December 25, 2016 – George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, North London, England on June 25, 1963. His father, was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, who moved to England in the 1950s and his mother, was a dancer. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth.
While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire where he attended Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, and where he also befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. Continue reading George Michael 12/2016
December 24, 2016 – RickParfitt (Status Quo) was born in Woking, Surrey on 12 October 1948. His father was an insurance salesman “who was a drinker and a gambler” and his mother worked in cake shops. He described his upbringing as “wonderful”, and has described his childhood self as a “typical naughty boy”.
Parfitt first started to learn to play the guitar at the age of 11. He began playing a guitar when he was 11. In 1963 Parfitt was playing guitar and singing in The Feathers, a pub on Goodge Street in Camden, London, when his father was approached by an agent from Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, who gave Parfitt a performing job. At the camp Parfitt joined Jean and Gloria Harrison, performing at the time as the double act The Harrison Twins, to form a cabaret trio called The Highlights.
December 7, 2016 – Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born on 10 November 1947 in Poole, Dorset near Bournemouth, England. Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor called Don Strike.
first learned to play guitar at age 12. After 12 months of guitar lessons, Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows but his instructor “wouldn’t have any of it.” After he left school, Lake worked as a draughtsman for a short period of time before he joined The Shame, where he is featured on their single “Don’t Go Away Little Girl”, written by Janis Ian. Lake then became a member of The Gods, which he described as “a very poor training college”.
November 12, 2016 – Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1941. An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play.
He started classical piano lessons when he was 4 years old, played baritone horn in his high school marching band and also learned trumpet. At 14 he started gigging in Oklahoma; since it was a dry state at the time, he could play clubs without being old enough to drink. Soon after he graduated from high school, Jerry Lee Lewis hired him and his band to back him on tour for two months.
November 7, 2016 – Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on September 21, 1934 and raised in the English-speaking Westmount area. His father, who had a clothing store passed away when Leonard was 9.
In high school he was involved with the student council and studied music and poetry. He became especially interested in the poetry of Federico García Lorca, after whom he named his daughter (Lorca) with artist/photographer Suzanne Elrod.
Even though poetry and writing were his first interests, he learned to play the guitar as a teenager and formed a country–folk group called The Buckskin Boys. Although he initially played a regular acoustic guitar, he soon switched to playing a classical guitar after meeting a young Spanish flamenco guitar player who taught him “a few chords and some flamenco.” Continue reading Leonard Cohen 11/2016
October 23, 2016 –Pete Burns was born on August 5, 1959 in Port Sunlight, Cheshire, England. His mother was the daughter of a German Jew and had escaped Nazi Germany before the war. She met Burns’s father, Francis Burns, then a soldier, in Vienna, from where they returned together to Liverpool.
Burns described his upbringing as unconventional. His mother was an alcoholic, and attempted suicide several times when Burns was growing up.
“As far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn’t a mother, but she’s the best human being that I’ve ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me,” he said. “She called me ‘Star Baby’ and she knew that there was something special in me.”
September 24, 2016 – Buckwheat Zydeco was born Stanley Dural Jr. born in Lafayette, Louisiana on November 14, 1947. He acquired his nickname as a youth, because, with his braided hair, he looked like the character Buckwheat from Our Gang/The Little Rascals movies. His father, a farmer, was an accomplished amateur traditional Creole accordion player, but young Dural preferred listening to and playing rhythm and blues.
Dural became proficient at the organ, and by the late 1950s he was backing Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many others.
August 20, 2016 – Matt Roberts (Three Doors Down) was born in rural Mississippi in 1978 – Roberts grew up with lead singer Brad Arnold (vocalist/drummer) and bassist Todd Harrell in Escatawpa, Mississippi, where they formed 3 Doors Down in 1994. He became a seasoned guitarist and back-up vocalist for the group,
The founding members of 3 Doors Down were raised in Escatawpa, a cozy town of 8,000 people in rural Mississippi. Although brought up in religious households, the musicians also felt the call of rock & roll at an early age, eventually forming a rock trio in 1994 to play a friend’s backyard party.
June 28, 2016 – Winfield Scott “Scotty” Moore III, (Elvis Presley) was born on December 27, 1931 near Gadsden, Tennessee. He learned to play the guitar from family and friends at eight years of age. Although underage when he enlisted, Moore served in the United States Navy between 1948 and 1952. Moore’s early background was in jazz and country music. A fan of guitarist Chet Atkins, Moore led a group called the “Starlite Wranglers” before Sam Phillips at Sun Records put him together with then teenage Elvis Presley. The trio was completed with bass player Bill Black, who brought a “rhythmic propulsion” that much pleased Phillips.
In 1954 Moore and Black accompanied Elvis on what would become the first legendary Presley hit, the Sun Studios session cut of “That’s All Right”, a recording regarded as a seminal event in rock and roll history. Continue reading Scotty Moore 6/2016
June 14, 2016 – Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (Wings) was born in Northern Ireland on 21 July 1943. He first came to prominence as a guitar player of talent in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with The Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen. In 1964, with three other members of The Skyrockets, he left and formed a new showband fronted by South African born vocalist Gene Chetty, which they named Gene and The Gents.
In 1967 McCullough moved to Belfast where he joined Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (vocals) and Dave Lutton (drums) to form the psychedelic band The People. Later that year the band moved to London and were signed by Chas Chandler’s management team, who changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under Chandler’s guidance after a single release they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals. Continue reading Henry McCullough 6/2016
May 21, 2016 – Nicholas “Nick” Menza was born on July 23, 1964 in Münich, Germany. As the son of jazz musician Don Menza, Nick began playing drums at the age of two, at which age he performed at his first public concert when during the intermission someone sat him down on Jack DeJohnette’s drums and he proceeded to play. His influences stem from being nurtured around the tutelage of such notables as Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Nick Ceroli, Jeff Porcaro and Louie Bellson.
Beginning his professional musical career at the age of 18 drumming in the band Rhoads featuring singer Kelle Rhoads, brother of the late Randy Rhoads, Nick released his first record with Rhoads called Into the Future in Europe.
April 21, 2016 – Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor, Prince became a superstar between 1978 and 1990 and beyond. He was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Prince developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. Continue reading Prince 4/2016
March 10, 2016 – Keith Noel Emerson (Emerson,Lake,Palmer ELP) was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 2 November 1944. His family had been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the Second World War. He grew up in Goring-by-Sea, in the borough of the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex and attended West Tarring School. His parents were musically inclined and arranged for him to take piano lessons starting at the age of 8. His father, Noel, was an amateur pianist, and thought that Emerson would benefit most as a player from being versatile and being able to read music. However, he never received any formal musical training, and described his piano teachers as being “local little old ladies”. He learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz and rock themes. Continue reading Keith Emerson 3/2016
March 8, 2016 – George Martin (the Fifth Beatle) A trained musician, George Martin worked in the BBC’s classical department before moving to EMI and its subsidiary, Parlophone, producing jazz and classical as well as comedy records for Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov. He was the genius producer behind a wave of hit British acts in the 1960s, including Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, but it was his work with four other Liverpudlians that understandably overshadowed them all.
The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June 1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best’s drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay, that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.
February 15, 2016 – Vanity was born Denise Katrina Matthews on January 4, 1959 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Helga Senyk and Levia James Matthews. Her mother was of Polish, German, and Jewish descent and was born in Germany, while her father was of African-American descent and was born in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Growing up in Niagara Falls, God wasn’t her priority. She was more concerned with hiding bruises from her classmates at Princess Margaret elementary school. Routinely beaten by an alcoholic father, Matthews rarely discussed her home life with friends. “She didn’t really like to,” recalls Debbie Rossi, one of Matthews’ best friends at Princess Margaret and later Stamford Collegiate. “And I wasn’t one to force. I just wanted to listen.”
Matthews didn’t confide because she thought every household was like this. Her father, James Levia Matthews, died in 1974 when she was 15 years old. Instead of feeling free, she watched her mother sink deeper into depression and alcoholism.
February 4, 2016 – Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the eldest of nine siblings. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his grandmother in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones, with whom he formed a “cookin’ little band” while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He made frequent trips to Chicago to visit his mother, Edna, and stepfather, Verdine Adams, who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.
January 28, 2016 – Signe Toly Anderson-Jefferson Airplane – was born Signe Toly on September 15, 1941 in Seattle on September 15, 1941. She was raised in Portland, Oregon after her parents divorced
In 1965s she was living in San Francisco and gaining recognition as an accomplished jazz/folk singer, when vocalist Marty Balin heard her sing at a popular folk club, the Drinking Gourd and asked her to join a folk-rock group he was forming.
The band, soon christened Jefferson Airplane, signed with RCA Victor Records and released its first album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” in 1966.
Soon after joining the Airplane, she married one of the Merry Pranksters, Jerry Anderson, a marriage that lasted from 1965 to 1974. She sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, most notably on the song “Chauffeur Blues”. Just as Jefferson Airplane was ascending, Anderson gave birth to her first child. Realizing that life on the road with a newborn was unfeasible, Anderson opted to part ways with Jefferson Airplane in 1966. Anderson remained with the group while they searched for a replacement, eventually choosing the Great Society singer Grace Slick, who brought that band’s “Someone to Love” (retitled “Somebody to Love”) and her “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane.
January 28, 2016 – Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane founding guitarist) was born on March 17, 1941, in San Francisco, California. Kantner had a half-brother and a half-sister by his father’s first marriage, both much older than he. His father was of German descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His mother died when he was eight years old, and Kantner remembered that he was not allowed to attend her funeral. His father sent him to the circus instead. After his mother’s death, his father, who was a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner to Catholic military boarding school. At age eight or nine, in the school’s library, he read his first science fiction book, finding an escape by immersing himself in science fiction and music from then on. As a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and he decided to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero, Pete Seeger. He attended Saint Mary’s College High School, Santa Clara University and San Jose State College, completing a total of three years of college before he dropped out to enter the music scene.
January 18, 2016 – Glenn Frey was born on Nov. 6, 1948 in Detroit and was raised in nearby Royal Oak. He grew up on both the Motown sounds and harder-edged rock of his hometown. He played in a succession of local bands in the city and first connected with Bob Seger when Frey’s band, the Mushrooms, convinced Seger to write a song for them. Frey can also be heard singing extremely loud backing vocals (particularly on the first chorus) on Seger’s first hit and Frey’s first recorded appearance, 1968’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”
But it wasn’t long before warmer climes called and Frey followed then-girlfriend Joan Silwin to Los Angeles. Her sister Alexandra was a member of Honey Ltd., a girl group associated with Nancy Sinatra producer Lee Hazelwood, and she introduced Frey to her friend John David Souther.
2016 – David Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947 in South London, England. Bowie developed an early interest in music although his attempts to succeed as a pop star during much of the 1960s were frustrated. Bowie’s first hit song, “Space Oddity”, reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969.
After a three-year period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie’s impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture”. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one facet of a career marked by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation. Continue reading David Bowie 1/2016
2016 Was a Tough Year for Rock and Roll Superstars. We lost at least a handful of Superstars, such as David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince early in the year and Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and George Michael in the last two months of the year. Throughout the rest of the year we had to say goodbye to a list of high profiled musicians and singers such as Jefferson Airplane’s founder/guitarist Paul Kantner who died on the same day and at the same age as the band’s original female singer Signe Toly !