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Philip Kramer 2/1995

philip taylor kramerFebruary 12, 1995 – Philip Kramer (Iron Butterfly) was born on July 12th 1952 in Youngstown, Ohio.

For a short period between 1974 and 1977, he was bassist for Iron Butterfly in their third reincarnation. Even though he was a solid bass thumper, his story on this rock and roll website only appears because his death was a longtime mystery with many stories of paranoia, related to his science career. During and after his music career he studied for and got a night school degree in aerospace engineering, after which he worked on the MX missile guidance system for a contractor of the US Department of Defense.

With the arrival of the Internet and the Worldwide Web he switched fields and studied fractal compression, facial recognition systems, and advanced communications. In 1990 he co-founded Total Multimedia Inc. with Randy Jackson, brother of Michael Jackson, to develop data compression techniques for CD-ROMs.

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Eddie Hazel 12/1992

eddiehazelDec 23, 1992 – Eddie Hazel was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 10, 1950 but grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey because his mother, Grace Cook, wanted her son to grow up in an environment without the pressures of drugs and crime that she felt pervaded New York City. Hazel occupied himself from a young age by playing a guitar, given to him as a Christmas present by his older brother. Hazel also sang in church. At age 12 he participated in backyard jams, which resulted in Nelson McGee and Hazel forming the Wonders who played around Plainfield in the mid sixties. By early 1967 Hazel’s reputation on guitar had taken him to work with producer George Blackwell in Newark.

In 1967  The Parliaments, a Plainfield-based doo wop band headed by George Clinton, had a hit record with “(I Wanna) Testify“. Clinton recruited a backing band for a tour, hiring Nelson as bassist, who in turn recommended Hazel as guitarist.

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Albert King 12/1992

Albert KingDecember 21, 1992 – Albert King was born Albert Nelson on April 25th 1923 in Indianola, Mississippi, the same town where B.B. King grew up. However, on his Social Security application in 1942, his birthplace was entered as “Aboden, Miss.,” likely based on his pronunciation of Aberdeen. King, who gave his birth date as April 25, 1923, was raised primarily in Arkansas. As a child, he sang with his family’s gospel group at a church where his father played the guitar. When King was eight, his family moved to Forrest City, Arkansas and he would pick cotton on plantations in the area. Around that same time, King bought his first guitar, paying only $1.25. His first inspiration was T-Bone Walker.

King began working as a professional musician when he joined a group called In the Groove Boys in Osceola, Arkansas, in the late Forties. Continue reading Albert King 12/1992

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Tony
Williams
8/1992

tony williams of the plattersAugust 14, 1992 – Samuel Anthony “Tony” Williams  was born on April 5th 1928 in Roselle, New Jersey. His family moved to California in the 1940s.

The Platters formed in Los Angeles in 1952 and were initially managed by Federal Records A&R man, Ralph Bass. The original group consisted of Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed, who joined the group after he was discharged from the Army in December 1952. Reed created the group’s name.

In June 1953, Gunter left to join the Flaires and was replaced by tenor Tony Williams, a parking lot attendant, recommended by his sister Linda Hayes, an R&B singer, Williams became the group’s lead vocalist. The group then released two singles with Federal Records, under the management of Bass, but found little success. Bass then asked his friend music entrepreneur and songwriter Buck Ram to coach the group in hope of getting a hit record. Ram made some changes to the lineup, most notably the addition of female vocalist Zola Taylor; later, at Reed’s urging, Hodge was replaced by Paul Robi. Under Ram’s guidance, the Platters recorded eight songs for Federal in the R&B/gospel style, scoring a few minor regional hits on the West Coast, and backed Williams’ sister, Linda Hayes. One song recorded during their Federal tenure, “Only You (And You Alone)”, originally written by Ram for the Ink Spots, was deemed unreleasable by the label, though pirated copies of this early version do exist.

Despite their lack of chart success, the Platters were a profitable touring group, successful enough that the Penguins, coming off their #8 single “Earth Angel”, asked Ram to manage them as well. With the Penguins in hand, Ram was able to parlay Mercury Records’ interest into a 2-for-1 deal. To sign the Penguins, Ram insisted, Mercury also had to take the Platters. Ironically The Penguins would never have a hit for the label.

Convinced by Jean Bennett and Tony Williams that “Only You” had real potential, Ram had the Platters re-record the song during their first session for Mercury. Released in the summer of 1955, it became the group’s first Top Ten hit on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts for seven weeks. The follow-up, “The Great Pretender”, with lyrics written in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas by Buck Ram, exceeded the success of their debut and became the Platters’ first national #1 hit. “The Great Pretender” was also the act’s biggest R&B hit, with an 11-week run atop that chart. In 1956, the Platters appeared in the first major motion picture based around rock and roll, Rock Around the Clock, and performed both “Only You” and “The Great Pretender”.

The Platters’ unique vocal style had touched a nerve in the music-buying public, and a string of hit singles followed, including three more national #1 hits and more modest chart successes such as “I’m Sorry” (#11) and “He’s Mine” (#23) in 1957, “Enchanted” (#12) in 1959, and “The Magic Touch” (#4) in 1956.
The Platters soon hit upon the successful formula of updating older standards, such as “My Prayer”, “Twilight Time”, “Harbor Lights”, “To Each His Own”, “If I Didn’t Care”, and Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”. This latter release caused a small controversy after Kern’s widow expressed concern that her late husband’s composition would be turned into a “rock and roll” record. It topped both the American and British charts in a Platters-style arrangement.

The Platters also differed from most other groups of the era in other ways because Ram had the group incorporated in 1956. Each member of the group received a 20% share in the stock, full royalties, and their Social Security was paid. As group members left one by one, Ram and his business partner, Jean Bennett, bought their stock, which they claimed gave them ownership of the “Platters” name. A court later ruled, however, that “FPI was a sham used by Mr. Ram to obtain ownership in the name ‘Platters’, and FPI’s issuance of stock to the group members was ‘illegal and void’ because it violated California corporate securities law.”

Tony Williams and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1998. The Platters were the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America. They were also the only act to have three songs included on the American Graffiti soundtrack that fueled an oldies revival already underway in the early to mid-1970s: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “The Great Pretender”, and “Only You (and You Alone)”.

From 1955 until Williams left the group in 1960, The Platters had four No. 1 hits and 16 gold records, including “My Prayer,” “Harbor Lights,” “Twilight Time,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and their biggest seller, “The Great Pretender.”

The group continued to perform without Williams, while he pursued a solo career.

Tony Williams passed away on August 14, 1992 from emphysema and lung cancer. He was 64 and had been earlier that year toured Thailand and other Asian countries, performing with his wife and son.

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Mary Wells 7/1992

July 26, 1992 – Mary Wells was born in Detroit on May 13, 1943. When she was three years old, she contracted spinal meningitis and had to remain in bed for two years. Wells also suffered from tuberculosis as a young woman. Her family was poor, and at the age of 12 she began to help her mother with housecleaning work. “Daywork they called it,” Wells was quoted as saying in Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. “And it was damn cold on hallway linoleum. Misery is Detroit linoleum in January–with a half-froze bucket of Spic-and-Span.”

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Stefanie Sargent 6/1992

June 27, 1992 – Stefanie Sargent (7 Year Bitch) was born in Seattle, Washington on June 1, 1968. Raised in Seattle (she graduated the Summit K-12 Alternative School at age 16).

She then worked various jobs – making pizza in particular – traveled up and down the West Coast and played music. She became a familiar figure in the Seattle music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after and became well recognized as the original guitarist for 7 Year Bitch.

She first played with Selene Vigil-Wilk (vocals), Valerie Agnew (drums) and Lisa Orth (guitar) in the band Barbie’s Dream Car. When their bassist left for Europe they recruited Elizabeth Davis, and changed the name of the band to 7 Year Bitch. Lisa Orth was no longer in the band at this point, and Stefanie became the sole guitarist for 7 Year Bitch. Their first concert was a benefit at the OK hotel with the Gits, DC Beggars and several other bands.

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Ollie Halsall 5/1992

ollie-halsallMay 29, 1992 – Ollie Halsall was born Peter John Halsall on March 14th 1949 in Southport, England.

Halsall started out playing drums and the vibraphone (an instrument on which he became extraordinarily proficient) before taking up the guitar in 1967. By 1970, as a member of the cult-favorite band, Patto, he had evolved into one of the world’s most sensational players. That he never got that recognition can only be explained by the fact that the world had a number of top players already in the marketing line up and there was only so much promotional effort made available by the record companies.

Other guitar gods that didn’t make the Super Stardom Line Up of those early days- but should have- were in my opinion Jan Akkerman from the Dutch prog band Focus, Eddie Hazel with Parliament-Funkadelic who died 7 months after Ollie, Chicago’s Terry Kath, Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player at the time, and April Lawton from Ramatam.

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Sharon Redd 5/1992

sharon-reddMay 1, 1992 – Sharon Redd was born October 19, 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia

Her parents were Gene Redd and Katherine Redd. Gene Redd was a producer and musical director at King Records, and her stepfather performed with Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Her brother Gene Redd Jr. was a songwriter and producer for Kool & the Gang and BMP. Her sister Pennye Ford is also a singer with two albums to her credit and known for her work as the main singer for Snap!

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Willie Dixon 1/1992

Willie DixonJanuary 29, 1992 – Willie Dixon was born July 1st 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother Daisy often rhymed the things she said, a habit her son imitated. At the age of seven, young Dixon became an admirer of a band that featured pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He sang his first song at Springfield Baptist Church at the age of four. Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as an early teenager.

He later learned how to sing harmony from local carpenter Leo Phelps. Dixon sang bass in Phelps’ group The Jubilee Singers, a local gospel quartet that regularly appeared on the Vicksburg radio station WQBC. Dixon began adapting poems he was writing as songs, and even sold some tunes to local music groups. By the time he was a teenager, Dixon was writing songs and selling copies to the local bands. With his bass voice, Dixon later joined a group organized by Phelps, the Union Jubilee Singers, who appeared on local radio. Continue reading Willie Dixon 1/1992