio (additionally, Bators befriended the Ramones during the quartet’s first Ohio performance). As a result of his interest in the burgeoning punk movement, Bators hooked up with friend/guitarist Cheetah Chrome and others to form the short-lived local outfit Frankenstein. Sensing that there was little chance of launching a successful music career in Ohio, Bators convinced a handful of fellow local musicians (Chrome, guitarist Jimmy Zero, and drummer Johnny Blitz) to relocate to New York City in 1976, resulting in the formation of the Dead Boys.

The ploy worked, as the Dead Boys not only became an instant part of the CBGB’s punk scene, but they also enlisted the club’s owner, Hilly Kristal, as their manager, and signed a record deal with Sire. By specializing in a heavily Iggy Pop-influenced live show (which included Bators flailing himself around until he was battered and bloody, and faux-hanging himself on stage), the group built a buzz, which only intensified after the release of its 1977 debut, Young Loud & Snotty. Despite a promising start, the group would quickly disintegrate — issuing only one more album that failed to replicate the debut’s fire, 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, before splitting up.

In the wake of the Dead Boys’ split, Bators decided to try shedding his wild man image by reinventing himself as a new waver, as he demoed power pop material and issued several singles via the Bomp! label (later collected on the 1994 L.A., L.A. compilation). In 1980 his full-length solo debut, Disconnected, was released; it saw Bators mix his new power pop direction with his punk roots. But rather than fully embark on a solo career, Bators opted to return back to a band, as he formed the Wanderers with ex-Sham 69 members Dave Parsons (guitar), Dave Tregunna (bass), and Rick Goldstein (drums). The group issued only one album, the schizoid concept album Only Lovers Left Alive, which forsake its members’ punk past in favor of a sterile production and ambitious futuristic storyline. With punk fans still scratching their heads as to the career path Bators had embarked on since his Dead Boys days, the singer decided to give acting at try, with a bit part in the hilarious 1981 John Waters-directed movie, Polyester.  Seven years later, Bators made a memorable cameo appearance as “Dick Slammer”, lead singer of “The Blender Children”, in the offbeat comedy, Tapeheads, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins.

A union with ex-Damned guitarist Brian James followed soon after, resulting in the formation of the Lords of the New Church. And once more, the group didn’t sound like what you’d expect from a pair of punk veterans, as they specialized in goth rock (reminiscent of Bauhaus). The Lords became notorious for their live shows. A devotee of Iggy Pop, Bators had developed a fearless reputation in his Dead Boys days and continued such antics with The Lords, the most famous being the time he reportedly hanged himself during a show. Bator’s stunt went awry and he was pronounced clinically dead for several minutes. Unlike his other post-Dead Boys musical projects, the Lords lasted longer, as they issued a trio of albums during the early ’80s — 1982’s The Lords of the New Church, 1983’s Is Nothing Sacred?, and 1984’s The Method to Our Madness .

In December 1985 Bators flew to New York with his best friend Michael Monroe to work on Artists United Against Apartheid music video.

The late ’80s saw Bators briefly work with ex-Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe, appear in another movie, 1988’s Tapeheads, and the Sun City music video, plus sporadic reunion gigs with the Dead Boys. Having relocated to Paris, France, little was heard from Bators subsequently, although it became known in later years that he attempted to form a punk rock supergroup featuring ex-New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders and ex-Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone. But besides a few rehearsals, nothing ever came of the union.

On June 4, 1994 Bators was struck by a taxi in Paris during a bank holiday. He was taken to a hospital but reportedly left before seeing a doctor, after waiting several hours and assuming he was not injured. Reports indicate that he died in his sleep as the result of a concussion. Bators, a fan of rock legend Jim Morrison, had earlier requested that his ashes be spread over Morrison’s Paris grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery and his girlfriend Caroline complied.

In the director’s commentary of the film Polyester, which starred Bators, the director and producer John Waters stated that Bators’ girlfriend Caroline confessed to him that she snorted a portion of Stiv’s ashes to be closer to him.

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Andrew Wood 3/1990

March 1990, Seattle, Washington, USA --- Rock Band Mother Love Bone --- Image by © Karen Mason Blair/CORBIS

March 19, 1990 – Andrew Wood was born in Columbus, Mississippi on January 8th 1966. Raised on Bainbridge Island, Washington, he was the youngest of three children; brothers Kevin and Brian. Wood and his brothers were exposed to various music by their parents, who also supported their children when they were learning how to play instruments. Wood became a fan of acts such as Elton John, Queen, Aerosmith, and Kiss.

In 1980, at the age of 14, Wood formed Malfunkshun with his brother Kevin, recording their first demo tape in April 1980. Drummer Regan Hagar joined soon after with the band, playing shows in Seattle, Washington.[2] Each member adopted onstage alter egos, with Andrew becoming Landrew the Love Child, Kevin becoming Kevinstein, and Hagar becoming Thundarr. Unlike most grunge groups in Seattle, Malfunkshun were influenced by glam rock with Wood described as “a hippie, glammed-out rock & roll god, equal parts Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison,” with his look and vocal style influenced by frontmen such as Freddie Mercury, Paul Stanley, and Marc Bolan. By 1985, Wood had started to rely heavily on drugs to help with his “rock star” persona, and entered rehab the same year.

Malfunkshun recorded a number of demos in 1986, two of which, “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands)” and “Stars-n-You”, were included on the “legendary” Deep Six compilation album released by C/Z Records the same year. The band continued to play shows in Seattle, opening for Soundgarden, The U-Men, and Skin Yard. However, in 1988, Malfunkshun disbanded.

Although the band never released an album and were also turned down by Sub Pop for “not [being] grunge enough,”Malfunkshun, along with Green River, are often cited as “founding fathers” of the Seattle’s grunge movement.

Wood and Hagar began playing with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Green River, which disbanded in 1988, performing, on occasion, as the cover band Lords of the Wasteland. Former Green River guitarist Bruce Fairweather was added to the lineup, while former 10 Minute Warning and Skin Yard drummer Greg Gilmore replaced Hagar, forming Mother Love Bone the same year.

The band soon signed a deal with PolyGram, and, through their own subsidiary label Stardog, issued a six-song EP, Shine, in 1989. John Book, of Allmusic, stated that the EP “contributed to the buzz about the Seattle music scene.” The band spent the rest of the year touring, including shows supporting The Dogs D’Amour, and recording their debut album. With high expectations of the album, Wood checked himself into rehab due to his struggle with heroin addiction, hoping to get clean for the release of album, staying there for the remainder of the year.

In 1990, the band continued to play shows in Seattle, waiting for the release of their album, Apple.
On March 16, 1990, Wood was found in a comatose state by his girlfriend, having overdosed on heroin. Wood was taken to Harborview Hospital and placed on life support. Despite being responsive, Wood had suffered a hemorrhage aneurysm, losing all brain function. On March 19 physicians suggested that Wood be removed from life support.

The album Apple was released posthumously later in the year, receiving positive reviews. David Browne of The New York Times wrote that “Apple may be one of the first great hard-rock records of the 90s” and that “Wood could have been the first of the big-league Seattle rock stars.”

In the year following his death, Wood’s former roommate Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wrote two songs, “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”, in tribute to his late friend. Cornell then approached Gossard and Ament about releasing the songs as singles before collaborating on an album. Adding drummer Matt Cameron, future Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready, and future Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, they formed Temple of the Dog in 1990 to pay tribute to Wood, releasing one self-titled album in 1991.

Fellow Seattle band Alice in Chains dedicated their debut album Facelift to Wood. The song “Would?”, included in their second album Dirt, was written about Wood and other singers who had died as a result of drugs. In the liner notes of Alice in Chains’ Music Bank box set collection, Jerry Cantrell said of the song:
“I was thinking a lot about Andrew Wood at the time. We always had a great time when we did hang out, much like Chris Cornell and I do. There was never really a serious moment or conversation, it was all fun. Andy was a hilarious guy, full of life and it was really sad to lose him. But I always hate people who judge the decisions others make. So it was also directed towards people who pass judgments.”    

In 1992, PolyGram reissued both Shine and Apple as the compilation album Mother Love Bone, while the song “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” was included on the soundtrack to the film Singles. The same year, Los Angeles band Faster Pussycat wrote the song “Mr. Lovedog”, from the album Whipped!, in tribute to Wood. Bradley Torreano of Allmusic stated that the song “offered a sad elegy to another charismatic figure in the metal world.”

Seattle rockers War Babies, which briefly featured Mother Love Bone’s Jeff Ament on bass, dedicated the song “Blue Tomorrow” off their eponymous 1992 debut album to Wood.

In 1993, Seattle post-grunge band Candlebox released their self-titled debut featuring the single “Far Behind,” which was written in memory of Wood.

Wood’s former band mate Stone Gossard compiled Malfunkshun recordings From 1986-87 and released the studio album Return to Olympus through his Loosegroove Records label in 1995.

In 2005, director Scot Barbour completed production on the documentary Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story. The film documents Wood’s music career as well as his family background. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival. In October of the same year, the film was screened at the FAIF Film Festival in Hollywood, California. The film was released in 2011 on DVD as part of a 2CD+DVD set entitled “Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story” including the Return to Olympus album, a bonus CD including many interviews and demos, and the movie on the DVD disc.

He died of a heroin overdose coupled with a cerebral hemorrhage on  March 19, 1990 at age 24.

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Del Shannon 2/1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Doc Green Jr 3/1989

Dock Green JrMarch 10, 1989 – Doc Green Jr (The Drifters) was born on November 8th 1934. Green began singing on Harlem street corners as a youngster and joined the Drifters sometime after it was formed in the mid-1950s. Until then he was a member of The Five Crowns but joined when in 1958 manager George Treadwell, who owned the rights to the name “Drifters”, but had sacked the whole band, approached Lover Patterson, the manager of The Five Crowns featuring lead singer Ben E. King, wanting his band to adopt the appellation of The Drifters.

The singers, whose hits were to include “There Goes My Baby,” “Sweets for My Sweet,” “Under the Boardwalk,” and “Up on the Roof,” initially called themselves Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters during the late 1950s. The name was later shortened to the Drifters. According to the anthology “Who’s Who in Rock,” the name was used because so many of the members “drifted” back and forth to other groups.

So the new line-up of The Drifters consisted of Doc as baritone, Ben E King (lead tenor), Charlie Thomas (tenor), and Elsbeary Hobbs (bass). The group went out on the road to tour for almost a year. Since this new group had no connection to the prior Drifters, they often played to hostile audiences. This new Drifter lineup, widely considered the “true” golden age of the group, released several singles with King on lead that became chart hits.

“There Goes My Baby”, the first commercial rock-and-roll recording to include a string orchestra, was a Top 10 hit, and number 193 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. “Dance with Me” followed, and then “This Magic Moment” No.16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. “Save the Last Dance for Me” reached No.1 on the U.S. pop charts and No.2 in the UK. This was followed by “I Count The Tears.”

This version of The Drifters was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 as Ben E. King and the Drifters.

 

 

The original group broke up in the late 1960s, although a variety of acts continued to use the name.

His family said Green continued working as a singer with other groups, including, most recently, Vito and the Salutations.

He died after his battle with cancer on March 10, 1989 at age 54.

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Trevor Lucas 2/1989

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Robi 2/1989

Paul RobiFebruary 1, 1989 – Paul Irvin Robi was born in New Orleans on August 20th 1931. He went on to become the lead tenor of the L.A group, The Platters in 1954.

At a time when rock ‘n’ roll was becoming the nation’s signature music, the Platters managed to appeal to both rock and traditional movements.

One of the most successful and romantic vocal groups of the 1950s, Robi stayed with the Platters for the next eleven years, and can be heard on all their many hits, including “Only You”, “The Great Pretender”, “Twilight Time”, “Smoke Gets In Your Eye’s” and “Harbour Lights”, selling in the millions of copies. In a single year–1958–the group had two gold records, both based on older songs: “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

The Platters were formed by Herbert Reed in 1953 and originally included Reed, Robi, Lynch and Tony Williams. Later a woman, Zola Taylor, was added.

The group had 40 charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1955 and 1967, including four no. 1 hits. The Platters were one of the first African American groups to be accepted as a major chart group and were, for a period of time, the most successful vocal group in the world.

As a group, the Platters began to have difficulties with the public after 1959, when the four male members were arrested in Cincinnati on drug and prostitution charges. Although none were convicted, their professional reputation was seriously damaged and US radio stations started removing their records from playlists, forcing the group to rely more heavily on European bookings. Robi left the group in 1965.

Along with the Platters, Robi was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

He died of pancreatic cancer at age 57 on February 1, 1989

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Roy Orbison 12/1988

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

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

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Nico 7/1988

July 17, 1988 – Nico (Velvet Underground) was born Christa Päffgen in Cologne, Germany on October 16, 1938. When she was two years old, she moved with her mother and grandfather to the Spreewald forest outside of Berlin to escape the World War II bombardments of Cologne. Her father Hermann, born into a dynasty of Colognian master brewers, was enlisted as a soldier during the war and sustained head injuries that caused severe brain damage and ended his life in a psychiatric institution.

In 1946, Nico and her mother relocated to ravage-torn downtown Berlin, where Nico worked as a seamstress. She attended school until the age 13 and began selling lingerie in the exclusive department store KaDeWe, eventually getting modeling jobs in Berlin. At five feet ten inches and with chiseled features and porcelain skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model as a teenager.

At the age of 15, while working as a temp for the U.S. Air Force, Nico was raped by an American sergeant. The sergeant was court-martialed and Nico gave evidence for the prosecution at his trial. Nico’s song “Secret Side” from the album The End makes oblique references to the rape.

She was discovered at 16 by the photographer Herbert Tobias while both were working at a KaDeWe fashion show in Berlin. He gave her the name Nico after her ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nikos Papatakis, and she used it for the rest of her life. She soon moved to Paris and began working for Vogue, Tempo, Vie Nuove, Mascotte Spettacolo, Camera, Elle, and other fashion magazines. At age 17, she was contracted by Coco Chanel to promote their products, but she fled to New York City and abandoned the job. Through her travels, she learned to speak English, Spanish, and French.

After appearing in several television advertisements, Nico got a small role in Alberto Lattuada’s film La Tempesta (1958). She also appeared in Rudolph Maté’s For the First Time, with Mario Lanza, later that year.

In 1959, she was invited to the set of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, where she attracted the attention of the acclaimed director, who gave her a minor role in the film as herself. By this time, she was living in New York and taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg.

She appears as the cover model on jazz pianist Bill Evans’ 1962 album, Moon Beams. After splitting her time between New York and Paris, she got the lead role in Jacques Poitrenaud’s Strip-Tease (1963). She recorded the title track, which was written by Serge Gainsbourg but not released until 2001, when it was included in the compilation Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg. In 1962, Nico gave birth to her son, Christian Aaron “Ari” Päffgen, commonly held to have been fathered by French actor Alain Delon. Delon always denied his paternity even though the child was raised mostly by Delon’s mother and her husband and eventually was adopted by them, taking their surname, Boulogne.

Nico’s first performances as a singer took place in December 1963 at New York’s Blue Angel nightclub, where she sang standards such as “My Funny Valentine”.

In 1965, Nico met the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and recorded her first single, “I’m Not Sayin'” with the B-side “The Last Mile”, produced by Jimmy Page for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label. Actor Ben Carruthers introduced her to Bob Dylan in Paris that summer. In 1967 Nico recorded his song “I’ll Keep It with Mine” for her first album, Chelsea Girl. Dylan had written the tune for Judy Collins in 1964, according to her own liner notes from the Geffen Records’ album Judy Collins Sings Dylan (she was the first artist to release the song, in 1965).

After being introduced by Brian Jones, she began working in New York with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on their experimental films, including Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset and Imitation of Christ.

When Warhol began managing the Velvet Underground he proposed that the group take on Nico as a “chanteuse”. They consented reluctantly, for both personal and musical reasons. The group became the centerpiece of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia performance featuring music, light, film and dance. Nico sang lead vocals on three songs (“Femme Fatale”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”), and backing vocal on “Sunday Morning”, on the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). Nico’s tenure with the Velvet Underground was marked by personal and musical difficulties. Violist and bassist John Cale has written that Nico’s long preparations in the dressing room and pre-performance good luck ritual (burning a candle) would often hold up a performance, which especially irritated band front man Lou Reed. Nico’s partial deafness in one ear also would sometimes cause her to veer off key, for which she was ridiculed by other band members. The album went on to become a classic, ranked 13th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, though it was poorly received at the time of its release.

Immediately following her musical work with the Velvet Underground, Nico began work as a solo artist, performing regularly at The Dom in New York City. At these shows, she was accompanied by a revolving cast of guitarists, including members of the Velvet Underground, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jackson Browne.

For her debut album, 1967’s Chelsea Girl, she recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, among others. Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison contributed to the album, with Nico, Reed and Cale co-writing one song, “It Was a Pleasure Then.” Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album, which influenced artists such as Leonard Cohen, with strings and flute arrangements by producer Tom Wilson. Nico was not satisfied with it and had little say in its production. She said in 1981: “I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! … They added strings, and— I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.” In California, Nico spent time with Jim Morrison of the Doors. Morrison encouraged her to write her own songs.

For The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico wrote the lyrics and music. Accompaniment mainly centered around Nico’s harmonium, while John Cale added an array of folk and classical instruments, and arranged the album. The harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album has a classical-cum-European folk sound.

A promotional film for the song “Evening of Light” was filmed by Francois de Menil. This video featured the now red-haired Nico and Iggy Pop of the Stooges.

Returning to live performance in the early 1970s, Nico (accompanying herself on harmonium) gave concerts in Amsterdam as well as London, where she and John Cale opened for Pink Floyd. 1972 saw a one-off live reunion of Nico, Cale and Lou Reed at the Bataclan in Paris.

Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s, Desertshore (1970) and The End… (1974). She wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. Cale produced and played most of the other instruments on both albums. The End… featured Brian Eno on synthesizer and Phil Manzanera on guitar, both from Roxy Music. She appeared at the Rainbow Theatre, in London, with Cale, Eno, and Kevin Ayers. The album June 1, 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a version of the Doors’ “The End”, which was the catalyst for The End… later that year.

Between 1970 and 1979, Nico made about seven films with French director Philippe Garrel. She met Garrel in 1969 and contributed the song “The Falconer” to his film Le Lit de la Vierge. Soon after, she was living with Garrel and became a central figure in his cinematic and personal circles. Nico’s first acting appearance with Garrel occurred in his 1972 film, La Cicatrice Intérieure. Nico also supplied the music for this film and collaborated closely with the director. She also appeared in the Garrel films Anathor (1972); the silent Jean Seberg feature Les Hautes Solitudes, released in 1974; Un ange passe (1975); Le Berceau de cristal (1976), starring Pierre Clémenti, Nico and Anita Pallenberg; and Voyage au jardin des morts (1978). His 1991 film J’entends Plus la Guitare is dedicated to Nico.

On 13 December 1974, Nico opened for Tangerine Dream’s infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in Reims, France. The promoter had so greatly oversold tickets for the show that members of the audience couldn’t move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall.

Around this time, Nico became involved with Berliner musician Lutz Ulbrich (Lüül), guitarist for Ash Ra Tempel. Ulbrich would accompany Nico on guitar at many of her subsequent concerts through the rest of the decade. Also in this time period, Nico let her hair return to its natural color of brown and took to dressing mostly in black. This would be her public image from then on.

Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster.

In February 1978, Nico performed at the Canet Roc ’78 festival in Catalonia. Also performing at this event were Blondie, Kevin Ayers, and Ultravox. She made a vocal contribution to Neuronium’s second album, Vuelo Químico, as she was at the studio, by chance, while it was being recorded in Barcelona in 1978 by Michel Huygen, Carlos Guirao and Albert Gimenez. She read excerpts from Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe. She said that she was deeply moved by the music, so she couldn’t help but make a contribution. During the same year, Nico briefly toured as supporting act for Siouxsie and the Banshees, one of many post-punk bands who admired Nico. In Paris, Patti Smith bought a new harmonium for Nico after her original was stolen. Other fans of Nico included John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols), Dave Vanian (of the Damned), and Tommy Gear (of the Screamers).

Nico returned to New York in 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGB (accompanied by John Cale and Lutz Ulbrich) was reviewed positively in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Squat Theatre and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler guitar. They played together on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest. At some shows, she was accompanied on guitar by Cheetah Chrome (the Dead Boys).

In France, Nico was introduced to photographer Antoine Giacomoni. Giacomoni’s photos of Nico would be used for her next album, and would eventually be featured in a book (Nico: Photographies, Horizon Illimite, Paris, 2002). Through Antoine Giacomoni, she met Corsican bassist Philippe Quilichini. Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981 produced by Philippe Quilichini. Mahamad Hadi aka Mad Sheer Khan played oriental rock guitar parts and wrote all the oriental production. It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale, featuring a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. For this album, in addition to originals like “Genghis Khan” and “Sixty Forty”, Nico recorded covers of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and David Bowie’s “Heroes”. Drama of Exile was released twice, in two different versions, the second appearing in 1983.

After relocating to Manchester, England, in the early ’80s, Nico acquired a manager, Alan Wise, and began working with a variety of backing bands for her many live performances. These bands included Blue Orchids, the Bedlamites and the Faction.

In 1981, Nico released the Philippe Quilichini-produced single “Saeta”/”Vegas” on Flicknife Records. The following year saw another single, “Procession” produced by Martin Hannett and featuring the Invisible Girls. Included on the “Procession” single was a new version of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”.

At this time, Nico was often cited as an influence on the gothic rock scene, admired by such artists as Peter Murphy of Bauhaus as well as Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees, whose foreboding vocals are influenced by Nico’s distinct dark style of singing. At Salford University in 1982, Nico would join Bauhaus for a performance of “I’m Waiting for the Man”. That same year, Nico’s supporting acts included the Sisters of Mercy and Gene Loves Jezebel. The Marble Index has frequently been cited as the first goth album, while Nico’s dark lyrics, music and persona were also influential.

In September 1982, Nico performed at the Deeside Leisure Centre for the Futurama Festival. The line-up for this show also included the Damned, Dead or Alive, Southern Death Cult, Danse Society, and Gene Loves Jezebel.

The live compilations 1982 Tour Diary and En Personne En Europe were released in November 1982 on the 1/2 Records cassette label in France; the ROIR cassette label reissued the former under the revised title “Do Or Die!” in 1983. These releases were followed by more live performances throughout Europe over the next few years.

She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with the Faction (James Young and Graham Dids). Produced by John Cale, it featured Nico’s version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song “My Funny Valentine”. The album’s closing song was an updated version of “König”, which she had previously recorded for La cicatrice interieure. This was the only song on the album to feature only Nico’s voice and harmonium. A music video for “My Heart Is Empty” was filmed at The Fridge in Brixton.

The next few years saw frequent live performances by Nico, with tours of Europe, Japan and Australia (usually with the Faction or the Bedlamites). A number of Nico’s performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982’s Heroine, Nico Live in Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988. The double live album Behind the Iron Curtain was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made from recordings of concerts in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and other cities, and was released before her death in 1988.

A duet called “Your Kisses Burn” with singer Marc Almond was her last studio recording (about a month before her death). It was released a few months after her death on Almond’s album The Stars We Are.

Nico’s final recording was of her last concert, ‘Fata Morgana’, at the Berlin Planetarium on 6 June 1988. This was a special event created by Lutz Ulbrich and featured a number of new compositions by Nico and the Faction. As an encore, Nico performed a song from The End…, “You Forget To Answer”. A CD of this concert was released in 1994 and again in 2012.

Nico saw herself as part of a tradition of bohemian artists, which she traced back to the Romanticism of the early 19th century. She led a nomadic life, living in different countries. Apart from Germany, where she grew up, and Spain, where she died, Nico lived in Italy and France in the 1950s, spent most of the 1960s in the US, and lived in London in the early 1960s and again in the 1980s, when she moved between London and Manchester.

During the final years of her life, she was based around the Prestwich and Salford area of Greater Manchester. Although she was still struggling with addiction, she became interested in music again. For a few months in the 1980s, she shared an apartment in Brixton, London, with punk poet John Cooper Clarke.

On 17 July 1988, while on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with her son Ari, Nico had a heart attack while riding a bicycle, and she hit her head as she fell. A passing taxi driver found her unconscious, and he had difficulty getting her admitted to local hospitals. She was misdiagnosed as suffering from heat exposure, and died at eight o’clock that evening. X-rays later revealed a severe cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of her death.

In the late morning of July 17, 1988, my mother told me she needed to go downtown to buy marijuana. She sat down in front of the mirror and wrapped a black scarf around her head. My mother stared at the mirror and took great care to wrap the scarf appropriately. Down the hill on her bike: “I’ll be back soon.” She left in the early afternoon on the hottest day of the year. – Ari Boulogne

One of the most fascinating figures of rock’s fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the ’60s. The paradox of her career was that she herself never attained the fame of her peers, pursuing a distinctly individualistic and uncompromising musical career that was uncommercial, but wholly admirable and influential. 

******

She’s more than just another dour (if shockingly beautiful) face and a terrifying, Germanic drone-voice, but even haters admit that goth rock — everything good and bad about it — begins with the late Christa Paffgen (1938-1988), known to the world as Nico. Starting out as a European model and all-around rock scenester before dropping like a bomb(shell) into Andy Warhol’s Factory, Nico ended up in the Velvet Underground, sticking around long enough to write herself into history as the scary blond chanteuse on The Velvet Underground & Nico before embarking on a solo career. She gained a rep as the ice queen to end them all (allegedly breaking up with Lou Reed by telling him, “I can no longer sleep with Jews.”). She had a son by Alain Delon, lived for years with a monster heroin habit, and made a couple of the creepiest rock albums ever recorded. She died falling off a bike, in 1988. All in all, an epic life, at least for a while.

The woman, as unpleasant as her rep might be, made some pretty sui generis music, and everything between 1967 and 1974 is worth a spin if you like your (non)rock remote, arty, and colder than a Valkyrie’s armored tit. Unfortunately, the shelves now sag with exploitative death-tripping compilations of live shows, remixes, limited-edition outtakes, and other bullshit that all but the most devout of fans should avoid on principle alone.

Chelsea Girl, her solo debut, is sort of the first great lost Velvets album. Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison play on various songs and between them wrote five, including the oddly sweet “Little Sister,” “It Was a Pleasure Then,” and the haunting title track. (Think of it as an early version of “Walk on the Wild Side.”) The music is folk rock as only the Velvets could have imagined it: strings, a wandering flute, minimalist guitar thrum, and little else. Other highlights are by Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, including the old-before-his-time genius of Browne’s “These Days” and “The Fairest of the Seasons.” A lovely debut, and not too scary. (The Reed tunes have been added to the deluxe reissue of VU and Nico.)

The Marble Index, on the other hand, is where the difficult listening starts, and it’s pretty amazing for it. The songs, Nico compositions all, are spare melodic frames that Cale, perhaps feeding on post-Velvets rage and feeling a bit anti-American, gives a stark, high-church-of-art feel to, adding droning harmonium, flashes of percussion, and generally creating one seriously dislocating vibe. “Ari’s Song,” dedicated to her son, might be the least-comforting lullaby ever recorded. Totally uncompromised, deeply European art music that stands in total contrast to the American roots music that was obsessing folks like, say, Dylan and the Band.

Desertshore is essentially Marble Index II: Teutonic Boogaloo, somehow even starker than Index. Cale again relies on the harmonium for musical weight, layering it into towering, droning waves. Nico still sounds pretty much like death chilled over, but that’s kind of her thing, and it’s still quite beautiful if you’re the type who drinks his Celine straight.

The End is as strange and removed an album as the ’70s could have spawned. Produced again by Cale (complete with some vocals and about a billion instruments by him) and featuring Roxy Music’s Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera. Guitar and piano textures flicker in and out, muffled instrumental screams flicker in and out, and over it all is Nico’s stately manner. The only thing preventing this obelisk from unreservedly rolling into the avant-rock canon is her wretched yet brilliantly revealing taste in covers. Nico closes the album with a reading of the Doors’ “The End” so straight-faced and melodramatic as to render Jim Morrison’s by-that-time already overwrought Freudian bullshit totally comic. Far less cute (though somehow not as annoying) is a monolithic, droning take on “Das Lied der Deutschen” (or “Deutschland Uber Alles”). Perhaps The End is Nico’s most totally idiosyncratic album: creepy, morally suspect, and occasionally inadvertently funny as hell; it fit her like a velvet glove cast in onyx. (The Classic Years draws on all of these albums for a very handy sampler.)

Fascinating, then, that when she returned to rock in 1981, she dismissed her earlier work as “really boring” (a sentiment many might totally agree with). It was the perfect time for the ice queen to thaw, as bands like Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Sisters of Mercy were stealing her moves. So, no surprise that Drama of Exile pairs her with a thin new-wave band that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on, say, Rough Trade. The tighter material is strange after so much ambience, but her lyrics are still intriguing reflections on the doom of it, all and her taste in covers has gotten much better: She tries to slay the father (or ex-boyfriend) on VU’s “Waiting for the Man,” and Bowie’s “Heroes” gets a charged, jumpy makeover, and, yes, her accent sells it brilliantly. (Maybe the Wallflowers should have tried doing the German version . . . uh, never mind.) Camera Obscura, from 1985, is her final studio album and only available as an import.

Before the CD era, Do or Die was the closest thing to a hits package Nico’s cult ever got, a set of live tunes from various shows, many with the live band from her 1982 European tour. But thanks to that same CD era, there are a bunch of somewhat exploitative and totally inessential live albums that fall in and out of print, most of them available on import. Each has some nice moments, but there’s a lot of studio product to get through before anyone needs to dig this deep. Live Heroes drones through six songs, including the Bowie tune and “My Funny Valentine.” Chelsea Girls/Live is a brutally misleading title for an set of live ’80s synth stuff. Icon appends the interesting “Vegas/Saeta” 7-inch with some Drama of Exile outtakes and some live material. Solid. Fata Morgana is, as you might expect, from 1988, as she moved back to drones. Nico died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 18, 1988. The goth nation has yet to declare this cruel day some sort of holiday, but it’s only a matter or time.

 

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Jimmy Soul 6/1988

jimmy-soulJune 15, 1988 – Jimmy Soul was born James Louis McCleese on August 24th 1942 in Weldon, North Carolina. At the age of 7 he became a preacher and performed gospel music as a teenager, becoming known locally as “the Wonder Boy.” He acquired his name, “Soul,” from his congregation.

Jimmy had two chart hits in the 60s with “Twistin’ Matilda” and the Billboard Hot 100 No.1 hit “If You Wanna Be Happy” which also charted in the UK. That song, with its upbeat, vibrant Caribbean sound, was a huge success and prompted Soul to try to re-create the success of his hit with some fairly derivative West Indian songs such as “Treat ‘Em Tough” and “A Woman Is Smarter in Every Kinda Way,” but he failed to chart again.

“If You Wanna Be Happy” sold over one million records, earning gold disc status. It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.

After unsuccessfully trying to follow up the success of those songs with one more album, Soul gave up his career as a musician and joined the United States Army.

Later in life, Soul fell into a drug habit, and on January 9, 1986 was sentenced to 4 and a half to 9 years in prison as a second felony offender, convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sentence was affirmed upon appeals on October 26, 1987 and March 22, 1988.

Soul died of a presumably drug-related heart attack on June 15, 1988, aged 45.

 

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Brook Benton 4/1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dave Prater 4/1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was 50 years 11 months old.

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

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Andy Gibb 3/1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Divine 3/1988

Divine (1)March 7, 1988 – Divine was born as Harris Glenn Milstead on October 19th 1945. Born in Baltimore, Maryland to a conservative middle-class family, Milstead developed an early interest in drag while working as a women’s hairdresser. By the mid-1960s he had embraced the city’s countercultural scene and befriended Waters, who gave him the name “Divine” and the tagline of “the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.”

Along with his friend David Lochary, Divine joined Waters’ acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, and adopted female roles for their experimental short films Roman Candles (1966), Eat Your Makeup (1968), and The Diane Linkletter Story (1969). Again in drag, he took a lead role in both of Waters’ early full-length movies, Mondo Trasho (1969) and Multiple Maniacs (1970), the latter of which began to attract press attention for the group. Divine next starred in Waters’ Pink Flamingos (1972), which proved a hit on the U.S. midnight movie circuit, became a cult classic, and established Divine’s fame within the American counterculture.

After starring as the lead role in Waters’ next picture, Female Trouble (1974), Divine moved on to theater, appearing in several avant-garde performances alongside San Francisco drag collective, The Cockettes. He followed this with a performance in Tom Eyen’s play Women Behind Bars and its sequel, The Neon Woman. Continuing his cinematic work, he starred in two more of Waters’ films, Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988), the latter of which represented his breakthrough into mainstream cinema. Independent of Waters, he also appeared in a number of other films, such as Lust in the Dust (1985) and Trouble in Mind (1985), seeking to diversify his repertoire by playing male roles.

In 1981, Divine embarked on a career in the disco industry by producing a number of Hi-NRG tracks, most of which were written by Bobby Orlando. He achieved global chart success with hits like “You Think You’re a Man”, “I’m So Beautiful”, and “Walk Like a Man”, all of which were performed in drag.

The song ‘You Think You’re A Man’ that was hiss biggest hit, reaching number 16 in the UK charts in 1984. Divine performed this song on well-known UK music show Top Of The Pops on July 19 1984, resulting in a barrage of complaints to the BBC. He released eleven international hit dance singles, and toured the world with his solo cabaret act of disco and outrageous humor, performing over 900 times in more than 19 countries.

Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, he died from cardiomegaly at age 42 on March 7, 1988. The autopsy found he had died in his sleep of heart failure, or an enlarged heart brought on by sleep apnea. The night before he died, he had leaned over his hotel balcony and sang “Arrivederci Roma” before retiring to bed.

Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly within the LGBT community, and has provided the inspiration for fictional characters, artworks and songs. Various books and documentary films devoted to his life have also been produced, including Divine Trash (1998) and I Am Divine (2013).

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Paul Butterfield 5/1987

Muro do Classic RockButterfield could hit a single note and have it sound like a full orchestra!

May 4, 1987 – Paul Vaughn Butterfield was born on December 17, 1942 to become one of the best white Chicago blues performers in America (singer and harmonica player).

Beyond anything, it should be noted that Paul Butterfield was much better as a harpist/singer than he was ever given credit for. With the likes of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield he carved a huge inroad for Chicago City Blues in the world of blues.

 After early training as a classical flautist, Butterfield developed an interest in blues harmonica. He explored the blues scene in his native Chicago, where he was able to meet Muddy Waters and other blues greats who provided encouragement and a chance to join in the jam sessions. Soon, Butterfield began performing with fellow blues enthusiasts Nick Gravenites and Elvin Bishop.

In 1963, he formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with whom recorded several successful albums as the band became a popular fixture on the late-1960s concert and festival circuit, with performances at the Fillmores, Monterey Pop Festival, and Woodstock. They became known for combining electric Chicago blues with a rock urgency as well as their pioneering jazz fusion performances and recordings. After the breakup of the group in 1971, Butterfield continued to tour and record in a variety of settings, including with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, his mentor Muddy Waters, and members of Bob Dylan’s backing group The Band, some of whom lived in Woodstock.

Most of his later work originated in Woodstock, New York where he moved to in the early 1970s

While still recording and performing, Butterfield died in 1987 at age 44 of a heroin overdose. Music critics have acknowledged his development of an original approach that places him among the best-known blues-harp players. In 2006, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 2015.

Both panels noted his harmonica skills as well as his contributions to bringing blues-style music to a younger and broader audience.

 

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Lee Dorsey 12/1986

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark Dinning 3/1986

mark dinningMarch 22, 1986 – Mark Max Edward Dinning was born on August 17th 1933 in Manchester, Oklahoma, the youngest of nine children, but grew up on a farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, he recorded “Teen Angel” that was written by his sister Jean and her husband Red Surrey.

The lyrics told of the death of a teenage love that radio stations in the United Kingdom deemed too morbid to be aired, but it went to No.1 on the Billboard Charts in the U.S. Despite lack of airplay in the UK, the song reached No.37 on the UK Singles Chart and sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Dinning had an alcohol addiction, which restricted his performances, and caused promoters to stop booking him as he faded from public view. Although Dinning never duplicated the success of “Teen Angel”, he had three minor hit records in the ensuing years.

He died of a heart attack on March 22, 1986 at age 52.