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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
8/1995

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