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Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

Paul JeffreysDecember 21, 1988 – Paul Avron Jeffreys was born on February 13, 1952. Paul grew up above his parents dry cleaning shop in East Ham, London.

On bass, he was a starting member of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and played on the first two Cockney Rebel albums titled, “The Human Menagerie” and “The Psychomodo”. Continue reading Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

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Roy Orbison 12/1988

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

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

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Roy Buchanan 8/1988

Roy Buchanan Guitar virtuosoAugust 14, 1988 – Leroy “Roy” Buchanan was born on September 23rd 1939 in Ozark, Arkansas and was raised there and in Pixley, California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas and a farm laborer in California.

His first musical memories were of racially mixed revival meetings he attended with his mother Minnie. “Gospel,” he recalled, “that’s how I first got into black music.” He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while learning to play his instrument (though he later claimed his aptitude derived from being “half-wolf”). He initially showed talent on steel guitar before switching to guitar in the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis’s rhythm and blues revue.

In 1958, Buchanan made his recording debut with Dale Hawkins, including playing the solo on “My Babe” for Chicago’s Chess Records. Two years later, during a tour through Toronto, Buchanan left Dale Hawkins to play for his cousin Ronnie Hawkins and tutor Ronnie’s guitar player, Robbie Robertson. Buchanan plays bass on the Ronnie Hawkins single, “Who Do You Love?”. Buchanan soon returned to the U.S. and Ronnie Hawkins’ group later gained fame as The Band.

By the dawn of the ’60s, Buchanan had relocated once more, this time to Canada, where he signed on with rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. The bass player of Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks, studied guitar with Buchanan during his tenure with the band. Upon Buchanan’s exit, the bassist-turned-guitarist would become the leader of the group, which would eventually become popular roots rockers the Band: Robbie Robertson.

In 1961 he released “Mule Train Stomp”, his first single for Swan, featuring rich guitar tones. Buchanan’s 1962 recording with drummer Bobby Gregg, nicknamed “Potato Peeler,” first introduced the trademark Buchanan “pinch” harmonic. An effort to cash in on the British Invasion caught Buchanan with the British Walkers. Buchanan spent the ’60s as a sideman with obscure acts, as well as working as a session guitarist for such varied artists as pop idol Freddy Cannon, country artist Merle Kilgore, and drummer Bobby Gregg, among others, before Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C., area in the mid- to late ’60s and founded his own outfit, the Snakestretchers. Despite not having appeared on any recordings of his own, word of Buchanan’s exceptional playing skills began to spread among musicians as he received accolades from the likes of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Merle Haggard, as well as supposedly being invited to join the Rolling Stones at one point (which he turned down).In the mid-1960s, Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C. area, playing for Danny Denver’s band for many years while acquiring a reputation as “...one of the very finest rock guitarists around”.

Reputedly Jimi Hendrix would not take up the challenge of a ‘pick-off’ with Roy. The facts behind that claim are that in March 1968 a photographer friend, John Gossage gave Buchanan tickets to a concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Washington Hilton. Buchanan reportedly was dismayed to find his own trademark sounds, like the wah-wah that he’d painstakingly produced with his hands and his Telecaster, was created by electronic pedals. He could never attempt Hendrix’s stage show, and this realization refocused him on his own quintessentially American roots-style guitar picking.

Gossage recalls how Roy was very impressed by the Hendrix 1967 debut album Are You Experienced?, which was why he made sure to give Roy a ticket to the early show at the Hilton. Gossage went backstage to take photos and tried to convince Jimi to go and see Roy at the Silver Dollar that night after the show, but Jimi seemed more interested in hanging out with the young lady who was backstage with him. Gossage confirms Hendrix never showed up at the Silver Dollar, but he did talk to Roy about seeing the Hilton show. That same night at the Silver Dollar, Roy did several Hendrix numbers and “from that point on, had nothing but good things to say about Hendrix”. He later released recordings of the Hendrix composition “If 6 Was 9” and the Hendrix hit “Hey Joe” (written by Billy Roberts).

At the end of the 1960s, with a growing family, Buchanan left the professional music industry for a while to learn a trade and trained as a hairdresser. In the early ’70s, Roy Buchanan performed extensively in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area with the Danny Denver Band, which had a large following in the area. He became widely appreciated as a solo act in the DC area at this time.

Buchanan’s life changed in 1971, when he gained national notice as the result of an hour-long PBS television documentary. Entitled Introducing Roy Buchanan, and sometimes mistakenly called The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, it earned a record deal with Polydor Records and praise from John Lennon and Merle Haggard, besides an alleged invitation to join the Rolling Stones which he turned down and which gave him the nickname “the man who tumbled the stones down”. In 1977 he appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits during Season 2. Buchanan spent the remainder of the decade issuing solo albums, including such guitar classics as his 1972 self-titled debut (which contained one of Buchanan’s best-known tracks, “The Messiah Will Come Again”), 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For, and 1975’s Live Stock, before switching to Atlantic for several releases. But by the ’80s, Buchanan had grown disillusioned by the music business due to the record company’s attempts to mold him into a more mainstream artist, which led to a four-year exile from music between 1981 and 1985.

Buchanan vowed never to enter a studio again unless he could record his own music his own way. Four years later, Alligator Records coaxed Buchanan back into the studio.

His first album for Alligator, When a Guitar Plays the Blues, was released in the spring of 1985. It was the first time he had total artistic freedom in the studio. The album entered Billboard’s pop charts and remained on the charts for 13 weeks.  His second Alligator LP, Dancing on the Edge (with vocals on three tracks by Delbert McClinton), was released in the fall of 1986. The album also charted, on the Billboard album chart for 8 weeks. He released the twelfth and last album of his career, Hot Wires, in 1987.

Although playing a number of guitars, he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster guitar nicknamed “Nancy”, the one he used to produce his trebly signature tone

But just as his career seemed to be on the upswing once more, tragedy struck on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was picked up by police in Fairfax, VA, for public intoxication. Shortly after being arrested and placed in a holding cell, a policeman performed a routine check on Buchanan and was shocked to discover that he had hung himself in his cell. Buchanan’s stature as one of blues-rock’s all-time great guitarists grew even greater after his tragic death, resulting in such posthumous collections as Sweet Dreams: The Anthology, Guitar on Fire: The Atlantic Sessions, Deluxe Edition, and 20th Century Masters and the live When a Telecaster Plays the Blues, which appeared in 2009. He was 48 at the time of his death.

Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, Arlen Roth, and Jeff Beck. Beck dedicated his version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from Blow by Blow to him. His work is said to “stretch the limits of the electric guitar,” and he is praised for “his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock ‘n’ roll.” Danny Gatton, who was also features as “the World’s Greatest Unknown Guitar Player”, committed suicide in 1994.

In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of “Sweet Dreams,” from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the “50 Greatest Tones of All Time.” In the same year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers’ poll. Roy is the subject of Freddy Blohm’s song “King of a Small Room.”

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Pete Drake 7/1988

July 29, 1988 – Pete Drake was born Roddis Franklin Drake October 8th 1932 in Augusta, Georgia. The son of a Pentecostal minister, Drake began his music career with his siblings in the Drake Brothers band. His bother Jack went on to join Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadors for 25 years. Inspired by the Opry’s steel great Jerry Byrd he saved and bought himself a steel guitar for $38 in a pawn shop.

Drake’s melodic steel guitar playing made him one of Atlanta’s top young instrumentalists. He joined with future stars Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller and Joe South, in a mid-’50s band. Although this group failed to record, it provided Drake with the impetus to move to Nashville in 1959.

He recorded first for Starday before signing up to the new Mercury based Smash label. He played on many Nashville country/pop sessions for the likes of Don Gibson, The Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins. Pete had a pop Top 30 hit, “Forever” in 1964 (credited to “Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar”), and recorded albums of country covers, his own tunes and experimental styles like his “talking guitar”. More often his trademark mellow toned steel guitar was used to strengthen albums by other artists.

He played on many crossover country/pop hits such as Lynn Anderson’s (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, Charlie Rich’s Behind Closed Doors, and Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. He became a cult name in the modern rock era by playing on sessions for Bob Dylan ( John Wesley Harding , Nashville Skyline & Self Portrait)), Ringo Starr (Beaucoups Of Blues, produced by Pete) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass)

Interview with Pete Drake

Nashville pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake is truly a phenomenon. Not only has he been the man behind hundreds of country music hits, but through his recordings with Elvis Presley, George Harrison and Bob Dylan, is singlehandedly responsible for opening the entire pop and rock field to the sounds of the pedal steel.
Pete was born in Georgia forty years ago, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he began playing steel guitar. Like so many before and since, Drake was inspired by the sounds of Jerry Byrd at the Grand Ole Opry. Pete then spotted a lap steel guitar in an Atlanta pawn shop, saved his money and bought it for the vast sum of $38.00.

What kind was it?
A Supro; a little, single-neck like you hold in your lap. I tried to play like Jerry Byrd. I guess most of the steel players today started off the same way. He has really been fantastically influential. So I fooled around with that thing for six months or a year, and got a chance to do a couple of fill-in things on an Atlanta TV station when somebody’d be sick.
Did you have any formal training on steel?
I took one lesson, but I’d get records and sit around playing to them. That’s how I really got started. This was around ’49 or ’50. Then when Bud Isaacs came out with a pedal guitar on “Slowly” by Webb Pierce, that shocked everybody, wondering how he got that sound. I guess I was the first one around Atlanta to get a pedal guitar: I had one pedal on a four-neck steel. It really looked funny. I made it myself, and it was huge, really too big to carry on the road or anything. I was playing in clubs all around Atlanta, then right after that I formed my first band.
What kind of group was that?
I had some pretty big stars working with me back then: Jerry Reed, Joe South, Doug Kershaw was playing fiddle, Roger Miller was playing fiddle with me, and country singer Jack Greene was playing drums. And we got fired because we weren’t any good! I was on television in Atlanta for three and a half years, but we kind of wore ourselves out, so I decided to move to Nashville.
Why Nashville?
Roger Miller had come on to Nashville, and I had a brother there, Jack, who played bass with Ernest Tubb for 24 years. Jack died last year. At first Jack didn’t want me to come, because the steel guitar was kind of dead then, in 1959. Everybody was trying to go pop. They was putting strings and horns on Webb Pierce records, and nobody was using steel guitar. So I starved to death the first year and a half. Then I worked with Don Gibson a while, then Marty Robbins.

When did you begin getting record session work?
I guess what really got me in was the “Pete Drake style” on the C6th tuning. When I first came up here everybody thought it was square, so I quit playing like that and started playing like everybody else. Then one night on the Opry, just for kicks, I went back to my own style for one tune behind Carl and Pearl Butler. Roy Drusky was on Decca then, and he come up to me and said, “Hey, you’ve come up with a new style. I’m recording tomorrow, and I want you with me.” So I cut this session with him, and the word kind of got out that I had this new style (actually, it was the same thing I’d been playing for years in Atlanta, but it was new in Nashville). That month I did 24 sessions, and it’s been like that ever since. That was in the middle of 1960, and that first record was “I Don’t Believe You Love Me Any More,” a number one record. Then I recorded “Before This Day Ends” with George Hamilton, and it, too, became number one. I just couldn’t do anything wrong there for a long time.
How did your “Talking Guitar” thing come about?
Well, everybody wanted this style of mine, but I sort of got tired of it. I’d say, “Hey, let me try and come up with something new,” and they’d say, “Naw, I want you to do what you did on So-and-so’s record.” Now, I’d been trying to make something for people who couldn’t talk, who’d lost their voice. I had some neighbors who were deaf and dumb, and I thought it would be nice if they could talk. So I saw this old Kay Kayser movie, and Alvino Rey was playing the talking guitar. I thought, “Man, if he can make a guitar talk, surely I can make people talk.” So I worked on it for about five years, and it was so simple that I went all around it, you know, like we usually do.
How did the talking guitar work?
You play the notes on the guitar and it goes through the amplifier. I have a driver system so that you disconnect the speakers and the sound goes through the driver into a plastic tube. You put the tube in the side of your mouth then form the words with your mouth as you play them. You don’t actually say a word: The guitar is your vocal chords, and your mouth is the amplifier. It’s amplified by a microphone.
When did you first use it on records?
With Roger Miller. He had a record called “Lock, Stock And Teardrops,” on RCA Victor, but it didn’t hit. Then I used it on Jim Reeves’ “I’ve Enjoyed As Much Of This As I Can Stand.” I really thought I’d used the gimmick up by the time Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy of Mercury Records wanted to record me. I had already recorded for Starday [a Mercury label] some straight steel things like “For Pete’s Sake,” but I went ahead and cut a song called “Forever” on the talking thing. It came out, and for about two months didn’t do a thing; then, all of a sudden, it cut loose and sold a million. So then I was known as the “Talking Steel Guitar Man,” and did several albums for Smash, which is a subsidiary of Mercury.
Do you still use the Talking Guitar?
Now I’m back into producing a lot of records, and not using it much. I’ve been so busy recording everybody else, I haven’t had time to record myself.

Tell us about your experiences getting into the pop field with the pedal steel.
You know, the steel wasn’t accepted in pop music until I had cut with people like Elvis Presley and Joan Baez. But the kids, themselves, didn’t accept it until I cut with Bob Dylan. After that I guess they figured steel was all right. I did the John Wesley Harding album, then Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait. Bob Dylan really helped me an awful lot. I mean, by having me play on those records he just opened the door for the pedal steel guitar, because then everybody wanted to use one. I was getting calls from all over the world. One day my secretary buzzed me and said, “George Harrison wants you on the phone.” And I said, “Well, where’s he from?” She said, “London.” And I said: “Well, what company’s he with?” She said, “The Beatles.” The name, you know, just didn’t ring any bells-well, I’m just a hillbilly, you know (laughter). Anyway, I ended up going to London for a week where we did the album All Things Must Pass.
Is that how Ringo came into it?
Ringo Starr asked me to produce him, so I told him I would if he’d come to Nashville, so he did and cut a country album which was really fantastic. It was good for Nashville, and, you know, I really wanted Nashville to get credit for it. Those guys, Ringo and George Harrison, really dig country music. And they’re fine people, too, just out of sight.

What kind of instrument do you play now?
Since I came to Nashville I have been playing Sho-Bud guitars and Standel amplifiers. I have some Sho-Bud amps, too. I’ve got four different guitars that I use with different artists. I try to change my sound around so it doesn’t seem like the same musicians on each record. I was looking in the trades the other day, and found that I was on 59 of the top 75 records in “Billboard.”
How about different tunings?
Yeah, I change a little. All my guitars have a little bit different pedals, enough to keep me confused. I, and just about everybody in Nashville, use basically the E9th with the chromatic strings and the C6th with a high G string. But everybody has their own pedal setups. I’ve got one pedal I call my Tammy Wynette pedal that I use with her; and I cut a hit with Johnny Rodriguez recently, “Pass Me By,” so I got me a Johnny Rodriguez pedal, too (laughter). If something hits big I try to save that for that particular artist.
Is your equipment modified?
My amps are just stock. As for my steels, I get Shot Jackson [of Sho-Bud in Nashville] to fix them up for me. If I want to raise or lower a string, I’ll go to him and say, “Can you do this?,” and he’ll say, “No,” then go ahead and do it. We did my Tammy Wynette pedal that way: I showed him how we could make it work with open strings, so he fixed it, and it was the most beautiful sound I every heard. So the next day we cut “I Don’t Wanna Play House” with Tammy, and it became a number one record.
You mentioned Jerry Byrd as a great inspiration, Whom else do you enjoy?
Well, there’s so many of them now, Lordy. I look at it kind of differently: There’s the recording musician and the everyday picker. They’re really not the same. A guy that’s really great on a show may not be any good at all on a session, or vice versa. For recording, I think Lloyd Green, Weldon Myrick, Bill West and Ben Keith are fantastic. They know how to come up with that little extra lick that you need to make a song. Hal Rugg is also a good recording steel man. For really technical playing, Buddy Emmons is a fantastic musician. Curley Chalker is my favorite jazz steel player, but in the studio I’d have to go with the commercial thing because I’m trying to make a dollar.

You know, you can play over country people’s heads, and I don’t think they’re ready for the jazz thing. I mean I like to listen to it, but it’s “musicians’ music,” and musicians don’t buy records (laughter).
What do you think is the future of the steel guitar and country music?
Right now something is happening that I’ve wanted to happen for a long time: Music’s coming together. It’s not country music, it’s not pop music, it’s music. Somebody said there’s only two kinds of music-good and bad. I like a little bit of it all.

Pete produced albums for hundreds of musicians, and founded Stop Records and First Generation Records. In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars and the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1987

He lost a 3 year battle with emphysema on July 29, 1988 at the age of 56.

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Nico 7/1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

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

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

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

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

Desertshore is essentially Marble Index II: Teutonic Boogaloo, somehow even starker than Index. Cale again relies on the harmonium for musical weight, layering it into towering, droning waves. Nico still sounds pretty much like death chilled over, but that’s kind of her thing, and it’s still quite beautiful if you’re the type who drinks his Celine straight.

The End is as strange and removed an album as the ’70s could have spawned. Produced again by Cale (complete with some vocals and about a billion instruments by him) and featuring Roxy Music’s Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera. Guitar and piano textures flicker in and out, muffled instrumental screams flicker in and out, and over it all is Nico’s stately manner. The only thing preventing this obelisk from unreservedly rolling into the avant-rock canon is her wretched yet brilliantly revealing taste in covers. Nico closes the album with a reading of the Doors’ “The End” so straight-faced and melodramatic as to render Jim Morrison’s by-that-time already overwrought Freudian bullshit totally comic. Far less cute (though somehow not as annoying) is a monolithic, droning take on “Das Lied der Deutschen” (or “Deutschland Uber Alles”). Perhaps The End is Nico’s most totally idiosyncratic album: creepy, morally suspect, and occasionally inadvertently funny as hell; it fit her like a velvet glove cast in onyx. (The Classic Years draws on all of these albums for a very handy sampler.)

Fascinating, then, that when she returned to rock in 1981, she dismissed her earlier work as “really boring” (a sentiment many might totally agree with). It was the perfect time for the ice queen to thaw, as bands like Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Sisters of Mercy were stealing her moves. So, no surprise that Drama of Exile pairs her with a thin new-wave band that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on, say, Rough Trade. The tighter material is strange after so much ambience, but her lyrics are still intriguing reflections on the doom of it, all and her taste in covers has gotten much better: She tries to slay the father (or ex-boyfriend) on VU’s “Waiting for the Man,” and Bowie’s “Heroes” gets a charged, jumpy makeover, and, yes, her accent sells it brilliantly. (Maybe the Wallflowers should have tried doing the German version . . . uh, never mind.) Camera Obscura, from 1985, is her final studio album and only available as an import.

Before the CD era, Do or Die was the closest thing to a hits package Nico’s cult ever got, a set of live tunes from various shows, many with the live band from her 1982 European tour. But thanks to that same CD era, there are a bunch of somewhat exploitative and totally inessential live albums that fall in and out of print, most of them available on import. Each has some nice moments, but there’s a lot of studio product to get through before anyone needs to dig this deep. Live Heroes drones through six songs, including the Bowie tune and “My Funny Valentine.” Chelsea Girls/Live is a brutally misleading title for an set of live ’80s synth stuff. Icon appends the interesting “Vegas/Saeta” 7-inch with some Drama of Exile outtakes and some live material. Solid. Fata Morgana is, as you might expect, from 1988, as she moved back to drones. Nico died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 18, 1988. The goth nation has yet to declare this cruel day some sort of holiday, but it’s only a matter or time.

 

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Hillel Slovak 6/1988

hillel-slovakJune 25, 1988 – Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) was born on April 13, 1962 in Haifa, Israel. His family, holocaust survivors, emigrated to America when Hillel was four settling in Queens, New York, then in 1967 relocated to Southern California.

As a child, Slovak developed an interest in art, and would often spend time painting with his mother, Esther. He attended Laurel Elementary School in West Hollywood and Bancroft Jr. High School in Hollywood, where he met future bandmates Jack Irons and Michael “Flea” Balzary. Slovak received his first guitar at age 13 as a bar mitzvah present, and would often play the instrument into the late hours of the night. During this time, he was highly influenced by hard rock music such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Kiss.

As a freshman at Fairfax High School, Slovak formed a band with Irons on drums and two other high school friends, Alain Johannes and Todd Strassman. They called their band Chain Reaction, then changed the name to Anthem after their first gig. After one of the group’s shows, Slovak met audience member Anthony Kiedis, and invited him to his house for a snack. Kiedis later described the experience in his autobiography Scar Tissue: “Within a few minutes of hanging out with Hillel, I sensed that he was absolutely different from most of the people I’d spent time with…He understood a lot about music, he was a great visual artist, and he had a sense of self and a calm about him that were just riveting.” Slovak, Kiedis and Flea became best friends and often used LSD, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine recreationally.

The original bassist for Anthem, which renamed to Anthym, was deemed unsatisfactory, so Slovak began teaching Flea to play bass. Following several months of commitment to the instrument, Flea developed proficiency and a strong musical chemistry with Slovak. When Strassman saw Flea playing Anthym songs on his equipment he quit the band, with Flea quickly replacing him. Shortly afterwards Anthym entered a local Battle of the Bands contest and won second place. Anthym started to play at local nightclubs, despite the fact that the members were all underage. After graduating from high school, the band changed their name to What Is This?. Flea left Anthym around this time to accept an offer of playing bass in the prominent L.A. punk band Fear. What Is This? continued on and performed many shows along the California coast.

They next dubbed themselves “Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem”, before changing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slovak, Flea, Kiedis, and Irons started Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1982, which became popular in the Los Angeles area, playing various shows around the city.

However, Slovak quit the band to focus on What is This?, a side project which had gotten a record deal, leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers to record their debut album without him. He rejoined the Chili Peppers in 1985, and recorded the albums Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan with the band.

Hillel’s work was one of the major contributing factors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early sound. He was also a huge influence on a young John Frusciante, who would later replace him as guitarist in the band.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers quickly gathered a following in L.A. with a high-energy stage act that caused quite a stir when the bandmembers would hit the stage in nothing but a sock strategically covering a certain part of their anatomy. But on a darker note, it was around this time that Slovak began to experiment with heroin. After Slovak and Irons decided to return to the Peppers full-time, the result became the 1985 George Clinton-produced Freaky Styley.

While it didn’t exactly storm the charts, the album and its subsequent tour made the Peppers popular with the alternative/college rock crowd. 1987 saw the Peppers issue their best and most focused work, Uplift Mofo Party Plan, which inched the band even closer to mainstream success, as the album appeared on the lower reaches of the Billboard album chart.

What should have been an exciting time for Slovak and the band turned to tragedy on June 25, 1988, when Slovak died from a heroin overdose. Devastated, the band contemplated disbanding, but Kiedis and Flea decided to carry on (Irons opted to bow out) — with Slovak-disciple John Frusciante filling the late guitarist’s shoes, and another newcomer, Chad Smith, taking over the drum spot. 1989’s Mother’s Milk was dedicated to Slovak and included one of his paintings as part of the album artwork (as well as one of the last tracks Slovak ever recorded with the Peppers — an incendiary cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”). He was 26.

The album was a surprise hit, which led to the band becoming one of rock’s top dogs by the ’90s. Slovak was also the subject of the Peppers songs “Knock Me Down” (from Mother’s Milk) and “My Lovely Man” (off 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik), while the 1994 odds and ends release Out in L.A. collected early Peppers demos, many of which prominently featured the guitar wizardry of Slovak. Hillel Slovak’s younger brother, James, published the book Behind the Sun: The Diary and Art of Hillel Slovak in 1999 and accepted the honors in 2012, when the band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Jesse Ed Davis 6/1988

jesse-ed-davisJune 22, 1988 – Jesse Edwin Davis  was born on September 21, 1944 in Norman, Oklahoma. His father, Jesse Ed Davis II, was Muscogee Creek and Seminole while his mother’s side was Kiowa. He graduated from Northeast High School in 1962. He earned a degree in literature from the University of Oklahoma before beginning his musical career touring with Conway Twitty in the early ’60s. Eventually the guitarist moved to California, joining bluesman Taj Mahal and playing guitar and piano on his first three albums. It was with Mahal that Davis was able to showcase his skill and range, playing slide, lead, and rhythm, country, and even jazz guitar, also making an appearance with the band as a musical guest in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

The period backing Mahal was the closest Davis came to being in a band full-time, and after Mahal’s 1969 album Giant Step, he went on to work closely with ex-Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, playing guitar on several of their solo albums. He released his first solo album the self-titled album Jesse Davis in 1971. Davis also began doing session work for such diverse acts as David Cassidy, Albert King, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Keith Moon, Jackson Browne, Steve Miller, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and others. In addition, he also released three solo albums featuring industry friends such as Leon Russell and Eric Clapton.

Prone to addictions, Davis disappeared from the music industry for a time, spending much of the ’80s dealing with alcohol and drug addiction.  Davis resurfaced playing in the Graffiti Band in late 1986, which coupled his music with the poetry of American Indian activist John Trudell. The kind of expert, tasteful playing that Davis always brought to an album is sorely missed among the acts he worked with.

Jesse Ed Davis was perhaps the most versatile session guitarist of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Whether it was blues, country, or rock, Davis’ tasteful guitar playing was featured on albums by such giants as Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, and John Lee Hooker, among others. It is Davis’ weeping slide heard on Clapton’s “Hello Old Friend” (from No Reason to Cry), and on both Rock n’ Roll and Walls & Bridges, it is Davis who supplied the bulk of the guitar work for ex-Beatle Lennon.

In the Spring of ’87, The Graffiti Band performed with Taj Mahal at the Palomino Club, and George Harrison, Bob Dylan and John Fogerty rose from the audience to join Jesse and Taj Mahal in an unrehearsed set which included Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” and Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” and “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Peggy Sue”, “Honey Don’t”, “Matchbox”, and “Gone, Gone, Gone”.

He tragically died of a suspected drug overdose on June 22, 1988 at the age of 43.

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Jimmy Soul 6/1988

jimmy-soulJune 15, 1988 – Jimmy Soul was born James Louis McCleese on August 24th 1942 in Weldon, North Carolina. At the age of 7 he became a preacher and performed gospel music as a teenager, becoming known locally as “the Wonder Boy.” He acquired his name, “Soul,” from his congregation.

Jimmy had two chart hits in the 60s with “Twistin’ Matilda” and the Billboard Hot 100 No.1 hit “If You Wanna Be Happy” which also charted in the UK. That song, with its upbeat, vibrant Caribbean sound, was a huge success and prompted Soul to try to re-create the success of his hit with some fairly derivative West Indian songs such as “Treat ‘Em Tough” and “A Woman Is Smarter in Every Kinda Way,” but he failed to chart again.

“If You Wanna Be Happy” sold over one million records, earning gold disc status. It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.

After unsuccessfully trying to follow up the success of those songs with one more album, Soul gave up his career as a musician and joined the United States Army.

Later in life, Soul fell into a drug habit, and on January 9, 1986 was sentenced to 4 and a half to 9 years in prison as a second felony offender, convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sentence was affirmed upon appeals on October 26, 1987 and March 22, 1988.

Soul died of a presumably drug-related heart attack on June 15, 1988, aged 45.

 

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Brook Benton 4/1988

brook bentonApril 9, 1988 – Brook Benton was born Benjamin Franklin Peay on September 19th 1931 in Lugoff, South Carolina.

When Benton was young, he enjoyed gospel music, wrote songs and sang in a Methodist church choir in Lugoff, South Carolina, where his father, Willie Peay, was choir master. In 1948, he went to New York to pursue his music career, going in and out of gospel groups, such as The Langfordaires, The Jerusalem Stars and The Golden Gate Quartet. Returning to his home state, he joined a R&B singing group, The Sandmen, and went back to New York to get a big break with his group. The Sandmen had limited success and their label, Okeh Records, decided to push Peay as a solo artist, changing his name to Brook Benton, apparently at the suggestion of label executive Marv Halsman.

Brook earned a good living by writing songs and co-producing albums. He wrote songs for artists such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter (for whom he co-wrote the hit “A Lover’s Question”) and Roy Hamilton. He eventually released his first minor hit, “A Million Miles from Nowhere”, before switching to the Mercury label, which would eventually bring him major success. He also appeared in the 1957 film, Mr Rock And Roll with Alan Freed.

His silky smooth tones was popular with rock n roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he scored hits such as “It’s Just A Matter Of Time”, “Hotel Happiness”, “Think Twice”, “Kiddio”, “The Boll Weevil Song” and “Endlessly”, many of which he co-wrote.

He made a comeback in 1970 with the ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia“. Brook eventually charted 49 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with other songs charting on Billboard’s rhythm and blues, easy listening, and Christmas music charts, as well as writing hits for other performers such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter, and Roy Hamilton.

Weakened from spinal meningitis, Brook died of pneumonia in Queens, New York City, at the age of 56 on April 9, 1988.

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Dave Prater 4/1988

Dave PraterApril 9, 1988 – Dave Prater (Sam & Dave) was born on May 9th 1937 in Ocilla, Georgia. The seventh of ten children, Prater grew up singing gospel music in the church choir and was a veteran of the gospel group the Sensational Hummingbirds, in which he sang with his older brother, J. T. Prater.  Dave Prater met his future duo partner, Sam Moore, in the King of Hearts Club in Miami in 1961 during a talent contest. They signed to Roulette Records shortly thereafter. He was the deeper, baritone and second tenor vocalist of the duo Sam & Dave from 1961 until his death in 1988.  Sam & Dave released six singles for Roulette, including two songs that Prater co-wrote with Moore. Prater was typically featured as the lead vocalist on these records, with Moore typically singing harmony and alternate verses.

The two recorded together for several years in and around Miami, Florida, before they were finally signed to the Atlantic Records Label in 1964, but later were moved to the Stax Records Label in Memphis by music producer Jerry Wexler. The duo began working with the writing team of the talented songwriters and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter and began to release several gospel/soul type R&B hit songs including a series of Top Tens including, ‘Hold On! I’m Comin,’ You Got Me Hummin,’ ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,’ ‘Soul Man,’ and ‘I Thank You,’ all between 1966 and 1968. On the majority of recordings they were backed by Hayes on piano with Booker T & the M.G.s and the Memphis Horns. Nicknamed “Double Dynamite” for their energetic and sweaty, gospel-infused performances, Sam & Dave were also considered by critics to be one of the greatest live performing acts of the 1960s. The duo has been cited as a musical influence by numerous artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Stevie Winwood.

When Stax and Atlantic severed their distribution agreement in 1968 and as a result Sam & Dave became Atlantic recording artists and were no longer able to work with Hayes, Porter and the Stax musicians. The records made by Atlantic did not have the same sound and feel as the Stax recordings, and most only placed in the lower ends of the music charts if at all. The ending of their association with the Stax record label and their own frequently volatile relationship contributed to the break-up of the duo in June 1970.

After the break-up with Sam, Prater went back to their early Miami label, Alston Records, where he recorded one single, “Keep My Fingers Crossed” backed with “Love Business” (Alston A-4596), and also performed sporadically over the next year. They reunited in August 1971 and performed throughout most of the decade through 1981, but their previous stardom had left.

In 1980 after the success of the John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd film, “The Blues Brothers” (which was somewhat based on ‘Sam & Dave’), new interest was found in the group, and they rejoined once again to do a series of concerts. There last attempt at a reunion was a New Year’s Eve concert in 1981.

In 1982, Prater started touring with Sam Daniels. This duo was also billed as Sam & Dave. They performed together until Prater’s death in 1988. Moore attempted to legally block Prater from using the group’s name without his participation and permission, but was generally unsuccessful in stopping the act from performing. The Daniels–Prater incarnation of Sam & Dave played as many as 100 shows per year, including gigs in Europe, Japan and Canada.

In 1985, Prater and Daniels released a medley of Sam & Dave hits newly recorded in the Netherlands, which peaked at number 92 on the R&B chart and was credited to “Sam & Dave”. Moore made the label recall the single for using the “Sam & Dave” name without permission, and the record was relabelled and reissued under the name of “The New Sam & Dave Revue”.

Prater’s last performance with Daniels was on April 3, 1988, at a Stax Reunion show at the Atlanta Civic Center, which also featured Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, and Rufus and Carla Thomas. Six days later, on April 9, 1988, Prater died in a car crash in Sycamore, Georgia, while driving to his mother’s house.

He was 50 years 11 months old.

Prater is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1992), the Grammy Hall of Fame (1999, for the song “Soul Man”), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1997), and he was a Grammy Award–winning (1967) and multiple Gold Record award-winning recording artist

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Andy Gibb 3/1988

Andy Gibb (1)March 10, 1988 – Andrew Roy Gibb “Andy Gibb” was born on March 5th 1958 in Manchester, England. He was the youngest of five children of Barbara and Hugh Gibb. His mother was of Irish and English descent and his father was of Scottish and Irish descent. He has four siblings: his sister Lesley, and three brothers Barry and fraternal twins Robin and Maurice.

At the age of six months, Gibb emigrated with his family to Queensland, Australia, settling on Cribb Island just north of Brisbane. After moving several times around Brisbane and Sydney, Andy returned to the United Kingdom in January 1967 as his three older brothers began to gain international fame as the Bee Gees.

In his childhood, his mother Barbara described Gibb as “A little devil, a little monster. I’d send him off to school but he’d sneak off to the stable and sleep with his two horses all day. He’d wander back home around lunchtime smelling of horse manure, yet he’d swear he had been at school. Oh, he was a little monkey!”

He quit school at the age of 13, and with an acoustic guitar given to him by his older brother Barry, he began playing at tourist clubs around Ibiza, Spain (when his parents moved there) and later in the Isle of Man, his brothers’ birthplace, where his parents were living at the time.
In June 1974, Gibb formed his first group, Melody Fayre (named after a Bee Gees song), which included Isle of Man musicians John Alderson on guitar and John Stringer on drums. The group was managed by Andy’s mother, Barbara, and had regular bookings on the small island’s hotel circuit. Gibb’s first recording, in August 1973, was a Maurice Gibb composition, “My Father Was a Rebel”, which Maurice also produced and played on. It was not released. Another track on the session performed by him was “Windows of My World” co-written by him with Maurice.

At the urging of his brother Barry, Gibb returned to Australia in 1974. Barry believed that as Australia had been a good training ground for the Bee Gees it would also help his youngest brother. Lesley Gibb had remained in Australia, where she raised a family with her husband. Both Alderson and Stringer followed Andy to Australia with the hope of forming a band there. With Col Joye producing, Andy, Alderson and Stringer recorded a number of Andy’s compositions. The first song is a demo called “To a Girl” (with his brother Maurice playing organ), he later performed that song on his first television debut in Australia on The Ernie Sigley Show. Sigley later informed the audience that it was from Gibb’s forthcoming album, but was not appeared on any of his previous records. In November the same year, he recorded six demos including “Words and Music”, “Westfield Mansions” and “Flowing Rivers” (which was later released). That session, also produced by Joye, but the bass player on the tracks was not credited. What may have detracted from the “training ground” aspect of Australia for Andy compared to his brothers was that Andy was relatively independent financially, mainly because of his brothers’ support and their largesse, hence the group’s sporadic work rate. Andy would disappear for periods of time, leaving Alderson and Stringer out of work with no income. Despondent, Alderson and Stringer returned to the UK.

Gibb later joined the band Zenta, consisting of Gibb on vocals, Rick Alford on guitar, Paddy Lelliot on bass, Glen Greenhalgh on vocals and Trevor Norton on drums. Zenta supported international artists Sweet and the Bay City Rollers on the Sydney leg of their Australian tours. The planned single “Can’t Stop Dancing” which was a Ray Stevens song, later a US hit for duo The Captain and Tennille in May 1977 but their version was not released, although Gibb did perform it on television at least once on the revitalised Bandstand show hosted by Daryl Somers. Zenta would appear later as a backing band for Gibb, and they did not participate on Gibb’s recording sessions around 1975, that session features a remake of “Words and Music” which was, that version was released, and he also recorded a rendition of Don McLean’s “Winter Has Me in Its Grip” (not released), the backing musicians on the session was the Australian jazz fusion group Crossfire.

In late 1976 in Miami, Andy, with older brother Barry producing and recording in the famed Criteria Studios, set about making his first album, Flowing Rivers, around the same time as Eagles finishing their album Hotel California as Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh played on two songs on his first album. The first release from the album, and Gibb’s first single released outside Australia, was “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” which was written by Barry, who also provided backup vocals. It reached number one in the United States and Australia and was the most played record of the year. In Britain it was a lesser hit, just scraping into the Top 30. Eight of the ten tracks on the album were Andy Gibb compositions, mostly songs written during his time in Australia. These included a re-recording of his previous single, “Words and Music”.

He was the youngest of the Gibb brothers but he was not a member of The Bee Gees.

In September 1977 he began his career as a solo singer, following his brothers’ disco style. His first 3 singles “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” (a song co-written by Gibb and his brother Barry) and “Shadow Dancing” all reached the No.1 spot. Three more consecutive Top Ten hits followed, cementing his overnight sensation status. “Love Is Thicker Than Water” quickly became a million selling album. That single broke in early 1978 during the time that the Bee Gees’ contributions to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack were dominating the world charts. In the United States it replaced “Stayin’ Alive” at the top of the charts, and then was surpassed by “Night Fever” at number one in mid-March.

In 1979, Gibb performed along with Bee Gees, ABBA, and Olivia Newton-John (duet with “Rest Your Love on Me”), at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly which was broadcast worldwide. He returned to the studio to begin recording sessions for his final full studio album, After Dark. In March 1980, the last of Gibb’s Top Ten singles charted just ahead of the album’s release. “Desire” (written by all four Gibb brothers), was recorded for Bee Gees’ 1979 album Spirits Having Flown, and featured their original track complete with Andy’s original “guest vocal” track. A second single, “I Can’t Help It”, a duet with family friend and fellow British and Australian expat Olivia Newton-John, reached the top 20.

Later in the year, Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits was released as a finale to his contract with RSO Records, with two new songs: “Time Is Time” (number 15 in January 1981) and “Me (Without You)” (Gibb’s last top 40 chart entry) shipped as singles, before RSO founder Robert Stigwood had to let him go due to his cocaine addiction and behavioral problems. “After Dark” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” were non-single songs added to the album, the latter of which was a duet with P. P. Arnold, who had previously worked with Barry Gibb, including singing uncredited backups on “Bury Me Down by the River” from Cucumber Castle. Despite the number four “Desire,” Gibb’s streak of Top Ten hits began to slip in 1980. In 1981 the following year, he had his last Top 40 hit, “Me (Without You).”

During his relationship with actress Victoria Principal, Gibb worked on several projects outside the recording studio including performances in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway and Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in Los Angeles, California. He also co-hosted the television music show, Solid Gold, from 1980 to 1982.

Around the same time, Gibb was invited to sing the first verse on Queen’s “Play the Game” and lead singer Freddie Mercury apparently was amazed with Gibb’s abilities. According to some sources, the tape was found in 1990 in search of Queen archives for bonus tracks for CD, but was not used. Since it has not been heard by any Queen collectors, its existence is somewhat doubtful, although record producer Mack has also confirmed that the version did exist. Gibb was ultimately fired from both Dreamcoat and Solid Gold because of absenteeism caused by cocaine binges. At this time Andy turned to acting, but it did not replicate the enormous success of his recording career. Sadly he developed a massive cocaine addiction, which helped lead to his death.

His romance with Principal also ended shortly thereafter when she gave him an ultimatum to choose between her or drugs, but not before they recorded and released a duet of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in the summer of 1981. He reportedly heard her singing in the shower and convinced her to go into the studio with him. This would be Gibb’s last official single, and his last US chart entry, peaking at number 51. In 1984 and 1985 Gibb did finish two successful contracts at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.

But in early 1987, Gibb went through another drug rehabilitation program and thought he had finally beaten his habits. Gibb now aimed to get a recording contract for release of a new album in 1988. He returned to the studio in June 1987 recording four songs; one of them, “Man on Fire”, was released posthumously in 1991 on a Polydor Records anthology. Another track, “Arrow Through the Heart”, was the final song Andy would ever record and was featured on an episode of VH1’s series, Behind the Music, and released on the Bee Gees Mythology 4-disc box set in November 2010. The songs are co-written by Gibb with his brothers Barry and Maurice. Their demo recordings with engineer Scott Glasel were heard by Clive Banks from the UK branch of Island Records. Gibb never formally signed a contract but the record label planned to release a single in Europe that Spring, followed by another single that summer with the album to follow.

In early March 1988, Barry Gibb had arranged for Island in England to sign Andy, but when he went to England at the start of 1988, he panicked. Gibb missed meetings with the record company and blamed himself for his trouble writing songs. The deal was never signed

At around 8:30 am on 10 March 1988, Gibb’s doctor walked in to his room and told him that more tests were needed, to which Gibb replied, “Fine”. Later that day, he slumped into unconsciousness and died as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a viral infection (a diagnosis supported by William Shell, a cardiologist who had previously treated Gibb, which was exacerbated by his years of cocaine abuse. Robin Gibb said “he was also not eating properly and the lack of nutrition also damaged his heart”, adding that the paranoia associated with cocaine abuse “shattered his confidence and he became scared of people.” He died from the inflammation of the heart muscle at age 30.

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Divine 3/1988

Divine (1)March 7, 1988 – Divine was born as Harris Glenn Milstead on October 19th 1945. Born in Baltimore, Maryland to a conservative middle-class family, Milstead developed an early interest in drag while working as a women’s hairdresser. By the mid-1960s he had embraced the city’s countercultural scene and befriended Waters, who gave him the name “Divine” and the tagline of “the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.”

Along with his friend David Lochary, Divine joined Waters’ acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, and adopted female roles for their experimental short films Roman Candles (1966), Eat Your Makeup (1968), and The Diane Linkletter Story (1969). Again in drag, he took a lead role in both of Waters’ early full-length movies, Mondo Trasho (1969) and Multiple Maniacs (1970), the latter of which began to attract press attention for the group. Divine next starred in Waters’ Pink Flamingos (1972), which proved a hit on the U.S. midnight movie circuit, became a cult classic, and established Divine’s fame within the American counterculture.

After starring as the lead role in Waters’ next picture, Female Trouble (1974), Divine moved on to theater, appearing in several avant-garde performances alongside San Francisco drag collective, The Cockettes. He followed this with a performance in Tom Eyen’s play Women Behind Bars and its sequel, The Neon Woman. Continuing his cinematic work, he starred in two more of Waters’ films, Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988), the latter of which represented his breakthrough into mainstream cinema. Independent of Waters, he also appeared in a number of other films, such as Lust in the Dust (1985) and Trouble in Mind (1985), seeking to diversify his repertoire by playing male roles.

In 1981, Divine embarked on a career in the disco industry by producing a number of Hi-NRG tracks, most of which were written by Bobby Orlando. He achieved global chart success with hits like “You Think You’re a Man”, “I’m So Beautiful”, and “Walk Like a Man”, all of which were performed in drag.

The song ‘You Think You’re A Man’ that was hiss biggest hit, reaching number 16 in the UK charts in 1984. Divine performed this song on well-known UK music show Top Of The Pops on July 19 1984, resulting in a barrage of complaints to the BBC. He released eleven international hit dance singles, and toured the world with his solo cabaret act of disco and outrageous humor, performing over 900 times in more than 19 countries.

Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, he died from cardiomegaly at age 42 on March 7, 1988. The autopsy found he had died in his sleep of heart failure, or an enlarged heart brought on by sleep apnea. The night before he died, he had leaned over his hotel balcony and sang “Arrivederci Roma” before retiring to bed.

Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly within the LGBT community, and has provided the inspiration for fictional characters, artworks and songs. Various books and documentary films devoted to his life have also been produced, including Divine Trash (1998) and I Am Divine (2013).

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John Curulewski 2/1988

John CurulewskiFeb. 13, 1988 (Styx) – John Curulewski was born on October 3, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois. Nicknamed “JC,” was one of the original members of Styx. He joined Dennis DeYoung, the Panozzo brothers, and James Young to form TW4 in 1968, which was renamed to Styx in 1970. He played acoustic and electric guitar on the band’s first five studio albums: StyxStyx IIThe Serpent Is RisingMan of Miracles, and Equinox. He left just before the Equinox promotional tour and was replaced by Tommy Shaw.

Curulewski left Styx because he wanted to spend more time with his family and have more creative control in his future endeavors. He went on to teach guitar at the Mad Music in La Grange, Illinois,

Owned by Steve Paceli (AKA Stevie Starlight) and John Reda (formerly of Gus’s Music, in Oak Lawn), and run a recording studio aptly called “The Studio”, he also played guitar in a band called Spread Eagle, and formed the group Arctic Fox playing the Chicago area clubs. Curulewski also coached his son’s baseball team, and would go into his son’s Grammar School as a lunch supervisor; he would bring in his guitar and play it to the kids, much to their amazement.

Curulewski taught some of Chicago’s best young guitar players including Joey Mazzuca, Dave Stulgo, Russell Leach, Hector Fernandez and many more. Many of JC’s students went on to form a core group of heavy metal guitarists in Chicago. Curulewski became very active in the mentoring of young bands in the western suburbs of Chicago; not only teaching guitar but coaching on performance and supplying support for live appearances and recording.

Curulewski was 37 years old when he died on 13 February 1988 from a brain aneurysm.