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Jim Sherwood 12/2011

Jim SherwoodDecember 25, 2011 – Jim “Motorhead” Sherwood  was born on May 8th 1942 in Arkansas City, Kansas and is notable for playing soprano, tenor and baritone saxophone, tambourine, vocals and vocal sound effects in Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. He met Zappa at high school in 1956 in Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert (also Captain Beefheart) and sat in with Zappa’s first band, R&B group The Black-Outs, at various performances, where he was often a highlight.

Then the brothers moved to Ontario, California, and started a new band, the Omens, which also included Sherwood. He would regularly jam with Zappa in a string of different groups, and eventually, in 1964, the Mothers.

He appeared on all the albums of the original Mothers line-up and the ‘posthumous’ releases Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh, as well as certain subsequent Zappa albums. He also appeared in the films 200 Motels, Video from Hell and Uncle Meat. Jim later also contributed to various projects alongside his fellow Mothers alumni, including records by The Grandmothers, Mothers keyboardist Don Preston, Ant-Bee and Sandro Oliva.

The original madcap woodwind player of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Sherwood, an adept and classically trained multi-instrumentalist, played baritone and tenor saxophone, percussion and vocals to the Mothers of Inventions’ landmark first psychedelic records, including 1966’s debut Freak Out! and 1968’s Cruising with Ruben & the Jets.
A childhood friend of Zappa’s, Sherwood also performed on Zappa’s first solo album, 1967’s Lumpy Gravy, and in the 1971 avant-garde film 200 Motels. Sherwood later described his 200 Motels character as “in love with a vacuum cleaner.”

After the album’s release in June 1966 on MGM’s Verve label, the band went on tour, then in November that year took up a six-month residency at the Garrick theatre in New York, during which they played 14 shows a week. Sherwood was working for the band as equipment manager and roadie, and sometimes operated the lighting during the Garrick shows. These were a bizarre mix of music and performance art, featuring puppet shows and interludes when the band would pelt the audience with fruit.
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It was when the Mothers made their first trip to England, in mid-1967, that Sherwood was finally hired as a full-time musician. It was the band’s vocalist and percussionist Ray Collins who gave Sherwood the nickname “Motorhead”, through his love of working on cars and trucks and motorcycles: “He said ‘it sounds like you’ve got a little motor in your head’, so they just called me Motorhead and that seemed to stick.”

Zappa told Rolling Stone in 1968:

Euclid James ‘Motorhead’ Sherwood I’ve known for 12 years. We were in high school in Lancaster together. He used to play baritone sax in the Omens. He has the ability to perform a dance known as the bug, which resembles an epileptic fit. He’s one of those guys you say, “I know this guy who’s really weird and I want to show him to you.” He was our equipment handler for a while and when we started the atrocities we started handing him our instruments to see what would happen. He played things more imaginative than the proficient musicians could lay down. It was just him against the machine in his mouth, a saxophone. He is also very proficient at dolls and visual aids.

After the Mothers of Invention disbanded in 1969, Sherwood still collaborated with Zappa and his bandmates; the group’s epic swan song, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, hinged largely on his aggressive instrumental theatrics.

Sherwood appeared on the further Zappa releases You Are What You Is (1981), Civilization Phaze III in 1993, the year of Zappa’s death, and the Läther box set, released three years later.

In the 1980s, Sherwood performed with the Grandmothers, and played on a couple of albums with them. During the 1990s, he joined forces with Billy James and his Ant-Bee project.

James, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, Boston, wanted to express his fascination with psychedelic and experimental music from the 1960s, for which he assembled musicians from the Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart’s band. Sherwood appears on three Ant-Bee albums, though by this time he had given up playing the saxophone and his contributions are limited to “snorks”, in which you “snort through your nose, sucking air in through your nose”. He added further snorks to Sandro Oliva’s album Who the Fuck Is Sandro Oliva?!? (1995).

Jim Sherwood passed away after a short but severe illness on Christmas Day morning December 25th, 2011 at age 69.

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Dobie Gray 12/2011

dobie-grayDecember 6, 2011 – Dobie Gray was either born Lawrence Darrow Brown on July 26, 1940 in Brookshire Texas or Leonard Victor Ainsworth, possible born around the same time in Houston’s suburb Simonton. Born into a family of sharecroppers in and greatly influenced by his grandfather, a Baptist Minister, Dobie’s early life revolved around family, the church and music. Thus, Gospel, Country, Tex-Mex and R& B all found a comfortable home in his repertoire.

Moving from Texas to California in the early 60’s, Dobie met Sonny Bono (Sonny & Cher), then A&R manager for Specialty Records. That encounter led to his first notable single, “Look At Me.” (later recorded by The Righteous Brothers). Although “Look At Me” remained on the charts a healthy five weeks, Dobie’s real breakthrough came in 1965 with the release of “The ‘In’ Crowd.”

In Hollywood he enrolled in acting classes, and appeared in Theatre-group Productions, including “A Raisin In The Sun,” “The Amen Corner,” “Look Homeward Angel” and “Rhinoceros.” His dramatic gifts eventually landed him a role in the L.A. production of the Mega – Hit, Musical “Hair,” in which he remained for two and a half years.

In 1972, he won a recording contract with Decca Records (shortly before it became part of MCA) to make an album with producer Mentor Williams in Nashville. Among the songs they recorded was Mentor Williams’ “Drift Away”, featuring a guitar riff by Reggie Young. Released as a single, the song rose to #5 on the US pop chart and remains Dobie Gray’s signature song. It placed at #17 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973, sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on July 5, 1973.

“Drift Away” became a hit again in 2003, when he covered the song as a duet with Uncle Kracker on the latter’s No Stranger to Shame album. The re-recording hit #9 and placed at #19 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2003 as well as logging a record-setting 28 weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart in 2003-2004.

In the 30 years that had passed in between Dobie Gray increasingly concentrated on songwriting for a variety of ‘country’ artists including Ray Charles, George Jones, Johnny Mathis, Charley Pride, and Don Williams. He also toured in Europe, Australia and Africa in the 1970s. He performed in South Africa only after persuading the apartheid authorities to allow him to play to integrated audiences, becoming the first artist to do so.

He died on December 6, 2011, from complications of cancer surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 71

 

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Hubert Sumlin 12/2011

Bluesman Hubert SumlinDecember 4, 2011 – Hubert Sumlin was born on November 16, 1931 near Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up across the river in Hughes, Arkansas, where he took up the guitar as a child; by his teens he was playing for local functions, sometimes with the harmonica player James Cotton. The first time Sumlin saw Howlin’ Wolf in action, as he told Living Blues magazine in 1989, he was too young to get into the club, so he climbed on to some Coca-Cola boxes to peer through a window; the boxes shifted and Sumlin fell into the room, landing on Wolf’s head. After the gig, Wolf drove him home and asked his mother not to punish him. “I followed him ever since,” Sumlin said.

At the time Wolf was working with the guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, but Sumlin was occasionally permitted to sit in. Then, in 1953, Howlin’ Wolf left the south for Chicago, where he would develop his music on the bustling club scene and in the studios of Chess Records. In spring 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join him, and soon afterwards the 23-year-old guitarist was heard on records such as Evil and Forty-Four, and a couple of years later the sublime Smokestack Lightning, though for a while he played second to more experienced guitarists like Johnson and Jody Williams.

Continue reading Hubert Sumlin 12/2011

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Keef Hartley 11/2011

 keefhartleyNovember 28, 2011Keith “Keef” Hartley  was born on 8 April 1944 in Preston, Lancashire. He studied drumming under Lloyd Ryan, who also taught Phil Collins the drum rudiments. His music career began as the replacement for Ringo Starr as a drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a Liverpool-based band. Later he played and recorded with The Artwoods, then achieved some notability as John Mayall’s drummer (including his role as the only musician, other than Mayall, to play on Mayall’s 1967 “solo” record The Blues Alone).

He then formed The Keef Hartley (Big) Band, mixing elements of jazz, blues, and rock and roll; the group played at Woodstock in 1969 but noone really knew. The resulting film and albums were highly successful but hardly anyone knows that the Keef Hartley Band was on the bill. One of the few British acts to be invited, Hartley’s band took the stage on Saturday afternoon after Santana, and their managerwas approached by Martin Scorsese, who was obtaining consents to record and film the acts. With no money upfront, he refused permission and so the equipment was switched off. The act that was the closest musically to Hartley’s band, Ten Years After, was a sensation when the film was released, catapulting them into superstars.

Together with Colosseum, the Keef Hartley Band of the late 60s, forged jazz and rock music sympathetically to appeal to the UK progressive music scene. Drummer Hartley had already seen vast experience in live performances as Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm And The Hurricanes. When Merseybeat died, Hartley was enlisted by the London based R&B band the Artwoods, whose line-up included future Deep Purple leader Jon Lord. Hartley was present on their only album, “Art Gallery” (now a much sought-after collectors item). He joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and was present during one of Mayall’s vintage periods. Both “Crusade” and “Diary Of A Band” highlighted Hartley’s economical drumming and faultless timing. The brass-laden instrumental track on John Mayall’s “Bare Wires” is titled “Hartley Quits”. The good-natured banter between Hartley and his ex-boss continued onto Hartley’s strong debut, “Halfbreed”. The opening track “Hearts And Flowers” has the voice of Mayall on the telephone officially sacking Hartley, albeit tongue-in-cheek, while the closing track “Sacked” has Hartley dismissing Mayall! The music in-between features some of the best ever late 60s jazz-influenced blues, and the album remains an undiscovered classic.

The band for the first album comprised: Miller Anderson, guitar and vocals, the late Gary Thain (b. May 15, 1948 Christchurch, New Zealand – d. December 8, 1975 Norwood Green, England; bass), later with Uriah Heep; Peter Dines (organ) and Spit James (guitar). Later members to join Hartley’s fluid lineup included Mick Weaver (aka Wynder K. Frog) organ, Henry Lowther (b. 11 July 1941, Leicester, England; trumpet/violin), Jimmy Jewell (saxophone), Johnny Almond (flute), Jon Hiseman and Harry Beckett. Hartley, often dressed as an American Indian, sometimes soberly, sometimes in full head-dress and war-paint, was a popular attraction on the small club scene. His was one of the few British bands to play the Woodstock Festival, where his critics compared him favourably with Blood Sweat And Tears. “The Battle Of NW6” in 1969 further enhanced his club reputation, although chart success still eluded him. By the time of the third album both Lowther and Jewell had departed, although Hartley always maintained that his band was like a jazz band, in that musicians would come and go and be free to play with other aggregations.

In 2007, he released a ghostwritten autobiography, Halfbreed (A Rock and Roll Journey That Happened Against All the Odds). He wrote about his life growing up in Preston, and his career as a drummer and bandleader, including his band’s appearance at Woodstock.

Tragically Keef died at at Royal Preston Hospital from complications from surgery on November 28, 2011 at age 67.

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Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman 11/2011

Moogy KlingmanNovember 15, 2011 – Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman was born on September 7, 1950 in GreatNeck New York where he grew up.

His music career reads like a Who is Who of Rock and Roll from his trip as a 15 year old to see Dylan go electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to playing at 16 with Jimi Hendrix and Randy California in Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.

His jug band performance with schoolmate Andy Kaufman in a controversial civil rights concert resulted in his expulsion from high school in 1966, after which he went to Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in New York City. By then, his band Glitterhouse had made records with the star producer Bob Crewe, as well as Crewe’s soundtrack to the 1968 Roger Vadim film Barbarella with Jane Fonda.

His association with Todd Rundgren commenced in 1968 when they met outside the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village after which Moogy was the original keyboardist for Todd and also Utopia. In his Manhattan loft, he and Todd constructed the “Secret Sound” recording studio where they recorded Todd’s ‘A Wizard’, ‘A True Star’, ‘Todd’, and other albums. He played on ten Todd Rundgren albums, as well as several Utopia albums.

Over his long career, Moogy has played, recorded and/or had his songs recorded by artists including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, Chuck Berry, Luther Vandross, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Allan Woody and Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule and has also worked with Carly Simon, Cindy Lauper, Shawn Colvin, Irene Cara, and Thelma Houston.

He was the co-founder of the band The Peaceniks, along with Barry Gruber, he also played in the “Moogy/Woody Band” with Allman Brothers alumni Allan Woody, and Warren Haynes, as well as having solo albums out on Capitol, EMI records, and on his own label.

He was the executive producer and musical director of the Music From Free Creek “supersession” project. The sessions featured the participation of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Emerson, Mitch Mitchell, Harvey Mandel and Linda Ronstadt.

Klingman also performed live at many venues with various groups, playing for Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Buzzy Linhart and then in the 1990s, with members of the Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule, and a summer tour with Bo Diddley.

A benefit concert was held in January 2011, to help pay Klingman’s medical expenses(sic), which saw the original Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, featuring Ralph Schuckett, Kevin Ellman, John Siegler and Klingman, reunite on stage for the first time in over thirty years. Sad that a man of his calibre and talent needs his friends to organize several benefits to help pay for medical expenses.

Sadly Klingman died of bladder cancer in New York City on November 15, 2011, at the age of 61.

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“Cuby” Muskee 9/2011

Harry MuskeeSeptember 26, 2011 – Harry Muskee, (June 10, 1941 – Sept 26, 2011) better known as leadsinger of the legendary Dutch Blues band “Cuby and the Blizzards” was born in the northern town of Assen in 1941. His father was a German POW at the time of his birth. As a toddler, Muskee reportedly once shouted at a German officer in a hair salon “Wait ’til my father gets home – he’ll get you.”

His father returned to the Netherlands when Muskee was four years old. His mother developed multiple sclerosis soon after, leaving Muskee to be raised mainly by his grandmother. His mother died in 1961. Muskee got to the hospital too late to say goodbye, which, he said, left him with a lingering sadness.

He made his breakthrough in the music scene after the death of his grandmother a year later.

In high school he came into contact with jazz and Dixieland music. Together with the brothers Henk and Jaap Hilbrandie he founded the band The Mixtures. From this band emerged later on the ‘Old Fashioned Jazz Group’. This band mostly played at school dances in his hometown.

Through listening to the American Forces Network radio station – for U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany – Muskee came into contact with blues music. When he discovered the album Live at Newport by John Lee Hooker, he decided that he also wanted to make this kind of music.

Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling are the foundation of Cuby & The Blizzards. As singer and guitarist of The Mixtures, Harry performs songs of The Everly Brothers and other bands, before playing the contra bass in the Old Fashioned Jazz Group. (see also the guestpage) Harry is first introduced to jazz and blues through listening to the American discjockey Wilis Conover from the army stations like American Forces Network and The Voice of America on an old radio
Eelco Gelling is guitarist in the Rocking Hurricanes, later The Rocking Strings, with Hans Kinds (rhythm guitar), Wim Kinds (Drums) and Nico Schröder (bass). Their repertoire mainly consisted of Shadow-instrumentals and the group even made two records: “Autumn Leaves” and an EP “Black Rock”. The musicians meet each other on a stage in Drenthe and it is only a matter of time before Harry starts singing Elvis Presley covers with the Rocking Strings.
In 1964, Willy Middel (bass, ex-Sinister Silhouettes) replaces Nico Schröder, who is not allowed to play on Sundays. After Dick Beekman (drums) replaces Wim Kinds, Harry Muskee completes the line-up .

In 1965 The Rocking Strings become Cuby & The Blizzards. ‘Cuby’ after the neighbour’s dog, and ‘Blizzards’ is randomly picked out of an English dictionary. It is the start of a legend. Muskee and Gelling take the musical lead and introduce Holland to the blues: music with emotion.

Singer Harry (“Cuby”) Muskee and leadguitarist Eelco Gelling, both working (as a reporter and a photographer) with a local newspaper in Assen, were forced to turn professional after one year as three of the bandmembers were fired from their jobs, because of their long hair.

As the five excellent musicians refused to do any commercial types of music, they struggled almost three years for recognition. Their music was highly influenced by the Chicago blues. Most of their tunes were been composed by Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling, though the group also recorded songs by a.o. John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Boyd and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Over time Muskee became known as the man who brought the blues to the Netherlands. As lead singer in Cuby and the Blizzards, his raucous voice shot to the Top 40 with hits like Window of my Eyes, Another Day Another Road and Appleknockers Flophouse.

Cuby & the Blizzards became one of the most in demand groups in Europe in between 1965 and 1972.The group played on International Festivals in Plumpton (England), Essen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt (Germany), Prague (Czechoslovakia), Bilzen and Turnhout (Belgium). At these Festivals Cuby & the Blizzards were on stage with international top-groups like The Fugs, The Nice, John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, The Mothers of Invention, The Spencer Davis Group, The Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, etc. After the first British tour ( October 3-13 ’68), the group also toured in Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Germany.  On stage they produced exactly the sound and feel as on their records. All members became much-in demand session-musicians for recordings, radio and TV. As a group they accompanied a.o. BB King, Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner and Eddie Boyd.

Too autocratic

The band opened for Fleetwood Mac in 1969 when they toured the Netherlands. Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner, they all visited Muskee on his farm in the northern Dutch village of Grolloo, where the Blizzards lived. Critics say Muskee’s music reflects the rawness and simplicity of his rural roots.

In the 1970s, the band that also incorporated monster guitarist Eelco Gelling and frontman keyboards player Herman Brood, split up when members claimed that Muskee was too dictatorial as  band leader.

Cuby and the Blizzards won several music awards. They reformed in the early 1990s and Muskee surprised his fans in 2009 by releasing Cats Lost, the band’s first studio album for 11 years.

Harry died from cancer on September 26, 2011.

 

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Honeyboy Edwards 8/2011

Delta Blues Pioneer Honeyboy EdwardsAugust 29, 2011 – David “Honeyboy” Edwards  American blues guitarist and singer, born in Shaw, Mississippi on June 28th 1915. At 14 he he left home to travel with bluesman Big Joe Williams.

Honeyboy was a part of many of the seminal moments of the blues.  As Honeyboy writes in “The World Don’t Own Me Nothing”, “…it was in ’29 when Tommy Johnson come down from Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He was just a little guy, tan colored, easy-going; but he drank a whole lot. At nighttime, we’d go there and listen to Tommy Johnson play.” Honeyboy continues, ” Listening to Tommy, that’s when I really learned something about how to play guitar.”
Honeyboy’s life has been intertwined with almost every major blues legend, including Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Rice “Sonny Boy Williamson” Miller, Howlin’ Wolf, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sunnyland Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter,  Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, and … well, let’s just say the list goes on darn near forever!

He performed with and was a friend of blues legend Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, and was reportedly present on the night Johnson drank poisoned whiskey which eventually killed him three days later. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.

“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his peripatetic years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.

On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin’ and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I’d go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then…we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off – a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin’ on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn’t have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I’m gone.”

American music roots Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded David in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942 for the Library of Congress, recording 15 album sides of music.
The songs included “Wind Howlin’ Blues” and “The Army Blues”. He did not record again commercially until 1951, when he recorded “Who May Be Your Regular Be” for Arc Records under the name of Mr Honey. Honeyboy also cut “Build A Cave” as ‘Mr. Honey’ for Artist.

Having moved to Chicago in the early fifties, Honeyboy played small clubs and street corners with Floyd Jones, Johnny Temple, and Kansas City Red. In 1953, Honeyboy recorded several songs for Chess that remained un-issued until “Drop Down Mama” was included in an anthology release.
He claims to have written several well-known blues songs including “Long Tall Woman Blues” and “Just Like Jesse James”. His discography for the 1950s and 1960s amounts to nine songs from seven sessions.

In 1972, Honeyboy met Michael Frank, and the two soon became fast friends. In 1976, they hit the North Side Blues scene as The Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, as well as performing as a duo on occasion. Michael founded Earwig Records, and in 1979 Honeyboy and his friends Sunnyland Slim, Kansas City Red, Floyd Jones, and Big Walter Horton recorded “Old Friends”. From 1974 to 1977, he recorded material for a full length LP, I’ve Been Around, released in 1978.

Honeyboy’s early Library of Congress performances and more recent recordings were combined on “Delta Bluesman”, released by Earwig in 1992.

His release, Roamin and Ramblin, on the Earwig Music label, featured Honeyboy’s old school guitar and vocals – fresh takes on old gems and first time release of historic recordings. New 2007 sessions with harmonica greats Bobby Rush, Billy Branch and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones, previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings of Honeyboy and Big Walter Horton, and circa 1976 concert tracks — solo and with Sugar Blue. Michael Frank, Paul Kaye, Rick Sherry and Kenny Smith also play on the album on various tracks. Honeyboy and Bobby Rush also tell some short blues tales.

David Honeyboy Edwards, the “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen” continued his rambling life, touring the world well into his 90s, only just retiring July 17th 2011. A little over a month later he passed away from heart failure on August 29, 2011 at the age of 96.

He was inducted in 1996 into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Honeyboy was awarded a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Blues Album, on which he appeared with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Pinetop Perkins and in 2010 was warded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

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Laurie McAllister 8/2011

laurie mcallister, bass with the runawaysAugust 25, 2011 – Laurie McAllister was born Laurie Hoyt on June 26, 1957 in Eugene Oregon.

Laurie McAllistar was a bassist who is perhaps best remembered for being the last one to play in the influential 1970s all-girl rock band, the Runaways. McAllister landed in Hollywood in her early twenties where she played in such local punk outfits as the Rave Ons and Baby Roulette. In November 1978, McAllister was asked to join the Runaways (replacing Vickie Blue for health reasons as it was reported), whose line-up at the time was Joan Jett, Cherie Curie, and Sandy West. Laurie was referred to the band by her neighbor, Duane Hitchings, who played keyboards on And Now… The Runaways. Continue reading Laurie McAllister 8/2011

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Jerry Leiber 8/2011

songwriting partners leiber and stollerAugust 22, 2011 – Jerome ‘Jerry’ Leiber was born on April 25th 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland, where his parents, Jewish immigrants from Poland, ran a general store. When Jerry was 5, his father died and his mother tried, with little success, to run a small store in one of the city’s worst slums. When he was 12, she took him to Los Angeles. At aged 17, as a senior at Fairfax High, Jerry met his composer-songwriting partner Mike Stoller, a blues fanatic pianist, and they formed the legendary 6 decade plus, writing partnership of Leiber and Stoller.

It was while attending Fairfax High in Los Angeles and working in Norty’s Record Shop that he met Lester Sill, a promoter for Modern Records, and confessed that he wanted to be a songwriter. After Sill urged him to find a pianist who could help him put his ideas onto sheet music he met Mr. Stoller through a friend, and the two began writing together

“Often I would have a start, two or four lines,” Mr. Leiber told Robert Palmer, the author of “Baby, That Was Rock & Roll: The Legendary Leiber and Stoller” (1978). “Mike would sit at the piano and start to jam, just playing, fooling around, and I’d throw out a line. He’d accommodate the line — metrically, rhythmically.”

Within a few years they had written modestly successful songs for several rhythm-and-blues singers: “K.C. Lovin’ ” for Little Willie Littlefield, which under the title “Kansas City” became a No. 1 hit for Wilbert Harrison, years later in 1959.

In 1952, Sill arranged for Mr. Leiber and Mr. Stoller to visit the bandleader Johnny Otis and to listen to several of the rhythm-and-blues acts who worked with him, including Big Mama Thornton, who sang “Ball and Chain” for them. Inspired, the partners went back to Mr. Stoller’s house and wrote “Hound Dog.”

“I yelled, he played,” Mr. Leiber told Josh Alan Friedman, the author of “Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll” (2008). “The groove came together and we finished in 12 minutes flat. I work fast. We raced right back to lay the song on Big Mama.”

Together they played a key role in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, writing and composing iconic hits as “Hound Dog” which originally topped the “race” music charts as a rhythm and blues single by Big Mamma Thornton in 1953. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. (All totaled, Presley recorded more than 20 Leiber and Stoller songs.)

In 1953 Leiber and Stoller formed Spark Records, an independent label, with Sill, but without national distribution it failed to score major hits. Atlantic Records, which had bought the Leiber and Stoller song “Ruby Baby” and “Fools Fall in Love” for the Drifters, signed them to an unusual agreement that allowed them to produce for other labels. The golden age of Leiber and Stoller began.

They wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.

Their hits for the Drifters remain some of the most admired songs in the rock ’n’ roll canon, notably “On Broadway,” written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. “Spanish Harlem,” which Mr. Leiber wrote with Phil Spector, gave Ben E. King his first hit after leaving the Drifters. King’s most famous recording, “Stand By Me,” was a Leiber-Stoller song on which he collaborated.

They wrote a series of hits for the Coasters, including “Charlie Brown,” “Young Blood” with Doc Pomus, “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy” and “Yakety Yak.”

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a 1954 hit written for the Robins, became the title of a Broadway musical based on the Leiber and Stoller songbook.

In the mid-1960s, Leiber and Stoller started concentratinbg more on production. They founded Red Bird Records, where they turned out hit records by girl groups like the Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”) and the Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack,” “Walking in the Sand”). They sold the label in 1966 and then worked as independent producers and writers. Peggy Lee, who had recorded their song “I’m a Woman” in 1963, recorded “Is that All There Is?” in 1969, a song that earned her a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy.

Their last major hit production was “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel, taken from the band’s 1972 eponymous debut album, which the duo produced. In 1975, they recorded Mirrors, an album of art songs with Peggy Lee. A remixed and expanded version of the album was released in 2005 as Peggy Lee Sings Leiber and Stoller.

In the late 1970s, A&M Records recruited Leiber and Stoller to write and produce an album for Elkie Brooks; Two Days Away (1977) proved a success in the UK and most of Europe. Their composition “Pearl’s a Singer” (written with Ralph Dino & John Sembello) became a hit for Brooks, and remains her signature tune. In 1978, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her pianist-composer husband William Bolcom recorded an album, Other Songs by Leiber and Stoller, featuring a number of the songwriters’ more unusual (and satiric) works, including “Let’s Bring Back World War I”, written specifically for (and dedicated to) Bolcom and Morris; and “Humphrey Bogart”, a tongue-in-cheek song about obsession with the actor. In 1979, Leiber and Stoller produced another album for Brooks: Live and Learn.

In 1982, Steely Dan member Donald Fagen recorded their song, “Ruby Baby”, on his album, The Nightfly. That same year, former Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald released “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”, adapted from Leiber and Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin'”.

In all, Leiber and Stoller wrote or co-wrote more than 200 tunes, producing over 70 chart hits. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985.

In 1987, the partners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have written some of the most spirited and enduring rock ’n’ roll songs,” the hall said in a statement when they were inducted. “Leiber and Stoller advanced rock ’n’ roll to new heights of wit and musical sophistication.”

In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography, written by Leiber and Stoller with David Ritz.

On August 22, 2011, Leiber died in Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, aged 78, from cardio-pulmonary failure.

Leiber and Stoller dawned on the music scene at a time of stylistic rumblings and movement into new territory of popular music, a time when the authentic American rhythm and blues of the black world was beginning to be embraced by the general music-buying public, a time when the phenomenon of crossover became apparent with the daily programming assistance of legendary disc jockeys like Alan Freed, a Cleveland on-air personality who is said to have coined the phrase, rock and roll.

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Nick Ashford 8/2011

nick ashford of ashford and simpsonAugust 22, 2011 – Nickolas ‘Nick’ Ashford (70) was born on May 4th 1941 in Fairfield, South Carolina. Ashford’s father, Calvin, was a construction worker and Nick got his musical start at Willow Run Baptist Church, singing and writing songs for the gospel choir. He briefly attended Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, before heading to New York, where he tried but failed to find success as a dancer. In 1963, while homeless, Ashford went to White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Simpson, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate, born in the Bronx, who was studying music. They began writing songs together, selling the first bunch for $64.

After having recorded unsuccessfully as a duo, they joined aspiring solo artist and former member of the Ikettes, Joshie Jo Armstead, at the Scepter/Wand label where their compositions were recorded by Ronnie Milsap-“Never Had It So Good”, Maxine Brown-“One Step At A Time”, as well as the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson.

Their first major success occurred when they and writing partner Jo Armstead came up with “Let’s Go Get Stoned” for Ray Charles. The bluesy, gospel-tinged song became a huge hit for Charles, and Ashford and Simpson soon came to the attention of Motown Records and began penning hits for the label’s artists.

They started out writing soulful, romantic works for the duo of Gaye and Terrell that would become instant classics, like “Your Precious Love,” “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Ross later recorded “Ain’t No Mountain” with a new arrangement that had sweeping pop grandeur and made it her signature song.

That same year Ashford & Simpson joined Motown, where their best-known songs included “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”.

Ross may have been Ashford & Simpson’s greatest muse: They had some of their biggest songs with her and helped give her career-defining hits that would distinguish her solo career apart from the Supremes. Among the songs Ross made hits were “Reach Out and Touch,” “The Boss,” “My House,” and “Missing You,” a tribute to the late Gaye and others.

Among the other artists who had hits with their songs were Gladys Knight and the Pips (Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime) and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (Who’s Gonna Take the Blame).

Over nearly five decades, Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson wrote songs together also had success writing for themselves, with perhaps the biggest known hit being the 1980s hit Solid As A Rock.

The duo got married in 1974 and carefully nurtured both the personal and professional aspects of their relationship. “A long time ago I accepted that this would be an all-consuming relationship,” Simpson said in a 1981 interview with The Times. “To keep it going we’ve worked out ways to get along so we don’t drive each other crazy.…

“We don’t hold things in,” she said. “We can’t stay mad and get any work done. Other couples can stay mad at each other for days because they don’t have to work together. We don’t have that luxury, and it’s been good for us that we don’t.”

Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire said: “They had magic, and that’s what creates those wonderful hits, that magic. Without those songs, those artists wouldn’t have been able to go to the next level.”

The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Ashford and Simpson were also recipients of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1999, and ASCAP’s highest honor, the Founder’s Award, which they received on March 18, 1996. They also received a songwriting credit on Amy Winehouse’s song Tears Dry on Their Own, which contains a sample from Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

In later years, the pair continued to perform mostly as the owners of the New York City restaurant Sugar Bar, where many top names and emerging talents would put on showcases.

Nick died fighting throat cancer on August 22, 2011. He was 70.

When I heard the news Nick Ashford passed this week the first person I thought of was Valerie. I hope she is getting the support she needs from her friends and family. Ashford and Simpson were a great writing team that penned gems for the late Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terell, Diana Ross, Ray Charles; I can go on and on. What made me admired them the most was that their love was something that fairy tales were made of. Black marriages have gone to the form of extinction, and now we just have the cases of an overabundance of just baby mothers and fathers. Ashford and Simpson was the symbol on what love stands for. I’m sure their marriage had their ups and downs, but they did not give up, they continued to make it work which resulted in over 36 years of unity. Therefore, the old-school song of the week is “Solid (As A Rock). If you did not believe in soul mates, then you are sadly mistaken. They were the quintessential of soul mates, and I truly believe everyone has one. Valerie hang in there and rest in peace Nick. – Ms. Scripter

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Jani Lane 8/2011

Jani Lane Of WarrantAugust 10, 2011 – Jani Lane, (Warrant) born on February 1, 1964 as John Kennedy Oswald later changed to John Patrick Oswald. The youngest of Eileen and Robert Oswald’s five children, John grew up just east of Akron in Brimfield, along with his older brother (Eric) and 3 older sisters (Marcine, Michelle and Victoria). Eric was an accomplished guitarist and Lane himself learned to play drums, guitar and piano by ear at age 6 with his brother, Eric and sister, Vicky, guiding, teaching, and participating with him. Lane grew up listening to Cleveland rock station WMMS “The Buzzard”), and was introduced to all types of bands and music by his brother, Eric. With his sister Vicky’s connections in the music scene with many bands and with his parents Bob and Eileen’s aid, he quickly made a name for himself at a very young age. Lane played drums under the name “Mitch Dynamite” in clubs by age 11, again with the prompting of his sister and her boyfriend’s band “Pokerface”, he started his climb to bigger and better things. (“Mitch Dynamite” is listed as the drummer in the credits for Warrant’s Latest and Greatest CD). Throughout the years, Lane would sometimes jump behind the kit to play with his band, and he had played the drums in various formats and gigs, always enjoying “jam sessions” at home and in public with his brother and sister as back-ups.

By the time Lane was 11, his siblings had left for college or marriage. He graduated from Field High School in 1982 with many options available to him in the immediate future, including football scholarships at Kent State and Ohio State, drama scholarships, etc. He was an Honor Roll and above-average, intelligent student from kindergarten through high school. He chose his passion much to the chagrin of his parents, who wanted him to continue his education.

After making a name for himself in Ohio, Jani relocated to Florida in 1983 with Dorian Gray. He eventually formed Plain Jane in FL with future Warrant bandmate Steven (Chamberlin) Sweet and longtime friend/bassist Al Collins. It was at this time Lane adopted the stage name “Jani Lane.” Lane got the name from his German grandparents’ pronunciation and spelling of Johnny as “Jani.” They said it as Yay-nee and that stuck. While living in FL, Lane began vocal training with vocal coach/trainer Ron Feldman.

Jani, Al and Steven recorded the first Plain Jane 4-track demos at their rented house in Winter Park, FL before relocating to CA in the spring of ’84. Jani loved FL and was not interested in moving to Los Angeles at first but the music scene on the Hollywood Sunset Strip seemed like the place to be if a band wanted to get a record deal so they rented a trailer and headed west. They broke down in almost every state on the way to CA, leaving the boys broke by the time they landed at the Hollywood Bowl Motel. They put the last of their change together, bought a quart of milk and a loaf of bread and made sandwiches with mustard packets while taking turns calling their parents for cash.

Now living in Los Angeles, the boys took various odd jobs to survive. Struggling to make ends meet as a musician, Lane resorted to working in a pornographic video warehouse. It was harder to pay the bills in CA, so the band and new road crew plus a few girlfriends pooled their wages and lived in a 2 bedroom condo rented by new Plain Jane guitarist Paul Noble. At one time there were 13 people living in the crowded space. Everyone pitched in to have a stage show built that included a spinning drum riser. The band rehearsed for months until Plain Jane was ready to take on Hollywood.

By 1985, Plain Jane had become a regular feature in the L.A. club circuit and opened many shows for a band called Warrant. Coincidentally, Plain Jane’s bassist and guitarist left the band on the same day Warrant’s singer and drummer quit. It seemed as though the stars were lining up for the camps to merge into one monster of a rock band. Erik Turner, who had founded Warrant in July 1984, was impressed by Plain Jane’s songwriting and vocal performance, and invited Lane and Sweet to jam with his band at Hollywood’s db Sound in September 1986.

After generating more notoriety on the club circuit, Warrant began to attract the attention of record labels. Following an abortive deal with A&M records over a contribution to the soundtrack for the motion picture Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the band signed with Columbia Records. The Columbia deal came via the partnering of Warrant and manager Tom Hulet (known for working with The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, and others). In true heavy metal fashion, Lane bought and smashed a black Corvette with his share of the money from the band’s record deal advance. Tom Hulet then became Lane’s mentor and friend until his death from cancer in 1993.

The group began to work on its legendary debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, a process that led Lane into a psychiatric hospital for a nervous breakdown after he caught his best friend having an affair with his girlfriend. Once he fully recovered, Lane recorded his vocals and the album went on to be one of the biggest-selling records of the glam metal era.

As lead vocalist with Warrant, Lane wrote all of the band’s material including four Top 40 hit singles: “Down Boys”, “Sometimes She Cries”, “Big Talk” and the number 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Heaven” for Warrant’s debut double platinum album, which peaked at number 10 on The Billboard 200. Lane also wrote another four Top 40 hit singles: “Cherry Pie,” “I Saw Red,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Blind Faith” for the second album, the double platinum Cherry Pie in 1990, which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200. Lane also co-wrote and performed with Warrant the song “The Power” in the 1992 movie Gladiator. The band also released their third album in 1992, the critically acclaimed Gold record Dog Eat Dog which peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200.

Even though the band’s follow-up Cherry Pie reached double platinum ranking over time, it failed to meet the debut’s success; this, combined with the emergence and popularity of grunge, led to Warrant being dropped by their label. Lane left for the first time in 1993 to pursue a solo career (also enforced by the death of his friend Tom Hulet) he returned several months later, helping the band to secure a new record with Tom Lipsky of CMC International. The band then recorded Ultraphobic in 1995, Belly to Belly in 1996, Greatest & Latest in 1999 and a cover album Under the Influence in 2001.

Lane left Warrant again in 2002 to pursue a solo career. He released Back Down to One in 2003, but shortly after was admitted to a rehab center for alcohol and drug-related exhaustion. He rebounded, and after a few acting roles and appearances on compilations, attempted to restart his own version of Warrant. Lawyers for the original band quickly struck this down. He later participated in VH1’s reality series Celebrity Fit Club. He left for the last time in 2008, citing writing differences.

In summer 2010, Lane toured with Great White, filling in for singer Jack Russell, who was recuperating from surgery after suffering internal complications.

In a genre of music where survival of the fittest is not just a cliché but a way of life, Jani Lane embodied the spirit of a decade of excess, hedonism, and rock & roll. As the lead singer of Warrant, he helped to propel the band into the upper stratosphere with such hits as “Heaven,” “Down Boys,” and “Cherry Pie.”

On August 11, 2011 Jani was found dead at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Woodland Hills, California. Although no official cause of death was determined, it was most likely alcohol poisoning related. He was 47.

A mysterious identification note was found on Warrant singer Jani Lane’s person when his body was discovered. The note, written by a friend, said simply ‘I am Jani Lane’ and contained a phone number. Law enforcement sources revealed that this was not the first time such a note had been written in case someone found the rocker, who had not carried formal identification for for some time.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash tweeted: ‘Just heard about Jani Lane. What a shame. RIP man.’

Poison frontman Bret Michaels wrote: ‘We’d like to offer our deepest condolences to the family of Jani Lane regarding their loss. Respectfully, Bret and all at MEGI.’

VH1’s Jennifer Gimenez said: ‘It is very sad and my heart is saddened to hear the news that I lost my lovable friend Jani Lane.’

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx tweeted: ‘I just heard the sad news about Janie Lane. So hard to swallow when people have kids. RIP.’

And comic Jim Florentine wrote: ‘So sad to hear about the passing of Jani Lane. He just taped an episode of That Metal Show 3 weeks ago and was in great spirits. RIP Buddy.’

Stryper frontman Michael Sweet posted online: ‘I’m still in shock… I was just sitting in a dressing room with him less than a month ago. Had I known, I would have spent more time with him.

‘He was a good-hearted guy with a gentle soul. I know he had a tough life and many battles, but who doesn’t? He seemed to be genuinely working so hard at sorting things out and getting things in order. It’s a true shame.’

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Amy Winehouse 7/2011

Amy-Winehouse_500July 23, 2011 – Amy Winehouse. Born on September 14th 1983 in Southgate, London. at nine years old, Amy attended the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and at ten, she founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour. She stayed at the Earnshaw school for four years before seeking full time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School, she appeared in an episode of The Fast Show in 1997 before allegedly being expelled at 14 for “not applying herself” and for piercing her nose. Amy had taken up the guitar at 13 and was writing songs by the age of 14. She began working soon after, including as a showbiz journalist for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with local group the Bolsha Band.

Much in the style of ‘musical heroes’ before her like Billie Holliday, Amy Winehouse was a powerhouse of soul who took alcohol as her companion. An English singer-songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul), rhythm and blues, jazz and even reggae

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Gene McDaniels 7/2011

July 29, 2011 – Eugene Booker “Gene” McDaniels was born on February 12th 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

His first performing group, the Echoes of Joy (later the Sultans) — organized when he was 11 — specialized exclusively in gospel music, but McDaniels later started to work popular tunes into their repertoire. Following a citywide singing competition in which he managed to distinguish himself amid the best of all of his peers, he started looking toward music as a career. He later forsook traditional academics in favor of study at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, and made his professional debut as a member of the Mississippi Piney Woods Singers, whose touring got him to the West Coast, where he began performing jazz as a solo singer in his spare time. There, he began singing in jazz clubs, achieving note with the Les McCann Trio, and came to the attention of Sy Waronker of Liberty Records.

After recording two unsuccessful singles and an album, he was teamed with producer Snuff Garrett, with whom he recorded his first hit, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay”, which reached number 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1961 and sold over one million copies, earning gold disc status. Its follow-up, “A Tear”, was less successful but his third single with Garrett, “Tower of Strength”, co-written by Burt Bacharach, reached number 5 and won McDaniels his second gold record. “Tower of Strength” reached number 49 in the UK Singles Chart, losing out to Frankie Vaughan’s chart-topping version.

His hits of the early 1960s, such as A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength, cast him as a suave performer of upbeat pop songs aimed at white teenagers; in his last years he would occasionally take the stage to deliver standards with all the graceful inventiveness of the great jazz singer he might have been.

In between came the event that changed his life, when his protest song Compared to What became an unexpected hit after being released on an album recorded at the 1969 Montreux jazz festival by his first employer, the pianist Les McCann, and the saxophonist Eddie Harris. The song went on to be covered more than 270 times by other artists, including Ray Charles, Della Reese and John Legend. Its success enabled McDaniels to stop performing in night-clubs, an environment he detested because of the lack of respect he felt was shown towards the music by their audiences.

 The series of albums he made after the royalties from Compared to What started flowing in, joined in 1974 by those from Feel Like Makin’ Love, which he wrote for Roberta Flack, failed to earn further chart success but attracted a small cult following which grew as the artists of the hip-hop generation discovered them and recycled their distinctive grooves in the form of samples. He was delighted by the attention from musicians 30 and 40 years his junior. “It’s a great source of pride,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of the hip-hop movement – however remotely, however intimately.”

In 1962 he appeared performing in the movie It’s Trad, Dad!, directed by Richard Lester. He continued to have minor hit records, including “Chip Chip”, “Point Of No Return” and “Spanish Lace”, each in 1962, but his suave style of singing gradually became less fashionable. In 1965 he moved to Columbia Records, with little success, and in 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he left the US to live in Denmark and Sweden, where he concentrated on songwriting. He returned to the US in 1971, and recorded thereafter as Eugene McDaniels. In 1965 his “Point Of No Return” was covered by the British R&B band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames on their EP Fame At Last.

After the late 1960s, McDaniels turned his attention to a more black consciousness form, and his best-known song in this genre was “Compared to What”, a jazz-soul protest song made famous (and into a hit) by Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their album Swiss Movement, and also covered by Roberta Flack, Ray Charles, Della Reese, John Legend, the Roots, Sweetwater and others. McDaniels also attained the top spot on the chart as a songwriter. In 1974, Roberta Flack reached number 1 with his “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (not to be confused with the Bad Company song of the same name), which won a Grammy Award. McDaniels also received a BMI award for outstanding radio airplay; at the time of the award, the song had already had over five million plays.

In the UK, his career was hindered when British music publishers diverted his hit songs to local artists; Craig Douglas and Frankie Vaughan recorded A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength respectively, their popularity ensuring that the covers overshadowed the original versions. Nevertheless McDaniels was invited to Britain to appear alongside Douglas and Helen Shapiro in the 1961 film It’s Trad, Dad, whose director, Dick Lester, shot him wreathed in cigarette smoke against a black background, like a Herman Leonard photograph, as he delivered the ballad Another Tear Falls, later to be recorded with greater success by the Walker Brothers.

Garrett also encouraged him to sing such mainstream ballads as And the Angels Sing and Portrait of My Love, using sophisticated arrangements by Marty Paich and Hank Levine in an attempt to turn him into a younger version of Nat King Cole. But perhaps his best recording of the 60s, although not the most successful at the time, was of a powerful song called Walk With a Winner, for which he wrote the lyric. Jack Nitzsche’s driving arrangement and dense production helped make it an enduring favourite with Britain’s Northern Soul dancers.

At the end of the decade, Compared to What came out of the blue. Inspired by the civil rights and Vietnam war protests, its uncompromising lyric was first heard on Flack’s debut album in 1969: “The president, he’s got his war/Folks don’t know just what it’s for/Nobody gives us rhyme or reason/Have one doubt, they call it treason …” Flack’s version was accompanied by a delicately funky rhythm, but when McCann and Harris performed it in Montreux they added muscle to the groove so effectively that their nine-minute version quickly became a favourite with dancers, sending Swiss Movement, the LP on which it was featured, to the top of the jazz album charts.

Liberated from financial worries, McDaniels revived his own recording career with two albums, Outlaw (1970) and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971), in which, now rechristened Eugene McDaniels, he presented a strong and sometimes bitter social and political message set to stripped-down street-funk and quasi-rock rhythms. According to one source: “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is a standard-bearer for psychedelic soul/funk/jazz rhythms and is borrowed frequently for its samples.”

The cover photograph of Outlaw depicted a multiracial group of armed urban guerrillas, an explicit statement that seemed to align him more closely with the rage of Amiri Baraka and the Last Poets than with the gentler black protest music of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Back to the World. Their impact, however, was minimal until they were unearthed by hip-hop’s crate-digging obsessives, who put such tracks as Cherrystones and Jagger the Dagger to new use. The album Natural Juices (1975) showed a more romantic side, but there was no audience for such fine love songs as Shell of a Man and Dream of You and Me. He moved into record production, working with the organist Jimmy Smith (for whom he produced the album Sit On It! in 1977) and the singers Nancy Wilson and Merry Clayton.

In the 1980s, he recorded an album with the percussionist Terry Silverlight, which has not yet been released. In 2005, McDaniels released Screams & Whispers on his own record label. In 2009, it was announced that he was to release a new album, Evolution’s Child, which featured his lyrics, and a number of songs composed or arranged with pianist Ted Brancato. Some of the songs featured jazz musician Ron Carter on concert bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. McDaniel’s “Jagger the Dagger” was featured on the Tribe Vibes breakbeat compilation album, after it had been sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.

McDaniels also appeared in films. They included It’s Trad, Dad! (1962, released in the United States as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm), which was directed by Richard Lester. McDaniels also appeared in The Young Swingers (1963). He is briefly seen singing in the choir in the 1974 film Uptown Saturday Night. He was the original voice actor for “Nasus”, a champion in the computer game League of Legends.

McDaniels lived as a self-described celebrity “hermit” by the ocean in Kittery Point, Maine.

 

In 2010 he launched a series of YouTube videos on his website, featuring his music and thoughts on some of his creations. McDaniels died peacefully on July 29, 2011, at his home. He was 76.

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Dan Peek 7/2011

July 24, 2011 – Dan Peek (America) was born on November 1st 1950 in Panama City, Florida as his dad was in the US Airforce.

Via a short stay in Pakistan, the family ended up in London, England and it was at London Central High School, a school for children of U.S. armed services personnel, where he met Bunnell and Beckley. All three were musically inclined, and when they decided to form a band, they wanted to avoid anyone thinking they were Brits trying to sound American, so they settled on the name America.

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Rob Grill 7/2011

July 11, 2011 – Robert Frank “Rob” Grill (the Grass Roots) was born on November 30th 1943 in Hollywood, California. Soon after graduation, he began working at American Recording Studios with musician friends Cory Wells and John Kay (who later formed Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf, respectively).

Grill was asked to join The Grass Roots, which grew out of a project originating from Dunhill Records owned by Lou Adler. Writer/producers P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri (The Mamas & the Papas, Tommy Roe, Four Tops and Dusty Springfield) were asked by Dunhill to write songs that would capitalize on the growing interest in the folk-rock movement.

Their song “Where Were You When I Needed You”, recorded as a demo with P.F. Sloan as lead singer was released under the name “The Grass Roots” and started to get airplay in San Francisco Bay area. Dunhill searched for a band to become The Grass Roots. After the first group they chose departed, a Los Angeles band composed of Creed Bratton, Rick Coonce, Warren Entner, and Kenny Fukomoto, was recruited to become The Grass Roots.

When Fukumoto was drafted into the army, Grill was brought in as his replacement. With Grill as lead singer, they recorded another version of “Where Were You When I Needed You” and he became the band’s longest serving member, appearing with them for more than four decades.

Mega-hit producer Steve Barri (The Mamas & the Papas, Tommy Roe, Four Tops and Dusty Springfield) took the band to chart twenty nine singles, thirteen of which went gold, followed by two gold albums and two platinum albums. Grill played with The Grass Roots on sixteen albums, seven of which charted. He took part in thirty-two Grass Roots singles released, twenty-one of which charted. In the new millennium, he released two live albums and one with a symphonic quartet.

Grill went on to produce and manage the band and became owner of The Grass Roots name.

In 1979 Grill launched a solo career  and was assisted on his solo album by several members of Fleetwood Mac. Responding to 60s nostalgia, Grill then led The Grass Roots (billed “The Grass Roots Starring Rob Grill”) and toured the United States until his death in 2011. While in the arms of his wife Nancy, Grill died July 11, 2011 in an Orlando, Florida hospital from complications after a stroke and head injuries resulting from a fall several days earlier. He was 67.

Between 1967-1972, the band set a record for being on the Billboard charts for 307 straight weeks and sold over 20 million records worldwide. They also hold the all time attendance record for a one act, at the US concert of 600,000 people on July 4th, 1982 in Washington, DC. Their hit singles include: Let’s Live For Today, I’d Wait A Million Years, Midnight Confessions, Sooner Or Later, Two Divided By Love

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Würzel 7/2011

July 9, 2011 – Michael “Würzel” Burston was born on 23 October 1949 in Cheltenham, England.

Before joining Motörhead in 1984, Burston had been a corporal in the Army, serving in Germany and Northern Ireland with the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and had played in the bands Bastard and Warfare. Joining another relatively unknown guitarist, Phil Campbell at a Motörhead audition, both were hired. The new four-piece line-up made its debut recording a backing track for The Young Ones on 14 February 1984.

 

Burston acquired the nickname Würzel whilst in the Army, being compared to the character Worzel Gummidge due to his scarecrow-style hair and bumpkin-like manner. Motörhead singer Lemmy encouraged Würzel to add an umlaut to the ‘U’ in his name, for heavy metal effect.

Würzel saw a number of changes to the line-up in the band, each involving the drummer, until he left in 1995. Although he played on Sacrifice, he left the band before the tour. He was not replaced and Motörhead reverted to a three-piece. He had made a few guest appearances with the band: at the 2008 Download Festival and at the 2009 Guilfest, as well as a few other appearances on the band’s 2008 UK tour. He played on six studio albums, and one live album.

Few fans of the English heavy metal band Motörhead would recognise the name Michael Burston, but if presented with his stage name, Würzel, the majority would respond with unequivocal enthusiasm. The guitarist came closer than any of the group’s many members to being the face of the band, with the exception of Motörhead’s founder, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. Much of Burston’s enduring popularity came from his unaffected good nature, his reluctance to avoid playing the role of the rock star and his expert musicianship.

Fans also identified with Burston because of the unlikely manner of his emergence into the public eye. Before joining the band, he worked as a builder and played rock guitar at small club and pub gigs. Although he had developed a dexterous, blues-indebted style that impressed local audiences, his childhood dream of stardom was fading rapidly. “I knew deep down that the only thing I would really be happy doing was playing rock’n’roll,” he recalled, “but I did think, ‘I’m 30 years old – am I going to do anything? How am I going to carry on playing these pubs forever?'”

Burston read, in an interview with Lemmy, that the guitarist Brian Robertson had recently left Motörhead. As he remembered, “I wrote Lemmy a letter and sent a tape, and he phoned me up for an audition. He also said, ‘We’ll probably end up with an unknown guitarist’, and there was no one in the country who was more unknown than I was.”

Born in Cheltenham, Burston served in the army as a corporal before playing in a series of unsuccessful local rock bands. He earned the nickname “Wurzel” as a soldier because of his West Country background and dishevelled appearance, which led his fellow recruits to compare him with the TV character Worzel Gummidge. When Burston joined Motörhead in 1984, Lemmy – who described him as “nearly a basket case” in his 2002 autobiography – encouraged him to add an umlaut, in line with the spelling of the band’s name. Würzel became the madcap court jester and counterfoil to Lemmy’s sterner image.One of his first performances with the band was in an episode of the cult comedy The Young Ones, in which Motörhead performed their signature tune, Ace of Spades.

For the next decade, the British rock press regularly reported on Burston’s antics, including a memorable encounter with the Rolling Stones at the 100 Club in London. “It was downstairs in the basement,” remembered Lemmy. “Würzel ran down there, all excited, and, just as he comes to the bottom, Stones bassist Bill Wyman comes along, and he hits him full-on and lands him flat on his back … Great start to the evening, you know? ‘Hello, Bill, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Oh sorry, have I knocked you out?'”

Despite his comic image, Burston was a serious musician whose composing and performing skills benefited Motörhead greatly. He played on nine studio and live albums between 1984 and his departure in 1995, with the interplay of his guitar and that of his fellow six-stringer Phil Campbell lending the music great versatility and power. Motörhead’s lineup, never a particularly stable entity, changed frequently during Burton’s time in the band. He never really came to terms with living in America, where Motörhead had relocated, and finally left the band after the departure of his good friend, the drummer Phil Taylor.

Burston then performed as a guest on releases by metal bands such as Warhead, and on the 2001 album Artful Splodger by the punk group Splodgenessabounds. He had accumulated a loyal fanbase during his time in Motörhead and many expected him to commence a solo career, but apart from a 1998 album of ambient music, Chill Out Or Die, this failed to materialise.

His friendship with Lemmy remained strong, despite their earlier troubles, and he was often invited to perform guest spots at Motörhead’s shows, including the Guiltfest event in 2009. In recent years, Burston had formed a new band, Leader of Down, but none of their music has been released.

In 1987 Würzel recorded his first solo E.P., “Bess”, that was not so far removed from the Motörhead sound, but also allowed for slightly different ideas. The E.P. included the instrumental title track, two Rock pieces, ‘Midnight in London’ and ‘People Say I’m Crazy’, and an instrumental Jazz Rock-orientated track, ‘E.S.P.’.

In 1998, quasi-inspired by psychedelically-informed experiences in Ghent, Belgium in the early eighties, Würzel played in a Cheltenham band named originally “made in England” then “the Meek” the lead singer Kevin Keane played Brian Eno to Würzel for many hours. Würzel recorded and released an ambient, improvised avant-garde album entitled Chill Out Or Die.

On 9 July 2011, Tim Butcher — longtime bass technician of Motörhead leader Lemmy — reported that Würzel had died. The cause of death was ventricular fibrillation triggered by cardiomyopathy. Before he died, Würzel was working on new material with his new band, Leader of Down, who had previously announced the release of their debut single for early 2010. The following day, Lemmy dedicated Motörhead’s performance at Sonisphere Festival in Knebworth to his memory, as well as dedicating their entire set to him.

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Gaye Delorme 6/2011

gaye-delormeJune 23, 2011 – Gaye Delorme was born on March 20, 1947 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He was an entirely self-taught virtuoso guitar player, having picked up the guitar at age fifteen during a stint in juvenile detention. After moving to Edmonton in the late 1960s, he got into trouble with the law, but soon found a way out of problems was the guitar. He formed the short-lived group The Window, referred to by some as Alberta’s answer to Jimi Hendrix. His other projects during those formative years included The Extemely Deep Guys and, during a brief stint in Vancouver, an R&B group called Django (named after his admiration for jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt).

It was his gift on the guitar that made him one of the most talented musicians on the scene, and other artists tapped into those various attributes through the years, whether it was flamenco, classical, country, folk, jazz, blues, or rock. His wide-range of skills often included his uncanny ability to emulate other instruments, such as the sitar and the koto. In fact, Stevie Ray Vaughan once described Delorme as “one of the best,” and “a monster” by Colin James.

Continue reading Gaye Delorme 6/2011

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Wild Man Fisher 6/2011

larry-wild-man-fischerJune 16, 2011 – Larry “Wild Man” Fischer was born November 6, 1944 in Los Angeles, California.

He was institutionalized at age 16 for attacking his mother with a knife and later diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Following his release from the hospital, he wandered LA singing his unique brand of songs for 10¢ to passers-by. Discovered by Frank Zappa, with whom he recorded his first album, Larry became an underground concert favorite, earning him the title “godfather of outsider music”.

Zappa was responsible for Larry’s initial foray into the business of music, an album called An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, contains 36 tracks of “something not exactly musical”.

Zappa and Larry remained close, until he threw a jar at Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit, barely missing her. Due to this falling out, Zappa’s widow Gail did not release An Evening with Wild Man Fischer until long after Frank’s death in the early 1990s.

Fischer’s story is a rather sad one, as he was by all accounts genuinely off his nut and never fully reaped the benefits of his cult musical status. Still, he had a Zelig-like ability to turn up all over the place: His debut album, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, was one of the first albums released on Zappa’s Bizarre Records in 1969. He appeared on Laugh-In in the ’60s. When Rhino Records was just a retail store in the ’70s, they got Fischer to record a promotional jingle, “Go to Rhino Records,” and released it as their first single, thus launching what would go on to become one of the biggest novelty and reissue labels in the industry. In the ’80s, Fischer recorded albums with Barnes and Barnes and cut a single with legendary jazz singer (and George’s aunt) Rosemary Clooney. It’s fair to say the man rarely let his mental illness interfere with his productivity.

The Wild Man was re-decovered in 1999, Rhino released The Fischer King, a two-CD package comprising 100 tracks and a 20-page booklet, which sold out within weeks. In October 2004, he appeared on ABC-TV’s late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! He sang “Monkeys vs. Donkeys” while tapping on a backwards acoustic guitar.

In 2005, Josh Rubin and Jeremy Lubin, premiered their documentary about Wild Man Fischer, entitled Derailroaded: Inside The Mind Of Wild Man Fischer, at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Fischer didn’t release any new music since the 1980s and had apparently been holed up in an assisted-living facility in Van Nuys since 2004, where he was taking medication to control his mental illness. Unfortunately, the meds also dulled what he called “the pep,” his frequent manic episodes that were responsible for most of his musical outbursts.

Fischer died of heart failure at age 66 on June 16, 2011.

Obituary: Los Angeles attracts more than its fair share of wingnuts (like this guy), but the loss of Wild Man Fischer really is a blow to the city’s offbeat charm. No longer will Sunset Strip crawlers and UCLA students be able to “buy an original song for a dime” (a favorite Wild Man sales pitch when he was out busking) on their way to happy hour. Wild Man Fischer might be an acquired taste at best, but his is the kind of crazy that makes the world a richer place (even if it too often fails to enrich the person behind the craziness).

We’ll miss you, Larry.

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Carl Gardner 6/2011

carl-gardnerJune 12, 2011 – Carl Gardner (the Coasters) was born on April 29, 1928 in Tyler, Texas.  As a singer, his first major career success came with The Robins, a rhythm and blues group that had a big hit in 1955, “Smokey Joe’s Café”.

After leaving that group, in 1956 Gardner formed the Coasters with the Robins’ bass singer Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes and Billy Guy. The Coasters became the musical vehicle for the songs of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who used rock ‘n’ roll to create a hilarious chronicle of American life, particularly American teenage life.

“Along Came Jones” satirized TV Westerns and “Charlie Brown” honored the original slacker. “Poison Ivy” may be the only pop hit ever to mention Calamine lotion, and “Searchin'” turned a routine love song into a pop culture drama by having the elusive girl pursued by contemporary TV stars like Sugarfoot and Paladin from “Have Gun Will Travel.”

Gardner took pride in the group’s ability to deliver tongue-in-cheek humor while still creating songs that sounded compelling on a car radio.

With the line-up that included new members Cornel Gunter and Will “Dub” Jones, the Coasters went on to produce several enduring classics of 1950s rock and roll music including “Yakety Yak”, “Charlie Brown”, and “Poison Ivy”. They also had a two-sided hit in 1957, “Youngblood” (on which Gardner sang lead) and “Searchin”.

 

At the 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, where the Coasters became the first vocal group inducted, he said he considered the group professional entertainers rather than the streetcorner singers who were popular in the late 1950s.

“People may have called it doo-wop or novelty music,” he said. “But we sang songs that lasted.”

Carl died at age 83 from congestive heart failure and vascular dementia on June 12, 2011.

Musings from Carl:

The flight home after last night’s performance had been successful, but had left me for some reason more stressed out than usual. You see I actually hate flying, but it sort of comes with the job. I still love to perform, but not as much as I have had to. However, I also like to eat good. I’m at the stage though where I find myself getting kind of bored, I’m also at the age. You know the age. It’s when you realize your eyes have seen it all and you are beginning to see it all over again. And yet you don’t really want to. But like I said, I gotta eat.
Thank God I’m back home now, safe and sound. Although it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I’m emotionally drained and weak I simply cannot sleep. I’ve wandered my way through the house, like some sort of Charlie Brown who was missing something. Something earned, something promised, but not yet delivered. So I sat myself down in my home office and for some reason began to think about a few of the unknown oddities in my career. Things like acid rocker Jimi Hendrix once backing my Coasters group, and Paul McCartney, cornering me years ago in some small club and bending my ear, saying that he and the other Beatles had enjoyed my work, and warning me that in the very near future I might just recognize some of their upcoming stuff as my own. I sat there in the dark, surrounded by the entrapments of businesses around the world. Fax machines, files, multiple phone lines, computers, publicity photos, bios, live answering service, and all the rest. I couldn’t help but wonder if Paul McCartney, or any of the others in the multitude of superstars I had the joy of meeting, ever experienced this same exact moment. A moment when you wonder what actually happened? You sort of peer back into the period of your life when you arrived at your peak. Then as your mind wanders through your heyday, you find yourself heading towards your present situation when you are just coasting.

I was a pioneer, until they changed the sound. And then they became the pioneers, until somebody like Michael Jackson came along and changed not only the sound, but also the rules on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and everybody else. I’m trying hard not to be bitter here in the dark. After all, I am still the lead singer of the very first group to ever be inducted to the legendary ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME. But can I now pioneer the sound back on myself, like fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Tina Turner has done? Like Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner, at my million selling zenith my group was considered a “novelty act”, but unlike the others I ran a clean act. And that I feel has been one of the key ingredient of our continued success. Novelty acts have been notoriously hard to place without a current hit record. But despite that fact, I comfort myself here in the dark, that almost forty years into a career that people still want my type of act. And that’s something to be proud about.

I’m proud of the accomplishments in my career. The list of television performances that span the decades and include everything from the show biz staples of yesteryear, like the Ed Sullivan Show, several Dick Clark Shows, all the way up to the staples of today, Entertainment Tonight and even tabloid TV’s Inside Edition.

My concern appears as my group’s lead singer covers the scope from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, all the way around the world to the London Palladium. Also, the New York “Fearsome Foursome”, the Apollo, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Queen Mother of them all Carnegie Hall.

My lead vocals have been coveted by Hollywood in many movies including Stand By Me, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger – Danny DeVito blockbuster, TWINS. I have also several TV commercials to my credit.

I’ve tangled with the mob, broken the color barrier in Las Vegas, cursed out racist audiences who had come to hear “race music”, and at times carried a gun on stage. At times I got run off of stage, and right out of town. But yet and still I managed to sell over thirty million records on the National Record Charts, in my time. My group has often been ripped off by many claiming to be me, using my name with their voice and cashing my check. I steeled myself and stood up to it all. The glamour, the danger, the glory and the bullshit. In my weakest moment I still marched on.

Through all the ups and downs of a joyous and yet painful career, I have come out unlike many others. Still performing, still standing, still sane, and intact. The goal was to be rich and famous. And I became both, for a while. But in the end I have ended up coasting on the fame, and trying to see just who had gotten rich.

Now I know why I’m sitting here in my office in the wee hours of the morning staring down the dawn. I know what I’m missing. I know what I earned, I know what was promised, and I realize now with some bitterness what little I got. Granted it’s comfortable and not the nightmare and losing battle that many other artists of my time have endured, but it is not what was promised.

I’m a long way from my hometown of Tyler, Texas. Although I didn’t put Tyler, Texas on the map, the way the Branch Davidians put Waco, Texas on the map, that was never my original intention. All I ever wanted to do was sing, what I actually did was much more.

I never dreamed that so many problems and dangers came with being a star. And so little money, even though I’ve sold millions and millions of records. My story is wonderful given the circumstances, yet shocking given the outcome. Thank God, I’ve moved past the bitterness and anger that for years plagued me. With only faith and sheer determination I was able to overcome all of the horror, and begin to write about it.

This is my story, straight forward and explicit. My name is Carl Gardner, and I am lead singer and founder of THE COASTERS.

Unfinished! from Carl’s ‘BLACK GOLD TEXAS TEA’.

I never had any intention of staying in Tyler, Texas. Never in my life. My first thoughts were, “I ‘m going to be somebody in my time and get the hell out of here.” When I was ten years old, I knew I was ready. I had been singing since I was five and from the day I started singing I just felt that I was going to be a singer.

When I was coming up, black people didn’t dare do a thing. Most of them wouldn’t have even thought of it. Not at that time, and definitely not in that town. Tyler was a prosperous town located in hot and humid east Texas. It was extremely racially segregated during that time. You probably would have considered Tyler the deep south or even worse, called it Dixie. However, it did have one redeeming feature for some. Unlike Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, the state of Texas had gone and passed one good law for blacks. As I remember, that made it just a little different for us living there during those horrendous times of blatant racism and almost total segregation.

Strangely enough, the law had to do with food. As I recall, any colored person, as we were called at that time, could go right into any of our local restaurants and purchase food right at the counter. Mind you, we didn’t dare sit down and eat it there, but we could get it to go. An added bonus was you could also enter and leave by the establishment’s front door. In any other part of the south, if you would have been crazy enough to try something like this, you would probably have been murdered or worse, dragged through the streets and hung like a piece of fruit from a tree by your neck until dead. In that day, southern trees were known to bear strange fruit. Publicly, my father, Robert Gardner, was very much a gentleman. He never went down the street without a shirt and tie on. Some of the neighbors said he had a little spirit that lived in him that they called Uncle Tom. But the things that he did for white people in our town I didn’t think were terribly Uncle Tom-ish. He wore a hat everywhere he went, when he saw a white man or a white lady, he’d go over to them and say, “Good evening, ma’am. Good evening, sir. How are you today?” He tipped his hat to one and all, black or white. He was a hell of a gentleman. And even if he was Uncle Tom-ish in his ways, he fed his family. Sometimes he would embarrass me. He would go around to some of the rich people in town and say, “Good evening, Mr. Grayson. Nice day today. Don’t forget, it’s Christmas coming up. “And I used to get very angry with Dad when he would do things like this. But Mr. Grayson would say, “Bob, I won’t forget you. “Everybody called him Bob. When Christmas would come, Mr. Grayson would give him a twenty dollar bill. Some of his other white friends that he had been kind to would give him a ten, a twenty, and that was one way that he knew of getting money in that time and in that town.

Dad came from a family of an interracial heritage. My dad would often say he really didn’t know how old he was. Some of his family were so white in appearance that they were often mistaken for white people. I can remember his one cousin, Alice, that was so white looking that as a young child I was afraid to walk downtown with her. People of any color would always approach her as a white woman. Dad would often comment, it how he and his brothers and sisters had almost been born into slavery. When I asked my father what he meant by this, he began explaining to me what life on the plantation had been like for those in his family that were born before him. “Well, you know,” he’d start, “if you go back into our years of slavery, you’ll discover that many of the white slave owners would split their slaves into two groups. The lighter ones worked in and around the plantation house, thus earning themselves the title of “house niggers.” They were taught to serve the owners graciously and also to be gentlemen and ladies to the owners’ guests. They were trained in a very genteel manner and some received a very minimal education. The darker slaves were placed to work hard in the fields and were called “field hands” and received the roughest and cruelest of treatment from the master. He continued explaining to me how black people came in so many different colors and hues. He said, “Almost always, if you had a particularly good and sexy looking young black girl, or even a black boy, for that matter, working in the mansion, they would usually become the bed partners of either the master himself, his wife, his daughters or his sons, and sometimes both. More often than not, children were conceived from these various unions. These children would usually be very light in complexion and color. They would have the fortune of being raised within the plantation house itself instead of in the fields with the other slave children.” My Dad felt this is how his family had come to be so light in complexion.

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Clarence Clemons 6/2011

clarence_clemons_ripJune 18, 2011 – Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born January 11, 1942.  At aged nine, his father gave him an alto saxophone as a Christmas present and paid for music lessons. He later switched to baritone saxophone and played in a high school jazz band. At age 18, Clarence had one of his earliest studio experiences, recording sessions with Tyrone Ashley’s Funky Music Machine, a band from Plainfield, New Jersey that included Ray Davis, Eddie Hazel and Billy Bass Nelson, all of whom later played with Parliament-Funkadelic. 

He also performed with Daniel Petraitis, a New Jersey and Nashville legend. These sessions were eventually released in 2007 by Truth and Soul Records as Let Me Be Your Man. While at Maryland State College he also joined his first band, The Vibratones, which played James Brown covers and stayed together for about four years, before playing with The Joyful Noyze.

In July 1972, Bruce Springsteen began recording his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and during breaks from recording, he jammed with Clarence & The Joyful Noyze on at least two occasions at The Shipbottom Lounge in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. When Springsteen decided to use a tenor saxophone on the songs “Blinded By The Light” and “Spirit In The Night” it was Clarence he called and from 1972 until his death, he was a prominent member for 39 golden years with the E Street Band, playing the tenor saxophone. Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame he spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including “Jungleland,” a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and “Born To Run.”

clarence-clemonsHe also released several solo albums and in 1985 had a hit single with “You’re a Friend of Mine”, a duet with Jackson Browne. As a guest musician he featured on Aretha Franklin’s classic “Freeway of Love” and on Twisted Sister’s “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” as well as performing in concert with The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. He has recorded with dozens of artists from Roy Orbison to The Four Tops to Scarlet Rivera and Lady Gaga. He also had his own band called the Temple of Soul.

As an actor he featured in several films, including New York, New York and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He also made cameo appearances in several TV series, including Diff’rent Strokes, Nash Bridges, The Simpsons and The Wire. Together with his TV writer friend Don Reo he published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, in 2009.

His burly frame would have been intimidating if not for his bright smile and endearing personality that charmed fans. “It’s because of my innocence,” he claimed. “I have no agenda — just to be loved. Somebody said to me, ‘Whenever somebody says your name, a smile comes to their face.’ That’s a great accolade. I strive to keep it that way.”

Clemons described his deep bond with Springsteen, saying: “It’s the most passion that you have without sex. It’s love. It’s two men — two strong, very virile men — finding that space in life where they can let go enough of their masculinity to feel the passion of love and respect and trust,” he added.

The break with Springsteen and the E Street Band didn’t end his relationship with either Springsteen or the rest of the band members, nor would it turn out to be permanent. By 1999 they were back together for a reunion tour and the release of “The Rising.”
But the years took a toll on Clemons’ body, and he had to play through the pain of surgeries and other health woes. “It takes a village to run the Big Man — a village of doctors,” Clemons told The Associated Press in a phone interview in 2010. “I’m starting to feel better; I’m moving around a lot better.”

The “Big Man,” sadly died on June 18, 2011 at the age of 69 in Palm Beach, Florida, from complications of a stroke.

He was the second member of the E Street Band to pass away: In 2008, Danny Federici, the keyboardist for the band, died at age 58 of melanoma.

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Alan Rubin 6/2011

alan-rubinJune 8, 2011 – Alan Rubin aka Mr. Wonderful  was born on February 11, 1943. Raised in New York City he took up the trumpet at 10 and studied at the Juilliard School when he was 17, but dropped out at 20 to work as a back-up for singer Robert Goulet.

Over the years he became a premier New York City session musician who was ‘sought out for his expertise in playing every style of music — from classical to jazz to blues to rock and disco — authentically and artistically.

When asked about his professional biography, Rubin liked to say: “Been everywhere, played with everyone.”
In the early years he performed with such musical legends as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Duke Ellington.

In the 1970s he landed a gig playing trumpet in the Saturday Night Live Band then in 1980 he portrayed Mr. Fabulous, horn player turned maitre d’ of a fancy restaurant, who gets dragged away by Jake and Elwood, played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, to his former life of music and crime with “The Blues Brothers”.

While making the movie in Los Angeles, Rubin bought a Mercedes-Benz 300SL sports car. As recounted in the 2005 book “Jazz Anecdotes,” he was sharing photographs of it in a recording session when the record producer said, “You own that car? But you’re only a trumpet player!” The quick-witted Rubin replied: “Yeah, but I play flugelhorn too.”

Rubin continued his jazz career, toured with the Original Blues Brothers Band from 1988 on – after they regrouped since John Belushi’s tragic 1982 death, and was to reprise his role of Mr. Fabulous for 1998’s much less successful “Blues Brothers 2000”.

 

He was also a member of the Saturday Night Live Band, with whom he played at the Closing Ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games. As a member of The Blues Brothers, he portrayed Mr. Fabulous in the 1980 film, the 1998 sequel and was a member of the touring band.

Over his long career Alan played with an array of artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Eumir Deodato, Sting, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Frankie Valli, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Yoko Ono, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles and Dr. John.

He died fighting lung cancer on June 8, 2011. He was 68.

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Frankie Toler 6/2011

tolerJune 4, 2011 – David “Frankie” Toler (Dicky Betts and great Southern) was born on June 28th 1951 in Connersville, Indiana.

His breakthrough came in 1978 when he appeared on Dickey Betts & Great Southern’s album, Atlanta’s Burning Down, after which he toured extensively with the band. He was then asked to be the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band and appeared on their 1981 album “Brothers of the Road,” which featured the Top 40 hit single “Straight from the Heart”.

When Gregg Allman began planning his solo album at the time, he only had one drummer in mind for his new band: Frankie. Frankie recorded two albums with Allman, including the 1986 gold record “I’m No Angel”, and Just Before The Bullets Fly (1988) and toured as the drummer with The Gregg Allman Band. He was a big part of that era of the Brothers.

In 1992 – 94 he toured with The Marshall Tucker Band before forming The Toler Brothers Band with his brother Dan, one of the lead guitarists for the Allman Brothers Band.

2005 saw the release of Renegades of Southern Rock, all-star Southern rock project which also featured Marshall Tucker’s George McCorkle and Jack Hall from Wet Willie.

His health worsened in May 2011 and Frankie Toler passed away on June 4th 2011, at hospice care in Bradenton, Florida, after years of medical problems related to liver transplant. He was 59. His brother Dangerous Dan Toler passed less than 2 years later from ALS.

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John Walker 5/2011

john-walkerMay 7, 2011 – John Walker was born John Joseph Maus on November 12th 1943 in New York City from German parents who had fled from the Nazis and war-torn Germany, but moved to California in 1947.

He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and The Missouri Traveler (1958). He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens’ funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was unhappy at how people pronounced his real name.

From 1957 onwards, he worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii.

They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer “Spider” Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. Maus obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as “The Surfaris”, although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris’ records. Walker also released his first solo record, “What a Thrill”, on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers.

After singing at local venues, John went on to form The Walker Brothers in 1964 along with bassist Scott Engel, and drummer Al “Tiny” Schneider. American singer, songwriter and guitarist,

Their song “Make It Easy On Yourself”, reached No.1 in the UK chart in September 1965. The following year they had their second UK No.1, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”, it was also their biggest hit in the US, where it made No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In early ’68, The Walker Brothers split up and John began performing solo releasing a single, “Annabella”, and the album, ‘If You Go Away’. In 1974, he reformed The Walker Brothers and in 1975, they released an album, No Regrets and recorded two further albums together, Lines and Nite Flights.

In 2000, he set up his own record label and released a CD, You. He toured Britain again as part of a nostalgia package tour in 2004, and released an album, Silver Sixties Tour 2004.

He was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2010 and sadly dies from the disease on May 7, 2011 at age 67.

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Phoebe Snow 4/2011

Phoebe SnowApril 26, 2011 – Phoebe Snow was born Phoebe Ann Laub on July 17, 1950 in New York City. When Phoebe Laub was little, she loved to watch the Lackawanna Railroad’s ”Phoebe Snow” train go by her family’s home in Teaneck. One day, she promised herself, she would become Phoebe Snow.

It was at the Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, club owner with Leon Russell and a promotions executive for Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording. She released an eponymous album, Phoebe Snow, in 1974, featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg and Dave Mason. It spawned the Billboard Hot 100 No.5 hit single, “Poetry Man”, reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, won Phoebe a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and established her as a formidable singer/songwriter.

She performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. 1975 also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which she performed both solo and in duets with Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt.

And then she got married to a guy who later turned out to be gay and had a brain damaged daughter a year later and from there on her career as one of the deciding voices of a generation, went on permanent hold.

Her story was never told better then  in Esquire Magazine by Don Shewey in 1982.

“The Blues of Phoebe Snow”

“The other night I met a person on the business side of this business who I decided it would be a real neat idea to get to know. So I went up to him with my Pepsodent smile and my hand outstretched, you know, and said, ‘How ya doin’?'”

Phoebe Snow was chewing bubble gum and sipping Diet Pepsi in an office at Atlantic Records. This was a little over a year ago, after her album Rock Away came out.

“He put his arm on my shoulder and said, ‘May I be blunt with you?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you level with me? You know and I know that you had it all. You could have been the biggest thing since I don’t know what. But you blew it. You killed it! What did you do that for?’
“He said, ‘Now I’ve heard about you, we’ve all heard about you, we know you’re very sick. So why don’t you face facts — you’re very mentally disturbed, am I right? You’re, like, really nuts?’ He was facing me, and I went, ‘Look, what’s over there?’ He turned, and I grabbed his head and said right into his ear, ‘My daughter is severely brain-injured, and I don’t want you to start nothin’ with me, okay?’

“He jumped back and said, ‘Hey! Eighty-six! Forget it!’ And I said, ‘And tell your friends who are saying I’m nuts that I say hi and the same to them. If they wanna start with me…'”

“Ah-oooh-yeaaah-ee-yeah-hyea-ee-yeah, oo-ooh-yee-eah…”

It was the summer of 1974, and everywhere you turned there was this voice wafting out of car radios, record stores, open windows on the street. The song was a classy, catchy pop ditty called “Poetry Man,” but the voice! It was a voice bigger than any song. Fluid, delicate, moody — instantly that voice had authority.

If one was curious enough — and most were — one looked for the song and discovered a whole album by this woman, this singer with the breathy, girlish vibrato and the knowing, bluesy growl. The session musicians on her record were the cream of the crop — jazz legends like Teddy Wilson and Zoot Sims, along with the Persuasions and such pop notables as David Bromberg and Dave Mason — and the woman, Phoebe Snow, did them all proud.

With a single stroke she proved herself to be one of the most exciting, versatile performers of her time. In 1975, the album went gold. She was nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy. Paul Simon invited her to sing with him on “Gone at Last,” and the resulting hit single revealed both her terrific gospel chops and a sky-scraping upper range. She turned twenty-five. She married her boyfriend, Phil Kearns. They had a baby girl, Valerie Rose. All in one year.

What happened then? Did she go nuts? Did she blow it? Well…not exactly. She continued to make records; some of them were very good, but none quite matched the crystalline perfection of her first album. In the process, she experimented with different kinds of material — jazz, Motown, rock — not all of which projected well on a record. That’s not surprising; after all, the essence of Ella Fitzgerald comes across not on a polite album like Cole Porter Songbook but during those moments in concert when she lifts her hankie to her face and starts scatting like some swing-injected Pentecostal priestess. Phoebe Snow has the same kind of once-in-a-generation voice. She needs an audience to urge her on to those shameless displays of sheer lung power. For years, what kept her career aloft in lieu of hits was her phenomenal concert appearances — including her memorable stint on Saturday Night Live singing “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” with Linda Ronstadt.

Touring tends to take its toll, however, and before too long Phoebe, once Queen Midas, had become pop’s Pandora with a boxful of problems. Did she crack up? Maybe. She will tell you: “I shouldn’t have been in the studio during that time. I was not in control of my mental faculties. I was orbiting Venus.” In 1979, she asked to be released from her contract, and the following April she declared bankruptcy. In the summer of ’81, things began to turn around as her duet with Jackson Browne on the old song “Have Mercy” started climbing the charts. But then, shortly into the promotional tour, she broke a blood vessel in her throat onstage. There went the tour, there went the hit, there went the comeback.

It must be unspeakably frustrating to be one of the greatest singers of your generation and find yourself sitting out in suburban New Jersey with a brain-injured baby girl and your career on hold. But when we met last fall, Phoebe Snow was in high spirits. Done with her financial and medical problems, done with her insecurities and agonizing — at least for now — she was preparing to go back into the studio and start singing again. Raring to go.

“Notice anything different?” she hints, pirouetting in the doorway of her spacious apartment. She’s lost a lot of weight recently, and she’s very proud of it. “When I was out in L.A. mixing my last record, I got really close to two hundred pounds. That’s not funny for a five-foot- four-inch person. One night my friend Marci was driving me home and I bought six cookies the size of roofs of outhouses. I don’t think I was really going to eat them all; I just wanted to have them around. So we pull up in front of the house and I start to unwrap the paper on one of the cookies, and Marci, who’d just lost a bunch of weight, said to me, ‘You don’t want that cookie,’ and I said, ‘Yes. I do. I want it.’ She said, ‘No, you wanna throw it like a discus. Let me see you throw it like a discus.’ I went like that” — she mimes tossing a Frisbee — “and it went smash against the building. I said, ‘Hey, that was good. Lemme try another one.'”

The first thing you notice when you meet Phoebe Snow is not how she looks but what she says. Both as a performer and as a person, the most astonishing thing about her is what comes out of her mouth. While she’ll say there are certain subjects she’d rather not get into, she’ll talk about them anyway because they’re on her mind. And the first thing you know, she’s telling you why she broke up with her husband, what David Bowie whispered to her at a party, what shocking things she used to say to tease CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff. These are things you can’t print, things in fact that you shouldn’t be hearing, maybe you don’t even want to be hearing, but they’re very funny. If you laugh at her stories, she’ll tell you more; if your attention starts to drift, she’ll reach for stories that seem a little hard to believe. Whatever it takes to make you laugh.

The most famous picture of Phoebe Snow is the painting on the cover of her first album. With a cloud of kinky hair topping a bespectacled face distinguished by full lips and seven prominent moles, you can’t tell whether she’s young or old, black or white. The “natural beauty” of that image appealed to many of her early fans in the antifashion ’70s, the I’m-okay-you’re-okay years. Her audiences were full of Phoebe Snow lookalikes — chubby women with curly hair, glasses, and moles, who, she says, sort of gave her the creeps. Back then, she didn’t help matters much; once, when the theater was cold, she went onstage in a ski parka, looking like the neighborhood babysitter. Today contact lenses have replaced the eyeglasses. And when she puts on a little makeup and changes into an embroidered black pullover for dinner, she even shows a touch of real glamour. But it’s still a little awkward talking about her appearance. We both know that if she sang like Phoebe Snow but looked like Deborah Harry, she’d be a superstar by now.

“I’m not a natural gorgeous person,” she shrugs. “I mean, if I’m gonna look presentable, I have to work at it. I didn’t even used to try. I’ve discussed that with my parents since my career died down a lot.” She says “my career” as though it had satirical quotes around it. “They think that I botched everything up purposely, that I did a whole neurotic anti-success thing.” She stops for a sidelong glance at me to see if that’s a likely story. Then she adds, “There’s probably some truth to that.”

She starts talking about having just seen a Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which reminds her of a Midnight Special “where I look like a hot-dog salesman. I don’t know what that thing, that shmatte, was that I was wearing, but it was so ugly.” She cracks up, we both laugh, but she keeps an eye out to see if I’m making the same distinction between Then and Now that she is. Some people could tell these stories and make you feel uncomfortable because it sounds like they’re putting themselves down. But Phoebe does it with the coolness of someone accustomed to digging into herself for her art and entertainment. “I think I tried to flaunt whatever ugliness I could find as a way of saying ‘I don’t deserve this success.’ I guess I learned that early on.” She stops. “It wasn’t blatant — my parents didn’t say, ‘You don’t deserve to be nothing.’ They’d say, ‘Gee, I suspect you’re never gonna be nothing.’ My dad was full of that.”

Phoebe Snow was born to Merrill and Lili Laub in 1950 and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Her parents were, in their own way, an arty duo. Her mother, a dance teacher, was in the Martha Graham company and used to double date with Woody Guthrie and his first wife. Her father worked for Viking Press and had a background in theater; his father had been a stand-up comedian in vaudeville. Now Phoebe’s dad is an exterminator — she snickers and apologizes immediately. “I think he’s a real frustrated character actor and a comedian. He had aspirations to the stage, and when he saw me doing it, performing, that just totally blew his fuse. He was wiped out.”

Unlike her husband, Mother Laub understood the full extent of her daughter’s talents. She took Phoebe to dance classes, sent her to summer camps for “gifted children,” and bought her six years’ worth of piano lessons. “I led a very cloistered, sheltered life, like ‘Don’t go out and play; practice the piano.’ Well, don’tcha know how funny the mind is? I don’t remember anything on the piano. And I was good, too, man,” says Phoebe. “I was this weird genius kid.”

Teaneck High School is Normal City, U.S.A. Every boy is a football hero and every girl a cheerleader. If you’re a “weird genius kid,” and fat and Jewish to boot, you might as well be from Mars. Phoebe was not popular. She would go to make-out parties and be odd girl out. She took to hanging around with other outcasts and getting drunk. Her crummy grades made college prospects dim; she went to night school in Teaneck, but in between classes she would catch the train to Greenwich Village with her girlfriends. The Village was the center of a thriving folk-music scene, and Phoebe, who had started taking guitar lessons from Eric Schoenberg when she was fifteen, liked to sit in on jams at the Folklore Center. Anything to get out of Jersey, and when she finally did, her ticket was Charlie.

Charlie was a young jug-band musician Phoebe met at an audition and fell in love with. Charlie didn’t make fun of her looks. He didn’t tell her she was stupid. He encouraged her to sing and turned her on to blues and old jazz. “It was a very personal and private thing of ours to sit and listen to jazz with the lights out. He used to play me Billie Holiday records and Lester Young and Johnny Hodges.”

At Charlie’s insistence, she made the rounds of talent nights at the folk clubs; to earn a guest spot between the opening act and the headliner, she’d wipe tables and scrub the vomit off carpets. She paid her dues at places like Aunt Rhoda’s Daycamp Center, a bikers’ hangout on East Twenty-first Street, and Earth Life, an organic health bar in Lodi, New Jersey. She billed herself as just Phoebe in those days, and sometimes Charlie would sit in on harmonica. She sang old blues greats, but when someone suggested she could make more money if she wrote her own songs, she started writing like crazy. One night an executive from Leon Russell’s label, Shelter Records, heard Phoebe sing, flipped, and approached her with a record deal. It was everything she and Charlie had dreamed of, and then just as the dream was coming true, Charlie checked out.

Phoebe never talks about Charlie’s death; she usually just says that he died in “a tragic accident” and not by suicide, as was rumored. But several months after we met, in one of those free-floating late-night phone conversations, she surprised me by bringing up the subject. 

Apparently, one night Charlie took an overdose of some pills that had been prescribed for depression. He was rushed to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped; the hospital wanted to keep him overnight, but he insisted that he had to go to work in the morning and he was sent home in a cab still drowsy from the OD. His mother found him the next day in his apartment, dead from a heart attack. “I just wonder what my life would have been like if he hadn’t died,” Phoebe mused. “He might have managed my career, ’cause he was a real take-charge person. And he never doubted me. He was the only one. It was almost spooky, the way he’d chuckle to himself about it. He always knew.”

After the funeral Phoebe poured all her energies into recording her debut album. The scared, shy girl had developed a confident blues guitar style and an exhilarating, out-front vocal delivery that conjured images of singers twice her age. The jazz inflections that crept into such haunting tunes as “Harpo’s Blues” and “I Don’t Want the Night to End” were Phoebe’s way of paying homage to the man who first introduced her to music as a way of life, and those inflections were what attracted the record company and the critics and the record buyers. The album was completed in December 1973 and came out in June 1974; by the end of the year, “Poetry Man” was riding high on the charts and the airwaves. And the love she had once received from the one man who had understood her music now came pouring back from legions of adoring strangers.

Along the way, the legendary voice had gained a legendary name. It went back to childhood, when other kids would tease her for being called Phoebe — it sounded funny. With pride, she’d point to the freight trains that rolled through Teaneck, and there it was, big as life: PHOEBE SNOW. As a stage name, it stuck.

The name on the doorbell of her apartment is Kearns, even though Phil doesn’t live there anymore. The building is one of those tastefully nondescript doorman dwellings; the apartment, cozy and cluttered, is dominated by an imposing parallel-bar rack structure used for Valerie’s physical therapy. A babysitter named Debbie helps to take care of six-year-old Valerie, who has been diagnosed as autistic and doesn’t really walk or talk yet. Valerie is a wee brunette with shoulder-length hair and big, gorgeous eyes; she’s wearing an I LOVE GRANDMA T-shirt, watching TV in the nursery. When Debbie tucks her in for her afternoon nap, Phoebe and I pop out for lunch at the Royal Crown Diner in Englewood Cliffs.

Phoebe places her order — veal parmigiana and iced tea — then the conversation veers toward Valerie, touchy territory. The first time we tried this, her eyes started tearing and we stopped. Today Phoebe speaks more matter-of-factly. “Valerie couldn’t move, couldn’t talk at first,” she recalls, “and we were told to forget it. She spent four months in the Rusk Institute when she was eighteen months old, and they told me she’d made no progress and there was a place where kids could go when they make no progress. In other words, these people’s answer was to put her away. And I said no.”

Phoebe looks out the window, far away for a minute. It’s a rainy afternoon, and station wagons race down the shiny streets. “There was a time when it was almost killing me,” she continues. “At the end of ’77, I toured for five weeks while this young couple looked after Valerie. When I came home, she was literally starving herself, and I was virtually insane. I would say that I had a breakdown. I took her down South for treatments, and the doctor at a clinic there said to me, ‘Have you ever thought about a little voluntary rest commitment for yourself?’ I said, ‘I’ve been away from my kid for over a month, and I’m not gonna do it again.’ He said, ‘What are you going to do when you tour again?’ He said he knew a woman who would take Valerie while I was on tour, and I agreed to talk to her.

“That night, from my hotel room, I called the woman. She was a sweet, gentle lady. She told me she looked after five other kids, and so when she came to the clinic to meet me, I was gung ho. She asked when I was going on tour again. I said probably not for another six months. She said, ‘Well, then, we’ll take care of the adoption papers now.’

“I looked at her and said, ‘You adopt them?’ ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘I don’t just babysit. I’m the adopted mother of these children.’

“I thought, ‘Oh, God.’ And for one hot minute I looked at her — you know how someone just oozes kindness and beauty? — and I thought, ‘Well, maybe…maybe it’ll be best.’ And then I looked at my little girl who was lying there so messed up and I just said, ‘No, thanks.’ I never thought about it after that.”

With that simple “No, thanks,” Phoebe Snow turned a corner in her life. People she’d trusted had long had their own expectations of her and little faith in her ability to make decisions on her own. That could drive a person crazy, but it drove Phoebe to summon up her common sense, her love, maybe even her craziness, and to make a choice for once based on her own instincts.

“I’ve given up a lot,” she says — how else? — bluntly. “You have to understand that when I say giving up a life, that’s an understatement. ‘Poetry Man’ came out in late ’74, Valerie was born in late ’75, and it’s all been downhill from there in my career, which is my means of support for her. It’s a cyclical thing, because she cuts into my career and even if she were a normal kid my career would cut into her life. yet I’m virtually the only thing she’s got. When she’s sick or has a nightmare, if I’m around, she goes like this.” Phoebe raises her arms like a child asking to be held. “To have a kid who’s never done anything do that…that’s heavy. The first time she did it I was — whoooa. The first time she does anything is like New Year’s Eve. Champagne! Confetti! That’s the best part. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does — paaar-ty!”

The waiter clears away what’s left of the meal, and Phoebe lingers lovingly over the dessert menu. “I could tell you exactly why I got fat. I’m like most people walking around on the planet who want their gratification when they want it. They want their drink now and their TV now and their sex now. As soon as I couldn’t be gratified with Valerie, I started overcompensating, gaining humongous amounts of weight. I could explain that to you perfectly, intellectually. But it’s no excuse. So what I’m learning from all this is patience.” The waiter returns for our order, and Phoebe recommends the house specialty, some divine chocolate-chip cake. For herself, she abstains.

Phoebe’s dazzling technique and extraordinary sophistication pegged her as a jazz singer from the outset, and at first she was happy to encourage this impression. “The audiences want to boogie,” she complained in a 1975 interview, “and I’m a jazz singer…or a pop singer…anyway, I’m not a rock singer.” But eventually she began to chafe under this narrow definition. More to the point, the spell of Charlie’s influence began to wear off, and she realized that she was just going through the motions. “I began to feel like a real supermimic. And the deeper I got into jazzy stuff, the more contrived it started to sound.” On her next four albums, Phoebe watched her musical direction grow more and more diffused. When she called a halt to her recording career in 1979, it was because she had finally figured out exactly what it was she wanted to do: “Rock.” She sighs — she remembers saying “I’m not a rock singer.”

“Before I met Charlie, rock’s all I listened to,” she says. “Ask my mom. I spent every Saturday night at the Fillmore East. Give me Jeff Beck! Please, get Eric Clapton out here!” In the summer of 1980, Phoebe took Billy Joel’s band into the studio to make Rock Away.

“That album had been in my heart for eight or nine years,” Phoebe insists. “We all have fantasies of doing what Roger Daltrey does with the microphone, whipping ourselves into a frenzy. It’s like wanting to be Superman when I was four. I’d take a pair of my little cotton Fruit of the Looms and put them on over my pants and tie a bath towel around my neck and go, ‘Soop-erman,’ running down the block looking like a complete schlemiel. And all the neighbors would say, ‘There’s Phoebe with her underwear on over her pants again. Tell her to go in the house.’ That’s the first superpower fantasy you have, and the second is being a rock star. You can’t deny that’s a very viable fantasy. Everybody else was doing it, so I wanted to try.”

She tried, and a lot of critics approved, but now she says, “The rock ‘n’ roll thing worked and it didn’t work — something was still missing.” She’s changed her mind about dessert and is forking her way through a chunk of watermelon. “What I really wanna do, if the truth be known, is something I blatantly rejected on the last album. I guess I was nervous. On my next album, I’m gonna go back to funk.”

It makes sense that her taste for rock would send Phoebe Snow back to its origins in black music. Her best work has always involved a blending of the two, rhythm and blues and pop, singing that’s sweet and rough at the same time. It’s certainly no coincidence that a healthy number of blacks always frequent her shows. “I feel like an honorary black, and I’m flattered,” she jokes. “But when they yell out, ‘Get down, sis-tuh,’ I tend to feel whiter than ever. ‘Thank you,’ I say. ‘I believe I will get down now.’

“My favorite album, probably up there in the Top Ten of all time, is Sly Stone’s Fresh,” Phoebe says. “After that comes George Clinton, and after that comes the Ohio Players. I don’t know where Sly Stone is, but if he called me up tomorrow and said, ‘Let’s do a couple of tracks,’ I’d go in a minute.

“The other guy I’ve always tuned in to is James Brown, who was probably doing that stuff before anybody was doing it. They didn’t even know what to call it, they just called it Mr.-Please-Please-the- Hardest-Working-Man-in-Show-Biz music. I used to go up to the Cheetah to see him, me and one other white girl. I just fell in love with him.”

Phoebe loves to talk about other singers. She listens to everything, for fun and profit. “I’m looking for a sound,” she confesses, shoving her watermelon rind aside. “You know in The Glenn Miller Story where James Stewart goes to New Orleans and listens to Satchmo, then hears a regular dance band, then he goes to a strip club, and he tries to score all this music for his band? Then he crumples up the paper and goes, ‘That’s not it! That’s not the sound!’ It’s so Hollywood, but every time I see the movie I wait for that identity crisis. I do have a sound in my head,” she says, “but I’ve never gotten it.” She brightens up like a model in a TV commercial. “It’s the Phoebe Idea.”

Anyone who’s heard Phoebe Snow can get the general Idea. She has the kind of voice your imagination can apply to every song in the universe, because what you usually remember is not the words she sings but the sounds in between the words — the moans, the shrieks, the sensuously drawn-out syllables. But it doesn’t take a genius to notice that the Phoebe Idea keeps changing. First it was Memphis Minnie, then it was Billie Holiday, then it was Jeff Beck, then it was James Brown…no wonder she’s never quite gotten the Phoebe Idea.

On her new album, tentatively called Stand Your Ground and due out whenever a new round of record-company problems can be solved, the Idea remains as elusive as ever. The funk fantasy never materialized. Instead, Phoebe went into the studio with Elliot Scheiner, who engineered several Steely Dan albums. The result is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, pleasant, even exciting at times, but…it’s not the sound. Maybe the Phoebe Idea is destined to be like Robert Browning’s idea of heaven. Or Mick Jagger’s modern-day adaptation of the same thought: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Back from lunch in time for a quick visit from Phoebe’s doctor- boyfriend, we put away the business side of this business and just play. Phoebe digs through stacks of records, puts on the Beatles’ Christmas albums, a reggae band called Matumbi, and a little Aretha Franklin, then pulls out a creepy bootleg of Billie Holiday singing during a studio session. Smacked out of her mind, Billie starts a different song every seventeen bars or so. Phoebe takes it off and puts on a tape she herself made while recording her third album, It Looks Like Snow. Between fart noises and rude remarks about the music industry, a familiar voice howls with mock self-pity: “I hate my mother, I hate myself, and I wanna die.” Phoebe grooves along with the song, casting a sideways glance to see what I think. It’s hilarious. The tape is labeled KOMPLAINING BLUES.

Out in New Jersey Phoebe may be isolated, but that’s not one of her complaints. “I’m accustomed to it,” she says. “I don’t go to parties. I’ve never been to the Mudd Club. I went to Studio 54 once and a man who was dressed like a bug followed me around all night and fanned me. Partying is not my scene at all. You know how a puppy is before it’s housebroken, all panting and peeing on everybody’s leg? I get so stupid at parties.

“I did go to the party for No Nukes, and I was incredibly self- conscious. There were all these celeboids there hugging each other, and they had their white wine, and I don’t…I can’t…you know? I mean, I’m really impressed by famous people. And I was so fat, the fattest I’ve ever, ever been. El Blimpoid.

“After a while I left the party and sat out on the curb in front of the club with two girlfriends I’d brought. Limos kept pulling up, and I was going, ‘Hey, celebs! Get your celebs here, get your limos, get your Quaaludes, your groupies, your cocaine!’ I wasn’t high or anything, I was just being obnoxious. The doors of one limo opened up, and I went over. I said, ‘Hey, celebrities! Eat me.’ And it was Jackson Browne! He walked over to me with this face like, ‘Who the hell is this person?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Pheeb? Hi!'”
So this is Phoebe Snow. What did you expect? A normal person? She’s got a gold record on the wall. She’s got a brain-injured six-year-old in the nursery. She’s got the Phoebe Idea kicking around in her head. And she’s got something in her closet she just has to show me.

Phoebe rummages through the closet and finally drags out a bunch of cassette tapes with a rubber band wrapped around them. In 1974 and 1975, Phoebe tells me, she and some friends began to do occult experiments. They had heard that if you sat in a room without speaking and turned a tape recorder on, you could play the tape back and receive communications from…spirits, spacemen, whatever. They did this “silent taping” a lot. Finally, Phoebe, who says she is psychic, stopped because she got too freaked out. But she keeps the tapes around to remind herself, and any skeptical party, that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

The tapes are unsettling. “‘The receiver has been planted in their brains,'” she translates. “You hear that?” It sounds like a scratchy, faraway voice coming over a transatlantic cable, but Phoebe says it came out of thin air onto the tape. From silence there’s a blast of static, then two thumps. Then silence. Then a weird scraping sound, then another two thumps.

“Sometimes it’s just a lot of tapping,” says Phoebe, snapping the tape off and sticking another cassette into the deck. “This is just so      you know I’m not making this up.” A bizarre, metallic voice speaks, garbled and distant. It speaks again. “‘Contact us, contact us,'” Phoebe translates more reasonably. A whirring sound and a slight chiming, very faint. Then the voice again, sounding agitated and otherworldly. 

“‘Prepare the'” — something, we can’t make it out — “‘has come closer.'” “You hear all those noises?” she asks. I hear weird slow beeps, then the voice. A burst of unearthly music. And silence again.

Esquire, 1982

Phoebe died on April 26, 2011 as the result of a brain hemorrhage which she suffered on January 9, 2010 and went into a coma. She was almost 60 years old when she finally passed.

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Lacey Gibson 4/2011

Lacey GibsonApril 11, 2011 – Lacy Gibson (blues guitarist) was born on May 1, 1936, in Salisbury, North Carolina. Gibson’s family settled in Chicago in 1949 and he quickly became entranced by the local action and involved in the city’s blues scene, receiving tips on blues guitar playing from musicians such as Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and Sunnyland Slim and picked up pointers from immaculate axemen Lefty Bates, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, and Wayne Bennett.

Gibson made a name for himself as a session player in 1963, assuming rhythm guitar duties on sides by Willie Mabon for USA, Billy “The Kid” Emerson for M-Pac!, and Buddy Guy on Chess. Gibson made his vocal debut on the self-penned blues ballad “My Love Is Real” at Chess the same year, though it wasn’t released at the time (when it belatedly emerged, it was mistakenly attributed to Guy). Besides working with innumerable blues artists, he was also involved in the jazz scene.

 

A couple of bargain basement 45s for the remarkably obscure Repeto logo (that’s precisely where they were done – in Lacy Gibson’s basement!) preceded Gibson’s inconsistent album debut for then-brother-in-law Sun Ra’s El Saturn label. Ralph Bass produced an album by Gibson in 1977, but the results weren’t issued at the time (Delmark is currently releasing the set domestically).

A stint as Son Seals’s rhythm axeman (he’s on Seals’s Live and Burning LP) provided an entree to Alligator Records, which included four fine sides by Gibson on its second batch of Living Chicago Blues anthologies in 1980. Best of all was a Dick Shurman-produced album for the Dutch Black Magic logo in 1982, Switchy Titchy, that brilliantly spotlighted Gibson’s clean fretwork and hearty vocals. After he regained his health in the mid-’90s, Lacy Gibson entered the studio and recorded Crying for My Baby, which was released in 1996.

He was a musician’s musician, his versatile guitar and unique rich style of joining the influences of jazz and blues and pop quickly became a mainstay on stages and in recording studios for numerous.

Gibson died of a heart attack on April 11, 2011 at age 74.

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Loleatta Holloway 3/2011

Loretta HollowayMarch 21, 2011 – Loleatta Holloway was born on November 5, 1946. Holloway began singing gospel with her mother in the Holloway Community Singers and recorded with Albertina Walker in the Caravans gospel group. Holloway was also a cast member of the Chicago troupe of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. Around this time, she met her future producer, manager, and husband Floyd Smith, and recorded “Rainbow ’71” in 1971, a Curtis Mayfield song that Gene Chandler had recorded in 1963. It was initially released on the Apache label, but was picked up for national distribution by Galaxy Records.

In the early 1970s, Holloway signed a recording contract with the Atlanta-based soul music label Aware, part of the General Recording Corporation (GRC), owned by Michael Thevis. Holloway recorded two albums for the label, both of them produced by Floyd Smith — Loleatta (1973) and Cry to Me (1975). Her first single from the second album, the ballad, “Cry to Me” rose to #10 Billboard R&B and #68 on the Hot 100, but before the label could really establish Holloway, it went out of business.

Top Philadelphia arranger and producer Norman Harris signed Holloway in 1976 for his new label, Gold Mind, a subsidiary of New York’s Salsoul Records. The first release from the album Loleatta was another Sam Dees ballad, “Worn Out Broken Heart,” which reached #25 R&B, but the B-side, “Dreaming,” climbed to #72 on the pop chart and launched her as a disco act.
She contributed vocals to “Re-Light My Fire” for Dan Hartman, who then wrote and produced the title track of her fourth and final album for Gold Mind, Love Sensation (1980). 18 of her songs charted on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, including four #1s. However, it was a ballad that proved to be another big R&B hit for her. “Only You” was written and produced by Bunny Sigler, who also sang with Holloway on the track, and it reached #11 in 1978.

In the early 1980s, she had another dance hit with “Crash Goes Love” (#5 on the U.S. Dance chart, #86 on the US R&B Chart). She also recorded one single, “So Sweet,” for the fledgling house-music label DJ International Records. In the late 1980s, her vocals from “Love Sensation” were used in the UK #1 hit “Ride On Time” by Black Box. Holloway, however, was uncredited for her vocals and Holloway successfully sued the group, which led to an undisclosed court settlement in Holloway’s favor.

In 1992, she also had a hit with dance band Cappella. There, she appeared billed as Cappella featuring Loleatta Holloway on the single “Take Me Away” (UK #25). Holloway’s fortunes dramatically improved, however, when she had her first US #1 hit when Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch featured her vocals in the chart-topping “Good Vibrations” (1991). According to Andrew Barker in Variety (March 22, 2011), Holloway also performed with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to promote the single and she received full vocal credit as well as a share of the royalties. This was shortly after the backlash against various acts such as Milli Vanilli and the groups that used the vocals of Martha Wash, but refused to give her credit until she sued.

More recent dance chart entries included “What Goes Around Comes Around” (credited to “GTS Featuring Loleatta Holloway”) in 2000, and “Relight My Fire” (credited to Martin featuring Holloway), which hit #5 in 2003. Whilst not a single, “Like a Prayer”,  a Madonna cover, was a track on the Madonna tribute album Virgin Voices. “Love Sensation ’06” and reached #37 on the UK Singles Chart.

Holloway died aged 64 on March 21, 2011 from heart failure.

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Pinetop Perkins 3/2011

pinetop perkinsMarch 21, 2011 – Pinetop Perkins was born Joseph William Perkins on July 7th 1913 in Belzoni, Mississippi. He early on began his music career as a guitarist, but then injured the tendons in his left arm and switched to the piano.  and also switched from Robert Nighthawk’s KFFA radio program to Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Time.

In the 1950s, Perkins joined Earl Hooker and began touring. He recorded “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (written by Pinetop Smith and originally recorded by him in 1928) at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee. (“They used to call me Pinetop,” he recalled, “because I played that song.”) Perkins then relocated to Illinois and left the music business until Hooker persuaded him to record again in 1968. Perkins replaced Otis Spann when Spann left the Muddy Waters band in 1969. After ten years with that organization, he formed the Legendary Blues Band with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, recording through the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.  Pinetop played a brief musical cameo on the street outside Aretha’s Soul Food Cafe in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, having an argument with John Lee Hooker over who wrote “Boom Boom”. He also appeared in the 1987 movie Angel Heart as a member of guitarist Toots Sweet’s band.

Perkins was a sideman on countless recordings but never had an album devoted solely to his artistry until the release of After Hours on Blind Pig Records in 1988. The tour in support of the album featured Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Hubert Sumlin. In 1998 Perkins released the album Legends, featuring Sumlin.

Perkins was driving his automobile in 2004 in La Porte, Indiana, when his car was hit by a train. The car was wrecked, but the 91-year-old driver was not seriously hurt. Until his death, Perkins lived in Austin, Texas. He usually performed a couple of nights a week at Nuno’s, on Sixth Street. In 2005, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The song “Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins”, performed by Perkins and Angela Strehli, played on the common misconception that he wrote “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”:

Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins
I got a question for you
How’d you write that first boogie woogie
The one they named after you

In 2008, Perkins, together with Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas. He was also nominated in the same category for his solo album Pinetop Perkins on the 88’s: Live in Chicago.

Then at age 97, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined at the Hip, an album he recorded with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. At the time of his death, Pinetop had more than 20 performances booked for 2011 including a headliner at the inaugural Amelia Island Blues Festival in September of that year (Willie “Big Eyes had  taken over the headliner slot on the festival, but sadly died on the morning of his intended performance). Pinetop Perkins was 97 at the time of his death. His death closed the era of the old blues men; he was the last one that had a personal recollection of Blues Great Robert Johnson.

 

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Jack Hardy 3/2011

Jack-HardyMarch 11, 2011 – John Studebaker “Jack” Hardy (November 23, 1947 – March 11, 2011) was an American lyrical singer-songwriter and playwright based in Greenwich Village, who was influential as a writer, performer, and mentor in the North American and European folk music scenes for decades.

He was cited as a major influence by Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, and many others who emerged from that scene in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Hardy was the author of hundreds of songs, and toured tirelessly for almost forty years.

He was also the founding editor of Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a periodical famous within music circles for twenty years that shipped with a full album (and later, compact disc) in each issue, whose entire catalog is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

Hardy died on the morning of March 11, 2011 in Manhattan. He was 63. The cause was complications of lung cancer.

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Jet Harris 3/2011

Jet HarrisMarch 18, 2011 – Jet Harris (The Shadows) was born Terence Harris on July 6, 1939 in Kingsbury, North West London, England, the only son of  Bill and Winifred Harris.  The young Terence Harris was  nicknamed ‘Jet’ by his school friends because of his abilities of being one of the fastest runners in the school.  Jet left school at the age of fifteen and started working with his dad as an apprentice welder, making milk churns.

The very first record that he took notice of was Winifred Atwell’s ‘Left Hand Boogie’ in 1952.  He was fascinated by the ‘bass’ sound on Winifred’s left hand.  Jet was the first man in the UK to play the electric bass guitar.  News spread of Jet’s  outstanding ability with the bass guitar, which soon led him to playing with various groups between 1956 – 1958, including ‘Tony Crombie’s Rockets’, ‘Terry Dene’s Aces’, ‘The Vipers Skiffle Group’, ‘The Most Brothers’ and also Wee Willie Harris’.  In between gig’s Jet used to frequent the now famous home of British Rock ‘n’ Roll, the 2i’s Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street, Soho.  Apart from playing, he also served cola and rum babas to customers.  With regard to Jet’s musical talents, he is self taught, his family couldn’t afford formal music lessons.

During the year of 1958, Jet was introduced to a young Cliff Richard, and was duly invited to join Cliff’s backing group ‘The Drifters’, but due to an injunction by the American group of the same name, they had to choose a different name.  History was made at the The Six Bells pub near Ruislip, when Jet, Hank Marvin and  Bruce Welch began discussing new names for the band.  It was Jet who came up with the name ‘The Shadows’.

The first hit record that Jet played bass on was ‘High Class Baby’ which reached number seven in the charts in 1958.  ‘Apache’ of course was the start of an era.  Jet played on many Shadows records ‘Man of Mystery’, The Stranger’, ‘Midnight’, ’36, 24, 36′, ‘The Savage’, ‘Guitar Tango’ ‘Nivram’, ‘Peace Pipe’ and FBI to name but a few.  He also helped write a few of the hits. The last recording Jet did with ‘The Shadows’ was ‘Wonderful Land’ in 1962.  Jet left the band in the same year and had two hit singles in his own right ‘Besame Mucho’ and the main title theme from the film ‘The Man With The Golden Arm’.

In 1963 Jet teamed up with former Shadow bandmate Tony Meehan and had an immediate hit with a tune written by Jerry Lordan called ‘Diamonds’ which was number one for six weeks, later followed by two more top twenty hits, ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ and ‘Applejack’.  Late in 1963, Jet was involved in a very serious car crash which nearly ended his career. He had very serious head injuries and was extremely lucky to have survived.

During the late 70’s, Jet played with various groups, and released ‘Inside Jet Harris’, which was made in Gloucester prison.  Apart from Jet, the only other person to have recorded a live performance in a prison was ‘Johnny Cash’.  Jet then turned professional photographer and gave up the music business.

The 80’s found Jet back on the music scene again, touring Holland, Norway and Sweden.

In 1989, Jet released the ‘Anniversary Album’.  In 1996, Jet joined’ The Local Hero’s as their guest, and went on to play with them in France, Germany, Holland and Norway.  Jet also played on the ‘Local Hero’s CD ‘One of our Shadows is Missing’.  In 1998 ‘Fender’ guitars presented Jet with a lifetime achievement award, and also sponsored Jet with his amplification.  Burns guitars also presented Jet with a ‘Legend’ lead guitar, a six string bass called the ‘Jet Six’ and a four string bass.  Rotosound were Jet’s official string sponsors.  1999 saw the release of Jet’s CD ‘The Phoenix Rises’.  In 2002, Jet released a new CD called ‘Diamonds are Trumps’, with famous session drummer ‘Bobby Graham’.  This was released by ‘Solent Records’ under a new record deal.  After this, Jet toured with artists including ‘The Rapiers’, ‘The Bobby Graham Rock Experience’ ‘Mike Berry and the Outlaws’ ‘The Bruvvers’ and ‘Clem Cattini’ and the Tornados.

At the end of 2005, Jet teamed up with producer and world renowned trumpet player, Nigel Hopkins, to work on a brand new album.  In December 2007, Jet released what was to become his last album, entitled ‘Jet Harris – The Journey’.

In 2009 Jet was diagnosed with cancer and throughout the second half of the year he underwent many medical tests and received chemotherapy treatment.  In 2010 Jet was awarded the MBE for services to music.  2010 also saw Jet once again touring with Marty Wilde and the Wildcats on the very successful ‘Born To Rock ‘n’ Roll’ tour.  Jet continued to perform in the UK and abroad until five weeks before his death.  Determined to keep playing, his final performance was on 5 February 2011 at Ferneham Hall, Fareham in the UK.

He died on March 18, 2011 at the age of 71

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St.Clair Lee 3/2011

St.Claire LeeMarch 8, 2011 – Bernard St. Clair Lee (Hues Corporation) was born on April 24th 1944  in San Francisco, California. It has often been erroneously stated that his full birth name was Bernard St. Clair Lee Calhoun Henderson, but he asserts in an interview that, while his ancestry included Calhouns and Hendersons, neither of these were ever part of his official name. When he was born, someone at the hospital mistakenly wrote “St. Clair” instead of his originally intended name, Sinclair. When he was a young man, he found out that “Sinclair” means “Big Bear” and that the American Indian side of his family were Blackfoot that had migrated down from Canada to Oklahoma. It was this discovery that led him to decide to wear his trademark headband. He attended Santa Monica College and became one of the original members of the pop and soul trio Hues Corporation formed in Santa Monica, California in 1969 along with Hubert Ann Kelley and Fleming Williams. The group was originally built one three instrumentalists and three singers.

The group’s name was a pun on the (Howard) Hughes Corporation, with the ‘hue’ being the group’s African-American heritage. They started out as an opening act for the likes of Flash Cadillac, Ike Turner, and Delaney Bramlett.

In 1972 they were asked to appear in and also record three songs for the film ‘Blacular’ soundtrack; “There He Is Again”, “What The World Knows” and “I’m Gonna Catch You”. Shortly after, RCA signed them, their first single, “Freedom For The Stallion”, from the album of the same name, reached No.63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.This was followed by their 1974 single, “Rock the Boat” which became a No.1 hit on the Billboard chart and the group’s signature song.

Other hits included “Rockin’ Soul, “Love Corporation”, and “I Caught Your Act”.

Touring with the band took Lee to Europe, South America, The Far East Australia and New Zealand. He performed for Queen Elizabeth at the same event with Dionne Warwick. He performed with The Jackson 5 in Radio City Music Hall. Lee also shared bills with The Commodores, The Spinners, Dolly Parton and Dinah Shore. After a second moderate success (“Rockin’ Soul”) with the band and a few more records, The Hues Corporation disbanded in 1978.

In later years Lee was responsible for the reactivation of the group and the recruiting of two new members, Elaine Woodard and Bruce Glover. He continued to tour and perform with the band up until his death.

He died of natural causes on March 8, 2011 at age 66.

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Ronnie Hammond 3/2011

Ronnie HammondMarch 14, 2011 – Ronnie Hammond was born on November 10th 1950.

Ronnie became lead singer for the southern rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1972 after original vocalist Rodney Justo left. The band had a string of hits during the 1970s, including “Doraville,” “Jukin,” “Champagne Jam,” “Imaginary Lover,” “So Into You,” “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight,” and a remake of the Classics IV hit “Spooky”.

ARS did not achieve the commercial top success of Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers Band, but was solidly anchored in the second echelon of Southern Rock performers such as The Outlaws, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchett, Marshall Tucker and the Kentucky Haedhunters.

The group had (and still has) a strong following in the South and charted a consistent string of hits. The band also influenced a number of rock and country artists, notably Travis Tritt, who covered the ARS songs “Back Up Against the Wall” and “Homesick”. The group Shudder to Think covered “So Into You”.

Noted Christian Music artist and Southern rocker Mylon LeFevre appeared on “Jesus Hearted People”, from the band’s album Third Annual Pipe Dream. Before they became founding members of Atlanta Rhythm Section, members of LeFevre’s backup band included Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard and Dean Daughtry.

Hammond left ARS in the early 1980s, but even during his years off the road, he continued to write music, with songwriting partner and producer Buddy Buie, who is listed first on almost all of the band’s songwriting credits. Hammond, who was also a carpenter, built houses around Macon, including his own near Lake Tobesofkee.

He returned in 1987, and 1989 ARS released their first album in 8 years ‘Truth in a Structured Form’. He continued to record and tour wit the band until 2001 when Ronnie decided to leave ARS and join the band Voices of Classic Rock, but left the touring business altogether soon afterward to focus on family and songwriting.

Ronnie died from a heart attack at age 60 on March 14, 2011 in Forsyth, Georgia.

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Mike Starr 3/2011

Mike StarrMarch 8, 2011 – Mike Starr (Alice in Chains) was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on April 4th 1966,  and became best known as a founding member and bassist with the alternative rock band, Alice in Chains, which formed in Seattle in 1987.

The band was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 25 million albums worldwide, and over 12 million in the US alone. The band achieved two number-one Billboard 200 albums “Jar of Flies” and “Alice in Chains”, 14 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and eight Grammy Award nominations.

Mike is featured on albums We Die Young -1990; Facelift-1990; Sap-1992; Dirt-1992; Music Bank-1999; Nothing Safe: Best of the Box-1999; Live-2000; Greatest Hits-2001; and The Essential Alice in Chains released in 2006. Mike left Alice In Chains in 1993 while it was touring in support of the album Dirt.

However in 1992 he had also been a founding member of the heavy metal supergroup Sun Red Sun along with Ray Gillen and Bobby Rondinelli, both former members of Black Sabbath. The project was cut short by Gillen’s death from AIDS related complications.

A co-founding member of the pioneering Seattle grunge band, Starr appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” in 2009. He was arrested last month for felony possession of a controlled substance. Salt Lake City police said he had several painkillers on him when he was arrested. Alice in Chains have written heart-wrenching and evocative songs about drug addiction.
Former singer Layne Staley died in spring 2002 after overdosing on a mixture of heroin and cocaine, commonly known as a “speedball.” The group mounted a successful comeback with 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue, which featured new vocalist William DuVall alongside guitarist Jerry Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez.
Mike Starr was born April 4, 1966, in Honolulu. He rose to prominence in the Seattle scene as bassist for Diamond Lie, which featured Cantrell and Kinney. Once Staley entered the fold, they changed their name to Alice in Chains and signed a major-label deal. Starr appears on the group’s debut album, Facelift, which produced the monster hit “Man in the Box.” He’s also on the band’s follow-up EP release, Sap, and their second album, Dirt, which was released in September 1992.
Dirt is a hard rock classic, with “Rooster” remaining a radio staple. “Would?” was featured in the movie “Singles,” which was set in the Seattle scene. “Down in a Hole” has been covered by Ryan Adams, Fuel and Demon Hunter. Songs like “Junkhead” dealt with heroin use head-on. The band Godsmack, whose sound owes much to Alice in Chains, took their name from track nine. Cantrell wrote the majority of the songs with some heavy contributions from Staley. Starr is credited as a co-writer on one track, “Rain When I Die.”
Starr left Alice in Chains while touring behind Dirt in 1993. Years later, he would reveal on “Celebrity Rehab” that his reason for leaving was his growing addiction to drugs. He briefly joined former Black Sabbath singer Ray Gillen in Sun Red Sun. Their self-titled debut was released in 1995, two years after Gillen died from AIDS-related complications.
Heroin addiction sent Starr to “Celebrity Rehab,” which was followed by a stint in the spin-off show “Sober House.” He showed up on one episode of the following season of “Celebrity Rehab,” celebrating more than six months of sobriety. He was arrested for possession by Salt Lake City police on February 18, 2011.
Travis Meeks of the band Days of the New was reportedly driving the van Starr was riding in when he was arrested last month. The singer/guitarist found platinum success with his band’s first album in 1997 and a sound that drew comparisons to Alice in Chains. Meeks put together several different versions of the band in subsequent years, and his own drug problems landed him on the A&E show “Intervention” in 2005.
“Hey, officer, have you ever heard of Alice in Chains? I used to be the bass guitarist for them,” Starr said to police, according to a local news report. “We are down here in Utah, me and Travis, putting together a new band.”
According to a Ticketmaster listing, “Days of the New featuring Travis Meeks and Mike Starr” was scheduled to appear March 19 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Mike’s dad told TMZ his son’s death is “a terrible shock and tragedy.”

Starr was found dead on March 8, 2011 in a house in Salt Lake City – no details have emerged yet as to the cause of death. He was 44.

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Johnny Preston 3/2011

Johnny PrestonMarch 4, 2011 – Johnny Preston was born John Preston Courville in Port Arthur Texas on August 18th 1939. He sang in high school choral contests throughout the state of Texas and formed a rock and roll band called ‘The Shades’, who were seen performing at a local club by J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Big Bopper offered him the chance to record a teenage tragedy song he had written, “Running Bear”, which they did in Houston, Texas in 1958. It became his first and only international No.1 hit in January 1960, titled “Running Bear”.

The “Indian” sounds on the record were performed by Richardson and George Jones. The record was released after Big Bopper’s death in Buddy Holly-Ritchie Valens plane crash entering the U.S. Hot 100 in October 1959, reaching No.1 in January 1960 and remaining there for three weeks. It was a transatlantic chart-topper, reaching No.1 in the UK in March 1960.

The sales of the record exceeded one million copies, earning Johnny his first gold disc. This was followed up with “Cradle of Love”, “Feel So Fine”, and others.

On the strength of Running Bear and Cradle of Love, Preston toured Britain in 1960, heading an all-star rock and roll bill with Conway Twitty, Wee Willie Harris and Freddie Cannon. But his hit-making recording career was short-lived. A third single, Feel So Fine, made the Top 20 but his strongest follow-up, a revival of Little Willie John’s Leave My Kitten Alone, failed to make the charts.

I slowly slipped by the wayside,” Preston reflected, adding that he had bought a ranch with the proceeds of Running Bear alone. In later life he appeared on golden oldie tours, and in 1997 sang the Indian chant for a version of Running Bear recorded by The Big Bopper Jr.

His pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He also performed at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

In 2009, Johnny performed at the Lamar State College, in his hometown. Johnny had coronary artery bypass surgery in 2010, but died of heart failure on March 4, 2011 after years of heart related illnesses. He was 71.

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Mark Tulin 2/2011

mark tulinFeb 26, 2011 – Mark Tulin (The Electric Prunes) was born November 21st 1948.

He was a founding member of the San Fernando Valley rock band  in 1965. They had hit singles with “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and “Get Me To The World on Time”. In particular, “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” is regarded by many critics as a defining song of the psychedelic and garage rock music, appearing on the famous Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 compilation in 1972. It was also featured prominently in the 1969 film Easy Rider.

In the late 1990s, renewed interest in The Electric Prunes led to a reunion of the original lineup. Since then, the band has toured and released albums consistently.

In June 2009, Mark took part in Billy Corgan’s tribute band ‘Spirits in the Sky’ which played a show on July 24, 2009. Following the success of the show, Billy Corgan had the band play a small tour of extremely small venues in California in August 2009.

In March 2010, following the departure of Smashing Pumpkins touring bassist Ginger Pooley to raise her newborn infant, Tulin was announced as a temporary live bassist until a permanent replacement could be found. During this time, he played his only full length show with The Smashing Pumpkins on April 17, 2010 in celebration of Record Store Day.

A few days later, he played “Widow Wake My Mind” with the band on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In late 2010 Mark Tulin was recording and performing again with The Electric Prunes, who were signed to independent label Starry Records. In October 2010 he also joined The Icons, aka The Psychedelic Garage Band, a group with other rock veterans. The final edit of the promo video they shot in January 2011 was very nearly completed at the time of his death.

On February 26, 2011 Tulin collapsed while helping out at the Avalon Underwater Clean-Up in Avalon, California. Baywatch Avalon and Avalon Fire Department medics responded immediately, but he could not be revived and was pronounced dead at age 62.

Tulin had a PhD in psychology.

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Gary Moore 2/2011

Gary Moore 500February 6, 2011 – Gary Moore, who wrote and played “Still Got the Blues for You” and “Parisienne Walkways” into a daily highlight in my musical playlist, passed away on February 6, 2011 at age 58, while on vacation in Spain, reportedly after a night of excessive drinking and partying.

Gary Moore was a guitar talent that only comes around a couple of times in a generation. Jimi, Eric, Gary, Duane and Hughie Thomasson are the five that fill my High Five, as I’m witnessing our generation extending a welcome to those who learned from the great ones, like Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Sheppard and now show their talent to a new generation.

Robert William Gary Moore was born on 4 April 1952 and grew up on Castleview Road opposite Stormont Parliament Buildings, off the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland as one of five children of Bobby, a promoter, and Winnie, a housewife. He left the city as a teenager, because of troubles in his family – his parents parted a year later – just as The Troubles – political violence, were starting in Northern Ireland.

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Gladys Horton 1/2011

Gladys HortonJanuary 26, 2011 – Gladys Horton was born in Born in Gainesville, Florida on May 30, 1945, according to her son Vaughn Thornton, even though there is some dispute on the correct date being May 30, 1944.

By the time she was nine months old, her son said, she was an orphan and consigned to foster care, growing up mostly in different towns in Michigan. Her full name was Gladys Catherine Horton. She was married once and divorced, and had three sons. Besides Mr. Thornton, one other son, Sammy Coleman, survives her, along with two grandchildren.

She was raised in the western Detroit suburb of Inkster by foster parents. By the time of her high school years at Inkster High School on Middlebelt Road, Gladys had taken a strong interest in singing, joining the high school glee club.

In 1960 Horton formed a group with her former highschool glee club members Georgeanna Tillman, Katherine Anderson and Juanita Coward. The origin of the Marvelettes is variously recounted in music encyclopedias and other sources, and they usually describe Ms. Horton as a co-founder of the group. But in an interview Ms. Schaffner, one of the original Marvelettes, gave her full credit: “We only started singing together because Gladys asked us,” she recalled. “Usually we’d go to Georgeanna’s house and play canasta.”

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Harvey James 1/2011

Harvey JamesJanuary 15, 2011 – Harvey William James was born on September 20, 1952 in Melbourne, Australia. During his professional career he was a member of the bands Party Boys, Sherbet, Ariel and Mississippi.

James’ first major group was the early 1970s band Mississippi (band)” href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_%28band%29″>Mississippi, which also featured Beeb Birtles, Graham Goble, Charlie Tumahai and Derek Pellicci on drums. He played on the band’s hit single ‘Will I’ after replacing Kerryn Tolhurst and was part of their appearance at Sunbury in 1974.

Mississippi sailed to the UK in April 1974, working on the Sitmar Line ship Fairsky but broke up after arriving. Birtles and Goble reconstituted the band, with Pellicci, in early 1975 after their return to Australia, recruiting new members and changing the name to Little River Band.

After his return to Australia, James joined progressive rock group Ariel, with Mike Rudd and Bill Putt and returned to the UK with them in 1974, where they recorded their second album Rock & Roll Scars at Abbey Road Studios. He remained with Ariel until early 1975, by which time the band had added a fifth member, singer-guitarist Glyn Mason.

James shot to national prominence in Australia in early 1975, when he left Ariel to replace founding member Clive Shakespeare in the chart-topping Australian pop band Sherbet. His first recording with them was their biggest hit, “Howzat”, which became an Australian #1 and made the Top 5 in the UK Singles Chart. He remained with the group until they split in 1979.

James next co-founded the rock band The Party Boys in 1982, playing on their first two albums ”Live at Several 21sts” and ”Greatest Hits (of Other People)”, before along with guitarist Clive Shakespeare reuniting Sherbet for several reunions.

He also participated in a reunion of the second line-up of Ariel in 1998

He lost his battle with lung cancer on 15 January 2011 at age 58 

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Tommy Crain 1/2011

tommy crainJanuary 13, 2011 – John Thomas Tommy Crain was born January 16th 1951 in Nashville, Tennessee. When he was in 6th grade, there was a kid that lived down the street. He had a guitar and he taught Tommy how to play a four string ukelele. They learned “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” entered a talent contest in the school and performed it and won and from that time on, he knew this is what he wanted to do. He wanted to entertain.

Still in high school-he made most of his living from the age of 14 onward in music- he was a member of a fraternity and they would play pretty much every Friday and Saturday night for the sorority and fraternity dances. The first one of these bands was called the Lemonade Charade.

After that he played in various local bands, the best being Flat Creek Band in which his brother Billy also played guitar. This group eventually disbanded and Tom formed a group called Buckeye.

He joined the Charlie Daniels Band in 1975 when Southern rock was king. In his own words he joined at the second invitation from Charlie as follows:

The band I mentioned called Flat Creek had a road manager named David Corlew, who is Charlie’s personal manager now. When the band broke up, David went on to road manage Charlie Daniels,  and in 1974, my band Buckeye opened the very first Volunteer Jam, and I actually played the first musical note of any Volunteer Jam ever because it started with a guitar riff. But I had met Charlie that night and he told me that he was losing both his guitar player and drummer and asked me if I would be interested. Well, to be honest with him I told him that I was still playing with my brother Billy and I didn’t want to leave him. I thought it over for about one week and turned him down because of that, and in retrospect that was a stupid thing to do, but I was naive back then and didn’t know what was going on.  One year later we played at another Volunteer Jam and at that time my band had broken up. He asked me again and I gladly accepted. Charlie said that we would be going on tour the first of the year in 1975, so my wife and I drove down to Knoxville and saw a show and she left me at the hotel and went home and Charlie and I went up to the hotel room, and I roomed with him for six years after that. I learned all the songs from the Fire On The Mountain album and he and I just sat up in the room with two electric guitars and no amps and just played the whole thing and it was just magical. I had never experienced anything like it.

Though not as well-known as some of the other Southern rock guitar slingers of the day, Crain was an influential musician much appreciated by fans, and an integral architect of the CDBs unique blend of rock, blues, country and improvisational jamming. His unrestrained guitar work became an integral part of the band’s sound. He played on more than 20 CDB albums and is credited with co-writing more than 60 of the band songs. He was co-writer and co-arranger of many classic ones, including the Grammy-winning “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and the writer/vocalist on such CDB classics as “Cumberland Mountain Number Nine,” “Blind Man” and “Franklin Limestone,” from the some of the band’s best-selling albums (“Saddle Tramp,” “Nightrider,” “Full Moon” and “Million Mile Reflections”).

Crain was a versatile musician, adept on all stringed instruments including guitars, banjo and the pedal steel. The CDB toured relentlessly at the arena level during Crain’s tenure, and Tommy left the CDB in 1989 to help his wife raise their daughter, Ann, and assist in Melissa’s career of equestrian endurance riding which became a passion of Tommy’s. He came back into the music business 15 years later in 2004 as the leader of Tommy Crain and the Crosstown Allstars of Atlanta.

At the time of his death, Crain was employed by Rogers Remodeling and Southbound Trains, both of Franklin and still performing with his All Stars.

He died age 59 on January 13, 2011.

For a great 2002 interview with Tommy Crain about Southern Rock click http://www.swampland.com/articles/view/title:tommy_crain

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Mick Karn 1/2011

Mick Karn-JapanJanuary 4, 2011 – Mick Karn was born July 24, 1958 as Andonis Michaelides in Nicosia, the capital of Greek Cyprus. The family emigrated to London when he was 3 years old and from an early age was looking for ways to express himself. He began with the harmonica (chromatic mouth organ) at the age of 7 and then the violin when 11, both lasted just 3 years before he was offered the chance to take up the bassoon with the school orchestra and later chosen as a member of the London School Symphony Orchestra.

Of that time he said in his biography: “It looked as if musicians were enjoying themselves and I was intrigued by their ability to escape into another world but frustrated with my own attempts to join in, however, it was only a matter of time before I found the right instrument and direction to aim for, purely by chance. The truth is I bluffed my way into the orchestra. I never learnt to read music and played purely by ear, so was always very nervous about being heard in case of mistakes. Although it worked wonders with my memory for retaining music, I can’t remember even one day that I actually enjoyed playing, until in front of an audience at the first LSSO concert”.

By this time, he had already made friends with like-minded teenagers David Sylvian and younger brother, Steve Jansen who were coincidentally both learning their own instruments, David an acoustic guitar and Steve, bongos. It seemed a natural progression that David move on to an electric guitar, and if Steve were then to progress to drums, they could form a band together and escape the confines of south London. That was the plan and a month later they performed for the first time as Japan on June 1st 1974 when Mick was 15.

In the next 6 years and several albums later his highly distinctive fretless bass voice became renowned, an accolade placing him next to Jaco Pastorius. According to Karn, bass went unnoticed and his mission was to get it noticed. Even on early Japan recordings, his wiggly bass can be heard. By their swan song, Tin Drum in 1981, he was dubbed one of the best bass players in the world.  “I wanted to be able to slide and bend notes as I’d learnt to do with the violin and so decided to take all the frets off the bass guitar. I also began playing bass directly after the bassoon which, although a bass instrument, often plays lead melodies, both of these factors were major influences in shaping the way I play. I couldn’t help but feel that bass players were always hidden somewhere in the background whereas I was determined to be heard”.

In 1981 Mick surprised the art world by holding his first sculpture exhibition to outstanding critical acclaim, with many reviews and features in columns and magazines not usually frequented by musicians. Proving himself as an accomplished artist with his often disturbing works of art, he has held 5 exhibitions in London, Japan and Italy.

In that same year he’d already supplied bass and sax work to Gary Numan’s Dance album and was the first Japan member with a solo record: Titles. His unique style had musicians from all types of genres wanting his contribution to their own work, from Jeff Beck to Gary Numan. That same year, he was chosen by Pete Townshend to be part of a supergroup to perform for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in celebration of their engagement. It was to be the first Prince’s Trust Gala performance. Pete Townshend explained to the press that Mick was by far the best bassist in the U.K. and therefore the obvious choice.MK-live aid-small

In 1983, Japan’s live album, Oil on Canvas, brought his playing to new ears: jazz legend Jan Garbarek. The following year brought an unlikely collaboration with Peter Murphy of Bauhaus as Dalis Car. The Waking Hour became Dalis Car’s only album and soon Karn was again a solo agent teaming up with close friend Steve Jansen to produce Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters.

Session work with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading bridged Karn’s solo efforts, which were few and far between, often odd in title and texture (Beard in the Letter Box, Plaster the Magic Tongue). The early ’90s saw a more prolific Karn who formed the label Medium with Jansen and Richard Barbieri. All three joined guitarist David Torn to produce his best efforts: Bestial Cluster(1993) and The Tooth Mother in 1995. Between these came an experimental project, Polytown, again with Torn and drummer Terry Bozzio.

In 2004 he moved back to Cyrpus with his family to spend time writing and making sculptures. The results were muscular and at times funky prog rock, not always for the fainthearted. Karn found time to spend on his sculpture and a San Francisco sabbatical eventually bore the album Each Eye a Path. The Concrete Twin was his last album released in 2010.

Having been diagnosed with advanced cancer he moved back to London for treatment and was working with his old Dalis Car partner Peter Murphy on a new album, when he died on 4 January 2011 at the age of 52 years 5 months and 11 days.

The recordings were posthumously released on an EP titled: InGladAloneness

Mick Karn was not just a musician, he was a talented sculptor and photographer too. His sculptures were often treated like his music. Each work, once completed, would be sold, given away to (sometimes forgotten or lost) friends or just destroyed. Likewise, Karn never, or rarely listened again to any music he wrote or contributed to. He described the sustainability, validity and timelessness of his two main creative outputs on his website: “During a short interval between [musical]pieces, we are acutely aware of time as we wait for it to restart but oblivious to how long has passed when enjoying a piece. Sculpture defies time. A piece of bronze will outlive all of us and stretch far into the future.” – “Unlike music, the older a piece of visual art, the more valuable it becomes.”

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Gerry Rafferty 1/2011

Gerry RaffertyJanuary 4, 2011 – Gerald “Gerry” Rafferty was born on 16 April 1947 into a working-class family in Underwood Lane in Paisley, Scotland, a son and grandson of coal miners. He grew up in a council house on the town’s Foxbar estate and was educated at St Mirin’s Academy. His Irish-born father, a violent alcoholic, was a miner and lorry driver who died when Rafferty was 16. His mother taught him both Irish and Scottish folk songs as a boy; later, he was influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

In 1963 he left St. Mirin’s Academy and had several jobs while playing in a local group, the Mavericks. In 1966 Gerry and his school friend Joe Egan released a single, “Benjamin Day”/”There’s Nobody Here”, as members of The Fifth Column.In 1969 he joined comedian Billy Connolly in a folk band The Humblebums, recording 2 albums, ‘The New Humblebums‘ and ‘Open Up the Door‘. A 1970 appearance at the Royal Festival Hall, supporting Fotheringay with Nick Drake, earned a positive review from critic Karl Dallas, who noted that all three acts showed “promise rather than fulfilment”, and observed that “Gerry Rafferty’s songs have the sweet tenderness of Paul McCartney in his ‘Yesterday’ mood”.

In his own stand-up shows, Connolly has often recalled this period, telling how Rafferty made him laugh and describing the crazy things they did while on tour.It was Gerry who urged Connolly to go it alone as a comic, after which Gerry recorded a first solo album, ‘Can I Have My Money Back’. Billboard praised the album as “high-grade folk-rock”, describing it as Rafferty’s “finest work” to date: “His tunes are rich and memorable with an undeniable charm that will definitely see him into the album and very possibly singles charts soon”. 

Yet although the album was a critical success, it did not enjoy commercial success. According to Rafferty’s daughter Martha, it was around this time that her father discovered, by chance, Colin Wilson’s classic book The Outsider, about alienation and creativity, which became a huge influence both on his songwriting and his outlook on the world: “The ideas and references contained in that one book were to sustain and inspire him for the rest of his life.” Rafferty later confirmed that alienation was the “persistent theme” of his songs; “To Each and Everyone”, from Can I Have My Money Back?, was an early example.

In 1972, having gained some airplay from his Signpost recording “Make You, Break You”, Rafferty joined Egan to form Stealers Wheel and recorded three albums with the American songwriters and producers Leiber & Stoller. The group was beset by legal wranglings, but had a huge hit “Stuck in the Middle With You”, which earned critical acclaim as well as commercial success: a 1975 article in Sounds described it as “a sort of cross between white label Beatles and punk Dylan yet with a unique Celtic flavor that has marked all their work”. Twenty years later, the song was used prominently in the 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs, although Rafferty refused to grant permission for its re-release. Stealers Wheel also produced the lesser top 50 hits, “Everything’ll Turn Out Fine”, followed by “Star”, and there were further suggestions of Rafferty’s growing alienation in tracks such as “Outside Looking In” and “Who Cares”. The duo disbanded in 1975 and what followed was three years of legal misery, before he smashed the world with the mega hit Baker Street.

According to producer Murphy, interviewed by Billboard in 1993, he and Rafferty had to beg the record label, United Artists, to release “Baker Street” as a single: “They actually said it was too good for the public.” It was a good call: the single reached #3 in the UK and #2 in the US. The album sold over 5.5 million copies, toppling the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the US on 8 July 1978. Rafferty considered this his first proper taste of success, as he told Melody Maker the following year: “…all the records I’ve ever done before have been flops. Stealers Wheel was a flop. ‘Can I Have My Money Back?’ was a flop. The Humblebums were a flop… My life doesn’t stand or fall by the amount of people who buy my records.”

The lyrics of “Baker Street” reflected Rafferty’s disenchantment with certain elements of the music industry. “Baker Street” was about how uncomfortable he felt in the star system, and what do you know, it was a giant world hit. The album City to City went to No. 1 in America, and suddenly he found that as a result of his protest, he was a bigger star than ever. And he now had more of what he didn’t like. And although he had a few more hit singles in the United States, by 1980 it was basically all over, and when I say ‘it’, I mean basically his career, because he just was not comfortable with this.

Gerry Rafferty was an anti-superstar, one that can only be described by the people that lived with and around him. Following is from his website biography, maintained by his daughter.

How do you put into a few lines the sum of a persons life and their work? Many of you will already know and have read the ‘Wiki’ version of events, which seems to be where we are supposed to turn for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but etc… And yes, times, dates and places are all present and correct and it’s definitely a useful reference point.

But when looking through that window at the life and work of Gerry Rafferty, or ‘Faither’ to me, there is so much more to say. So here’s my own, more personal summing up, which hopefully will resonate with some of you out there, to whom his music and song have meant so much.

My earliest memories are of hearing my Dad sitting at the piano late into the night, singing his heart out. He was always alone, just his voice and the piano. Listening through the walls, it didn’t seem strange that he was alone, beacuse there was definitely an interaction going on, a giving and receiving, at some level. He was much more of a night person than a day person. He seemed to long for the darkness to come down and shroud him with it’s anonymity. It was in that darkness that he could open up, let his light shine. He didn’t need or want anyone in that space, his songs were mainly born out of those long nights, alone at the piano.

Daytimes were my Mum’s responsibility, which is just as well, otherwise I’d never have gone to school. Father would appear late afternoon, exchange a few pleasantries, generally crack a few jokes but the main event was when he would get back to work.

He had an incredibly strong work ethic and had little respect for those that didn’t share that drive. He hated the waiting around bits in life and was incredibly impatient. He despised the mindless passing of time and the general level of mediocrity which he witnessed in society. Perhaps as an antidote to that general malaise, he read.

He was incredibly well educated, all off his own back. Having left school at 15 years old and, by his own admission, having learnt nothing, he went on to be able to converse on pretty much any subject thrown at him. There were literally whole walls of book shelves at home and he’d read every single word. Mainly Philosophy, Art, Religion, Psychology and many a Biography.

He loved to talk, not shallow, party chit chat, which he loathed, but long, intelligent and illuminating conversation. Conversations which inspired you to strive and live and laugh and left you with the warm glow of possibility and that deep down knowledge that everything was, is and always will be, just fine.

He identified with the struggles and creativity of other artists, with their pain and often with their sense of isolation. That was one of the big themes in his life, isolation. Whether self imposed or just an awareness of the reality of the human condition, it’s hard to say, probably a bit of both. In that respect, a key book he discovered at the age of 23 was Colin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’. He often told me the story of how we’d just moved into a house in Sandhurst Road, near Tunbridge Wells and one morning as he lay in bed he leaned over the side and found that book lying there.

It was a pivotal moment. The ideas and references contained in that one book were to sustain and inspire him for the rest of his life. The album ‘City to City’ which was namely about travelling from London to Glasgow, was largely influenced by this book. Wilson, only 24 at the time, wrote the book in The British Library whilst sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. Its themes are alienation, creativity and the banality of the modern mind-set. It was exactly these themes which my Father experienced during those frequent trips down to London to deal with the machinations of the music business and it was ‘The Outsider’ which introduced him to the possibility that there was a way out, the means to transcend the ordinary. Hope.

‘Baker Street’ was born directly from these experiences and in that saxophone solo one can hear the soaring, transcendent optimism of the promise of a new life, a new way of living, the discovery that life could, indeed, be ultimately meaningful.

He would have loved to have written that book, I’m sure. But, having received very little by way of a formal education, he used the medium of the popular song, in very much the same capacity. His music has left an indelible mark on the lives of many and so, I hope, it will continue to do so far into the future, wherever that is…..

Thanks for listening

Martha Rafferty
Edinburgh.
October 10th 2011.

Gerry Rafferty was 63 years 8 months 19 days old when he died on 4 January 2011. His liver just gave out.

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Brian Pendleton 5/2001

May 16, 2001 – Brian Pendleton (The Pretty Things) was born on 13th April 1944 in Wolverhampton, to Raymond and Kathleen Pendleton (nee Brownsword); Raymond and Kathleen had married early in 1942. Brian was born in Wolverhampton Road in the Heath Town district of the city, at an address that no longer exists. When he was still a baby the Pendletons moved to Dartford in Kent and his younger sister was born in 1950.

The teenage Brian attended Dartford Grammar School. He was in the year below future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor and superstar-to-be Mick Jagger. Although Brian and Dick would recognize each other at a later date (Dick certainly remembered Brian from school) it seems that as they were in different years they didn’t speak much, it is a playground truth that those pupils in the years below were not generally considered worthy of attention and this is doubtless still the case today! English schools divide their pupils into groups called ‘houses’ which are usually named after a person of local historic significance and represented by a color. Brian was a member of the house called Daeth, possibly in honor of a local (Dartford) family; it’s color was yellow. Peter Pike was in the same year as Brian and recalls that he was a reserved character but could from time to time be funny and lively.

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