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Shannon Hoon 10/1995

Shanon_hoonOctober 21, 1995 – Richard Shannon Hoon was born on September 26, 1967 and raised in Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating from McCutcheon High School in 1985 he joined and fronted two local bands Styff Kitten and Mank Rage. He also composed his first song at this time titled “Change”. Several years later he relocated to Los Angeles where he met musicians Brad Smith and Rogers Stevens and they formed the band Blind Melon, and in 1991 got a recording contract with Capitol Records.

In LA he also met up with Axl Rose of Guns ‘n’ Roses, a high school friend of his half-sister Anna, who was recording the albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Hoon sang backing vocals on several of the tracks, including “The Garden” and “Don’t Cry”.

Axl Rose also invited him to appear in the video for “Don’t Cry”. In 1992, Blind Melon released their self-titled debut album, it sold poorly until the single “No Rain” was released in September of 1993 and the album went quadruple-platinum.

In 1994, they recorded their second album ‘Soup’, which was released in 1995. They went on tour to promote the album, which sadly was Hoon’s last album and tour. He was found dead on the band’s tour bus; tragically he had died from a heart attack, due to a cocaine overdose, while in New Orleans on October 21, 1995 at age 28.

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Sterling Morrison 8/1995

Sterling Morrison, lead guitar for Velvet UndergroundAugust 30, 1995 – Holmes Sterling Morrison (The Velvet underground) was born in East Meadow, Long Island on August 29th 1942. He had two brothers and three sisters. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother remarried. He first met future Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker during childhood, through her brother Jim, who attended Division Avenue High School in Levittown, New York with Morrison. Originally playing trumpet, Morrison switched to guitar after his trumpet teacher was drafted.

While studying English, he visited his childhood friend Jim Tucker at Syracuse University, he met Lou Reed, a friend of Tucker’s and a fellow English student. Before Reed graduated in 1964, they met again in New York City in 1963. By this time, Reed had met John Cale and was interested in starting a band, so when they encountered Morrison, he was invited to join.

Reed, Cale, Morrison and original percussionist Angus MacLise constituted the original line-up of the Velvet Underground, taking the name from Michael Leigh’s sadomasochistic novel of the same name. Reed sang and played guitar, Morrison played guitar, Cale played viola, bass and keyboards and MacLise was playing bongos, hand drums, tabla, tambourines and the cimbalom, but when the group were offered $75 (US$570 in 2017 dollars) for a gig at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey, MacLise abruptly quit because he refused to play for a specified time or conform to the notion of when to start and stop playing and also viewed accepting money for art as a sell-out. With no time to audition a replacement drummer, the group turned to Maureen Tucker to replace him, initially for that one show, but she soon became a permanent member and her rhythms would be an integral part of the band’s music, despite the initial objections of Cale.

Morrison primarily played guitar on the band’s first two albums, although when Cale, the band’s nominal bassist, played viola or keyboards in the studio or on stage, Morrison often filled in on bass. Some songs (including “Heroin” and “Sister Ray”) had Reed and Morrison on their usual guitars while Cale played viola and Vox Continental organ respectively, with no bass guitar.

There were at least three songs where Cale played both piano and bass while Reed and Morrison played guitars and these were “I’m Waiting for the Man”, “Femme Fatale” and “White Light/White Heat” and two songs where Cale played both viola and bass with Reed and Morrison on guitars: “Here She Comes Now” and “The Black Angel’s Death Song”, the former of which saw Cale doubling on piano. Although Morrison was a proficient bassist (as exemplified by his performances on “Sunday Morning”, “Venus in Furs”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Lady Godiva’s Operation”), he disliked playing the instrument.

After Cale left the group in 1968, Morrison usually exclusively played guitar; however, photographic evidence indicates that he continued to play bass onstage for certain songs if Doug Yule, Cale’s replacement, was occupied with organ. During the Cale era, there was no established “lead” or “rhythm” guitar hierarchy in the Velvet Underground; both Reed and Morrison traded roles regularly. From the third album on though, Morrison almost always took the role of lead guitarist as Reed concentrated more on his singing and rhythm playing. Additionally, Morrison frequently sang backing vocals and the occasional lead vocal spot (he recited many verses of Reed’s poetry in “The Murder Mystery” and sang one line in “I’m Sticking With You”).

Morrison repeatedly remarked that “Venus in Furs,” from the band’s debut album, was his personal favorite of all of The Velvet Underground’s songs, as he felt that the group had achieved with that one track, to a greater degree than any other, the sound the band had in mind.

– Although Reed was the main writer, there has been some conjecture that both Morrison and Cale made more songwriting contributions than is specified in the credits as Morrison later told Victor Bockris, “Lou really did want to have a whole lot of credit for the songs, so on nearly all of the albums we gave it to him. It kept him happy. He got the rights to all the songs on Loaded, so now he’s credited for being the absolute and singular genius of the Underground, which is not true. There are a lot of songs I should have co-authorship on, and the same holds true for John Cale. The publishing company was called Three Prong because there were three of us involved. I’m the last person to deny Lou’s immense contribution and he’s the best songwriter of the three of us. But he wanted all the credit, he wanted it more than we did, and he got it, to keep the peace.” Nevertheless, Morrison got co-writing credits on “European Son”, “Here She Comes Now”, “The Gift”, “Sister Ray”, “Chelsea Girls”, “Hey Mr. Rain”, “Ride into the Sun”, “Foggy Notion”, “Ferryboat Bill”, “I’m Gonna Move Right In”, “Coney Island Steeplechase” and “Guess I’m Falling in Love” and he also co-wrote the title track with Reed to Nico’s debut solo album.-

In 1970, when the band was back in New York City to play an entire summer’s engagement at Max’s Kansas City, Morrison seized the opportunity to complete his English undergraduate degree at the City College of New York; along with Tucker, he remained in the Velvet Underground as lead guitarist after Reed left the band in acrimonious circumstances in August 1970. About a month after Lou Reed left the band in August 1970, he tried to convince Morrison to start a new band together, but Morrison turned him down, still angry at Reed for various reasons, and not confident that a new band could immediately attain the stature of the one Reed had just left.

Morrison did continue with the Reed-less Velvets for a while, touring and even doing a couple of unreleased recordings with them for Atlantic in late 1970. However, he left in 1971, teaching English at the University of Texas at Austin, and then working as a tugboat captain.In 1971, however, he began graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where he would earn a PhD in medieval literature (with a dissertation on the four signed poems of Cynewulf) in 1986. Morrison’s last performance with the band was on August 21, 1971 at Liberty Hall (Houston, Texas). When it was time for the band to return to New York, Morrison packed an empty suitcase and accompanied them to the gate of their departing plane, before finally telling them he was staying in Texas and leaving the band, the last founding member to quit.

Morrison then began to work on Houston tugboats as a deckhand to supplement his income in the mid-70s; when he was forced to relinquish his teaching assistantship some years later, he was licensed as a master mariner and became the captain of a Houston tugboat, a vocation he pursued throughout the 1980s.

After leaving the Velvet Underground, Morrison’s musical career was primarily limited to informal sessions for personal enjoyment, though he played in a few bands around Austin, Texas, most notably the Bizarros. Morrison’s tenure in the capital of Texas made him a well-loved and admired member of the local music community as well as an influential voice. During John Cale’s renaissance in the late 1970s, Morrison occasionally sat in with his former bandmate on stages such as the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. From the mid-1980s on, however, he occasionally recorded or performed with Reed, Cale, and Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker, who had by then started a solo career. Morrison was part of her touring band for most of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1992, the core Velvet Underground line-up of Reed, Cale, Morrison and Tucker decided to reform for a tour and possible album. Morrison argued that Doug Yule, who had replaced Cale in 1968, should be included to fill out the sound, but Reed and Cale vetoed him. The band extensively toured Europe in 1993, alternatively as headline act or supporting U2. Morrison’s playing held up well, and his performances were generally agreed to be top-notch. But by the end of the tour, relationships had soured again and plans for a US tour and MTV Unplugged album were scrapped. He also collaborated with John Cale on the score for the film “Antarctica” and was a guest on rock recordings like Luna’s “Bewitched.”

The European tour turned out to be the last for the Velvet Underground. Morrison joined Maureen Tucker’s band for a tour in 1994, and later that year was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Early in 1995 he was a featured performer with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, but sadly he passed away on August 30, 1995, one day after his 53rd birthday.

Upon their induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, Reed, Cale and Tucker performed a song entitled “Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend,” which was dedicated to Morrison.


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Ronnie White 8/1995

ronnie white of the miraclesAugust 26, 1995 – Ronald Anthony ‘Ronnie’ White  (The Miracles) was born on April 5, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. White began his friendship with fellow Miracles co-founder Smokey Robinson when they were kids. The pair started singing together when White was 12 and Robinson was 11 as the duo Ron & Bill. They were soon joined by a third boy, Pete Moore, and in 1955, the trio formed a quintet called The Five Chimes, with two other boys.

After the inclusion of Bobby Rogers and his cousin Emerson “Sonny” Rogers, the group changed its name to the Matadors, and changed their name again to The Miracles after Claudette Rogers, of the sister group the Matadorettes, replaced “Sonny”.

The quintet soon began working with Berry Gordy following a failed audition with Brunswick Records and soon found fame after signing with Gordy’s Motown label under the Tamla subsidiary.  White helped Robinson compose several hit singles including The Miracles’ “My Girl Has Gone” and “A Fork in the Road” and is known as the co-writer and co-producer of The Temptations’ signature song, “My Girl” and also co-wrote the same group’s “Don’t Look Back”. He also co-wrote Mary Wells’ “You Beat Me to the Punch” and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”. White would later win awards as a songwriter from the BMI. He also helped to bring a then unknown Stevie Wonder, his 11 year old neighbor, to Motown after overhearing him playing with White’s cousin; Wonder was signed immediately afterwards.

In 1966, The Miracles briefly retired from the road to work as staff songwriters and executives for the label, but soon complained of not getting paid, and returned to perform on the road the following year, in 1967. After Smokey and Claudette Robinson and long-time guitarist Marv Tarplin left the group in 1972, the group carried on with Billy Griffin as their new lead singer, scoring two more hits with Motown including the number-one smash, “Love Machine”, before leaving Motown in 1977 for Columbia Records. The group disbanded in 1978 after Pete Moore opted for retirement and Billy Griffin returned to his solo career.

White and Bobby Rogers revived the Miracles in 1980 with Dave Finley and Carl Cotton, calling themselves “The New Miracles”. This lasted until 1983, when White faced personal struggles following the death of his first wife, Earlyn Stephenson, who died from breast cancer that year. White announced a retirement shortly afterwards and the Miracles again disbanded. White and Rogers revived the Miracles again in 1993. From his marriage to Earlyn, he fathered two daughters, Michelle Lynn and Pamela Claudette. He later fathered a son, Ronald Anthony, II.

His only granddaughter, Maya Naomi, was born to Pamela after his death. White’s first born daughter, Michelle, succumbed to leukemia at the age of 9. White would later fight his own battle with leukemia and died, August 26, 1995, at the age of 57.

Ronnie can be seen performing with the Miracles on the 2006 DVD release: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles:The Definitive Performances 1963-1987 and in The T.A.M.I. Show (1964).

In 1987, Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Controversially, Ronnie White and the other original members of The Miracles, Bobby Rogers, Marv Tarplin, Pete Moore and Claudette Robinson, were not. However, The Miracles, including White, would later be retroactively inducted into the Hall of Fame by a special committee in 2012, alongside Smokey Robinson.

He was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on March 20, 2009 along with the other original members of The Miracles.


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doug stegmeyer, bassist for the Billy Joel BandAugust 25, 1995 – Douglas Alan ‘Doug’ Stegmeyer was born on December 23rd 1951 in Flushing Queens, New York.

Doug along with high school friend Russell Javors, Liberty DeVitto and Howard Emerson, formed the band Topper, performing songs that Russell wrote. The band soon became noticed by Billy Joel, and when Joel found he needed a bassist on his Streetlife Serenade tour, he asked Doug.

From then on Doug played bass and backing vocals on every one of Joel’s studio albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge and the live albums Songs in the Attic and Kohuept. Stegmeyer was the first musician that Billy took from Topper; at Stegmeyer’s recommendation a year and a half later, Emerson, Javors, and DeVitto joined Joel in the studio for his Turnstiles album and for the accompanying tour. Stegmeyer became a core member of Billy Joel’s band, playing bass on all of Joel’s studio albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge and the live albums Songs in the Attic and КОНЦЕРТ. Throughout his tenure with Joel, Stegmeyer was dubbed “The Sergeant at Arms Of The Billy Joel Band.” After leaving Joel’s band in 1989 (along with Javors), Stegmeyer maintained a busy schedule recording and producing.

Doug also performed as bassist for Debbie Gibson and Hall & Oates.

On August 25, 1995, Stegmeyer died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Smithtown, New York home/studio.

In 2014, Stegmeyer was inducted, posthumously, into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, along with his Topper and Joel bandmates Cannata, DeVitto, and Javors. The four were inducted primarily for their work with Joel.

“He was a very talented player. He was with me from the 1970s through 1988 and was the leader of the nucleus of the group that was the band. We called him the Sergeant-at-Arms. He was so committed to what he was doing.”

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Jerry Garcia 8/1995

Jerry Garcia300August 9, 1995 – Jerry Garcia was the frontman/guitarist for the most famous psychedelic jamband in the history of Rock and Roll: the Grateful Dead.

Jerome John Garcia is born on August 1, 1942 in San Francisco, CA to Jose Ramon “Joe” Garcia and Ruth Marie “Bobbie” Garcia, joining older brother Clifford “Tiff” Ramon. “My father played woodwinds, clarinet mainly. He was a jazz musician.”

In 1947 a wood chopping accident with his older brother at the Garcia family cabin causes Jerry to lose much of the middle finger on his right hand at the age of five. That winter, Jerry’s father drowns while on a fishing trip.

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Wolfman Jack 7/1995

wolfman-jackJuly 1, 1995 – Wolfman Jack was born Robert Weston Smith on January 21st 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.

He got his big break when he became a “gofer” at Paramount and began his radio career in 1960 at WYOU in Newport News, Virginia, where he developed his first radio name, Daddy Jules, a tribute to the influence that black DJs had on him in his formative years such as Dr. Jive, Jockey Jack, Professor Bob and Sugar Daddy. He was a fan of disc jockey Alan Freed, the ultimate deejay of New York radio, who helped to turn African-American rhythm and blues into Caucasian rock and roll music. Freed originally called himself the Moondog after New York City street musician Moondog. Freed both adopted this name and used a recorded howl to give his early broadcasts a unique character. Continue reading Wolfman Jack 7/1995

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Rory Gallagher 6/1995

rory-gallagher-stadium-1981-ch-018June 14, 1995 – William Rory Gallagher was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal on March 2, 1948 and raised in Cork. His father was employed constructing a hydro electric power plant on the nearby Erne river.

Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. He was a very talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, UK at the age of 47. Continue reading Rory Gallagher 6/1995

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Ingo Schwichtenberg 3/1995

Ingo SchwichtenbergMarch 8, 1995 – Ingo Schwichtenberg (Helloween) was born May 18th 1965 in Hamburg, Germany. At the age of 14 he took some clarinet lessons with the encouragement of a music teacher at school and started playing folk music in the school’s band. During this period he also had his first approach to a drum kit. “As the drummer in my group was very bad, I could not stand it and I sat in front of the kit and played as I liked ” he said ” I think I was fifteen… I knew I was going to play it seriously since then”.

His father Heinz bought him his very first drum kit and he started practicing by himself. During the same year he met a young guitarist called Kai Hansen who played in a new born band called “Gentry”. The boys became good friends immediately and Kai asked Ingo to join the band because they needed a drummer. ( “Gentry” was made up of: Kai Hansen – guitars, Markus Grosskopf – bass guitar, Piet Sielck – vocals, Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums). Right after that the band was renamed to “Second Hell”. Ingo remembered: “I was a rock’ n’ roller with long hair and with a leather jacket. (laugh) As others in the same age wore tidy clothes, I may have been seen very different from them, but there was no bad relationship with them”.

1982-1983: The band changed their name into “Iron Fist” and the line-up was finally completed by Michael Weikath on second guitar. While playing in “Iron Fist”, Ingo did different jobs in order to gather as much money as possible for buying himself a new professional drumkit (a Yamaha): he worked at an office for two years ( which he really disliked a lot!) and then he worked also in a huge Hamburg market. “Though it was a hard job starting from 6 o’clock in the morning, I learned a lot of things there. I think it was good for me to have done it”.

1984: After watching the movie “Halloween”, Ingo came up with the idea to rename the band “Helloween” and the “a” was replaced with an “e”. The band started a mini tour around all the small clubs in Hamburg and took part on the sampler “Death Metal”. At that time his family was very supportive to him, so Ingo was encouraged to go ahead with music. “As the album cover was the illustration of a disgusting man who was disemboweled, my father frowned: “…On this album?!?”, and he was looking at it suspiciously (laugh). But listening to “Metal Invaders” and “Oernst Of Life”, he seemed to be pleased with the melody and said: “Keep going!”. At the end of the same year, Helloween finally signed their first contract with Noise Records.

1985: In March “Helloween” the first mini-LP was released. “When we made our mini album, “e;Helloween”, it was the first recording. So, “this is the mixer! This is the recording mic! Wonderful!! We were excited!” said Ingo smiling. Then, on November 18th the band released “Walls of Jericho”, the first full-length album that laid the basis of modern power metal with its unique speed’n’ thrashy touch. The album gathered the metal audience’s approval and got also lots of positive reviews from all over Europe.

1986: November. While touring all over Europe, Kai found some difficulties in singing and playing guitar at the same time. Ingo confirmed: “Kai wanted to devote himself to be a guitarist. So sooner or later we needed a singer, a front man”. So they recruited the 18 year-old prodigy singer Michael Kiske and started working on their third effort. “When he joined, he was eighteen years old, but I thought he himself knew he was a talented man and he knew well what he should do”.

1987-1988: “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part. I” finally saw the light on February 1987, putting Helloween on a higher level of popularity and received overwhelming feed-backs from all over the world, including U.S.A and Japan.
After touring Europe ( with Overkill) and U.S.A. ( with Armored Saint and Grim Reaper), in 1988 the band released the second part of the Keeper’ s concept, ” Keeper of The Seven Keys Part II” . The album went gold in Germany and Asia, and reached #108 on the U.S. Billboard Chart as well… and the whole heavy metal world fell in love with the Pumpkins!

1989: On January 1st Kai left Helloween and formed a new project called Gamma Ray. It’s well known that Ingo never recovered from his good friend’s departure… The guys found in Roland Grapow ( from Rampage) a brand new guitarist that fit with the band not just only as a musician but as a friend as well. Talking about Roland’s joining Ingo said : “The rapid growth of Roland is amazing. Because before joining Helloween, he was a car repairman. [..] Suddenly he had a call from Weiki : “Why don’t we play together in Helloween?” .
With this new line-up, Helloween embarked on their second U.S.A. tour. During this period, the guys decided to break up their contract with Noise and signing with EMI Records, but things didn’t exactly go as they were expecting and they plunged soon into a real mess… Noise filed a lawsuit against Helloween which went on for a longtime.

1990: At the end of the legal battle Helloween lost and the band had to pay a huge amount of money to Noise Records. In addition they were not allowed to perform or release any kind of material except for Europe and Japan. This bitter experience left its mark on the whole band, especially on Ingo who remembered: “1989 was a terribly bad time for the band and for me. I had never experienced such hard days before”. During those days Ingo was dying to play drums so, together with Markus, he took part as special guest in a German metal band called Doc Eisenhauer which released the album “Alles im Lack” (1992) and did also a few concerts in some pubs around Hamburg. The beginning of the 90’s were also crucial for Ingo’s health because he started giving some signs that something was going wrong with his mind…

1991: After two years of silence, Helloween finally released “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” but only in Japan and U.K. The album didn’t receive many positive reviews by fans and critics. This was one of many reasons that brought some tensions between the guys about what kind of musical direction the band should take.

1992-1993: After reaching an agreement with EMI and Noise, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was finally released in Germany and rest of Europe as well ( april 1992). One year later it was the turn of “Chameleon”. Even though it contained some very good tracks, the album was harshly criticized and became the most disappointing work of Helloween’s whole carreer. Inner tensions grew, meanwhile Ingo’s health situation became really serious: he seemed to be sunk in a deep state of depression, his behavior was characterized by strange and crazy episodes and, in addition to that, he was heavily into drugs ( cocaine and hashish) and drank a lot, starting a dangerously vicious circle that he couldn’t get out of. However, Helloween went on tour to promote “Chameleon” and his conditions kept up worsening. ” We started to notice something was wrong with him when we were on tour, with all that road pressure” remembers Weiky ” Ingo had a strange behavior… he did strange things and we noticed something seriously wrong with him. We lived with him and we could see his changes”.

And the situation took a turn for the worse: during a show in Hiroshima, Ingo collapsed on stage and was immediately hospitalized. During some therapies and treatments they found out that Ingo suffered from hereditary schizophrenia. The whole band didn’t know what to do with him, but one thing was clear: he couldn’t be part of the band anymore until he recovered from drugs and alcohol abuse and took his medications against schizophrenia seriously; so after a six hour telephone call with Weikath, in which he explained why they had made that hard and painful decision, Ingo was asked to leave Helloween. Schwichtenberg’s replacement in the band was Uli Kusch.

Talking about Ingo’s mental disease as well as his drug and alcohol addiction, Weiky said ” … He was destroying his own brain and he didn’t notice it! The problem was that he didn’t know how many damages he was doing. How could we let him go through the stress of a new album and a new tour? “. Unfortunately it seemed that Ingo never accepted his fate and he didn’t trust doctors, so he didn’t take his medications regularly: “Ah, it’s all crap what they tell me. Why should I take medications? I have to heal myself somehow” he used to say.

1995: After his ejection from the band, Schwichtenberg slid further and further into his schizophrenic episodes. Everybody knows how the story ended. On march 8, 1995 Ingo committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. It happened two and a half months before his 30th birthday. ” If he could have lived a life with a wife, children and a house in the fields, he would certainly have had a better chance to be better” said Weiky ” The stress in our carreers is terrible, sometimes I think I’m lucky surviving all this. Imagine how all that damaged Ingo! To be honest, I think that he took much more than his condition would allow”.

His friend Kai Hansen had dedicated the song “Afterlife” from Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free to him. As well, Michael Kiske made a tribute to Schwichtenberg with the track “Always”, from his first solo album Instant Clarity. Also the song Step Out of Hell from Helloween album Chameleon is written by Roland Grapow about Schwichtenberg’s problems with drugs and drinking.


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Vivian Stanshall 3/1995

Vivian Stanshall1March 5, 1995 – Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) was born Victor Anthony Stanshall on 21 March 1943  in Shillingford, Oxfordshire.

Stanshall family moved to the Essex coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea. He attended Southend High School for Boys until 1959. As a young man, Victor Stanshall (known as Vic) earned money doing various odd jobs at the Kursaal fun fair in nearby Southend-on-Sea. They included working as a bingo caller and spending the winter painting the fairground attractions. To set aside enough money to get through art school (his father having refused to fund this), Stanshall spent a year in the merchant navy. He said he was a very bad waiter, but became a great teller of tall tales

He was best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his exploration of the British upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (as a radio series for John Peel, as an audio recording, as a book and as a film), and for acting as Master of Ceremonies on Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells.

How do you explain The Bonzo Dog Band to people who have never heard of The Bonzo Dog Band? More complicated, how do you explain Vivian Stanshall?

The Bonzo Dog Band were one of the premier Outrageous/Spoof Rock bands of the 1960s. Alumni included members who eventually became members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and more recently The Rutles. In between, they offered some of the enduring classics, such as Can The Blue Men Sing The Whites? The Intro and The Outro, Canyons Of Your Mind, I Am The Urban Spaceman – and on and on. One of their classic songs, Death Cab For Cutie, was featured in The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour movie and eventually became the name of another band of admirers who are currently making the rounds.

So you kind of know who they are – even if you can’t put your finger exactly on how.

Formed in the early 1960s, the Bonzo Dog Band took to reworking songs of the 1920s and 1930s as their model. They quickly gained a reputation as one of the most outrageous bands to perform on stage, and were subsequently hugely admired by everyone from Paul McCartney to Steve Winwood. Vivian Stanshall’s association with The Who’s Keith Moon became the stuff of legend and Stanshall was later credited as the Narrator on Mike Oldfield‘s legendary Tubular Bells. And that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

The Bonzos, including Viv, were all art students who formed the band originally as a sort of Twenties-style jazz band which eventually turned into a hilariously anarchic revue. They were the darlings of the college circuit, but quickly became accepted on the rock scene, where they supported such bands as Cream. They went to San Francisco with the Byrds and won a dedicated American following. Armed with robots and dummies, the band’s show became ever funnier and more elaborate. Stanshall’s Elvis Presley impersonations and mimed striptease routine were brilliantly done, and they endeared him not just to their regular audience, but to many starts of the rock fraternity. Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Steve Winwood were just some of Viv and Bonzo’s greatest fans.

But the strain of touring and the lack of money contributed to turn what had been fun into hard work and misery. On one famous trip to Ireland on a package show that included Yes and the Nice, the band found themselves expected to play on a football pitch near an abattoir, with only an old electric kettle flex for the band’s power supply. When it blew up on the first attempt to use it, Stanshall chased his manager across the pitch shouting “De-bag the rotter!”

Eventually Stanshall stunned the band and their followers by announcing their break-up after a gig at the Lyceum Ballroom, in London, in January 1970.

It was naturally expected that Stanshall, regarded by many as a genius, would embark on a consistently productive solo career. Yet his life after the Bonzos was mixture of frustrations and disappointments, mixed with some notable successes. In a sense his thunder was stolen by the more organised and better-disciplined Monty Python team. Stanshall, despite his occasional outburst of aggression, seemed to suffer from a lack of self-confidence and often tried to take on more work than he could comfortably accomplish.

Like most of the rock musicians of the Sixties, he became a heavy drinker, enjoying the company of friends like Keith Moon. They set out on many wild forays, perhaps the most notorious being when they dressed up as Nazi officers and headed for the East End, where they caused some shock and dismay. But drinking bouts invariably led to Stanshall’s gaining a reputation for unreliability, and even the most sympathetic radio and record producers began to find him too much of a wayward genius to handle.

One of his most loyal friends and assistants was Glen Colson, who had played drums with the Bonzos during their last tour dates. The Bonzos were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith, of Charisma Records, and were later handled by Gail Colson, Glen’s sister. “It was around that time I got to know him. I was terrified of him, he was such a powerful personality. But he got on very well with my father, as they had both been in the Navy, and would talk about those days.”

Stanshall heard Colson practising his drums and invited him to join the Bonzos to take over from Legs Larry Smith, their regular drummer. “I went out on the road with them. It was after he had shaved off all his hair and told the audience at the Lyceum he was breaking up the band. Nobody knew what he meant and my sister explained they still had some dates to do to pay off their bills. I hung out socially with Viv and he became like a teacher. He was a complete rogue as well. It’s strange – there were two sides to him. There was the very personal, friendly guy and the public side. There was a song he wrote called `Ginger Geezer’, on his album Teddy Boys Don’t Knit, and that’s how I remember him – a big ginger geezer!”

After the Bonzos, Stanshall worked on a variety of projects, acting as the master of ceremonies on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and also writing lyrics with Steve Winwood, for whom he composed “Arc of a Diver”. His most successful solo project was Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, a bizarre tale, narrated on record and at live appearances by Stanshall in his best BBC Home Service manner. This was later turned into a film starring Trevor Howard. “Vivian had a wonderful voice and he could have earned millions doing voice-overs; but he didn’t really want to sell out,” Colson says. There was a follow-up album called Sir Henry at Ndidis Kraal on Demon Records. Viv claimed that he didn’t remember making it.”

Stanshall recorded two solo albums which have recently been discovered by a new generation of admirers: Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead (1974), and Teddy Boys Don’t Knit (1981). There was also a Bonzos reunion album on which he appeared, Let’s Make Up And Be Friendly, released in 1972. During the early Eighties while living on a boat moored in Bristol, with his American wife Pamela, he worked on a stage project called Stinkfoot.

As a surreal humorist Stanshall has been rated alongside Peter Cook, and in the view of his admirers he had the potential to become a successful as John Cleese, if he had not succumbed to personal problems, including excessive drinking and bouts of depression.

“He was an all-rounder who worked in different fields of art, but in the last 10 years he could never actually finish anything,” Colson says. “Most recently he was working on a feature film called Loch Ness, doing the voice-overs, and he had signed to Warner Brothers to do another Sir Henry album. He also had some 25 songs recorded which I hope will be put on another solo album.”

Stanshall remained a wayward rebel, once holding a reporter captive for three hours, until he would listen to his favourite early rock ‘n’ roll records like Link Wray’s “Rumble”. He needed a producer to channel his energies, but always wanted to remain his own boss, having suffered too many perceived indignities in his early experience of the music business.

“He wanted to be really good at everything,” Colson says, “the best actor, musician, poet and painter, and it frustrated him that he couldn’t be best at everything. He was great friends with Stephen Fry, and they were rather similar in their outlook. But he didn’t have many friends in show business, as he was very intimidating. He had an agent, but never wanted to be a rich star. He just wanted to be himself.”

After The Bonzos called it a day in early 1970, Vivian Stanshall along with ex-Bonzo’s Dennis Cowan and Ruger Ruskin Spear formed the short-lived Big Grunt in March of that year.

A band that defied description, but achieved major cult status over their relatively short period of existence. Originally put together as a take-off on the 20’s craze in the 60’s, and known as the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, they quickly morphed into more of an art-school band run amok and replaced the Doo-Dah with Da-Da and eventually just became known as The Bonzo Dog Band.

Though they may not be familiar to some today, you might hear aspects of them via Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which shared the involvement of Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall, the Bonzo’s co-founders and musical brains behind the Pythons.

Neil Innes provided the melodic music and the happy Beatly-type face of the Bonzos, but Vivian provided a sense of danger and fascination, which came to the fore during the band’s first album, ‘Gorilla’, in 1967, which featured such cuts as ‘Jollity Farm’. ‘Look Out There’s A Monster Coming’, ‘Mickey’s Son and Daughter’ and the delightfully subversive ‘I’m Bored’.  Vivian’s posh vowels and droll delivery livened up the songs and made them different to the mop-top popular music or the dreary psychedelic epics of the time.

On 5th March 1995 this wonderfully weird singer, musician, wit, poet, artist, mystic, songwriter and all-round ‘definitely not normal’ Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995) left our world for somewhere far more colourful, wild and magnificent, victim to a house fire. Stanshall was found dead on the morning of 6 March 1995, after an electrical fire had broken out as he slept in his top floor flat in Muswell Hill, North London.

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Melvin Franklin 2/1995

Melvin FranklinFebruary 23, 1995 – Melvin Franklin was born David Melvin English in Montgomery, Alabama on October 12th 1942.

His biological father was the preacher of the English family’s church in Mobile, who, according to his mother, impregnated her through non-consensual relations. Following David’s birth, Rose English married Willard Franklin and moved to Detroit, her grandmother insisting young David be left behind in her care. David English finally moved to Detroit with his mother and stepfather in 1952 at age ten.

Taking on his stepfather’s surname for his stage name as a teenager, David English—now Melvin Franklin—was a member of a number of local singing groups in Detroit, including The Voice Masters with Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin, and frequently performed with Richard Street. Franklin often referred to Street and Ruffin as his “cousins”.

A young Otis Williams befriended 16 year old Melvin and invited him to become the bass singer in his group called The Distants. Melvin remained with Otis and Elbridge Bryant when they, Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks formed The Elgins in late 1960. In March 1961, the Elgins signed with Motown records under a new name “The Temptations”. He had a fondness for the color blue, and so he was nicknamed “Blue” by his friends and fellow singers.

Best friends for over thirty years, Melvin and Otis were the only two Temptations to never leave the group. He was one of the most famous bass singers in black music, over his long career, his deep vocals became one of the group’s signature trademarks.

Melvin sang some featured leads with the group as well, including the songs “I Truly, Truly Believe”, “The Prophet” and Paul Robeson’s “Ol’ Man River”. He performed with the Temptations from 1961 till he fell ill in late 1994 than lapsed into a diabeteic coma and died 6 days later from a brain seizure on Feb 23, 1995 at the age of 53.


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Richey Edwards 2/1995

Richey_james_edwards_liveFebruary 1, 1995 – Richard “Richey” James Edwards, the former co-lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers was officially ‘presumed dead’ on November 24, 2008 after he disappeared without a trace on Feb 1st 1995. He was born on December 22nd 1967.

He was known for his politicized and intellectual songwriting which, combined with an enigmatic and eloquent character, has assured him cult status like Eddie of Eddie and the Cruisers, and he is frequently cited as one of the best lyricists of all time.

As a musician however he had little to no value to ad to the band. He was a weirdo that I can’t give to much credit, except for his quality as a lyricist. Self mutilation under the disguise of needing attention, whether with cigarette burns or razorblades, to proof that you’re real has little to do with musical expressions, but are the signs of a very disturbed individual.

“When I cut myself I feel better,” he stated on more than one occasion.

He suffered severe bouts of depression in his adult life and was open about it in interviews: “If you’re hopelessly depressed like I was, then dressing up is just the ultimate escape. When I was young I just wanted to be noticed. Nothing could excite me except attention so I’d dress up as much as I could. Outrage and boredom just go hand in hand.”

“Gets to a point where you really can’t operate any more as a human being – you can’t get out of bed, you can’t…make yourself a cup of coffee without something going badly wrong or your body’s too weak to walk.”

If you want to read more about this freak try