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Michael Clarke 12/1993

michael clarke byrdsDecember 19, 1993 – Michael Clarke was born Michael James Dick in Spokane Washington on June 3, 1946. His father was an artist and his mother was a musician. Clarke ran away from home when he was 17 years old and hitchiked to California to become a musician. In legend, Clarke was said to have been discovered by Byrds’ founder David Crosby while playing bongos on a beach. Reality is that he was discovered by singer-songwriter Ivan Ulz, in North Beach, San Francisco and was introduced to other group members by Ulz to the musicians who would become The Byrds in 1964.

Clarke was not an accomplished musician prior to joining The Byrds and his only previous musical knowledge was rudimentary piano lessons he received in his youth. He had never played drums and, after joining The Byrds, not having a drum set, practiced on a makeshift kit of cardboard boxes and a tambourine, but he did have real drumsticks. According to Roger McGuinn, Clarke was hired by McGuinn and Gene Clark (no relation) for his resemblance to Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. Actually he had Brian Jones’ hair and facial features and Mick Jagger lips)

Clark was the least talented of the five members that were on the Byrds’ 1965-1967 5 album recordings, as unlike the others, he did almost no songwriting. His drumming was basic and, for the most part, appropriate for the Byrds’ needs, although he was sometimes replaced by sessionmen. Still, he fit in well with the band visually, and proved that his drum skills were not marginal via subsequent hitches in the Flying Burrito Brothers and Firefall, along with session work for several of the ex-Byrds’ solo projects.

Like all of the Byrds,  he had little experience playing electric rock & roll music when the band, at that time called the Jet Set, formed in 1964. At least the other four members had a good deal of professional experience as acoustic folk musicians; Clarke didn’t even have that.

Clarke’s strength as a drummer however should be illustrated by his jazz-oriented playing on The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”, on the Fifth Dimension album. It has sometimes been written that session musicians played much of the music on the Byrds’ early recordings, but with the exception of the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single (on which McGuinn was the only one to play an instrument), research has indicated that the group did in fact play their own instruments in the studio. Suspicion has been directed at Michael Clarke as the least talented of the Byrds’ musicians, but even numerous bootleg tapes have his voice coming in loud and clear with comments and responses as the Byrds work out arrangements. The best of his drum work is certainly contained on “Eight Miles High,” where he pushes the band with a relentless, jazz-like verve, especially during the guitar solo.

In August 1967, during the recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers album, Clarke walked out of The Byrds and was temporarily replaced by session drummers Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine. Clarke had become dissatisfied with his role in the band and didn’t particularly like the new material that the songwriting members of the band were providing. However, Clarke continued to honor his live concert commitments with the band, appearing with them at a handful of shows during late August and early September 1967. Clarke returned from his self-imposed exile in time to contribute drums to the song “Artificial Energy” in early December 1967, but was subsequently fired from the band by McGuinn and bass player Chris Hillman once The Notorious Byrd Brothers album was completed.

After a year hiatus with a trip to Hawaii, he was back in the studio for a stint with Dillard and Clarke, followed by several years with the Flying Burrito Brothers after their first album, a reunion album with the Byrds, a numbers of years with softrockers in Firefall. In the early 80s he joined Jerry Jeff Walker. After that time he joined ex-Byrds singer Gene Clark for a series of controversial shows billed “A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds.” Many clubs simply shortened the billing to “the Byrds,” and the pair soon found themselves involved in acrimonious court battles with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over usage 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.

Michael continued to tour with a group called “Byrds Celebration”, but his health declined as his drinking accelerated.

He died from liver failure due to more than three decades of heavy alcohol consumption on Dec 19, 1993 at the age of 47.

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Doug Hopkins 12/1993

Goug HopkinsDecember 5, 1993 – Doug Hopkins was born on April 11, 1961 in Seattle, WA  but raised in Tempe, Arizona. It’s unknown when exactly the Hopkins family arrived in Arizona, but the family lived in suburban Tempe. Little is published about Doug’s younger days, prior to attending McClintock High School. As a senior, Hopkins picked up an acoustic guitar and began taking lessons. An instructor encouraged him to change to bass, on account of his large hands. Doug’s interest in music kept him busy, often practicing the guitar on a Friday night rather than going to parties. Doug successfully graduated McClintock in 1979, even after a gym short incident resulting in a two week suspension during his senior year.

After High School, Doug briefly studied music at Mesa Community College, before becoming disenchanted with the emphasis on classical music. Following this, he enrolled at Arizona State University, studying Sociology.

Doug’s first foray into music was playing for bass for a little known cover band in Fountain Hills. At the time he was largely into classic rock. Stories of Doug engaging in strong arguments about music are peppered throughout his life. One of the more notable instances of this was around this time with McClintock pal Bill Leen. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the pair would argue the validity of classic rock vs. punk rock, with Bill championing the latter genre. Eventually Doug saw the value to punk rock and put it to Bill that they should start a punk band. Doug decided that he’d teach Bill to play bass, and he’d pick up the guitar again. The fact that neither of them could play all that well, instruments worried them too much. There was born Moral Majority, Doug’s first serious original band, with neighbors Alan Long and Jim Swafford on drums and vocals respectively.

True to the punk genre, there was not much musical training between the bunch, but the punk rock power chords, reminiscent of many 70’s punk rock bands was a perfect backdrop for Doug’s interest in literature and his intelligence was expressed through his clever lyrics, often targeting political and social issues. After months of practicing and playing living room gigs with family and friends as spectators, Moral Majority secured a position opening for then local heroes The Jetzons.

Moral Majority dissolved towards the end of 1981, and by the beginning of 1982 Doug had started a new band, The Psalms. Throughout his life, each new band often showcased a genre shift from the last. With The Psalms, Doug put to bed punk rock and moved towards a new wave sound. The Psalms were able to pick up where Moral Majority left off, opening for the Jetzons, and later more high profile spots opening for the likes of Billy Idol. During the bands two or so year tenure they received a reasonable amount of local press, and released a single and an EP with some help from Ed Reilly. Six months into the band Doug began to experiment with keyboards and synthesizer, teaching singer Jim Swafford to play guitar to devote more time to those instruments. A decision that he later regretted towards the end of the Psalms. The Psalms disbanded in early 1984. The same year Doug graduated from Arizona State University.

With both his studies and The Psalms behind him, Doug started putting together his next band in early 1985. Despite having jammed with former Psalm band mates through 1984, the line up of Algebra Ranch was made up of new players, including Damon Dorion from the newly defunct Jetzons. Algebra Ranch are cited as the band in which Doug grew significantly as a writer and honed in on the jangly pop sound and style which a few years later would become the trademark of the Gin Blossoms. Around this time he was working on future hit songs such as Hey Jealousy and Found Out About You. The latter of which was inspired by an ex-girlfriend who put him in a hospital with a shattered cheek bone, with a Tai-Kwondo kick to the head at an R.E.M concert the same year. Despite the advancing in his song writing and arrangement craft with the Algebra Ranch material, Doug’s on stage antics and unserious manner saw the band only last about a year before breaking up.

The following year, Doug teamed up again with Jim Swafford to form the Ten O’Clock Scholars. Although the band held on to some Algebra Ranch songs, and their set lists were virtually a blue print for the early Gin Blossoms, working with this singer David McKay gave this band more of a folk slant than any of Doug’s previous work. After a few months of jamming, the band dissolved when Doug up and left for a recording contract in L.A, but was soon picked up in Portland after David McKay convinced the rest of the band to move to Portland. On arriving in Portland, Doug garnered a spot with a local cover band to help pay the bills along side Scholars gigs. Despite local television exposure, the gigs were hard to come by for the Scholars, and by the end of 1986 the band had broken up and members had returned to Phoenix.

Doug’s next project would become his most famous band. The Gin Blossoms formed in late 1987, and soon became local favorites in Tempe, Arizona. After some lineup changes, a trip to Austin’s South By South West and independent cassette release, the band was signed to A&M Records in 1990. The band achieved local success with the recording of their A&M debut Up and Crumbling in 1991, and the following year started recording their follow up record in Memphis. During the recording sessions, tensions rose within the band and label as Doug was reported to be “moody, homesick and unproductive” and drinking heavily throughout the time in Memphis. The situation came to a head when he was sent back to Phoenix and soon learnt that he’d been fired from the band.

Back in Phoenix, Doug was a local celebrity and had no problem putting together new bands. The first of which was The Eventuals, with Marc Norman and Brian Blush, both Hopkins fans who have been quoted as saying he inspired them to become musicians. Blush and Hopkins had become friends years earlier when the underage Blush attempted to sneak into Long Wongs, caught by Doug who told him to buy him a beer or he was going to shanghai his ass out of the bar. The Eventuals were short lived, only ever playing one gig together.

Soon after Doug, hooked up with Lawrence Zubia to form the Chimeras. The Chimeras, with a solid lineup of musicians paired with Doug’s writing skills garnered a near immediate local following and played showcases like South By Southwest. By early 1993, the Gin Blossoms album New Miserable Experience was starting to find footing, and the success of his former band fueled Doug’s song writing desire for revenge, as well as increase his inner turmoil and self destructive behavior. Despite the impressive following and arsenal of songs that could rival the Gin Blossoms, in April 1993 while performing at the KUKQ Birthday Bash festival, Doug fumbled a solo and promptly quit the band after the set. While the next day he asked to rejoin the band, his inner turmoil was obvious to the band who denied the request, although Hopkins and the Zubias remained good friends.

For the latter part of 1993 Doug continued playing with local musicians, however his depression worsened as the Gin Blossoms success continued to grow. In November 1993 he received a gold record for sales of Hey Jealousy, which hung on his wall for 2 weeks until he smashed it. Concerns for his well being by friends and family escalated, and Chimeras band mate Lawrence Zubia took to checking on him daily. On Dec 5, 1993, a week after Doug smashed the gold record, Lawrence found that he’d taken his life in his Tempe apartment at the age of 32.

“I told him I was sorry I couldn’t make him happy,” Hopkins’ sister, Sara Bennewitz, remembers of her last conversation with him Thursday. “He just said, ‘I was born unhappy.’

“I told him I loved him and that I knew I wouldn’t see him again. He patted my hand and said goodbye.”

Hopkins’ sister, Sara, told The Associated Press that this was Hopkins’ sixth suicide attempt in 10 years.

Doug’s death hit the Tempe music community hard, with former band mates Lawrence and Mark Zubia turned their Sunday night set into an impromptu wake. A memorial service was held in Tempe a few days later. Immediately following the service, Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms was approached by a women with a relaying a message from Doug – that he had poured sugar in their tour van’s gas tank, causing the van to breakdown and the band miss that night’s show.

Doug’s musical legacy lives on, with his songs still being heard on radio, and performed by the Gin Blossoms. Over the years, many band mates have recorded and performed cover versions of his songs, as well as songs in tribute to him.

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Frank Zappa 12/1993

Frank ZappaDecember 4, 1993 – Frank Vincent Zappa was born on December 21, 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland with an Italian, Sicilian, Greek and Arab ancestry. With his dad employed as chemist/mathematician in the Defense industry, the family often moved to the extent that he attended at least 6 high schools. He began to play drums at the age of 12, and was playing in R&B groups by high school,

Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde composers such as Varèse, Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern, as well as R&B and doo-wop groups (particularly local pachuco groups), and modern jazz. His own heterogeneous ethnic background and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles in the sixties, were crucial in the forming of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards “mainstream” social, political, religious and musical movements. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco. Television also exerted a strong influence, as demonstrated by quotations from show themes and advertising jingles found in his later works. Continue reading Frank Zappa 12/1993

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Peter Wood 12/1993

Peter WoodDecember 1, 1993 – Peter Wood was born on April 9, 1950 in Middlesex, and brought up in Egham, Surrey. He became one of those talented music performers that have contributed to a massive amount of hits and superhits, but never really became famous, outside of the industry.

After the initial years of picking up an instrument and growing to become prolific, in his case it was piano and later all types of keyboards, he became a member of the rockband Quiver when he replaced Cal Batchelor. Later they teamed up with the Sutherland Bros and became part of the Sutherland Bros and Quiver. Wood had a longterm musical relationship with Al Stewart and cooperated with him on the famous 1976 album  “Year of the Cat” for which song he received co-songwriter credits.

In that same year he worked with Joan Armatrading -who I consider one of the great singers of that decade- on her self-titled album, that catapulted her into stardom.

Also in 1976 he briefly joined a band called Natural Gas (incl. Joey Molland after the breakup of Badfinger) which recorded one album with famous New York producer Felix Pappalardi. The next couple of years saw him work closely with Al Stewart, and through his frequent collaborations with former Quiver bandmate Tim Renwick, in 1980 he joined Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, becoming one of the original members of the “surrogate band”, who featured in Pink Floyd’s The Wall live shows in 1980 and 1981 and he can be heard on the live album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81.

After this he moves to New York where he works with Cyndi Lauper, Jonathan Kelly, Tommy Shaw, Carly Simon and Bob Dylan and in 1984 joins for an album stint with the Lou Reed Band. In the late 1980s we see him back with Al Stewart and Cindy Lauper and in 1990 he joins Roger Waters in his epic Live Show – The Wall- Live in Berlin, followed by the historic Guitar Legends Festival in Seville Spain in 1991.

Sadly he passed away from the injuries of a fall in his New York home on Dec 1, 1993 at age 43.

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Albert Collins 11/1993

Albert CollinsNov 24, 1993 – Albert Collins was born on October 1, 1932  in Leona Texas. The blues guitar came to him through his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins, who lived in the same town and often played on family gatherings. Although initially a student of piano, he became the bluesmaster who played an altered tuning. Collins tuned his guitar to an open F minor chord (FCFAbCF), and then added a capo at the 5th, 6th or 7th fret. At the age of twelve, he made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing “Boogie Chillen'” by John Lee Hooker.

In the early days Collins worked as a paint mixer and truck driver to make ends meet. In 1971, when he was 39 years old, Collins worked in construction, since he couldn’t make a proper living from his music. One of the construction jobs he worked on was a remodeling job for Neil Diamond. This type of work carried on right up until the late 1970s. It was his wife Gwen that talked him into returning to music. Continue reading Albert Collins 11/1993

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Criss Oliva 10/1993

criss_olivaOctober 17, 1993 – Christopher “Criss” Michael Oliva was lead guitarist and co-founder of the heavy metal band Savatage, born in Pompton Plains, NJ on April 3rd 1963. In 1976 the Oliva family moved to Dunedin, Florida and it was here that Criss and his brother Jon formed a band Avatar, in 1978.

But in 1983 as success was looming on the horizon, they had to change their name and decided on Savatage. Under that name they released their first two albums, Sirens in 1983 and The Dungeons Are Calling in 1985. Savatage continued to flourish, releasing a further 6 albums after signing with Atlantic Records in 1985.

The band toured relentlessly, with Criss winning critical acclaim, his biggest dream was for Savatage’s 1991 album Streets: A Rock Opera to achieve platinum status. Streets was Savatage’s biggest mainstream success, and Criss enjoyed the exposure the record gave the band, allowing new fans to be found for their music.

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Randy Jo Hobbs 8/1993

August 4, 1993 – Randy Jo Hobbs was born on March 22nd 1948 in Winchester, Indiana.

Already fronting his own band the Coachmen at age 17, he soon joined brothers Rick (later known as Rick Derringer and Randy Zehringer, a Union City Indiana garage band called The McCoys (originally Rick and the Raiders) from 1965 to 1969 during which time their hit “Hang On Sloopy” became a global hit. The song sold some 6 million copies and was the McCoys entry in the big league, opening up for giant acts of the era like the Rolling Stones. When the song’s popularity ran out of steam, they became the house band for a popular New York hotspot called Steve Paul’s The Scene where they were introduced to Texas guitar God in the making Johnny Winter.  Lacking more hits the band soon turned into backing guitar phenomenon Johnny Winter in the seventies.

As a band the McCoys called it quits in 1973 and Hobbs stayed a while longer with Johnny Winter but later played in brother Edgar Winter’s White Trash from until around 1976. White Trash was comprised of Southern musicians, one of which was another guitar giant, Ronnie Montrose. This led to Randy playing with a later version of Montrose,  on the ‘Jump on It’ album, released in 1976.

Earlier Randy had played bass with Jimi Hendrix on some 1968 live sessions which were later released unofficially as Woke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead in 1980 and New York Sessions in 1998, and officially as Bleeding Heart in 1994. At this time he unfortunately developed a huge heroin dependency that ultimately would cause his demise in 1993

In 1978 he also played bass on Rick Derringer’s album with Dick Glass, “Glass Derringer”.

Drug abuse took a toll on Randy Hobbs, and ultimately consumed his career as a musician.  A front man can stumble out onto the stage and sleepwalk through the set, but an out-of-control side player is done for.  Randy Hobbs was fired from Johnny Winter’s band and returned to Randolph County where he lived out his life.

Randy Jo Hobbs was found dead in a Dayton hotel room on August 5, 1993 – Rick Derringer’s birthday. The cause was heart failure. He was 45.

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Richard Tee 7/1993

July 21, 1993 – Richard Tee was born Richard Ten Ryk on November 24th 1943 in Brooklyn, New York, where he spent most of his life and lived with his mother in a brownstone apartment building.

Tee graduated from The High School of Music & Art in New York City and attended the Manhattan School of Music. Though better known as a studio and session musician, Tee led a jazz ensemble, the Richard Tee Committee, and was a founding member of the band Stuff. In 1981 he played the piano and Fender Rhodes for Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert In Central Park.

Tee played with a diverse range of artists during his career, such as Paul Simon, Carly Simon, The Bee Gees, Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Peter Allen, George Harrison, Diana Ross, Duane Allman, Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, Art Garfunkel, Nina Simone, Juice Newton, Billy Joel, Etta James, Grover Washington, Jr., Eric Clapton, Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin, David Ruffin, Lou Rawls, Ron Carter, Peter Gabriel, George Benson, Joe Cocker, Chuck Mangione, Tim Finn, Peabo Bryson, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Phoebe Snow, Doc Severinson, Leo Sayer, Herbie Mann and countless others. He also contributed to numerous gold and platinum albums during his long career and joined the band Stuff led by bassist Gordon Edwards. Other members of the band included guitarist Cornell Dupree, drummer Chris Parker and later adding guitarist Eric Gale and drummer Steve Gadd to the line up.

After a 16-year relationship with Eleana Steinberg Tee of Greenwich, Connecticut, the couple was married in Woodstock, New York, by New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruce Wright. The couple moved to the Chelsea Hotel in 1988, and later to Cold Spring, New York.

Tee died of prostate cancer on July 21, 1993 in Cold Spring, New York at the age of 49. He is buried in the Artist Cemetery in Woodstock, New York.

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Mia Zapata 7/1993

July 6, 1993 – Mia Zapata (The Gits) entered this world August 25, 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also was raised. As the story goes, Mia’s father was distantly related to Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican revolution.

She grew up a smart and sensitive kid with a natural connection to music and performing. Influenced by rock as well as jazz, blues and R&B singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke, Mia learned how to play the guitar and the piano by age nine.

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Duncan Browne 5/1993

duncan-brownMay 28, 1993 – Duncan Browne was born March 25th 1947. As a boy, Duncan Browne intended to follow his father, an Air Commodore (British equivalent of a one-star Air Force general), into the Royal Air Force, but his poor health even as a youth precluded this as a possibility.

Instead, he chose to pursue his interests as an actor — he played the clarinet and studied music theory, but wasn’t possessed to consider a career in music until, at age 17, he saw Bob Dylan in an appearance on a BBC drama called The Madhouse on Castle Street, during the American folk-rock star’s first tour of the U.K. It was Dylan’s guitar playing rather than his singing that served as Browne’s inspiration and entryway to rock music. “Most people find that odd,” he recalled in a 1991 interview from his home in London, “but I was interested in the way he tuned and played his guitar, especially on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” In response, he bought a Yamaha acoustic model and taught himself to play in a technique that was heavily classically influenced.

He then spent some time busking around London and later traveled across Europe on 30 pounds borrowed from his father, before entering the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. During his three years there, in addition to studying drama, he kept up with his guitar playing and developed a greater command of music theory — which he’d begun studying as a teenager — and formed a folk-rock trio called Lorel. They were later signed to Andrew Oldham’s Immediate Records and cut one single, ironically enough an original song that had the bad luck to use as its source the same Bach-originated tune that Procol Harum had utilized for “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.

Immediate saw no point in releasing the single, and the trio soon dissolved. Browne was able to salvage his own career out of the debacle, however — he had done some arranging for other acts on the label and Oldham was impressed with what he’d seen, and wanted a solo album from him. He turned to a former student friend of his, David Bretton, to serve as lyricist, and the two composed a dozen songs together. The resulting album, Give Me Take You, was one of the jewels of the Immediate Records catalog, a quietly dazzling work that embraced elements of folk, rock, pop, and classical, all wrapped around some surprisingly well-crafted poetry and Browne’s stunning voice.

Over the decades, it has been compared to the best work of Paul McCartney and the Moody Blues, and also to such albums as Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, while Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice has described it as an example of “Pre-Raphaelite Rock,” a reference to the Renaissance revival movement in art, formed in England in the mid-19th century.

Despite its many virtues, the album died a commercial death, largely as a result of its being released just at the point when Immediate’s financial underpinnings were beginning to collapse. Both Browne and Give Me Take You did get some notice in England, and especially from his fellow musicians — “Keith Emerson [of the Nice] heard my work on Give Me Take You,” he recalled in 1991, “and rang me up to ask if I would arrange [the choir and accompaniment on] “Hang on to a Dream.” I enjoyed working with the Nice — we would support each other when we toured together, and Keith asked me at one point if I was interested in replacing their guitarist, Davy O’List, as the fourth member of the band. I think by the time that happened though, he was in the process of putting together the group that eventually became Emerson, Lake & Palmer.”

Those who heard it tended to love Give Me Take You, and Browne probably could have gotten some concert work from the release, but for a certain degree of confusion as to who he was, owing both to Immediate’s slipshod publicity operation and the design of the album jacket — the triple superimposed image of Browne, coupled with the multiple overdubs on many of the songs, led some promoters to think that Duncan Browne was a trio of some sort. When the company’s collapse came in 1969-1970 — with Oldham, trying in the final days to raise money from any and every source, actually presenting Browne with a bill for 2,000 pounds (about $6,000) to cover the recording cost of the LP — Give Me Take You was buried under the rubble of Immediate Records. It resurfaced briefly in the mid-’70s on the Canadian-based Daffodil label and then disappeared until the early ’90s; for years, as with most of the Immediate library, the master tapes to Browne’s work were missing, lost in storage in some forgotten vault.

Browne went on to record a single for Bell Records’ British unit (an unusual label that also recorded the not-dissimilar Amazing Blondel during this same period), and had a short but more substantial liaison with Mickie Most’s RAK label in 1972, where he issued a single, “Journey,” with its extraordinary Spanish guitar figure, that went top 20 in 1972 and was voted “most unusual single of the year”. A self-titled solo album that was a direct stylistic follow-up to his Immediate LP followed. Neither did well enough to justify more recording at the time, and Browne spent the next several years as a session musician, working on a pair of albums by Colin Blunstone and one album by Tom Yates.

In 1973 he decided to transfer his classical technique to electric guitar, during which period he met Peter Godwin. They worked together for two years in Paris and London on the prototypical songs, sound and style of what was to become “Metro”. Duncan’s only album with Metro was released in 1976 on Logo Records. Suddenly, Browne was near the cutting edge of music again, and in addition to his work with Metro he released a pair of solo albums, The Wild Places and Streets of Fire, which were also issued on Sire in the early ’80s. This was as close as Duncan Browne ever got to rock stardom, his records sought after in locales like New York’s East Village and played on American college radio stations. Creem magazine critic Janis Schact pegged him as the voice that was “about to launch [a thousand romances] into the 1980s.”

Despite some beautiful and surprisingly hard-rocking music that was sort of new wave melodic, however, there wasn’t enough interest or activity to sustain this phase of Browne’s career. By the middle of the eighties, Browne had moved into the field of film and television scoring, and worked on Jonathan Miller’s series Madness, among other productions. He was pleasantly surprised at the outset of the 1990s when the CD boom led to new interest in his 1960s and 1970s rock efforts — Browne was gratified, in particular, to learn that Sony Music Special Products was preparing a CD reissue of Give Me Take You in the United States.

Alas, he was stricken with cancer in the early ’90s, and died on May 28, 1993 at the age of 46.

In the years since, most of his catalog, including his early-’80s solo albums, was re-released and Browne’s music may well have had a larger following in 2002 than it ever did in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1990’s, battling cancer, Duncan had begun working on his first album of new songs in well over a decade. But tragically, Duncan would not see the completion of “Songs of Love and War”. The task of completing the album fell to Nick Magnus, who with the help of Colin Blunstone and Sebastion Graham-Jones, put the finishing touches on a haunting and beautiful collection of songs. The album was released on Nic Potter’s Zomart label in 1995.

Duncan Browne’s songs have been covered by Patti Smith, Ian Matthews, Barry Manilow, Colin Blunstone, John English, and particularly successfully by David Bowie.

I guess you have to be in a particular mood, but I loved the achingly beautiful song by Duncan Brown titled Niña Morena.


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Mick Ronson 4/1993

Mick_Ronson_&_Ian_HunterApril 29, 1993 – Mick Ronson was born May 26, 1946 in  in Kingston upon Hull, England. As a child he was trained classically to play piano, recorder, violin, and (later) the harmonium. He initially wanted to be a cellist, but moved to guitar upon discovering the music of Duane Eddy, whose sound on the bass notes of his guitar sounded to Ronson similar to that of the cello.

He moved to London in 1965, after having outplayed the local bands.

After several attempts through the ’60s of making it in London, he got his break in early 1970, when he joined David Bowie’s new backing band called The Hype. The Hype played their first gig at The Roundhouse on 22 February 1970.

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Steve Douglas 4/1993

steve douglasApril 19, 1993 – Steve Douglas Kreisman  was born September 24, 1938 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he studied trumpet, trombone and violin and taught himself to play the saxophone at age 15.  After serving briefly in the Navy in the Drum and Bugle Corps, Douglas began his musical career recording and touring with Duane Eddy in the ’50s.

His first job as a session saxophonist was with Phil Spector as one of “Phil’s Regulars,” a group that included Sonny Bono on percussion, Glen Campbell on guitar and Leon Russell on keyboard.

He played the blues with Duane Eddy and the Rebels at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1958, and with Elvis Presley on the set of the film “Girls, Girls, Girls!” in the early 1960’s.

Douglas played on albums by the Beach Boys and toured with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. He was one of the most sort after session musicians in L.A, a member of The Wrecking Crew, who worked with Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. He can be heard on records by Duane Eddy, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, BB King, Ike & Tina Turner, Bobby Darin and so many others.

Over the years, he played with Sam Cooke, B. B. King, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder. He also worked on the soundtracks for such movies as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

The ’70s and ’80s saw Douglas performing with Bob Dylan, Mink Deville, Mickey Hart, Ry Cooder, and even the Ramones on the Phil Spector production End of the Century.

Anyone who has listened to classic rock radio has heard the sax playing of Steve Douglas. As a result of his contributions, Steve Douglas was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Douglas died of heart failure on Monday April 19, 1993  at a Hollywood recording studio during a recording session with Ry Cooder.

He was 55 and lived in Petaluma, Calif.

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Toy Caldwell 2/1993

Toy CaldwellFebruary 25, 1993 – Toy Talmadge Caldwell Jr (Marshall Tucker Band) was born in Spartanburg, SC on November 13, 1947.

He began playing guitar before his teen years with his younger brother Tommy Caldwell. He developed a unique style of playing, playing the electric guitar using his thumb rather than a pick. Toy played basketball and football in high school with friends George McCorkle, Jerry Eubanks, and Doug Gray. While very involved in sports, the boys eventually became interested in music including jazz and blues. By the age of sixteen, Caldwell was passionate about music, sports, and his other obsession, motorcycles. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing.

Like a good old southern boy, Caldwell decided to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In 1966, he reported for recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After being wounded in Vietnam in September 1968, he was evacuated for two weeks, but then returned for duty. Caldwell was discharged in 1969 and once again began playing music with his high school buddies. The Spartanburg chapter of the Marine Corps League is named the Hutchings-Caldwells Detachment in honor of Toy, his brother Tommy and another Marine, Pvt Nolan Ryan Hutchings who was killed during the Iraq Invasion in 2003.

Toy was a founding member and lead guitarist of the Marshall Tucker Band which formed in 1973. He was a member of the band from 1973 to 1983 and wrote almost all of their songs. He later formed the Toy Caldwell Band and released an eponymous CD in 1992; the record was later renamed “Son of the South” by Southern rock luminary, Toy’s personal friend, Charlie Daniels.  In addition to his guitarist role, he occasionally performed lead vocals for Marshall Tucker Band, including on one of the band’s best-known hits, “Can’t You See.”

He was the older brother of co-founder and bass guitarist Tommy Caldwell, who was killed at age 30 in an automobile accident on April 28, 1980, and to Tim Caldwell, who on March 28, 1980, one month prior to Tommy’s death, was killed at age 25 in a collision with a Spartanburg County garbage truck on S.C. Highway 215

Toy Caldwell was 45, when he died on 25 February 1993 from cardio-respiratory failure due to cocaine ingestion.

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Patrick Waite 2/1993

Patrick WaiteFebruary 18, 1993 – Patrick Waite . Waite was born on May 16, 1968 in the Birmingham area of England. His father had moved from his native Jamaica to England in 1966.

At age eleven he became a founding member of Musical Youth, a British-Jamaican pop/reggae band. The group originally formed in 1979 at Duddeston Manor School in Birmingham, England and featured two sets of brothers, Kelvin and Michael Grant, plus Junior and Patrick Waite.

The latter pair’s father, Frederick Waite, was a former member of Jamaican group The Techniques, and sang lead with Junior at the start of the group’s career in the late 1970s.
They were quickly signed to MCA Records and by that time, founding father Frederick Waite had backed down, to be replaced by Dennis Seaton, a kid their own age, as lead singer.

In 1982 they released there first and only hit. The pro-marijuana song called, “Pass The Dutchie” was based on “Pass The Kouchie” by ‘The Mighty Diamonds.’ The song sold over 5 million copies, but none of their future releases would gain as much attention as this one had. They went onto sing backup for Donna Summers until the career began to sour, eventually leading to the disbanding of the band in 1985.

An interview in England from March 2003 reveals that Musical Youth was Doomed from the start, in an industry that has claimed many legends, unprepared for great wealth, adoration and royalty theft. Here is that interview with singer Dennis Seaton and keyboard player Michael Grant.

Next Car & Van Rental sits opposite a council estate in Halesowen, a small town near Birmingham. It’s not the best area, but it’s not the worst either. The walls of the forecourt are spiked with broken glass. Inside, co-owner Steve Cooke offers a pulverizing handshake, the internationally recognized signal of a provincial businessman on the up. His partner, Dennis Seaton, is charming, yet seems faintly sheepish about being interviewed.

Next Car & Van Rental is a long way from the Grammy awards, where Seaton was nominated best newcomer the night Michael Jackson picked up eight gongs for Thriller, and from Los Angeles, where he was briefly top goalscorer on Rod Stewart’s celebrity expat Sunday league team. But it’s also a fair distance from signing on or delivering sacks of rice, which Seaton also did when his 15 minutes of fame ran out. Today, few of his customers know he was ever famous. “People aren’t going to rent a car from me because I used to be the singer in Musical Youth,” he says. 

Musical Youth’s 1982 single Pass the Dutchie sold 5m copies. They broke America. They were the first black artists to be played on MTV – beating Michael Jackson by several months. But their stardom never transcended its era. Seaton’s tales are thick with dimly remembered names. They were regulars on Razzmatazz, Tyne Tees’s unlamented pop show. They worked on a film with The A Team’s Mr T. Irene Cara, singer of Fame and Flashdance, guested onstage. Throw in a commentary by Stuart Maconie and some footage of people wearing deely boppers and you’ve got yourself a BBC2 nostalgia show. 

What started out as a jaunty celebration of multi-cultural British youth ended as a cautionary tale about the perils of naivety in the music industry. Like all tales from rock’s dark side, it involved drugs, mental instability, lawlessness, financial wranglings and premature death. In this tale, however, the people who got in trouble, went mad and died had barely hit puberty at the height of their success. 

Eating lunch in a gaudy Birmingham leisure complex, keyboard player Michael Grant is aware that Musical Youth has become a byword for child stardom’s misery. “Black artists get ripped off, child stars get ripped off,” he says. “We were doomed from the start, really.” 

Grant is the only surviving member of Musical Youth who still has a successful musical career. Remixes by his production team, 5am, have graced singles by Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes and Kelly Rowland. He manages a gospel duo called Nu Life and has recently produced an indie band, River Deep. “I want to produce the next Oasis album,” he says hopefully. 

Courteous to a fault, he is nevertheless noticeably angrier about Musical Youth’s demise than Seaton. The singer retains a curious ebullience even when accusing the music industry of racism. Perhaps that’s the legacy of being the frontman, spending your early teens grinning good-naturedly on gormless kids’ TV shows and in gormless pop magazines. 

Grant was nine years old in 1979, when he and his guitarist brother Kelvin, then seven, joined Musical Youth. They had formed at the behest of a family friend, Freddie Waite, once a singer in Jamaican vocal trio the Techniques. Waite had left the band in 1966, emigrated to England and ended up in Nechells, in inner-city Birmingham. Waite encouraged his sons, Patrick and Junior, to take up bass and drums respectively. When the Grant brothers joined them, they became his backing band. 

“We used to do a lot of pubs and clubs with this 35-year-old man when we were between the ages of seven and 12,” says Grant. “This old guy next to a bunch of kids! Kelvin’s hands were so small they could only just reach around the fretboard of his guitar. It was odd, but we got a favourable reaction. We could play our instruments.”

Reggae is a famously obtuse genre. It makes stars out of the most unlikely people. Freddie Waite and Musical Youth were certainly weird, but no weirder than, say, King Stitt, Jamaica’s cross-eyed, toothless, facially disfigured DJ. Outside reggae circles, however, Freddie Waite and Musical Youth were just too peculiar. An A&R man spotted them performing in Coventry, and offered them a deal – on one condition. “He said, you need a singer your own age,” Grant chuckles. “We held an audition and Dennis was the only one to turn up. It was pretty embarrassing.” 

Musical Youth signed to MCA records in 1982. “We would have been excited if we knew what it meant,” says Grant. “We thought it was par for the course – why shouldn’t we get a record deal? We didn’t really understand.” 

“The Fun Boy Three tried to talk to us about the business,” remembers Seaton. “But we were asking them questions like, ‘Are you going out with Bananarama?'” 

Musical Youth’s first single for MCA was a version of the Mighty Diamonds’ Rastafarian anthem Pass the Kouchie, with the lyrics and title famously altered to avoid any reference to marijuana. Driven by Kelvin Grant’s exuberant toasting – a kind of Jamaican proto-rapping, then entirely alien to a British pop audience – Pass the Dutchie entered the charts at number 26 on September 25. The next week it leapt to number one. It was a hit across Europe. It reached the top 10 in America. They recorded with Donna Summer. Michael Jackson took a shine to them. “I was one of those kids that’s been in his bedroom,” says Grant indignantly, “and nothing untoward happened.” 

The money was rolling in. Everyone except Seaton moved away from their council estate homes. “We had to set up our own companies,” he remembers. “We had to get accountants and sit in board meetings. I would ask questions, but I was 15 and I felt like I was bothering them.” 

In some ways, it’s surprising Musical Youth’s success lasted so long. In a market reliant on high visibility to keep fickle audiences interested, Musical Youth were restricted by guidelines protecting child performers. “We could only work 42 days of the year, and we were trying to compete against guys that toured for 18 months solid,” says Grant. 

In addition, once the excitement surrounding Pass the Dutchie died down, Musical Youth found themselves trapped in a musical no-man’s land, between frivolous teen pop and the sombre, grittily political world of reggae. They had honed their skills in Birmingham’s notoriously tough black clubs and recorded sessions for the John Peel show, but their age meant they would inevitably be viewed as a novelty, aimed not at serious music fans but children. “We were seen as a novelty, not just because of our age, but because of the colour of our skin,” says Grant. “There weren’t any role models around our age, there weren’t any black kids on TV, so we were setting a lot of trends.” 

The disparity showed in the songs Dennis Seaton penned with Freddie Waite. They awkwardly attempted to graft the language with which Rastafarian artists prophesied Babylon’s imminent collapse on to juvenile concerns. Pass the Dutchie’s follow-up, The Youth of Today, suggested its protagonist was “under heavy manners”, a phrase coined by Jamaican premier Michael Manley, when he introduced martial law in 1976. It wasn’t the first time the term had been re-appropriated by a reggae song (fire-and-brimstone Rasta Prince Far-I beat them to it) but it was presumably the first time it had been used to describe a child’s frustration at being unable to “buy a little bike”. The B-sides of their second top 10 single Never Gonna Give You Up further encapsulated their dilemma. One was a bass-heavy band original called Rub N Dub. The other was the theme to Jim’ll Fix It. 

Their record label was keen to capitalise on their US success. In America, Pass the Dutchie had become the biggest-selling reggae single in over a decade – testament both to the band’s commercial appeal and the fact that Americans didn’t buy many reggae records. “We started doing R&B because they wanted to make it accessible to America,” says Grant. “Even then, at 13, I was thinking, this isn’t what I want. We weren’t really in a position to argue. I should have been more assertive in hindsight, but I was a child. I had no influence on my career. To say we were manipulated is an understatement. We were led by everybody and anybody.”

It was to prove a disastrous miscalculation. Different Style limped to number 144 in America. In Britain, too, the novelty had worn off: 18 months after Pass the Dutchie, Musical Youth’s chart career was over. Its failure shocked their label, which hurriedly sent them – with their families – to Barbados for a massively expensive recording session with reggae star Eddy Grant. “My parents realised the money was running out, that we didn’t look as happy,” remembers Grant. “Nobody from the record company and the management came to explain to my parents about what was going on. Towards the end of Musical Youth, they got solicitors involved. Now, looking back, it was an absolute nightmare.” 

“It became the Grants versus the Waites and Dennis Seaton was caught up in the whole thing. The parents thought their career wasn’t being planned or controlled properly,” says David Morgan, who became Seaton’s manager in the late 1980s. “I think they thought they could do better themselves, but they had no knowledge of the business. When MCA saw this internal squabbling, they were pretty dismayed. Then when the label discovered the amount of money Eddy Grant had charged them, and heard what he’d done, that was pretty much the kiss of death.”

While the families and their respective lawyers battled with each other, the behaviour of both Waite brothers was becoming unpredictable. “Junior was showing signs of mental problems,” says Grant. “Stuff that should have been water off a duck’s back he was taking really seriously. If you asked him why he hadn’t shaved, he’d go beserk, ‘Why are you criticising me? Why don’t you mind your own business?’ Patrick was like that as well. I just thought, ‘We don’t need this.'” 

The reasons behind their decline are still mysterious. One band associate solemnly claims Patrick Waite’s problems stemmed from an incident in which he had “fallen over and bumped his head”. Seaton thinks they had something to do with the Waite family’s relocation from the estates of Nechells to Edgbaston. “They moved to this swanky apartment, a well-to-do area. That changed them because they were in surroundings that they weren’t used to. My family stayed in Nechells, my mum bought her house there. It keeps you grounded.” 

More prosaically, the Waite brothers had developed drug problems. Seaton and Grant profess ignorance as to precisely what drugs. “Obviously, we knew that he was smoking weed because we were his friends, but this other stuff, we had no idea,” says Seaton. “When I hear now what people are like on speed, I think that’s what it must have been. When Patrick left school, he was spending a lot of time in this pub that his dad owned, so I suppose he must have got it there. It wasn’t until we got out on the road that we realised he was going off the rails.” 

Patrick Waite’s erratic behaviour came to a head on a final, disastrous trip to Jamaica in the spring of 1985. “He completely lost it onstage,” Grant remembers. “He was totally spaced out, didn’t know where the hell he was, playing all kinds of crap. His dad ran onstage, took his bass off him and took him off the stage.”

Waite was hospitalised, and the rest of Musical Youth left Jamaica without him. Back in England, they were dropped by MCA and broke up in June, spurred by Seaton’s decision to leave: “The day before my 18th birthday, I became a Christian, and from that day everything changed. For the last four years, I’d lived, breathed, slept and shit Musical Youth. The decision to leave wasn’t planned. I didn’t even particularly want to be a solo artist. I just wasn’t happy.” 

Neither was Michael Grant. “After the band broke up, I read this article in one of the tabloids saying Musical Youth were has-beens. I was 16 years old. All my friends are leaving school, going into jobs, starting their lives, doing all that sort of thing, and you read this article saying you’re a has-been. I didn’t do anything for a couple of years. I got involved with different bands, but it didn’t bring me any peace.”

His brother, just 14 when the band split, was equally distraught. “He got bored and restless and didn’t have anything to do. Kelvin didn’t want to go back into the music industry, didn’t want to go back down that road. He felt a bit burned by the experience. He’s still trying to find some direction.” 

Today, Kelvin Grant is a virtual recluse; the brothers seldom speak. Various attempts to reform Musical Youth during the late 1980s floundered, usually because of the Waites’s unpredictability. Seaton tried his hand at a solo career. Despite songwriting help from Stevie Wonder, his 1989 album Imagine That flopped. Two years later, he was back in Birmingham, driving a delivery van. “I had to sign on when the money ran out. People were looking at me and laughing, but I had to do it.”

The Waite brothers’ lives unravelled far more dramatically. Patrick Waite began making local newspaper headlines as a petty criminal. Grant thinks his crimes had little to do with poverty. “Suddenly, there’s no rehearsals, you’re not going around the world any more. I think he was just bored out of his mind.” In 1987, he was jailed for four months for reckless driving, credit-card fraud and assaulting the police. In 1990, he was jailed again, for robbing a pregnant woman at knifepoint. Shortly after his release, he was arrested again, for marijuana possession. “I had words with him,” remembers Seaton. “I was trying to tell him it affected all five of us, that it was tarnishing whatever reputation the band had left. Every time he appeared in the papers it wasn’t Patrick Waite, it was Musical Youth. That was the last conversation I ever had with him.”

While awaiting trial in February 1993, Patrick Waite collapsed on February 18 and died at his uncle’s, the victim of heart failure brought on by a rare virus. He was 24 years old. 

At the time of his death, he was sharing a flat with his mother, sister and Junior, whose mental condition had worsened. “He just got more and more withdrawn,” says Seaton. “I suppose he had a breakdown. He used to sit at home all day watching Aswad videos. He was like a guy that retires, doesn’t have anything to do. It’s bound to affect you.” Junior Waite was eventually sectioned. Today, he is still under medical supervision, in the care of his mother.

By the late 1990s, Musical Youth had passed into history. The sound of Pass the Dutchie became a sort of musical shorthand for a less manufactured era of pop. In 1998, Seaton’s former manager David Morgan heard it on the soundtrack of 1980s-themed romantic comedy hit The Wedding Singer. “I rang Dennis and said, ‘You must be earning a lot of money. He said no. The members of Musical Youth had not received any royalty accounting from their record label since 1986, which was diabolical. Just the use on The Wedding Singer earned about £20,000.” 

It took him two and a half years to sort through Musical Youth’s business affairs.”Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ,” said Universal’s spokesman, when Morgan launched a £2m claim for unpaid royalties, damages and interest on the money owed Musical Youth. “I sent something like 10,000 letters,” he sighs. “They tried to wear me down by ignoring me.” In December 2002, MCA/Universal settled out of court. Morgan cannot divulge exact figures but claims “it amounts to close on a seven-figure sum. In the end, the record company were embarrassed about it.” 

In addition, he has convinced the label to release a Musical Youth compilation. Seaton and Grant plan to promote it with some club dates and a 1980s package tour. “Everyone remembers Musical Youth,” says Seaton. And indeed they do. Ever since Frankie Lymon, the teenage singer of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? overdosed on heroin in 1968, child stars whose careers go horribly wrong have exerted a morbid fascination. It may be that their stories confirm the public’s worst instincts about the music industry. It may be something to do with the gulf between the chirpy records children invariably make and the reality of their lives: child stars rarely sound like Joy Division or Nirvana, signposting doom in their music. Or it may be simple nostalgia for a more innocent era. “I still get emails from Holland,” smiles Seaton. “People saying we changed their life.” Then his telephone rings, and he arranges to pick up a Mercedes hatchback from a nearby industrial estate. 

Their recordings include “Children Of Zion,” “Rockers,” “Youth Of Today,” “Sixteen,” “Yard Stylee,” “Air Taxi,” “Blind Boy,” “Mash It The Youth Man, Mash It,” “Young Generation,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Heartbreaker,” “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Schoolgirl,” “Shanty Town,” “She’s Trouble,” “Watcha Talking ‘Bout,” “Incommunicado,” “No Strings,” and “Tell Me Why.”

They received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards of 1984. Their follow-up to “Pass the Dutchie”, “Youth Of Today”, reached number 13 in the UK Singles Chart, and early in 1983, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, climbed to UK number 6. Minor successes with “Heartbreaker” and “Tell Me Why”, were succeeded by a collaboration with Donna Summer on the UK Top 20 hit, “Unconditional Love”.

“To be honest we all had no preconceived ideas on how fame would be handled because it was only ever about playing as many gigs as possible. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing but we were dealing with unknown territory of musical success on a world stage but yes there are some aspects of our new found fame could have been handled much better.”

In 2001, the band reformed, but the set of shows scheduled for the Here & Now tour of that year were cancelled due to the 9-11 attacks. Sadly, and according to your website, original band members Freddie ‘Junior’ Waite has since suffered a nervous breakdown, Kelvin Grant also suffers from psychological problems, and Patrick Waite died at age 24 from heart problems!

Says Seaton: “Kelvin was supposed to come on the road with me but due to his erratic behaviour I decided to just work with Michael as he was more interested than Kelvin. It was ashame that the tour got cancelled but it spurred Michael and myself to carry on and do some live shows together because that’s what we started out doing. We have now toured the West coast of America, Slovenia some live shows in Netherlands and Germany. Things took a natural course for the band and subsequent events haven’t helped but then that’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ as they say!”