November 24, 1991 – Eric “The Fox” Carr was born as Paul Caravello on July 12, 1950 in Brooklyn New York. He grew up typically post war American and by the time he was 15, while still in high school, he began playing with a string of bands mostly performing covers of Top 40 songs.
In 1970, Caravello joined the band Salt & Pepper, which started as a cover band playing music from multiple genres; the band was named that because half of the members were black and half were white. In 1973 the band changed their name to Creation, now performing disco music.
Tragedy struck in 1974 when a fire broke out during a discothèque gig at Gulliver’s restaurant in Port Chester, New York, killing dozens of people including the band’s keyboardist and lead singer. Caravello escaped and was credited with saving another person, one of the band’s female singers. It was determined that the fire had been started by a thief in an adjacent building hoping to cover his tracks.
Carr would go on with the band until 1979. They enjoyed some success, performing as an opening act for established names such as Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone. The band broke up in late 1979. He later described the band as “like my family basically for nine years.”
In December 1979, Caravello successfully auditioned for a four-piece rock ‘n’ roll cover band called Flasher. After three weeks of rehearsals, they started playing at clubs.At this point he had become discouraged about his musical future after so many years trying to make it without a break, and considered settling down with a non-musical career.”…we were making real (lousy) money – something like $10, $7 a night, whatever it was it was. Really, really terrible. Just by contrast, I used to make $15 a night when I was like 16 years old, and here I am almost 30 years old, and I’m making like $7 a night! So I wasn’t doing better, obviously – I was going in reverse, you know!
Flasher played the club circuit in New York City and Long Island for several months, before their keyboard player, Paul Turino quit; they then continued as a power trio, with the three sharing vocal duties. They played songs by Joe Jackson, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, among others.” Bookings diminished, and Caravello handed in his resignation in May 1980. At that point, he considered quitting music, having reached the age of 30 without any real success. Shortly afterwards, he had a chance meeting with Turino in a club in Queens; Turino told Caravello about Peter Criss’ departure from Kiss, and urged Caravello to audition to become Kiss’ drummer.
He did and was the last drummer to audition. A significant advantage for Caravello may have been his relative anonymity, as it was important for the band to maintain the mystique surrounding the members. Said Paul Stanley, “It was really important to us that we got somebody who was unknown… We didn’t want somebody who last week was in Rod Stewart’s band or in Rainbow.” The press release announcing the induction of Caravello into Kiss deducted three years from his actual age in part to confuse those seeking information about his true identity, but also to help create an identification with Eric – a young fan chosen out of the crowd to be the new KISS drummer.
His Kiss persona, was first made up as “The Hawk,” but later adopted the persona of “The Fox”, he was also part of the band’s stage makeup removal of their live on MTV in 1983. He also played guitar, bass guitar, piano and sang background vocals, he sung lead vocals on “Black Diamond” and “Young and Wasted” live with Kiss. He sang lead on the remake of “Beth” in the studio on the album Smashes, Thrashes & Hits.
In 1989 he sang lead vocal on a self-penned, studio track titled “Little Caesar,”. His last live performance with Kiss was November 9, 1990 in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. He succumbed from heart cancer one year later,on November 24, 1991 at age 41.
November 24, 1991 – Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th 1946 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. He spent time in a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where he studied piano and it was not long before this charismatic young man joined his first band, the Hectics. He was of Indian Parsi descent and his early childhood was in India, which gave him the title “Britain’s first Asian rock star.“
After moving to London with his family in the 1960s, Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art where he befriended a number of musicians including future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. Following graduation, he joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London, as well as had a job at Heathrow Airport. In April 1970, he joined with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called SmileIn 1969, Mercury joined up with a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining forces with Taylor and May in the early 70s. They met up with bassist John Deacon in 1971, and the quartet—who Mercury dubbed Queen—played their first gig together in June of that year.Continue reading Freddie Mercury 11/1991
November 2, 1991 – Mort Shuman was born November 12, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York City, of Polish Jewish immigrants and went to Abraham Lincoln High School, subsequently studying music at the New York Conservatory. He became a fan of R&B music and after he met Doc Pomus the two teamed up to compose for Aldon Music at offices in New York City’s Brill Building.
Their songwriting collaboration saw Doc write the lyrics and Shuman the melody, although occasionally they worked on both. Their compositions would be recorded by artists such as Dion, Andy Williams, Bobby Darin, Fabian, The Drifters, and Elvis Presley, among others.
Their most famous songs include “A Teenager in Love”, “Turn Me Loose”, “This Magic Moment”, “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “Little Sister”, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame” and “Viva Las Vegas”.
With the advent of the British invasion, they moved to London where they penned songs for a number of British musicians. After the partnership with Doc Pomus ended in 1965, Shuman moved to Paris, France where he wrote songs for the French rocker Johnny Hallyday. He also wrote and sang many songs in French, such as Le Lac Majeur, Allo Papa Tango Charlie, Sha Mi Sha, Un Eté de Porcelaine, Brooklyn by the Sea which became great hits in France.
One of his hits in the early 1970s was “(Il Neige Sur) Le Lac Majeur”. He also wrote a couple of hits in the UK (including one for The Small Faces, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” written with Kenny Lynch), as well as a musical, Budgie (lyrics by Don Black). With the Welsh songwriter Clive Westlake, he wrote “Here I Go Again”, which was recorded by The Hollies. Billy J. Kramer enjoyed success with another Shuman song, “Little Children”.
In 1968, Shuman had teamed with Eric Blau and adapted the French lyrics of songs by the Belgian composer Jacques Brel used as the basis of the successful off-Broadway production Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Some of the songs from the show were subsequently recorded by Scott Walker, including “Jackie” and “Mathilde”. Shuman appeared in both the stage revue and the 1975 film adaptation. This was followed the next year with work on the soundtrack of the film Sex O’Clock U.S.A., which is notable for featuring one of the earliest known gay songs, “You’re My Man,” while another one of his compositions from the soundtrack, “Baby Come On” (billed under the Sex O’Clock U.S.A. name during its chart run) become a modest hit on Billboard’s Disco chart, peaking at number 37 in July 1977. He also did many collaborations with the French singer Mike Brant.
Mort was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992.
Shuman died from complications due to a liver operation on November 2, 1991 at age 54, 8 months after his songwriting partner Doc Pomus.
August 27, 1991 – Vince Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden on July 14, 1939 in Isleworth, Middlesex, England. When he was seven, immediately after WWII, the Holdens emigrated to America and settled in New Jersey where his father found employment. According to Wikipedia, around 1955, his sister, Sheila, got married to Joe Barbera, of Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Productions. As a result of this, the family moved to California, where Taylor attended Hollywood High School. As a teenager, Taylor took flying lessons and obtained a pilot’s license. (note: this seems to need further research, since Joe Barbera (creator of the Flintstones and Tom & Jerry a.o.) was married to his high school sweetheart with whom he had 4 children until 1963!!)
At age 18, impressed by the music of Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley, Taylor began to sing, mostly at amateur gigs. Barbera, his brother-in-law, acted as his ‘manager’, in his late forties at that time. When Barbera went to London on business he asked Taylor to join him. In London, Taylor went to the 2i’s Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho, where Tommy Steele was playing. There he met drummer Tony Meehan (later of the Shadows) and bass player Tex Makins (born Anthony Paul Makins, 3 July 1940, Wembley, Middlesex). They formed a band called the Playboys. Whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes he noticed the phrase, ‘In hoc signo vinces’. He decided on the new stage name of Vince Taylor.
His first singles for Parlophone, “I Like Love” and “Right Behind You Baby”, were released in 1958, followed several months later by “Pledgin’ My Love” backed with “Brand New Cadillac”, (the latter track featuring guitarist Joe Moretti, who later featured on “Shakin’ All Over” with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates). Parlophone was not satisfied with the immediate results and severed the recording contract. Taylor moved to Palette Records and recorded “I’ll Be Your Hero”, backed with “Jet Black Machine”, which was released on 19 August 1960.
On 23 April 1960 ABC-TV screened the first edition of their new weekly rock and roll TV show, Wham! The first show featured Taylor with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
However, his unpredictable personality, although dynamic on stage, caused several arguments within the band, and the Playboys fired Taylor and changed their name to ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’. The ‘Noise’ was contracted to play at the Olympia in Paris in July 1961. The top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris.
Despite his sacking Taylor remained friendly with the band and he asked if he could come to Paris too. He dressed up for the sound check in his trademark black leather stage gear, and added a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion, which he had bought on arrival at Calais. One version of the story says he gave such an extraordinary performance at the sound check, that the organizers decided to put Taylor at the top of the bill for both shows. As a result of his performance at those two shows, Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.
During 1961 and 1962, Taylor toured Europe with Clarke’s band, once again called Vince Taylor and his Playboys. Between gigs they recorded several EPs and an album of 20 songs at Barclay Studios in Paris.
By the end of 1962, Vince Taylor and the Playboys were the top of the bill at the Olympia in Paris. Sylvie Vartan was the opening act.
Despite his on-stage rapport with the Playboys, the off-stage relationship faltered. As a result, the band once more broke up. Taylor played several engagements backed by the English band the Echoes (who also backed Gene Vincent whenever he played the UK), but he still presented the band as the Playboys.
In February 1964, a new single “Memphis Tennessee”, backed with “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues”, was released on the Barclay label. The Playboys were Joey Greco and Claude Djaoui on guitars, Ralph Di Pietro on bass, and Bobbie Clarke on drums. The group was under contract to the Johnny Hallyday orchestra.
Hallyday was drafted into the French Army, and Clarke again joined Taylor and they started up ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’ along with Ralph Danks (guitar), Alain Bugby of The Strangers (bass), Johnny Taylor, ex lead singer for the Strangers (rhythm guitar), and “Stash” Prince Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (percussion). Managed by Jean Claude Camus, the band embarked on a triumphant tour of Spain and then co-topped the bill with the Rolling Stones during the Easter week-end of 1965 at the Olympia in Paris.
The band then disbanded and Taylor, undergoing problems with drugs and alcohol abuse, joined a religious movement. Danks left to play guitar with Three Dog Night, and later Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Stash, a close friend of the Rolling Stones, would later produce the Dirty Strangers album featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Clarke replaced drummer Don Conka for several studio sessions with the original line up of the band Love. He also played with Vince Flaherty and his band The Invincibles, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and the first incarnation of Deep Purple before forming a group, Bodast, with Steve Howe and Dave Curtis. In 1968, Bodast recorded an album for MGM Records, opened for the Who, and were the backing band for Chuck Berry at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Meanwhile, Clarke was involved in a comeback for his friend Taylor, a one-month tour across France, billed as ‘Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers’. Eddie Barclay gave a new chance to Taylor who recorded again and performed intermittently throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until his death.
During his career, Taylor wrote and recorded many songs, among them his hit in Europe, “Brand New Cadillac” which has been covered by many other artists including the Clash on their 1979 album London Calling. Taylor lived in Switzerland late in his life, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. He said it was the happiest time of his life.
Taylor died from cancer in August 1991, at age 52. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.
June 1, 1991 – Davis Eli ‘David’ Ruffin (The Temptations) was born January 18, 1941 in the rural unincorporated community of Whynot, Mississippi, 15 miles from Meridian, Mississippi. He was the third born son of Elias “Eli” Ruffin, a Baptist minister, and Ophelia Ruffin (born Davis). Ruffin’s father was strict and at times violently abusive. Ruffin’s mother died ten months after his birth in 1941; and his father married Earline, a schoolteacher, in 1942. As a young child, Ruffin, along with his other siblings (older brothers Quincy and Jimmy, and sister Rita Mae), traveled with their father and their stepmother as a family gospel group, opening shows for Mahalia Jackson and The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, among others. Ruffin sang in the choir at Mount Salem Methodist Church, talent shows and wherever else he could. In 1955, at the age of 14, he left home under the guardianship of a minister and went to Memphis, Tennessee, with the purpose of pursuing the ministry.
But at the age of 15, he went to Hot Springs, Arkansas with the jazz musician Phineas Newborn, Sr. They played at the Fifty Grand Ballroom and Casino. He continued to sing at talent shows, worked with horses at a jockey club, and eventually became a member of the The Dixie Nightingales.
He also sang with the Soul Stirrers briefly after the departure of Johnnie Taylor. He met and came under the guardianship of Eddie Bush and Dorothy Helen who took David to Detroit, Michigan and introduced him to Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Berry Gordy’s sister, and Billy Davis.
In 1957, Ruffin met Berry Gordy, Jr., then a songwriter with ambitions of running his own label. Ruffin lived with Gordy’s father, a contractor, and helped “Pops” Gordy do construction work on the building that would become Hitsville USA, the headquarters for Gordy’s Tamla Records (later Motown Records) label. Ruffin’s brother Jimmy would eventually be signed to Tamla’s Miracle Records label as an artist.
Ruffin also worked alongside another ambitious singer, Marvin Gaye, as an apprentice at Anna Records, a Chess-distributed label run by Gordy’s sister Gwen Gordy Fuqua and his songwriting partner Billy Davis. Asked about Ruffin in the Detroit Free Press in 1988, Gordy Fuqua said: “He was very much a gentleman, yes ma’am and no ma’am, but the thing that really impressed me about David was that he was one of the only artists I’ve seen who rehearsed like he was on stage”. According to Ruffin, both he and Gaye would pack records for Anna Records.
Ruffin created music as both the vocalist and drummer in the Voice Masters, a doo-wop style combo and eventually started recording at Anna Records, and recorded the song “I’m in Love” b/w “One of These Days” (1961), with the Voice Masters, a group which included future Motown producer, Lamont Dozier. Other group members included members of The Originals: Ty Hunter, CP Spencer, Hank Dixon and (Voice Masters and The Originals founder) Walter Gaines. (At one time, The Voice Masters also included another future Temptations member, Melvin Franklin, one of numerous people David would claim as a cousin). Ruffin did sign to Anna Records as a solo artist, but his work in that time was unsuccessful.
Ruffin eventually met an up-and-coming local group by the name of The Temptations. His older brother Jimmy went on a Motortown Revue tour with the Temptations, and he told David that they needed someone to sing tenor in their group. David showed interest in joining the group to Otis Williams whom he lived very close to in Detroit. In January 1964, Ruffin became a member of the Temptations after founding member Elbridge “Al” Bryant was fired from the group. Ruffin’s first recording session with the group was January 9, 1964. Though both David and Jimmy were considered, David was given the edge, thanks to his performance skills. These were displayed when he joined the Temptations on stage during the label’s New Year’s Eve party in 1963.
At Motown he started as a background singer, joining The Tempations in 1963, while also working at the Ford Motor Company.
In Nov ’64, songwriter/producer Smokey Robinson wrote a single especially for him to sing lead on. That song, “My Girl”, became the group’s first #1 single and its signature song, and elevated David to the role of lead singer and front man during the group’s “Classic Five” period as it became later known.
In the late 1967/68’s tensions grew on account of his cocaine addiction, tardiness and he was sacked from the the group, but was legally forced to continue with Motown as a solo artist. His first solo single “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” reached the US pop & R&B Top Ten.
His final Top Ten hit was 1975’s “Walk Away From Love”.
After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 with the other Temptations, Ruffin, Kendrick, and Dennis Edwards began touring and recording as “Ruffin /Kendrick/ Edwards: Former Leads of The Temptations”. Sadly the project was cut short, when David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 from a drug overdose at age 50.
After a successful month-long tour of England with Kendricks and Edwards, David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991, in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hospital of “an adverse reaction to drugs” – namely cocaine. Although the cause of death was ruled an accident, Ruffin’s family and friends suspected foul play, claiming that a money belt containing the proceeds from the tour ($300,000) was missing from his body.
Known for his unique raspy and anguished tenor vocals, David was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2008.
May 24, 1991 – Harold Eugene Gene Clark was born November 17, 1944 in Tipton, Missouri, the third of 13 children in a family of Irish, German, and Native American heritage. His family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where as a boy of 9 he began learning to play the guitar and harmonica from his father. He was soon playing Hank Williams tunes as well as material by early rockers such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. He began writing songs at the age of 11. By the time he was 15, he had developed a rich tenor voice, and he formed a local rock and roll combo, Joe Meyers and the Sharks. Like many of his generation, Clark developed an interest in folk music because of the popularity of the Kingston Trio. When he graduated from Bonner Springs High School, in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1962, he formed a folk group, the Rum Runners. Inspired by the Kingston Trio and playing with several folk groups he began working with the New Christy Minstrels. They hired him, and he recorded two albums with the ensemble before leaving in early 1964 after hearing the Beatles.
He moved to Los Angeles, where he met fellow folkie and Beatles convert Jim (later Roger) McGuinn at the Troubadour Club. In early 1964 they began to assemble a band that would become the Byrds. Longing to perform his own songs in the sixties and now turning to a more rocky genre, they started assembling a band that would, in time, come to be known as the Byrds. Even though the Byrds gained initial fame with newly arranged cover of Bob Dylan songs, Gene became the Byrds’ dominant songwriter in the mid sixties, penning most of their best-known originals, including “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Here Without You,” and “Eight Miles High,” and was one of the group’s strongest vocal presences.
He initially played rhythm guitar in the band, but relinquished that position to David Crosby and became the tambourine and harmonica player. Bassist Chris Hillman noted years later in an interview remembering Clark, “At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby—it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior. Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence. He was the songwriter. He had the ‘gift’ that none of the rest of us had developed yet…. What deep inner part of his soul conjured up songs like ‘Set You Free This Time,’ ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,’ ‘I’m Feelin’ Higher,’ ‘Eight Miles High’? So many great songs! We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves.”
A management decision gave McGuinn the lead vocals for their major singles and Bob Dylan songs. This disappointment, combined with Clark’s dislike of traveling (including a chronic fear of flying) and resentment by other band members about the extra income he derived from his songwriting, led to internal squabbling, and he left the group in early 1966. He briefly returned to Kansas City before moving back to Los Angeles to form Gene Clark & the Group with Chip Douglas, Joel Larson, and Bill Rhinehart.
After leaving The Byrds he released 2 solo albums “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” and “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark” before rejoining The Byrds just for a short time. Although he did not achieve commercial success as a solo artist, Clark was in the vanguard of popular music during much of his career, prefiguring developments in such disparate subgenres as psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock, and alternative country.
With the future of his solo career in doubt, Clark briefly rejoined the Byrds in October 1967, as a replacement for the recently departed David Crosby, but left after only three weeks, following an anxiety attack in Minneapolis. During this brief period with the Byrds, he appeared with the band on the television program Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, lip-synching the group’s current single, “Goin’ Back”; he also performed “Mr. Spaceman” with the band. Although there is some disagreement among the band’s biographers, Clark is generally viewed as having contributed background vocals to the songs “Goin’ Back” and “Space Odyssey” for the forthcoming Byrds’ album The Notorious Byrd Brothers and was an uncredited co-author, with McGuinn, of “Get to You”, from that album.
In 1968, Clark signed with A&M Records and began a collaboration with the banjo player Doug Dillard, guitarist Bernie Leadon (later with the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles), bass player Dave Jackson and mandolin player Don Beck joined them to form the nucleus of Dillard & Clark. They produced two albums, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968) and Through the Morning, Through the Night (1969).
The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark was an acoustic adventure in country rock; it included the songs “Train Leaves Here This Morning” (covered in 1972 on the album Eagles) and “She Darked the Sun” (covered by Linda Ronstadt on her 1970 album Silk Purse. Through the Morning, Through the Night was more bluegrass in character than its predecessor and used electric instrumentation. It also included Donna Washburn (Dillard’s girlfriend) as a backing vocalist, which contributed to the departure of Leadon and it marked a change to a traditional bluegrass direction, which caused Clark to lose interest. The song was used in Quincy Jones’s soundtrack of the 1972 Sam Peckinpah movie The Getaway. This song, along with “Polly” (both from the second Dillard & Clark album), was also covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their 2007 album Raising Sand. Both albums by Dillard & Clark fared poorly on the charts, but established them as pioneers of country rock and newgrass crossovers.
The collaboration with Dillard rejuvenated Clark’s creativity but greatly contributed to his growing drinking problem. Dillard & Clark disintegrated in late 1969 after the departures of Clark and Leadon. Clark, along with Leadon, Jackson and Beck provided backup on the debut album of Steve Young, Rock Salt & Nails, released in November 1969.
In 1970, Clark began work on a new single, recording two tracks with the original members of the Byrds (each recording his part separately). The resulting songs, “She’s the Kind of Girl” and “One in a Hundred”, were not released at the time, because of legal problems; they were included later on the album Roadmaster. In 1970 and 1971, Clark contributed vocals and two compositions (“Tried So Hard” and “Here Tonight”) to albums by the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Frustrated with the music industry, Clark bought a house in Albion, California, near Mendocino, married a woman named Carlie and fathered two sons (Kelly and Kai) while subsisting in semiretirement on his still-substantial Byrds royalties throughout the early 1970s, augmented by income from the Turtles’ 1969 American Top Ten hit “You Showed Me”, a previously unreleased composition by McGuinn and Clark from 1964.
He was now ready to cut some solo work. A strong, primarily acoustic set, the album White Light sold poorly in America but was an unexpected hit in the Netherlands. Clark’s next album, Roadmaster, combined new material with the unreleased 1969 tracks cut with the Byrds; while it was a strong album, A&M chose not to release it and it was initially released only in Holland. Clark left A&M just in time for the Byrds to cut a reunion album with their original lineup; Clark contributed a pair of fine songs to the project, “Full Circle” and “Changing Heart,” but most of the album sounded uninspired and the reunion quickly splintered.
In 1974, Clark signed to Asylum Records and cut the polished but heartfelt No Other. Clark, however, had hoped to release the set as a double album, which did not please labelhead David Geffen, and the album stalled in the marketplace without promotion. In 1977, Clark returned with a new album, Two Sides to Every Story, and put his fear of flying on hold to mount an international tour to promote it.
For his British dates, Clark found himself booked on a tour with ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman; audiences were clearly hoping for a Byrds reunion and while the three men had planned nothing of the sort, they didn’t want to let down their fans and played a short set of Byrds hits as an encore for several dates on the tour. This led the three men to begin working up new material together once they returned to America, and in 1978, they began touring as McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman. After a well-received acoustic tour, the trio signed a major deal with Capitol Records and released their self-titled debut in 1979. However, the slick production (designed to make sure the group didn’t sound too much like the Byrds) didn’t flatter the group, and the album was a critical and commercial disappointment. Clark soon became disenchanted with the project, and on their second album, 1980s City, the billing had changed to Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, with Gene Clark. By 1981, Clark had left and the group briefly continued on as McGuinn/Hillman.
After splitting with McGuinn and Hillman, Clark stayed on the sidelines of music for several years, assembling a band called Flyte that failed to score a record deal. Clark finally re-emerged in 1984 with a new band and album called Firebyrd; the rising popularity of jangle-rockers R.E.M. sparked a new interest in the Byrds, and Clark began developing new fans among L.A.’s roots-conscious paisley underground scene.
Clark appeared as a guest on an album by the Long Ryders, and in 1987, he cut a duo album with Carla Olson of the Textones called So Rebellious a Lover. So Rebellious was well-received and became a modest commercial success (it was the biggest selling album of Clark’s solo career), but Clark began to develop serious health problems around this time; he had ulcers, aggravated by years of heavy drinking, and in 1988, he underwent surgery, during which much of his stomach and intestines had to be removed.
Clark also lost a certain amount of goodwill among longtime Byrds fans when he joined drummer Michael Clarke for a series of shows billed A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds. Many clubs simply shortened the billing to the Byrds, and Clarke and Clark soon found themselves in an ugly legal battle with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over use of the group’s name. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January of 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together, including Clark’s “Feel a Whole Lot Better.”
A period of abstinence and recovery followed until Tom Petty’s cover of “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, on his album Full MoonFever (1989), yielded huge royalties to Clark, who quickly began using crack cocaine and alcohol. Consequently Clark’s health continued to decline and on May 24, 1991, not long after he had begun work on a second album with Carla Olson, Gene Clark died, with the coroner declaring he succumbed as a result of “natural causes” brought on by a bleeding ulcer.
April 23, 1991 – Johnny Thunders was born on July 15, 1952 as John Anthony Genzale Jr. in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York
His first musical performance was in the winter of 1967 with The Reign followed by a gig at Quintano’s School for Young Professionals with “Johnny and the Jaywalkers”, under the name Johnny Volume.
In 1968 he began going to the Fillmore East and Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on weekends. His older sister, Mariann, started styling his hair like Keith Richards. In late 1969 he got a job as a sales clerk at D’Naz leather shop, on Bleecker Street in the West Village, and started trying to put a band together. He and his girlfriend, Janis Cafasso, went to see the Stones at Madison Square Garden in November 1969, and they appear in the Maysles’ film, Gimme Shelter.
In London, after the Isle of Wight Festival, the following summer, his girlfriend Janis fell sick and they flew home. Back in NYC from the UK, toward the end of 1970, he started hanging out at Nobodys, a club also on Bleecker Street in the West Village. It was near there that he met future Dolls Arthur Kane and Rick Rivets. (Dolls bass guitarist, Arthur Kane, later wrote about Thunders’s guitar sound, as he described arriving outside the rehearsal studio where they were meeting to jam together for the first time: “I heard someone playing a guitar riff that I myself didn’t know how to play. It was raunchy, nasty, rough, raw, and untamed. I thought it was truly inspired…” Adding, “His sound was rich and fat and beautiful, like a voice.) Johnny joined their band “Actress” which later, after firing Rivets and adding David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, became the New York Dolls. At this time he changed his name to “Johnny Thunders”, inspired by a comic book hero.
After the Dolls he formed The Heartbreakers touring the US and UK, releasing one official album, L.A.M.F., in 1977. The group relocated to the UK, where their popularity was significantly greater than it was in the U.S., particularly among punk bands. In late 1979 Johnny began performing in a band called Gang War and recorded a number of solo albums beginning with So Alone in 1978. The notoriously drug-fueled recording sessions featured a core band of Johnny, bassist Phil Lynott, drummer Paul Cook, and guitarist Steve Jones, with guest appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Steve Marriott, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, and Peter Perrett of The Only Ones.
The CD version of the album contains four bonus tracks, including the single “Dead or Alive”. After its release, Thunders and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious played in the Living Dead for a short time.
He died on 23 April 1991, primarily from methadone and alcohol poisoning, although doctors had diagnosed leukemia in him earlier in the year. He was 38 years 9 months and 8 days old.
April 20, 1991 – Steve Marriott (Small Faces and Humble Pie) was born in London on January 30th 1947. He started singing and performing, by busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money. His father Bill was an accomplished pub pianist and the life and soul of many an ‘East End’ night. Bill bought Marriott a ukulele and harmonica which Marriott taught himself to play. Marriott showed an early interest in singing and performing, busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money and winning talent contests during the family’s annual holiday to Jaywick Holiday camp near Clacton-on-Sea.
At the age of 12, he formed his first band with school friends Nigel Chapin and Robin Andrews, called ‘The Wheels’, later the ‘Coronation Kids’.
In 1960, his father Bill spotted an advertisement in a London newspaper for a new Artful Dodger replacement to appear in Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at the New Theatre (now called the Noël Coward Theatre) in London’s West End, and without telling his son, applied for him to audition. At the age of thirteen, Marriott auditioned for the role. He sang two songs, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, and “Oh, Boy!” by Buddy Holly. Bart was impressed with Marriott’s vocal abilities and hired him. Marriott stayed with the show for a total of twelve months, playing various boys’ roles during his time there, for which he was paid £8 a week. Marriott was also chosen to provide lead vocals for the Artful Dodger songs “Consider Yourself”, “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” which appear on the official album to the stage show, released by World Record Club and recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. In 1961 the Marriott family moved from Strone Road to a brand new council flat in Daines Close, Manor Park. Continue reading Steve Marriott 4/1991
March 22, 1991 – Dave Guard was born October 19th 1934 and along with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane, was one of the founding members of The Kingston Trio. He spent his early years first in San Francisco, and then his junior high school and high school years in Honolulu, pre-state Hawaii. Guard grew up hearing the soft vocal melodies and strummed guitars of Hawaiian music. He was particularly attracted to the unique rhythmic sounds of finger-picked slack-key ukulele and guitar music masterfully performed by the many of his neighbors and beach boys.While an undergraduate at Stanford, Dave started a pickup group with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane.
He called his group Dave Guard and the Calypsonians. He kept the group together after Reynolds and Shane left, changing the name to The Kingston Quartet.
In 1956 a publicist in the area, Frank Werber, offered his services to Guard and his bandmates, including Reynolds at the time. Werber’s offer, however, was contingent upon replacing Gannon and Bogue, and shortly thereafter, both left the group. Guard and Reynolds contacted former Calypsonian member Shane (who was performing part-time in Honolulu) asking him to join the reconstituted group. In 1957, back again as a trio as in their previous college days, they changed its name to The Kingston Trio.
With material gathered from a variety of sources, under Guard’s musical arrangements and direction, the Kingston Trio quickly became a success. Guard, Shane and Reynolds worked well together. In addition to developing the characteristic “Kingston Trio sound” of the group’s two guitars and a banjo, success came to the group from Guard’s musical arrangements and renditions of folk and Irish ballads, Shane’s talent for style and performance along with an innate knowledge of what pleased audiences, and Reynolds’ management of the group’s logistics.
Under contract with Capitol Records, the Trio became a huge commercial and influential success with hit songs such as “Tom Dooley,” “A Worried Man,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Tijuana Jail,” “Greenback Dollar,” “Reverend Mr. Black,” “Sloop John B.,” “Scotch And Soda,” “Merry Minuet,” “M.T.A.”, “Zombie Jamboree”, “Hard, Ain’t It Hard,” “Three Jolly Coachmen,” and “Raspberries, Strawberries”.
In the following years Guard was aware that among the Kingston Trio, he was the only one who could read music and who had some understanding of music theory; his partners basically played by rote, and the three of them sang in simple three-part harmony. With help from the Trio’s bassist and musicologist David “Buck” Wheat, Guard embarked on a self-education program of learning more about harmony, and becoming more and more disenchanted with what appeared to him to be a lack of willingness or effort to “improve” on the part of his partners.
By late 1960, Guard’s frustration and discontent with his partners, combined with an alleged embezzlement of the group’s finances, had reached a point where he no longer wanted to work with Reynolds and Shane. Giving his partners notice that he intended to leave the Trio, and unwilling to cause the group he had founded to disband, Guard agreed to stay on with the Trio until his personal commitments were completed, and until Shane and Reynolds were able to find a suitable replacement for him. By early 1961 Shane and Reynolds had found a replacement for Guard. After a reportedly acrimonious meeting with Shane, Reynolds, and the Trio’s business manager over the future of the Trio, Guard quit the group. The group continued to perform for another six years as the Kingston Trio before disbanding in 1967, with John Stewart taking Guard’s place.
In 1961, shortly after leaving the Trio, Dave formed a new group, The Whiskeyhill Singers, They toured and released an album and were asked to perform several folk songs on the Academy Award winning soundtrack of How the West Was Won. Their voices can be heard on “The Erie Canal”, “900 miles”, “The Ox Driver”, “Raise A Ruckus Tonight”.
Dave performed solo on the tracks “Wanderin'” and “Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger”. In late 1962 he moved to Sydney, Australia. There he hosted a national TV variety show called Dave’s Place. Until his return to the United States in 1968. Through the ’80’s he continued to do solo performances, along with several “reunions” of the old Kingston Trio.
In 2000 The Kingston Trio was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. He died from lymphatic cancer on March 22, 1991 at age 56.
March 21, 1991 – Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender was a Greek-American inventor, born on August 10th 1909. He founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, now known as Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and later founded MusicMan and G&L Musical Products (G&L Guitars). His guitar, bass, and amplifier designs from the 1950s continue to dominate popular music more than half a century later.
When designing “The Strat”, he asked his customers what new features they would want on the Telecaster. The large number of replies, along with the continued popularity of the Telecaster, caused him to leave the Telecaster as it was and to design a new, upscale solid body guitar to be sold alongside the basic Telecaster instead. Continue reading Leo Fender 3/1991
March 14, 1991 – Doc Pomus was born Jerome Solon Felder on June 27th, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, he was a son of Jewish immigrants. Having had polio as a boy, he walked with the help of crutches. Later, due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, Felder eventually relied on a wheelchair.
Big Joe Turner turned him onto the Blues and using the stage name “Doc Pomus“, teenager Felder began performing as a blues singer. His stage name wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular; he just thought it sounded better for a blues singer than the name Jerry Felder. Pomus stated that more often than not, he was the only Caucasian in the clubs, but that as a Jew and a polio victim, he felt a special “underdog” kinship with African Americans, while in turn the audiences both respected his courage and were impressed with his talent. Gigging at various clubs in and around New York City, Pomus often performed with the likes of Milt Jackson, Mickey Baker and King Curtis. Continue reading Doc Pomus 3/1991
January 8, 1991 – Stephen Maynard Steve Clark was born on April 23rd 1960 in Sheffield, England. From a very early age, he showed an interest in music with one such example being his attendance at a concert held by Cliff Richard and the Shadows aged 6. At 11, he received his first guitar from his father, a taxi driver, on the condition that he learned to play. Clark studied classical guitar for a year before one day he discovered Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin at a friend’s house.
When Clark left school his first employer was an engineering firm called GEC Traction where he worked as a lathe operator under a 4 year apprentice contract while first playing in a local band, Electric Chicken. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard’s original guitarist/founder). Clark asked for a spot in the band and joined Def Leppard in January 1978. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” without accompaniment. It was Steve who threatened to quit, right as they started out, unless the band stopped rehearsing and actually went out and played. Singer Joe Elliot went out and scored them a gig that paid the princely sum of £5.
While a guitarist for Def Leppard, he contributed substantially to the band’s music and lyrics. Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed as “The Riffmaster” according to the band’s lead vocalist Joe Elliott in VH1’s Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard’s Hysteria. When Willis was asked to leave (ironically for drinking), guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band.
Steve Clark made some telling contributions to the success of a band that has gone on to sell 100 million albums. He contributed both music and lyrics for the bands first four albums including the worldwide hit albums Pyromania and Hysteria. Musically, according to the other band members in interviews, he was more likely to contribute riffs and guitar parts, although he did write all the music for some of the bands songs, including ‘wasted’ on the bands debut album On through the night.
Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the “Terror Twins,” in recognition of their talents and friendship.
Part of their success as a duo was attributed by Collen (on the BBC’s Classic Albums show) to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, often both playing lead or both doing rhythm within the same song. Lead singer Joe Elliott told the same program that Clark was not a technician, he was a guitarist who wore his instrument a few notches too low, and his style was a key part of the band’s chemistry. Elliott referred to Clark as the “creative one” and Collen as a “total utter technician”.
Whereas Collen quit drinking alcohol during the 1980s in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Clark never managed to escape his addiction to alcohol.
And as time went on all was not well with Steve Clark the person, despite the money, fame and travelling the world. He developed a drink problem, and suffered it seems with bouts of depression. Not a happy drunk either according to many, this would often push him over the edge with his mood swings. He began to suffer with shakes when trying to play because of his alcohol abuse, which upset him, and he would storm off and have a drink, taking things full circle. Rehab was attempted and failed, and as a last resort Clark was given, unofficially, six months off the band. He never went back.
The night before his death Clark promised girlfriend Janie Dean he was only popping out for ten minutes and definitely wasn’t drinking. Four hours later he arrives back to their Chelsea ad smashed with one of his drinking buddies in tow. Dean had pleaded with him not to drink and take prescription drugs, which he was taking for cracked ribs, the result of one of his other drunken nights out.
The next morning on January 8, 1991, Janie Dean showed an interior decorator around their plush London pad, not knowing that her boyfriend, Def Leppard’s Steve Clark was lying dead on the Sofa. She hadn’t bothered to wake him as after he rolled up drunk the night before. After all ‘nothing woke him after a night on the drink’ she later commented. A couple of hours later she realized the horrific truth, finding him blue in the face with blood coming out of his mouth. Screaming ‘wake up’, it was left to the interior decorator, still in the house, confirmed he was dead. Steve Clark then became, sadly, probably Sheffield biggest Rock n Roll casualty.
His autopsy report stated that he had died from an overdose of codeine and Valium, morphine and a blood alcohol level of .30, three times the British legal driving limit. There was no evidence of suicidal intent.
He had already contributed to half of the songs on the band’s 1992 album Adrenalize prior to his death, which was released in 1992.
Steve Clark was 30 years 8 months 16 days old when he died on 8 January 1991.
In 2011, Collen revealed in an online series of web videos that both he and Clark began working on what would become the song, “White Lightning”, during the recording sessions for the 1992 album, Adrenalize. Completed after Clark’s death, the song ironically described in great detail the effects of Clark’s alcohol and drug addictions.
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