August 7, 1984 – Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones on December 23, 1935. in Galveston Texas. She began singing in church as a young child. When her parents divorced, she split time between her father in Houston and her mother in the Watts area of Los Angeles.
It was while she was living in Los Angeles in 1949 that her sister entered her in a talent show at a nightclub belonging to bluesman Johnny Otis. So impressed was Otis with the 13-year-old that he brought her into the studio for a recording session with Modern Records and added her to his live revue.
Billed as Little Esther, she scored her first success when she was teamed with the vocal quartet the Robins (who later evolved into the Coasters) on the Savoy single “Double Crossin’ Blues.” It was a massive hit, topping the R&B charts in early 1950 and paving the way for a series of successful singles bearing Little Esther’s name: “Mistrustin’ Blues,” “Misery,” “Cupid Boogie,” and “Deceivin’ Blues.”
In 1951, Little Esther moved from Savoy and Johnny Otis to Federal after a dispute over royalties, but despite being the brightest female star in Otis’ revue, she was unable to duplicate her impressive string of hits. Furthermore, she and Otis had a falling out, reportedly over money, which led to her departure from his show; she remained with Federal for a time, then moved to Decca in 1953, again with little success.
In 1954, she returned to Houston to live with her father, having already developed a fondness for the temptations of life on the road; by the late ’50s, her experiments with hard drugs had developed into a definite addiction to heroin. She re-signed with Savoy in 1956, to little avail, and went on to cut sides for Federal and (in 1960) Warwick, which went largely ignored.
Short on money, Little Esther worked in small nightclubs around the South, punctuated by periodic hospital stays in Lexington, KY, stemming from her addiction. In 1962, she was rediscovered while singing at a Houston club by future country star Kenny Rogers, who got her signed to his brother’s Lenox label. Too old to be called Little Esther, she re-christened herself Esther Phillips, choosing her last name from a nearby Phillips gas station.
She recorded a country-soul reading of the soon-to-be standard “Release Me,” which was released as a single late in the year. In the wake of Ray Charles’ groundbreaking country-soul hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Release Me” was a smash, topping the R&B charts and hitting the Top Ten on both the pop and country charts. Back in the public eye, Phillips recorded a country-soul album of the same name, but Lenox went bankrupt in 1963.
Thanks to her recent success, Phillips was able to catch on with R&B giant Atlantic, which initially recorded her in a variety of musical settings to see what niche she might fill best. It was eventually decided to play up her more sophisticated side and accordingly, Phillips cut a blues-tinged album of jazz and pop standards; her string-laden remake of the Beatles song “And I Love Him” (naturally, with the gender changed) nearly made the R&B Top Ten in 1965 and the Beatles flew her to the U.K. for her first overseas performances.
Encouraged, Atlantic pushed her into even jazzier territory for her next album, Esther Phillips Sings; however, it didn’t generate much response and was somewhat eclipsed by her soul reading of Percy Sledge’s “When a Woman Loves a Man” (again, with the gender changed), which made the R&B charts.
Nonplussed, Atlantic returned to their former tactic of recording Phillips in as many different styles as possible, but none of the resulting singles really caught on and the label dropped her in late 1967.
With her addiction worsening, Phillips checked into a rehab facility; while undergoing treatment, she cut some sides for Roulette in 1969 and upon her release, she moved to Los Angeles and re-signed with Atlantic. A late-1969 live gig at Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper club produced the album Burnin’, which was acclaimed as one of the best, most cohesive works of Phillips’ career.
Despite that success, Atlantic still wanted her to record pop tunes with less grit and when their next attempts failed to catch on, Phillips was let go a second time. In 1971, she signed with producer Creed Taylor’s Kudu label, a subsidiary of his hugely successful jazz fusion imprint CTI.
Her label debut, From a Whisper to a Scream, was released in 1972 to strong sales and highly positive reviews, particularly for her performance of Gil Scott-Heron’s wrenching heroin-addiction tale “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.”
Phillips recorded several more albums for Kudu over the next few years and enjoyed some of the most prolonged popularity of her career, performing in high-profile venues and numerous international jazz festivals. In 1975, she scored her biggest hit single since “Release Me” with a disco-fied update of Dinah Washington’s “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” (Top Ten R&B, Top 20 pop), and the accompanying album of the same name became her biggest seller yet.
In 1977, Phillips left Kudu for Mercury, landing a deal that promised her the greatest creative control of her career. She recorded four albums for the label, but none matched the commercial success of her Kudu output and after 1981’s A Good Black Is Hard to Crack, she found herself without a record deal.
Her last R&B chart single was 1983’s “Turn Me Out,” a one-off for the small Winning label; unfortunately, her health soon began to fail, the culmination of her previous years of addiction combined with a more recent flirtation with the bottle. Phillips died in Los Angeles on August 7, 1984, of liver and kidney failure at the age of 48. Her funeral services were conducted by Johnny Otis.
Obviously a victim of the Music Industry’s pathetic lack of managerial direction and understanding of the art, Esther Phillips was twice nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986 and 1987, but was not inducted. Shame on them.
July 25, 1984 – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 in Ariton, Alabama. She was introduced to music in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a singer. She and her six siblings began to sing at early ages. Her mother died young, and Willie Mae left school and got a job washing and cleaning spittoons in a local tavern. In 1940 she left home and, with the help of Diamond Teeth Mary, joined Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue and was soon billed as the “New Bessie Smith”. Her musical education started in the church but continued through her observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, whom she deeply admired.
Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948. “A new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and Los Angeles, full of brass horns, jumpy rhythms, and wisecracking lyrics.” Continue reading Big Mama Thornton 7/1984
July 14, 1984 – Philippé WynneakaPhilippe Escalante Wynn; born Phillip Walker (The Spinners/P-Funk) was born on April 3rd 1941 in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.
His parents, DeGree Walker and Annie (née Wynn) divorced in November 1947 in Cincinnati. Around 1952, Philippe and his three siblings — Annie Walker, who later became an opera singer, Michael Leon Walker, and Margaret Walker — were placed in the New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children (which closed in 1967), in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, on Van Buren Street. Their father, DeGree Walker, was granted custody after the divorce, tho’, he worked as a contractor in construction and had to travel. Their mother, Annie, had run off to Detroit with another man.
“ I guess the hardest part to take was being there and knowing that both of your parents were still alive.” — Philippè Wynne, 1981.
Around 1956, Philippé and his brother, Michael, ran away from the orphanage, and headed, to Detroit, to find their mother. In Detroit, the two formed a gospel group called the Walker Singers, which lasted until Philippe adopted his mother’s surname, Wynn (initially without an “e”)
Next he became a member of the Pacesetters followed by the James Brown group, the JB’s. Prior to joining the Spinners, Wynne spent time in Germany as the lead singer of the Afro Kings, a band from Liberia, before he replaced his cousin, G. C. Cameron, as one of the lead vocalists for The Spinners. Originally formed in the 1950s, the Spinners original lineup included Bobbie Smith, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, George W. Dixon, and Henry Fambrough.
The group began as a quintet called ‘The Domingoes’ at a local high school in the Ferndale District of Detroit, Michigan. In 1961, they came to the attention of music producer Harvey Fuqua (and of The Moonglows), and were quickly signed to the Tri-Phi Records Label, with there new name of ‘The Detroit Spinners.’ Following the release of the group’s first Top Ten R&B hit single, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,’ George W. Dixon left the group, and was replaced by Edgar “Chico” Edwards.
Throughout the 1960s the group released several minor releases that failed, but by the mid-1960s, Edwards had been replaced by G.C. Cameron as lead singer, and they were now recording on the Motown Record Label, following the buyout of there old label of Tri-Phi. They again had a few more recordings including, “Truly Yours”, “I’ll Always Love You”, and a success with Stevie Wonder’s, “It’s A Shame”, in 1970. By 1972, the group’s contract at the Motown Record Label was over.
That same year the group let lead singer G.C. Cameron go and replaced him Philippe Wynne. Known for his silky voice, Wynne had previously been a gospel singer, and had worked with such groups as, Catfish, Bootsie Collins, and The Pacesetters, among others. The ‘new’ reformed group signed with the Atlantic Record Label and began to work with music producer Thom Bell. Quickly becoming a first-rate soul singer, Wynne helped the group to achieve many hit chart successes inlcuding on both the R&B and pop charts.
There recording successes included, “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “Games People Play”, “One Of A Kind (Love Affair),” “Ghetto Child”, “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, “I’ll Be Around”, “You’re Throwing A Good Love Love Away”, “Mighty Love”, and “Rubberband Man.” The group also had there share of successful albums, including some on the Top 20 and some going gold.
By 1977, Wynne decided he had enough and he left the group to pursure a solo career with Alan Thicke (RIP) as his manager. He was replaced as lead singer by John Edwards. Wynne recorded the solo album “Starting All Over”, and “Wynne Jammin”, on the Cotillion Record Label in 1980. Although none of Wynne’s solo achievements went anywhere, his fortunes turned upwards again when he joined George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in 1979. He performed with them on several recordings, and was a featured vocalist on the Funkadelic single “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B chart). While associated with Parliament-Funkadelic, Wynne also appeared on the Bootsy Collins album Sweat Band. Wynne released the solo album Wynne Jammin’ in 1980, and made a guest appearance on the song “Something Inside My Head” by Gene Dunlap, and in the song “Whip It” by the Treacherous Three. Wynne’s final album was the self-titled Philippé Wynne, released by Sugar Hill Records in 1984.
He scored notable hits such as “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “The Rubberband Man”, “One of a Kind (Love Affair)”, “I’ll Be Around”, “Mighty Love”, “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”, and “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick.
On July 14, 1984, while performing a concert in Oakland, California, Wynne suffered a massive heart attackand died the next morning. He was 43.
April 27, 1984 – Z. Z. Hill was bornArzell Hill in Naples, Texas on September 30th 1935.
He began his singing career in the late 1950s as part of a gospel group called The Spiritual Five. In 1964, he moved to California and recorded “You Were Wrong” on his brother’s M.H. record label. In 1971, he recorded the hits “Faithful & True” and “Chokin’ Kind” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. One of ZZ’s biggest selling hits came while signed to Columbia, “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It,” which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the summer of 1977. His 1982 album, ‘Down Home’, stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years. The track “Down Home Blues” has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s. This track plus his songs “Taxi”, “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In”, and “Open House” have become R&B/Southern soul standards.
Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard’s soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs “Down Home Blues” and “Somebody Else Is Steppin’ In” have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades). Arzell Hill started out singing gospel with a quintet called the Spiritual Five, but the output of B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and especially Sam Cooke made a more indelible mark on his approach. He began gigging around Dallas, fashioning his distinctive initials after those of B.B. King. When his older brother Matt Hill (a budding record producer with his own label, M.H.) invited Z.Z. to go west to Southern California, the young singer did.
His debut single on M.H., the gutsy shuffle “You Were Wrong” (recorded in an L.A. garage studio), showed up on the pop chart for a week in 1964. With such a relatively successful showing his first time out, Hill’s fine subsequent singles for the Bihari Brothers’ Kent logo should have been even bigger. But “I Need Someone (To Love Me),” “Happiness Is All I Need,” and a raft of other deserving Kent 45s (many produced and arranged by Maxwell Davis) went nowhere commercially for the singer. Excellent singles for Atlantic, Mankind, and Hill (another imprint operated by brother Matt, who served as Z.Z.’s producer for much of his career) preceded a 1972 hookup with United Artists that resulted in three albums and six R&B chart singles over the next couple of years. From there, Z.Z. moved on to Columbia, where his 1977 single “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It” became his biggest-selling hit of all. But Hill’s vocal grit was never more effective than on his blues-soaked Malaco output.
From 1980 until 1984, when he died suddenly of a heart attack, Z.Z. bravely led a personal back-to-the-blues campaign that doubtless helped to fuel the subsequent contemporary blues boom. It’s a shame he couldn’t stick around to see it blossom.
While touring in February 1984, Hill was involved in a car accident. Although he continued to perform, he died two months later on April 28, 1984 at the age of 48, from a heart attack arising from a blood clot formed after the accident. He was 48.
April 1, 1984 – Marvin Pentz Gay was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C., he later added the “e” due to childhood teasing and to appear more professional (akin to his childhood idol Sam Cooke’s addition of an “e”). His father , Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr., was an ordained minister in the House of God, a small, conservative sect spun off from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church, borrowing some elements of Pentecostalism and Orthodox Judaism, has very strict codes of conduct and does not celebrate any holidays. Gaye got his start singing in the church choir and later learned to play the piano and drums to escape from his physically abusive father. Continue reading Marvin Gaye 4/1984
January 21, 1984 – Jack Leroy “Jackie” Wilson, Jr. was born on June 9th 1934 in Detroit. Jackie often visited his maternal family in Columbus, Mississippi and was greatly influenced by the choir at Billups Chapel. Growing up in the rough Detroit area of Highland Park, Wilson joined a gang called the Shakers and often found himself in trouble. Wilson’s father was frequently absent, as he was alcoholic and usually out of work. Wilson began singing at an early age, accompanying his mother, once a choir singer, to church. In his early teens Jackie joined a quartet, the Ever Ready Gospel Singers, which became a popular feature of churches in the area. Jackie was not very religious, but enjoyed singing and used the money he and his group earned performing to buy cheap wine which he began drinking at the age of nine. Jack Sr. and Eliza separated shortly after Jackie turned nine.
Wilson dropped out of high school at the age of 15, having already been sentenced to detention in the Lansing Corrections system for juveniles twice. During his second stint in detention, he learned boxing and started performing in the amateur circuit in the Detroit area at the age of 16. His record in the Golden Gloves was 2 and 8. After his mother forced him to quit boxing, Wilson got married to Freda Hood and became a father at 17. It is estimated that he fathered at least 10 other children prior to getting married and was forced to marry Hood by her father. He gave up boxing for music, first working at Lee’s Sensation club as a solo singer, then forming a group called the Falcons (not to be confused with The Falcons Wilson Pickett was part of), that included cousin Levi Stubbs, who later went on to lead the Four Tops (two more of Wilson’s cousins, Hubert Johnson and Levi’s brother Joe, later became members of The Contours). The other members joined Hank Ballard as part of The Midnighters. including Alonzo Tucker & Billy Davis, who would work with Wilson several years later as a solo artist. Tucker and Wilson collaborated as songwriters on a few songs Wilson recorded.
Jackie Wilson was soon discovered by talent agent Johnny Otis, who assigned him to join a group called the Thrillers. That group would later be known as The Royals (who would later evolve into R&B group, The Midnighters, but Wilson wasn’t part of the group when it changed its name and signed with King Records). LaVern Baker, Little Willie John, Johnnie Ray and Della Reese were acts managed by Al Green (not to be confused with R&B singer Al Green, nor Albert “Al” Green of the now defunct National Records). Al Green owned two music publishing companies, Pearl Music and Merrimac Music, and Detroit’s Flame Show Bar where Wilson met Baker.
After recording his first version of “Danny Boy” and a few other tracks on Dizzy Gillespie’s record label Dee Gee Records under the name Sonny Wilson (his nickname), Wilson was eventually hired by Billy Ward in 1953 to join a group Ward formed in 1950 called The Dominoes, after Wilson’s successful audition to replace the immensely popular Clyde McPhatter, who left the Dominoes and formed his own group, The Drifters. Wilson almost blew his chance that day, showing up calling himself “Shit” Wilson and bragging about being a better singer than McPhatter.
Billy Ward felt a stage name would fit The Dominoes’ image, hence Jackie Wilson. Prior to leaving The Dominoes, McPhatter coached Wilson on the sound Billy Ward wanted for his group, influencing Wilson’s singing style and stage presence. “I learned a lot from Clyde, that high-pitched choke he used and other things…Clyde McPhatter was my man. Clyde and Billy Ward.” Forties blues singer Roy Brown was also a major influence on him, and Wilson grew up listening to The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Louis Jordan and Al Jolson.
Wilson was the group’s lead singer for three years, but the Dominoes lost some of their stride with the departure of McPhatter. They were able to make appearances riding on the strength of the group’s earlier hits, until 1956 when the Dominoes recorded Wilson with an unlikely interpretation of the pop hit “St. Therese of the Roses”, giving The Dominoes another brief moment in the spotlight. Their only other post-McPhatter/Wilson successes were “Stardust”, released July 15, 1957, and “Deep Purple”, released October 7, 1957. In 1957 Wilson set out to begin a solo career, leaving the Dominoes and collaborating with cousin Levi and got work at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar. Later, Al Green worked out a deal with Decca Records, and Wilson was signed to their subsidiary label, Brunswick.
His solo career began with 1957’s “Reet Petite,” written by the then-unknown Berry Gordy, Jr. and recorded on the Brunswick Records label. His dynamic stage performances earned him the nickname “Mr. Excitement” and his performance of “Lonely Teardrops” on the Ed Sullivan Show is considered one of the show’s classics.
Due to his fervor when performing, with his dynamic dance moves, singing and impeccable dress, he was soon christened “Mr. Excitement”, a title he would keep for the remainder of his career. His stagecraft in his live shows inspired James Brown, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, as well as a host of other artists that followed. Presley was so impressed by Wilson that Elvis made it a point to meet him, and the two instantly became good friends. In a photo of the two posing together, Presley’s caption in the autograph reads “You got you a friend for life.” Wilson was sometimes called “The Black Elvis”. Reportedly, when asked about this Presley said, “I guess that makes me the white Jackie Wilson.” Wilson also said he was influenced by Presley too, saying “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.”
Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy. His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins, back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, removing his tie and jacket and throwing them off the stage, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience,” Wilson often said, “they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.” Having women come up to kiss him is one reason Wilson kept bottles of mouthwash in his dressing room. Another reason was probably his attempt to hide the alcohol on his breath.
He recorded over fifty hit singles in a repertoire that included R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening before lapsing into a coma following a collapse on stage during a 1975 benefit concert. By the time of his death in 1984, he had become one of the most influential soul artists of his generation.
He had been in care ever since suffering the heart attack in 1975. His medical costs were paid for by Elvis Presley and soul singer Al Green was one of the very few artists who regularly visited a bed-ridden Jackie Wilson.
He was 49 years old when he died on 21 January 1984 at age 49.
A two-time Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee, Jackie was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jackie Wilson No.68 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
January 1, 1984 – Alexis Korner/Alexis Andrew Nicholas Koerner was born in Paris on April 19th, 1928 to an Austrian Jewish father and a Turkish-Greek mother. His early childhood years were spent in France, Switzerland and North Africa and he arrived in London in 1940 at the start of World War II. One memory of his youth was listening to a record by blues jazz pianist Jimmy Yancey during a German air raid. Korner said, “From then on all I wanted to do was play the blues.”
In 1949, he joined Chris Barber’s Jazz Band and in 1952 he became part of the much larger Ken Colyer Jazz Group, which had merged with Barber’s band. Among those whom Korner crossed paths with during this era was Cyril Davies, a guitarist and harmonica player. The two found their interests in American blues completely complementary, and in 1954 they began making the rounds of the jazz clubs as an electric blues duo. They started the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, where, in addition to their own performances, Korner and Davies brought visiting American bluesmen to listen and play.
Very soon they were attracting blues enthusiasts from all over England. Korner and Davies made their first record in 1957, and in early 1962, they formed Blues Incorporated, a “supergroup” (for its time) consisting of the best players on the early-’60s British blues scene. Korner (guitar, vocals), Davies (harmonica, vocals), Ken Scott (piano), and Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone) formed the core, with a revolving membership featuring Charlie Watts or Graham Burbridge on drums, Spike Heatley or Jack Bruce on bass, and a rotating coterie of guest vocalists including Long John Baldry, Ronnie Jones, and Art Wood (older brother of Ron Wood). Most London jazz clubs were closed to them, so in March of 1962 they opened their own club, which quickly began attracting large crowds of young enthusiasts, among them Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones, all of whom participated at some point with the group’s performances; others included Ian Stewart, Steve Marriott, Paul Jones, and Manfred Mann.
In May of 1962, Blues Incorporated was invited to a regular residency at London’s Marquee Club, where the crowds grew even bigger and more enthusiastic. John Mayall later credited Blues Incorporated with giving him the inspiration to form his own Bluesbreakers group.
Record producers began to take notice, and in June of 1962 producer Jack Good arranged to record a live performance by the band. The resulting record, R&B from the Marquee, the first full-length album ever made by a British blues band, was released in November of 1962. The album consisted of largely of American standards, especially Willie Dixon numbers, rounded out with a few originals.
At virtually the same time that Blues Incorporated’s debut was going into stores, Cyril Davies left the group over Korner’s decision to add horns to their sound. Korner soldiered on, but the explosion of British rock in 1963, and the wave of blues-based rock bands that followed, including the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Yardbirds undercut any chance he had for commercial success. His more studied brand of blues was left stranded in a commercial backwater — there were still regular gigs and recordings, but no chart hits, and not much recognition. While his one-time acolytes the Rolling Stones and Cream made the front pages of music magazines all over the world, Korner was relegated to the blues pages of England’s music papers, and, though not yet 40, to the role of “elder statesman.”
For a time, Korner hosted Five O’Clock Club, a children’s television show that introduced a whole new generation of British youth to American blues and jazz. He also wrote about blues for the music papers, and was a detractor of the flashy, psychedelic, and commercialized blues-rock of the late ’60s, which he resented for its focus on extended solos and its fixation on Chicago blues. He continued recording as well, cutting a never-completed album with future Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant in early 1968.
Korner’s performing career in England was limited, but he could always play to large audiences in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, and there were always new Korner records coming out. It was while touring Scandinavia that he first hooked up with vocalist Peter Thorup, who became Korner’s collaborator over the next several years in the band New Church. After his dismissal from the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones considered joining New Church; Korner, however, rejected the idea, because he didn’t want his new band to be caught up in any controversy.
In 1972, he became peripherally involved in the breakup of another band, inheriting the services of Boz Burrell, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace when they quit King Crimson. It was during the ’70s that Korner had his only major hit, as leader (with Peter Thorup) of the 25-member big-band ensemble CCS. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” charted in England, and led to a tour and television appearances.
In response, Korner released Bootleg Him, a retrospective compiled from tapes in his personal collection, including recordings with Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, and Charlie Watts. Korner played on the “supersession” album B.B. King in London, and cut his own, similar album, Get Off My Cloud, with Keith Richards, Peter Frampton, Nicky Hopkins, and members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. When Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1975, Korner was mentioned as a possible replacement, but the spot eventually went to Ron Wood.
In 1978, for Korner’s 50th birthday, an all-star concert was held featuring Eric Clapton, Paul Jones, Chris Farlowe, and Zoot Money, which was later released as a video. In 1981, Korner formed the last and greatest “supergroup” of his career, Rocket 88, featuring himself on guitar, Jack Bruce on upright bass, Ian Stewart on piano, and Charlie Watts on drums, backed by trombonists and saxmen, and one or two additional keyboard players. They toured Europe and recorded several gigs, the highlights of which were included on a self-titled album released by Atlantic Records.
In contrast to the many blues-rock fusion records with which Korner had been associated, Rocket 88 mixed blues with boogie-woogie jazz, the group’s repertory consisting largely of songs written by W. C. Handy and Pete Johnson. After a well-received appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the early ’80s, there were rumors afterward that he intended to become more active musically, but his health was in decline by this time. A chain smoker all of his life, Korner, sometimes referred to as, “The Founding Father of British Blues”, died of lung cancer on January 1, 1984
December 28, 1983 – Dennis Carl Wilson was born on December 4, 1944 in Inglewood, California. He was the second oldest of the three Wilson brothers. The Beach Boys formed in August 1961 under the strongwilled guidance of father Murry Wilson. Though the Beach Boys were named for and developed an early image based on the California surfing culture, Dennis was the only real surfer in the band.
Dennis was initially considered the least talented of the Wilson brothers, surprising everyone later on with his superb songwriting, productions and vocal arrangements. Dennis’ role in the family dynamic, which he himself acknowledged, was that of the black sheep. Though anxiety-filled and aggressive at times he was also sensitive and generous. His musical talent was often overshadowed in later years by his excessive drinking.
Their 1961 debut single “Surfin'” was followed by many chart hits including “Help Me, Rhonda”, “California Girls”, “I Get Around”, “Surfing USA”, “Barbara Ann”, “Sloop John B”, “Good Vibrations”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Fun Fun Fun” and “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”. His original songs for the band included “Forever”, “Little Bird”, “Slip On Through” and “Do You Wanna Dance”.
In the late 1960s, as drug abuse and psychological issues led to Brian withdrawing from the group, Dennis began to write songs himself. At one point, he collaborated with Charles Manson, who, along with some of his female followers, stayed in Dennis’s house in the spring and summer of 1968. The Beach Boys even recorded one of Dennis and Manson’s songs, “Never Learn Not to Love.”
Dennis also worked on non-Beach Boys projects. With Billy Preston, he co-wrote the popular song “You Are So Beautiful,“which became a worldwide hit for Joe Cocker in 1974.
Branching out into film, Dennis appeared alongside James Taylor in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971). And he was the first Beach Boy to put out a solo album: Pacific Ocean Blue (1977). His collaborators on the album included Daryl Dragon, the ‘Captain’ of Captain & Tennille and Gregg Jakobson. Despite positive reviews, the album peaked at No.96 in the US and sold only around 300,000 copies.
His follow-up album, Bambu, was initially scuttled by lack of financing and the distractions of Beach Boys projects. A sampling of its music was officially released in 2008 as bonus material with the Pacific Ocean Blue reissue. Two songs from the Bambu sessions, “Love Surrounds Me” and “Baby Blue” were lifted for the Beach Boys 1979 L.A. (Light Album).
Within the Beach Boys, an acrimonious relationship developed between Dennis and Love in the 1970s. With his alcoholism prompting out-of-control behavior, the group sometimes banned Dennis from their concerts. In 1983, he was told that he needed to sober up in order to take part in an upcoming tour.
Dennis signed into a detox unit in late December of 1983, but left the facility on Christmas Day. For a month prior to his death, Dennis had been homeless and living a nomadic life. In November 1983, he checked into a therapy center in Arizona for two days, and then on December 23, checked into St. John’s Medical Hospital in Santa Monica, where he stayed until the evening of December 25. Following a violent altercation at the Santa Monica Bay Inn, Dennis checked into a different hospital in order to treat his wounds. Several hours later, he discharged himself and reportedly resumed drinking immediately.
On December 28, 1983, 24 days after his 39th birthday, he went to Marina del Rey, where he crashed on a friend’s yacht (his own boat had been sold to meet financial obligations). Dennis drowned at Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, after drinking all day and then diving in the afternoon, to recover items he had thrown overboard at the marina from his yacht three years prior. When he couldn’t be located after a dive, his friends raised the alarm. Rescuers recovered his body at approximately 5:45 p.m. An autopsy showed evidence of cocaine in his system, as well as an elevated blood alcohol level. Dennis was 39 when he died.
At the time of his death, Dennis—who had been married five times, twice to the same woman and had a relationship with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame—was married to Shawn Love, the 19 year old daughter of his Beach Boys bandmate and cousin. Shawn insisted that her husband be buried at sea; it was only with the intervention of then-President Ronald Reagan that the at-sea burial by the U.S. Coast Guardwas allowed. Five years after Dennis died, the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
November 18, 1983 – Tom Evans was born on June 5th 1947. The sad and tragic story of Evans and his fellow bandmate Pete Hamm is amplified by the greed grabbing conditions that the music industry has always been plagued by; ruthless and dishonest.
Tom Evans was a very talented bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, who started his music career as a member of “The Inbeateens” in 1961. With the growing recognition of the Beatles, he soon progressed to a Liverpool mod/soul group called Them Calderstones.
In 1967, he joined a Welsh band called The Iveys who changed their name to Badfinger in 1969, while under contract with the Beatles’ owned Apple Records. Paul McCartney gave the group a boost by offering them his song “Come and Get It” which he produced for the band. It became a featured track for the film The Magic Christian, which starred Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and put Badfinger on the map.
They followed up with major successes in 1970 and 71 with titles like “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue”, each featuring some of Toms vocals, songwriting capabilities, background harmony and dual leads. His high-career moment came with the composition “Without You”, co-written with bandmate Peter Ham. The song became a No.1 hit worldwide for Harry Nilsson and has since become one of the top worldwide evergreens, covered by hundreds of performers.
Evans & Joey Molland of Badfinger argued on the telephone, reportedly about the publishing royalty of the song “Without You.” Following the argument, Tom sadly hanged himself in the garden at his home at age 36 on November 18, 1983 at age 36, in an eerie replay of fellow band mate Pete Ham’s 1975 death scene. Marianne Evans, his wife, was quoted in a documentary as having stated that “Tommy said ‘I want to be where Pete is. It’s a better place than down here’ ….”
The band had everything going for them. They were in the right place, playing the right music, at the right time. They wrote great songs and got the attention of all the right people, including Paul McCartney.
What could go wrong?
Badfinger are like an allegory for everything that’s wrong with the music business.
They were signed to Apple records, the Beatles’ label and had legendary producer Tony Visconti (not that he was legendary at the time) as their producer got their first album.
The management came under Alan Klein. He was the manager of the Stones, but also managed the Beatles after Epstein’s death. Forget what you’ve heard about Yoko, Klein was the person who drove a wedge between the Beatles.
With the troubles caused by the Beatles’ break up and the general mismanagement of Apple, the band were largely left with no promotion and the album was nothing like as big as expected.
Their song Without You was rather undervalued by the band and buried as the closing song on side one of they’re first album. It was the result of two songs. Pete Ham had a verse he liked but a chorus he didn’t; Tom Evans had a chorus that worked but a verse he didn’t like.
However, many other people noticed it and it was recorded very successfully by Harry Nilsson, before becoming something of a standard and being recorded by dozens of other people, including Mariah Carey.
The royalties should be a straight forward 50/50 split between Ham and Evans. However, there was rumoured to be a verbal agreement to include the rest of the band. The management of the group was taken over by Stan Polley, an American entertainment manager. Polley created a contract that gave all the band members a set salary incorporating writing royalties. Polley’s company was included within this, effectively giving him over ten times the income than any members of the band received, while also splitting writing credits with members who weren’t involved in the composition.
The following court case tied up the band in legal wrangling for several years and created divisions between the members, making the band unworkable.
In the meantime the Nilsson version of Without You was huge. Under normal circumstances writing a big hit record, especially in the early 70s, could set you up quite comfortably for life. However, the issues of royalties meant this wasn’t the case. With at one point the song being attributed not only to Ham and Evans but also to fellow band mates Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland, as well as their former manager, Bill Collins.
In 1975 Ham became so depressed, over the court case, and financial problems that he hanged himself, citing Polley as one of the causes. He was 27. The financial issues continued with several law suits and a claim for royalties against Evans by the remaining members. In 1983 Evans also hanged himself.
Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland continued to tour as Badfinger. After much further issues, to the best of my knowledge, the royalties are now exclusively shared between the estates of Ham and Evans, which seems a little too late!
17 April 1983 – Felix Pappalardi (MOUNTAIN) was born December 30th 1939 in the Bronx, New York City. After High School he moved to Michigan where he studied classical music at the University of Michigan. After graduating he moved back to New York but could not find a job as a conductor and soon fell into the folk scene of Greenwich Village. During the 1960s as a music producer he helped to further the careers of musicans from Tim Hardin, The Youngbloods, Joan Baez, to Richard and Mimi Farina.
In 1964 he joined Max Morath’s Original Rag Quartet (ORQ)in their premier engagement at New York’s Village Vanguard with several other famous musicians. Along with Felix on guitarrón (Mexican acoustic bass) were pianist/singer Morath, who revived classic ragtime played in the Scott Joplin manner, Barry Kornfeld, a well-known NYC studio folk and jazz guitarist, and Jim Tyler, a famous Baroque and Renaissance lutenist playing four string banjo and mandolin. The ORQ then toured the college and concert circuit during the following year, and opened four engagements with the Dinah Shore show in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
As a producer, Pappalardi became perhaps best known for his work with British psychedelic blues-rock power trio Cream, beginning with their second album, Disraeli Gears. Pappalardi has been referred to in various interviews with the members of Cream as “the fourth member of the band” as he generally had a role in arranging their music. He contributed instrumentation for his imaginative studio arrangements and he and his wife, Gail, wrote the Cream hit “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.
In 1968 he produced a band named, ‘The Vagrants’ who recorded on the Atlantic Record Label, and which featured a young guitarist named Leslie West. In 1969 along with West, Corky Laing, Mark Clarke, Steve Knight, David Perry, and N.D. Smart II, he founded the hard charging blues-rock group, ‘Mountain.‘ The group was formed in Long Island, New York, and disbanded in 1972. They got back together in 1974, but disbanded again in 1975. One of there first big gigs was playing at the Woodstock Music Festival in Saugerties, New York, in August 1969. There songs include, “My Lady” “Don’t Look Around” “The Great Train Robbery” “Travelin” “In The Dark” “The Animal Trainer And The Toad” “Mississippi Queen” “For Yasgur’s Farm” “Boys In The Band” “Laird” “Silver Paper” “King’s Corale I” “One Last Cold Kiss” “Crossroader” and “Dream Sequence: Guitar Solo/Roll Over.
As a musician, Pappalardi is widely recognized as a bassist, vocalist, and founding member of the American hard rock band/heavy metal forerunner Mountain, a band born out of his working with future bandmate Leslie West’s soul-inspired rock and roll band The Vagrants, and producing West’s 1969 Mountain solo album. The band’s original incarnation actively recorded and toured between 1969 and 1971. Felix produced the band’s albums, and co-wrote, and arranged a number of the band’s songs with his wife Gail Collins and Leslie West.
The band’s signature song, “Mississippi Queen” is still heard regularly on classic rock radio stations. They also had a hit with the song “Nantucket Sleighride” written by Pappalardi and Collins.
Felix generally played Gibson basses live and on Mountain’s recordings. He is most often shown with an EB-1 but there are photographs of him playing an EB-0 live. He was known for playing a Gibson EB-1 violin bass through a set of Sunn amplifiers that, he claimed, once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.
Pappalardi was forced to retire because of partial deafness, ostensibly from his high-volume shows with Mountain. He continued producing throughout the 1970s and released a solo album and recorded with Japanese hard rock outfit Kazuo Takeda’s band The Creation (old name Blues Creation).
On April 17, 1983, Felix Pappalardi was shot once in the neck in their fifth-floor East Side Manhattan apartment. He was pronounced dead at the scene and his wife Gail was charged with second degree murder. Collins Pappalardi claimed that the killing was an accident. She was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter, but found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. On April 30, 1985, she was released on parole and disappeared to Mexico.
Felix Pappalardi was 43 when he died on April 17, 1983.
On December 6, 2013, Collins was found dead by her landlord in the Mexican village of Ajijic, Jalisco, a resort town with many American expatriate residents. She had been undergoing cancer treatments there. She was cremated with her three cats.
The Pappalardi’s became known for their non-musical proclivities, which included the usual chemical experiments as well as an open marriage. However her jealousy of one particular mistress reportedly led to the argument that ended in his death, although Collins maintained that she’d shot Pappalardi accidentally while taking a firearms training session. The fact that it happened at 6:00AM didn’t dissuade jurors from handing in a surprising verdict, convicting her of criminally negligent homicide rather than murder.
The judge in the case seemed annoyed by the verdict, making a point of reminding jurors, “She called her attorney instead of calling for help — she was concerned with her own well-being,” and giving her the maximum sentence under the law. Paroled in 1985 after serving half of her four-year sentence, Collins disappeared from sight, but judging from the quotes given by her acquaintances to the New York Daily News, she remained just as provocative a personality after exiting the spotlight.
“She was one of the most brilliant people I have ever known, but she was also an opinionated jackass. She just needed to be the star,” said one woman described as Collins’ friend. Added her neighbor, “She left instructions for her cats to be euthanized so their ashes could be mixed with hers. Who does that?”
April 5, 1983 – Daniel EarlDanny Rapp was born on May 9th 1941 in Philadelphia, PA. The group was formed in a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1955, and besides Rapp included, Frank Maffei, Lennie Baker, Dave White Tricker, Joe Terranova, and Bill Carlucci. Originally known as ‘The Juvenairs’ the group choreographed their own dance moves, and often performed at after school gigs and local area shows. They later became known as Danny and the Juniors.
In 1957, the group was discovered by songwriter/producer named John Madara, who had happened to see them while they were were working a record hop. A promoter of Rock ‘n’ Roll music, Madara introduced the band to David White Tricker and a vocal coach named Artie Singer, who also owned the Singular Records Label. After an audition, the band was signed to the label, and soon released their first song, ‘Do The Bop,’ written by Madara and White. The song’s title was later changed to, ‘At The Bop’ .
The song came to the attention of Dick Clark, who suggested they rename it to “At the Hop,” due to the fact that the word ‘Bop’ was by then pretty much out of fashion. The song released in that year, was first cut as a demo with the help of music producer Leon Huff and after 13 takes at the Reco-Art Studios, the copy was sent around to radio DJ’s. The song was released as the group’s first single, and it became a regional hit first, and then a national hit. The song went to #1 for 7 weeks on the music charts and sold over 7,000 copies in their hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The song which was an immediate success would also become there signature song. They were also asked to appear on Dick Clark’s television program, “American Bandstand” as a replacement for ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials.’ Following the success of there single, ‘At The Hop,’ the band then released the Top 20 hit, ‘Rock And Roll Here To Stay,’ and also toured with several bands of Alan Freed‘s traveling Rock ‘n’ Roll shows.
They followed this with two other singles that ended up going into the Top 40 Charts. In 1963 the group switched over to the Swan Record Label, but after the release of a couple more songs including, ‘Twistin’ USA,’ and ‘Dottie,’ the group eventually disbanded a year later. The Juniors released several more records in the 1960s but were not able to produce any more hits. In the 70s they toured the oldies circuit, re-releasing “At the Hop” in 1976
The group’s members continued on in the music business doing their own things, Madara kept producing and finding new talent, while the group’s members joined, founded other bands, or had solo careers.
Rapp’s last performance was in Phoenix, Arizona at the Silver Lining Lounge of The Pointe Tapatio Resort in a month-long engagement which was scheduled to end on Saturday, April 2, 1983. However two performances short of the contract he got into a couple of disputes offstage with a female member of the group that prompted resort security to intervene and confront him. With two more shows yet to complete, Danny took off and headed to a small town more than 160 miles away, where he checked into the Yacht Club Motel in Quartzsite, Arizona, just east of the California border. He was seen on Saturday drinking heavily in the Jigsaw, one of the two bars in town. Sometime over the weekend, he bought a .25-caliber automatic from a private individual.
Rapp’s body was found in his hotel room on Sunday, April 3, 1983, with a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of the head. He was a few weeks short of his 42nd birthday.
David White co-wrote “At the Hop” with John Madara and Artie Singer. Originally called “Do the Bop” and written by David and John, the song was renamed and some of its lyrics changed at the recommendation of Dick Clark because the dance known as the Bop was already fading in popularity around the time the song was released. Hops were the new thing. Artie came aboard as a co-writer of the new version, and Dick was given half of the publishing rights for it.
As David recalls in his own words about that song, “We recorded ‘Do the Bop’ with Johnny Madara singing lead vocals and my group, The Juvenaires, backing him up. Artie took it to Johnny’s label, Prep Records, but they turned it down. Artie then took it to Dick Clark, who suggested the title change to ‘At the Hop’. Aritie changed some of the lyrics and became a co-writer,” continuing, “We went back into the recording studio and this time, my group recorded the song with Danny singing lead. Artie took it back to Dick Clark and gave him half the publishing of the song. ‘At the Hop’ was then released on the Singular label, which couldn’t handle the distribution demands. So Artie sold the master to ABC Paramount.” The practice of payola was not illegal at that time, allowing Dick Clark to get away with securing those publishing rights, David explained to me.
February 4, 1983 – Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2nd 1950. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching and later, in the early 1970s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.
In 1964 when Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked and after admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez (who idolized famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play the drums instead. Continue reading Karen Carpenter 2/1983
January 29, 1983 – Luke Kelly was born in Dublin on either the 16th of November or 16th of December 1940. The confusion arises because his mother says November and his birth certificate December. In the main Luke has always taken his mother’s word for it, for he reasons that she was there at the time. The family was a large close one. Luke’s father, another Luke, worked for Jacobs the biscuit people and had a great love of soccer – a love he passed on to his son.
Luke was educated at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s (the patron saint of Dublin) School in the North Strand area. He left school when he was thirteen and did a variety of jobs before coming, via the Isle of Man, to work in England.
The first folk club he came across was in Newcastle upon Tyne in early 1960. He started memorizing songs and brought a banjo to play sessions in McReady’s pub. The folk revival was under way in England, at the centre of it was Ewan MacColl who scripted a radio program called Ballads and Blues. The skiffle craze had also injected a certain energy into folk singing. Luke started busking and returned to Dublin in 1962.
That same year Luke along with Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna formed “The Ronnie Drew Group”, playing regularly in O’Donoghue’s Pub. They changed their name due to Drew’s unhappiness with the name, coinciding with the fact that Kelly was reading Dubliners by James Joyce at the time.
In 1964 Luke Kelly left the group for nearly two years, he went back to London and became involved in Ewan MacColl’s “gathering”. The Critics, as it was called, was formed to explore folk traditions and help young singers. He greatly admired MacColl and saw his time with The Critics as an apprenticeship. Back with The Dubliners, Luke was more of the balladeer in the band, and he played chords on the five-string banjo and sang many defining versions of traditional songs like “The Black Velvet Band”, “Whiskey in the Jar”, “Home Boys Home”.
Kelly was keenly political, a member of the Communist Party and a fundraiser for Amnesty International. Sheahan points to his generosity as one of his defining characteristics. He remembers an occasion when Kelly’s wife, the actress Deirdre O’Connell, had returned from a furniture auction with a table. By coincidence, Sheahan’s wife had picked up a set of chairs at auction similar to the table, and he joked about the coincidence to Kelly. “Before I could say anything, he had the table out the door and strapped to the roof of my car. He had no great commitment to material possessions.”
On June 30th 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House, Luke collapsed on the stage, a brain tumor was diagnosed. He continued to tour with the Dubliners after enduring an operation, but his health sadly deteriorated further.
The Ballybough Bridge in the north inner city of Dublin has been renamed the “Luke Kelly Bridge” and in November 2004, the Dublin city council voted unanimously to erect a bronze statue of Luke (On his autumn tour in 1983 he came off the stage, ill, in Traun, Austria and again in Mannheim, Germany. He had to cancel the tour of southern Germany and after a short stay in hospital in Heidelberg was flown back to Dublin. After an operation he spent Christmas with his family but was taken into hospital in the New Year, where this time he sadly died on January 29, 1983 at age 43.
The Dubliners were less a group than a meitheal. In the old peasant pattern the meitheal came together to do a job — and that was it. The Dubliners were all individualists — Luke and Ronnie and Ciaran and John and Barney were leaves from different trees blown together by the wind that changed the world of music a generation ago. What they had most in common was artistic honesty. Luke’s ambition was to express ‘the song of his loneliness1. He succeeded as much as a mortal can -and in doing so he became an immortal.
January 28, 1983 – Billy Fury was born Ronald Wycherley on April 17, 1940 in Liverpool.
In the early days of British rock & roll, there were dozens of contenders for stardom: Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, and Marty Wilde were among the players who rose to the challenge for at least a few years. Billy Fury, by contrast, was the real article from day one, and never really surrendered the title. He was also the most prodigiously talented of his generation of British rock ‘n roll singers, a songwriter of considerable ability, and a decent actor as well.
He was born Ronald Wycherley, in Liverpool. A sickly child, he experienced his first bout of rheumatic fever at age six, the beginning of chronic health problems that would take his life before age 45. At 11, he started music lessons, taking up the piano, and he got his first guitar at age 14. By 1955, the skiffle boom had begun in England and Wycherley was leading his own local group, while earning money working on a tugboat and then as a stevedore. By 1958, Wycherley was playing locally and had won a talent competition, and was writing his own songs.
Wycherley was discovered by impressario Larry Parnes on October 1, 1958, in a story that quickly assumed the status of legend among the British youth of the period. He attended a performance of The Larry Parnes Extravaganza, on which one of the featured performers was Marty Wilde, a hot young rock ‘n roll star who was already well known from his appearances on the television series Oh Boy! Wycherley got backstage to offer his own songs to Wilde in the hope that he might perform them — instead, he was seen and heard by Parnes and booked into the show that night. The applause that Wycherley received earned him a permanent spot on the tour and Parnes as his agent.
In keeping with Larry Parnes’ established proceedure of giving his singers stage names derived from distinctive emotions and attributes -Marty Wilde, Johnny Gentle, Vince Eager — Ronald Wycherley became Billy Fury. His early performances were so suggestive by English standards that he was forced to restrain himself from his more overtly sexual stage moves when a curtain was brought down on one of his shows.
Billy Fury’s recording career began early in 1959 with “Maybe Tomorrow,” a song that he wrote himself and which charted soon after its release. He made his television debut soon after, in a televised play called “Strictly For Sparrows,” and he was soon a fixture on musical showcases such as Oh Boy! He revealed himself a talented singer, and perhaps the closest that England came to producing its own Elvis Presley, capable of dark, brooding, intensely sexual performances such as “Baby How I Cried” (another original) but also of turning in gentle, vulnerable ballads.
His mix of rough-hewn good looks and unassuming masculinity, coupled with an underlying vulnerability, all presented with a good voice and some serious musical talent, helped turn Fury into a major rock ‘n roll star in short order. He was one of the very few English rock ‘n rollers of the period who could (and did, on stage and on television) stand alongside the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent with no apology or excuse for being there, and Cochran intended to arrange an American tour for Fury, which never came about because of the car crash that took Cochran’s life at the end of that British tour.
After a string of hit singles, Fury cut his debut album, The Sound of Fury, in early 1960. Released in April of that year, The Sound of Fury was the best rock ‘n roll long-player (albeit only a 10-inch platter) ever to come out of England up to that time. Fury was singing in a killer rockabilly type voice and was backed by some of England’s best rock ‘n roll musicians, including guitarist Joe Brown, one of the few serious rockabilly players in England, and drummer Andy White, who later played on the original release version of the Beatles debut single “Love Me Do.” The album sold well and has been re-released a half-dozen times since, including a CD version in the early 1990’s, and among its strongest adherents is Keith Richards, who, in a 1970’s interview, declared The Sound of Fury one of the greatest rock ‘n roll albums of its era and one he swore by.
Fury’s early 1960’s recordings took on a more sophisticated air as, in keeping with the trends of the times, he moved toward more of a pop-rock sound, similar to Elvis Presley’s film material. He was still a strong singer, however, and never had to fall back on the lure of novelty tunes or romantic pop to sell records. What’s more, on stage he had a very compelling and popular act, backed variously by the Beat Boys and then the Blue Flames (who eventually got a keyboard player turned singer named Georgie Fame in their their line-up, and became his band). In 1960, Decca Records made a decision to soften Fury’s sound, at least on his singles. “Talkin’ In My Sleep” and “Don’t Worry” backed by the Four Kestrels were two results of this change, but they still come off as decent rock ‘n roll. It was the orchestrated “Halfway To Paradise” in 1961 that began his brief assault of the top of the charts, hitting No. 3, and followed a few months later by the No. 2 charting “Jealousy,” and the No. 5 charting “I’d Never Find Another You.” One of his self-penned B-sides of this era, “Fury’s Tune,” however, was an even better representation of Fury at his most intense and charismatic, a dark, brooding, fiercely seductive performance that was a match for the best work of Elvis Presley.
By 1962, Fury was the top rock ‘n roll attraction in England, backed by the best band of the era — the legendary Tornados, of “Telstar” fame -and appearing on television regularly, and even giving a real acting performance in the feature film Play It Cool. The Beatles even tried (and failed) an audition to back Fury on a tour during this period. Actually as the story goes: After jettisoning his band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Parnes held auditions in Liverpool for a new group. Among those who auditioned were the Beatles, who at this time were still calling themselves the Silver Beetles. They were offered the job for £20 a week on condition that they sacked their bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. John Lennon refused and the band left after Lennon had secured Fury’s autograph. The Tornados were recruited as Fury’s backing band and toured and recorded with him from January 1962 to August 1963. The Puppets were another band that backed Billy on a couple of gigs for 12 months.
In that same timeframe he also ventured to America, making little impact (as was the case with virtually every English rock ‘n roller) but getting to meet Elvis Presley on the set of the film Girls Girls Girls. In 1963, Fury was in a seeming unassailable position. By the time, his one-time rivals Cliff Richard and his backing group the Shadows had shifted their focus to a much softer, more romantic brand of rock ‘n roll, leaving Fury as the only harder rocking music idol of the era. His records sold well enough to justify the release of two full LPs including the live recording We Want Billy. He also got a new, seemingly permanent backing band in the guise of the Gamblers, who provided him with the support he needed to make his records and concerts among the best of the period.
Only the arrival of his fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles on the top of the charts ended Fury’s dominance of the teen music scene in England. They weren’t that different as personalities — a look at Fury’s performance in the movie Play It Cool will even bring to mind images of Ringo Starr, who grew up in the same part of Liverpool — except that The Beatles were more guileless and less calculated in the way they presented themselves, and they played a harder, different brand of music, less focused on pop and more on American r&b of the period.
Fury continued to chart records into 1964, and was considered hip and viable enough to justify appearances on programs like Ready! Steady! Go! In the summer of that year, he starred in a semi-autobiographical movie, I’ve Got A Horse, and he got a television show of his own late that year. He continued to get good reviews for an exciting show into 1965, but by then the handwriting was on the wall — his records seldom charted better than the mid-20’s or lower. Additionally, Fury’s health began to deteriorate, which took him off the road, where he was at his best.
In 1966, he left Decca Records and signed a five-year contract with EMI’s Parlophone Records, during which he would see some very modest success but nothing like the frenzied stardom of his first seven years in music.
Fury underwent heart surgery in 1970 and another in 1971, and resumed performing the following year. By the mid-1970’s, there was a rock ‘n roll revival going on in England that saw the re-release of The Sound of Fury LP and other parts of his catalog, and he toured England successfully with his one-time idol Marty Wilde. When he wasn’t performing, Fury looked after his other interests, which included wildlife preservation.
A 1976 heart operation brought an end to Fury’s musical career, except for occasional recording and television appearances. In 1978, Fury re-recorded his classic songs for K-Tel, and in the early 1980’s re-cut his old hits yet again for Polydor (which, by that time, owned Decca Records). A single, “Be Mine Tonight,” just missed the British charts in 1981.
On March 4 of the following year, Fury collapsed and nearly died while working on his farm. He went back on tour that summer and managed to place the singles “Love Or Money” and “Devil Or Angel” on the English charts that same season. Plans for a new album and a national tour were made, but on January 27, 1983, he was found unconscious in his home, and he died that same day in hospital.
Amid numerous tributes and memorials, a posthumous single, “Forget Him,” charted in England later that year. Billy Fury remains perhaps the most fondly remembered of England’s early rock ‘n roll stars. In contrast to Cliff Richard, he never changed his sound, and he also – despite a strong dedication to animal rights and conservation — never mixed his personal beliefs and his music in a public way. Numerous reissues and releases of previously unreleased material by Fury have continued to appear in the compact disc era, most recently the 40th Anniversary Anthology double CD set and Beat Goes On’s two-on-one CD of We Want Billy and Billy.
He went on to have 29 chart hits including Wondrous Place; A Thousand Stars; Don’t Worry; Halfway to Paradise; Jealousy; In Summer; Like I’ve Never Been Gone; When Will You Say I Love You; I’d Never Find Another You; Last Night Was Made for Love and Once Upon a Dream.
He also appeared in the films I’ve Gotta Horse and That’ll Be The Day. Billy had been suffering from rheumatic fever, as his health was slowly deteriorating and in ’76 he underwent heart surgery and again later.
In 1980 he was declared bankrupt, this forced him out of retirement, against medical advice he went back to work. His last public appearance was at the Sunnyside, Northampton, in Dec 1982. He recorded a live performance for the television show Unforgettable featuring six of his old hits.
Billy Fury died two and a half months short of his 43rd birthday on January 28, 1983 from a heart attack.
June 11, 1982 – Addie “Micki” Harris was bornAddie Harris McPherson on January 22, 1940 in Passaic, New Jersey. As a founding member of The Shirelles, which originally formed in 1958 in Passaic, New Jersey by Shirley Owens, Alston Reeves, Doris Coley, Kenner Jackson and Beverly Lee, they became a sensation in early doo-wop.
The Shirelles were originally formed in 1957 in Passaic, NJ, by four either 16 or 17 years old high school friends: Doris Cole
y (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie “Micki” Harris, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston), and Beverly Lee.
June 3, 1982 – Russell Edward “Rusty Day” Davidson, also known as “Pachuco” by his closest friends, was born in Garden City, Michigan on December 29, 1945.
Day joined Ted Nugent’s band The American Amboy Dukes in 1969, after their former vocalist, John Drake, was fired. Day had just quit his own band, Rusty Day & The Midnighters. He stayed only for one album, Migrations.
Very soon after he joined supergroup Cactus as vocalist. Cactus was initially conceived in late 1969 as a supergroup of the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice with guitarist Jeff Beck and singer Rod Stewart. However, Beck had an automobile accident and Stewart joined Ronnie Wood in The Faces. Out of frustration, Bogert and Appice formed what became known as Cactus in early 1970. The cast was complete when Day joined them on vocals and Jim McCarty joined on lead guitar.
But it was a short lived three albums later that he was fired. Having made a name for himself in Detroit’s rock scene as a force to be reckoned with however, Rusty Day worked to restore one of Detroit’s most legendary bands, The Band Detroit, to the national stage. The Band Detroit was formed as an offshoot of The Detroit Wheels by members Steve Gaines (who two years later joinEd Lynyrd Skynyrd), Ted “T-Mel” Smith, Nathaniel Peterson, Terry Emery, Bill Hodgeson, and others. The band’s initial flame burned out quickly due to many different issues going on at once. There’s a recording of Rusty Day, Steve Gaines, and the rest of the band performing in 1973 called The Band Detroit – The Driftwood Tapes.
In 1976, Rusty Day formed another version of Cactus in Longwood, Florida, where he had relocated. This version of Cactus featured Steve “Kahoutek” Dansby on guitar, John “Soybean Slim” Sauter (who later played on Ted Nugent’s Weekend Warriors) on bass guitar, and Gary “Madman” Moffatt (who later played for .38 Special) on drums. This was the longest lasting 1970s line-up of the band, which ended around 1979.
Day, having turned down AC/DC’s request to have him join their band to replace Bon Scott, and Rossington-Collins’s request to have him replace Ronnie Van Zant, eventually formed Uncle Acid & The Permanent Damage Band which scored him a deal with Epic Records in 1980
Day was fatally shot at his home on June 3, 1982. His son and Garth McRae were also fatally shot during the same attack. The murder officially remains unsolved, although the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office believe the victims may have known the perpetrator, and that the killings may have been drug related.
March 5, 1982 – John Belushi (The Blues Brothers) was born January 24th 1949 in Chicago, Illinois. Belushi’s mother, Agnes Demetri (Samaras), was the daughter of Albanian immigrants, and his father, Adam Anastos Belushi, was an Albanian immigrant from Qytezë. Born in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, John was raised in Wheaton, a suburb west of Chicago, along with his three siblings: younger brothers Billy and Jim, and sister Marian. Belushi was raised in the Albanian Orthodox Church and attended Wheaton Central High School, where he met his future wife, Judith Jacklin.
In 1973, Belushi and Judith Jacklin moved together to New York where Belushi worked for National Lampoon magazine’s The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a half-hour syndicated comedy program where he was a writer, director and actor. During a trip to Toronto to check the local Second City cast in 1974, he met Dan Aykroyd. Jacklin became an associate producer for the show, and she and Belushi were married on December 31, 1976.
Belushi became an original cast member of the new television show Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1975. His characters at SNL included belligerent Samurai Futaba. With Aykroyd, Belushi created the characters Jake and Elwood Blues, also known as The Blues Brothers.
The band made its debut as the musical guest on the April 22, 1978, episode of Saturday Night Live. The band then began to take on a life beyond the confines of the television screen, releasing an album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978, and then having a Hollywood film, The Blues Brothers, created around its characters in 1980.
Although better known as a comedian/ actor, notable for his work on Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon’s Animal House, it is as a “Joliet” Jake Blues (named after Joliet Prison) of the Blues Brothers that he caught instant stardom. Belushi and Aykroyd, in character as lead vocalist and harmonica player/backing vocalist “Elwood” Blues (named after the Elwood Ordnance Plant, which made TNT and grenades during World War II), the Blues Brothers R&B Review became a sensation.
During his tenure at SNL, Belushi was heavily using drugs and alcohol which affected his performance and caused SNL to fire him (and promptly re-hire him) a number of times.
Following the success of The Blues Brothers on the show, Belushi and Aykroyd, with the help of pianist-arranger Paul Shaffer, started assembling a collection of studio talents to form a proper band. These included SNL band members, saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini and trombonist-saxophonist Tom Malone, who had previously played in Blood, Sweat & Tears. At Shaffer’s suggestion, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, the powerhouse combo from Booker T and the M.G.’s and subsequently almost every hit out of Memphis’s Stax Records during the 1960s, were signed as well. In 1978 The Blues Brothers released their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues with Atlantic Records. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. Two singles were released, “Rubber Biscuit”, which reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Soul Man,” which reached number 14.
The Blues Brothers became a Grammy Award-nominated American blues and soul revivalist band.
Other than the titular “Blues Brothers” and a handful of characters, all musicians performed under their real names. The full band for the 1980 film included:
The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.
Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Aykroyd and Belushi filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. Belushi bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Aykroyd and Ron Gwynne collaborated on and developed the original story idea which Dan then turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.
It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers”. In a 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed their “duo thing and dancing” from Sam & Dave and others, “but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”
The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion.[a] Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House. Aykroyd has said of this time:
So I grew up (in Ottawa), in this capital city. My parents used to work for the government, and I went to elementary school, high school, and the university in the city. And there was a place on Sussex Drive (Sussex Drive is where the Prime Minister’s house is, right below Parliament Hill), and there was a little club there called Le Hibou, which in French means ‘the owl.’ And it was run by a gentleman named Harvey Glatt, and he brought every, and I mean every blues star that you or I would ever have wanted to have seen through Ottawa in the late 50s, well I guess more late 60s sort of, in around the Newport jazz rediscovery. I was going to Le Hibou and hearing James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Muddy Waters. I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S. P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said, ‘Anybody out there play drums? I don’t have a drummer.’ And I walked on stage and we started, I don’t know, Little Red Rooster, something. He said, ‘Keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.’ And I heard Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett). Many, many times I saw Howlin’ Wolf. And of course Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. So I was exposed to all of these players, playing there as part of this scene to service the academic community in Ottawa, a very well-educated community. Had I lived in a different town I don’t think that this would have happened, because it was just the confluence of educated government workers, and then also all the colleges in the area, Ottawa University, Carleton, and all the schools—these people were interested in blues culture.
The Toronto-based Downchild Blues Band, co-founded in 1969 by two brothers, Donnie and Richard “Hock” Walsh, served as an inspiration for the two Blues Brothers characters. Aykroyd initially modeled Elwood Blues in part on Donnie Walsh, a harmonica player and guitarist, while John Belushi’s Jake Blues character was modeled in part on Hock Walsh, Downchild’s lead singer. In their first album as the Blues Brothers, Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), Aykroyd and Belushi featured three well-known Downchild songs closely associated with Hock Walsh’s vocal style: “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)”, written by Donnie Walsh, “Shot Gun Blues”, co-written by Donnie and Hock Walsh, and “Flip, Flop and Fly”, co-written and originally popularized by Big Joe Turner. All three songs were contained in Downchild’s second album, Straight Up (1973), with “Flip, Flop and Fly” becoming the band’s most successful single, in 1974.
Belushi’s budding interest in the blues solidified in October 1977 when he was in Eugene, Oregon, filming National Lampoon’s Animal House. He went to a local hotel to hear 25-year-old blues singer/harmonica player Curtis Salgado. After the show, Belushi and Salgado talked about the blues for hours. Belushi found Salgado’s enthusiasm infectious. In an interview at the time with the Eugene Register-Guard, he said:
I was growing sick of rock and roll, it was starting to bore me … and I hated disco, so I needed some place to go. I hadn’t heard much blues before. It felt good.
Salgado lent him some albums by Floyd Dixon, Charles Brown, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and others. Belushi was hooked.
Belushi began to appear with Salgado on stage, singing the Floyd Dixon song “Hey, Bartender” on a few occasions, and using Salgado’s humorous alternate lyrics to “I Don’t Know”:
I said Woman, you going to walk a mile for a Camel Or are you going to make like Mr. Chesterfield and satisfy? She said that all depends on what you’re packing Regular or king-size Then she pulled out my Jim Beam, and to her surprise It was every bit as hard as my Canadian Club
These lyrics were used again for the band’s debut performance on SNL. This took place on the episode of April 22, 1978 (hosted by Steve Martin), where, in the cold open, Don Kirshner (played by Paul Shaffer) describes how Marshall Checkers of Checkers Records called him on a hot new blues act, and how with the help of “Neshui Wexler and Jerry Ertegun” (a play on the names of record industry executives Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun), they were no longer regarded as an authentic blues band, but “a viable commercial product.”
Belushi, technically, did not have a great voice; he compensated for this by throwing his heart and his soul into his singing, from which approach the power of the blues is said to come.
With the film came the soundtrack album, which was the band’s first studio album. “Gimme Some Lovin’” was a Top 40 hit and the band toured to promote the film, which led to a third album (and second live album), Made in America, recorded at the Universal Amphitheatre in 1980. The track “Who’s Making Love” peaked at No. 39. It was the last recording the band would make with Belushi’s Jake Blues.
At the time of his death, music had become more of a byline for Belushi, who was pursuing several movie projects.
Belushi died on the morning of March 5, 1982 in Hollywood, California at the Chateau Marmont, after being injected with, and accidentally overdosing on, a mixture of cocaine and heroin (a “speedball”) at the age of 33.
February 4, 1982 – Alexander James “Alex” Harvey was born February 5th 1935 in Glasgow, Scotland. By his own account, he worked in a number of jobs, from carpentry to waiting tables at a restaurant to carving tombstones, before finding success in music. He first began performing in skiffle groups in 1954. On Friday, 20 May 1960, at the Town Hall, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, Alex Harvey and his Big Beat Band opened for Johnny Gentle and His Group, “His Group” being the Beatles (John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe and Tommy Moore), on this the opening night – and biggest audience – of the Beatles’ seven-date tour of Scotland with Gentle.
His musical roots were in Dixieland jazz and skiffle music, which enjoyed considerable popularity in Britain during the late 1950s. From 1958 until 1965, he was the leader of Alex Harvey’s Big Soul Band, playing blues and rock and roll songs and spending considerable time touring in the United Kingdom and Germany. He also won a competition, that sought “Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele”. Harvey became strongly identified with British rhythm and blues music, although he was equally able to play rock songs. He briefly tried a solo approach but when that didn’t work out he became a member of the pit band in the London stage production of the musical Hair recording the live LP ‘Hair Rave Up’ in 1966, which contained Harvey originals and other songs not from the stage show. In 1970, Harvey formed Rock Workshop with Ray Russell; their first, self-titled album contained an early version of “Hole in Her Stocking”, later to appear on Framed. Harvey remained with Hair for five years.
Harvey was also instrumental in the formation of the band Stone the Crows by introducing his younger brother, Leslie “Les” Harvey, to singer Maggie Bell. Also in Stone the Crows was bassist James Dewar, later of Robin Trower fame. Les Harvey was electrocuted in a freak stage accident while performing with the band in 1972.
In 1972, Alex formed the Sensational Alex Harvey Band with guitarist Zal Cleminson, bassist Chris Glen, and cousins Ted and Hugh McKenna on drums and keyboards respectively, all previous members of progressive rock act “Tear Gas”. He built a strong reputation as a live performer during the 1970s glam rock era.
The band was renowned for its eclecticism and energetic live performance, Alex for his charismatic persona and daredevil stage antics. The band had hits with “Delilah” in 1975, and “The Boston Tea Party” in 1976. Alex left the band later that year.
Harvey re-joined the group for 1978’s Rock Drill, but they disbanded shortly afterwards.
Alex Harvey was no punk-rocker, having first broken in during Britain’s skiffle rage in the ’50s (as “The Tommy Steele of Scotland”) and then living on the fringes of the British blues scene during the early part of the following decade. Alex Harvey c. 1975 But when he finally found his moment and grabbed on tight for the ride, it was with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the early ’70s, a glam-rock outfit contemporary with Slade and Mott the Hoople. As part of his stage act, Harvey brandished a can of spray paint and used it liberally; the set list included covers of songs by the Coasters and Tom Jones, along with something called “There’s No Lights on the Christmas Tree, Mother; They’re Burning Big Louie Tonight” (references to a version of which may be found in the classic rock’n’roll movie from 1956, The Girl Can’t Help It). Where do you put a guy like this, except in the proximity of the New York Dolls? By the time punk- rock had arrived Harvey was past forty and suffering health problems related to drugs and other hazards of the rock-star lifestyle.
On 4 February 1982, a day short of his 47th birthday, Harvey suffered a massive heart attack while waiting to take a Northsea ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium, back to England after performing a Belgian gig with his new band, the Electric Cowboys. He suffered a fatal second attack in an ambulance on the way to hospital.
January 29, 1982 – Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins was born Sam John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas on March 15, 1912. Hopkins’ childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. That day, Hopkins felt the blues was “in him” and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger “Texas” Alexander.
Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded. Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings. In the mid-1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm for an unknown offense. In the late 1930s, Hopkins moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there.
By the early 1940s, he was back in Centerville working as a farm hand.
Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston’s Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles-based label Aladdin Records. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”.
Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. In the late 1940s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. He occasionally traveled to the Mid-West and Eastern United States for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between eight hundred and a thousand songs in his career. He performed regularly at nightclubs in and around Houston, particularly in Dowling St. where he had first been discovered. He recorded his hits “T-Model Blues” and “Tim Moore’s Farm” at SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid to late 1950s, his prodigious output of quality recordings had gained him a following among African Americans and blues aficionados.
In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by Mack McCormick, who hoped to bring him to the attention of the broader musical audience, which was caught up in the folk revival. McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. Hopkins debuted at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960, appearing alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger performing the spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep”. In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song “Mojo Hand” in 1960.
In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally. He toured extensively in the United States and played a six-city tour of Japan in 1978.
Houston’s poet-in-residence for 35 years, Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman.
His distinctive style often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly – with occasional slaps of the guitar – the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion and lead would be created. He influenced many guitarists including Jimi Hendrix. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career,
On January 29, 1982 he lost his battle with esophageal cancer at age 70.
Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins, one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players, died Saturday in Houston, where he made his home. He would have been 70 years old next month.
A contemporary of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, he was one of the last of the original blues artists. Mr. Hopkins began to sing the blues as a child in his native Texas. He started to sing professionally in the 1930’s, gaining recognition beyond his home state with an intense style that he used to phrase his songs of suffering and death. In his dark and supple voice, he would evoke his past as a field hand and rambler to the accompaniment of highly imaginative guitar work.
His instrument often became a second voice to discourse with, or to end his vocal phrases. It also enhanced his reputation for flair, wit and improvisational skill. A Spontaneous Style
On his guitar, Mr. Hopkins would alternate ominous single-note runs on the high strings with a hard-driving bass in irregular rhythms that matched his spontaneous, conversational lyrics.
His recordings and fame had preceded the lean, lanky minstrel when he first ventured North in 1960 for a concert in Carnegie Hall and appearances at the Village Gate.
The Carnegie Hall concert was a benefit hootenanny that also featured the young Joan Baez. Mr. Hopkins performed his frequently bitter and sardonic, introspective and autobiographical songs, and also swapped verses with Pete Seeger and Bill McAdoo, a young folk singer from Detroit.
But his art was best suited for the more intimate surroundings of a club like the Village Gate, where he sang of unfulfilled love and unappreciated devotion. ”The blues form may seem simple and limiting,” reported Robert Shelton in his review in The New York Times, ”but at the hands of a master his sentiments burgeoned into a subtle exploration of moods.”
Mr. Hopkins returned to the Village Gate in 1962 for a joint appearance with Sabicas, the Spanish flamenco guitarist. Playing out his moody, subjectively ruminating songs on a $65 guitar, he added an unusually light-hearted number, ”Happy Blues for John Glenn,” after having watched the television reports on the astronaut’s orbital flight around the world. Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’
By that time, M r. Hopkins, a regular on Hou ston’s Dowling Street, had recorded more than 200 singles and 10 alb ums in 42 years of singing.
He appeared in 1970 in a short film, ”Blues Accordin’ to Lightin’ Hopkins,” a tribute to his musicianship, a study of his brand of music, as well as a celebration of his way of life.
Mr. Hopkins was at Carnegie Hall again, in 1979, for a four-hour Boogie ‘n Blues concert and appeared for the last time in New York the following year for a three-night stand at Tramps on East 15th Street.
Sam Hopkins was born March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Tex., a small cotton town, north of Houston, surrounded by red-clay country. At 8, he made his first guitar and had his brother teach him basic guitar blues, enough to get him started as a musician.
He left school about that time to travel in Texas, sometimes as a hobo and occasionally working as a farmhand; he also did other odd jobs and played the guitar at county fairs and picnics. During those ramblings, he encountered Blind Lemon Alexander, the most popular Texas blues singer at the time, and his cousin, Texas Alexander, who sang but didn’t play the guitar; he took young Sam on as accompanist.
It became a lasting association. Mr. Hopkins and Texas Alexander, a singer with a voice like barbed wire, worked theaters and both could still be heard together on Houston street corners and city buses in the early 1950’s. ‘Rediscovered’ in 50’s
Mr. Hopkins had returned to Houston in 1945 after years of wandering around the South. Ten years later – he had become well known throughout Texas by then – the country blues were at a low as popular music and he fell into obscurity.
But a musicologist, Sam Charters, ”rediscovered” him in the late 1950’s and introduced him to a new generation of blues fans, this time across the country.
”The last of the blues is almost gone,” Mr. Hopkins noted just a few years ago when he had his national fame well in place, ”and the ones who doin’ it now got to either get a record or sit ’round me and learn my stuff, ’cause that all that they can go by.’
December 27, 1981 – Howard ‘Hoagy’ Carmichael was born in Bloomington, Indiana on November 22, 1899. If for nothing else, his song “Georgia on my Mind” would have landed him in the Annals of Superstardom.
He was named Hoagland after a circus troupe “The Hoaglands” who stayed at the Carmichael house during his mother’s pregnancy. His dad Howard was a horse-drawn taxi driver and electrician, and mom Lida a versatile pianist who played accompaniment at silent movies and for parties. The family moved frequently, as Howard sought better employment for his growing family.
At six, Carmichael started to sing and play the piano, easily absorbing his mother’s keyboard skills; he never had formal piano lessons. By high school, the piano was the focus of his after-school life, and for inspiration he would listen to ragtime pianists Hank Wells and Hube Hanna. At eighteen, the small, wiry, pale Carmichael was living in Indianapolis, trying to help his family’s income working in manual jobs in construction, a bicycle chain factory, and a slaughterhouse. The bleak time was partly spelled by four-handed piano duets with his mother and by his strong friendship with Reg DuValle, a black bandleader and pianist known as “the elder statesman of Indiana jazz” and “the Rhythm King”, who taught him piano jazz improvisation.
The death of his three-year-old sister in 1918 affected him deeply, and he wrote “My sister Joanne—the victim of poverty. We couldn’t afford a good doctor or good attention, and that’s when I vowed I would never be broke again in my lifetime.”
Carmichael attended Indiana University and the Indiana University School of Law, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1925 and a law degree in 1926. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and played the piano all around the state with his “Collegians” to support his studies. He met, befriended, and played with Bix Beiderbecke, the cornetist, sometime pianist and fellow mid-westerner. On a visit to Chicago, Carmichael was introduced by Beiderbecke to Louis Armstrong, who was then playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and with whom he would collaborate later.
In October 1929 the stock market crashed and Carmichael’s hard-earned savings declined substantially. Fortunately, Louis Armstrong then recorded “Rockin’ Chair” at Okeh studios, giving Carmichael a badly-needed financial boost. He had begun to work at an investment house and was considering a switch in career when he composed “Georgia on My Mind” with lyrics by Stuart Gorrell, perhaps most famously turned into an evergreen by the Ray Charles rendition recorded many years later(1960).
Hoagy kept writing what sounded ‘right’ and in 1930 made recordings of “Georgia On My Mind,” “Rockin’ Chair,” and “Lazy River.” Other artists heard the new songs and within a year Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and the Dorsey brothers had recorded their own versions and were performing them on the new hot medium, radio. Hoagy Carmichael himself was still barely known to the public, but they were hearing and singing his songs, and in 1936 Hoagy went to Hollywood where “the rainbow hits the ground for composers.”
During the next decade, Hoagy moved from backstage into the spotlight. He worked with lyricists Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser and Mitchell Parish. He became a star performer on records, radio and stage with a signature style, and began appearing in movies, most memorably in “To Have and Have Not” and “The Best Years of Our Lives”. He got married and fathered two sons. In one year, 1946, he had three of the top four songs on the Hit Parade, and in 1951 he and Mercer won an Oscar for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.” He hosted his own television show, “The Saturday Night Review.”
‘Hoagy’ was no longer a peculiar name, he was a star, even an American icon. He was also someone you knew, a guy you wished you could have a drink and share a laugh with. He had the same joys and desires, disappointments and fears you had, and some of his songs–“Lazy River,” “Heart and Soul”– became so familiar they sounded as if no one had written them, they’d just always been there.
Despite Hoagy’s folksiness, humor and accessibility, there was also something emotionally deep and complex in him. Perhaps it was because he never got that house back in Bloomington, even if he got one in Hollywood instead. Or maybe it was because behind that knowing look and wryly cocked eyebrow there were a whole lot of things that baffled him too. Like how you could want more than anything “the solid, warm, endearing things of life” and also be a “jazz maniac” whose judgment was “thrown out of kilter” by hearing a horn. These were the twin passions which wove through Hoagy’s life in strands, and one night when he was alone at the piano, they combined in a song.
Hoagy described his surprise the first time he heard a recording of “Stardust”: “And then it happened–that queer sensation that this melody was bigger than me. Maybe I hadn’t written it at all. The recollection of how, when and where it all happened became vague as the lingering strains hung in the rafters of the studio. I wanted to shout back at it, ‘maybe I didn’t write you, but I found you.'”
Hoagy found a lot of songs during his storybook life, and maybe his personal journey began the night a hungry young kid heard Louis Jordan’s band and went crazy for jazz. In The Stardust Road, Hoagy describes what he said to himself the next day mowing his Grandmother’s lawn: “No, gramma, I don’t think I’ll ever be president of anything. I know Mother named me after a railroad man, but it’s too late now, I’m afraid. Much, much too late.
He appeared as an actor in a total of 14 motion pictures died from a heart attack on Dec 27, 1981 at the age of 82.
July 16, 1981 – Harry Chapin was born on December 7th 1942 in Greenwich Village, New York, the second of four children who also included future musicians Tom and Steve. His parents were Jeanne Elspeth (née Burke) and Jim Chapin, a legendary percussionist. He had English ancestry, his great-grandparents having immigrated in the late 19th century. His parents divorced in 1950, with Elspeth retaining custody of their four sons, as Jim spent much of his time on the road as a drummer for Big band era acts such as Woody Herman. She married Films in Review magazine editor Henry Hart a few years later. Chapin’s maternal grandfather was literary critic Kenneth Burke.
Chapin’s first formal introduction to music came while singing in the Brooklyn Boys Choir, where Chapin met “Big” John Wallace, a tenor with a five-octave range, who later became his bassist, backing vocalist, and his straight man onstage. Continue reading Harry Chapin 7/1981
April 5, 1981 – Robert Ernest “Bob The Bear” Hite was born February 26 1943 in Torrance California. In 1965 Hite was introduced to Alan Wilson by Henry Vestine and the two of them helped convince blues pianist Sunnyland Slim (1906-1995) to get back into the recording studio to record. Hite formed a band with Wilson and Vestine joined soon after and this trio formed the core of Canned Heat. The trio were eventually joined by Larry Taylor (bass) and Frank Cook (drums).
Having found notoriety during the August Woodstock Festival, Canned Heat appeared on a November 1969 episode of Playboy After Dark. Hite was invited to talk with Hugh Hefner after the performance, along with other guests Sonny and Cher, Vic Damone, Dick Shawn and Larry Storch. A 20-year-old Lindsay Wagner, playing the part of one of Hefner’s party guests, sat on Hite’s lap and played a party game. When asked by Hefner what kind of animal Hite would be if he were an animal, Wagner claimed he’d be a bear. Hite told her she got it right, that people called him “The Bear.” It was also on this episode that Hite informed Hugh Hefner that he had over 15,000 78s.
Hite sang and played harmonica with Canned Heat at Woodstock in August 1969. The performances were not included in the original (1970) film Woodstock, but are in the 1994 “Director’s Cut” version.
He produced the John Lee Hooker/Canned Heat album, Hooker ‘N Heat (1971).
Bob remained the lead singer until his death. Canned Heat appeared at most major musical events of the late 1960s including the two legendary ’60s concerts Monterey and Woodstock, which gained them international fame. Their songs – “Going Up the Country” and “On the Road Again” – became international hits; both were re-workings of obscure blues
Bob Hite was 38 when on April 5, 1981, during a break between sets at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, Hite was handed a drug vial by a fan. Thinking it contained cocaine, Hite stuck a straw into the vial and snorted it. The drug turned out to be heroin and Hite turned blue and collapsed. Some roadies put Hite in the band’s van and drove him to a nearby home where he died.
March 19, 1981– Tampa Red aka Hudson Whittaker or Hudson Woodbridge was born on January 8th 1904 in Smithville, Georgia.
When his parents died he moved to his aunts in Tampa, Florida. He is best known as an accomplished and influential blues guitarist who had a unique single-string slide style. His songwriting and his silky, polished “bottleneck” technique later influenced other leading Chicago blues guitarists, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Mose Allison and many others.
In the 1920s, having already perfected his slide technique, he moved to Chicago, and began his career as a musician, adopting the name ‘Tampa Red’. His big break was being hired to accompany Ma Rainey and he began recording in 1928 with “It’s Tight Like That”, in a bawdy and humorous style that became known as “hokum”.
In a career spanning over 30 years he recorded pop, R&B and hokum records. His best known recordings include ‘Anna Lou Blues’, ‘Black Angel Blues’, ‘Crying Won’t Help You’, and ‘Love Her with a Feeling'”. By the 1940s he was playing electric guitar and in 1942 “Let Me Play With Your Poodle” was a No.4 ranking hit on Billboard’s new “Harlem Hit Parade”, forerunner of the R&B chart. In 1949 his recording “When Things Go Wrong with You (It Hurts Me Too)” was another R&B hit.
Out of the dozens of fine slide guitarists who recorded blues, only a handful — Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson, for example — left a clear imprint on tradition by creating a recognizable and widely imitated instrumental style. Tampa Red was another influential musical model. During his heyday in the ’20s and ’30s, he was billed as “The Guitar Wizard,” and his stunning slide work on electric or National steel guitar shows why he earned the title. His 30-year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions “Anna Lou Blues,” “Black Angel Blues,” “Crying Won’t Help You,” “It Hurts Me Too,” and “Love Her with a Feeling”). Early in Red’s career, he teamed up with pianist, songwriter, and latter-day gospel composer Georgia Tom Dorsey, collaborating on double-entendre classics like “Tight Like That.”
Listeners who only know Tampa Red’s hokum material are missing the deeper side of one of the mainstays of Chicago blues. His peers included Big Bill Broonzy, with whom he shared a special friendship. Members of Lester Melrose’s musical mafia and drinking buddies, they once managed to sleep through both games of a Chicago White Sox doubleheader. Sadly he became an alcoholic after his wife’s death in 1953 and he blamed his latter-day health problems on an inability to refuse a drink.
During Red’s prime however, his musical venues ran the gamut of blues institutions: down-home jukes, the streets, the vaudeville theater circuit, and the Chicago club scene. Due to his polish and theater experience, he is often described as a city musician or urban artist in contrast to many of his more limited musical contemporaries. Furthermore, his house served as the blues community’s rehearsal hall and an informal booking agency. According to the testimony of Broonzy and Big Joe Williams, Red cared for other musicians by offering them a meal and a place to stay and generally easing their transition from country to city life.
Tampa Red played a National Resonator Guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available before amplification, acquiring one in the first year they were available.
He tragically died destitute in Chicago on March 19, 1981 at age 77.
December 29, 1980 – James Timothy “Tim” Hardin was born in Eugene, Oregon on December 23rd 1941. He dropped out of high school at age 18 to join the Marine Corps. (Hardin is said to have discovered heroin in Vietnam.) After his discharge he moved to New York City in 1961, where he briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was dismissed due to truancy and began to focus on his musical career by performing around Greenwich Village, mostly in a blues style.
After moving to Boston in 1963 he was discovered by the record producer Erik Jacobsen (later the producer for The Lovin’ Spoonful), who arranged a meeting with Columbia Records. In 1964 he moved back to Greenwich Village to record for his contract with Columbia. The resulting recordings were not released and Columbia terminated Hardin’s recording contract.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1965, he met actress Susan Yardley Morss (known professionally as Susan Yardley) and moved back to New York with her. He signed to the Verve Forecast label, and produced his first authorized album, Tim Hardin 1 in 1966 which contained “Reason To Believe” and the ballad “Misty Roses” which did receive Top 40 radio play.
His backing band included Lovin’ Spoonful leader John Sebastian on harmonica and jazzman Gary Burton on vibes, but Hardin claimed to be so upset by the strings that were overdubbed on some tracks without his consent that he cried when he first heard them. Still, it was a strong set with a tender low-key, confessional tone, and contained some of his best compositions, such as “Misty Roses”, “How Can We Hang On To A Dream”, and especially “Reason To Believe”, which became something of a signature tune.
Strings also occasionally graced Hardin’s next LP, Tim Hardin 2 (1967), in a more subtle fashion. Another solid collection in much the same vein as the debut, it contained perhaps his most famous song, “If I Were A Carpenter”, which was taken into the US Top 10 in a faithful cover version by Bobby Darin.
These two albums, sadly, represented the apex of Tim’s career; almost all of his best work is contained on them, although he would live another dozen years. Heroin problems and general irresponsibility often made him miss shows or perform poorly; he suffered from pleurisy in 1968, and a tour of England the same year had to be cancelled when he fell asleep on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after dismissing his backing group in front of the audience. The live Tim Hardin 3 (1968) was a decent set with jazzy backing musicians that introduced some new material along with reprises of previously recorded favorites. But Hardin didn’t record another set of fresh songs in the 60s, although he did perform at Woodstock, where he lived for a while (his performance, however, didn’t make it on to the film of the event).
Many of his songs were covered by prominent artists including Small Faces, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Rod Stewart, Weddings Parties Anything, Joan Baez Four Tops, Doc Watson, Robert Plant, Rick Nelson to mention a few. His many songs include “If I Were A Carpenter”, “How Can We Hang On To A Dream?”, “Misty Roses”, “Reason to Believe”, “It’ll Never Happen Again”, “You Got a Reputation”, “Don’t Make Promises”, “Shiloh Town”, “The Lady Came from Baltimore” and “Red Balloon”
Hardin did record a few albums in the early 1970s that were not without bright moments; but, whether due to dope or other factors, his muse seems to have withered; the 1973 record Painted Head didn’t even contain a single original composition. Tim Hardin 9 (also 1973) was his last LP; after years of bouncing around England and the West Coast and fighting health and psychological problems, he died in Los Angeles in 1980 at age 39 from a heroin and morphine overdose.
August 20, 1980 – Joseph Ira “Joe” Dassin was born on November 5, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a violinist Beatrice, called Bea, who works with the best classical musicians such as Pablo Casals, and father, Jules Dassin, who after a short stage career, becomes Alfred Hitchcock’s associate director and a film director at last. In 1940 his father, seduced by the seventh art, decides to move to Los Angeles. The mysterious Los Angeles of the MGM studios and the Pacific Coast beaches. In this American city, where East meets West, Joe lives a happy teenager’s life till the day when…the world turns upside down. Along with the end of the World War II and Yalta agreements the world has to put up with the consequences of the “Cold War”.
East and West face each other: the USA against USSR, capitalism against socialism. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin opens and leads his witch-hunt against people suspected of sympathizing with communism. Jules Dassin, who has already won some fame, is also under suspicion. Soon, he is accused of “Moscow-liking”. This means the end of sweet Hollywood life and exile for the Dassin family.By the end of 1949 a transatlantic liner leaves the New York harbor heading for Europe. Joe is watching his native land disappear in the morning mist and the liner’s smoke. From this time on, he won’t call any country home.
Joe discovers the Old Europe at the age of 12. This is 1950 and the old continent is under total re-construction. The Marshall Plan and ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) make front-page stories. While Jules and Bea are settling in Paris, Joe is sent to a boarding school of a famous Col-lege Rosey in Switzerland. The establishment is chic and very expensive. In spite of the exile the money doesn’t seem to be a big problem to the Dassins. There Joe makes acquaintance with Karim Aga Khan and the rich European heirs.
Meanwhile, the educational establishments follow one another. 1951: Joe is in Italy. 1953: he at-tends the International School in Geneva. In 1954 this latter sends him to Grenoble to pass his “baccalaureat” exam and get a bachelor’s degree, for this kind of diploma doesn’t exist in Switzer-land. By this time Joe is 16 and he is a very handsome guy with a winsome look in his eyes. He speaks three languages fluently and gets a good (excellent) mark for his “bac” exam.
In 1955, Joe’s parents get divorced. The film-maker continues his career with a new companion, the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, while the violinist prefers, from this time on, to keep in the back-ground. Joe takes the failure of his parents’ family life close to heart and decides to return to his hearth and home of America. So, he comes back to the USA where, at that time, the standards of the university education were second to none. As Joe gets enrolled in the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Elvis Presley starts his crusade for Rock’n’Roll. Joe doesn’t seem to be really im-pressed by this musical style. Being an earnest and diligent student, Dassin Jr. is far from black shirts, people indulging in pointless rebellion and the American Graffiti “live”. At first he tries to study medical science but experimenting with animals and dissection is more than he can endure, so Joe focuses on Anthropology and Russian language studies. Very concerned to speak fluently many languages, Dassin lives with his two French-speaking buddies, a French, Alain Guiraud and a Swiss, soon-to-be dean of one of the faculties of Geneva University. Quite often Alain and Joe make some changes in their usual time-table… Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, while America gets “electrified”, having neither leather jackets nor pomaded haircuts a la mode, the two friends sing in duet, standing on the double ladder so that the audience can see them better. Their repertoire includes neither Elvis Presley nor Eddie Cochran but Brassens. In the atmosphere of gen-eral affectation the French-singing duet assure their Folk “a la francaise” some kind of a promotion and is the first ever to export the poetry of Brassens to the American campuses. These recitals bring them some bottom dollars but it has more of a money spinning side-line than a regular job and Joe has to work. No problem. In an America of “affluent society” of J.K.Galbraith all young Americans make different “student jobs”. During six years of studies Joe takes turns working as a sociologist, a delivery man, a truck driver… Meanwhile, our A student finds some spare time to write a story – “Wade In Water” – which received the second national award. A painful omen: he is declared unfit for military service because of cardiac problems.
While Joe is studying hard at the University, his father gains authority throughout the world and becomes the Great Jules Dassin. In 1958, he asks Joe to record some themes for his next movie – “La Loi” (The Law) starring Gina Lollobrigida and featuring a marvelous tarantella. Dassin Jr. re-leases an EP at Versailles label in 1959. Then, in 1960, comes “Never On Sunday” (Jamais le di-manche) with its astonishing sound track and, especially, the song “Les Enfants du Piree” (The Children Of Piree) performed by Melina Mercouri. Joe graduates from the University and gets Doc-tor’s degree in Anthropology while the 60s take full speed. The Rock’n’Roll has already conquered America and is on the way to charming the Old Europe.
Diploma in the pocket, Joe has to decide his own future. And this is not an easy thing to do for a man who is an artist like his parents but not a daydreamer. Somehow he guesses that his future is on the other side of the Atlantic, in the good old Europe of his adolescent years. $300 in the pocket, Joe boards a ship which takes him to Italy. He travels first class: in the hold of a cargo. It is 1962 and Joe is 24. As he still does not feel like finding himself a regular job, his father hires him as an asso-ciate director of “Topkapi”, Jules’ second great movie. The world media are delighted to show the father and his son on the same set, and unveil Joe’s unshaven oriental face. Easy come easy go, and Joe spends his fee on a little Triumph. Just after that he starts to perform at the Radio Luxembourg and becomes a journalist for Playboy, while the French ye-ye is in its prime.
December 13, 1963 radically changes Joe’s private life. At one of the many parties organized by Eddy Barclay he meets a girl. The pretext of this “party” is the French release of Stanley Cramer’s movie “This Crazy, Crazy, Crazy World”. Surrounded by the imposing architectural beauty of the Pavillon d’Armenonville, Joe is equally impressed by girl’s charm and personality. Her name is Maryse. None of them suspects their ten-years long romance that will follow. A few days after the Pavillon party, Joe invites Maryse Massiera for a week-end to Moulin de Poincy, some 40 km from Paris. His aim is clear – to seduce her by all possible means. In the intimacy of the room with burn-ing fireplace he sings her “Freight Train”, accompanying himself on a guitar. He knows very well that the combination of his vocal cords and those of his guitar is irresistible. His devilishly tender plan works out perfectly and she falls into his arms… After this week-end out of time, the two lov-ers live up in the clouds till the end of the year.
From January 6, 1964, feeling determined the young couple starts to make plans. By the end of the month the idea of engagement, or even wedding, is in the air. Joe and Maryse settle in Saint-Cloud, at Bea’s place. The solution is temporary but the two lovers don’t put such difficult questions. Joe writes stories for the magazines and this let him get by for a moment. And even invite Maryse for a few days of skiing to Zermatt, Switzerland, in February. On their coming back, the couple becomes aware of reality and has to solve the apartment question. They accumulate their money and spend the spring of 1964 looking for a new lodging. Like all Americans, Joe is fond of St.Germain-des-Pres. He chooses Boulevard Raspail. The house is situated in front of the American center but a lit-tle three-room is far from Joe’s dreams… Whatever, this is his first apartment shared with a beloved woman. Inspired by his new role of a “family man”, Joe spends half a summer repairing their love nest. Determined to become a real head of family, he redoubles his efforts. In order to get some more money, he dubs American movies and writes articles for Playboy and The New Yorker. He even plays a part in Trefle Rouge (The Hop-clover) and Lady L. Between the two movies Joe gets a job of a stage manager for Clive Donner in What’s New Pussycat? His guitar is still his passion, his evening pleasure. Maryse shares with him these precious moments of musical emotion. Apparently, Joe is not going to bring his hobby into profit but nobody suspects what the future keeps in store…
Maryse has a friend, her former classmate, Catherine Regnier. While in boarding school, the two girls always shared their joys and sorrows. In this same 1964 a US record company which has recently established its subsidiary in France engaged Catherine as a secretary. Its rather shabby-looking office is situated on 42, rue Paradis, in the Xth district. The Columbia Broadcasting System more known as CBS distributes the discs of such American artists as Barbara Streisand. Catherine often speaks about songs and records, and Maryse has an idea. Joe’s 26th birthday is on November 5 and she is going to offer him a disc. As a gift. With the help from Catherine, who knows a man charged with transferring the sound from magnetic tape on vynil surface, Maryse intends to release a one-copy “supple”, so that she can easily listen to the voice of her beloved man singing “Freight Train”…
They make an appointment with the CBS staff. One October day, the precious magnetic tape in her hand, Maryse penetrates into the CBS office, which is nothing but an old apartment on the last – fourth – floor of a house with leaking roof. One of the brightest ever careers of French showbiz is decided in a room where every little rain makes appear a whole army of basins. Maryse meets Cath-erine, who promises to record the disc by the beginning of November. As soon as Maryse leaves, the little staff of CBS France, more used to listen to the American products than to young French-speaking singers, grabs the tape from the shelf in order to have a little fun in the end of a boring working day. But soon the fun gives place to deep reflection. The singer’s voice is deep and pleas-ant, and his phenomenal sense of rhythm is evident. Will it sell? And what if CBS France will es-tablish its own record catalog instead of trying to sell the American stars? The gift record is made and Catherine is charged with persuading Joe to meet the CBS France team. As it has to be a (good) surprise for him, Joe still knows nothing about it. But this birthday “surprise” sets him in a bad hu-mor. Especially when he finds out that the tape fell into hands of a record company which would truly like to meet him for some business reasons. Needless to say that Catherine’s proposition to see the CBS staff about his possible career of a singer is firmly refused. Joe will never become a singer. But it has to be something more than that to discourage Catherine who believes in Joe’s talent. She repeats her assault five times, ten times and… finally manages to convince him. Not too much, in-deed, just a little record, kind of a trial balloon… Two months of a siege gain the upper hand over the young rebel and a few days before Christmas the fortress surrenders. Joe puts his John Hancock on what is the very first contract with a French singer in the long history of the CBS record com-pany.
On December 26 , Joe is in the CBS recording studio. Oswald d’Andrea conducts the orchestra. They record four tunes for a glossy jacketed EP. There are inevitable adaptations and two originals written by Jean-Michel Rivat and Frank Thomas. The two young talented songwriters side Joe in the beginning of his legendary career. But, to tell the truth, the EP is a slapdash piece of work and Joe has difficulty believing in his “lucky star”.
And he is quite right. The 1000 copies of the disc are barely selling. Radio stations which played a crucial role in disc promotions at that time, showed very little enthusiasm, and it in no way encouraged the CBS to action. Monique Le Marcis from the Radio Luxembourg and Lucien Leibovitz from the Europe Un are the only DJs to include Joe’s songs to their play lists. Almost at once they felt this great potential that Joe seemed to have. The spirits are especially low in March and April. But Joe who was reluctant to start career of a singer some months ago, now little by little gets sucked into the game. He refuses to accept the flop and seeks recognition as a performer. So, he decides to get everything started over again with the CBS. From May 7 till 14, Joe returns to the recording studio with the same Oswald d’Andrea. Three recording sessions bring four songs – all cover versions – for the second EP (Extended Play). Having been published in June, the disc is released in 2000 copies. These latter are launched to the market as the promo record is sent to the radio stations in July. But nothing happens, the summer hit belongs to the others. Two successive failures push Joe to fully concentrate on his future career. He runs from publisher to publisher looking for cover versions for his third try which has to be good. By the end of the summer he gets “his” hit, “Shame And Scandal In The Family”, an all-American success, the French version of which he proposes to create. The CBS director has his doubts… Too late! Sacha Distel who has just signed a contract with Pathe-Marconi is in need of musical material and records the song. The Surfs, who are also looking for the second blow with the Festival Recording Company, do the same… As a result, both are a huge success and Joe, enraged, threatens to change the recording company. Joe’s results are poor, but the CBS France does not achieve what was expected from it by the CBS-USA, either. So, the New York direction decides to appoint a new chief of the French subsidiary. Jacques Souplet, chosen to fill the vacancy, used to work for Barclay. His first decision spells death to the existence of the office on rue Paradis. The organisation, which will later on become one of the biggest French recording labels, settles in a mansion in district XVI, 3, rue Freycinet. Joe decides to watch how this new team that promised him to take care of his career is getting on. The new recording session is scheduled for October 21 and 22. Joe knows that it will be either sink or swim. Either the disc is a success or a failure – in any case something has to be done. On his third EP Joe rounded up the best cover versions he had ever expected to get. At those times the publishers kept their best tunes for the stars such as Johnny and Cloclo. Joe and other newcomers had to be contented with what was left. Rivat writes French lyrics for two Cuban songs popular in English-speaking countries at that time. Soon after the recording sessions, from November 5 till 9, they release 4000 copies of the EP followed, by 1300 promos on November 19. And, thank God, the radio stations give it a warm welcome. About 25000 copies are sold. Even if Nana Mouskouri and Les Compagnons de la Chanson who also work under the CBS trademark have better sales figures with their versions of “Guantanamera”, the success of the other tune – “Bip-Bip” – belongs solely to Joe. It doesn’t even matter that Joe is more often heard on the radio than in the music stores. So, a gigantic step has just been made: Joe’s name has become known. Jacques Souplet fills out the CBS stable, signs new contracts and doesn’t have any spare time to take care of Dassin. But he realizes that this latter needs a good producer, someone who could “manage” him, give him advice. And Jacques seems to have an idea… There is a genius of a producer who has recently freed himself from a contract. Even more, it looks as if he were Joe’s kindred spirit. Like Joe, he is fond of jazz, he studied law and he knows America and the Americans quite well. As for his professional skills, he had released the first French discs of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, he had worked for Pathe with Aznavour and had launched in France the Capitol trademark before he became the artistic director of Hallyday and Gainsbourg at Philips. After all, he was the first ever independent producer at Philips and “made” Sheila with Claude Carrere. From September 13 his contract with the latter expired and he is free. It would be a shame to waste such a chance. Souplet knows that Jacques Plait is a man of situation. The only thing left is to persuade him to take charge of the process. Two Jacques meet and agree on a possibility of an independent production at CBS for Plait. Everything is all right but one thing… Plait has to find common ground with Dassin. A “business lunch” is fixed for the end of the year. Being a professional Plait is really worried to meet one more “father’s son”. Dassin fears the worst and cannot imagine being managed by anyone. On December 31, during the historical lunch with cheese and coffee the decision is made. Not without some natural rebuking movements from each contracting party. Anyway, Plait explains, Dassin listens, Souplet freely enjoys the process. The common ground is found. And the history is being made. After lunch, Jacques Plait, coming back to Sceaux, drops Joe at his place on Boulevard Raspail.
They seal the contract with a handshake and a smile. And there will be no other.
Joe seems to get himself into another fix – Maryse drags him into marriage. The ceremony is scheduled for January 18 and will take place in the courthouse of the XIV district. But even if Joe accepts to set it up, he does not wish to see any friends or relatives at his wedding. The collapse of his parents’ marriage is still fresh in his mind. The passage to the courthouse is barred even for Catherine Regnier. Grumpy and touchy this same morning, on his way to the courthouse Joe runs into his friend and “parolier” (lyrics writer) Jean-Michel Rivat. This latter asks his pal where he is going. When Joe announces the news, Rivat cannot believe his ears and decides to join him. In the most intimate of atmospheres Joe says good-bye to his bachelor’s life. Then follows the wedding party in a Russian restaurant where Joe ends dead drunk under the table. Joe Dassin is married. Soon Jacques Plait shows up. Now it is necessary to select good songs, to write cover versions, to find the musicians and a studio… For the time of the studios integrated in the record companies and the musicians-employees is over. Joe starts to work with the man whom he soon baptizes Jacquot. The following process means a lot of work and very little sleep. After some weeks of searching the tandem is positively seduced by four Anglo-Saxon tunes one of which – “You Were On My Mind” – is American. The cover versions are made by Rivat who writes French lyrics for “Comme la lune”, as well as by the best French paroliers. One of them – Andre Salvet – adapts “The Cheater” which becomes, on Joe’s request, “Le tricheur”. But great music and good lyrics are not enough, Jacques Plait knows that nothing should be let slide. Claude Francois and Richard Anthony work in London, so Joe Dassin also must go to London for recording sessions, says Jacques to himself not really believing in this audacious thought. To tell the truth, Joe hasn’t shown his potential yet. Plait contacts Souplet who gives a go to the idea. Undoubtedly, the CBS protege enjoys his company’s confidence…
But the problems are far from being over. Jacques Plait has to find an orchestra conductor acting simultaneously as an arranger. Plait is offered three names and three telephone numbers. He makes calls – the first man is absent, the second one answers – it is Johnny Arthey – and the third one will never know what opportunity he missed. One cold winter day of 1966 Joe and Jacques take plane to London and call on Arthey who works for Feldman Music publishing company, 64, Dean Street in Soho. Very fast Jacques and Joe realize that they have to deal with a typical English eccentric. They present him the tunes to be rearranged. Dealing done, Arthey grasps what sound they want for the disc. And from now on he becomes the first and the only Joe’s studio arranger. For good. This gray day in the beginning of March Joe is feverish. In the Lansdowne Recording Studio in London Arthey’s musicians do the record in the key appropriate to his low baritone. Some days later in Paris Joe records vocal parties in an ancient disused movie theater – the Davout Studio – one of the first French independent studios. These March days “You Were On My Mind” becomes “Ca m’avance a quoi?”, the headliner of the fourth disc. Souplet acts promptly and releases the disc in April. The vinyl is released as EP and as a 45 single. During the same 1966 Joe starts to work for Radio Luxembourg performing the “Western Story” series. By the way the trio Rivat-Plait-Dassin enjoys cutting capers. They invent a certain Edouard who sings “Les hallucinations” teasing especially Antoine with his “Elucubrations”. Edouard, with his questionable “a la protest song” appearance is the same old chap Rivat disguised in a longhaired wig and Bible-prophet beard. The star takes the abuse into the court, wins and the EP has to be withdrawn. The second Edouard’s single goes into sales, then the third one, but the biggest ever hoax of French show business is quickly forgotten. On the other hand, this summer turns out to be successful for Joe. “Ca m’avance a quoi?” goes well on the radio and by September there are talks about the first album. Meanwhile, the market is awaiting a new disc. This time it will be a single with two songs, the kind that is used for jukeboxes. A great novelty for the French music market, indeed. From the very beginning of the vinyl disc business in France the recording companies released only the four-songs EPs as it was more profitable. Feeling the weakness of the market Souplet decides to launch a “commercialized” single like in English-speaking countries. First of all he wraps the disc in a cardboard full-color jacket. This will become the beginning of the Gemini series. Joe Dassin was one of the very first CBS’ French-singing performers who had tested this know-how. And it worked out. Three years later the rest of the recording companies followed the CBS example. On October 12 and 20, Joe records two songs in Davout – the second version of “Guantanamera” and a traditional American tune “Katy Cruel”. This single has to let Joe’s team work till the Christmas holidays when the album release is planned. But all of a sudden the French musicians go on strike. Plait decides to take refuge in a British studio. All for nothing, the perfidious Albion has already given up to the strike movement. There is only one solution left – to do the record in New York. Jacquot doesn’t dare to believe what Joe merely dreams about. But Souplet gives it a green light and on October 27, a plane takes off from Orly to New York. Two men (and their wives, Maryse and Colette) armed with a huge arsenal of songs are on board. The recording sessions take place in the studio on 30th Street with Stanley Tonkel as a sound director. Seven tunes are recorded on October 31 and November 3 and 4. After the sessions Joe takes an opportunity to show “his” country to his friends: Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Broadway… and the most impressive of all monuments – the CBS Building on 52nd Street. They come back late – Joe and Maryse to Bea’s place, Jacques and Colette to Waldorf Astoria. But the small team has yet another important task – take pictures of “Joe in New York” for the album jacket and especially for the media who will certainly enjoy the image of a handsome American in Paris who records his songs in his home town. Don Hunstein takes dozens of imprints. One of them – the one where Joe is leaning on somebody’s Harley Davidson is taken in front of the Time Life Building. This “Joe’s Harley” will appear on the front side of the album jacket and will become a dream of an entire generation. The last glance cast at the Kennedy Airport and the plane takes off for Paris. The CBS decides to release the fifth EP along with the first LP (Long Play). The first appears on November 17, and the latter on 18. The success is almost immediate. “Excuse Me Lady” is a Christmas hit and the sales figures begin to rise.
In January, Andre Salvet and Bernard Chevry create the MIDEM. The professionals who believe in this project are few. But Plait who knows Salvet and owes him a lot decides to support the idea. He shows up at the presentation together with Joe, Maryse and Colette. The little company settles on a yacht anchored in a marvelous old port of Cannes. The journalists swarm at this first rendezvous of the world show business but there are very few real stars and Joe is a favorite target of the press. What can be better than to wrench an interview out of Jules Dassin’s own son in the world capital of cinema? But Joe realizes that this game is far too risky for him. At this time he prefers to avoid being mentioned in the newspapers and limits his performance to the presentation of the first MIDEM awards. But anyway, even if he does not sing, a handsome guy conducting the show with such ease – and in two languages, no problem! – is noticed in the media almost at once. Next morning, from an “upcoming star” Joe turns into the Star. “Excuse Me Lady” goes well enough but one has to think about the next hit. Plait does nothing but turn in mind the idea of a song which will let them go much further.
One morning on the yacht Dassin gets ready to slink to the shore, his guitar in his hand. Plait, extremely surprised, wonders what is happening. Dassin explains that he wants Henri Salvador to listen to a tune composed by Joe himself, Jean-Michel (Rivat) and Frank (Thomas). Joe says, this is not “his” kind of song. Curious Plait wants to be the first to listen to the new creation. Joe does not consider it to be wise. The two men confront. Minutes are passing. Plait wins and Dassin sings leaning on the guard railing: “Tagada tagada, voila les Dalton, tagada tagada ‘y a plus personne…” Jacques is pale as a sheet. Joe still does not understand. But the fury in Jacques’ eyes provokes one of his outbursts of anger: “Never in my life! I refuse to sing it! This song is not for me…” Plait who has already grabbed his hit does not intend to let it go so easily: “I forbid you to give it to Salvador!” And so on and so forth. Finally Joe surrenders, he will record the “cowboy song”. For the first and the last time, according to the contract. There is only one obstacle left: the touring, which is one of the main components of promotion. Joe meets an impresario Charley Marouani but doubts the outcome. His stage experience is short and not very pleasant. The terrible failure of his concert in Brussels in 1966 caused by unprofessional performing of the local orchestra is still fresh in his memory. To cut it short, Joe is terribly afraid of any public performances. Charley Marouani makes him change his mind and proposes him to participate in the first part of the Adamo concert. That’s a deal. On March 9, the tour debuts in Vire. Very fast Joe wins recognition of both public and the tour manager Georges Olivier who raises his fee. Between two galas, in April, Joe and Jacques are again in London where they record four songs for the sixth EP.
Some days later they are back in Davout studio for vocals recording. But “Les Dalton” turns out a real impediment. As an English singer fails to pronounce the sheriff’s part from “Les Dalton” intro, Jacques Plait grabs the mike to show him an example. One, two, twenty times. The tape recorder reels are turning, Plait is reciting, the Englishman is stammering. The situation becomes ridiculous. Jacquot delivers his speech such fervor that Joe and the sound director, dead of laughter, decide to keep this version. Jacques cannot even imagine that the innumerous TV broadcasts and a single Dassin’s scopitone session are waiting for him. Meanwhile, Joe wants to place “Viens voir le loup” on the side A of the new disc. But Jacques refuses to surrender. The saga of Lucky Luke’s four sward enemies of is a huge hit and must be on the side A. Lyrics of one of the two other songs on this EP belong to Claude Lemesle. Joe met him during a concert of young talents at the American Cultural Center situated in front of his house on Boulevard Raspail. It was a nice summer evening and Joe went to the Center looking for a banjo player. He did not find his banjo player but a female singer, Michele Cherdel who later on would become Vava from “Big Bazar”. At the same time he found a co-author and a friend. Joe just looked down at Lemesle from his short-sighted 1m 86 and said with shy kindness: “I really liked your songs, mister. Would you and your friends like to have a drink at my place? I live nearby…”
After Rivat and Thomas, Lemesle was the third parolier who joined the Dassin adventure. For good. On May 3, “Les Dalton” is released on the side A in a jacket without any side indications. The disc is a summer success. It will be the last Dassin’s EP and his last “comic” song, either. Joe’s creations of a kind that followed will be performed by his friend Carlos. After such a result Joe’s team is in high spirits. Plait is totally obsessed by the idea of finding “strong” songs that would consolidate the success. He has already acted the same way with Sheila. On the contrary, Joe, relaxed, takes his time. He writes France Gall’s “Bebe requin” which smashes the other song from the disc written by Serge Gainsbourg, having spelled the end for the collaboration between Serge and France. Joe is a popular crooner but he wants to record serious songs, too. In order to equalize the Daltons’ attack, in the fall of 1967 he records a Bobby Gentry blues, “Ode To Billy Joe”, which becomes “Marie-Jeanne”. Rivat carefully translates the song from English. More corresponding to the previous hit and written as usual by Rivat, “Tout bebe a besoin d’une maman” is represented on the side B. And even if the side A tune is an obvious commercial risk, it is good for the singer’s image. In the beginning of October Arthey conducts the orchestra during recording sessions in London. Joe records vocals in Davout. It takes him two weeks and results in 200 versions for “Marie-Jeanne”… with the first chosen for the disc. The latter is released on October 17, for the second time with a drawing on the jacket. The radio stations favor the side B over the side A. Joe begins to realize that he is probably too handsome and too young for singing some tunes. He understands it but will never accept the fact. At the same time Joe records the rest of the songs for the second LP (called now “album”) – two new tunes with lyrics written by Claude Lemesle and four American originals. This is a smashing novelty on the French market. The LP is released in November just before the holidays.
Joe’s success confirms day by day but he has to “transform” his daring attempt, to become a number one conqueror of hit-parades. During a trip to Italy with Jacques Plait where Joe promotes five of his songs, he also listens to “potential” tunes. This American who has never looked for cover versions anywhere but USA would probably find something in the country of mandolins. Joe and Jacques come back home with a suitcase of records. By February 19, “l’equipe a Jojo” reunites in London. Their aim is recording a megahit. In the De Lane Lee Music recording studio on 129, Kingsway the atmosphere is electrified. Four songs are recorded. One of them is a cover version of a tune found in Italy, another – “La bande a Bonnot” – an original with Rivat’s lyrics. A few days later, during the vocals recording sessions the excitement reaches its peak. Plait has a presentiment of something really incredible. On March 4, two singles, with two songs on each, appear on the market almost simultaneously.
The rebellion grows in France. General de Gaulle is trembling. Unlike the catcalled ye-ye singers who have to go to exile, Joe becomes a “revolution” hero. Whole France whistles on the hill, a little bouquet of wild roses in hand. Spring and summer come and Joe’s songs are broadcast by all radio stations. The only problem of these revolutionary times is the music stores replenishment. Joe makes the most of a situation recording his two first songs in Italian on April 29. These tunes appear on the peninsular market in June. He also extend his contract with the CBS on June 26 and starts a promotional tour in Italy two days later, on June 29. As both of the ORTF channels are occupied by the students taking part in a demonstration, the French music takes its refuge on the RAI. While in Italy Joe gets acquainted with Carlos and Sylvie Vartan whom he met on a ship. Carlos will become one of his best friends. This friendship will strengthen in the course of a report from Tunisia made for a popular magazine Salut Les Copains, known as SLC. By September the CBS gets a new press attache, Robert Toutan. From now on this latter will watch over Joe’s image. In November Jacquot and Joe go to London to record sound and come back to Davout Studio for vocals. They record four songs, three of them are hits. Like two previous discs the two new singles are a double-shot. They are released at the same time in November. “Ma bonne etoile” is an Italian original rewritten by Delanoe. “Le temps des ?ufs au plat” lyrics belong to Ricky Dassin and Claude Lemesle. On the other side is represented “Le petit pain au chocolat”, another Italian song adapted by the same Delanoe. The disc industry is undergoing a serious crisis and the CBS does not release the disc for the holidays. But on November 10, Joe sings “Ma bonne etoile” in the “Tele-Dimanche” TV program and France capitulates. The end of the year is explosive. In bakeries throughout France the chocolate rolls are in great demand. Along with Pagnol’s famous movie, Joe’s song makes the bakers’ profits increase dramatically. Some of them even change the inscriptions on their signboards to “Chocolate Roll’s”, making obvious that Joe is much more than just another singer. From now on he is a social phenomenon. The CBS is unable to meet the demands of the record shops and an English-speaking group, the Tremeloes, makes English versions of Joe’s “Italian” songs. On November 26, Joe and Jacques, excited to the point, fly to Montreal via New York. Three days later they start a week of interviews in Quebec: Montreal, Trois Rivieres, Quebec, then Ottawa in the English-speaking part of Canada. They receive a hearty welcome everywhere. The promotion is fantastic. Everything is all right except for the increasing demands from the music stores.
The Orly runway and the windows of big supermarkets are decorated with neon lights. Christmas is coming. Joe is back. Together with Maryse they celebrate Nativity in their new five-rooms apartment on rue D’Assas and dream of a child.
The third album is not ready yet. In February CBS releases a single with two previous hits, “Bip-Bip” and “Les Dalton”. At that time, the comics’ increasing popularity gives a tremendous boost to the story of four outlaw brothers. Meanwhile, Joe goes to London for recording sessions. From this time on, he has London and Heathrow at his fingertips. Six new titles are “stored away”, two of which are obvious hits. “Les Champs-Elysees” is a cover version of Smacka Fitzgibbons’ “Water-loo Road” and “Le chemin de papa” is written by Dassin in tandem with Delanoe. There is also a reprise of “Me que, Me que”, a funny song created by Becaud and Aznavour, and two more tunes by Joe and Ricky. The work being finished, Joe returns to Paris – straight in the whirl of TV and ra-dio interviews, not to mention the growing number of concert engagements.
On April 1, he collapses. Heart attack as a result of viral pericarditis. Joe is bedridden for one month but in the period between May and June, getting barely better, he releases the album and the only single containing “Les Champs-Elysees” and “Le Chemin de papa”, let alone a little promo record. More than ever, the public loves what Plait likes. The album becomes a smash hit as, on June 16, Joe makes up his mind to get his French driver’s license. At the same time he is invited to the “Salves d’or” – a TV program starring Henri Salvador. Joe has already got used to the set and doesn’t count down to his own performance. Anyway, this is the first time when, following Jacque-line Salvador’s advice, he tries the white suit which, since then, will become his official “trade-mark” attire on stage. This same time Joe’s contract with Jean-Michel Rivat and Frank Thomas, his two accredited co-authors, expires but neither part intends to resume it…
In Port de Salut Joe meets Boby Lapointe, makes friends with him, and they go on a tour. At the dinner table Boby introduces him to Georges Brassens. The dinner is pure magic. There Joe finds “his” world – far from show and business. He will always be thankful to Lapointe for this encoun-ter. After Boby’s death, in order to save his heritage for the future generations, Joe considers it his most important duty to request the Philips company to re-release all Lapointe’s records. Dassin’s fame spreads like wildfire. The whole France is singing “Les Champs-Elysees”, while in July Joe goes skiing to Tignes. This short vacation is followed by the tour, which main goal is preparing his first Olympia, scheduled for the fall. Meanwhile, CBS wastes no time releasing the double compila-tion album, Dassin’s first but certainly not the last… Joe’s popularity seems to cross all the borders – “Les Champs-Elysees” enter the Dutch hit parade and acquire 11th position in 7 weeks, which is a very good score. This is the first time when Joe is rated in the Netherlands. On October 1 and 15 he records the English version of “Les Champs-Elysees”, followed by the German one. This latter is re-recorded in the Davout studios on October 29, along with “Le Chemin de Papa” in German.
From this time on, Joe will always be ranked here, there and everywhere in the world. As Johnny Hallyday dreams in vain of starting an international career, Joe, willy-nilly, wins love and recogni-tion of the audience throughout the world. He even becomes No.1 in the Moscow hit parade, leav-ing the Beatles behind. And this happens long before Joe’s songs are heard on the Tian an Men square, sung by the Chinese students face to the tanks during the terrible spring of 1989… The first Olympia is a triumph. On October 22, just after the premiere, the dinner at Maxim’s takes place. But the dearest gift arrives on October 25. This is a letter of congratulations from Brassens.
With Olympia behind and Parisian press tamed, Joe carefully starts the German market penetration, with two songs recorded in the language of Goethe as a secret weapon. On November 27, in Hano-ver, he takes part in Peter Froehlich’s “Studio B”. At the same time in France CBS releases a single with the English version of “Les Champs-Elysees”. Unobtainable. December comes and Jacques Plait hesitates. The single and the album are selling so good that it seems as though there is no need to release another title. Anyway, the new song has to be as strong as the previous ones. After all, “C’est la vie, Lily” and “Billy le Bordelais” are chosen to carry the responsibility. The single has no side B but two As. Bull’s eye! Almost immediately the disc scores a success. The brave dipso re-ceives a fantastic welcome in Saint-Emilion and the members of the non-alcoholic league content themselves with the story of Lily’s life. For the second year running Joe does not release the album for the holidays. What is it, lack of time or some smart commercial move? It is true that Joe is ex-hausted and he sure has to restore his heart. He decides to go on honeymoon he and Maryse missed two years before. After some time spent in New-York, where the couple takes part in a very strange performance “O! Calcutta”, they head for the Caribbean Islands and stay at Barbados till January 15. Swimming and sunbathing are on top of their agenda.
Meanwhile, Germany catches sight of the handsome multilingual cowboy. For the first time, on January 3, Joe is rated in the German hit parade with “Die Champs-Elysees”. He stays there for 4 weeks and moves up into 31st position. Plait can hardly believe his ears. Joe is back and after a gala in Palais d’hiver of Lyon, once again he has to cross the Rhine. On January 21 and 22, armed with four songs, he comes to Wiesbaden for the famous TV program “Star-Parade”. On January 28 he is already in Davout, for a re-recording session. “Les Champs-Elysees” along with “C’est la vie, Lily” turn into “canzoni italiani”. The French tour is scheduled for February and March. Besides Joe takes part in the Grand Prix of the Academy of Charles Cros ceremony where he receives the best album award for “Les Champs-Elysees”. The summer disc recording sessions approach. The so-called “summer hit” is the invention of the 70s and usually means intense broadcasting by the beach radio stations during July and August, including the important September sales. Sessions in London and Davout being finished, Joe presents “L’Amerique” and “Cecilia” – the two cover versions adapted by Delanoe. The story of “L’Amerique” is rather funny. Plait, always worried about Joe’s reaction on some songs, makes him listen the original version of “L’Amerique”, telling (on purpose) that he is going to give this song to Johnny Hallyday. He sure hits the mark. Dassin rises to the bait, menacing to shake the hell out of CBS in general and Jacques personally if he doesn’t get “his” song. For the third season running, the summer hit belongs to Joe. Waiting for the single to come onto the market in May, Joe performs some concerts and, on April 28, goes to Italy for TV shows in Naples and Milan. He sings the Italian versions of his two tunes in “El Caroselo” and “Cette Voci” TV programs. At the same time, Dassin writes a song for Gigliola Cinquetti, a female singer from the Plait stable. “Le bateau-mouche” is released by CBS. The summer comes with its usual round of concerts and a few unforgettable recording sessions. During one of them, on July 16, the Japanese versions of “Les Champs-Elysees” and “Mon village du bout du monde” are recorded. Again some concerts, and, on October 16, Joe records the Italian versions of “L’Amerique” and “Cecilia”. Though Jean-Marie Perier keeps photographing Dassin from time to time, his accredited photogra-pher is Bernard Leloup. On October 27 this latter takes Joe some 50 km from Paris to an old mush-room growers’ hut where his friends keep Leloup’s extremely photogenic cheetah called Loulou. There, standing on the tracks of a little deserted railroad, Loulou on a lead, Joe makes one of his cult photo sessions. Like Harley-Davidson four years before in New-York, Loulou will accompany Joe on the numerous disc jackets and posters. On November 9 Joe goes to Berlin for the third time. Meantime in London, waiting for him to come back, Arthey prepares the arrangements for a new album. One day Claude Lemesle brings Joe two fresh-written songs: “Les filles que l’on aime” and “L’equipe a Jojo”. Lemesle has written both music and lyrics but Joe rejects them, saying bluntly: “Claude, why is that you want me to take the music I’m able to write myself?” In August Lemesle comes to Jacques Plait’s beautiful house in St.Cezaire sur Siagne. In answer to Jacques’ question about any new musical material, Claude shows him his two songs held in reserve. Being a man of devotion, Jacquot gets excited in no time: “I’ve been looking for a hit comparable in quality with “L’Amerique” for two months and it seems to me that I have found it now!” Claude is naturally not so optimistic: “Jacques, you know, there is only one little problem… I’ve already let Joe listen to them and he turned everything down.” “He is absolutely crazy,” shouts Jacquot, “but don’t worry, I’ll fix it up!” After some weeks of withstanding the attack, Joe finally surrenders and takes both Lemesle’s songs. But he utterly changes their melodies and lyrics. The result is well known: “Les filles que l’on aime” becomes “La fleur aux dents” and “L’equipe a Jojo” keeps only its title un-changed. Really, Joe is not an easy-going kind of guy! Working with him means a tremendous lot of minor and major alterations, modifications, corrections and revisions. Though nice and kind-hearted in private life, Joe is a workaholic and a true pain in the neck for his team, so Delanoe and Lemesle call him “charming nerd”.
The album having just been released, the sales figures grow dramatically. 10 days slip by and Joe gets his Golden Disc. Incredible. The radio stations are broadcasting the two promo records re-ceived not so long ago… CBS does its best to take the opportunity and the work is in full swing. For the first time Joe goes on a tour to Africa. The deal with a local promoter Gerard Sayaret is ar-ranged by Charley Marouani. Sayaret arranges a 21-day concert tour of ten countries. With Pierre Lumbroso as road manager, Joe takes his team of eight musicians and leaves France on December 1. The passages are short, the climate is oppressive: Morocco (Casablanca and Rabat), Senegal (two nights in Dakar), Ivory Coast (Abidjan), Togo (Lome), Dahomey (Cotonou), Cameroon (Yaounde), Central African Republic, Zaire (two nights in Kinshasa), Gabon (Libreville), again Cameroon (Douala), Chad (Fort Lamy)… Somewhere up in the North the young French are reviewing their Geography course, following Joe in his trip through the heart of darkness. Joe is back to Paris and has barely time to celebrate Christmas – Germany is waiting for him. On December 29 and 30 he goes to Berlin to sing in German and, thus, to consolidate his position of an international star.
On January 4, while the single “La fleur aux dents” goes on sale, Joe is awarded with 6 golden discs. He cannot believe his eyes. On January 6 Dassin and Plait go to the United States where Joe runs across his father and Melina Mercouri. During a business lunch with the CBS International ex-ecutive director Sol Rabinovitz Joe meets an impresario Paul Rosen who has to represent Dassin in America. But something is wrong and the deal is broken. On January 26 and 27 Joe is again in Da-vout, singing in German. The session is of great importance – four titles are recorded. It is “La fleur aux dents”, “Melanie”, “Le cadeau de papa” and one original German version. Extremely tired, Joe goes skiing to Courchevel. This winter vacation is, in fact, his only vacation, for all summer is reserved for touring. In April Joe is again in Germany, promoting his songs in Munich, Bavaria. This country is no secret for him any more. The single with “L’equipe a Jojo” is released in June but Joe decides to record another four “summer titles” written by Jojo’s gang. Both singles are released in July but even if “Fais la bise a ta maman” is a success, it is not a summer hit. In Novem-ber Joe goes to London for a new album. He has written most of the songs, one title belongs to a tandem Michel Mallory/Alice Donna and arranged in Paris by Alfredo de Robertis. The album con-tains very few potential hits, the producer is reluctant to release it but the singer objects and persists in launching the disc. There is a little tension between the two but, fortunately, the foreign market brings good results. On November 15, “Das sind zwei linke shuh'”, a German original, hits the 21st position of RFA hit parade and stays there for 12 weeks. This funny song is Joe’s greatest German success. Impeccable white pants, silver belt and open shirt – Joe’s character of “American lover” is admired by both Berlin and Munich. After Bundesrepublick comes Tunisia. A few days of fun and joy in Djerba are spent with Carlos and Bernard Leloup. Joe also makes it up with Jacques, inviting the Plaits to a trip to Morocco on December 9. All four of them go to the sacred place of Mamounia.
The album is released in January but it doesn’t contain any hits and CBS re-releases the single with the previous summer success. For the first time the thing seems to slip. Joe decides to play a waiting game with the French market and, on April 17 and 20 in Davout, he records an album for Germany: “Fais la bise a ta maman”, “La ligne de vie”, “Bye-bye Louis”, “A la sante d’hier”, “La mal-aimee du courrier du c?ur”, “Allez roulez”, “L’equipe a Jojo”, “Adieu mes amis”, “Elle etait oh!”, “Le chanteur des rues”, “Sylvie” and two originals – a dozen of tunes sung in German is a record! Not to mention “Taka takata”, released in May. The latter is an absolute success in France and Plait breathes with relief. Maryse insists on a new tour. This time Joe goes to the islands and other terri-tories at the back of beyond. According to the tour timetable, the Reunion, Madagascar and Djibouti are to be visited in June. Then Joe flies to New Caledonia and Tahiti via Paris. But not everything goes as smoothly as it has to… Antananarivo airport is closed because of disorders and a violent cyclone flattens Noumea during Joe’s stay in New Caledonia. Now, siding Joe and his road man-ager Pierre Lumbroso, eight musicians and three back-vocalists ride in the Dassin’s gang, not to mention Bernard Leloup who is accredited to take photos for Salut les Copains and Maryse, ready to follow her husband everywhere, even if she has to be packed in his suitcase. After the concerts Joe and Maryse have a twelve days vacation on the island of Tahaa, in a coconut forest – an abso-lute dream. Joe is so absorbed by the beauty of the island that he buys twenty hectares of its terri-tory including one kilometer of the fine sand beach. He knows that from this time on it will become his favorite vacation site. In June Joe goes to the USA, to his sweet home California. On June 24 he meets with Jeff Barry from A&M Records and makes three songs in English for the American mar-ket, including his famous “Vaya-Na-Cumana”. The usual summer tour follows, tiring, sure, but full of gastronomic surprises. Every small town has its own delicious cuisine and Joe doesn’t intend to miss any tasty opportunity. Though he recorded a mighty lot of songs in German, it is “Taka takata” that enters the German hit parade on September 4 to occupy the 50th position. Halloween is spent in Deauville, at Pierre Delanoe’s place, where Joe discovers the pleasures of golf. He is fascinated by this noble game and, from this time on, he takes his golf clubs everywhere he goes, to Paris, to Valbonne, to Morocco, to Tahiti… Two years later Joe participates in the Trophee Lancome competition and his partner is Arnold Palmer himself. November comes with its ritual of recording sessions in London and Davout. Plait controls the process and little by little the new album begins to take shape. But this time Arthey has something up his sleeve – a brand-new device called synthe-sizer. The trio decides to take advantage of the contraption and decorates the Dassin trademark sound with some synthesized parts. The album contains 12 titles, two of which are hits – “La com-plainte de l’heure de pointe” (A velo dans Paris) and “Le moustique”, both cover versions. Joe pre-fers “The City of New Orleans”, written by Steve Goodman, arranged by Arlo Guthrie and adapted by Claude Lemesle with the participation of Ricky Dassin, but Plait keeps in mind the failure of the previous album and reduces costs. Nevertheless, the Goodman/Guthrie creation will become “Salut les amoureux”… The release of the album is planned for December and CBS decides to re-release “La Bande a Bonnot”. The first single, containing “La complainte de l’heure de pointe”, appears at the height of the Christmas shopping season. France celebrates the New Year’s Eve pushing the pedals of the bikes in time to Joe’s song…
The year begins well. Joe is on vacation in Courchevel. As usual, two singles are released simulta-neously. The first one – “Le moustique” – is a raving success and “Salut les amoureux” becomes an all-time classic. The spring is coming and Germany calls Joe again. On March 21 he offers these cycling fans the German version of “A velo dans Paris”, recorded in Davout. When Joe has to go on his usual summer tour, Maryse is pregnant. This is the most beautiful thing that might happen to the couple after ten years of family life. Joe is over the moon, so happy that he decides to move to the country. He buys a plot for a country house in a suburb west of Paris. Besides, in order to see to the construction process and to give the future mother some fresh air, important for the child, he leaves D’Assas Street and rents a house near the golf course of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche. The house of hap-piness is to be built in the forest, in Feucherolles. The first petrol crisis doesn’t seem to make an im-pact on the construction progress but the swindlers of all kind have already located the couple and the house costs them a whole fortune. In May Joe goes to London but this time he leaves old Lans-downe for Audio International Studios. Again in association with Arthey and Plait, he records two titles with the lyrics written by Delanoe and Lemesle. One of them, “La chanson des cigales”, has to be the sequel of “Le moustique” but it won’t work. Before Joe would be disappointed at the fact but now, when he is about to become father, he just doesn’t pay so much attention to this insignificant failure. In July Maryse takes a vacation in Deauville, while Joe goes to Tahiti. No doubt, he is to-tally subjugated by this paradise on earth. His aim is to begin the construction of the fares (little bungalows) on his plot of land. In August he has to return to France and go on a tour without any hit of support. And, as troubles never come singly, the worst thing that may happen to the future father befalls on him.
Maryse gives birth to a premature newborn, Joshua, who dies five days later. From this time on nothing is like it was before. Joe sinks in the deepest depression. His friend Carlos tries to give him some support. Together they go on a tour where Carlos sings Joe’s tunes. The ones Joe cannot sing himself. This is the way “Une journee de Monsieur Chose” is created. At the same time, though CBS puts on the market the double compilation, Joe has to prepare the new album. He is completely absorbed in his work, because this is the only thing that lets him forget… He takes Bernard Leloup to Las Vegas, Nevada and to Arizona, to the canyon country, where they take a few photographs in the canyons. The new album, recorded in November in Lansdowne and Davout, is released in De-cember. It contains 13 new titles and very few potential hits, except for “Fais-moi de l’electricite”, written by Joe’s gang. There are also two good tunes written by Daniel Vangarde and Alice Dona.
The single from the album is released in January. There is no side A or B, both songs, “Quand on a seize ans” and “A chacun sa chanson”, are represented as equal. But both titles fail and, by the end of January, CBS hastens to put on sale another single with “Les plus belles annees de ma vie” and “Fais-moi de l’electricite”. The result is barely better. Joe has to find his second wind, for sure. Anyway, he is as inspired as ever when he writes for others. This way Carlos gets such hits as “Se-nor Meteo” and “Le bougalou du loup-garou”, written by Joe in collaboration with Claude Bolling. And what is more, Joe sings in duo with Dolto, Jr. “Cresus et Romeo” is recorded not long before February 19, Joe’s next performance in Olympia. A very strange one, indeed. The Claude Gagnasso orchestra of 17 musicians, ten dancers and five back-vocalists are invited to record a “live” album. Joe practices his lasso tricks and sings, in addition to his own titles, a medley of American hits of the forties. Ambience a la Andrew Sisters is guaranteed. Having done with this, he goes to the Kluger Studio, to Brussels, where three songs in German have to be recorded – “Quand on a seize ans”, “La derniere page” and “A chacun sa chanson”. But Bundes Republik seems to go on strike and the songs almost fail. Joe has promised himself to go to Tahiti once a year and this time he de-cides to make his trip in May. The Dassins ask their friends, the restaurant owners from Aix-en-Provence, Gu and Renee Galasso, to join them. The little company is fond of funny jokes and the journey is excellent. After this short vacation Joe goes to London. He needs a summer hit. Two ti-tles are recorded, one of which is “C’est du melo”, but the single passes unnoticed. Plait is furious. He must find the new titles! On a summer tour Joe entertains the audience with his golden oldies. The nostalgic atmosphere of the concerts drives him mad. Even the fact of moving to his beautiful new house in Feucherolles doesn’t appease him. One of the most successful French singers has a tedious time – his family life is broken and his career is as monotonous as ever… Plait refuses to say uncle and redoubles his efforts but Joe doesn’t believe him anymore. Why so, he is not a Number One! But one needs something more to cut the ground from under the famous Jacques Plait, the best French producer of the time. A whole gang is enabled to work on the new album. In November, in Lansdowne, Plait and Arthey decide to hire another sound engineer. John Mackswith joins the team at the right time. The album is released promptly in the end of November, for Plait wants to make it with the New Year sales. And high time it is. Two songs from the album – “Si tu t’appelles melan-colie” and “Vade retro” – literally smash the hit parades. At a moment’s notice the single is released. There is no more reason to save money on the new titles. Plait takes chances, gambles on Lady Luck, and breaks the bank. Joe worked his way up to the top.
Somewhere in the dark the disco is rumbling but Joe Dassin, invited to the MIDEM, is hardly aware of its existence. Meanwhile, Plait considers re-positioning Dassin. It is March and everything must be done to consolidate the success of the last single. He is on the look-out for “the” song, “the” summer hit. The spring passes by quickly. There is no more time to lose. And the miracle happens. During one of the listening sessions in the CBS office in the beginning of May, Joe’s producer hears musical production “made in Italy”, which is to be distributed in France. One of the songs – “Africa” – belongs to the group Albatros, and is written by a certain Toto Cutugno and Vito Pal-lavicini, known in France as author of some Italian cover versions. It is sung in English. Plait goes for it and makes Dassin listen to the song. Joe is completely stunned. He makes it over and over, while Plait is busy lending Lansdowne studio, buying tickets to London and giving Delanoe and Lemesle an extra bother about the lyrics. The destination is clear – Roissy, Heathrow, Lansdowne, Heathrow, Roissy. In a few days Joe is back in France for the voice recording sessions. On May 24, he walks into the studio CBE which belongs to Bernard Estardy. This latter is a famous sound engi-neer, one of the biggest names in showbiz. He knows best of all how to “catch” the voice of the greatest French chansonniers. A perfect melody, refined arrangements, spoken intro recorded by pure chance and a strong title found by Delanoe are the indispensable ingredients of “L’ete indien”. Plait is enthusiastic – he has a presentiment of a great hit. But the hardest thing is yet to come – broadcasting, promotion, TV sessions… On May 27 the fire is set to the outskirts. The disc itself is released on June 6, the anniversary of the American troops landings in Normandy. A good omen. Plait is willing to kill three birds with one stone: on June 24 and 25, as usual in CBE studio, Dassin records German and Italian versions of “L’ete indien”. Spanish and English versions follow. The latter is recorded in the Studio 92 on September 3. After ten years of singing career, Joe is holding in his hands something more than just another “summer hit”. “L’ete indien” proves to be his biggest success. And not only in the country of de Gaulle and Giscard. On August 2 the song enters the Dutch hit parade and stays there for five weeks to acquire the 22nd position. The German version enters the Deutsche hit parade on September 22 to reach the 28th place in fourteen weeks. It vies with the French version which penetrates the German market only on October 20 and in two weeks arrives at the 47th position. But this is nothing in comparison with Spain and South America, where Joe becomes a cult figure. After all, the disc will be released in twenty-five countries to achieve un-precedented success as against the original English-Italian version. In September, visibly revived, CBS releases a double compilation along with the “Golden Album”. Joe, also full of energy, signs with the tandem Cutugno-Pallavicini, who produces hit after hit. The album is prepared in London with Arthey and tweaked at CBE with Estardy. Needless to say, it is literally stuffed with hits: “Et si tu n’existais pas”, “Il faut naitre a Monaco”, “Ca va pas changer le monde”, “Salut”… The disc is released for Christmas holidays, supported by a little promo record. It is a smash success in France, as well as the forty-five with “Ca va pas changer le monde” and “Il faut naitre a Monaco”, released promptly in January. Thus comes the much expected renaissance.
In March, CBS releases a new single with “Salut” and “Et si tu n’existais pas” and the success doesn’t make anyone waiting. For everybody to understand: this “Salut” is not “Au revoir”. Abroad Joe operates trouble-free. On April 10, “Ca va pas changer le monde” strikes the Dutch hit parade to stay there for five weeks and finally get the 23rd place. CBS informs that Dassin has sold – unbe-lievable! – 20 millions of discs during his career. In the beginning of summer he joins the CBE team to record “Il etait une fois nous deux”, which is released in June and becomes promptly classed as the summer hit. On July 6, the Spanish versions of “Et si tu n’existais pas” and “Ca va pas changer le monde” are released. Thanks to all this, Joe’s next tour with the Martin Circus is second to none. In September, CBS puts on the market a new double compilation, smartly baptized “Grands succes volume 3”. The beginning of the school year turns out to be the best time for this kind of produc-tion. As a break in the routine of recording sessions, Joe enters the CBE studios to start work on his new album in October. Sixty musicians and eighty back-vocalists under the direction of Arthey are summoned to perform a miracle called “Le Jardin du Luxembourg”, a 12-minutes title, composed by the same Italian duo, Vito Pallavicini and Toto Cutugno. Because of its length, “Le Jardin du Luxembourg” will first be rejected by the radio stations and Plait will be forced to release a promo single with explications. Along with “Le Jardin du Luxembourg”, “A toi” and “Le cafe des trois colombes” will also be remixed.
Despite this hitch, first the album, and then the single with “A toi” and “Le cafe des trois colombes” have been triumphing since January. Plait seems to work wonders – with the disco music flourish-ing, he managed to find a new team “slow” for Dassin and it does work! In March and April, as usual at CBE, Joe records two new tunes for the upcoming summer. Both titles are written by the awesome Italians but the single with “Et l’amour s’en va”, released in May, is drowned out by the disco music… Still a big friend of Carlos, Joe writes some nice songs for this performer, the ones he thinks he couldn’t sing himself, like “Le big bisou”. Meanwhile, the CBS stable gets reinforced with a new female singer. Jeane Manson is American and, thus, has a lot in common with Joe. They make friends. At the same time Joe and his wife Maryse make a decision to get divorced. No of-fences, no quarrels – they just wish to live separately and on May 5 settle the matter out of court. Some days later, “Vendredi 13” goes to the Martinique with Joe and Johnny Hallyday on board. On June 7, Joe records Spanish versions of “A toi” and “Le Jardin du Luxembourg” – Spain and South America are delirious. In September CBS releases next two compilations and in December, though the Disco is the king, Joe persists in producing fine slows. Only one song from his new album be-comes a hit and it is “Dans les yeux d”Emilie”, promptly released in a single format. The rest of the album “Les femmes de ma vie” is a moving tribute to all those women who mattered to Joe, espe-cially his sisters and his new companion, pretty Christine.
The LP is released in January. Two songs from it, “La premiere femme de ma vie” and “J’ai craque” are written by Alain Goraguer, the ex-accomplice of Serge Gainsbourg, who has just joined Jojo’s team. Alain also assists Dassin in writing “Le petit ballon”. On January 14, Joe marries Christine Delvaux. The ceremony takes place in Cotignac with Serge Lama and Jeane Manson as invitees. Tout va pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes… On March 4, “Dans les yeux d’Emilie” rushes into the Dutch hit. In June, Joe and his mother-in-law, Melina Mercouri, record a duo in Greek, “Ochi den prepi na sinandithoume”, intended to be the part of “Cri des femmes” soundtrack. Later this song will also be released as a promo single. Just before, in April, Joe rear-ranged “No Woman, No Cry”, a reggae tune, written by Bob Marley and rehashed by “Boney M”. Delanoe and Lemesle transformed it into “Si tu penses a moi”, leading Joe – for the first and the last time – to the slippery ground of disco-reggae. Christine is pregnant and the summer passes by in looking after the expectant mother. Meanwhile, CBS wastes no precious time: the 3rd volume of The Greatest Hits compilation and a three discs set are released. On September 14, eight months exactly after his wedding, Joe’s first son, Jonathan, is born in the American Hospital in Neuilly. Needless to say, Joe is the happiest man in the world. He comes up with an idea to record two ver-sions, French and Italian, of “Little Italy”, a musical comedy created by Pallavicini and Guarnieri. Marcella Bella is invited as a female vocalist. The result is designed for the French and Italian tele-visions. But the beautiful project, carefully planned by Gilbert and Maritie Carpentier, will never be brought out. After these recording sessions Dassin goes on a tour to Canada. In October and No-vember Joe returns to CBE for next album, but this time he seems to be a bit less enthusiastic about his work. His family life is of much greater importance! Nevertheless, he records two songs in Eng-lish, “La beaute du diable” and “Darlin'” of The Poacher. As a single for his new album, “15 ans deja”, Joe chooses “Darlin'”. The reason is clear: France gets completely crazy about English. Sheila, Juvet, Cerrone, Karen Cheryl, all the bonzes of the French showbiz consider their duty to record tunes in English. Thus, Joe the American has every prospect of success. But his production in native language is almost a failure. CBS has to react quickly, and the single with “La vie se chante, la vie se pleure” appears in January. This song, written as usual by Delanoe and Lemesle, is certainly the only one to be remembered, though for this album Plait invited some nicest songwrit-ers of the moment, such as Alice Dona, Toto Cutugno, Didier Barbelivien and William Sheller.
The New Year holidays pass in a split second. The times are a-changing. Johnny Hallyday and some other old timers are pushed aside by a squad of newcomers named Cabrel, Duteil and Bala-voine… Joe feels that if he wants to stay where he actually is, he has to redouble his efforts. Jacques Plait is as fastidious as ever – even if “Darlin'” is rated in the German hit parade and climbs to the 49th place in two weeks, Joe has to be on the alert. On February 14 he records the Spanish versions of “La vie se chante, la vie se pleure” and “Si tu penses a moi”. From this time on, Joe works more for the Latin America than for Iberian peninsula and Marie-France Briere teaches him the particu-larities of South American Spanish, especially pronunciation in its Argentinean variant. While waiting for Joe to produce at least one title for the upcoming summer, in the beginning of April CBS releases another single, extracted from the album, “Cote banjo, cote violon”. His private life gets complicated and takes him more and more time. Nonetheless, in May, as always at CBE, he records a hit of Italian origin, “Le dernier slow”. The disc is released in a single format, but also as a maxi (promo and commercial), which is unusual for Joe. This slow will make dance all the lovers in the night clubs throughout France and push Julio Iglesias down from his pedestal. For four years Joe has been triumphing in South America and he is still on top. In all countries where his discs are selling he takes part in radio and TV programs, let alone the concerts. On August 10, 1979, Joe flies to Chili. After a short landing in Argentina his plane heads for Santiago, but is forced to return to Buenos Aires because of thick fog. When Joe finally arrives to the Chilean capital, he is deeply touched by the sight of excited crowds, singing his songs by heart, even in French. On the local television, Chanel 13, he sings “A ti” and every Chilean muchacha feels concerned. Our “Latino lover against his will” seems to have cast a spell over this part of the world! On August 14 he comes back to Argentina to set fire to the pampas with his songs… Plait cannot believe his own eyes – the slow “made in France” easily enthralls the kingdom of tango. On August 16, feeling revived and highly enthusiastic, Joe arrives to Los Angeles to record his next album. Arranged by Mike Utley, “Blue Country” is supposed to be the album of his renewal. While the musicians are busy with re-cording tunes of Jim Croce, Eric Clapton and Tony Joe White, Joe goes to Tahiti for a vacation. On coming back, he dubs in his voice in English and French in Devonshire Sound Studio. To Joe’s delight, his idol, Tony Joe White, comes to play the guitar and harmonica during the recording ses-sions. One song from the new album, “Le marche aux puces”, written by Dassin and Lemesle, will be adapted by Tony under the title “The Guitar Don’t Lie”. Joe is filled with pride. In autumn, while the English album is released in Canada under the title “Home Made Ice Cream”, Christine is pregnant for the second time. But Joe, feeling exhausted by her endless jealousy, sues his wife for a divorce and decides to see in the new year with his son Jonathan.
“Blue Country”, the album of maturity, is released in France on January 11, without any single pre-ceding. The media are enthused, even if Joe’s regular fans are a bit perplexed. Being on a visit to Montreal, where he takes his back vocalists, Joe re-records four titles from his last album. From this time on he will record and sing only in English. After the release of the promo single, on February 18 Joe comes to CBE to remake a song from “Home Made Ice Cream”, followed soon, on February 25 and 26, by another three titles from the same album. On March 11, CBS risks to release a single with “Faut pas faire de la peine a John”, a cover version of Elvis Presley’s tune. As for Joe’s private life, his wife Christine gives birth to their second child, Julien. Joe should be the happiest man in the world, but…
On March 31 and April 1, Dassin joins Bernard Estardy in the studio on the rue Championnet, where they remake five English versions of songs from Joe’s last album. At the same time, on April 1 and 2, another three titles in English from this same album will be remixed in the latest fashion. So, now Joe is almost ready to release in France his “American” album. He takes this disc very much to heart. The summer is coming and CBS decides to issue “The Guitar Don’t Lie” in a single and a maxi format, but puts off the release of the album. Joe is waiting for the public verdict on his creation. His state of health, and especially his heart, cause him a lot of problems. He wasn’t careful enough and let himself too much abuse of all kinds. In July, suffering already from a stomach ulcer, Joe falls victim to a heart attack and is taken to the American Hospital in Neuilly. On July 26, Jacques Plait comes to see him before his departure to Tahiti. They’re meeting up in Papeete from where they are supposed to go visit Joe’s land he purchased some 120 miles south of Tahiti. Another heart attack strikes Joe in Los Angeles, landing point between Paris and Papeete. His state of health allows him neither smoking nor drinking, but feeling depressed, Joe pays it no attention. On his arrival to Tahiti with Claude Lemesle, his mother Bea and his two children, Joe tries to forget his personal problems. But there is no escaping fate. It is from this garden of Eden that Joe takes a one-way ticket to Paradise.
In the restaurant “Chez Michel et Eliane”, on August 20, at noon local time, Joe collapses, victim of his fifth heart attack. The one ambulance of the hospital was busy and arrived too late. He was 41.
When AFP announces the news in France, all the radio stations dash to broadcast Joe’s songs. So that they can take him to his “village at the back of beyond”. While the media tries to puzzle out the Dassin case, the public, still in the torpidity of summer vacation, snatches at Joe’s discs. In September, a great number of compilations are released, including the three discs set, conceived as a tribute to American from Paris. This is the way the things will con-tinue… Because Joe Dassin is not just “another singer”. Like Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens or Claude Francois, he is a social phenomenon. Once and for all.
In the period between 1981 and 1985, Joe is still in great demand, especially in 1982, when CBS releases a single with “A mon fils”, a piece from formerly unpublished “Little Italy”. In 1983, “A toi” and “L’ete indien” are reissued, let alone the re-editions and compilations of all kind that follow one after another.
Between 1986 and 1990 the first CD changes the situation on the market. Will Joe Dassin be forgot-ten? No way! The fist laser compilation, “Une heure avec… Joe Dassin” is followed by the book about Joe, published by Jacques Plait and Joe’s first wife, Maryse Massiera. All the albums are gradually reissued in the new format including the quasi-complete collection of songs in French and the video, produced in collaboration with INA. “L’ete indien” appears once again as a single, but this time it is accompanied by a megamix. The first TV advertising campaign on Joe, “Un ami revient”, is launched by Arsenic.
From 1990 till 1995, Dassin, along with Cabrel and Goldman, makes the best CD sales of Sony-France. He is so unavoidable that his discs are released even by France Loisirs. After the first CD single with “Les Champs-Elysees” and “A toi” is issued, Jacques Plait is on the point of jumping for joy. The matter is that French rocker number 1, Johnny Hallyday, records “The Guitar Don’t Lie”, turned into “La guitare fait mal” with the new French lyrics by Etienne Roda-Gil. Thus, “Le marche aux puces”, rearranged and “updated” proves, if there’s any need to do it again, that Joe was really ten years ahead of his time.
In 1993, another big campaign on Dassin, but this time with Platine, results in a compilation crowned with a double Golden Disc. And, finally, a brand-new L’equipe a Jojo including Les Innocents, Jean-Louis Murat, Les Objets, Jerome Soligny and Louise Feron, Dominique Daclan, Bill Pritchard, Autour de Lucie, Mr Kuriakin, Oui Oui, Pascal Comelade, Les William Pears, Droles de Beaux Gars, Marie Audigier, Katerine, Chelsea, Daniel Darc and Bertrand Burgalat, records a double album to pay tribute to the singer, whose songs still help us to live.
Joe Dassin had citizenship in both the USA and France. He was a talented polyglot, recording songs in German, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Greek, as well as French and English.
April 28, 1980 – Thomas Michael “Tommy” Caldwell was born on November 9, 1949 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With his older brother Toy, he formed the southern rock band the Marshall Tucker Band in 1973 and played bass and was its original frontman until his death in 1980. His death didn’t end the Marshall Tucker Band, but it changed things forever – in particular for his older brother Toy Caldwell.
The pair had been playing music together since Tommy was 7, and Toy was 9. The Toy Factory, led by the elder Caldwell, became the southern-rocking Marshall Tucker Band when Tommy joined as bassist in 1972. They took their name from a hometown piano tuner in the cotton-mill city f Spartanburg, S.C., and set about recording five gold-selling albums (including four in a row starting in 1973) and the platinum smash Carolina Dreams before the end of the ’70s.
Then tragedy struck. The Marshall Tucker Band had just returned home from a concert they recorded for broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour when Tommy Caldwell’s Land Cruiser clipped a parked 1965 Ford Galaxy on April 22, 1980, in Spartanburg. Tommy’s Jeep, modified for off-road driving with oversized tires, flipped onto its side – and Caldwell suffered a head injury that would ultimately prove fatal. “It was just a freak accident,” Moon Mullins, a crew member for the band, said later.
The owner of the Galaxy, who was in the car but uninjured when Caldwell struck him, was charged with improper parking the next day. Caldwell died on April 28, 1980, after lingering in critical condition at Spartanburg General Hospital for almost a week.
Franklin Wilkie, a former bassist in Toy Caldwell’s pre-Marshall Tucker group, took over for Tommy – but the band never regained its commercial momentum. Tenth, the final album to feature Tommy Caldwell, was their last Top 40 album.
Toy Caldwell was hit particularly hard, having endured another brother’s death in a traffic accident just one month before Tommy’s.
By 1984, he’d left the Marshall Tucker Band, creating a huge hole as the group lost its lead guitarist, vocalist on “Can’t You See” and principal songwriter. Toy Caldwell died in 1993, after too much cocaine stopped his heart.
“Since Tommy’s death, he was there in body only,” Toy Caldwell’s wife Abbie said in 1998. “In hindsight, Toy kept an awful lot inside of him. I cannot imagine the pain he was in after his brothers’ deaths. … Toy put up a good front for the others, but now I know he had to be torn apart inside.”
Doug Gray, who sang the group’s No. 14 hit “Heard It in a Love Song,” carries on with the Marshall Tucker Band these days. Rhythm guitarist George McCorkle died in 2007, leaving Gray as the only member from the classic era defined by the Caldwells.
Tommy Caldwell spoke to that lasting bond, as musicians and as brothers, in 1978. “You won’t find me in another band when this one’s over,” Tommy said after the release of the aptly titled Together Forever. “You’ll find me back in the country in South Carolina. Me and my brother have been playing together forever and, when that’s over, we’re going home. If you heard it, then you were fortunate enough to catch it. If you didn’t? Well, there won’t be another one, man.”
As well as being the frontman, he also sang background vocals and wrote several songs, including “Melody Ann,” which was the only song he ever performed lead vocals on. His last performance with the band was on April 18, 1980. This performance is captured on the 2006 release, “Live on Long Island”.
He died on 28 April 1980 of injures from a Jeep crash a week earlier. His younger brother Timmy, who was not a member of the band died a month before him, also the result of a car crash at age 25. Tommy Caldwell was 30 years old when he died.
23 March 1980 – Jacob Miller was born May 4, 1952 in Mandeville, Jamaica.
At the age of eight he moved to Kingston, Jamaica where he grew up with his maternal grandparents. In Kingston, Miller began spending time at popular studios including Clement Dodd’s Studio One. He recorded three songs for Dodd, including “Love is a Message” in 1968, which the Swaby brothers, (Horace, later called Augustus Pablo, and Garth) played at their Rockers Sound System. While the song did not garner much success nor maintain Dodd’s attention in Miller, it resulted in Pablo’s sustained interest in Miller.
After the brothers launched their own label in 1972, Pablo recorded a version of “Love is a Message” named “Keep on Knocking” in 1974. In the next year and a half Miller recorded five more songs for Pablo, “Baby I Love You So,” “False Rasta,” “Who Say Jah No Dread,” “Each One Teach One,” and “Girl Named Pat”, each of which became a Rockers classic with King Tubby dubs on their b-sides. These singles developed Miller’s reputation and ultimately drew Inner Circle to hire him as a replacement lead singer.
He first recorded with Clement Dodd. While pursuing a prolific solo career, he became the lead singer for reggae group Inner Circle with whom he recorded until his death in a car accident at the age of 27.
Inner Circle was an emerging reggae group made popular playing covers of American Top 40 hits. Band leader Roger Lewis said Jacob Miller was “always happy and jovial. He always made jokes. Everyone liked jokes.” Adding Miller as lead singer, the band’s lineup was Roger Lewis on guitar, Ian Lewis on bass, Bernard “Touter” Harvey on keyboards, and Rasheed McKenzie on drums. Coining Miller as Jacob “Killer” Miller, the group continued to build popularity. They signed with Capitol Records in 1976 and released two albums, Reggae Thing and Ready for the World. Their first hit with Jacob Miller was “Tenement Yard”, followed by “Tired Fi Lick Weed In a Bush”.
While recording, Miller continued pursuing a solo career, recording “Forward Jah Jah Children,” “Girl Don’t Com” produced by Gussie Clarke, and “I’m a Natty” produced by Joe Gibbs. He earned second place in Jamaica’s 1976 Festival Song competition with the song “All Night ‘Till Daylight” and produced his first solo album in 1978, Dread Dread. While most of Miller’s solo work were backed by Inner Circle members, his preferred rockers style diverged from the tendency of Inner Circle to experiment with other genres, including pop, soul, funk and disco. The track which has brought him the most lasting recognition is the rockers standard “King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown” with Augustus Pablo, a dub of “Baby I Love You So,” engineered by King Tubby. Other notable tracks with Augustus Pablo included “Keep on Knocking,” “False Rasta” and “Who Say Jah No Dread”, all produced by Pablo. The album Who Say Jah No Dread featured two versions of each of these tracks; the original and a dub engineered by King Tubby.
Miller was featured in the film Rockers, alongside many other musicians including Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth and Burning Spear. In the movie, he plays the singer of a hotel house band, (in reality Inner Circle), who are joined on drums by the film’s hero, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and play a live version of Inner Circle’s hit “Tenement Yard”.
In March 1980, Jacob Miller went with Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell to Brazil, to celebrate Island opening new offices in South America.
Two days after returning from Brazil on Sunday, 23 March 1980, Miller was killed in a car accident on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, along with one of his sons. Miller and Inner Circle had been preparing for an American tour with Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the next album, Mixed Up Moods, had been recorded before his death.
Jacob Miller was reggae artist Maxi Priest’s cousin.
February 19, 1980 – Bon Scott was born July 9, 1946 in Kirriemuir, Scotland, and moved to Melbourne, Australia with his family in 1952 at the age of six. In 1956, the family moved to Fremantle, Western Australia, and Scott joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band, learning the drums. Scott attended North Fremantle Primary School and later John Curtin College of the Arts until he dropped out at the age of 15 and spent a short time in Fremantle Prison’s assessment centre and nine months at the Riverbank Juvenile Institution relating to charges of giving a false name and address to the police, having escaped legal custody, having unlawful carnal knowledge and stealing twelve gallons of petrol.
He attempted to join the Australian Army, but was rejected for being deemed “socially maladjusted.”
Scott’s vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard. After working as a postman, bartender and truck packer, Scott started his first band, The Spektors, in 1966 as drummer and occasional lead singer. One year later the Spektors merged with another local band, the Winstons, and formed The Valentines, in which Scott was co-lead singer with Vince Lovegrove. The Valentines recorded several songs written by George Young of The Easybeats. “Every Day I Have to Cry” (a song originally written and sung by Arthur Alexander) made the local top 5. In 1970, after gaining a place on the National Top 30 with their single “Juliette”, the Valentines disbanded due to artistic differences after a much-publicized drug scandal.
Scott moved to Adelaide in 1970 and joined the progressive rock band Fraternity. Fraternity released Livestock and Flaming Galah before touring the UK in 1973, where they changed their name to “Fang”. During this time they played support slots for Status Quo and Geordie. During this time, on 24 January 1972, Scott married Irene Thornton.
In 1973, just after returning to Australia from the tour of the UK, Fraternity went on hiatus. Scott took a day job at the Wallaroo fertiliser plant and began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a loose collective of musicians helmed by Peter Head (né Beagley) from Headband, who explained, “Headband and Fraternity were in the same management stable and we both split about the same time so the logical thing was to take members from both bands and create a new one … the purpose of the band was for songwriters to relate to each other and experiment with songs, so it was a hotbed of creativity”. Other ex-Fraternity members also played with the band as did Glen Shorrock pre-Little River Band. During this time, Head also helped Scott with his original compositions.
Vince Lovegrove said “Bon would go to Peter’s home after a day (of literally) shovelling shit, and show him musical ideas he had had during his day’s work. Bon’s knowledge of the guitar was limited, so Peter began teaching him how to bridge chords and construct a song. One of the songs from these sessions was a ballad called “Clarissa”, about a local Adelaide girl. Another was the country-tinged Bin Up in the Hills Too Long, which for me was a sign of things to come with Bon’s lyrics; simple, clever, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek …”
“About 11 pm on 3 May 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike.” Scott suffered serious injuries from the ensuing motorcycle accident, spending three days in a coma and a further 18 days in the hospital. Vince Lovegrove and his wife, by then running a booking/management agency, gave Scott odd jobs, such as putting up posters and painting the office during his recovery, and shortly after introduced him to AC/DC who were on the lookout for a new lead singer.
“There was a young, dinky little glam band from Sydney that we both loved called AC/DC … Before another AC/DC visit, George Young phoned me and said the band was looking for a new singer. I immediately told him that the best guy for the job was Bon. George responded by saying Bon’s accident would not allow him to perform, and that maybe he was too old. Nevertheless I had a meeting with Malcolm and Angus, and suggested Bon as their new singer. They asked me to bring him out to the Pooraka Hotel that night, and to come backstage after the show. When he watched the band, Bon was impressed, and he immediately wanted to join them, but thought they may be a bit too inexperienced and too young. After the show, backstage, Bon expressed his doubts about them being “able to rock”. The two Young brothers told Bon he was “too old to rock”. The upshot was that they had a jam session that night in the home of Bon’s former mentor, Bruce Howe, and at the end of the session, at dawn, it was obvious that AC/DC had found a new singer. And Bon had found a new band.”
Bon replaced Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC in September 1974, he performed on AC/DC’s first 7 albums from High Voltage in 1975 to Highway to Hell released in 1979. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the U.S. top 100, eventually reaching #17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts.
During rehearsing sessions in London for the album “BLACK ON BLACK, Scott passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (later known as the KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance, who found him the next afternoon lifeless.
Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980 at age 33. Although there are many conspiracy theories surrounding his death, mostly based on inconsistent reporting, the coroner’s report stated that he had “drunk himself to death”, suffocating on his own vomit. The official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure”.
July 12, 1979 – Minnie Riperton was born on November 8th 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of eight children in a musical family, she embraced the arts early. As a child she studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. In her teen years, she sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems.
At Chicago’s Lincoln Center, she received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. She practiced breathing and phrasing, with particular emphasis on diction. Jeffery also trained Riperton to use her full range. While studying under Jeffery, she sang operettas and show tunes, in preparation for a career in opera. Jeffery was so convinced of her pupil’s abilities that she strongly pushed her to further study the classics at Chicago’s Junior Lyric Opera. The young Riperton was, however, becoming very interested in soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. After graduating from Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Academy High School), she enrolled at Loop College and became a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She dropped out of college to pursue her music career.
June 29, 1979 – Lowell Thomas George (Little Feat) was born on April 13th 1945 in Hollywood, California, the son of Willard H. George, a furrier who raised chinchillas and supplied furs to the movie studios.
George’s first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended future bandmate Paul Barrere as well as future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton’s acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era with contempt, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann & Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as “Willin'”) to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years. Continue reading Lowell George 6/1979
March 3, 1979 – Mike Patto (Spooky Tooth) was born Michael McCarthy in Cirencester, Gloucestershire on September 22nd 1942 (also named name Michael Patrick McGarth).
Patto first came to light as the vocalist in a Norwich R&B outfit called Mike Patto and The Breakaways. After several line-up changes, The Breakaways became The Bluebottles, but soon after Patto headed for London to join The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. At the same time he had a spell with The Bo Street Runners and the Chicago Line Blues Band in 1966 before forming Timebox, which eventually evolved into Patto.
Developing from a complicated ancestry that included The Bow Street Runners, Patto’s People, and the Chicago Blue Line, Timebox made two singles for Pye’s Piccadilly subsidiary as a six-piece, before signing to Decca’s Deram label in 1967 with the line-up of Mike Patto (born Michael Patrick McGrath in Glasgow) on vocals, Pete ‘Ollie’ Halsall on guitar and vibes, Chris Holmes on piano, Clive Griffiths on bass and John Halsey on drums. This line-up recorded five singles for Deram between ’67 and ’69, none of which troubled the compilers of the Hit Parade, despite the excellent musicianship that allowed them to encompass several genres of music in their output (“Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind“).
In 1969, after their last single “Yellow Van” failed, and Chris Holmes departed, they decided that their future lay in the burgeoning progressive movement, which in itself was born of the freedom from instant commercialism that the better musicians of the psychedelic flowering had forged. And thus Patto (the group) was born.
Lucky enough to be signed to the recently created Vertigo label, soon to become home of many progressive rock classics, Patto went into the studio with Muff Winwood in the producer’s chair. Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group shortly after his brother’s departure in 1967, in order to take up the job a the head of A&R at Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, Blackwell having managed the S.D.G. Perhaps as a reaction to the complicated sound of the Timebox records, Winwood decided to record Patto with a ‘live-in-the studio’ feel, though the result still showcased Ollie Halsall’s guitar virtuosity. The imaginatively-titled “Patto” was released in November of 1970, and whilst the album demonstrated the band’s expert handling of tricky time signatures and jazz changes (applauded by the critics and fellow musicians), their efforts were not rewarded with substantial sales. Mostly because the time was not right.
A second album, “Hold Your Fire“, issued a year later, contained many of the same ingredients, and resulted in similarly disappointing sales and Vertigo dropped the band. Muff Winwood’s connections got them a new deal at Island Records, and they returned to the studio with Winwood to record “Roll ‘Em Smoke ‘Em Put Another Line Out“, released in 1972. As is plainly audible, the ramshackle element of their live act is well to the fore, along with elongated examples of the band’s humor. The outstanding musicianship can still be heard, but the album was unfavorably received.
All three albums were heavier in style than what he’d done to date but failed to capture a wider interest. Nonetheless, “Patto” (1970), was a good jazz-rock fusion featuring some fine vibraphone and guitar playing from Ollie Halsall. “Hold Your Fire“, which is now hard to find on vinyl, was reputedly better, although their album for Island was rather disappointing. When the project disintegrated in 1973, Patto embarked on a brief solo career and in 1974 he joined Spooky Tooth as vocalist and 2nd keyboardist. Spooky Tooth was one of the very few bands to adopt the twin keyboard approach.
Afterwards he was a founding member of the rock band Boxer along with the legendary guitarist Ollie Halsall and keyboardist Chris Stainton. They toured both the US and Europe. His final solo 45, “Sitting In The Park” was a ballad done by Billy Stewart and Georgie Fame.
Ollie Halsall joined Jon Hiseman’s power trio Tempest for the latter of their two albums, before he and Patto formed Boxer in 1975, their first album being better remembered for its cover than its contents. Two more albums were recorded, but Mike Patto’s career was sadly arrested by illness.
He died of lymphatic leukemia on March 3, 1979 at age 39.
February 2, 1979 – Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie on May 10th 1957 in Lewisham in Southeast London England. His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the Royal Airforce, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie’s father, a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.
Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few cheques failed to arrive, Anne realized senior would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent, England. Ritchie took his stepfather’s surname and was known as John Beverley.
Christopher Beverley died a short while later from cancer and by 1968 Ritchie and his mother were living in a rented flat in Turnbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971 mom and son moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Clevedon, Somerset.
Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound”.
By age 17, Ritchie was hanging around London’s center. One favorite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit.
John Lydon nicknamed Ritchie “Sid Vicious” after Lydon’s pet hamster Sid, who had bitten Ritchie, eliciting Ritchie’s response: “Sid is really vicious!” The animal was described by Lydon as “the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth.” At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as “The Four Johns”.
According to Lydon, he and Vicious would often busk for money, with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to stop. Once a man gave them “three bob” (three shillings, i.e., 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced. Yet the darker side of Sid’s personality emerged when he assaulted New Musical Express journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain, with help from Jah Wobble. On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.
His ‘musical’ career started in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene, Palmolive and Viv Albertine. He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London’s Oxford Street. According to members of The Damned, Vicious, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition. The song “Belsen Was a Gas” originates from this band, and was later performed live by the Sex Pistols, as well as Sid Vicious’ solo act.
He played his first gig with the Sex Pistols on 3 April 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. In Nov. 1977, Sid met American groupie Nancy Spungen. Both the group and Sid visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour.
The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on 14 January 1978. With Nancy acting as his “manager”, Sid embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders.
He performed the majority of his performances at Max’s Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max’s.
On October 12th 1978, Sid claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. On October 22 1978, ten days after Nancy’s death, he attempted suicide by slicing his wrist and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital.
A little over three months later, on February 2nd 1979, Vicious died from a heroin overdose as he had been partying in a New York flat to celebrate his release on $50,000 (£29,412) bail pending his trial for the murder of his girlfriend. A few days after his cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket: “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye”.
He was 21 years old.
In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.
January 13, 1979 – Donny Hathaway was born on October 1st 1945 in Chicago, but raised with his grandmother in St. Louis. Hathaway began singing in a church choir with his grandmother, a professional gospel singer, at the age of three. He graduated from High School in 1963 and from there on studied music on a fine arts scholarship at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was a classmate and close friend of Roberta Flack and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
While in college, he performed with a cocktail jazz outfit called the Ric Powell Trio, and wound up leaving school after three years to pursue job opportunities he was already being offered in the record industry. It was a decision based on money he later explained.
Donny Hathaway became one of the brightest new voices in soul music at the dawn of the ’70s, possessed of a smooth, gospel-inflected romantic croon that was also at home on fiery protest material. Hathaway achieved his greatest commercial success as Roberta Flack’s duet partner of choice, but sadly he’s equally remembered for the tragic circumstances of his death — an apparent suicide at age 33.
Hathaway first worked behind the scenes as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and session pianist/keyboardist. He supported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers, among many others, and joined the Mayfield Singers, a studio backing group that supported Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions. Hathaway soon became a house producer at Mayfield’s Curtom label, and in 1969 cut his first single, a duet with June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby.” From there he signed with Atco as a solo artist, and released his debut single, the inner-city lament “The Ghetto, Pt. 1,” toward the end of the year. While it failed to reach the Top 20 on the R&B charts, “The Ghetto” still ranks as a classic soul message track, and has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists. “The Ghetto” set the stage for Hathaway’s acclaimed debut LP, Everything Is Everything, which was released in early 1970. In 1971, he released his eponymous second album and recorded a duet with former Howard classmate Roberta Flack, covering Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It was a significant hit, reaching the Top Ten on the R&B charts, and sparked a full album of duets, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, which was released in 1972. The soft, romantic ballad “Where Is the Love?” topped the R&B charts, went Top Five on the pop side, and won a Grammy, and the accompanying album went gold.
Also in 1972, Hathaway branched out into soundtrack work, recording the theme song for the TV series Maude and scoring the film Come Back Charleston Blue. However, in the midst of his blossoming success, he was also battling severe bouts of depression, which occasionally required him to be hospitalized. His mood swings also affected his partnership with Flack, which began to crumble in 1973.
Hathaway released one more album that year, the ambitious Extension of a Man, and then retreated from the spotlight; over the next few years, he performed only in small clubs. In 1977, Hathaway patched things up with Flack and temporarily left the hospital to record another duet, “The Closer I Get to You,” for her Blue Lights in the Basement album. The song was a smash, becoming the pair’s second R&B number one in 1978, and also climbing to number two on the pop charts.
Sessions for a second album of duets were underway when, on January 13, 1979, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the 15th-floor window of his room in New York’s Essex House. The glass had been neatly removed from the window, and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule Hathaway’s death a suicide; his friends were mystified, considering that his career had just started to pick up again, and Flack was devastated. Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway was released in 1980, and both of the completed duets — “Back Together Again” and “You Are My Heaven” — became posthumous hits.
Donny Hathaway died in 1979, but his warm, suave soul has never been more influential. He’s been name-checked in songs by Amy Winehouse, Nas, Common and Fall Out Boy (the new “What a Catch, Donnie”), and Justin Timberlake calls “(Another Song) All Over Again,” from FutureSex/LoveSounds, “my homage to Donny Hathaway.” It’s easy to hear why Hathaway still appeals to modern-pop and neo-soul singers alike. He was equally comfortable with smooth ballads (“The Closer I Get to You”) and rolling funk (“The Ghetto”). He was a master of melisma (while never overdoing it), and his smoky voice wrapped superbly around his female duet partners, most notably Roberta Flack. No wonder Timberlake calls him “the best singer of all time.” Rolling Stone Magazine declared him the 49th best singer ever, right behind Buddy Holly and before Bonnie Raitt. Not sure what that means but he was impressive nevertheless.
He was 33 years, 3 months and 12 days old when he died on 13 January 1979 jumping out of the window on the 15th floor.
July 29, 1978 – Glenn Lamont Goins was born on January 2nd 1954 and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Featuring a powerful and haunting gospel voice, he first recorded with the group “The Bags”, releasing a single in 1972 “It’s Heavy” / “Don’t Mess With My Baby”.
But Glenn is better known as singer and guitarist for Parliament Funkadelic in the mid-1970s. He was particularly prominent on the Parliament albums Mothership Connection in 1975, The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein in 1976, and 1977’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome.
With his souful and powerful voice, Goins was by far one of the best vocalist who ever worked with the P.Funk mob.
In 1978, he left the Clinton posse with drummer Jerome Brailey and formed his own funk band Quazar featuring his younger brother Kevin Goins and drummer Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey.
They recorded a self-titled album which Glen also produced and arranged, but sadly he died before the album’s release from Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the very early age of 24 on July 29, 1978.
Glenn is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with fifteen other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.
April 21, 1978 – Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny (Fairport Convention) was born on 6 January 1947. Known as Sandy Denny, she was one of my favorite sixties’ British folk rock singers. She was the lead singer for the folk rock band Fairport Convention in 1968 and 69, but besides that she was a fabulous songwriter, notably her most famous song was ‘Who knows Where the Time Goes’, which has been covered by a myriad of artists since, most famously, 10,000 Maniacs, Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Eva Cassidy, Nina Simone, Sinéad O’Connor, to name a few.
January 23, 1978 – Jan Terry Alan Kath was Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player. Born on January 31, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois, he became best known as the original guitarist, co-lead singer and founding member of the rock band Chicago. He has been praised by the band for his guitar skills and Ray Charles-influenced vocal style.
Growing up in a musical family, Kath took up a variety of instruments in his teens, including the drums and banjo. He acquired a guitar and amplifier when he was in the ninth grade, and his early influences included the Ventures, Dick Dale and Howard Roberts. He later became influenced by George Benson, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.He played bass in a number of bands in the mid-1960s, before settling on the guitar when forming the group that would become Chicago. Unlike several other Chicago members who received formal music training, Kath was mostly self-taught and enjoyed jamming. In a 1971 interview for Guitar Player, he said he had tried professional lessons but abandoned them, adding “all I wanted to do was play those rock and roll chords”.
His guitar playing was an important component of the group’s sound from the start of their career, and he sang lead on several of the group’s singles. He used a number of different guitars, but eventually became identified with the Fender Telecaster fitted with a humbucker pickup and decorated with numerous stickers.
A true innovator, Kath experimented endlessly with amps, guitars and equipment. While he possessed a rudimentary awareness of musical composition, he mostly just played by ear. Other band members were in awe of his ability to hear something once and play it back. Legend has it that Jimi Hendrix, with whom Chicago toured in the early days, idolized Kath, telling Parazaider, “Your guitar player is better than me”. Listening to Kath’s early recorded soloing on such tunes as “South California Purples”, “Poem ’58”, “Listen” and “25 or 6 to 4”, you’d be hard pressed to say Hendrix was wrong. Chicago’s producer Guercio has said that Kath could have been a monster as a solo artist.
That Kath never received the recognition due him as a guitar hero is old news now, but it irked him during his lifetime. Band-mate James Pankow recalls a tour in England where Kath publicly gave the crowd the finger for comparing him unfavorably to noted greats like Eric Clapton and Page. Listening today, aficionados are amazed at Kath’s picking and, while a bit dependent upon the wah-pedal, his creativity is still dazzling. He was capable of handling all genres, including jazz, country, metal, blues, and flat-out rock.
As a composer, Kath was much more hit than miss. Though Chicago never scored on the charts with a Kath single, the tunes he wrote were generally killer. Some, like “O Thank You, Great Spirit” and “Take It on Uptown” rival anything Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Page ever came up with. And Kath sang rings around them all. Blessed with a soulful, husky voice, Kath belted and whooped his way through such classics as “Make Me Smile” while possessing the ability to go smooth when the need arose (“Wishing You Were Here”, “Colour My World”, “Brand New Love Affair, Part 1”). In his personal life, Kath reportedly sensed that he wouldn’t live long (he died a few days before reaching 32). He has been famously described as down-to-earth and a great guy, but a risk-taker. It’s interesting to note that all Chicago band-mates, from James Pankow to Robert Lamm to Peter Cetera, describe themselves as having been very close to Terry (Lamm has called him his best friend). This indicates that Kath could make himself comfortable with a variety of personalities. Kath was into fast cars, motorcycles and guns. He was also into a variety of drugs, though reports indicate he wasn’t addicted. He loved to eat and fought a constant battle with his waistline (until he seemingly gave up near the end of his life, growing truly fat). He experimented with a wide variety of hairstyles and facial hair throughout his career and had a fondness for wearing professional hockey (NHL and WHL) team jerseys. He was 28 when he married 19-year-old Camelia Kath Ortiz in 1974; they had a daughter, Michelle, in 1976.
Kath’s death on January 23, 1978 is a watershed in rock history, but some confusion remains about what actually happened to him. Contemporaneous newspaper reports indicate that he accidentally shot himself with a 9mm automatic at roadie Don Johnson’s house after a party in front of Camelia. Later interviews with band members such as James Pankow indicate that Kath was alone with Johnson at the kitchen table and no party had taken place. Supposedly, Kath was displaying the gun when Johnson told him to be careful. Kath then is supposed to have put the gun to his head, saying either, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, see?” or, “What do you think I’m gonna do, shoot myself?” before pulling the trigger. Whatever actually happened, Kath’s death doesn’t seem to have been a suicide, in spite of Pankow’s acknowledgment that Kath had been “bumming” over a fight with Camelia (or Cetera’s assertion that Kath was unhappy in Chicago and would have been the first to leave had he lived).
He died on January 23, 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 31. The bereavement triggered Chicago to consider disbanding, but they ultimately decided to resume as is signified by their memorial song “Alive Again.” To commemorate his musicianship, they later issued the 1997 album, The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath.
Katz daughter Michelle started a Kickstarter funding to produce a documentary on her father’s life which will be coming out in 2016.
October 20, 1977 – Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948 in West Jacksonville, Florida. As a member of a very musical family, brother Donnie became frontman for 38 Special, another Jacksonville based band and youngest brother Johnny took Roonie’s shoes and hat when Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed in 1987.
Ronnie however was the nucleus founding member and frontman of the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd that formed in 1964.
Friends and schoolmates Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns made up the original band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of students with long hair.
Their fan base grow rapidly throughout 1973, mainly due to their opening slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their debut self titled album produced the hit Freebird, the track achieved the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Continue reading Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977
16 September 1977 – Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld on September 30, 1947, became the well-known singer/songwriter, poet and guitarist frontman of T. Rex or Tyrannosaurus Rex, a 1970s glam rock band. He was killed in an automobile crash in 1977 a mere two weeks before his 30th birthday.
Marc Bolan looked like a rock star. And he usually sang about the usual rock-star things in his songs with T. Rex. He inspired a whole legion of glitter-wearing fans to follow his every word. And on the 1972 single ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ he seemed to have a knack for predicting the future — even foreshadowing his own demise five years later.
Look no further than the opening line of ‘Solid Gold Easy Action,’ a single-only release that eventually showed up on the same year’s ‘Great Hits’ compilation. ”Life is the same and it always will be / Easy as picking foxes from a tree,” Bolan sings as typically glammy guitars spill out a riff.
Turns out that the license plate on the car that Bolan was killed in on Sept. 16, 1977, was “FOX 661L.” And oh yeah, it was wrapped around a tree.
A famous quote: “I feel there is a curse on rock stars”
May 26, 1977 – William Powell (The O’Jays) was born on January 20th 1942.
Powell and his friends Walter Williams, Bill Isles, Bobby Massey and Eddie Levert formed the group in Canton, Ohio in 1958 while attending Canton McKinley High School. Originally known as The Triumphs, and then The Mascots, the friends debuted with “Miracles” in 1961, which was a moderate hit in the Cleveland area. In 1963, they took the name “The O’Jays”, in tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay who was part of the powerful management team of Frankie Crocker, Herb Hamlett & Eddie O’Jay. In that same year, The O’Jays released “Lonely Drifter,” their first national chart hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #93. Their debut album, released shortly thereafter was Comin’ Through.
They went on to record 10 albums and having 9 chart hits.
Throughout the 1960s, they continued to chart with minor hits such as “Lipstick Traces” (which they performed nationally on the ABC Television program, Shivaree), “Stand In For Love,” “Stand Tall,” “Let It All Out,” “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow,” “Look Over Your Shoulder,” “Deeper In Love With You,” and “One Night Affair”. However, while they issued dozens of singles throughout the decade, they never once hit the US top 40 (although “Lipstick Traces” made it to #19 in Canada.) On the R&B charts, The O’Jays were somewhat more prominent, but their only top 10 R&B single prior to 1972 was 1968’s “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow”.
In spite of their success as a touring group and on the R&B charts, the group had been considering quitting the music industry in 1972; around that same time original members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey departed, leaving the group a trio. The remaining three members soldiered on and Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters with whom the O’Jays had been working for several years, signed them to their Philadelphia International label. Suddenly, The O’Jays fortunes changed and they finally scored with their first million-seller, “Back Stabbers”, from the album of the same name. This album produced several more hit singles, including “992 Arguments,” “Sunshine,” “Time To Get Down,” and the #1 pop smash, “Love Train”.
During the remainder of the 1970s the O’Jays continued releasing hit singles, including “Put Your Hands Together” (Pop #10), “For the Love of Money” (Pop #9), “Give the People What They Want”, “Let Me Make Love To You”, “I Love Music” (Pop #5), “Livin’ for the Weekend”, “Message in Our Music” and “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love)”.
Original member William Powell died of cancer on May 26, 1977 at age 35.
After adding Sammy Strain (born December 9, 1939) of Little Anthony and the Imperials), the O’Jays continued recording, though with limited success. 1978’s “Use ta Be My Girl” was their final Top Five hit, though they continued placing songs on the R&B charts throughout the 1980s.
William along with the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004 and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
May 14, 1976 – William Keith Relf was born on March 22, 1943 in Richmond, Surrey, England.
As a teenager he latched onto American rhythm and blues and became influenced by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and the Chicago Blues scene. Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Despite his suffering from respiratory problems, his blues harp became a key part of the Yardbirds’ sound and success, according to many, and his vocals may have been as important a contribution to the band as the trio of worldfamous guitar players that joined the band.
When people remember the Yardbirds, as the British blues-based band that came to prominence in the mid to late 60s, what they remember most is the triumvirate of guitar players that used the group as a step to stardom: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and future Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page. While there is no doubt that these now world-famous guitar gods contributed greatly to the Yardbirds’ sound, another less-famous member gave the group voice, performing presence, and direction. That man was Keith Relf.
They drew their original repertoire from the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James, including “Smokestack Lightning”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, “Boom Boom”, “I Wish You Would”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”, and “I’m a Man”. Keith co-wrote many of the original Yardbirds songs “Shapes of Things”, “I Ain’t Done Wrong”, “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”. He also sang an early version of “Dazed and Confused” in live Yardbirds concerts, a song later recorded by the band’s successor group Led Zeppelin.
A record contract followed, and soon the band, guided by the restless and substance-friendly Relf, drifted away from R&B. Subsequent hit songs suggested beatniks with harpsichords (“For Your Love”), melancholy monks (“Still I’m Sad”), and acid-soaked Romany (“Over Under Sideways Down”). Clapton left the band, and Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page joined, pushing the group deeper into psychedelic byways of fuzztone and distortion. Although Relf persevered, his attitude towards the high-powered guitar music that defined the group began to change. Exhausted from extensive touring and suffering from asthma, Relf wanted to sing gentler, more thoughtful music. By 1968, the Yardbirds’ end was at hand.
That year Relf dissolved the group, became a record producer and sideman, and began a new stage of his musical career just before his early death.
Keith Relf’s first post-Yardbirds group was Together, an acoustic duo with fellow ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty. Their Simon and Garfunkel-inspired music failed to catch on, however, and Relf formed a new band with his sister Jane called Renaissance. The group was indeed a renaissance for Relf, allowing him to explore his psychedelic and acoustic leanings freely over the course of two albums with much singing by his beautiful sister Jane. But difficult and unrewarding touring wore them down, and Relf dissolved the first incarnation in 1970. (Led by vocalist Annie Haslam, the group’s second, more progressive incarnation became a fixture of the 70s music scene.) Relf stayed active in the early 70s as a producer and occasional player. He produced tracks for bands such as the acoustic, world music, group Amber, Saturnalia and Medicine Head, with whom he played bass guitar.
In 1975 he founded a heavy metal group called Armageddon. Energized by the group into delivering some of his best vocals on record, Relf looked poised for new success. Sadly, this was not to be. Dogged by ill health, Relf broke up the group and went home to recuperate. Instead, he met an ironic end. The man “who left the Yardbirds largely because of electric guitars” died on May 14, 1976, from being fatally electrocuted by an improperly grounded electric guitar, while rehearsing new material for the formation of his new band Illusion. He was only 33 years old.
Keith Relf was posthumously inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 with the Yardbirds. He was represented by his widow April, and son Danny.
April 9, 1976 – Phil Ochs was born on December 19, 1940 in El Paso, Texas.
Being a 1960s protest singer-songwriter he wrote hundreds of songs and released eight albums. Politically, Phil described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.
He performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.
March 26, 1976 – Duster Bennett was born Anthony Bennett in in Welshpool, Powys, Mid Wales on September 23rd 1946. As a kid he was very interested in the blues and developed as an exceptional blues singer and multi-musician.
After moving to London, he became a session musician in the early 60s. His first solo album (one of five before his death) “Smiling Like I’m Happy” saw him playing as a one-man blues band whose virtuosity and co-ordination on drums, his Les Paul Goldtop guitar and harmonica was as riveting as it was unique, while he was backed by girlfriend Stella Sutton, the first and original Fleetwood Mac singer, on three tracks. His live sets combined his own compositions with Jimmy Reed-style blues standards often aided by friends Peter Green and Top Topham.
Emerging in the late 1960s from the art school music scene of Kingston-upon-Thames and Guildford, Bennett was a one-man blues band, in the style of bluesmen such as Joe Hill Lewis.
Between 1968 and 1970 he was played frequently on John Peel’s Top Gear, toured and eventually joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as band member/solo act on a US tour in 1970. In the 1970s he drifted off into more mainstream material.
His haunting track Jumping at Shadows, was first covered by Fleetwood Mac and revived in 1992 by Gary Moore, who covered it in his “After Hours” album.
After performing with Memphis Slim, he died in a fatal road accident; tired at the wheel, his van collided with a truck on March 26, 1976. He was 29.
Feb 22, 1976 – Florence Ballard Chapman (The Supremes) was born Florence Glenda Ballard on June 30th 1943.
Named “Blondie” or “Flo” by family and friends, Ballard attended Northeastern High School and was coached vocally by Abraham Silver. Ballard met future singing partner Mary Wilson during a middle-school talent show and they became friends while attending Northeastern High. From an early age, Ballard aspired to be a singer and agreed to audition for a spot on a sister group of the local Detroit attraction, The Primes. After she was accepted, Ballard recruited Mary Wilson to join Jenkins’ group. Wilson, in turn, enlisted another neighbor, Diana Ross, then going by “Diane”. Betty McGlown completed the original lineup and Jenkins named them as “The Primettes”. The group performed at talent showcases and at school parties before auditioning for Motown Records in 1960. Gordy advised the group to graduate from high school before auditioning again. Ballard eventually dropped out of high school though her group mates graduated.
June 29, 1975 – Timothy Charles “Tim” Buckley IIIwas born on February 14, 1947 in Washington DC. By the time he had graduated high school he had already written over twenty songs with lyricist Larry Beckett; and many of these made up a large portion of his debut album. “Buzzin’ Fly“, also written during this period, were later featured his 1969 LP Happy Sad. He often regarded his voice as an instrument, a talent principally showcased on his albums Goodbye and Hello, Lorca, and Starsailor.
“He continually took chances with his life. He’d drive like a maniac, risking accidents. For a couple of years he drank a lot and took downers to the point where it nearly killed him, but he’d always escape. Then he got into this romantic heroin-taking thing and his luck ran out.”
Tim was also the father of Jeff Buckley who became a well-known musician in his own right, before he accidentally drowned in 1997.
One of the great rock vocalists of the 1960s, Tim Buckley drew from folk, psychedelic rock, and progressive jazz to create a considerable body of adventurous work in his brief lifetime. His multi-octave range was capable of not just astonishing power, but great emotional expressiveness, swooping from sorrowful tenderness to anguished wailing. His restless quest for new territory worked against him commercially: By the time his fans had hooked into his latest album, he was onto something else entirely, both live and in the studio. In this sense he recalled artists such as Miles Davis and David Bowie, who were so eager to look forward and change that they confused and even angered listeners who wanted more stylistic consistency. However, his eclecticism has also ensured a durable fascination with his work that has engendered a growing posthumous cult for his music, often with listeners who were too young (or not around) to appreciate his music while he was active.
Buckley emerged from the same ’60s Orange County, CA, folk scene that spawned Jackson Browne and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black introduced Buckley and a couple of musicians Buckley was playing with to the Mothers’ manager, Herbie Cohen. Although Cohen may have first been interested in Buckley as a songwriter, he realized after hearing some demos that Buckley was also a diamond in the rough as a singer. Cohen became Buckley’s manager, and helped the singer get a deal with Elektra.
Before Buckley had reached his 20th birthday, he’d released his debut album. The slightly fey but enormously promising effort highlighted his soaring melodies and romantic, opaque lyrics. Baroque psychedelia was the order of the day for many Elektra releases of the time, and Buckley’s early folk-rock albums were embellished with important contributions from musicians Lee Underwood (guitar), Van Dyke Parks (keyboards), Jim Fielder (bass), and Jerry Yester. Larry Beckett was also an overlooked contributor to Buckley’s first two albums, co-writing many of the songs.
Goodbye and Hello
The fragile, melancholic, orchestrated beauty of the material had an innocent quality that was dampened only slightly on the second LP, Goodbye and Hello (1967). Buckley’s songs and arrangements became more ambitious and psychedelic, particularly on the lengthy title track. This was also his only album to reach the Top 200, where it only peaked at number 171; Buckley was always an artist who found his primary constituency among the underground, even for his most accessible efforts. His third album, Happy Sad, found him going in a decidedly jazzier direction in both his vocalizing and his instrumentation, introducing congas and vibes. Though it seemed a retreat from commercial considerations at the time, Happy Sad actually concluded the triumvirate of recordings that are judged to be his most accessible.
Dream Letter: Live in London 1968
The truth was, by the late ’60s Buckley was hardly interested in folk-rock at all. He was more intrigued by jazz; not only soothing modern jazz (as heard on the posthumous release of acoustic 1968 live material, Dream Letter), but also its most avant-garde strains. His songs became much more oblique in structure, and skeletal in lyrics, especially when the partnership with Larry Beckett was ruptured after the latter’s induction into the Army. Some of his songs abandoned lyrics almost entirely, treating his voice itself as an instrument, wordlessly contorting, screaming, and moaning, sometimes quite cacophonously. In this context, Lorca was viewed by most fans and critics not just as a shocking departure, but a downright bummer. No longer was Buckley a romantic, melodic poet; he was an experimental artist who sometimes seemed bent on punishing both himself and his listeners with his wordless shrieks and jarringly dissonant music.
Almost as if to prove that he was still capable of gentle, uplifting jazzy pop-folk, Buckley issued Blue Afternoon around the same time. Bizarrely, Blue Afternoon and Lorca were issued almost simultaneously, on different labels. While an admirable demonstration of his versatility, it was commercial near-suicide, each album canceling the impact of the other, as well as confusing his remaining fans. Buckley found his best middle ground between accessibility and jazzy improvisation on 1970’s Starsailor, which is probably the best showcase of his sheer vocal abilities, although many prefer the more cogent material of his earliest albums.
Live at the Troubadour 1969
By this point, though, Buckley’s approach was so uncommercial that it was jeopardizing his commercial survival. And not just on record; he was equally uncompromising as a live act, as the posthumously issued Live at the Troubadour 1969 demonstrates, with its stretched-to-the-limit jams and searing improv vocals. For a time, he was said to have earned his living as a taxi driver and chauffeur; he also flirted with films for a while. When he returned to the studio, it was as a much more commercial singer/songwriter (some have suggested that various management and label pressures were behind this shift).
Greetings from L.A.
As much of a schism as Buckley’s experimental jazz period created among fans and critics, his final recordings have proved even more divisive, even among big Buckley fans. Some view these efforts, which mix funk, sex-driven lyrical concerns, and laid-back L.A. session musicians, as proof of his mastery of the blue-eyed soul idiom. Others find them a sad waste of talent, or relics of a prodigy who was burning out rather than conquering new realms. Neophytes should be aware of the difference of critical opinion regarding this era, but on the whole his final three albums are his least impressive. Those who feel otherwise usually cite the earliest of those LPs, Greetings from L.A. (1972), as his best work from his final phase.
Buckley’s life came to a sudden end on June 29, 1975, when he died at age 28 of a heroin overdose just after completing a tour. Those close to him insist that he had been clean for some time and lament the loss of an artist who, despite some recent failures, still had much to offer. Buckley’s stock began to rise among the rock underground after the Cocteau Twins covered his “Song for the Siren” in the 1980s. The posthumous releases of two late-’60s live sets (Dream Letter and Live at the Troubadour 1969) in the early ’90s also boosted his profile, as well as unveiling some interesting previously unreleased compositions. His son Jeff Buckley went on to mount a musical career as well before his own tragic death in 1997.
He doesn’t talk very much and journalists are almost unanimous in their frustration of trying to get a word out of him. His presence is electric, almost disquieting, but he rarely says a word. He wrinkles his nose, flashes his eyes and contorts his mouth into a teasing scowl while he raises his eyebrows and creases his brow. When he smiles, his whole face crumples with mirth. But he rarely says a word to writers.
Friends describe him as shy, complicated and very uncomfortable with strangers. He changes his mind often–about everything–and is very hard to pin down. I saw literally hundreds of photographs at the Elektra publicity office, and he looks more at home in a serious visage than a smile. “That’s because the photographers were strangers,” I was told.
He stands, or more accurately, sways, on impossibly slender legs which seem devoid of inflexibilities. When he sits, which is most often on the floor in a corner, his arms and legs fall in a haphazard tangle as if they were folded up and put away when not in use.
You could get lost in his face. The photos showed him in a variety of poses, moods and changes, but with all their diversity one gets the niggling feeling that something is missed, something is lost; much, it would seem, is misunderstood.
Buckley’s intimate moments are on stage, and even then there is a paradoxical distance. He careens and weeps through elaborate poetic fugues, sometimes losing the words in the sound, writhing sensually behind an enormous Gibson 12-string. He sings in a passionate counter-tenor, skidding around the notes of a song as if possessed by the melodies…the songs, at times, seem to sing him. His eyes are nearly closed most of the time and when they open, briefly, for a contemplative moment they peer out from behind a jungle of dusky curls and recede. Aside from a few very glib introductions, he rarely says a word.
His mystique is not a staged or deliberate one; he’s a uniquely gifted artist whose sensitivities run deep–so deep it would be almost fearful to reach bottom and unthinkable to come over the top.
April 24th, 1975 – Pete Ham (Badfinger) was born Peter William Ham in Swansea, Wales on April 27, 1947. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers around 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. The band was relocated to London by The Mojos manager, Bill Collins, in 1966, and they continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom. As it was, Ham eventually became the prominent songwriter for the band, as a Revox tape recorder was made available by Collins to encourage him. Ray Davies of The Kinks took an initial interest in the group, although tracks produced by Davies did not surface commercially until decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles personal assistant) and were eventually signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label after approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly impressed by the band’s songwriting abilities.
The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger with the single release of “Come and Get It,” a composition written by Paul McCartney, and it became a worldwide Top Ten hit. Ham had initially protested against using a non-original to promote the band, as he had gained confidence in the group’s compositions, but he was quickly convinced of the springboard effect of having a likely hit single. His own creative perseverance paid off eventually, as his “No Matter What” composition became another Top Ten worldwide hit after its release in late 1970.
He followed up writing two more worldwide hits with “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” His greatest songwriting success came with his co-written composition “Without You” – a worldwide number 1 when it was later covered by Harry Nilsson and released in 1972. The song has since become a ballad standard and is covered by hundreds of singers from many genres worldwide. An Ivor Novello award for Song of the Year was issued in 1973 along with Grammy nominations. George Harrison used Ham’s talents for a number of album sessions including the All Things Must Pass album and for other Apple Records artist’s recordings. This friendship culminated with Ham’s acoustic guitar duet on “Here Comes the Sun” with Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, later portrayed in the theatrical film of the concert.
In 1972, Badfinger was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, as the Apple Records label was crumbling and it seemed the band was primed for major recognition. Unfortunately however the era from 1973–75, found Badfinger embroiled in many internal, financial, and managerial problems and their music was stifled. By 1975, with no income and the band’s business manager uncommunicative, Ham became despondent and he hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home.
Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.”
It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger’s business manager, Stan Polley: “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” News of Ham’s death was not widely disseminated at the time, as no public comment was made by The Beatles, Apple Corps Ltd, or Warner Bros. Records.
Ham is often credited as being one of the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre. His most widespread effect in popular music is the ballad “Without You,” written with Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans. Collections of Ham’s home demo recordings have been posthumously released: 1997’s 7 Park Avenue, 1999’s Golders Green and 2013’s The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67. On 27 April 2013, Ham was commemorated by his hometown’s first official heritage blue plaque. The unveiling ceremony took place at Swansea’s High Street station, located at Ivey Place, on what would have been Ham’s 66th birthday. Following the unveiling, which was performed by Ham’s daughter Petera, a tribute concert featuring two original Iveys members was held at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.
As is the case with suicides, Ham reached a point where death seemed to be the only solution to his problems. He met band mate/co-songwriter Tom Evans in a pub near his home on the evening of April 24th, 1975, three days before his 28th birthday, and told him: “Don’t worry, I know a way out.” Fortified with drink, Ham went back to his home, wrote a note in which he expressed his bitterness towards his manager and hanged himself in his garage. Evans hanged himself seven years later leaving a note that stated, he wanted to be where Petey was.
The story of one of power rock’s eternal melodies “Without You”, left its creators in desperation, like the 15 minute of fame legacy kills.
November 24, 1974 – Nick Drake was born Nicholas Rodney Drake on June 19, 1948 in Rangoon Burma (Myanmar). He was a British singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, not appreciated in his lifetime, but since his death his work has grown steadily in stature, to the extent that he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years and his songs have been covered by many greats and in 2004, 30 years after his death, he gained his first chart hit when two singles, “Magic” and “River Man”, were released to coincide with the compilation album ‘Made to Love Magic’. Later that year the BBC aired a radio documentary about Nick, narrated by Brad Pitt.
Drake signed to Island Records when he was 20 years old and was a student at the University of Cambridge, and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969. By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Layter and Pink Moon. Neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release. Drake’s reluctance to perform live, or be interviewed, contributed to his lack of commercial success. There is no known footage of the adult Drake; he was only ever captured in still photographs and in home footage from his childhood.
Drake suffered from Major Depression or what would be diagnosed today as Adult Onset Major Depression. This was often reflected in his lyrics and as is often typical with this illness he reportedly self-medicated with marijuana regularly. On completion of his third album, 1972’s Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording completely, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire.
On 25 November 1974, at the age of 26, Drake died from an overdose of approximately 30 amitriptyline pills, a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.
His true value as a musician/songwriter did not come to the foreground until the early 1980, but has since been growing to cult like proportions.
Nick Drake died young with little commercial success in his own lifetime. Yet after years of steady rediscovery, his music has become a central touchstone for countless fans spellbound by his gentle voice, stunning composition, and perhaps surprisingly intricate guitar work.
Retrospectively, Drake’s story is usually told as a tale of consuming depression and increasing isolation. He did not offer many interviews and no known video footage of his playing exists. But based on the accounts and details we do know, he seemed obsessed with playing his guitar and exploring its depths, and this immersion brought an embrace of different tunings.
On the haunting “Cello Song” from his debut record, Five Leaves Left, for instance, Drake detuned his G-string just one half step to F#. It’s a subtle change but one that allows for the beautiful picking pattern that carries the song.
While his first two records are stocked with additional instrumentation (arguably to the songs’ detriment in some case), his third and final album, Pink Moon, is just Drake and a guitar. The album’s title track remains one of Drake’s most famous recordings and is built around a CGCFCE tuning. The tuning was also employed on Drake favorites, like “Hazey Jane I” and “Place to Be.”
Strum this tuning open, and you get a Cadd4. It’s an instant Nick Drake voicing, and simply barring and picking a few a few extra notes with your ring finger will get you into his open style.
His sister Gabrielle, a rather famous actress in Britain did an interview in the Guardian in 2014 that is equally explanatory as it is complicating the Nick Drake legacy.
Here are some of his posthumus youtube release videos:
May 8, 1974 – Graham John Clifton Bond was born on October 28, 1937 in Romford England.
British keyboard player, one of the great catalytic figures of 60s rock in UK, and has a claim to the title “Father of the British Blues”. He gained attention as a jazz saxophonist as a member of the Don Rendell Quintet.
After which, he was a member of Blues Incorporated, a group led by Alexis Korner, before forming his Graham Bond Quartet. With a lineup of himself on vocals and organ, Ginger Baker on drums, Jack Bruce on double bass, and, briefly, John McLaughlin on guitar, who was replaced by Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax and the name changed to the Graham Bond Organization.
Graham was the main song writer, and also produced their two studio albums, The Sound of ’65 and There’s a Bond Between Us. The GBO is notable in popular music history for jump-starting the careers of two future Cream members, bassist/singer Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. One song Bruce and Baker originally recorded with Bond, “Train Time,” later wound up in the repertoire of Cream.
Graham also formed Magus with UK folk-singer Carolanne Pegg, the group disbanded around Christmas 1973 without recording. During that same period, he discovered American singer-songwriter-guitarist Mick Lee, and took him under his wing. They played together live, but never recorded.
The new band also had plans to include Chris Wood of Traffic, but never materialized due to Bond’s untimely death, which may or may not have been suicide? He died under the wheels of a Tube train at Finsbury Park station, London on May 8, 1974. He was 37.
The following feature story from Classic Rock issue 185, traces the apocalyptic story of one of the 1960s most influential British talents in those early days when everyone played with everyone.
The voice on the other end of the phone line was optimistic; enthusiastic, even. “I feel great. I’m clean. I’m off everything and I’m looking forward to getting back to work again.”
It was Tuesday, May 7, 1974, and Graham Bond was calling the NME office to thank them for recently printing an old photo of his. During a cordial exchange, the paper agreed to interview him in the next few days, after which he hung up. There was nothing to suggest anything amiss.
Twenty-four hours later, Bond was dead, crushed under the wheels of a Tube train at Finsbury Park station. It was two days before the police were able to identify the body, and then only from his fingerprints. He was 36. It was a strange, messy end to a strange, unpredictable life.
In his mid-60s prime, Graham Bond was a true originator and one of the key figures on the British music scene. As the driving force behind the Graham Bond Organization, he dragged trad jazz out of its fusty confines and made it jump with heavy doses of blues and wailing R&B. A raft of talent passed through the band on the way to greater success in Cream, Blind Faith, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Colosseum and elsewhere.
As an organist and alto sax blower, Bond was a primal force. He redefined the role of the keyboard during his time with the GBO, his energy and outsized personality reflected in his ferocious playing and the anguish of his raw singing voice. Bulky and, during his later years, bearded, he was a formidable presence.
“You wouldn’t miss him in a crowd,” says Jack Bruce, who formed Cream with fellow GBO member Ginger Baker. “He was a colourful character and a powerful guy.”
If Bond’s reputation is largely diminished these days, his influence on his fellow musicians is undeniable. The likes of Rick Wakeman, Elton John, Steve Winwood and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord were all indebted to both his musicianship and his showmanship.
“He taught me, hands on, most of what I know about the Hammond organ,” said Lord.
Bond’s pioneering spirit even marked him out as a harbinger of prog – witness his appropriation of classical music, most notably co-opting Bach for 1965’s Wade In TheWater.
“Graham was important to a lot of people,” says Bruce. “He was a one-off. Nobody could play alto sax and Hammond at the same time and get that incredible sound. The Organization was a phenomenal band. It was quite primitive, but that was part of the beauty of it.”
But this is where his legacy gets mangled. The great enigma of Bond’s life and career was that, despite packed houses and plaudits from fellow musicians, he never achieved either the fame or the riches his talent deserved. By the time of his death, Bond was reduced to the role of outsider artist, his stock in tatters. The record industry had long given up on a troubled man prone to fits of erratic behaviour, trapped in an auto-destructive cycle of drug abuse and occultism.
“He was his own worst enemy,” says drummer ‘Funky’ Paul Olsen, who played with Bond in his final days. “He was supremely intelligent, but there was just too much going on in his head.”
The turn-of-the-70s Bond was a world away from the one who gate-crashed the music fraternity a decade earlier. Initially a saxophonist, Bond had studied music at the Royal Liberty School in London before landing a job with the Goudie Charles Quintet. By 1961 he’d signed up with the Don Rendell New Quintet, where his exuberant style and unique phrasing brought him to the attention of the jazz press. Bond’s recorded debut came on the Quintet’s album Roarin’, released later that year. In Melody Maker’s year-end jazz poll, his prowess was such that he was voted second in the New Star category.
The following year was a pivotal one. As well as playing with Don Rendell, he also began gigging with the Johnny Burch Octet, a ‘budget big band’ whose members included double-bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith.
“I first met him at one of the all-nighters at the Flamingo,” Bruce recalls. “Graham used to sit in with us. His appearance reminded me of Cannonball Adderley, and the intensity just astounding.”
By October 1962, Bond had graduated to Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, a hothouse for emerging talent. He doubled up on the sax by pumping out fat Hammond riffs through a Leslie speaker, brokering a new style of American-influenced R&B. Bond, Baker and Bruce, also in the line-up, began playing as a trio during intervals. It’s not exactly clear just when Bond decided to start his own band, although a trip to Manchester in February 1963 appears to have been a turning point. He’d secured a trio gig and travelled up in a hired black Dormobile camper van with Baker and Bruce. The audience howled their appreciation of their wild, free-ranging approach. Not long after, Bond told Korner he was breaking off on his own, with Ginger and Jack in tow. It was typical of his single-minded bullishness that he never bothered to consult with those two first.
“I just showed up for rehearsal one day and Alexis was looking very glum and angry,” Bruce remembers. “He wouldn’t talk to me at all. Then I found out that I’d resigned from the band! I was very naïve in those days, just a kid. I should’ve said something, but just went along with it. It was years before Alexis began talking to me again.”
Three became four when guitarist John McLaughlin joined from Georgie Fame’s band. The Graham Bond Quartet’s first release found them backing emergent rock’n’roller Duffy Power on a cover of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There.
“Graham’s influence on me was enormous,” admits Power. “He was a natural musician and had a philosophy where you must always go for it. That’s what he instilled in me. He was head and shoulders above the other Hammond organ players. And he was always very encouraging towards the others: ‘Yeah, Ginger! Yeah, Jack!’. He’d always be talking it up, saying they were making music for the future. When you stood outside a club where they were playing, the atmosphere was just magnetic.”
McLaughlin was replaced by Heckstall-Smith later that year. With the newcomer blowing sax with gusto and skill, the Graham Bond Organization became a fearsome proposition.
“I got the opportunity to see them play live a lot and absolutely adored them,” recalls Pete Brown, co-author of Cream classics I Feel Free, White Room and Sunshine Of Your Love, and a Bond devotee. “There was nothing like it. It had a lot of the spirit of jazz but with a ferocious energy from blues and rock.”
Jack Bruce: “There was hardly any R&B scene at the time – we more or less invented it. When we started out we’d be doing venues like The Place in Hanley and the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, these real funky little clubs. The audiences went bananas. The kind of stuff we were playing was very new for British music, as was the intensity.”
The Graham Bond Organization’s debut album, The Sound Of ’65, was a stirring attempt to capture the transcendent thrill of their live shows. So finely drilled were they at this point that, according to Bruce, the whole thing was recorded in three hours. The album, a mix of covers and strident original swingers like Half A Man and Spanish Blues, was doubly remarkable for the fact that it was the first British release to feature a Mellotron.
“Way-out blues sounds, weird at times, but always fascinating,” raved the New MusicalExpress. “Plenty of wailing harmonica and raving vocalistics.”
In July the GBO appeared on ITV’s flagship pop show Ready Steady Go! promoting their new single Lease On Love. Bond delighted in bringing along his new toy, with the Mellotron’s ability to reproduce strings, brass and woodwind sounds essentially putting him at the hub of his own mini-orchestra. He made liberal use of it again on the equally raucous follow-up There’s A Bond Between Us, released later in 1965. But by then it was clear that all was not well.
The GBO were working hard, forever on the road or in the studio, with precious little to show for it.
“Graham’s band flogged themselves to death for very little money and I don’t think they sold many records either,” says Power. “And I hate to say this, but Graham didn’t have the personality or looks that could catch on with a young audience. It must’ve made him unhappy because he thought he’d take the music business by storm when I met him.”
Drugs were starting to derail the band too. Pot had always been a communal form of recreation for the GBO [“We were all stoned out of our bonces,” Bruce admits], but now things had taken a more sinister turn. Both Bond and Baker had become addicted to heroin, making for what Pete Brown calls “the archetypal junkie relationship”. Bond’s burgeoning interest in white magic and the occult only made him more unpredictable. Plus he wasn’t always upfront with the band’s accounts.
“We were playing bigger places but getting no money,” Bruce recalls. “In theory, Graham was paying us. One night at a club in East London, between getting money from the promoter and then crossing the dance floor to pay us, it had disappeared. So he wasn’t being fair, financially. Then Ginger took over as the bandleader, but it only improved a little.”
In fact, growing friction between Baker and Bruce was a factor in the latter being sacked from the GBO in the autumn of 1965. Baker’s departure the following summer was effectively the end of the GBO.
Bond was undergoing myriad changes. He’d left his wife, grown out his hair, taken to wearing multi-coloured cloaks, become fascinated with tarot cards and begun dropping acid. As Baker noted in his autobiography, Hellraiser, Bond “was getting into the realms of the very weird indeed… Gone was the happy musician – he had been replaced by a strange, unsmiling mystic”.
Jon Hiseman was brought in as Baker’s replacement, but the instant impact of Cream had a profound effect on Bond. “What upset him most was the way Jack and Ginger went into Cream and almost immediately had chart singles,” says Hiseman. “Every time he heard one he physically shrank and began to feel endlessly betrayed. He was becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that many of the musicians he had worked with on the way up were becoming much more successful than him, and he simply could not understand it. In his self-belief, nobody was as good as he was. And all his pent-up anger was running alongside a serious heroin addiction. A lesser man would have crumbled, but such was the force of his personality, nobody could help. He would just not let you in.”
By 1967, the GBO had split altogether. Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith played briefly with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before forming successful prog-jazzers Colosseum. It was a different story for Bond. Immersing himself in occultist lore, he was increasingly prone to bouts of delusion. He began telling people he was the lost son of The Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley. It was an idea that took hold after Bond read that one of Crowley’s partners had given birth in 1937, the same year he was born, and left the baby in an orphanage. To Bond, a Barnardo’s child who was adopted at six months old, the symmetry made perfect sense.
“He felt that very deeply and would sometimes muse about what his background actually was,” Bruce says. “He thought he was Jewish, for some reason. But he just didn’t know. It must be a terrible thing, to not know who you are. I’m sure it played a large part in the way his life went later on.”
“In the early days he did seem relatively well adjusted,” says Pete Brown, “but when the heroin took hold, he got rather devious and difficult. People who’ve had addictions and manage to stop them find that the ritualistic aspect of it needs to be replaced. So when the smack was gone he felt he needed a power source. But it just became atrophied and went bad. Aleister Crowley just seemed like a fucking creep to me. Graham started off with so-called white magic, then I don’t know where it went. People make some bad choices.”
The remainder of Bond’s career was a procession of ever-diminishing returns. In early 1968 he set out for America, though his failure to secure a work permit put a crimp in his recording plans. Eventually he went into an LA studio and cut Love Is The Law, a pulsating set of organ-led blues, made with Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine, that reflected his spiritual obsessions – the title was one of Aleister Crowley’s occult dictums.
There was also session work for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Dr John, the latter’s influence palpable on the gumbo funk of Stiff Necked Chicken, from Bond’s next album for the Pulsar label. Both records offered vivid proof that, no matter how precarious his personal state, Bond’s musical and compositional skills were still intact. Alas, it was a sign of the record company’s indifference that the title of the second LP was misspelt asMightyGrahame Bond. Neither shifted many copies.
Undeterred, he returned to England in late 1969 and formed the Graham Bond Initiation with his new wife Diane Stewart. Not that it did him much good. Bond was promptly arrested on the eve of a comeback gig and carted off to Pentonville on a two-year-old bankruptcy charge [Jack Bruce would rescue him by paying his bail].
There were two further albums: 1970’s Holy Magick and the following year’s We Put OurMagick On You. The former was a incantatory blow-out recorded with Stewart, who shared his magickal beliefs, that consisted of meditations and rites in Egyptian and Altantean, backed by honking jazz-rock freakery. The sleeve showed the pair, arms raised in supplication, against a druidic backdrop of Stonehenge.
Around the same time, Bond began playing sax in Ginger Baker’s Air Force. The band, which included Steve Winwood, Denny Laine, Ric Grech and Chris Wood, proved too unwieldy to sustain. He also enjoyed a brief tenure as organist in the Jack Bruce Band, although, as Bruce points out, ‘enjoyed’ probably isn’t the right word. “It was terrifying trying to be the bandleader of Graham Bond,” he winces. “We were playing somewhere in Europe one time and he went out on to the roof. He was in tears about his drug use. He couldn’t seem to get over it. I vividly remember firing him in Milan. He infuriated me so much by playing something or other that I actually ripped a sink off the wall and smashed it on the floor. He was that sort of a guy.”
Bond’s last concerted effort came in 1972, when he and Pete Brown teamed up for TwoHeads Are Better Than One. “We had great fun making that record,” says Brown. “Graham was playing really well and we toured a lot. By that time he was a little damaged and addicted to Dr Collis Browne’s [a cough mixture and painkiller], which had opiates in it that you could extract or just down the whole lot. He lived with me for nearly six months, which was kind of difficult. But I loved the guy. I owe him a lot. The great thing about Graham was that he encouraged people. He’d always make you deliver something beyond what you thought you were capable of.”
There were further plans, too, chief among them being Magus, formed with folk singer Carolanne Pegg. But the band split by the end of 1973 without having recorded a note. Bond nevertheless forged a friendship with Magus’s drummer, Paul Olsen.
“My girlfriend and I had a little flat in Barnes, and Graham stayed with us for a while,” Olsen says. “He got arrested for drug possession and spent six weeks at Springfield mental home, this big old Victorian place in south London [it’s thought that Bond had schizophrenia]. They had an old upright piano there that was so out of tune. But I remember Graham sitting there, mapping all the keys in his head, then playing it. He had everybody standing around him, smiling.”
Bond convinced the staff to allow Olsen to bring in the whole band so they could play fort the patients. “That gig was incredible. They were the best audience I’ve ever had. There were tears in their eyes.”
Duffy Power recalls seeing Bond at a TV show with Alexis Korner. “Graham couldn’t even get himself a drink,” he says. “I had some pep pills with me, but he wasn’t keen to get stoned like he used to. He was very down.”
Paul Olsen: “He was so depressed at one point that we answered an ad for Chingford Organ Studios, who were looking for a demonstrator. For a man of his history and capability to be reduced to that meant he was at rock bottom. He’d just blotted his copybook with too many people too many times.”
Pete Brown: “Right at the end, Graham said to me: ‘I’m giving all the magic stuff up and I’m just going to play. I’m not going to do anything influenced by that any more’. Then a few days later he was dead.”
There was no evidence of foul play in Bond’s death. Nor was there a suicide note. Some have speculated that he was chased into Finsbury Park station that afternoon by persons unknown, perhaps drug dealers whom he owed money. But with no witnesses coming forward at the inquest, the coroner was left to record an open verdict. It’s most likely that his demise was self-inflicted.
“His death shocked me,” confesses Jack Bruce. “I went to his funeral and played this amazing elegy on the organ there. A lot of people were very moved by it. And I really felt that I was getting messages from him. I felt his spirit and was interweaving a lot of his themes. It was very beautiful.”
Graham Bond was no saint. Even after all these years, Bruce sums him up as “quite a character and quite difficult”. Drug addiction and booze only accentuated his less savoury traits. And, on an altogether more disturbing level, it was claimed in Harry Shapiro’s definitive biography, Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow, that he even sexually abused his stepdaughter. Bond never admitted it, nor did he deny it. But as a musical entity, his standing among his peers is immense.
“There was never any question about the music,” affirms Bruce. “The Organization was a powerhouse. It was an amazingly hip band for the time.”
Paul Olsen contends that Bond’s over-the-top behaviour and personality were both his biggest weakness and his biggest strength. “A lot of English uptights shunned him. And he was a loose cannon. But people like that enrich lives. When he walked into a room, no one else mattered. He had one of those naturally big personalities. When I first saw him at the Roundhouse in 1970, he was a monster on stage. He had on his robes, his long, flowing things, and all his pentagrams.”
For Pete Brown, Bond’s influence has never waned. “A lot of his showmanship and ideas–the multi-keyboard thing, the things he wore and played – got ripped off by people who made a lot more money. The prog rock people definitely took a lot from him. The GBO weren’t pretty boys preening around – it was real musicians with real soul. Although there were four terrific brains involved, it wasn’t just cerebral music. It was body music as well, powerful and sexy and groovy. And that’s what music should do to you. He was a classic case of someone never fully appreciated in his own time.”
March 28, 1974 – Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup was born on August 24th 1905 in Forest Mississippi, where he first sang gospel, then began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi.
As delta blues singer-songwriter and guitarist, he was Elvis Presley’s favourite blues artist and is maybe to some best known outside blues circles for writing songs later covered by Elvis and dozens of other artists, such as “That’s All Right”, “Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues”, “Who’s Been Foolin’ You”, “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine”.
As a member of the Harmonizing Four he visited Chicago in 1939. In the late 40s he toured throughout the country with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup.
He died from a stroke on March 28, 1974 at age 69.
December 20, 1973 – Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Perciville Cassotto on May 14, 1936. Darin rose from poor beginnings in Harlem and the South Bronx, New York where he fought rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart and plagued him throughout his life. As a result of these obstacles, he worked extremely hard to overcome them. Knowing his life would not be a long one, his ambition to succeed was fueled by an overwhelming desire to make it big in show business. By the time he was a teenager he could play several instruments quite proficiently, including piano, drums and guitar, he later added harmonica and xylophone.
Wanting a career in the New York theater, he dropped out of college after a year to play small nightclubs around the city with a musical combo. In the resort area of the Catskill Mountains, he was both an entertainer and a busboy. For the most of his teenage years Bobby was a comedy drummer and an ambitious vocalist. Continue reading Bobby Darin 12/1973
September 19, 1973 – Gram Parsons was born Cecil Ingram Connor III on November 5, 1946 in Winter Haven Florida, near Orlando. He became a very influential member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but died tragically from an overdose of morphine and alcohol at the age of 26 on September 19, 1973. Phil “The Mangler” Kaufman, his one time road manager hijacked his corpse from LAX tarmac, drove it up to Joshua Tree and lit it on fire as was previously agreed between the two.
Very proficient as singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist; in his early teens he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, at 16 he turned to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos. Heavily influenced by the Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. He went on to be a member of the International Submarine Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and was later a solo artist who recorded and performed duets with Emmylou Harris.
His influence on the Byrds musical output became crystal clear with their 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, with in turn gave way to country cross-overs like the Flying Burrito Brothers and the super stardom introduction of the Eagles.
An interesting tidbit comes after Gram Parsons first meets the Stones and Keith Richards. This took place in 1968 while the Byrds were touring Europe in support of their landmark “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” record. This is documented in the book “Gram Parsons: A Music Biography by Sid Griffin” Published by Sierra Books, Copyright 1985. Quote from page 20 of the paperback edition: “The Byrds were in London to play a benefit at the Royal Albert Hall. On the morning after the show, Parsons told McGuinn, Chris Hillman and then-Byrds drummer Kevin Kelly he was not going to South Africa under any circumstances. Parsons left the group and stayed in London while the Byrds flew to South Africa…” also quote:”Gram met Keith Richards in London and stayed with him for a spell, turning the Stones onto country music. Suddenly songs like ‘Dear Doctor’, ‘Country Honk’, and ‘Dead Flowers’ became part of the Stones’ repertoire”. There is a second book called “Hickory Wind: The life and Times of Gram Parsons” Published by Pocket Books, Copyright 1991 which is also very good reference on the life and times of this significant influence on the Rolling Stones. The life and music of the late Gram Parsons is essential learning material for any student of The Rolling Stones that is interested in understanding one of their strongest influences during “The Golden Era”.
Since his death, he has been credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country and in 2004 Rolling Stone ranked him No.87 on their list of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time (He died of morphine and alcohol overdose in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California).
A Typical Southern Story
Ingram Cecil Connor III was born on November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, Florida, to Ingram Cecil (“Coon Dog”) and Avis (née Snively) Connor. The Connors normally resided at their main residence in Waycross, Georgia, but Avis traveled to her hometown in Florida to give birth. She was the daughter of citrus fruit magnate John A. Snively, who held extensive properties in Winter Haven and in Waycross. Parsons’ father was a famous World War II flying ace, decorated with the Air Medal, who was present at the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Biographer David Meyer characterized Parson’s parents as loving, writing in Twenty Thousand Roads that they are “remembered as affectionate parents and a loving couple”. However, he also notes that “unhappiness was eating away at the Connor family”: Avis suffered from depression, and both parents were alcoholics. Parsons’ father committed suicide two days before Christmas in 1958, devastating the 12 year old Gram and his younger sister, Little Avis. Avis subsequently married Robert Parsons, whose surname was adopted by Gram and his sister. Gram attended the prestigious Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. For a time, the family found a stability of sorts. They were torn apart in early 1965, when Robert became embroiled in an extramarital affair and Avis’ heavy drinking led to her death from cirrhosis on July 5, 1965, the day of Gram’s graduation from Bolles.
As his family disintegrated around him, Parsons developed strong musical interests, particularly after seeing Elvis Presley perform in concert on February 22, 1956, in Waycross. Five years later, while barely in his teens, he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, headlining in clubs owned by his stepfather in the Winter Haven/Polk County area. By the age of 16 he graduated to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos, in Greenville, South Carolina. Heavily influenced by The Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. Forays into New York City’s Greenwich Village included appearances at The Bitter End.
After The Shilos broke up, Parsons attended Harvard University, where he studied theology but departed after one semester. Despite being from the South, he did not become seriously interested in country music until his time at Harvard, where he heard Merle Haggard for the first time. In 1966, he and other musicians from the Boston folk scene formed a group called the International Submarine Band. They relocated to Los Angeles the following year, and after several lineup changes signed to Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records, where they spent late 1967 recording Safe at Home. The album contains one of Parsons’ best-known songs, “Luxury Liner”, and an early version of “Do You Know How It Feels”, which he revisited later on in his career. Safe at Home would remain unreleased until mid-1968, by which time the International Submarine Band had broken up. When David Crosby and Michael Clarke left the Byrds, Gram Parsons became involved with the Byrds.
September 20, 1973 – Jim Croce was born on January 10, 1943 in South Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He had two Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers at number 1: “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” He died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 20, 1973 an hour after he delivered a concert at Northwestern State University on route to a concert at Austin College Texas.
Jim Croce was a fabulous songwriter, who was not enthralled with the road. He wrote his wife from his last tour ‘Life and Times’, that he had decided to take a break from music and touring and settle down with his wife and infant son after the tour was completed. Continue reading Jim Croce 9/1973
August 16, 1973 – Paul Williams was born on July 2nd 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama.
He was the son of Sophia and Rufus Williams, a gospel singer in a gospel music vocal group called the Ensley Jubilee Singers. He met Eddie Kendricks in elementary school; supposedly, the two first encountered each other in a fistfight after Williams dumped a bucket of mop water on Kendricks. Both boys shared a love of singing, and sang in their church choir together. As teenagers, Williams, Kendricks, and Kell Osborne and Willie Waller performed in a secular singing group known as The Cavaliers, with dreams of making it big in the music industry. In 1957, Williams, Kendricks, and Osbourne left Birmingham to start careers, leaving Waller behind. Now known as The Primes, the trio moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and eventually found a manager in Milton Jenkins, who moved the group to Detroit, Michigan. Although The Primes never recorded, they were successful performers, and even launched a spin-off female group called The Primettes, who later became The Supremes.
In 1961, Kell Osborne moved to California, and the Primes disbanded. Kendricks returned to Alabama, but visited Paul in Detroit shortly after. While on this visit, he and Paul had learned that Otis Williams, head of a rival Detroit act known as The Distants, had two openings in his group’s lineup. Paul Williams and Kendricks joined Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge Bryant to form The Elgins, who signed to the local Motown label in 1961, after first changing their name to The Temptations.
Although the group now had a record deal, Paul Williams and his bandmates endured a long series of failed singles before finally hitting the Billboard Top 20 in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” More hits quickly followed, including “My Girl”, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”
Williams sang lead on several of the group’s songs, and served as the main lead singer during the group’s early years. His early leads include, “Your Wonderful Love” (1961), “Slow Down Heart” (1962), “I Want a Love I Can See” (1963), and “Oh, Mother of Mine” (1961) (the group’s first single) and “Farewell My Love” (1963) both shared with Eddie Kendricks. Considered the Temptations’ best dancer, Williams served as the group’s original choreographer, devising routines for his group and The Supremes (most notably their trademark “Stop! In the Name of Love” routine), before Cholly Atkins took over that role for all of Motown’s acts. Williams’ later leads on Temptations songs include, “Just Another Lonely Night” (1965), “No More Water in the Well” (1967), a cover version of “Hey Girl” (1969), and his signature song “Don’t Look Back” (1965).
Williams also sang lead with Dennis Edwards, who joined in 1968, on Motown’s first Grammy Award-Winner “Cloud Nine”. One of his best-known lead performances is his stand out live performance of “For Once in My Life,” from the television special TCB, originally broadcast on December 9, 1968 on NBC. The live version of the song “Don’t Look Back” is also frequently cited as one of his standout performances. He also took over the lead vocal for live performances of “My Girl” following David Ruffin’s departure from the group.
Williams suffered from sickle-cell anemia, which frequently wreaked havoc on his physical health. In 1965, Williams began an affair with Winnie Brown, hair stylist for The Supremes and a relative of Supremes member Florence Ballard. In love with Brown but still devoted to his wife and children, Williams was also depressed because Cholly Atkins’ presence now made Williams’ former role as choreographer essentially, but not completely, obsolete. Life on the road was starting to take its toll on Williams as well, and, having previously consumed nothing stronger than milk, he began to drink alcohol heavily, namely Courvoisier, which, according to Otis Williams, was hard to take.
In the spring of 1969, Williams and Brown opened a celebrity fashion boutique in downtown Detroit. The business was not as successful as planned, and Williams soon found himself owing more than $80,000 in taxes. His health had deteriorated to the point that he would sometimes be unable to perform, suffering from combinations of exhaustion and pain which he combated with heavy drinking. Each of the other four Temptations did what they could to help Williams, alternating between raiding and draining his alcohol stashes, personal interventions, and keeping oxygen tanks backstage, but Williams’ health, as well as the quality of his performances, continued to decline and he refused to see a doctor.
Otis Williams and the other Temptations decided to resort to enlisting an on-hand fill-in for Paul Williams. Richard Street, then-lead singer of fellow Motown act The Monitors and formerly lead singer of The Distants, was hired to travel with The Temptations and sing all of Williams’ parts, save for Williams’ special numbers such as “Don’t Look Back” and “For Once in My Life”, from backstage behind a curtain. When Williams was not well enough to go on, Street took his place onstage. In April 1971, Williams was finally persuaded to go see a doctor. The doctor found a spot on Williams’ liver and advised him to retire from the group altogether. Williams left the group and Street became his permanent replacement. In support of helping Williams get back on his feet, The Temptations continued to pay Williams his same one-fifth share of the group’s earnings, and kept Williams on their payroll as an advisor and choreographer, and Williams continued to help the group with routines and dance moves for the next two years.
By early 1973, Williams made his return to Motown’s Hitsville USA recording studios, and began working on solo material. Kendricks, who had quit the Temptations just before Williams left, produced and co-wrote Williams’ first single, “Feel Like Givin’ Up”, which was to have been issued on Motown’s Gordy imprint with “Once You Had a Heart” as its b-side. However, after Williams’ death was ruled a suicide in August 1973, Motown decided to shelve the sides, because the song “Feel Like Givin’ Up” was just too literal to bear and the single was not released.
On August 17, 1973, Paul Williams was found dead in an alley in the car having just left the new house of his then-girlfriend after an argument. He was 34. A gun was found near his body. His death was ruled a suicide by the coroner; Williams had expressed suicidal thoughts to Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin months before his death.
The circumstances surrounding Williams’ death caused the Williams family to suspect that some form of foul play was the actual cause of Williams’ death. According to details in the coroner’s report, there were three reasons to suspect foulplay: 1. Williams had used his right hand to shoot himself on the left side of his head. 2. A bottle of alcohol was found near Williams’ left side, as if he had dropped it while being shot. 3. The gun used in the shooting was found to have fired two shots, only one of which had killed Williams.
As a member of the Temptations, Paul Williams was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Both of his solo recordings were later released by Motown on Temptations-related compilations in the 1980s and 1990s.
A DETROIT MOTOWN STORY:
Detroit— Kenneth Williams went to prison for strangling his great-aunt with a telephone cord in 1989, the same year his father Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before entering prison, the younger Williams asked his sister to save his share of royalty checks he inherited from his dad, Paul Williams, one of the original members of the Temptations, the superstar Motown group known for the hits “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
“I figured I was well off,” Kenneth Williams, 49, told The Detroit News.
The Redford Township man was released from prison in July after serving more than 20 years and discovered the money — estimated at more than $200,000 — was gone. His sister, Paula Williams, spent it, according to a complaint he filed against her in federal court in Detroit.
The accusation serves as another sad footnote to the legacy of Motown legend Paul Williams, the baritone singer who choreographed the group’s stylish dance moves, and who died in 1973 under murky circumstances. And it is the latest in a long line of fights over one of the most consistently lucrative commodities to come out of Detroit in 51 years: Motown royalties.
The accusations add a new layer of drama to one of the most successful, and tragic, acts in the Motown Records stable. It is a stable filled with stars whose success and tragedies — including premature deaths, murder, drug addiction and legal woes — have inspired Broadway musicals, TV movies and reams of tell-all books.
Federal and Wayne County court records expose a fight within a family dogged by disaster in the decades after Paul Williams and four friends topped the charts.
Thanks to all those hits, Williams’ heirs split about $80,000 a year in Motown royalties based on sales of the group’s music, Paul Williams’ likeness and other rights. The royalties were paid out twice a year.
Motown money fights, which are not unique to the Williams family, are somewhat ironic, said Peter Benjaminson, author of “The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard.”
“When Motown started, there weren’t any significant royalties for most people,” he said. “The average rock star had one hit, then tried for another one, failed, and went to work at a factory.
“One of the big surprises for Motown and everyone who worked for it is how long the songs have lasted and sold.”
It’s hard for Paul Williams Jr., who was 7 years old when his father died, to say whether the royalties are a blessing or a curse.
“Money, ugh,” Paul Jr. said. “What money does to people, I don’t understand.”
His sister Paula declined comment through her lawyer.
The Williams family has been fighting for Motown royalties since Aug. 17, 1973, the day Paul Williams died at age 34 of what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had left the Temptations in 1971.
He was coping with health and personal issues at the time and was estranged from his wife, Mary Agnes Williams. A divorce was pending.
In 1987, 14 years after he died, the family reopened Paul Williams’ estate to pursue royalties owed by Motown and determine his rightful heirs, a complicated task because Williams died without a will.
Williams’ family accused Motown of not paying any royalties after the singer died.
The family claimed it was owed $195,000. But Motown said the family could not pursue royalties that were more than 6 years old.
The family eventually settled in March 1988 for $96,520. That covered the years 1981 through June 1987.
Next, Wayne County Probate Judge Joseph Pernick had to divide the royalty pie and determine shares and heirs.
Williams had three daughters and two sons — Sarita, Paula and Mary and Kenneth and Paul Jr. — with wife Mary Agnes.
Before he died, Paul Williams acknowledged fathering a sixth child, son Paul Williams Lucas.
The royalty pie was about to be divided — when a seventh child surfaced, a son born in 1968 to one of Paul Williams’ girlfriends.
Derrick Vinyard, who was 5 when Paul Williams died, wanted a share of the Motown royalties.
Paula Williams denied that Vinyard was an heir.
The Motown star’s brother, however, disagreed.
Johnny Williams said his brother never denied being Vinyard’s father, according to a 1988 deposition transcript filed in the probate case.
Johnny Williams said he saw Paul and Vinyard’s mother on dates at the Fox Theatre and the Twenty Grand nightclub. And there were rumors Paul Williams had fathered twins in Cleveland.
“He’s a breeder,” Johnny Williams said of his brother during the deposition.
The judge concluded Vinyard was an heir — and divided the late Motown star’s past and future royalties.
Paul Williams’ widow would get one-third. The seven children would split the rest equally.
In January 1989, the family agreed to have Paula parcel out the royalty checks to her four siblings and mother twice a year.
The two half siblings receive their money directly from the record company.
‘Prison saved my life’
Kenneth Williams didn’t have long to enjoy the windfall.
On July 18, 1989, he killed his 81-year-old great-aunt Mary Bryant inside her bungalow on Detroit’s northwest side. She was shot in the head and strangled with a telephone cord, which a neighbor found wrapped three times around the woman’s throat, according to a published report.
Kenneth Williams was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.
“I was out of my mind on crack cocaine,” Williams said. “I was out of control. Prison basically saved my life.”
Young Kenneth had lived a charmed life before the death of his father.
Kenneth spent nights on the road with his father and the group in Las Vegas, Miami and Atlanta.
“Where the show went, I went,” he said.
Kenneth, nicknamed “Bossman” by his dad, spent afternoons learning from Temptations frontman Dennis Edwards how to make paper airplanes, which he threw out a window from an upper floor of Motown headquarters along Woodward.
Kenneth was 11 when his father died. The outgoing youngster turned angry, rebellious and “was put out of every school in Detroit.”
“I was lost,” he said. “I lost my best friend.”
At 19, he smoked his first joint.
At 25, he tried cocaine.
At 27, “that —- took me to another place,” he says.
That’s how old he was when he strangled his great-aunt. He turned 28 just before heading to prison.
“I was trying to deal with why I was in prison and what made me go there,” he said. “The money? I wasn’t even thinking about it.”
He thought the cash was safe during the 7,536 days he spent in prison. He was released July 23, after serving more than 20 years.
Money was gone
He soon learned his cash was gone and confronted his sister, who admitted spending the money, he alleges in a court filing.
“She thought he was never going to get out of prison,” his lawyer Kenneth Burger wrote in a lawsuit.
Paul Williams Jr., told The Detroit News he hasn’t received his full share of royalties in years from Paula.
“She’s doing it to all of us,” Paul Jr. of Sterling Heights said. “She did right by us for 10 years, but she’s been slipping since then. It’s greed.”
Kenneth, meanwhile, works 15-hour days at construction sites while his lawsuit against his sister and Motown successor Universal Music Group is pending in federal court. He alleges breach of contract, negligence, fraud and conspiracy, among other charges, and wants unspecified damages.
It’s a complicated fight because his sister filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Detroit in December.
The bankruptcy filing provides rare insight into the value of Motown royalties because Paula had to list how much she received in recent years.
She received $40,594 in 2008. A year later, the Motown royalties rose to $58,036, according to the filing.
Kenneth Williams has asked Universal to send future payments directly to his house.
He refuses to be bitter or angry despite the fight with his sister.
“I’m still there for her if she needs me,” Williams said. “But I don’t trust people after what I’ve been through. We live in a wicked world.”
August 6, 1973 – Memphis Minnie was born Lizzie Douglas on June 3, 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.
She was the eldest of 13 siblings. Her parents, Abe and Gertrude Douglas, nicknamed her Kid when she was young, and her family called her that throughout her childhood. It is reported that she disliked the name Lizzie. When she first began performing, she played under the name Kid Douglas.
When she was 7, she and her family moved to Walls, Mississippi, south of Memphis. The following year she received her first guitar, as a Christmas present. She learned to play the banjo by the age of 10 and the guitar by the age of 11, when she started playing at parties.
July 14, 1973 – Clarence White was born Clarence LeBlanc on June 7th 1944 in Lewiston, Maine. The LeBlanc family, later changing their surname to White, were of French-Canadian ancestry and hailed from New Brunswick, Canada. Clarence’s father, Eric LeBlanc, Sr., played guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmonica, ensuring that his offspring grew up surrounded by music. A child prodigy, Clarence began playing guitar at the age of six. At such a young age he was barely able to hold the instrument and as a result, he briefly switched to ukulele, awaiting a time when his young hands would be big enough to confidently grapple with the guitar.
In 1954, when Clarence was ten, the White family relocated to Burbank, California and soon after, Clarence joined his brothers Roland and Eric Jr. (who played mandolin and banjo respectively) in a trio called Three Little Country Boys. The family group was occasionally augmented by sister Joanne on double bass. Although they initially started out playing contemporary country music, the group soon switched to a purely bluegrass repertoire, as a result of Roland White’s burgeoning interest in the genre. Early on, the group won a talent contest on radio station KXLA in Pasadena and by 1957, they had managed to attract the interest of country guitarist Joe Maphis. With Maphis’s help, the Three Little Country Boys made several appearances on the popular television program Town Hall Party.
In 1957, banjoist Billy Ray Latham and Dobro player LeRoy Mack were added to the line-up, with the band renaming themselves the Country Boys soon after. By 1961, the quartet had become well known enough to appear twice on the The Andy Griffith Show. That same year the Country Boys also added Roger Bush on double bass, as a replacement for Eric White, Jr., who had left the band to get married. Between 1959 and 1962, the Country Boys released three singles on the Sundown, Republic and Briar International record labels.
In September 1962, the Country Boys recorded their debut album ‘The New Sound of Bluegrass America’ released in early 1963 and changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels. Around this time, Clarence’s flatpicking guitar style was becoming a much more prominent part of the group’s music.
After meeting while attending a performance by Doc Watson at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles, Clarence began to explore the possibilities of the acoustic guitar’s role in bluegrass music. At that time, the guitar was largely regarded as a rhythm instrument in bluegrass, with only a few performers, such as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Don Reno, exploring its potential for soloing. White soon began to integrate elements of Watson’s playing style, including the use of open strings and syncopation, into his own flatpicking guitar technique. His breathtaking speed and virtuosity on the instrument was largely responsible for making the guitar a lead instrument within bluegrass. In addition to being accomplished musicians, the Kentucky Colonels’ music often featured close harmony vocals.
Following the release of their debut album, the Kentucky Colonels played a multitude of live appearances throughout California and the United States, including an appearance at the prestigious Monterey Folk Festival in May 1963. Between these bookings with the Colonels, White also made a guest appearance on Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman’s New Dimensions in Banjo & Bluegrass album, which would be re-released in 1973 as the soundtrack album to the film Deliverance (with Weissberg and Steve Mandell’s version of “Dueling Banjos” added to the album’s track listing).
In 1964 the Kentucky Colonels were signed to World Pacific Records by producer Jim Dickson, who would later became the manager of folk rock band The Byrds and by the close of the year, the Kentucky Colonels were considered by fans and critics to be one of the best bluegrass groups in the United States.
Although they were now a successful bluegrass recording act, it was becoming increasingly hard for the Kentucky Colonels to make a living playing bluegrass. The American folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which had helped facilitate the Colonels’ commercial success, had been dealt a serious blow in 1964 by the popularity of the pop and beat music of the British Invasion. However, it wasn’t until mid-1965, with the release of The Byrds’ folk rock single “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, that the folk revival’s popularity began to seriously wane. Before long, many young folk performers and some bluegrass acts were switching to electric instrumentation. The Kentucky Colonels followed suit, plugging in with electric instruments and hiring a drummer in mid-1965, in order to keep a concert booking as a country dance band at a bowling alley. The band added fiddle player Scotty Stoneman to their line-up in mid-1965, as a replacement for Sloan, but some months later, the Kentucky Colonels dissolved as a band after playing their final show on October 31, 1965.
As 1965 turned into 1966, White met Gene Parsons and Gib Guilbeau at a recording session for the Gosdin Brothers and shortly after, he began to perform live with the duo in local California clubs, as well as doing regular session work on their records, which were released under the moniker of Cajun Gib and Gene.
1966 also saw White begin playing with a country group called Trio, which featured drummer Bart Haney and former Kentucky Colonel Roger Bush on bass. In autumn of that year, as a result of his friendship with Gilbeau, Parsons and the Gosdin Brothers, White was asked to provide lead guitar to ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s debut solo album, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. White also briefly joined Clark’s touring band shortly thereafter.
During the Clark album sessions, White reconnected with mandolin player and bassist Chris Hillman, who he had known during the early 1960s as a member of the bluegrass combo The Hillmen. At the time Hillman was a member of The Byrds and in December 1966, he invited White to contribute countrified lead guitar playing to his songs “Time Between” and “The Girl with no Name”, which both appeared on The Byrds‘ Younger Than Yesterday album.
Together with Gene Parsons, he invented the B-Bender, a guitar accessory that enables a player to mechanically bend the B-string up a whole tone and emulate the sound of a pedal steel guitar.
The country-oriented nature of the songs was something of a stylistic departure for the group and can be seen as an early indicator of the experimentation with country music that would color The Byrds’ subsequent work. White also contributed guitar to the band’s follow-up album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and to their landmark 1968 country rock release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
Early in 1968, White joined Nashville West, which also featured Gene Parsons, Gib Gilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Glen D. Hardin, and Wayne Moore. Nashville West recorded an album for Sierra Records, but the record didn’t appear until 1978.
Finally White was invited to join the Byrds in the fall of 1968 as Roger McGuinn was rebuilding the Byrds’ lineup after the departure of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Clarence White fit into the revamped Byrds’ country-rock direction. He played on the group’s untitled album, which spawned the single “Chestnut Mare.” While he was with the band, he continued to work as a session musician, playing on Randy Newman’s 12 Songs (1970), Joe Cocker’s eponymous 1969 album, and the Everly Brothers’ Stories Would Could Tell (1971), and others, appearing on recordings by Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Jackson Browne.
Once the Byrds disbanded in 1973, Clarence White continued his session work and joined bluegrass supergroup Muleskinner, which also featured David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Guerin, Bill Keith, John Kahn, and Richard Greene. Muleskinner only released one album, which appeared later in 1973.
After the Muleskinner record was finished, White played a few dates with the Kentucky Colonels and began working on a solo album. He had only completed four tracks when he was killed by a drunken driver shortly after 2am on July 14, 1973, while he and his brother Roland were loading equipment onto a van, following a spur-of-the moment reunion gig of the Colonels. He was just 29.
• His guitar playing was sort of like a combination of Jerry Garcia, Roy Buchanan, and James Burton. He plays with the melody of Jerry, the tone and brilliance of Roy, and the conciseness and sweetness of James.
• White was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2016.
• Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 52 in its 2015 line-up of the 100 Most Influential Guitar Players in Rock and Roll.
Clarence White helped shape two genres: His acoustic flatpicking, first displayed as a teenager when he and his brother formed the Kentucky Colonels band, was key in making the guitar a lead instrument in bluegrass. Later, he set the stage for country rock and transferred that dynamic precision and melodic symmetry to the electric guitar. A top session man in the Sixties, he played on the Byrds’ 1968 landmark, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. After he joined the band later that year, White brought a full-bodied rock elation to his California-inflected Nashville chops. “He never played anything that sounded vaguely weak,” said the Byrds’ leader, Roger McGuinn. “He was always driving… into the music.” White had returned to bluegrass with the acclaimed Muleskinner album when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. He was 29. “Clarence was immersed in hard country and bluegrass,” said Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. “He incorporated those elements into rock & roll, and it totally blew people’s minds.”
August 2, 1972 – Brian Cole (The Association) was born on September 8th 1942 in Tacoma, Washinton and raised in Portland Orgeon.
Before becoming a musician, Brian Cole had worked as an actor and a comedian. He mixed his comedic and musical influences in his first steady band gig, with an outfit called the Gnu Folk. In 1965, Cole became a member of a new six-man outfit, the Association, as their bassist, woodwinds player as well as a singer. He was a linchpin of the group’s sound on-stage – on their records, however, as with most of the rest of the band, Cole was usually replaced on his instrument by a session musician.
The band opened the famous 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival after they got their break with their second single “Along Comes Mary” in 1966 which reached No. 7 in the Hot 100. This was followed with a No. 1 hit “Cherish” in 1967, “Never My Love” at No. 2 and another chart topped in with “Windy”.
Brian was the group’s one major success casualty, as he developed a drug habit that turned into full-blown addiction by the end of the 1960s. He died of an overdose during the summer of 1972, just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday.
His son Jordan became a member of the reunited Association in the 1990s, playing keyboards, various wind instruments, guitar, vocals and drums.
On August 2, 1972Brian died from a heroin overdose in his Los Angeles home at age 29.
July 3, 1972 – Fred “Mississippi” McDowell was born on January 12, 1904 in Rossville, Tennessee.
He actually may be considered the first of the bluesmen from the ‘North Mississippi’ region – parallel to, but somewhat east of the Delta region – to achieve widespread recognition for his work. He started playing guitar at the age of 14 and played at dances around Rossville.
His parents, who were farmers, died when he was a youth. Wanting a change from plowing fields, he moved to Memphis in 1926, where he worked in the Buck-Eye feed mill, which processed cotton into oil and other products. He also had a number of other jobs and played music for tips. In 1928 he moved to Mississippi to pick cotton.
He finally settled in Como, Mississippi, about 40 miles south of Memphis, in 1940 or 1941 (or maybe the late 1950s), and worked steadily as a farmer, continuing to perform music at dances and picnics. Initially he played slide guitar, using a pocketknife and then a slide made from a beef rib bone, later switching to a glass slide for its clearer sound. He played with the slide on his ring finger.
Although commonly regarded as a Delta blues singer, McDowell actually may be considered the first north hill country blues artist to achieve widespread recognition for his work. Musicians from the hill country – parallel to, but somewhat east of the Delta region – produced a version of the blues somewhat closer in structure to its African roots. It often eschews chord change for the hypnotic effect of the droning single-chord vamp. McDowell’s records offer glimpses of the style’s origins, in the form of little-recorded supporting acts such as the string duo Bob and Miles Pratcher, the guitarist Eli Green, the fife player Napoleon Strickland, the harmonicist Johnny Woods and the Hunter’s Chapel Singers. McDowell’s style (or at least its aesthetic) can be heard in the music of such hill country figures as Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, who in turn served as the impetus behind the creation of the Fat Possum record label in Oxford, Mississippi, in the 1990s.
The 1950s brought a rising interest in blues and folk music in the United States, and McDowell was brought to wider public attention, beginning when he was discovered and recorded in 1959 by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins. His records were popular, and he performed often at festivals and clubs.
McDowell continued to perform blues in the north Mississippi style much as he had for decades, but he sometimes performed on electric guitar rather than acoustic guitar. While he famously declared, “I do not play no rock and roll,” he was not averse to associating with younger rock musicians. He coached Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar technique and was reportedly flattered by the Rolling Stones’ rather straightforward version of his “You Gotta Move” on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. In 1965 he toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, together with Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Roosevelt Sykes and others.
McDowell’s 1969 album I Do Not Play No Rock ‘n’ Roll, recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, and released by Malaco Records, was his first featuring electric guitar. It contains parts of an interview in which he discusses the origins of the blues and the nature of love. McDowell’s final album, Live in New York (Oblivion Records), was a concert performance from November 1971 at the Village Gaslight (also known as the Gaslight Cafe), in Greenwich Village, New York.
McDowell died of cancer on July 3, 1972, aged 68, and was buried at Hammond Hill Baptist Church, between Como and Senatobia, Mississippi. On August 6, 1993, a memorial was placed on his grave site by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. The ceremony was presided over by the blues promoter Dick Waterman, and the memorial with McDowell’s portrait on it was paid for by Bonnie Raitt. The memorial stone was a replacement for an inaccurate and damaged marker (McDowell’s name was misspelled). The original stone was subsequently donated by McDowell’s family to the Delta Blues Museum, in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Fred’s 1969 album ‘I Do Not Play No Rock ‘N’ Roll’ was his first featuring electric guitar. It features parts of an interview in which he discusses the origins of the blues and the nature of love.
June 13, 1972 – Clyde McPhatter (the Drifters) was born on November 15, 1932 in the tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina.
His high-pitched tenor voice was steeped in the gospel music he sang in much of his younger life.
Starting at the age of five, he sang in his father’s church gospel choir along with his three brothers and three sisters. When he was ten, Clyde was the soprano-voiced soloist for the choir. In 1945, Rev. McPhatter moved his family to Teaneck, New Jersey, where Clyde attended Chelsior High School. He worked part-time as a grocery store clerk, and was eventually promoted to shift manager upon graduating high school. The family then relocated to New York City, where Clyde formed the gospel group The Mount Lebanon Singers.
October 12, 1971 – Gene Vincent born Vincent Eugene Craddock on Feb 11, 1935 in Norfolk Virginia, American singer born in Norfolk, Virginia, a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. His 1956 top 10 hit with his Blue Caps, “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” is considered a significant early example of rockabilly.
Other hits included “Race With The Devil”, “Bluejean Bop”, “Lotta Lovin'”, “Bluejean Bop” and “Woman Love”. Vincent also became one of the first rock stars to star in a film, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ together with Jayne Mansfield.
On April 16, 1960, while on tour in the UK, Gene , Eddie Cochran and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were involved in a high-speed traffic accident in a private hire taxi. Gene broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg, Sharon suffered a broken pelvis, but tragically Eddie Cochran, who had been thrown from the vehicle, suffered serious brain injuries and died the next day.
He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1749 N. Vine St. He is a member of the Rock and Roll and Rockabilly halls of fame. He sadly died from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California on Oct. 12, 1971 at age 36.
July 6, 1971 – Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong was officially born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, eleven months later than he claimed.
Armstrong often stated that he was born on July 4, 1900, a date that has been noted in many biographies. Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date of August 4, 1901 was discovered by researcher Tad Jones through the examination of baptismal records.
Armstrong was born into a poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was the grandson of slaves. He spent his youth in poverty, in a rough neighborhood known as “the Battlefield”, which was part of the Storyville legal prostitution district. His father, William Armstrong (1881–1933), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant and took up with another woman. His mother, Mary “Mayann” Albert (1886–1927), then left Louis and his younger sister, Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987), in the care of his grandmother, Josephine Armstrong, and at times, his Uncle Isaac. At five, he moved back to live with his mother, her relatives and a parade of “step-fathers”. Continue reading Louis Armstrong 7/1971
April 24, 1970 – Otis Spann was born on March 21st 1930 in Jackson, Mississippi. Spann’s father was reportedly a pianist called Friday Ford. His mother, Josephine Erby, was a guitarist who had worked with Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith, and his stepfather, Frank Houston Spann, was a preacher and musician. One of five children, Spann began playing the piano at the age of seven, with some instruction from Friday Ford, Frank Spann, and Little Brother Montgomery. By the age of 14, he was playing in bands in the Jackson area. He moved to Chicago in 1946, where he was mentored by Big Maceo Merriweather. Spann performed as a solo act and with the guitarist Morris Pejoe, working a regular spot at the Tic Toc Lounge.
Spann replaced Merriweather as Muddy Waters’s piano player in late 1952, and participated in his first recording session with the band on September 24, 1953. He continued to record as a solo artist and session player with other musicians, including Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf, during his tenure with the group. He stayed with Waters until 1968 before leaving to form his own band. In that period he also did session work with other Chess artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley..
Spann’s work for Chess Records includes the 1954 single “It Must Have Been the Devil” / “Five Spot”, with B.B. King and Jody Williams on guitars. During his time at Chess he played on a few of Chuck Berry’s early records, including the studio version of “You Can’t Catch Me”. In 1956, he recorded two unreleased tracks with Big Walter Horton and Robert Lockwood.
The 60s also so him touring and recording in Europe and in the UK appearing on records with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac and others. He recorded a session with the guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. and vocalist St. Louis Jimmy in New York on August 23, 1960, which was issued on Otis Spann Is the Blues and Walking the Blues. A 1963 effort with Storyville Records was recorded in Copenhagen. He worked with Waters and Eric Clapton on recordings for Decca and with James Cotton for Prestige in 1964.
The Blues Is Where It’s At, Spann’s 1966 album for ABC-Bluesway, includes contributions from George “Harmonica” Smith, Waters, and Sammy Lawhorn. The Bottom of the Blues (1967), featuring Spann’s wife, Lucille Spann (June 23, 1938 – August 2, 1994), was released by Bluesway. He worked on albums with Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, Peter Green, and Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s.
Spann died of liver cancer in Chicago on April 24, 1970 at age 40. He was buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. His grave was unmarked for almost thirty years, until Steve Salter (president of the Killer Blues Headstone Project) wrote a letter to Blues Revue magazine, saying “This piano great is lying in an unmarked grave. Let’s do something about this deplorable situation”.
Blues enthusiasts from around the world sent donations to purchase a headstone. On June 6, 1999, the marker was unveiled in a private ceremony. The stone reads, “Otis played the deepest blues we ever heard – He’ll play forever in our hearts“.
He was posthumously elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.
March 16, 1970 – Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery on April 29, 1945. was an American recording artist, best known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, most notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye.
Before turning 16, Terrell signed under the Wand subsidiary of Scepter Records after being discovered by Luther Dixon, recording the ballad, “If You See Bill”, under the name Tammy Montgomery and doing demos for The Shirelles. After another single, Terrell left the label and, after being introduced to James Brown, signed a contract with him and began singing backup for his Revue concert tours. In 1963, she recorded the song “I Cried”. Released on Brown’s Try Me Records, it became her first charting single, reaching No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100.
January 31, 1970 – Slim Harpo aka Harmonica Slim was born James Isaac Moore on January 11th 1924 in Lobdell, West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After his parents died he worked as a longshoreman and construction worker in New Orleans, during the late 1930s and early 1940s. A musical late bloomer influenced by blues harmonica legends such as Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, Harpo began moonlighting in Baton Rouge bards as Harmonica Slim in the mid-1950s, also gigging with brother-in-law singer-guitarist Otis Hicks, aka Lightnin’ Slim, who was the region’s most established bluesman.
Known as one of the masters of the blues harmonica; the name “Slim Harpo” was a humorous takeoff on “harp,” the popular nickname for the harmonica in blues circles, as suggested by his wife, after discovering that someone else performed under the name Harmonica Slim.
At the time, Lightnin’ was recording with producer J. D. “Jay” Miller, who had an agreement with Excello Records, under which Miller sent the blues and R & B cuts he produced in his studio in Crowley to the Nashville, Tenn.,-based label, which distributed the records nationally. Slim’s own recording career didn’t start until 1957. His solo debut coupled “I’m a King Bee” with “I Got Love If You Want It.”
“King Bee” took off, launching a recording and touring career that lasted more than a dozen years. Although their relationship was at times contentious, Harpo and Miller created a distinctive, easily recognizable sound. Harpo’s vocals were deliberate and steady, sometimes even slowing down to a spoken drawl. By draping a handkerchief over his harmonica, Harpo coaxed the instrument to produce a muddy but rich sound that complemented Miller’s creative use of reverberation and other studio magic.
Further influenced by Jimmy Reed, he began recording for Excello Records, and enjoyed a string of popular R&B singles which combined a drawling vocal with incisive harmonica passages. Among them were “Rainin’ In My Heart”, “I Love The Life I Live”, “Buzzin'” (instrumental) and “Little Queen Bee”. The result was something altogether matchless. Says Baton Rouge Blues Foundation Director Johnny Palazzotto, “When you hear a Slim Harpo song, you know it’s Slim Harpo.”
Harpo co-wrote many of his records with his wife, Lovelle Casey (though Miller, in a managerial trick common in the 1950s and ‘60s, frequently added his name to the writing credits). Numerous sidemen backed Harpo in the studio and on tour during his career, but his favorite lineups featured guitarist Rudy Richard, bassist James Johnson and drummer Jesse Kinchen.
Harpo’s bandmates remember the bluesman as an easygoing, relaxed man. But when it came to music, they say, a very exacting Harpo was all business.
“You had to do what Slim say,” Johnson says with a reflective laugh. “He wasn’t a real hard guy to get along with, but he had his ways.”
Adds Richard: “He was a nice, nice guy, but he really meant business. He wanted everybody trying to do it right.”
The group worked the regional club and juke-joint scene constantly, but occasionally they would venture to metropolises such as New York and Los Angeles to play at the Apollo Theater and the Whiskey A-Go-Go.
Harpo and his band needed to tour constantly and play as much as possible; times were frequently lean financially, and the men had to scrape up whatever they could get. It didn’t help that Harpo was frequently shortchanged by Miller over song royalties and other financial matters, a large reason the musician and the producer often had trouble getting along.
“Miller knew how to run a business,” says Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler. “My father just wanted to record. But Miller really wasn’t doing anything other [executives] weren’t doing.”
On top of being a musician and business owner, Harpo strived to be a good father and family man, even through the lean times. Often, Harpo was forced to work straight jobs, including operating a trucking business.
“He worked hard,” says Gambler. “He was always looking for a way to make things better for us.”
Still, despite the financial hardships, day jobs and grueling gig schedule, Harpo loved what he did — playing the swamp blues and representing his hometown — and that enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him.
“If you’re into the blues like Slim, it’s going to be all right,” says Kinchen. “Anytime we do it, if we do it with Slim, it’s gonna be all right. Slim always had a good feeling.”
Adds Johnson: “He wasn’t making money then. We just wanted to play, so we fell right in with Slim. He was all about the music.”
Unfortunately, Harpo never really broke through to the blues big time. Despite producing three pop hits, he never reached the heights of popularity that such blues luminaries as B.B. King, Jimmy Reed or Muddy Waters attained.
In a Nov. 29, 1968, review, New York Times writer Mike Jahn outlined his explanations for Harpo’s muted popularity. Jahn asserted that Harpo was less theatrical than his more popular contemporaries, saying Harpo “is not a showman like B.B. King, and he is nowhere near as flashy as Albert King.”
Jahn argued that Harpo and his band “perform with consummate cool, quiet dignity and at a relatively low volume” and that the group “deals in authenticity, not fireworks.”
However, Jahn added, that might be a good thing: “All [Harpo] does is play the blues — authentic, country blues — and invite people to come and hear it if they want to.” Concludes Jahn: “The blues is all around. Slim Harpo has just gone deeper into it than most people.”
Also contributing significantly to Harpo’s lack of exposure was his sudden, early death from a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 46. Aside from a standard obituary, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate did nothing to acknowledge his passing, and it took nearly two months for the news of his death to reach the pages of Rolling Stone, which published a lengthy and well-researched obituary in its March 19, 1970, edition.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Harpo’s untimely passing was that he was poised to possibly and at long last reach the upper echelons of blues stardom. He was about to record a new album and embark on a massive tour in Europe that would have exposed thousands of potential new fans to his music.
“If Slim had lived long enough,” says Chris Thomas King, another contemporary blues artist with roots in Baton Rouge, “those fans who were new to the blues would have discovered him. He’s just one of those guys who died too soon, before his impact could be truly felt.”
However, over the intervening four decades, Harpo’s legacy and impact has blossomed, thanks partially to the legions of Louisiana-rooted blues artists who infuse their own music with shades of Harpo’s blues and openly espouse Harpo’s influence on their careers.
Contemporary musicians such as Kenny Neal, Chris Thomas King and Tab Benoit continue to carry the swamp blues banner originally planted by Harpo. Benoit notes that practically any blues or rock band rooted in the Baton Rouge area features a Harpo song in its repertoire.
In addition, the blues community has embraced Harpo and his work, especially in his old stomping grounds in Baton Rouge. Harpo and his music are virtually the bedrock on which the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation has been built; the organization’s annual regional blues honors are called the Slim Harpo awards. For many years now, Palazzotto — who’s also filming a documentary about the bluesman — has gone into area schools to teach new generations about music and the blues, and he does it with Harpo in mind.
At its foundation, Harpo’s ever-burgeoning popularity continues to stem from his ability to perfectly capture the essence of both the swamp blues and the culture that created it.
His music is country but accessible, distinctive yet universal.
“It’s not like Chicago blues or Texas blues,” Benoit says. “It’s a very laid-back, bayou style of playing, like someone’s just playing on his porch on the bayou.”
The riff from Harpo’s 1966 hit “Shake Your Hips”, which itself was derivative of Bo Diddley’s “Bring It to Jerome”, was used in the ZZ Top 1973 hit “La Grange”, and the Rolling Stones covered the song on their 1972 album Exile On Main Street. “Shake Your Hips” was also covered by Joan Osborne on her 2012 album Bring It On Home. Other notable covers of Slim Harpo songs include “I Got Love If You Want It” by the Kinks, “I’m the Face” by the Who (when they were still called the High Numbers), “I’m A King Bee” by the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and the Doors and “Don’t Start Crying Now” by Them with Van Morrison.
Harpo’s recordings were also widely covered in modern African-American circles, including “I’ll Take Care of You” by Gil Scott-Heron on his final album, I’m New Here. The song is also featured on the remix album featuring Jamie XX called We’re New Here. In 2012 a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey commercial featured Harpo’s song “I’m a King Bee” covered by San Francisco blues band the Stone Foxes.
“He was the leader of the swamp blues movement,” says researcher and author John Broven. “All of those artists have followed in his slipstream.”
The Slim Harpo Music Awards, awarded annually in Baton Rouge, are named in his honour. Proceeds from the awards benefit the “Music in the Schools” outreach program.
He died suddenly in Baton Rouge on January 31, 1970 of a heart attack at the age of 46, despite being “one of the cleanest living bluesmen of his era.”
June 14, 1969 – Wynonie Harris was born on August 24th 1915 in Omaha Nebraska.
At a young age already he became a blues shouter and rhythm and blues singer of upbeat songs featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. In 1931 at age 16, he dropped out of high school in North Omaha. The following year his first child, a daughter, Micky, was born to Naomi Henderson. Ten months later, his son Wesley was born to Laura Devereaux. Both children were raised by their mothers.
In 1935 Harris, age 20, started dating 16-year-old Olive E. (Ollie) Goodlow, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who came to neighboring Omaha to watch him perform. On May 20, 1936, Ollie gave birth to a daughter, Adrianne Patricia (Pattie). Harris and Ollie were married on December 11, 1936. Later they lived in the Logan Fontenelle projects in North Omaha. Ollie worked as a barmaid and nurse; Harris sang in clubs and took odd jobs. His mother was Pattie’s main caretaker. In 1940, Wynonie and Ollie Harris moved to Los Angeles, California, leaving Pattie with her grandmother in Omaha.
Harris formed a dance team with Velda Shannon in the early 1930s. They performed in North Omaha’s flourishing entertainment community, and by 1934 they were a regular attraction at the Ritz Theatre. In 1935 Harris, having became a celebrity in Omaha, was able to earn a living as an entertainer, in the depths of the Great Depression. While performing at Jim Bell’s Club Harlem nightclub with Shannon, he began to sing the blues. He began traveling frequently to Kansas City, where he paid close attention to blues shouters, including Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner.
His break in Los Angeles was at a nightclub owned by Curtis Mosby. It was here that Harris became known as “Mr. Blues”.
During the 1942–44 musicians’ strike, Harris was unable to pursue a recording career. Instead, he relied on personal appearances. Performing almost continuously, in late 1943 he appeared at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago. Harris was spotted by Lucky Millinder, who asked him to join his band on tour. Harris joined on March 24, 1944, while the band was in the middle of a week-long residency at the Regal in Chicago. They moved on to New York City, where on April 7 Harris took the stage with Millinder’s band for his debut at the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem. It was during this performance that Harris first publicly performed “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well” (a song recorded two years earlier by Doc Wheeler’s Sunset Orchestra).
After the band’s stint at the Apollo, they moved on to their regular residency at the Savoy Ballroom, also in Harlem. Here, Preston Love, Harris’ childhood friend, joined Millinder’s band, replacing the alto saxophonist Tab Smith. On May 26, 1944, Harris made his recording debut with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra. Entering a recording studio for the first time, Harris sang on two of the five cuts recorded that day, “Hurry, Hurry” and “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”, for Decca Records . The embargo on shellac during World War II had not yet been rescinded, and release of the record was delayed.
Harris’s success and popularity grew as Millinder’s band toured the country, but he and Millinder had a falling out over money, and in September 1945, while playing in San Antonio, Texas, Harris quit the band. Three weeks later, upon hearing of Harris’s separation from the band, a Houston promoter refused to allow Millinder’s band to perform. Millinder called Harris and agreed to pay his asking price of one hundred dollars a night. The promoter reinstated the booking, but it was the final time Harris and Millinder worked together. Bull Moose Jackson replaced Harris as the vocalist in the band.
In April 1945, a year after the song was recorded, Decca released “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”. It became the group’s biggest hit; it went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart on July 14 and stayed there for eight weeks. The song remained on the charts for almost five months, also becoming popular with white audiences, an unusual feat for black musicians of that era. In California the success of the song opened doors for Harris. Since the contract with Decca was with Millinder (meaning Harris was a free agent), Harris could choose from the recording contracts with which he was presented.
Wynonie went on to have fifteen Top 10 hits between 1946 – 1952, he is generally considered one of rock and roll’s forerunners, influencing Elvis Presley among others. His hits include “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”, “Bloodshot Eyes”, “Good Rocking Tonight”, “Good Morning Judge” and “All She Wants to Do Is Rock”.
His final large-scale performance was at the Apollo, New York in November 1967, where he performed with Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon and T-Bone Walker.
He sadly died of esophageal cancer at the USC Medical Center Hospital in Los Angeles on June 14, 1969. He was 53.
Wynonie was the subject of a 1994 biography by Tony Collins. Since the end of the twentieth century, there has been a resurgence of interest in his music. Some of his recordings are being reissued and he has been honored posthumously:
• 1994 Inducted into the W.C. Handy Blues Hall of Fame by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee. • 1998 Inducted into the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Lincoln. • 2000 Inducted into the High School Hall of Fame at Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska. • 2005 Inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame
Elvis Presley saw Harris perform in Memphis in the early 1950s. According to Henry Glover, Harris’s record producer, Elvis “copied many of the vocal gymnastics of Wynonie as well as the physical gyrations. When you saw Elvis, you were seeing a mild version of Wynonie”. Harris remarked in a 1956 interview that Elvis’s hip movements were stirring controversy in a way his own never did: “Many people have been giving him trouble for swinging his hips. I swing mine and have no trouble. He’s got publicity I could not buy”.
May 26, 1968 – Little Willie John was born William Edward John on November 15, 1937 in Cullendale, Arkansas, one of ten children; many sources erroneously give his middle name as Edgar. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was four, so that his father could pursue factory work.
In the late 1940s, the eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel singing group, and Willie also performed in talent shows, which brought him to the notice of Johnny Otis and, later, musician and producer Henry Glover. He sang with Count Basie at age 14 and won a talent contest. In 1955, had his first moderate hit with “All Around the World” which reached #5 on the R&B Chart, and #6 on the Pop Chart. After seeing him sing with the Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams orchestra, Glover signed him to a recording contract with King Records in 1955. He was nicknamed “Little Willie” John for his short stature.
He followed up with a string of R&B hits, including the original version of “Need Your Love So Bad“, written by his elder brother Mertis John Jr. One of his biggest hits, “Fever” (1956) (Pop #24), was more famously covered by Peggy Lee in 1958. However, John’s version alone sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Another song, “Talk to Me, Talk to Me” recorded in 1958, reached #5 in the R&B chart and #20 in the Pop chart, and also sold over one million. A few years later it was a hit once again by Sunny & the Sunglows. He also recorded “I’m Shakin'” by Rudy Toombs, “Suffering With The Blues”, and “Sleep” (1960) (Pop #13). In all, John made the Billboard Hot 100 a total of fourteen times. A cover version of “Need Your Love So Bad” by Fleetwood Mac was also a hit in Europe. Another of his songs to be covered was “Leave My Kitten Alone”, (1959). The Beatles recorded a version in 1964, intended for their Beatles for Sale album, but it went unreleased until 1995.
John had a volatile temper, fueled by a taste for liquor and an insecurity regarding his slight height (5 feet 4 inches). He was known to pack a gun and knife; in 1964, he stabbed a man and was sent to the Washington State penitentiary. He appealed his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album. Because of contractual wrangling and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six).
Back in prison, Little Willie John died on May 26, 1968 at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Despite counterclaims (Rolling Stone reported that the death occurred after John had checked into the prison hospital with pneumonia), the official cause of death was listed in his death certificate as a heart attack. Rumor also says he was strangled. He was 30 years old.
James Brown recorded a tribute album to John that year, and his material has been recorded by scores of artists from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to the Blasters. Nevertheless, Little Willie John remains a stranger to most listeners and has never received the respect his talent deserved.
He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He never received the accolades given to the likes of Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, and James Brown, but Little Willie John ranks as one of R&B’s most influential performers. His muscular high timbre and enormous technical and emotional range belied his young age (his first hit came when he was 18), but his mid-’50s work for Syd Nathan’s King label would play a great part in the way soul music would sound. Everyone from Cooke, McPhatter, and Brown to Jackie Wilson, B.B. King, and Al Green have acknowledged their indebtedness to this most overlooked of rock and soul pioneers.
February 27, 1968 – Frankie Lymon was born Franklin Joseph “Frankie” Lymon on September 30, 1942.
Frankie Lymon was born in Harlem to a truck driver father and a mother who worked as a maid. Lymon’s mother and father, Howard and Jeanette Lymon, also sang in a gospel group known as the Harlemaires; Frankie Lymon and his brothers Lewis and Howie sang with the Harlemaire Juniors (a fourth Lymon brother, Timmy, was a singer, though not with the Harlemaire Juniors). The Lymon family struggled to make ends meet, and Lymon began working as a grocery boy at the age of 10.
At the age of 12 in 1954, Lymon heard a local doo-wop group known as the Coupe De Villes at a school talent show. He became friends with the lead singer, Herman Santiago, and he eventually became a member of the group, now calling itself both The Ermines and The Premiers. Dennis Jackson of Columbus, Georgia, was one of the main influences in Lymon’s life. His personal donation of $500 helped start Lymon’s career.
Feb 15, 1968- Little Walter was born Marion Walter Jacobs on May 1st 1930 (although recently uncovered census data suggests he may have been born earlier, possibly as early as 1925) in Marksville, Louisiana, and raised in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, where he first learned to play the harmonica. After quitting school by the age of 12, Jacobs left rural Louisiana and travelled around working odd jobs and busking on the streets of New Orleans; Memphis; Helena, Arkansas; and St. Louis. He honed his musical skills on harmonica and guitar performing with much older bluesmen, including Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards and others.
Arriving in Chicago in 1945, he occasionally found work as a guitarist but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica work. According to fellow Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones, Little Walter’s first recording was an unreleased demo recorded soon after he arrived in Chicago, on which Walter played guitar backing Jones. Jacobs, reportedly frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by electric guitarists, adopted a simple but previously little-used method: He cupped a small microphone in his hands along with his harmonica and plugged the microphone into a public address system or guitar amplifier.
December 10, 1967 – Otis Redding was born on Sept 9, 1941in Dawson, Ga., Otis Redding, Jr. and his family moved to Macon when he was five years old. At an early age he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Otis attended Ballard Hudson High School and participated in the school band. He began to compete in the Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. After winning 15 times straight, he was no longer allowed to compete.
Otis joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers in 1960, and would also sing at the “Teenage Party” talent shows sponsored by local celebrity disc jockey King Bee, Hamp Swain, on Saturday mornings initially at the Roxy Theater and later at the Douglass Theatre in Macon.
July 18, 1966 – Bobby Fuller was born on October 22nd 1942 in Baytown, Texas. As a small child to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he remained until 1956, when he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas. His father got a job at El Paso Natural Gas at that time. It was the same year that Elvis Presley became popular, and Bobby Fuller became mesmerized by the new rock and roll star. Fuller soon adopted the style of fellow Texan Buddy Holly, fronting a four-man combo and often using original material.
During the early 1960s, he played in clubs and bars in El Paso, and he recorded on independent record labels in Texas with a constantly changing line-up. The only constant band members were Fuller and his younger brother, Randy Fuller (born on January 29, 1944, in Hobbs, New Mexico) on bass. Most of these independent releases (except two songs recorded at the studio of Norman Petty in Clovis), and an excursion to Yucca Records, also in New Mexico, were recorded in the Fullers’ own home studio, with Fuller acting as the producer. He even built a primitive echo chamber in the back yard. The quality of the recordings, using a couple of microphones and a mixing board purchased from a local radio station, was so impressive that he offered the use of his “studio” to local acts for free so he could hone his production skills.
May 25, 1965 – Sonny Boy Williamson ll was born Aleck (Alex) Ford aka Alex “Rice” Miller – (his stepfather’s name) on the Sara Jones Plantation near Glendora, in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He claimed his birth date was December 5, 1899 although one researcher, David Evans, music professor at Memphis University, claims to have found census record evidence that he was born around 1912 while his gravestone has his birthdate as March 11th 1908. Another confusion is created by the fact that he went under the name Sonny Boy Williamson II, to distinguish from the fact that there is a “real” Sonny Boy Williamson, also a famous blues singer/harpist, whose last name was actually Williamson.
He lived and worked with his sharecropper stepfather, Jim Miller, whose last name he soon adopted, and mother, Millie Ford, until the early 1930s. Beginning in the 1930s, he traveled around Mississippi and Arkansas and encountered Big Joe Williams, Elmore James and Robert Lockwood, Jr., also known as Robert Junior Lockwood, who would play guitar on his later Checker Records sides. Continue reading Sonny Boy Williamson 2 5/1965
February 15, 1965 – Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. Cole had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Each of Cole’s brothers would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”. Continue reading Nat King Cole 2/1965
May 20, 1964 – Rudy Lewis was born Charles Rudolph Harrell on August 23, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lewis began his singing career in gospel music. He was one of only two males to have sung with the Clara Ward Singers and sang with the gospel group right up to the day before he auditioned for George Treadwell at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater where he was hired on the spot. Lewis joined the Drifters as lead vocalist, replacing departed group member Ben E. King, and ended up performing most of King’s repertoire live in concert.
Lewis was the lead vocalist for a string of hits: “Please Stay”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Up On The Roof” and “On Broadway”. He also featured on other tracks such as: “Another Night With The Boys”, “Beautiful Music”, “Jackpot”, “Let The Music Play”, “Loneliness Or Happiness”, “Mexican Divorce”, “Only In America”, “Rat Race”, “She Never Talked To Me That Way”, “Somebody New Dancing With You”, “Stranger On The Shore”, “Vaya Con Dios” and “What To Do”.
December 14, 1963 – Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, but moved to Chicago as a child. She sang gospel music in church and played piano, directing her church choir in her teens and being a member of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers. She sang lead with the first female gospel singers formed by Ms. Martin, who was co-founder of the Gospel Singers Convention.
After winning a talent contest at the age of 15 at Chicago’s Regal Theater where she sang “I Can’t Face the Music”, she began performing in clubs. By 1941–42 she was performing in such Chicago clubs as Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Hotel (with Fats Waller). She was playing at the Three Deuces, a jazz club, when a friend took her to hear Billie Holiday at the Garrick Stage Bar. Club owner Joe Sherman was so impressed with her singing of “I Understand”, backed by the Cats and the Fiddle, who were appearing in the Garrick’s upstairs room, that he hired her. During her year at the Garrick – she sang upstairs while Holiday performed in the downstairs room – she acquired the name by which she became known.
December 11, 1964 – Sam Cooke was born on January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale Mississippi.He was the son of Reverend Charles Cook, Sr., (a Baptist minister) and Annie May Cook was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933. He had four brothers and three sisters – Willie, Charles Jr., L.C., David, Mary, Hattie and Agnes. Sam graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1948, where he distinguished himself as an “A” student as well as being voted “most likely to succeed.” During his formative years, Sam, together with his brothers Charles Jr., L.C. and sisters Mary and Hattie, performed as a gospel group “The Singing Children.” At the age of 15, Sam became lead singer of the famous “teenage” gospel group the “Highway QC’s” until he was 19 when he was hand-picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the “Soul Stirrers,” to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as lead singer. Continue reading Sam Cooke 12/1964
October 11, 1963 – Édith Piaf born Edith Giovanni Gassion on Dec 19, 1915 became a legendary French singer and actress; one of the most popular French singers of the 1940s and ’50s, famous internationally for her husky, mournful voice and her songs of loneliness and despair.
At aged 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public, before going it alone as a street singer at the age of 16.
In 1935 she was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. Louis taught her stage presense and nicknamed her La Môme Piaf …The Waif Sparrow or Little Sparrow as she was only 4ft 8in tall. Continue reading Edith Piaf 10/1963
March 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.
Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963
April 17, 1960 – Eddie Cochran was born on October 3rd 1938 in Minnesota but moved with his family to California in the early 1950s. He was involved with music from an early age, playing in the school band and teaching himself to play blues guitar. In 1954, he formed a duet with the guitarist Hank Cochran (no relation), and when they split the following year, Eddie began a song-writing career with Jerry Capehart. His first success came when he performed the song “Twenty Flight Rock” which also later came out in the film The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield. Soon afterwards, Liberty Records signed him to a big recording contract. Like so many of his contemporaries like Elvis and Ricky Nelson, his music career ran parallel with a budding movie career.
His songs have influenced bands and artists such as The Who, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Tom Petty, The Stray Cats, Motörhead, Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Lemmy Kilmister, T. Rex, The White Stripes, Brian Setzer, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, UFO, The Sex Pistols and many more. Continue reading Eddie Cochran 4/1960
August 19, 1959 – Blind Willie McTell was born William Samuel McTier on May 5th 1898 in Thomson, Georgia. Few facts are known about his early life. Even his name is uncertain: his family name was either McTear or McTier, and his first name may have been Willie, Samuel, or Eddie. His tombstone reads “Eddie McTier.” He was blind either from birth or from early childhood, and he attended schools for the blind in Georgia, New York, and Michigan.
While in his early teens, McTell learned to play the guitar from his mother, relatives, and neighbors in Statesboro, where his family had moved. In his teenage years, after his mother’s death, he left home and toured in carnivals and medicine shows. In the 1920s and 1930s McTell traveled a circuit between Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, and Macon. This region encompasses two major blues styles: Eastern Seaboard/Piedmont, with lighter, bouncier rhythms and a ragtime influence; and Deep South, with its greater emphasis on intense rhythms and short, repeated music phrases. Continue reading Blind Willie McTell 8/1959
July 17, 1959 – Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan Goughy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The singer also nicknamed ‘Lady Day’ by her musical partner Lester Day, was a JAZZ/BLUES/SOUL POWERHOUSE, who collapsed at age 44, under her own virtuosity fed by an uncontrollable urge for alcohol and drugs.
Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her. Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician, playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson. Unfortunately for Billie, he was only an infrequent visitor in her life growing up. Sadie married Philip Gough in 1920 and for a few years Billie had a somewhat stable home life. But that marriage ended a few years later, leaving Billie and Sadie to struggle along on their own again. Sometimes Billie was left in the care of other people. Continue reading Billie Holiday 7/1959
February 7, 1959 – Guitar Slim was born Eddie Jones on December 10, 1926 in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother died when he was five, and his grandmother raised him, as he spent his teen years in the cotton fields. He spent his free time at the local juke joints and started sitting in as a singer or dancer; he was good enough to be nicknamed “Limber Leg.”
After returning from World War II military service, he started playing clubs around New Orleans, Louisiana. Bandleader Willie D. Warren introduced him to the guitar, and he was particularly influenced by T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. About 1950 he adopted the stage name ‘Guitar Slim’ and started becoming known for his wild stage act.
February 3, 1959 – Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr. aka “the Big Bopper’ was born on October 24, 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas.
He worked part time at Beaumont, Texas radio station KTRM. He was hired by the station full-time in ’49, so he quit his law studies. Being a disc jockey, singer, and songwriter whose big voice and exuberant personality made him an early rock and roll star.
In March 1955, he was drafted into the United States Army and did his basic training at Fort Ord, California. He spent the rest of his two-year service as a radar instructor at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Following his discharge as a corporal in March 1957, Richardson returned to KTRM radio, where he held down the “Dishwashers’ Serenade” shift from 11 am to 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday. One of the station’s sponsors wanted Richardson for a new time slot, and suggested an idea for a show. Richardson had seen the college students doing a dance called The Bop, and he decided to call himself “The Big Bopper”. His new radio show ran from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Richardson soon became the station’s program director.
February 3, 1959 – Ritchie Valens was born Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes on May 13, 1941 in Pacoima, California. Of Mexican decent he was brought up hearing traditional Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, R&B and jump blues. He expressed an interest in making music of his own by the age of 5.
Growing in Pacoima, Valens developed a love of music early on and learned to play a number of different instruments. But the guitar soon became his passion. And he found inspiration from various sources, ranging from traditional Mexican music to popular R&B acts to innovative rock performers like Little Richard.
At 16, Valens joined his first band, the Silhouettes. The group played local gigs, and Valens was spotted at one of these performances by Bob Keane, the head of the Del-Fi record label. With Keane’s help, the young performer was about to have a career breakthrough.
August 14, 1958 – Big Bill Broonzy, (real nameLee Conly Bradley) was born either on June 26th 1893 or 1898 or even 1903 . Like with any of the true blues musician of the early days, there is a lot of unproven claims about names, dates of birth and even location of births. Big Bill’s story was no different.
Despite years of research, the details of William Lee Conley Broonzy’s birth date remain problematic. He may have been born on 26 June 1893 – the date of birth he often gave – or according to Bill’s twin sister Laney, it may have been in 1898. Laney claimed to have documents to prove that. However, definitive research undertaken by Bob Reisman has changed the picture.
March 28, 1958 –WC Handy was born November 16, 1873 in Florence, Alabama.
He became widely known as the “Father of the Blues” and remains among the most influential of songwriters, blues singers, composer, pianist, cornet and trumpet player of the early blues rock scene.
Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a not very well-known regional music style to one of the dominant forces in American music.
December 6, 1949 – Lead Belly was born Huddie William Ledbettersometime around January 20, 1888/89 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. The 1900 United States Census lists “Hudy Ledbetter” as 12 years old, born January 1888; and the 1910 and 1930 censuses also give his age as corresponding to a birth in 1888. The 1940 census lists his age as 51 with information supplied by wife, Martha. However, in April 1942, Ledbetter filled out his World War II draft registration with a birth date of January 23, 1889, and a birthplace of Freeport, Louisiana. His grave marker has the date on his draft registration.
His life was as colorful as the confusion on dates. He was notable for his clear, forceful singing and his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar. Pre-dating blues, he was an early example of a folksinger whose background had brought him into direct contact with the oral tradition by which folk music was handed down on the Southern Plantations. Continue reading Lead Belly 12/1949
June 1, 1948 – “Sonny Boy” Williamson was born John Lee Curtis on March 30, 1914 near Jackson Tennessee. While in his teens he joined Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes, playing with them in Tennessee and Arkansas. In 1934 he settled in Chicago.
Williamson first recorded for Bluebird Records in 1937, and his first recording, “Good Morning, School Girl”, became a standard. He was popular among black audiences throughout the southern United States and in midwestern industrial cities, such as Detroit and Chicago, and his name was synonymous with the blues harmonica for the next decade. Other well-known recordings of his include “Sugar Mama Blues”, “Shake the Boogie”, “You Better Cut That Out”, “Sloppy Drunk”, “Early in the Morning”, “Stop Breaking Down”, and “Hoodoo Hoodoo” (also known as “Hoodoo Man Blues”). In 1947, “Shake the Boogie” made number 4 on Billboard’s Race Records chart. Williamson’s style influenced many blues harmonica performers, including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor. Continue reading Sonny Boy Williamson I 6/1948
September 26, 1937 – American jazz singer Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 15th, 1894. She was often referred to as “The Empress of the Blues”, and was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as the greatest singers of her era, and, along with Louis Armstrong, she was a major influence on subsequent jazz and blues vocalists.
The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892, a date provided by her mother. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894, a date that appears on all subsequent documents and was observed by the entire Smith family. Census data also contribute to controversy about the size of her family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, while later interviews with Smith’s family and contemporaries did not include these individuals among her siblings. Continue reading Bessie Smith 9/1937
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2018 VIDEO TRIBUTES
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