January 29, 2004 – Soko Richardson was born on December 8, 1939 in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Richardson began his musical career at the age of 16, when he left home to tour the South with local bands. Shortly thereafter Ike Turner, upon hearing Richardson play in Texas, hired him to play with his band, Kings of Rhythm, and then later with The Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Richardson worked with Turner for the next ten years. In March 1971 Richardson’s arrangement of the John Fogerty song, “Proud Mary” reached number four on the pop charts, and number five on the R&B charts. The song became a signature song for Tina Turner, and won the band a Grammy for “Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Group.”
Continue reading Soko Richardson 1/2004
November 19, 2003 – Greg Ridley was born October 23, 1947 played bass with Spooky Tooth and Humble Pie. Born in Carlisle in 1947, Greg Ridley joined his first group in the early Sixties. He was Dino in a short-lived outfit called Dino and the Danubes before teaming up with his old schoolfriend Mike Harrison (on vocals and piano) in the Ramrods.
By 1965, the pair had joined the VIP’s, led by the guitarist Luther Grosvenor, and recorded three singles (“Wintertime” for CBS and “I Wanna Be Free” and “Straight Down to the Bottom” on the Island label). “In the early days, I thought if we made the bright lights of London from Carlisle, we’d made it,” Ridley would joke. The VIP’s became Art for a cover of the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” retitled “What’s That Sound” and the 1967 album Supernatural Fairy Tales.
The following year, the American singer and organist Gary Wright joined the line-up, the band changed its name to Spooky Tooth and released the albums It’s All About a Roundabout and Spooky Two. However, Ridley was unhappy and jumped at the chance to assist Steve Marriott in his new venture alongside Peter Frampton.
Continue reading Greg Ridley 11/2003
November 17, 2003 – Arthur Conley was born on January 4, 1946 in McIntosh County, Georgia and grew up in Atlanta. He first recorded as a 13 year old in 1959 as the lead singer of Arthur & the Corvets. With this group, he released three singles in 1963 and 1964, “Poor Girl”, “I Believe”, and “Flossie Mae”.
In 1964, he moved to a new label and released “I’m a Lonely Stranger”. When Otis Redding heard this, he asked Conley to record a new version, which was released on Redding’s own fledgling label Jotis Records, as only its second release. That was in 1967. Together they rewrote the Sam Cooke song “Yeah Man” into “Sweet Soul Music”, which, at Redding’s insistence, was released on the Atco-distributed label Fame Records, and was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It proved to be a massive hit, as it shot to the number two spot on both the pop and R&B charts in the USA and Western Europe, earning Conley the number eleven male artist ranking for 1967. The song paid homage to other soul singers like Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett and James Brown.
Continue reading Arthur Conley 11/2003
November 5, 2003 – Bobby Lee Hatfield was born on August 10, 1940 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and moved with his family to Anaheim, California when he was four. A 1958 graduate of Anaheim High School, where he had sung in the school choir.
His introduction into show business was singing, “Shortnin’ Bread” on a local radio show as a 3rd grader. He was the student body president of his high school, sang in the choirs, and once said he would never forget his first solo appearance.
“I was M.C. for our talent show. Two days prior to the show, for some ungodly reason, I decided to sing. I was never so scared in my life and also never so thankful that I had dark pants on! I sang Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are”, and even though I thought the sound of my knees banging together was drowning out my voice, I managed to pull it off.”
Continue reading Bobby Lee Hatfield 11/2003
September 6, 2003 – Robert Palmer (Power Station) was born 19 January 1949 in Batley, Yorkshire, England. He was known for his distinctive voice and the eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop, reggae and blues.
He found success both in his solo career and in the supergroup Power Station, and had Top 10 songs in both the US and the UK. His iconic music videos for the hits “Simply Irresistible” and “Addicted to Love“, featured identically dressed dancing women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. Sharp-suited, his involvement in the music industry commenced in the 1960s, covered five decades and included a spell with Vinegar Joe. Among other awards he was a two time Grammy Award winner with “Addicted To Love” and for “Simply Irresistible”.
Continue reading Robert Palmer 9/2003
September 12, 2003 – J.R. “Johnny” Cash was born February 26, 1932 and became one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, baritone and spare, percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound.
Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.
Born in Kingsland, Arkansas, he was given the name “J.R.” because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. When he enlisted in the US Air Force, the military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R. Cash as his legal name. Continue reading Johnny Cash 9/2003
September 7, 2003 – Warren Zevon was born January 24, 1947. He never made it into the mainstream popularity, but the in-crowd knew him as a prolific songwriter/singer/musician, noted for his offbeat, sardonic view on life which was reflected in his dark, often painfully humorous songs, which sometimes incorporated political and/or historical themes and personas.
He worked with a huge list of mega artists. To give an idea on his stretch here is an anecdotal paragraph.
By September 1975, Zevon had returned to Los Angeles (from Spain), where he roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. There, he collaborated with Jackson Browne, who in 1976 produced and promoted Zevon’s self-titled major-label debut.
Continue reading Warren Zevon 9/2003
August 18, 2003 –Anthony Paul Tony Jackson (the Searchers) was born in Dingle, Liverpool on July 16th 1938. After leaving high school he went to Walton Technical College to train as an electrician. Jackson was inspired by the skiffle sound of Lonnie Donegan, and then by Buddy Holly and other U.S. rock and rollers. He founded the skiffle group the Martinis.
Nicknamed Black Jake, he joined the guitar duo the Searchers, which had been formed by John McNally and Mike Pender in 1959. The band soon expanded further to a quartet with the addition of the drummer Chris Curtis. Jackson built and learned to play a customized bass guitar. Learning his new job on the four-stringed instrument proved too difficult to permit him to continue singing lead so he made way for a new singer, Johnny Sandon, in 1960. They played in Liverpool’s nightclubs and the beer bars of Hamburg, Germany. Brian Epstein considered signing them but he lost interest after seeing a drunken Jackson fall off the stage at the Cavern Club. Sandon moved on in February 1962 and the band were signed by Pye Records in mid-1963 when the Beatles’ success created demand for Liverpudlian acts.
Continue reading Tony Jackson 8/2003
July 30, 2003 – Samuel Cornelius “Sam” Phillips was born on January 5, 1923 in Florence, Alabama and a graduate of Coffee High School. As a youngster he was intensely exposed to blues and became interested in music by African workers on his father’s cotton farm.
He became an important record producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 40s and 50s, and played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s.
He is most notably attributed with the discoveries of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and is associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period.
Sam was also founder of Sun Records, the studio that was vital to launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas and numerous other significant artists. As well as owning the Sun Studio Café in Memphis, he and his family founded Big River Broadcasting Corporation which owned and operated several radio stations in the Florence, Alabama, area, including WQLT-FM, WSBM, and WXFL.
Continue reading Sam Phillips 7/2003
July 25, 2003 – Erik Brann or Braunn was born Rick Davis on August 11th 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts. At 6 while being a resident in Boston, Massachusetts, Erik was accepted as a child into the prodigy program for violin at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. By age 7 he was performing in concerts as violinist. In his early teens he moved to guitar and California with his parents. Starting on the guitar in 1963 Erik studied with local L.A. legends Milt Norman and Duke Miller. The latter noted that every time he gave the precocious Braunn a lesson, Erik would come back with a song he had written around the lesson. Not one to interfere with a budding George Gershwin, Miller encouraged the habit. While in high school, Erik also studied acting from the now renown Robert Carelli and won several awards for Elizabethan Comedy, Shakespeare, and a First Place Award for his lead role in “Dino” at the USC Dramatic Acting Festival. This was followed by another first place in the Elizabethan Comedy “A Shoemakers Holiday” at UCLA.
He recorded an album with his first band “The Paper Fortress” at the age of fourteen before he joined Iron Butterfly’s second line up at the age of sixteen. He was the last of over forty guitarists to audition and was accepted on the spot.
Continue reading Erik Brann 7/2003
July 6, 2003 – Skip Battin (the Byrds) was born February 18th 1934 in Gallipolis, Ohio.
His early musical career began in 1956 when he collaborated with Gary Paxton, whom he had met while attending college in Tucson, Arizona and they formed the Pledges, the same duo later successfully recording as Skip & Flip, enjoying some success with “It Was I”, and their cover of “Cherry Pie” (both of which reached number 11). After a few years out of the music industry, he led the short-lived folk-rock group Evergreen Blueshoes, starting in 1967. Their one album appeared on the Amos label.
As a journeyman musician, Battin is probably best known for his position as bass guitarist and songwriter with the Byrds from 1970 to 1973. He was—by eight years—the oldest member of the Byrds, with whom he recorded three albums and toured extensively. Many of his songwriting contributions were co-written with longtime collaborator and famous producer/songwriter Kim Fowley.
Continue reading Skip Battin 7/2003
July 4, 2003 – Barry White was born as Barry Eugene Carter in Galveston, Texas on September 12, 1944, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. White was the older of two children. His brother Darryl was 13 months younger than Barry. He grew up listening to his mother’s classical music collection and first took to the piano, emulating what he heard on the records.
White has often been credited with playing piano, at age eleven, on Jesse Belvin’s 1956 hit single, “Goodnight My Love.” However, in a 1995 interview with Larry Katz of the Boston Herald, White denied writing or arranging the song. He believed the story was an exaggeration by journalists. Continue reading Barry White 7/2003
June 6, 2003 – David Eric “Dave” Rowberry was born on July 4, 1940 in Mapperley, Nottinghamshire, England. Rowberry began his musical career at the University of Newcastle and began playing piano and the keyboards with various blues and jazz bands before joining the ‘Mike Cotton Jazzmen’ and backup performers to the likes of Solomon Burke, P.J. Proby, and the Four Tops.
The Animals were already one of the major British Invasion groups in May 1965 when founding keyboardist Alan Price suddenly left due to fear of flying and other issues with frontman Eric Burdon and bass player Chas Chandler whose connection to impressario/agent for Jimi Hendrix put uncertainty into the band’s future. According to lead singer Eric Burdon, Rowberry, while considered a good musician, was chosen partly because of his passing physical resemblance to Price. On the other hand, Burdon’s crony Zoot Money claims that he was approached first (no reason was given why he declined!!), and Rowberry only selected as a second choice.
Continue reading Dave Rowberry 6/2003
May 11, 2003 – Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) was born in Folkestone, England on December 25, 1945.
At age 9, he played violin at school and then mandolin and guitar. His first public appearances were at the Hythe Youth Club then at Harvey Grammar School where he was a student. His first local band was The Strangers with John “Andy” Andrews.
He played in several other local bands, mainly as lead guitarist, before turning professional at 17, and touring clubs in Scotland and Germany with Neil Landon and the Burnettes formed in late 1962 and The Loving Kind formed in November 1965. In 1966 he was selected by manager Chas Chandler as the bassist for Jimi Hendrix’s band and he left in 1969. He was featured on three seminal albums with Hendrix, ‘Are You Experienced?‘, ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’.
Continue reading Noel Redding 5/2003
April 22, 2003 – Felice Bryant was born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto on August 7, 1925. One half of the wife and husband country/pop music songwriting team who were also at the forefront of the evolution of pop music.
With her husband, Boudleaux, the two wrote numerous Everly Brothers’ hits including the autobiographical “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love”. Their prolific and quality compositions would produce hit records for many stars from a variety of musical genres including Tony Bennett, Bob Moore, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Sarah Vaughan, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan among many others. They formed one of the most potent songwriting teams in country pop history.
Continue reading Felice Bryant 4/2003
April 21, 2003 – Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in South Carolina. The sixth child of a preacher mom, she wanted to become a concert pianist. She began playing piano at age three.
Her concert debut, a classical recital, was given when she was 12. Simone later said that during this performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. She said that she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front, and that the incident strongly contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement. Continue reading Nina Simone 4/2003
April 17, 2003 – Earl King as Earl Silas Johnson IV was born February 7th 1934. His father, a local piano player, died when King was still a baby, and he was brought up by his mother. With his mother, he started going to church at an early age. In his youth he sang gospel music, but took the advice of a friend to switch to blues to make a better living.
He became a self taught New Orleans Blues guitar virtuoso and songwriter as he was the composer of well known standards such as “Come On” (covered by Jimi Hendrix), and Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief”. He started to play guitar at 15. Soon he started entering talent contests at local clubs. It was at one of those clubs where he met his idol Guitar Slim. Earl started imitating Slim, his presence gave a big impact on his musical directions.
In 1954, when Slim was injured in an automobile accident, Earl was deputized to continue Slim’s band tour, representing himself as Slim. After succeeding in this role, he became a regular at the Dew Drop Inn.
Continue reading Earl King 4/2003
April 10, 2003 – Little Eva Narcissus Boyd was born on June 29th 1943 in Belhaven, North Carolina, and moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York at a young age. She worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd’s particular dancing style, so they wrote “The Loco-Motion” for her and had her record it as a demo (the record was intended for Dee Dee Sharp).
However, as King said in an interview with NPR and in her “One to One” concert video, they knew she could sing when they met her, and it would be just a matter of time before they would have her record songs they wrote, the most successful being “The Loco-Motion”.
Continue reading Little Eva Boyd 4/2003
March 13, 2003 – Sammy Samwell was born Ian Ralph Sawmill on January 19th 1937.
Not many residents in Sacramento, California knew that a British rock legend walked among them for two decades prior to his death. He was a gentle soul, a music-biz lifer, and the twinkle in his eye belied more rock influence than most players here could conjure up in a lifetime.
Imagine being a pivotal player in rock ’n’ roll in 1958—that was just a handful of years after Jackie Brenston made the very first rock ’n’ roll song, “Rocket 88,” and one year after Elvis was drafted. It was when guitarist Samwell, then 21, penned “Move It” for his band’s lead singer, Cliff Richard, the first British rock star.
In 1999, that shakin’-all-over ditty was voted one of the top 10 rock ’n’ roll records of all time by BBC Radio. In America, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tapped it as one of 500 songs that shaped the genre. Most importantly, John Lennon called “Move It” the most influential British record ever made.
Continue reading Sammy Samwell 3/2003
March 8, 2003 – Adam Faith was born Terence Nelhams-Wright June 23rd 1940 in Acton, west London, the third of five children of a coach driver and an office cleaner. After leaving school, he worked in the film industry, progressing from messenger boy to assistant film editor. He was inspired to form the Worried Men skiffle group in 1956 by Lonnie Donegan’s recording of Rock Island Line. As Faith said in his first autobiography Poor Me (1961): “Skiffle hit Britain with all the fury of Asian flu. Everyone went down with it.” Faith later repaid his debt by producing a 1978 comeback album for Donegan, Puttin’ On The Style.
While performing at the Two Is coffee bar in Soho, in a live broadcast for BBC TV’s 6-5 Special show in 1958, Nelhams caught the eye of producer Jack Good, who told him that he could be a successful singer with a change of name. Good gave him a book of Christian names from which Terry picked Adam from the boys section and Faith from the girls.
Continue reading Adam Faith 3/2003
March 2, 2003 – Hank Ballard was born John Henry Kendricks in Detroit, Michigan on November 18, 1927, but, along with his brother, Dove Ballard, grew up and attended school in Bessemer, Alabama after the death of their father. He lived with his paternal aunt and her husband, and began singing in church. His major vocal inspiration during his formative years was the “Singing Cowboy”, Gene Autry, and in particular, his signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again”. During the 1960s, Ballard’s cousin, Florence Ballard, was a member of the Detroit girl group The Supremes.
Ballard returned to Detroit in his teens and later worked on the assembly line for Ford Motor Company. In 1951, he formed a doo-wop group and was discovered by the legendary band leader Johnny Otis, and was signed to sing with a group called The Royals. The group changed its name to The Midnighters to avoid confusion with The “5” Royales.
Continue reading Hank Ballard 3/2003
February 23, 2003 – Howie Epstein (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) was born July 21st 1955 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father, Sam, was a top local record producer who worked with various rock and roll and soul groups in the 1950s and ’60s. Howie often visited the music studios, watching his father work and occasionally making recordings under his dad’s watchful eye at a very young age. “I would go into the bars with my father to check out the bands he was thinking of working with,” Epstein recalls, “and a couple of times he let me use groups he was working with as back-up musicians for stuff I’d record.”
Continue reading Howie Epstein 2/2003
January 12, 2003 – Maurice Ernest Gibb (the BeeGees) was born in Douglas, Isle of Man on 22 December 1949, as the fraternal twin of Robin Gibb, and was the younger of the two by 35 minutes. At that time, he had one sister, Lesley, and one other older brother, Barry.
In January 1955, the Gibbs moved back to Manchester, England. Around 1955, Gibb and his brothers were heard harmonizing by their parents. Also in 1955, he started his music career when he joined the skiffle/rock and roll group the Rattlesnakes with his brothers and two friends, Paul Frost and Kenny Horrocks, who were their neighbours. The group’s first major appearance was on 28 December 1957 when they performed at a local Gaumont cinema where children were invited to sing between films. They had planned to sing along to a 78 rpm record which Lesley had just been given as a Christmas present, but on the way Gibb and his brother Robin dropped and broke it, so they sang live. The audience were pleased by their singing, which reportedly may have been the song “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers.
Continue reading Maurice Gibb 1/2003
January 11, 2003 – Mickey Finn (T-Rex) was born Michael Norman Finn on June 3rd 1947 in Thornton Heath, Surrey, England.
Often confused with other musicians by the same name, Michael Norman Finn (apart from T. Rex) only toured as a sideman in the 1960s with Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. After Bolan and T.Rex’s demise, he worked as a session musician for The Blow Monkeys and The Soup Dragons.
When Tyrannosaurus Rex leader Marc Bolan had enough of the excessive lifestyle of his original T-Rex partner Steve Peregrin Took, he invited Mickey Finn as percussionist and sideman to finish Tyrannosaurus Rex’s 4th album in 1969 titled “A Beard of Stars” and later, into the 1970s incarnation of the glam rock group, T-Rex.
The album was released in March ’70 and a commercial success. It was rumored that Bolan had hired Finn for his good looks, and because he admired his motorcycle, rather than for his musical ability. Finn was unable to recreate the complex rhythmical patterns of his predecessor, Steve Peregrin Took, and was effectively hired as much for a visual foil for Bolan as for his percussion. Continue reading Mickey Finn 1/2003