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 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.”