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Curtis Mayfield 12/1999

Curtis MayfieldDecember 26, 1999 – Curtis Mayfield was born on June 3rd 1942 in Chicago Illinois. Curtis began his music career in 1956 while still at Wells High School, when he joined The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler.  Two years later they became the Impressions.

From his website Biography:

In 1958, Curtis Mayfield has his first taste of a hit recording, “For Your Precious Love,” by The Impressions. He is 16, from Chicago’s wild side, the Cabrini Green Public Housing Projects, just developing his distinctive high tenor voice that blended into falsetto and become his (and the group’s) trademark. It will allow Mayfield the freedom to produce some of the most perceptive and significant popular music of his and any other generation. The Impressions go on to define the Chicago sound of the 1960s, a mix of soul/R & B/gospel that challenges Motown’s grip in the market. But Mayfield himself will take the music, his music, further… A lot further.

In 1996, Curtis Mayfield is making his last recordings.

He has transitioned in four decades from the eager, young, black kid into a seasoned singer/songwriter/producer, a motivating force in black music, black capitalism and a quiet voice for social change and civil rights. These final recordings will take every bit of courage and will that Mayfield possesses, as he probably realizes that this is, indeed, his last go-round. He is paralyzed from the neck down, the result of an onstage accident in 1990. He lies on his back in the recording studio, allowing gravity to assist his diaphragm and his breathing, recording one line of the lyric at a time, but still singing and still composing. He dies, aged 57, in December, 1999.

“Broke his back. But not his spirit,” says Altheida Mayfield, his widow and keeper of the Mayfield Flame, a flame that has never gone out. More than a half century after that first hit, a decade plus, after his death, Curtis Mayfield remains alive and well, through his music, his recordings and the recognition by his peers in the music and recording world. His music is the gift that keeps on giving…

Curtis Mayfield was, as one obituary writer put it, “a well respected man.”

Around the age of seven or eight, Curtis Lee Mayfield fell in love. The object of his affection was a guitar, found in a closet in the small overcrowded apartment where he lived with his mother and seven siblings. The music Mayfield had been exposed to at this point come via his grandmother, gospel songs from her Travelling Soul Spiritualists’ Church, the place where a seven year old Mayfield sang in public for the first time. He was also listening to the rich mother lode that was the Chicago electric blues scene which surrounded and informed him.

Mayfield played a little piano but the guitar was different, very personal. “My guitar was like another me,” he said later. Mayfield literally transferred his piano knowledge to his new instrument. Singer Jerry Butler, a childhood friend who formed The Impressions, recalled how: “He used to love playing boogie woogie on the piano and he learned to play that in F sharp which meant he was playing all the black keys. That’s how he came about his unique sound on the guitar because he tuned it that way.” (Standard guitar tuning is E-A-G-B-E.) Mayfield used his instantly recognizable and eccentric open F sharp tuning for the rest of his career. He would also become proficient on bass, drums and saxophones.

Mayfield’s individualism on the guitar later put him in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Top Guitarists of All Time and admiration from such guitar giants as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Recalled Hendrix’ drummer, Mitch Mitchell: “Jimi was the only man I knew who knew how to play that Curtis Mayfield style. He would occasionally break into Mayfield’s guitar style and falsetto onstage.”

It was now evident that Mayfield’s future was music, his way out of the poverty that blighted Chicago’s North Side. At 16, over family objections, he dropped out of high school, joining The Roosters, a group led by his friend Jerry Butler. The name quickly became the more commercial – The Impressions. Butler has noted: “There’s something called the Chicago Soul sound that began in the late Fifties. The Impressions pioneered that… and Curtis was the heart of The Impressions.” Chicago’s take on soul music which evolved throughout the 1960s, had its roots firmly into gospel music, albeit laid back and melody focused (“soft soul” is another term for the style). It was refined by the addition of horns and strings as integral elements of the arrangements. The Impressions’ literal high flying harmonies, with Mayfield later as lead singer – were front and center here.

The first Impressions hit “For Your Precious Love” was co-written by Butler; Mayfield had no hand in it. The lead singer was Butler; Mayfield’s more idiosyncratic voice was relegated to the backfield. “For Your Precious Love” hit the R&B charts and, more importantly for a black group, the pop charts. In one two week period, the song sold 150,000 copies. Butler, getting most of the credit, immediately went solo.

This was a good thing. It gave Mayfield his first taste of control and responsibility, factors that would thread through his future life and career. He held the group together as lead singer, producer and writer. In 1961 the revamped restyled Impressions had its first Mayfield-era hit, “Gypsy Woman.” For the rest of the 1960s The Impressions remained hot with 14 Top 40 hits including an amazing run of five Top 20 songs in 1964 alone – the year that The Beatles arrived and gave a hard time to everyone else.

Mayfield perfected the group’s singular harmonies – the trademark upper register detonations. Throughout his recordings, Mayfield was devoted to the falsetto register rather than the more usual model range. Johnny Pate, a jazz musician and arranger/producer, one of the “professionals” often brought in to soften the rough edges of a label’s teenage talent, remembered the effect the Impressions had on him: “The group went into some high falsetto harmonic things that were really unheard of. Nobody had done it before. The amazing part was, it’s all in tune, in perfect harmony, in tune…”

Black popular music, soul, R & B and the like, had a tried and true business plan in the 1960s, governed by dance music and love songs. But Mayfield had some different ideas, concepts that were to place his music and his career on a new track. Things were happening outside the music and recording worlds. America, in particular Black America, was facing the Civil Rights Movement. There was inner city poverty, a rise in drug use and abuse, the move to Black Power and then on to Black Pride. Unprompted, Mayfield decided to address these matters the only way he knew how – his music. It was an unusual and provocative step but it would make him a groundbreaking music voice for change in the Black community at this time, alongside James Brown and Sly Stone. Singer Mavis Staples (of the Staples Singers who recorded for Mayfield) defined this transformation: “[He] had a long history of writing wonderful love songs that made you want to dance slow to in the basement. And then, all of a sudden, he went and wrote some of the best message songs that could be out there. Curtis was a poet; his lyrics came straight from the heart and make me shudder.”

Mayfield was angry over the social and political turmoil affecting his America and he reacted by writing material with a point and purpose. But they were delivered to the public in a singular way, subtle and intelligent but still layered with gospel, R & B and soul, served Chicago style. Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who called Mayfield “a giant of gentleness,” observed that his music “used love and encouragement, not anger, to say important things.” Mayfield’s (frankly) sexy tenor voice, with its appeal to the ladies, could moderate any hostility in the lyric without destroying its significance. And the new Mayfield songbook was still aimed squarely at a mainstream audience, social observation for the people not the radical. Politics apart, Mayfield still wanted his chart hits.

Mayfield himself explained: “These songs were an example of what has laid in my subconscious for years… the issues of what concerned me as a young black man…. The musical strands and themes of gospel singers and preachers I’d heard as a child. It wasn’t hard to take notice of segregation and the struggle for equality at this time.”

In the mid-1960s Mayfield wrote three songs that defined his songwriter vision in this era: “Keep on Pushing,” “People Get Ready” and “We’re A Winner.” All managed – along with several other Mayfield songs – to insinuate social commentary into the pop charts and bring awareness to the struggles going on. No wonder Martin Luther King Jr. loved Mayfield’s work. The civil rights icon embraced “Ready” and “Pushing” as unofficial anthems for the Movement. “Keep On Pushing” was the theme music, part of the experience on the Freedom Ride buses that took activists into an unfriendly American South in the fight against segregation. The album “Keep On Pushing” by The Impressions was released in 1964 and quickly became the group’s biggest album to date. It also secured a longevity outside of its initial success, such as, when then-State Senator Barack Obama gave the Keynote Speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. The music that brought him onstage was “Keep On Pushing.”

The powerful gospel grooved “People Get Ready,” recorded by The Impressions in 1965 as a single (and later album) is one of Mayfield’s half dozen most important songs. Well over 100 artists worldwide have covered it bringing royalties to the composer, the kind of homage the businesslike Mayfield appreciated. As the years progressed “People Get Ready” amassed any number of accolades: No. 24 in the Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone Magazine) and in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. One of Top 10 Best Songs of All Time (a British poll) and it made the Grammy Hall of Fame. Mayfield said the song “… came from my church… or a message from my church. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song.”

For all his guitar prowess, “People Get Ready” marked the first time that Mayfield’s guitar work had actually been featured on record. It was enough for Rolling Stone Magazine to place it at No. 20 in the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks of all time!

The 1967 recording “We’re A Winner,” another Mayfield song with a life outside the music business, was more direct and confrontational than the other “anthems” aimed directly at Mayfield’s African American audience. Mayfield, as producer, recorded it in front of a live audience, bringing an emotional commitment from them to underscore the song’s substance. “We’re A Winner” was so direct that during the rioting in 1967 several radio stations refused to air the recording, citing its provocative, forceful lyrics. Civil rights activist and associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Ambassador Andrew Young presented his assessment of this newly charged Mayfield music in the Mayfield documentary “Move On Up” – “You have to think of Curtis Mayfield as a prophetic, visionary teacher of our people and our time.”

Statements like this, and there were many, made Mayfield uncomfortable. He never truly accepted that position, remaining modest and clear eyed about it, specifically when people called him “The Preacher” or “The Reverend.” “I’m an entertainer first,” he often stated. “I don’t claim to be a preacher or anything else, even though maybe there are signs of these things in my lyrics. With all respect I’m sure that we have enough preachers in the world. Through my way of writing I was capable of being able to say these things and yet not make a person feel as though they’re being preached at.”

While focused on recording with, and writing for, The Impressions, Mayfield was also moonlighting as the staff producer for Okeh Records, a Chicago label that was recording black music and black musicians back in the Roaring 20s. Here he wrote and produced hits for such artists as Major Lance, Gene Chandler, Jan Bradley, Walter Jackson and other hot chart names at the time. Also to give himself a measure of economic stature, he launched a couple of minor labels, Windy C Records and Mayfield Records, with some success in 1966. Mayfield, despite being the high school dropout, knew how to take care of business. Or at least to surround himself with people who did. Unhappy with his royalty rewards at age 18, he turned around and formed his own music publishing company.

In 1968 he went further and created another label, Curtom Records (the Tom was manager Eddie Thomas). This time he was in control of his recording, his song publishing, his own recording studio, all under one roof. Control was important to Mayfield as his friend and sometime business partner, singer Jerry Butler, testifies: “Curtis came to me one day and said, ‘Jerry, I want to buy you out.’ My feelings were hurt a little bit and I said, ‘Why, what did I do?’ He said: ‘You didn’t do anything. I just want to own as much of me as possible.’”

With Curtom Records, Mayfield achieved this. Not the first African American to run his own label but it was still highly unusual for a black recording artist to do so and his move would be observed by those who followed him. The present day music industry is notable for the number of African American recording stars who are in charge of this part of their business world destinies. The line runs from Mayfield to Jay Z., Kanye West, Dr. Dre, P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, etc. Mayfield had showed that successful Black Capitalism was possible, perhaps necessary.

Now, as the 1970s began, Mayfield released his first solo album, “Curtis” very successfully and made another transformative move, his most successful and certainly his most audacious – taking his music to the movies… He commented later: “We showed that you didn’t need a room the size of a football field to lay music in. You didn’t have to be a Henry Mancini.” (Mayfield was now doing all his recording in a tiny demo. producing studio he had bought from RCA Records in Chicago.) African American names on movie music soundtrack credits were not exactly thick on the ground in 1970 – Quincy Jones being the most prominent – and there was a not-exactly-unspoken question in Hollywood, “Can African Americans write film music? “ The 1970s was the time when the “Blaxploitation” movie was in vogue, films that would never make any all-time Best Film listings but were lively, energetic, quickly produced, low budget, starred black actors and beamed to a target audience that lived in the inner cities.

“Super Fly” was a zero budget production, shot in New York’s mean streets and coming across a little ambiguous in the drug/pimp/violence/badass culture department. By now, Mayfield was busy producing, for himself and others, all manner of music and knew how to lay some pretty harsh lyrics against really forceful funk grooves. Ideal, someone had thought, for a “Super Fly” soundtrack. That someone was not Mayfield. He was no fan of the movie’s characters or plot… until he saw a way to subvert it. Altheida Mayfield remembers her husband’s early reaction: “Curtis thought ‘Super Fly’ was a commercial to sell cocaine and he wanted to turn that around. That was his main purpose there, to say ‘This is nothing pretty.’ This man was raised poor and that’s what he saw on the streets every day and could express in song.” Express it he did – songs for “Super Fly” came pouring out, a running counterpoint to onscreen action, each track showing a different view of the problems – “Freddie’s Dead,” “Super Fly” (both became million selling singles), “Pusherman,” “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” – hits when the album was released and able to take on a new life decades later as the rap and hip hop generation discovered the art of sampling.

Mayfield’s “Super Fly” album became an instant classic of 1970s soul and funk and is a rare example of a soundtrack outselling the movie from which it was taken. The album spent four weeks at No. 1 on the album chart while singles, “Freddie’s Dead” and the title track were both million sellers. Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums list ranked it No. 69. VH1 placed it at No. 63 in the same category. “Super Fly,” which few thought initially had any hope of commercial success, “ignited a whole genre of music and influenced everybody from soul singers to TV music composers for decades to come. “ (AllMusic). Along with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield had introduced soul funk music with “Super Fly” that also said something; a groove that was socially aware.

Movie work now took up much of Mayfield’s time – with Gladys Knight and the Pips (the film “Claudine”), Aretha Franklin (“Sparkle”), Staple Singers (“Let’s Do It Again”), Mavis Staples (“A Piece of the Action”). A funk and now disco alliance ”Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here” for the movie “Short Eyes” was a 1977 hit for Mayfield, who also made a cameo appearance in the film (as he did in “Super Fly”).

By 1980 Mayfield had moved, with his family of six children, from Chicago to Atlanta, effectively bringing the Chicago Soul era to a close. He continued working as a solo artist, releasing (as he had in the previous two decades) a series of well received albums, and as a writer and producer. He rejoined his original colleagues for The Impressions Reunion Tour of 1983 – 25 years after that very first hit record. He started another record label, revived Curtom Records and had a full concert datebook, both in the U.S. Japan and Europe, especially Britain. Mayfield revisited “Super Fly” in 1990 – sort of. A remake, “Return of Super Fly” was produced with a Mayfield soundtrack. The film went nowhere but the soundtrack was important. Released as the album “Super Fly 1990” it marked a collaboration between Mayfield and Ice T. , one of the first signs that the emerging rap and hip hop constituency regarded Mayfield as an important influence.

Mayfield now had what he always wanted – control of a successful career that allowed him entry into every facet of the music and recording business. Then came August 13, 1990 and tragedy onstage at an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, New York. Mayfield arrived for the sound check on a rain swept afternoon and high winds blew down the lighting rig. Mayfield was trapped underneath, his spine crushed in three places, paralyzing him from the neck down. He would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.

But he continued. Perhaps he had no control over his body now, but he would still control his career. Slowly at first, his strength returned – his will was always there – and then there was a moment in 1994 that convinced him he could get back into the recording studio. The occasion was an all star, all Mayfield concert that Warner Bros. Records organized. Everybody sang Mayfield – Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, B. B. King, Elton John, Aretha Franklin and more. It was for a Mayfield Tribute album, “All Men Are Brothers.” The climax, the emotional core of the evening, was Curtis Mayfield, back at the microphone singing for the first time since the accident four years ago. This experience provided the motivation to return to his second home, the recording studio for what would be his last album, “New World Order,” a collection of original material. And Mayfield, the lion in winter, produced his last great song, “Here But I’m Gone” with an unsettling anti-drug lyric delivered with typical Mayfield flair, the light touch carrying the heavy message. While “New World Order” was Mayfield’s last hurrah, it does not signify the end of Mayfield’s recordings. He had always been at home in the recording studio and had probably written around 1400 songs in his four professional decades. Author Peter Burns estimated that 140 recordings lay in the Mayfield vaults in various stages of completion but all capable of being released. They included live performances from all over the world, collaborations, many with both Jerry Butler and the original Impressions, and more.

Mayfield’s physical condition now began to really deteriorate; diabetes forced the amputation of his right leg and he died in Roswell, Ga. on December 26, 1999 at age 57. That year he had been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a solo performer – he was already there as a member of The Impressions – and before he died he learned that he was to be inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. He was already in the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture has plans to honor Mayfield’s career. Following his death the music industry mounted any number of special tribute concerts and events to honor his memory and his talent.

But the real tribute to Curtis Lee Mayfield lies with his music and its lasting influence on public and peers alike. The fact that Mayfield music is still being played, still being picked up by new generations of musicians in almost every genre, paying respect to the gentle genius of song. “Here, But I’m Gone,” indeed. His last appearance on record was with the group Bran Van 3000 on the song “Astounded” for their 2001 album Discosis.

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Rick Danko 12/1999

rick dankoDecember 10, 1999 – Richard Clare Rick Danko was born on December 29, 1943 in Blayney, Ontario-Canada, a farming community 6 miles outside of the town of Simcoe, six miles from Delhi and ten miles from Turkey Point. There were three stores, a couple of fruit stands, and a juke box. He grew up in a musical family of Ukrainian descent. Dank knew very early on that music was going to be his life.

Like his father, Rick also played accordion, violin, mandolin, guitar, and fiddle.

He quit school at 14 to purse music full-time and in 1960, when he was 17, he joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins’ group, the Hawks, initially as rhythm guitarist. He soon moved to bass and, with the help of the Hawks’ piano player Stan Szelest.

Under Ronnie Hawkins’ tutelage, Danko began a three-year tenure of non-stop gigging and rigorous rehearsals that fellow Band-mate Richard Manuel once likened to ‘boot camp.’ By the time he was 20, he was a seasoned pro, having spent most of his teenage years playing in bars that you were supposed to be 21 to play in.

By the early 60s, Rick and the other Hawks had outgrown the limited roadhouse and honky-tonk circuit and left Hawkins to pursue greener pastures. Bob Dylan saw them perform in the mid-60s and was so impressed that he signed the Hawks to accompany him on his 1965-66 world tour.
The Band’s collaboration with Dylan, initially greeted with boos and catcalls around the globe, changed the course of popular music by spawning one of the most significant musical hybrids of the rock era, ‘Folk Rock.’

After the tumultuous world tours with Dylan (the European leg of which was documented in the obscure film, Eat the Document), Danko relocated from Manhattan to upstate New York, along with Dylan and the other members of the still un-named Band. He rented a big pink house in West Saugerties, near Woodstock, and with Dylan and The Band began recording songs which soon surfaced on bootlegs and were officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes. In 1968, after toying with a host of politically incorrect names, like the Crackers and the Honkies, The Band made its official debut with ‘Music From Big Pink’.

The album shot The Band into folklore. A succession of albums and tours followed, and, The Band, now a firm fixture in the rock aristocracy, played virtually every major festival from Woodstock to Watkins Glen. In 1976, on Thanksgiving day, The Band officially called it quits with a farewell concert at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom.
The concert, which featured an unprecedented all-star lineup to which The Band graciously played back-up, was documented in Martin Scorsese’s much lauded film, The Last Waltz, regarded by many as the finest concert film of all time.

Following ‘The Last Waltz’, Danko continued to perform and record as a solo artist. His 1978 self-titled debut, though overshadowed at first by The Band, later gained critical and popular acclaim. During the early 1980s, he maintained a low profile, and in 1983, reunited with The Band (minus Robbie Robertson, who pursued a solo career). During that period, he began playing acoustic guitar as well as bass on-stage, and his unique style of tuning and playing (revealing the bass player in his soul), has become another of his signature sounds. Throughout the 80s, never one to ‘sit at home’, Rick continued to play solo, with The Band, in pairings with Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Paul Butterfield, Jorma Kaukonen and others. In 1985, he appeared (with Manuel, Helm and Hudson) in a feature film, Man Outside, and in 1987 he released an instructional video, ‘Rick Danko’s Electric Bass Techniques’ (Homespun).

In 1989, he and Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm toured as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. That same year, The Band was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall Of Fame. In 1990, Danko, along with Helm, Hudson, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and others appeared in Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall’ concert in Berlin.

Danko recorded with Folk legend Eric Andersen and Norwegian singer/songwriter Jonas Fjeld in 1991 and one sidebar of the trio’s collaboration was an award-winning album, Danko Fjeld Andersen (Stageway), which was honored in Norway with a Spellemans Pris (the Norwegian Grammy) for ‘Record of the Year’ and was released in late 1993 by Rykodisc. The Rykodisc release was honored by NAIRO the following year.

In October, 1992 he performed with The Band at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute at Madison Square Garden and, in January 1994, he and The Band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Eric Clapton.

1993 saw The Band record their first studio album in 17 years, ‘Jericho’, which featured a radically extended line-up of members including Richard Bell. They followed this up with another album, ‘High On The Hog’, in 1996.

In February, 1997, Rykodisc released ‘Ridin’ On The Blinds’, the follow-up to Danko/ Fjeld/ Andersen, which was recorded in Norway in 1994.

Danko passed away in his upstate New York home on Friday, December 10, 1999 three days after his last performance, just weeks before his 56th birthday.


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Rob Fisher 8/1999

rob fisher of climie fisher and naked eyesAugust 25, 1999 – Robert ‘Rob’ Fisher  was born on November 5th 1959 in Cheltenham, England.

He attended Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, where he was a member of a band called Cirrus.

Fisher’s early bands were Whitewing (1975–1978) and the Xtians (1978), both during his time at the University of Bath. In 1979 he joined up with Pete Byrne to form Neon, whose first single “Making Waves/Me I See You” was released on their own 3D Music label. The band later went on to recruit Neil Taylor, Manny Elias, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, before they finally broke up in December 1981. In 1982, Fisher and Pete Byrne, who were key figures in the early days of synthpop, formed the duo Naked Eyes, while in 1981 Smith and Orzabal formed Tears for Fears.

I was walking across Pultney Bridge (in Bath) when I saw Rob being accosted by a girl with a large temper. My group ‘Studio’ had recently broken up, and by the look of it so had Rob’s (the girl was the singer in his band ‘Whitewing’). I intervened on his behalf (she could have taken both of us) and we retired to a local hostelry to debate the pros and cons of being in a band. Two hours later we had a brilliant plan! We would write songs, get a publishing deal, use that to get a record deal and then have a hit record. Four years later we were an overnight success. – Pete Byrne

Naked Eyes’ two biggest hits were their rendition of the Burt Bacharach song “Always Something There to Remind Me”, and the self-penned “Promises, Promises”. They had two more US Top 40 hits, “When the Lights Go Out” and “(What) In the Name of Love”, before going their separate ways. They resumed their writing partnership after a five-year break, and some of the songs written during this period were on the Naked Eyes album released in 2010.

In 1986, Climie and Fisher met whilst they were both doing session work at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, Fisher on keyboards, and Climie on backing vocals, working for Lillywhite. Fisher was looking for a singer/songwriter and Climie was looking for someone to write and record with, and so Climie Fisher was born. Together they took “Love Changes (Everything)” to the UK No. 2 spot, while the hip-hop inspired “Rise to the Occasion” also cracked the Top Ten in the United Kingdom.

Fisher and Climie also composed for other artists including Jermaine Stewart, Jermaine Jackson, Five Star, Rod Stewart, Freddie McGregor, Milli Vanilli, Fleetwood Mac and they wrote ‘You’re Not Alone’, a big hit for Amy Grant. Fisher also collaborated on several songs with the 80’s ‘Stock Aitken and Waterman’ star, Rick Astley.

After the break-up of Climie Fisher, Fisher collaborated on several songs with Rick Astley and Jules Shear. For some years, Fisher had owned his own studio, The StoneRoom, in Shepherd’s Bush, where, until shortly before his death, Fisher had been working with old buddy Pete Byrne on a new Naked Eyes studio album.

Fisher died on 25 August 1999, aged 42, following bowel surgery for cancer.

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Bobby Sheehan 8/1999

bobby sheehan, bass for blues travelerAugust 20, 1999 – Robert Vaughan Bobby Sheehan (Blues Traveler) was born on June 12th 1968 in Summit, New Jersey. After high school in Princeton where he met the the other 3 members of what became later Blues Traveler.

The hallways of that same Princeton, New Jersey,  high school served as the meeting place for all of the future members of Blues Traveler. Popper and drummer Brendan Hill first hooked up in 1983; they were joined by guitarist Chan Kinchla in 1986, and bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1987. Out of their shared fascination with the Blues Brothers was born a worthy name by which to call themselves – the Blues Band.

Following graduation, Sheehan briefly attended the Berklee College of Music, but soon joined Popper and Hill, who had enrolled in the jazz program at New York’s New School for Social Research and would co-found Blues Traveler in 1987. Kinchla briefly attended N.Y.U.) . The New School was just what Popper et al. needed to get their act together: not only did they have the use of free rehearsal space, but the curriculum taught them how to get gigs. As it turned out, they learned a little too well, as before long, they had lined up so many gigs that there wasn’t any time left for school, so they all dropped out of the program.

Newly baptized as Blues Traveler, the band signed a record deal with A&M in 1989, and released their self-titled debut album later that same year. Travelers & Thieves followed in 1991. Their next album, Save His Soul (1993), was marred by a near-tragedy. Twelve days into recording sessions on the album, Popper was riding his motorcycle in the remote area of Louisiana where the studio was located when a turning car plowed into him. He sustained a broken arm, leg, and hip and had to
endure months of rehabilitation in a wheelchair.
Injuries aside, the band resumed recording after only a single month’s break; and not even the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair could keep Popper off the road after Save His Soul was released.

Throughout their early years, Blues Traveler built its reputation and its fan base by touring constantly, averaging more than 250 shows a year. Despite a lack of any radio or MTV coverage, the band secured a devoted following by word of mouth alone. The grapevine method worked well: the band managed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of each of its first three releases, although none of the albums quite achieved gold status (sales of 500,000). That all changed with the release of
1994’s four; the album spawned two Top 10 singles, “Run-around” and “Hook,” and went on to sell over six million copies. Apart from the healthy boost in record sales, the band’s profile was also rising due to the ever-growing popularity of the
HORDE (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) Tour, which Popper had organized in 1992 after the band failed to get a support slot on a major tour.

HORDE has become a summertime staple for concertgoers–it was the fourth-biggest grossing tour of summer of 1996–and as it grew, so did its ability to attract some of the biggest names in rock; over the years, Phish, Spin Doctors, the
Black Crowes, Neil Young, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews Band have all played the traveling summer fest. (Note: The last one was held in 2015 after a 17 year hiatus, as  the result of Bobby Sheehan’s death and John Popper’s heart problems in 1999.)

In 1994/95 on their rise to the lofty ranks of the multi-platinum, the members of Blues Traveler achieved some significant career milestones:

• they reached their goal of having played in all fifty states in December 1995;

• they guest-starred on an episode of Roseanne in 1995;

• they have appeared on Late Night With David Letterman more than any other band in the history of the show;

• and they sold out Madison Square Garden for their annual New Year’s Eve show in December 1996.

Somehow, during all that excitement, they also managed to compile tracks for a two-CD live set called Live From the Fall, which was released in 1996.

Sheehan moved to New Orleans in 1996. The upbeat pop single “Run-Around” became a smash hit and was followed by the catchy “Hook”. “Run-Around” won a Grammy Award and broke a record for most weeks on the chart. The group recorded the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man” for the film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the Bob Seger song “Get Out of Denver” for the film Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, as well as Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” for Rebel Highway: Cool and the Crazy. Several previously-recorded Blues Traveler songs were included on film soundtracks, including The Last Seduction, Speed, Very Bad Things, White Man’s Burden, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. The band also appeared in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000 and on its soundtrack, playing “Maybe I’m Wrong”.

Sheehan pleaded guilty in January 1998 to possession of less than a gram of cocaine. He had been arrested at an airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in September 1997, where Blues Traveler were opening for the Rolling Stones. He was placed on two years’ unsupervised probation. He almost completed the probation time, but almost is not completely.

Bobby was find unresponsive in his house in New Orleans on August 20, 1999, and tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. He was 31.

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Gar Samuelson 7/1999

July 22, 1999 – Gary C. “Gar” Samuelson (Megadeth) was born on February 18th 1958 in Dunkirk, New York. Little is known about his early years other than that he was of Swedish descent and that the family moved from New York to Florida in the early 1980s.

He became best known as the drummer for thrash metal band Megadeth, working in the band from 1984 to 1987. Prior to Megadeth he and Chris Poland played in a jazz fusion band called The New Yorkers, and that before this, both practiced and played together for many years.

After meeting with Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth in 1984, he joined the band, and Poland soon followed, this being what Mustaine refers to as ‘the first real line-up’. Samuelson would go on to serve as the band’s drummer until 1987, appearing on the albums Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!, and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, as well as serving through tours, until he was ultimately fired for his drug addiction. Gar’s style was heavily influenced by years of jazz training. This is exemplified in the tracks “These Boots”, “Rattlehead”, and “Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!”.

Gary and his brother Stew then formed, along with Billy Brehme, Travis Karcher and Andy Freeman, the band Fatal Opera, which released a self-titled album in 1995 and the Eleventh Hour in 1997.  He was considered a very unorthodox drummer among the other thrash metal bands of the 1980s even though he is considered as one of the most influential drummers to thrash metal, having pioneered the incorporation of jazz fusion into the subgenre.

He died of  liver failure on July 22, 1999 at the age of 41.

The success of Megadeth‘s break though single, “Peace Sells“, is often credited to the snarling vocals of Dave Mustaine or the thundering bassline of Dave Ellefson. However, in a new interview, former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland has claimed that drummer Gar Samuelson had more to do with the track’s composition than first thought. As Classic Rock Magazine reported, Poland credits the drummer for turning the song from an 8 minute marathon into the shorter, punchier version that we all know today: “I think originally it was eight minutes long, and Gar said, ‘You know what? This is too good a song to drag it out like this. Let’s shorten the arrangement, cut it down to size and make it a single.’ “Dave said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’

I honestly think Dave respected Gar’s opinion on stuff he was the only guy in the band Dave wouldn’t mess with. “He totally respected Gar, and thank God he did, If Gar hadn’t talked Dave into shortening the song…”



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Screaming Lord Sutch 6/1999

screaming-lord-sutchJune 16, 1999 – Screaming Lord Sutch was born David Edward Sutch, also known as the 3rd Earl of Harrow, despite having no connection with the peerage.

He was the UK’s first long-haired pop star, boasting hair over 18 inches long and the self-styled lord was Britain’s longest-serving political leader, standing (and losing in nearly 40 elections). His most famous party was the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

David Sutch was born in Kilburn, North-West London on November 10, 1940. His father was a policeman who was killed in World War II, when the boy was ten months old.

After leaving school, David worked as a plumber’s mate before becoming a singer. His stage name came from his main influence, Screaming Jay Hawkins, and from the fur-lined crash helmet which he wore on stage, topped with bobbles so that it resembled a coronet.

In 1968, he changed his name by deed poll to Lord David Sutch. Although he never had any ranking hits, his antics on and off stage brought him great notoriety, and he was to record with, among others, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding, Ritchie Blackmore, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon.

In 1963, he stood for Parliament as the National Teenager’s Candidate in Stratford-on-Avon, following the resignation of John Profumo after the sex scandal with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.

Although he gained only 209 votes, nearly all the policies he advocated – reducing the voting age to 18, commercial radio, calling for pubs to be open all day – were to become law long before his death.

In 1963, Sutch and his manager, Reginald Calvert, took over Shivering Sands Army Fort, a Maunsell Fort off Southend and in 1964 started Radio Sutch, intending to compete with other pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline. Broadcasts consisted of music and Mandy Rice-Davies reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sutch tired of the station, and sold it to Calvert, after which it was renamed Radio City, and lasted until 1967. In 1966 Calvert was shot dead by Oliver Smedley over a financial dispute. Smedley was acquitted on grounds of self-defence. About this time Ritchie Blackmore left the band. Roger Warwick left to set up an R&B big band for Freddie Mack.

He was to contest 44 elections and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as having stood for Parliament more times than anyone else. In the 1980’s, he tried to change his name again, to Mrs. Thatcher, but was refused permission, allegedly on the grounds that it might cause confusion if he did make it to the House of Commons. He was to become Great Britain’s longest serving party leader, having formed the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He was never elected and, indeed, never retained his deposit. However, in May 1990 at Bootle, he received 418 votes to the Social Democratic Party’s 156; following which Dr. David Owen, the leader of the S.D.P and a former Labour Foreign Secretary, retired from politics.

Sutch’s album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin’s book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time, despite the fact that Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.

For his follow-up, Hands of Jack the Ripper, Sutch assembled British rock celebrities for a concert at the Carshalton Park Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival. The show was recorded (though only Sutch knew), and it was released to the surprise of the musicians. Musicians on the record included Ritchie Blackmore (guitar); Matthew Fisher (keyboard); Carlo Little (drums); Keith Moon (drums); Noel Redding (bass) and Nick Simper (bass).

What was not known to the general public was that Sutch suffered from depression and had been on medication for many years. This became more acute following the death of his mother in 1997. In the same year, he met a lady named Yvonne Elwood. (Sutch never married but, in 1975, had a son, Tristram, with an American model.) His last years were dogged with financial troubles, but he seemed to be more cheerful in his last weeks and was looking forward to concerts in Belgium and Las Vegas.

However, in June 1999, he was found by Yvonne at his late mother’s house, 10 Parkfield Road, near South Harrow Station, having hanged himself. The last entry in his diary read : “Depression, depression, depression is all too much.” The coroner at the inquest described Sutch as “A comedian with tragedy in his heart. The public saw the public face, a cheery outgoing character, yet, in the privacy of his room, his true sadness emerged.

“During the 60s, he was known for his horror-themed stage show, dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the shock rock antics of Alice Cooper. Accompanied by his band, The Savages, he started by coming out of a black coffin. Other props included knives and daggers, skulls and “bodies”. He booked themed tours, such as ‘Sutch and the Roman Empire’, where he and the band members would be dressed up as Roman soldiers. Despite self-confessed lack of vocal talent, he released horror-themed singles during the early to mid-’60s, the most popular “Jack the Ripper”, covered live and on record by garage rock bands including the White Stripes, The Black Lips and The Horrors.

His album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin’s book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time, despite the fact that Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.

He killed himself by hanging on June 16, 1999 at age 58.

He was definitely an original:

His bad time-keeping was the inspiration for his policy of decimal time – where there would be 100 seconds to the minute, and 100 minutes to the hour!

“What can we say about the man who posed the impossible question: Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?

He gave his age as 10 years younger than it was, then added ‘plus VAT’.”

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Darrell Sweet 4/1999

Darrell SweetApril 30, 1999 – Darrell Antony Sweet (Nazareth) was born in Bournemouth, England on May 16, 1947.  His early music years were spent playing with the Burntisland pipe band; he was also a member of the Shadettes.

Sweet was a founding member of the Scottish Hard Rock band Nazareth in 1968, playing drums with them until his death in 1999. He played on Nazareth’s first 29 albums.

The band moved to London in 1970 and released their eponymous debut album in 1971. After their second album Exercises, in 1972, Nazareth supported Deep Purple on tour, and issued the Roger Glover produced, Razamanaz, in early 1973.

This collection spawned two UK Top Ten hits, “Broken Down Angel” and “Bad Bad Boy”. This was followed by Loud ‘N’ Proud in late 1973, which contained another hit single with a hard-rocking cover of Joni Mitchell’s song “This Flight Tonight”. Then came Rampant, in 1974, that was equally successful with the single, “Shanghai’ed in Shanghai”.

Their 1975 album, Hair of the Dog, title track, popularly though incorrectly, known as “Son Of A Bitch”, became a staple of 1970s rock radio. The American version of the album included the The Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison, the melodic ballad “Love Hurts”, that was released as a hit single in the UK and in the U.S., where it went platinum.

The track became the band’s only U.S. Top Ten hit and it spent a record-breaking 60 weeks on the Norwegian chart. Darrell toured, performed and recorded with Nazareth for 31 years and performed on 29 albums (including all bests of) before his untimely death.

Sweet died of a heart attack in 1999, as the band prepared to set out on the second leg of its U.S. tour in support of their latest album, Boogaloo. The band had arrived at Indiana’s New Albany Amphitheater when Darrell began to feel ill, within minutes he had gone into cardiac arrest and was taken to Floyd Memorial Hospital in New Albany, where doctors pronounced him dead at age 51.


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Skip Spence 4/1999

skip spenceApril 16, 1999 – Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence was born on April 18, 1946 in Windsor Ontario, Canada. His parents moved to San José, California in the mid 1950s where his father found work in the aviation industry, having been a decorated bomber pilot during the war.

He was given a guitar by his parents at the age of 10. A precocious talent, he also played the drum in his school band, a skill which would come in handy when, having moved to California in the late fifties, he dived into the burgeoning hippie scene of the Bay Area.
Spence had already been approached to join Quicksilver Messenger Service as a guitarist when he bumped into Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin at the Matrix, a San Francisco club also used as a rehearsal room. Dissatisfied with the drummer Jerry Peloquin, who was only in so the group could use his apartment in Haight Ashbury, the frontman offered the drumming stool to Spence, who looked the part. Spence jumped at the chance and joined a Jefferson Airplane line-up which also featured the guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen and singer Signe Toly Anderson. “It’s No Secret”, the Airplane’s first single, was released in February 1966, just as Jack Cassidy replaced the original bassist Bob Harvey.

Spence stayed with the Airplane for over a year and contributed several songs (notably “Blues From An Airplane”) to their debut album, entitled Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, eventually issued by RCA Records later that year. Further personnel changes saw Anderson quit to have children and Grace Slick, formerly lead vocalist with the Great Society, take over, bringing with her “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love”, two seminal compositions which became the Airplane’s first hits and true flower-power anthems. Anderson coincidentally died last January on the same day Airplane founding member Paul Kantner passed away.

By the time these million-selling singles reached the US Top Ten in 1967, Spence, who felt his songwriting was being eclipsed by the other members’ (though his “My Best Friend” was included on Surrealistic Pillow, the group’s second album), had stopped attending rehearsals and was dismissed in favor of Spencer Dryden, who was dating Slick at the time. At the same time, the Jefferson Airplane switched their management to a local concert promoter Bill Graham, leaving Matthew Katz in the lurch.

Katz kept Spence on his books and hatched a plan to form a band around him in San Francisco. He asked the guitarist Peter Lewis and bassist Bob Mosley to come up from Los Angeles to see if they fitted in. Adding a drummer, Don Stevenson, and guitarist, Jerry Miller, the group, Moby Grape, started to rehearse and instantly found a distinctive sound, blending three guitar parts, vocal harmonies and distinctive compositions of all five members, with Spence often at the helm. “Skippy was always `high’ on this other level,” said Peter Lewis in the sleeve notes to a 1993 compilation, Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape.

He recalled:
His mind was always churning with stuff. It was hard for him to sit and talk. He didn’t deal in words but in ideas. He was the most unique songwriter I’d ever heard. Like in “Indifference” on the first album, the way he changed keys right in the middle of the song. Skippy was definitely not copying anybody I’d ever heard. Yet it always came out great.

The name Moby Grape reflected the crazy times. According to Jerry Miller,
Skip and Bob (Mosley) went out to have a little lunch and they came back laughing like crazy with a name for the band. They were thinking of this joke: what’s purple and swims in the ocean? So they came back in and said: Moby Grape, we’ll just be Moby Grape. That’s how it happened. We all laughed and got along with that pretty good. Our manager liked Bentley Escort because it related to Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock but we hated that one. Moby Grape sounded good and it was made up by the band. Skippy appeared to be crazy but he was crazy like a fox. He was a full- on Aries, laughing all the time.

After two months of solid rehearsals in Sausalito, the group played the Fillmore in San Francisco in November 1966 and instantly started a bidding war between record companies. “When I first saw them play,” remembers David Rubinson, the A&R man who won the battle and signed the group to Columbia, “I knew this was a band that could go around the country, around the world and really kill!” Sam Andrews, guitarist with Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) was full of praise too. “You guys are better than the Beatles,” he told Lewis.

Indeed, the quintet’s debut album, simply entitled Moby Grape, remains a classic of its time, worthy of inclusion alongside The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Love’s Forever Changes, also released in 1967. Unfortunately, an over-eager record company and inept manager conspired to oversell the group with a lavish launch in June at the Avalon Ballroom during which thousands of purple orchids fell from the ceiling. The next day, Miller, Lewis and Spence were found in Marin County with three under-age girls and duly arrested, though charges were later dropped.

Columbia also simultaneously issued five singles from the album when they should have been concentrating on the stunning “Omaha”, a Spence composition which nevertheless crept into the Top 100. Moby Grape reached No 24 on the LP charts (though drummer Don Stevenson’s raised finger had to be erased from the sleeve). ” `Omaha’ was pure Spence energy,” declared David Rubinson later.
He was the maniacal core of the band, the guy who would say fuck it, let’s do it anyway. He was an idiot savant. He couldn’t add a column or figures, couldn’t pay a check in a restaurant. But he saw things in a clear light. He could see through immediately to the truth of what was going on.

The truth was that the five members didn’t get on. “Six months after we met, we were rock stars. That was horrible,” admitted Lewis. Later that year, following abortive sessions in Los Angeles, the group were sent to New York to complete Wow, the follow-up album, which made the Top Twenty. The relocation seemed to have pushed Spence, who consumed psychedelic drugs at an alarming rate, over the edge. Considering that the singer had howled “Save me, save me!” when recording a demo of “Seeing”, the others should have seen the writing on the wall. One day in 1968, Spence went looking for them with an axe. He was jailed and committed to the Bellevue Hospital for six months.
The four remaining musicians attempted to carry on, even touring the UK, despite becoming embroiled in a dispute with Katz, who claimed all rights to the Moby Grape name and put together a bogus version of the band which played the ill-fated 1969 Altamont gig. The legal dispute would rumble on for years; the original group members attempting to reform even resorted to calling themselves Maby Grope or Legendary Grape.

Following his discharge from hospital in 1968, Spence went to Nashville and in four days recorded the dark and whimsical Oar, a truly solo album on which he played every single instrument. Over the years, this record gained something of a cult following and, after its reissue on CD in 1993, was even the subject of a “Buried Treasure” feature in Mojo magazine. By then, Spence had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had been in and out of mental institutions for most of the Seventies and Eighties. Sometimes, he managed to rejoin his former cohorts but, more usually, he would contribute the odd track to one of their albums before disappearing again.

Spence wrote some music for an episode of the revived television series The Twilight Zone and the X-Files film, but neither score was used. He struggled on with various illnesses and, before his death, heard More Oar, a tribute album assembled by the likes of Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Wilco, and Michael Stipe of REM.

It was with Moby Grape however, that Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s first album in 1967, a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a full time career in the music industry. He remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California.

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence, singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer and married father of three sons and one daughter, died from lung cancer in Santa Cruz, California on April 16, 1999. He was 52.

Below video is dedicated to one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands to emerge from the San Francisco underground scene, yet who shared in very little of the fame and fortune many of the other SF bands did. Nevertheless, today they are hailed as one of the most influential and iconic rock bands of the psychedelic period. The group was formed in late 1966 by drummer Skip Spence of the original Jefferson Airplane (back when Signe Anderson was still sharing the lead vocals with Marty Balin, a year before leaving and being replaced by Grace Slick). Spence ditched his drum sticks and played rhythm guitar for the new group which consisted of a guitar trio that switched taking turns on lead, often on the same song (much like The Buffalo Springfield). The result was absolutely WILD … and I mean WILD! Dancers went crazy on the discotheque floor keeping in time with the fast-paced frenzy of Moby Grape’s guitar-playing nirvana. Bliss on speed. 

The LP, Moby Grape, was released on June 6, 1967. This video is of the Grape’s song “Omaha” .. probably their most popular tune. In recent years, “Omaha” has been listed as number 95 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”. Released as a single, along with four other singles from the album simultaneously, it peaked at #88 on Billboard and #70 on Cash Box on July 29, 1967 (it debuted on Cash Box with a big red bullet at #72 with a strong upwards surge predicted, but dropped off the chart completely a week after reaching #70 .. the times were so fickle!). Sit back and for the next few minutes enjoy the way it was: Moby Grape and “Omaha”!

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Colin Manley 4/1999

colin manleyApril 9, 1999 – Colin William Manley was born 16 April 1942, in Old Swan, Liverpool, Lancashire which uniquely qualified him in age and geographically to become part of the British Invasion. In 1958 as guitarist and vocalist together with Don Andrew he founded the The Remo Quartet, changing their name to the Remo Four in the summer of 1959. Andrew and Manley were in the same class at school (Liverpool Institute for Boys) as Paul McCartney.

They played a mix of vocal harmony material (à la The Everly Brothers), and instrumental numbers in the manner of The Shadows, The Ventures, and Chet Atkins. In the early 1960s Colin was considered the best technical guitar player in Liverpool by his peeps. He could play and replicate anything and was a joy to watch. 

Continue reading Colin Manley 4/1999

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Nigel Stranger 3/1999

nigel strangerMarch 15, 1999 – Nigel Stranger (the Animals)was born January 16, 1943 in Newcastle, England

Tenor & soprano saxophonist, pianist and architect. He played with a host of name blues bands including John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, The Animals. In later years, he backed the likes of The East Side Torpedoes, Jimmy Witherspoon and The Crosbys, as well as playing with his own different line-up bands.

In the 1990s, Nigel and his friend, music manager, producer, ex-Animal bassist and original manager for Jimi Hendrix, Chas Chandler, set up in business and together they established Park Arena Ltd. in which they developed the 11,000 seater Newcastle Arena, the largest sports and entertainment venue in north-east England. It has since been renamed the Metro Radio Arena.

He died while battling cancer at age 56 on March 15, 1999.

Nigel is 4th from the left.

(Complete line-up (l-r):
Phil Doggett; Dave Brown; John Pearce; Nigel Stanger; Steve Gibbs; Alan Gibb; Charlie Carmichael; Ian Heslop; Jackie Denton; Dave Savill ; Lance Liddle; Kevin Savin; Gordon Solomon; Andy Hudson.)

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Dusty Springfield 3/1999

dusty_springfieldMarch 2, 1999 – Dusty Springfield was born Mary O’Brien on April 16th 1939 in West Hampstead, North London, England. She was given the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy. Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage her to guess the musical piece. She listened to a wide range of music, including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. At the age of twelve, she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” at a local record shop in Ealing. Continue reading Dusty Springfield 3/1999

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Charles Brown 1/1999

Charles BrownJanuary 21, 1999 – Tony Russell “Charles” Brown was born in Texas City on September 13, 1922. Brown demonstrated his love of music as a child and received a classical music training on the piano. He graduated from Central High School of Galveston, Texas in 1939 and Prairie View A&M College in 1942 with a degree in chemistry. He then became a chemistry teacher at George Washington Carver High School of Baytown, Texas, a mustard gas worker at the Pine Bluff Arsenal at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and an apprentice electrician at a shipyard in Richmond, California before settling in Los Angeles in 1943.

In Los Angeles, the great influx of blacks created an integrated nightclub scene in which black performers tended to minimize the rougher blues elements of their style. The blues club style of a light rhythm bass and right-hand tinkling of the piano and smooth vocals became popular, epitomized by the jazz piano of Nat King Cole. When Cole left Los Angeles to perform nationally, his place was taken by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, featuring Charles Brown’s gentle piano and vocals.

His style dominated the Southern California club scene during the 40s and 50s, he influenced such performers as Floyd Dixon, Cecil Gant, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ray Charles, Percy Mayfield and Johnny Ace. On February 1st 1946 “Driftin’ Blues,” by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, enters the R&B chart. Written and sung by Charles the song reached No.2 and remains on the R&B chart for half a year, a significant milestone of the early postwar blues, it also received ‘Cashbox’ magazine’s award for R&B record of the year. This was the first of a string of hits for the Three Blazers.

Charles had his first solo hit in January 1949 with “Get Yourself Another Fool,” it reaches No.4 on the R&B chart, quickly followed by “Trouble Blues” which topped the charts for 15 weeks. His 1951 hit “Black Night” topped the R&B charts for 14 weeks. Over a two-year period, Charles’ two biggest hits occupied the No.1 spot for a combined 29 weeks, a phenomenal feat.

His chart hit “Please Come Home for Christmas” in Dec 1960, has been covered by dozens of artists like many of his other songs.

He began a recording and performing career again, under the musical direction of guitarist Danny Caron, to greater success than he had achieved since the 1950s. Other members of Charles’ touring ensemble included Clifford Solomon on tenor saxophone, Ruth Davies on bass and Gaylord Birch on drums. Several records received Grammy Award nominations, and in the 1980s he made a series of appearances at New York City nightclub Tramps. As a result of these appearances he signed a new recording contract with Blue Side Records and recorded One More for the Road in three days. Blue Side Records closed soon after but distribution was picked up by Alligator Records. Soon after the success of One More for the Road, Bonnie Raitt helped usher in a Charles Brown comeback tour. His last studio album ‘So Goes Love’, was released in May 1998.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2 months after his death.

Brown died of congestive heart failure in 1999 in Oakland, California at age 76.

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Bill Albaugh 1/1999

Bill AlbaughJanuary 20, 1999 – William “Bill” Albaugh was born in 1948 in the United Kingdom. While studying in Oxford Ohio he became the drummer with the Lemon Pipers a psychedelic pop, bubblegum band from Cincinnati, Ohio known chiefly for their song “Green Tambourine“, which reached No.1 on the Billboard chart in 1968.

In 1968, for one brief, DayGlo moment, The Lemon Pipers was the biggest thing in rock ‘n’ roll.
The Lemon Pipers – singer Ivan Browne, guitarist Bill Bartlett, keyboardist Bob Nave, bassist Steve Walmsley and drummer Bill Albaugh – were top of the pops with the sunny psychedelia of “Green Tambourine.

The band had evolved from two local groups – Ivan & the Sabres and Tony & the Bandits – when the Bandits (which included Bartlett, Nave and Albaugh) fired Tony and stole Ivan.
The newly christened Lemon Pipers were a fixture in Oxford clubs and Cincinnati’s underground rock palace, the Ludlow Garage, owned by young hippie entrepreneur Jim Tarbell. Fame beckoned in a major-label contract with Buddah Records. Firing their bassist, the group hired Walmsley and headed for New York.

A year after the Summer of Love, major labels were packaging the new psychedelic rock for pop radio.
One result was a candy-colored confection called “bubblegum rock.” The masterminds were K&K – producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Along with the Lemon Pipers, they were also responsible for the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company.
It’s what Nave, a jazz-influenced organist who became one of the Tristate’s leading jazz DJs, calls “the duality of the Lemon Pipers.”

“We were a stand-up rock ‘n’ roll band, and then all of a sudden, we’re in a studio, being told how to play and what to play.”
Live, they were a blues-rocking, jam band. On record they did fuzz-toned anthems like “Jelly Jungle (of Orange Marmalade).”
The bubblegum fad soon lost its flavor. Browne quit and moved to California, where he still lives and performs. Back in Oxford, some of the other guys formed a band called Starstruck, which got a lot of notice for its rearrangement of an old Lead Belly blues called “Black Betty.”

K&K heard about it, drafted Bartlett for a new band, Ram Jam, and quickly recorded “Black Betty.” One-hit-wonderhood struck Bartlett twice and the song lives on, most recently on the soundtrack to Johnny Depp’s Blow.
Bartlett has stayed active, though he’s been focusing on boogie-woogie piano lately. Walmsley plays bass around Oxford. Nave occasionally plays organ with Greg Schaber & High Street.

Drummer Bill Albaugh died on January 20, 1999, at the age of 53.



at age 53.

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Barry Pritchard 1/1999

The Original Fortunes in 1963January 11, 1999 – Barry Pritchard (the Fortunes) was born on April 3rd 1944 in war-torn Birmingham, England. In 1963, in Birmingham, he formed a vocalist trio called the Fortunes with Glen Dale and Rod Allen, and they were signed by the eccentric promoter Reg Calvert. Backed by the Clifftones in their first recording, they decided soon that playing an instrument would create a better pay-scale for each of them.

So The Fortunes, as a five-piece with David Carr and Andy Brown, were signed to Decca, and their first single, “I Love Her Still” (1963), was written by Pritchard. Their second, songwriter Tony Hiller’s infuriatingly catchy “Caroline” (1964), became the theme music for the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, and was a European hit. The Fortunes stood out from other 1960s beat groups because of their distinctive four-part harmonies. “Barry Pritchard had the high voice,” says Tony Hiller, “and he was sensational. His high notes really made `Caroline’ work for me.”

The Fortunes recorded two numbers for a live album from the Cavern club in Liverpool (1964), but their subsequent singles failed to sell. The record producer Noel Walker remembers: “The Fortunes’ contract came up for renewal and Decca didn’t want to renew it. I had recorded them at the Cavern and I told Decca that they sung wonderfully and deserved another chance. I wanted to use them as singers backed by professional musicians and I found a beautiful song, “You’ve Got Your Troubles“. The record turned out exactly how I wanted and I regard Barry’s harmonies as fundamental to the Fortunes’ sound.”

“You’ve Got Your Troubles” (1965) climbed to No 2 in Britain and No 7 in the United States, but the Fortunes bravely admitted that they had not played their own instruments on the record. As with the Monkees and Love Affair, the public became suspicious of their abilities. However, they played well in concert, where their hit song was stripped of its middle-of-the-road arrangement. And, as the songwriter Roger Greenaway says, “There are 160 versions of `You’ve Got Your Troubles’, but the Fortunes’ is very much the best.”

Their follow-up single, “Here It Comes Again” (1965), despite its similarities to “You’ve Got Your Troubles”, was an international hit, and “This Golden Ring” (1966) was also successful. Then the hits stopped. Noel Walker recalls: “Barry was the most outgoing of the Fortunes and was a calming influence when things went wrong. He took the ups and downs much better than the rest.” The Fortunes released some fine singles – “The Idol” (1967), “Seasons in the Sun” (1968) and “Loving Cup” (1968) – but they didn’t sell. “We were like wet fish on a slab,” said Pritchard, “and it took us some years to get back.

The comeback finally came with a cover version of Pickettywitch’s “That Same Old Feeling” for the American market. It was followed by “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again”, which made the US Top Twenty in 1971. Then came two Top Ten hits in Britain – the reggae-influenced “Freedom Come Freedom Go” (1971) and “Storm in a Teacup” (1972, written by Lynsey De Paul).

In 1984 the Fortunes were part of the successful double album Hooked On Number Ones, but by then they were resigned to cabaret dates and oldies shows. In 1995, suffering from heart trouble, Pritchard was forced to leave the group. He and his family opened a bar and restaurant on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

But health issues took their toll once again and in 1999 the family returned to England

Barry Pritchard, vocalist extra-ordinaire and guitarist died in Swindon, Wiltshire  on  January 11 1999.