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Ricky Nelson 12/1985

Ricky NelsonDecember 31, 1985 – Ricky Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson on May 8th 1940 in Teaneck, New Jersey. His parents were Ozzie and Harriet, which makes it necessary to look back to the creative roots of the Nelson family for Ricky’s talent and fame that came from more than 50 Hot 100 hits, being second only to Elvis Presley as the most popular rock and roll artist of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Nelson family was the first family in history that produced a REALITY TV show, half a century before the Ozbourne’s and Kardashian’s.

Ricky’s dad, Ozzie Nelson, was a pretty good singer, a very funny man, and a well-known band leader when he first spotted beautiful Harriet Hilliard and hired her as a vocalist for his busy orchestra in the early 1930’s. Harriet was the daughter of the show business parents and had been a professional actress, dancer, and singer since childhood. Ozzie and Harriet began a signature act that included comedic boy-girl banter in between the dance numbers. They married in 1935 and continued as a professional team after a successful transition to radio, launching their own radio show: “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” By 1940 two younger Nelsons had made a foursome- older brother David and his baby brother Ricky. A musical bent had been evident early, and so was the tendency toward solitary pursuits. Even as a tow-headed little boy of 3 or 4, Ricky could often be found lying under the family’s huge Wurlitzer radio, small bare feet sticking out, listening quietly to classical music. Eventually the boys joined “the act,” begging to play themselves on their parents radio show. Despite Ozzie and Harriet’s initial doubts, the move paid off and the show’s audience peaked to almost 20 million listeners. After 3 years the Nelson family changed format again, testing their visual appeal in a motion picture comedy called “Here comes the Nelsons” in 1947. It’s success led to an offer for a weekly television show, and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” became the first and longest running family situation comedy and part of the American lexicon.

Even though Ricky was a small and insecure child who suffered from severe asthma, he later became the show’s most popular character. His trademark line “I don’t mess around, boy” became a national catch phrase. More and more the show’s plots, written by Ozzie, revolved around Rick’s real life adventures. Story lines would incorporate Rick’s natural athleticism, for example, and Ozzie would have the cameras brought to the tennis courts. Rick ranked fifth in California among tennis player’s 15 years old and younger competed nationally, and at one time had ambitions to go professional. When his parents gave him a car for his sixteenth birthday, it too made its appearance in an episode.

By 1956 a new type of music was taking America by storm – Rock n’ Roll and Elvis Presley was on every teenager’s mind, including Rick Nelson’s. When an admiring Rick dressed up as Elvis on a Halloween show, the episode garnered huge ratings. At sixteen years old, dark haired, blue eyed and handsome, Rick was another heartthrob in the making. One night on a date with a girl who swooned over an Elvis Presley song playing on the radio, Rick retorted that he too was cutting a record (which he had no plans to do) and was met with derisive laughter. He determined to make it happen, secured a recording studio, and did his own cover of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin.” Ozzie telecast Rick performing the song to his already massive audience and a career in music was launched. “I’m Walkin” flew out of the stores and sold one million copies in a week, completely unheard of at that time. The song went to #2 on the Billboard Chart, and its flip side, “A Teenagers Romance” hit #2 as well.

Through the novel power of television, Rick Nelson became one of the first artists that audiences saw and heard simultaneously. He would perform a song at the end of every show, sometime having nothing to do with the plot. Rock n’ Roll was considered salacious and scandalous in the mainstream 50’s, and weekly the “nice Nelson boy” smuggled it into living rooms and made it acceptable to parents. Consequently American teenagers had far greater access to Rock n’ Roll than they ever would have had, arguably Rick Nelson’s most important contribution to music.

The Nelson family was unprepared for the commotion Rick’s success would cause. The Hollywood post office allotted an entire room to handle the fan mail that poured in from around the world. The family had to erect an electric fence around their home to discourage girls from climbing in the windows, and Rick received his diploma from Hollywood High School through the mail, the principle fearing his presence at graduation would cause a riot. Life magazine ran a cover story on Rick, and coined an original phrase to describe what he had become: a “Teenage Idol.”

Music and respect for music was part of the fabric of the Nelson household. From the beginning, Rick understood the importance of having an excellent band to back him up. Both on record and on stage he invariably associated with brilliant musicians who worked in a variety of different musical genres, from blues to rockabilly. For seven years his backup band included James Kirkland, Joe Osborn, and guitar legend James Burton, who later played lead for Elvis Presley and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Rick’s records consciously avoided the overly slick production trends that characterized much of the music of the era. He played the music that he loved to listen to. Whether it was written for him by rockabilly greats Johnny and Dorsey Burnett or R&B veteran Baker Night, the music was always excellent. Rick also did covers of obscure rockers, his tastes often clashing with his father’s. The more “rocking” cuts were often the flip side of the softer, croonier tunes favored by Ozzie, who suggested that the ballads better represented Rick’s “respectable” image on the television show. This rocker/ballad coupling would be repeated many times in Rick’s career. Between his first hit in 1957 and 1961 he had 36 Hot One hundred titles, several of them double-sided hits. At the age of 21 Rick had already 9 gold records for the Imperial label, and his single hit that year, “Travelin’ Man,” sold over 2 million copies and went to #1. Its flip side “Hello, Mary Lou” proved to be his biggest hit ever, reaching #1 in 32 countries and selling in excess of 7 million copies world wide. For the television show, Ozzie overlaid Rick’s performance of “Travelin’ Man” with some footage specially shot on location, making it the first conceptual rock video in history.

The handsome teenager with the deep blue eyes and quiet, modest manner was also a personal appearance sensation, shattering attendance records in America and abroad. He broke Sinatra’s attendance record at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City when 43,000 fans showed up, just managing to make the stage door by flying over the crowd in a helicopter. Nelson’s fame brought him numerous film offers, but unlike many other teen idols, he eschewed the typical teen fare for critically acclaimed parts in Howard’s Hawks’ classic “Rio bravo” (1959), which co-starred John Wayne and Dean Martin, and “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” (1960) with Jack Lemmon.

A change of musical climate was around the corner. By 1962, America was well in the grip of “The British Invasion.” A new generation of teenage record fans and buyers were filling the airways and charts with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Homegrown rockers like Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, and Ricky Nelson were suddenly considered passe. Despite a new lucrative 20-year contract with Decca Records, Rick struggled on the charts. Personally, things were changing for him as well. In 1962 Rick became engaged to Kristin Harmon, the beautiful 17 year old daughter of football great Tom Harmon. Rick had first met Kris in the gym of Hollywood High when she asked for his autograph which he signed “To Christin”- much to her chagrin. Kris’ mother, actress Eylse Knox, was socially acquainted with Harriet Nelson, and said to her prophetically “if the two quiet ones ever get together, there might be an explosion.” Many strategically arranged meetings later, Rick and Kris’ wedding in April 1963 was called “The Wedding of the Year” by Life magazine. The couple eventually settled into married life in Los Angeles with a new baby daughter, Tracy, born October 25 of the same year. Both wife and daughter joined Rick on the family television show. Then in 1965, after 14 years and 435 episodes, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” finally came to an end.

Professionally, Rick was searching, at risk of getting stuck on the doldrums. He tried many different creative projects during this period. He co-starred with his wife Kris in a fluffy family movie called “Love and Kisses,” broke attendance records touring the Orient, made his stage debut in a musical comedy, and continued putting out admittedly uninspired cuts for Decca.

Rick’s recording career was soon to undergo a change for the better, on every level. He’d always loved country music; songs like “No Vacancy” and ” Night Train to Memphis” were among the first songs he learned to play. He decided to cut a country album outside of Nashville, to prove it could be done, and done well. To this end James Burton, Glen Cambell, the Jordinaries and other excellent players were assembles, and the result was “Bright Lights and Country Music.” The experience became a professional turning point for Rick, gaining him immediate acceptance in a totally new arena. Rick began recording, freshly inspired, pioneering a style that would soon become known as country rock, the California country sound.

In 1967 twin sons Gunnar and Matthew were born. Rick was hanging out at the L.A. country-rock bastion the Troubadour, and taking his inspiration from friend Bob Dylan, who encouraged him to express himself honestly through his music. Rick began to put together “The Stone Canyon Band,” which at various times would include ex-Poco bassist and future Eagle Randy Meisner, Richie Hayward of Little Feat, John Beland of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Bakersville legend Tom Brumley on steel guitar. A double live album recorded with the new band at the Troubadour in 1969 “Rick Nelson in Concert,” put to rest the charge that he was just a lucky teen idol with a pretty face and garnered unanimous rave reviews. Rick Nelson had left “Ricky” behind for good. His next, and personally greatest, success rose out of a seeming failure.

In October of 1971, Nelson was reluctantly persuaded to play a Rock n’ Roll revival show at Madison Square Garden, on the same bill as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell, among others. By this time Rick’s hair had grown shoulder length, he wore bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, and he sang his new material. The audience had come expecting their entertainment to be frozen in time, a 50s malt shop, and Rick wasn’t playing along. Halfway through his set, the crowd began to stomp and boo. There were reports that police were in the back moving people out, and in the political spirit of the early 70’s the crowd was actually booing the police activity. Regardless, Rick thought the booing was meant for him, and deeply shaken, he left the stage. The experience inspired him to put his thoughts down on paper: “I went to a Garden Party, to reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again. When I got to the Garden Party, they all knew my name, but no one heard the music- I didn’t look the same. But it’s all right now. I learned my lesson well. You see you can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” “Garden Party” became Rick’s first million-seller in over a decade, hitting at #6 and going gold in 1972. On the cover of the album is a different image of Rick. He stands in starkly formal black and white, defiantly holding out his Les Paul guitar, confidence in his eyes. Rick Nelson was sure of this new direction, and proud of his message. He would from then on consider “you can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself” his personal anthem.

Rick continued to produce new material, including a son, Sam, in 1974. But due to his professional comeback, his marriage to Kris was stressed by constant touring, and it began to fall apart. Partly because he so loved to perform and partly due to his expensive and protracted divorce, Nelson found himself on the road an average of 250 night a year through the late 70’s and early 80’s. When he sang ” If memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck,” he meant it, even turning down a long term 1 million dollar offer (arranged by Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker) to play Las Vegas at a point when he was deeply in debt. In September 1984, he was invited to join in the finale of a Sun Records reunion album that featured Nelson’s early idols Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
There, alone in the studio, Carl Perkins quietly turned and said: “Well, Ricky, it looks like the two of us are the only real rockabilly cats left.” The resulting album “Interviews from the class of 55 Recording Sessions” won a Grammy in 1986 for Best Spoken Word Recording. It was Rick’s only Grammy, and vastly ironic to those who knew him well the quiet man who would rather sing than talk. In the mid 80’s, Rick had bought the old Errol Fylnn estate in the Hollywood Hills, a house much coveted by his father Ozzie many years earlier. He lived there with his new girlfriend Helen Blair and his college bound daughter Tracy. He adored his youngest son Sam, who was at the time being raised across town by Kris’ parents. Twin sons Gunnar and Matthew, young rockers playing L.A. night clubs, lived with their mother Kris and often begged professional advice from Rick, who was proud of their musicality. He would tell them simply to “just believe in what you’re doing, and keep doing it.”

By 1985, Rick had assembled a new, vibrant, young band, including Memphis’ Bobby Neal on lead guitar and L.A. rockabilly hotshots Pat Woodward and Ricky Intveld. Nelson had signed a new deal with Curb/MCA., and the group toured extensively, attacking their material with energy and excitement. Travel was constant and particularly stressful for Rick. For all of his life, Rick had maintained an avid fear of flying, sometimes referring to premonitions and a conviction that he could see himself “as an old man.” He insisted on 2 rules of air travel: he would always fly commercially and never in anything with a propeller. He broke both of his own rules when he decided to purchase a vintage DC-3 that had been previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis, surprising and confusing those who knew him well. The plane was dubbed “the flying bus,” because of its sluggishness and tendency to malfunction on the runway. A continuing irritation to the passengers was the temperamental gas heater on board, which would sometimes be adjusted mid-flight by the pilot when the cabin got too cold for the exhausted band.

On December 31, 1985, en route from Alabama to a New Year’s Eve show in Dallas, Nelson’s DC-3 crash-landed in a field near DeKalb, Texas. The burning plane trapped its passengers inside, killing all aboard, except the pilot and co-pilot, who escaped through the cockpit window. Early press reports erroneously suggested that drug usage aboard the plane might have played a role in the fire that killed Rick, his band, and Helen Blair. In fact, both the F.A.A. and the 1987 National Transportation and Safety Board report determined conclusively that the fire had begun in a malfunctioning gas heater.

Eric Hilliard (Rick) Nelson was buried in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn Cemetery. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. His friend Bob Dylan paid tribute to him while on tour, with a moment of silence and a version of “Lonesome Town” at each concert.

Rick Nelson was a household name and an American teen idol before he ever cut a record. In nearly every regard he would seem the antithesis of the early rockers who made the music he first loved and recorded, rockabilly, and far removed form the late 60’s environment that nurtured country rock, of which he was the vanguard. Artists as diverse as Paul McCartney and John Forgarty, and even some of his own heroes, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, admired and respected him. A seasoned professional by the age of 6, Rick Nelson carved out a place for himself on radio, television, film and the music charts. In fact his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame represents achievements in music, television, and radio. He sold in excess of 50 million albums worldwide. He had 18 top 10 singles and over Billboard charted records. He is ranked the 4th singles seller of all time.

Rick Nelson the man remains something of an enigma, even to those who knew him best. He was a very private person, sometimes solitary. He was quiet, gentle and modest. He could startle with his wicked sense of humor and constant practical joking, exemplified by one of the family’s favorite stories. Apparently newlywed Kris ceremoniously served Rick her first brave attempt at pork chops. The phone rang in the other room, and Kris went to get it. When she returned, Rick was gone- and the pork chops were nailed to the wall. He loved to laugh. He believed there was power in subtlety. But most of all he believed in being true to oneself. He lived honestly, gracefully, and with innate integrity.

In the early 1970’s, Rick wrote a song called “Gypsy Pilot.” This is the final verse:

“When they claim my body, they won’t have much to say. Except that he lived a good life, he lived every day. And you know he saw the sunshine, and you know he felt the rain. He loved everybody, And he hopes you do the same.”

Now 15 years into the 21st century we can say with certainty that Hello Mary Lou was the ultimate theme song of a generation and hit n0. 1 on Hit parades across the globe.

Ricky Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and also to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.

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Dennes Boon 12/1985

dennes boon - the minutemenDecember 22, 1985 – Dennes Boon or “D” Boon (Minutemen) was born on April 1, 1958 in San Pedro, California and was best known as the guitarist and vocalist of the American punk rock trio Minutemen. In 1985 he was killed in a traffic crash at the age of 27.

His father, a navy veteran, worked installing radios in Buick cars, and the Boons lived in former World War II barracks that had been converted into public housing. As a teenager, Boon began painting and signed his works “D. Boon”, partly because “D” was his slang for cannabis, partly after Daniel Boone, but mostly because it was similar to E. Bloom, Blue Öyster Cult’s vocalist and guitarist. Continue reading Dennes Boon 12/1985

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Ian Stewart 12/1985

Ian-StewartDecember 12, 1985 – Ian Andrew Robert Stewart was born on July 18, 1938 at Kirklatch Farm, Pittenweem, East Neuk, Fife, Scotland, and raised in Sutton, Surrey. Stewart (often called Stu) started playing piano when he was six. He took up the banjo and played with amateur groups on both instruments. Stewart, who loved rhythm & blues, boogie-woogie, blues and big-band jazz, was first to respond to Brian Jones’s advertisement in Jazz News of 2 May 1962 seeking musicians to form a rhythm & blues group. The shifting and shuffling in the early British rock and roll days left unfortunate victims like Stu Sutcliff and Pete Best with the Beatles; Ian Stewart became one of those as well and to a degree even Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones also.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined a month later in June, and the group, with Dick Taylor (bass, who left several months later and founded the Pretty Things) and Mick Avory on drums. Avory claims that Tony Chapman (later with Frampton in the Herd) and not him, played the first gig under the name The Rolling Stones at the Marquee Club on 12 July 1962. In any case by late fall the rhythm section of Avory (ended up with the Kinks) and Taylor had left and replaced by Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.

Because the arrogant band’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham did not think Ian Stewart fitted the image he wanted to market and thought six was too many members, he “forced” the others to officially “retire him from the group” in 1963. He continued until his death as their road manager and pianist playing on all their albums of the first decade among others. Both Jagger and Richards often claimed that without Stewart the Stones would have broken up the same way the Beatles did early on.

Stewart loaded gear into his van, drove the group to gigs, replaced guitar strings and set up Watts’ drums the way he himself would play them. “I never ever swore at him,” Watts says, with rueful amazement. He also played piano and occasionally organ on most of the band’s albums in the first decades, as well as providing criticism. Shortly after Stewart’s death Mick Jagger said: “He really helped this band swing, on numbers like ‘Honky Tonk Women’ and loads of others. Stu was the one guy we tried to please. We wanted his approval when we were writing or rehearsing a song. We’d want him to like it.”

In 1975 Stewart joined the band on stage again, playing piano on numbers of his choosing throughout tours in 1975-76, 1978 and 1981-82. He favored blues and country rockers, and remained dedicated to boogie-woogie and early rhythm & blues. He refused to play in minor keys, saying: “When I’m on stage with the Stones and a minor chord comes along, I lift my hands in protest.” In 1976, Stewart stated, “You can squawk about money, but the money the Stones have made hasn’t done them much good. It’s really gotten them into some trouble. They can’t even live in their own country now.”

The Rolling Stones with Ian Stewart in the spring of 1963
The Rolling Stones with Ian Stewart in the spring of 1963

Stewart remained aloof from the band’s lifestyle. “I think he looked upon it as a load of silliness,” said guitarist Mick Taylor. “I also think it was because he saw what had happened to Brian. I could tell from the expression on his face when things started to get a bit crazy during the making of Exile on Main Street. I think he found it very hard. We all did.”

Stewart played golf and as road manager showed preference for hotels with courses. Richards recalls: “We’d be playing in some town where there’s all these chicks, and they want to get laid and we want to lay them. But Stu would have booked us into some hotel about ten miles out of town. You’d wake up in the morning in the middle of a golf course. We’re bored to death looking for some action and Stu’s playing Gleneagles!”

Session Work

Stewart contributed to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” from Led Zeppelin IV and “Boogie with Stu” from Physical Graffiti, two numbers in traditional rock and roll vein, both featuring his boogie-woogie style. Another was Howlin’ Wolf’s 1971 The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions album, featuring Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Steve Winwood, and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. He also played piano and organ on the 1982 Bad to the Bone album of George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Moreover, he performed with Ronnie Lane in a televised concert. Stewart played piano on Scottish blues rock band Blues ‘n’ Trouble’s second album No Minor Keys in 1986. He also played with the back-to-roots band Rocket 88 with Charlie Watts.

Stewart contributed to the Rolling Stones’ 1983 Undercover, and was present during the 1985 recording for Dirty Work (released in 1986). In early December 1985, Stewart began having respiratory problems. On 12 December he went to a clinic to have the problem examined, but he suffered a heart attack and died in the waiting room at age 47.

When the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, they requested Stewart’s name be included and still in his 2010 autobiography Life, Keith Richards says: “Ian Stewart. I’m still working for him. To me the Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organization… we’d be nowhere.”

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Willie Lee Perryman 7/1985

July 25, 1985 – Willie Lee Perryman was  born October 19, 1911 on a farm in Hampton, Georgia, where his parents Ada and Henry Perryman sharecropped. He was part of a large family, though sources differ on exactly how many brothers and sisters he had. Perryman was an albino African American, as was his older brother Rufus, who also had a blues piano career as “Speckled Red”.
When Perryman was six years old, his father gave up farming and moved the family to Atlanta to work in a factory. Not much is known about Perryman’s education or early life, but he recalled that his mother bought a piano for her two albino sons. Both brothers had very poor vision, an effect of their albinism, so neither took formal music lessons, but they developed their barrelhouse style (a loud percussive type of blues piano suitable for noisy bars or taverns) through playing by ear. Perryman sometimes recalled imitating Rufus’s style after watching him play, but it is doubtful that his brother was a major influence. Rufus, nineteen years older than Perryman, left Georgia in 1925 and did not return until a 1960 visit. Another influence that Perryman cited in interviews was Fats Waller, whose records his mother brought home. Other influences were likely the local blues pianists playing at “house” or “rent” parties, which were common community fund-raisers of that era.

His performing and recording careers emerged during the period of transition from completely segregated “race music”, to “rhythm and blues”, which was marketed to white audiences. Some music historians credit Perryman’s 1950 recording “Rocking With Red” for the popularization of the term rock and roll in Atlanta. His simple, hard-pounding left hand and his percussive right hand, coupled with his cheerful shout, brought him considerable success over three decades.

By the early 1930s, Perryman was playing at house parties, juke joints, and barrelhouses in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. He developed his percussive playing style and harsh singing style to compensate for the lack of sound systems and to overcome the noise of people talking in venues. He worked these circuits with other Georgia bluesmen, including Barbecue Bob, Charlie Hicks, Curley Weaver, and “Blind Willie” McTell.

Perryman married in the early 1930s, and he and his wife Flora had two daughters. He obtained seasonal employment performing in Brevard, North Carolina, a mountain resort town, and commuted back and forth between there and Atlanta. The Brevard job brought him before white audiences; by 1934 he had also begun to play at white clubs in Atlanta. In Atlanta he would play at a white club until midnight and then head over to an African American club, where he would play until 4 am. Perryman developed a repertoire of pop standards, which were more popular among the white audiences, while continuing his blues sets in the African American clubs.

Around 1936 he began to be billed as ‘Piano Red’, and made his first recordings with McTell in Augusta for Vocalion Records, although these were never released. He also began working as an upholsterer, a trade which he occasionally maintained through later years.

In 1950, after spending the previous 14 years upholstering and playing music on weekends, Perryman recorded “Rockin’ with Red” and “Red’s Boogie” at the WGST radio studios in Atlanta for RCA Victor. Both songs became national hits, reaching numbers five and three respectively on the Billboard R&B chart, and “Rockin’ with Red” has since been covered many times under many titles. This success, along with further hits “The Wrong Yo Yo” (allegedly written by Speckled Red), “Laying The Boogie” and “Just Right Bounce”, allowed him to resume an active performing schedule. He also recorded sessions in New York City and Nashville during the early 1950s.

Red played for white teenagers’ high school parties in peoples homes in Atlanta. You would arrange for him to be picked up at his home and returned and providing a “bottle” of booze for him as well as a very nominal fee.

During the mid-1950s Perryman also worked as a disc jockey on radio stations WGST and WAOK in Atlanta, broadcasting ‘The Piano Red Show’ (later ‘The Dr. Feelgood Show’) directly from a small shack in his back yard. A young James Brown made an appearance on his show in the late 1950s. Perryman’s involvement had him appearing on a flatbed truck in many parades, which led to his song “Peachtree Parade”. From the mid-1950s until the late 1960s, he recorded for several record labels, including Columbia, for whom he made several records, Checker, for whom he recorded eight sides with Willie Dixon on bass, and Groove Records, a subsidiary of RCA Victor, producing the first hit for that label.

His most famous one was  Dr. Feelgood, not to be confused with Motley Crüe’s hit, which became the first to hit the pop music charts.

Signed to Okeh Records in 1961, Perryman began using the name Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, releasing several hits, including the much-covered “Doctor Feelgood”. The persona was one he had initially adopted on his radio shows. The new career was short-lived, though, and Piano Red was never able to regain his former stature. In 1963, The Merseybeats recorded a cover of the b-side of “Doctor Feelgood,” titled “Mr. Moonlight” (written by Roy Lee Johnson) as the B-side of their UK top 5 hit I Think of You. It was also recorded by the Beatles and appeared on the album Beatles for Sale in the United Kingdom and on the Beatles ’65 album in the United States. In 1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful recorded his song “Bald Headed Lena” on their second album, Daydream.

Perryman continued to be a popular performer in Underground Atlanta, and had several European tours late in his career, including appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s inauguration, and on BBC Radio. During this time, he was befriended by Bill Wyman, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney, and Pete Ham of Badfinger wrote a song in his honor.

When Muhlenbrink’s Saloon closed in 1979, Perryman found himself without a regular job. That lasted until 1981, when he was hired to perform five nights a week at The Excelsior Mill in Atlanta. In 1984, he asked co-owner Michael Reeves to arrange a live recording and Reeves arranged for a mobile recording in October of that year.

In 1985, the same year that he was diagnosed with cancer, Red charted the song “Yo Yo”, a duet with Danny Shirley, who would later become lead singer of Confederate Railroad.

Perryman died on July 25, 1985 at Dekalb General Hospital in Decatur, Georgia. Among those who attended his funeral were the Governor of Georgia and the Mayor of Atlanta.

• The tapes from the Excelsior Mill remained in Reeves’s possession for twenty-five years. In April 2010, he formed a partnership with author and producer David Fulmer to release a CD of the recording under the title The Lost Atlanta Tapes. The CD was released by Landslide Records on August 17, 2010.
• Piano Red’s song “Dr Feelgood” was covered by several UK beat groups including The Beatles, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, who used it as the b-side to their 1964 single, “Always and Ever”.


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Soeur Sourire 3/1985

Soeur SourireMarch 29, 1985 – The Singing Nun or Soeur Sourire in her native Belgium, was born Jeanine Deckers on October 17, 1933.

When entering the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium she became Sister Luc Gabriel. She became internationally famous in 1963 as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song “Dominique”.

In the English speaking world, she is mostly referred to as “The Singing Nun”. She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

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Gordon Huntley 3/1985

gordonhMarch 7, 1985 – Gordon Huntley (Southern Comfort) was born in 1930. Nicknamed The Governor, he played steel pedal with the Hawaiian Serenaders on a triple neck Fender lap steel. In 1959 he progressed  on to ‘pedal’ steel by adding a pedal to his guitar made out of a tractor accelerator pedal and bicycle brake cable.

He started his long career out on the road with Felix Mendelssohn & his Hawaiian Serenaders, and by the late 50’s before pedals were standard in the UK, Gordon was playing a triple-neck Fender non-pedal guitar.

Later he took over from Jeff Newman in his band ‘The Westernaires’, made up of U.S. Servicemen when Jeff returned to the States in 1963. By this time he had built himself one pedal onto his steel! Soon after he got himself his first model, a six pedal. Around this time Gordon also teamed up with Nigel Dennis (a Newbury solicitor)  to manufacture Denley steel guitars (DENnis-huntLEY) however they were not without problems when Gordon lent on it at a gig and a leg sheared off!

By 1970 Gordon had joined to Ian Mathews’ Southern Comfort and was able to buy his first ZB Custom from friend Eric Snowball of ‘The Steel Mill’ in Maidstone, Kent, using the royalties from the single ‘Woodstock’ (which reached N0 1 in the UK charts that year). The group debuted with Frog City, in 1971, which was followed up by self-titled release and Stir Don’t Shake in 1972. Gordon played on all Southern Comforts albums and singles.

The beautiful velvet tones of his steel on their No.1 hit ‘Woodstock’ was probably an introduction and inspiration to many guitarists and future pedal steel guitarists.

From then on his steel sound could be heard on recordings by names such as  Iain Matthews, Elton John, Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart, Clodagh Rogers, Barbara Dickson, The Pretty Things, Pilot,Marc Ellington, Bridget Saint Paul, Cliff Richard, Pete Green, Demis Roussos, John Renbourn, Al Jones, Fairport Convention and many others. Gordon was known as the Father of British Pedal Steel guitaring.As well as all the bands he has been a member of he became a much in-demand session player in both the studio and out on the road, which he preferred,

Gordon died at the age of 55 on March 7, 1985 from complications of cancer.

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David Byron 2/1985

David ByronFebruary 28, 1985 – David Byron (Uriah Heep) was born David Garrick on January 29, 1947 in Essex, England.  His entire family had music in the veins. His mother was  singing in a Jazzband and everybody played a instrument or was tap dancing. Early on he tried to get famous through a children’s TV show and his first band had no name, did no gig’s and lasted exactly 2 weeks. When he was 16 a local band offered him a job. He did one gig with them, but then joined the Epping based semi-pro band of Mick Box which was called The Stalkers. They had fired their vocalist and at the audition he had to sing Johnny B. Goode. He was hired right away.

Byron and Box worked well together and teamed up to form the band Spice which also featured Paul Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums. The band gigged extensively locally under the management of Paul Newtons father and they secured a recording deal with United Artists who issued the bands one and only single “What About The Music/In Love” copies of which now fetch around $50 to $100 on the collectors market.

Although Spice regularly played venues like the Marquee it wasn’t until they met up with manager Gerry Bron that things began to happen. Deciding that the Spice sound would require keyboards they recuited keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Ken Hensley who was Paul Newton’s bandmate in The Gods. The band rehearsed and played diligently and during this time Bron redubbed the band Uriah Heep from the Charles Dickens classic David Copperfield. Shortly afterward the band’s career really took off, first in Germany, England and finally the States.

Uriah Heep recorded between 1969 to 1976 ten albums and Byron was their frontman on all of them. Gifted with a phenomenal vocal range, paired with an unparalleled sense of dynamics & charismatic stage presence, he became one of rock’s premier frontman.

Their first (which had originally been slated as a Spice release which becomes apparent after listening to “The Lansdowne Tapes”, “Very ‘eavy Very ‘Umble”, “Salisbury”, “Look At Yourself”, “Demons And Wizards”, “The Magician’s Birthday”, “Live” (also known amongst fans as “Friday Night In Birmingham”, “Sweet Freedom”, “Wonderworld”, “Return To Fantasy”, “High And Mighty”. During these six years David Byron gained a reputation with his operatic vocals and harmonies as one of the best rock vocalists and frontmen in the world.

In 1975 Byron released his first solo album, “Take No Prisoners” which also featured fellow heep members Mick Box, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake. But unfortunatly for Byron and sadly for the fans, he’d also gained a reputation for hard drinking which eventually led to him being asked to leave the band because of his increasingly erratic behavior due to alcohol abuse. This happened at the end of a Spanish tour in July 1976. Fellow band member Ken Hensley said at that time, “David was one of those classic people who couldn’t face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle.”

Determined to get his career going again Byron teamed up with former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and former Wings drummer Geoff Britton to form Rough Diamond. They recorded one self titled LP in March 1977. Unfortunately the album sold poorly and Byron split.

Teaming up with multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Daniel Boone and recruiting some in-demand session musicians (including famed drummer Stuart Elliot), Byron secured a deal with Arista Records and released his second solo album “Baby Faced Killer” and the single “Rich Mans Lady/ All In Your Mind”. Again, neither gained commercial success.

In 1980 Uriah Heep invited him back in the band, but he refused.

Next Byron got together with wonderkid guitarist Robin George and formed The Byron Band. They were signed to Creole Records and debuted with the single “Every Inch Of The Way/Routine”. This was followed by the single “Never Say Die/Tired Eyes” before the release of the 1981 LP “On The Rocks”. But like his previous band Rough Diamond, neither critical nor commercial acclaim was forthcoming. The Byron Band recorded 3 albums, 2 of which were not released till the 2000s, “Lost And Found” released 2003 and “One Minute More” released 2008.

Sadly, Byron never recovered from his alcoholism which steadily grew worse and after one too many unprofessional stage disappointments (he collapsed drunk on stage at the Marquee shortly into his set) and he was pretty much left washed up. Alcohol eventually overcame David Byron. He was found dead on February 28th 1985 and like all great stars of his magnitude, he was taken from us too soon. However, he left behind a vast catalog of material of both Uriah Heep and his own solo material which will ensure that the memory and music of David Byron lives on.