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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.

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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

Continue reading Amy Winehouse 7/2011

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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