March 17, 2019 – Bernie Tormé (guitarist for Ozzy, Gillan, Dee Snider and others) was born in Dublin on March 18, 1952, where he learned to play guitar. In 1974 he moved to London, joining bassist John McCoy in heavy rockers Scrapyard. After forming the Bernie Tormé Band two years later, he re-joined McCoy as a member of former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s new solo project, playing on four Gillan albums: Mr. Universe, Glory Road, Future Shock and Double Trouble.
In 1981 Tormé left Gillan, and joined Atomic Rooster as a session guitarist. The following year briefly joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band, stepping in for Randy Rhoads in the aftermath of the guitarist’s tragic death. Ozzy Osbourne told Total Guitar that if it wasn’t for Bernie Tormé he “might never have got back on a stage”.
He then formed Bernie Tormé And The Electric Gypsies, and in 1988 joined Desperado, the band formed by Dee Snider after Twisted Sister were disbanded, playing on their only album, Bloodied, but Unbowed.
Tormé later later reunited with ex-Gillan colleague, John McCoy and drummer Robin Guy in GMT, and returned to solo work in 2013, releasing three acclaimed albums;Flowers & Dirt(2014), Blackheart (2015) and the 3CD set Dublin Cowboy. All three were successfully crowd-funded releases.
Tormé released his latest studio album Shadowland in November last year, but his family reported that PledgeMusic – who say they’re working on a solution to address late payments to artists – still owed the guitarist £16,000, which was due to be sent to him in December.
Bernie Tormé passed away peacefully on March 17, 2019 , one day short of his 67th birthday, surrounded by his family. He had been on life support for the previous four weeks at a London hospital following post-flu complications and suffering from virulent pneumonia in both lungs.
Snider tweeted, “Woke up to find out my friend Bernie Tormé has died. He was a guitar god who played with OzzyOsbourne & Ian Gillan. We worked together for 3 years, writing over 100 songs for the ill-fated Desperado. I loved that man & today my heart is broken. RIP Bernie. Your guitar weeps.”
March 22, 2019 – Scott Walker (the Walker Brothers) was born January 9, 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, despite the fact that he was perceived as British. One of the more enigmatic figures in rock history, Scott Walker was known as Scotty Engel when he cut obscure flop records in the late ’50s and early ’60s in the teen idol vein.
He initially found work in Los Angeles as a bass player, but rose to fame in the United Kingdom, after he hooked up with John Maus and Gary Leeds to form the Walker Brothers. They weren’t named Walker, they weren’t brothers, and they weren’t English, but they nevertheless became a part of the British Invasion after moving to the U.K. in 1965. They enjoyed a couple of years of massive success there (and a couple of hits in the U.S.) The Walker Brothers was a well-groomed trio famous for their British Invasion renditions of Brill Building pop. With the help of Scott Walker’s booming baritone, the act topped the British charts with covers of “Make It Easy On Yourself” (1965) and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” (1966), but in the US, the trio never achieved the superstardom that they enjoyed overseas. As their full-throated lead singer and principal songwriter, Walker was the dominant artistic force in the group, who split in 1967.
While remaining virtually unknown in his homeland, Walker launched a hugely successful solo career in Britain with a unique blend of orchestrated, almost MOR arrangements with idiosyncratic and morose lyrics. At the height of psychedelia, Walker openly looked to crooners like Sinatra, Jack Jones, and Tony Bennett for inspiration, and to Jacques Brel for much of his material. None of those balladeers, however, would have sung about the oddball subjects — prostitutes, transvestites, suicidal brooders, plagues, and Joseph Stalin — that populated Walker’s songs. His first four albums hit the Top Ten in the U.K. — his second, in fact, reached number one in 1968, in the midst of the hippie era. By the time of 1969’s Scott 4, the singer was writing all of his material. Although this was perhaps his finest album, it was a commercial disappointment, and unfortunately discouraged him from relying entirely upon his own material on subsequent releases.
The ’70s were a frustrating period for Walker, pocked with increasingly sporadic releases and a largely unsuccessful reunion with his “brothers” in the middle of the decade. His work on the Walkers’ final album in 1978 prompted admiration from David Bowie and Brian Eno. After a long period of hibernation, he emerged in 1984 with an album, Climate of Hunter, that drew critical raves for a minimalist, trance-like ambience that showed him keeping abreast of cutting-edge ’80s rock trends.
It would 11 more years before Walker completed his metamorphosis from pop crooner to avant-garde godfather. That would come on 1995’s Tilt, a shocking post-apocalyptic work of art that matched dark, enigmatic songwriting and dissonant orchestral production. Tying it all together was Walker’s inimitable voice, which he pushed to awkward, operatic heights. Tilt was a harrowing listen, but its uncompromising singularity attracted experimental music fans of all types.
Again, it would be 11 years before Walker would release new music, but this time the lag was to no one’s surprise. He had developed a reputation as a perfectionist who operated on his own schedule. When 2006’s The Drift was released on 4AD, Walker again sent shockwaves through the avant-garde community. While Tilt was, in part, adored for its misdirection, The Drift was celebrated for its execution. As the second part of Walker’s late-career trilogy, it took his ornate orchestration to new depths; every second of its nearly 70-minute runtime felt intentional and intricate.
During the next several years, he contributed to soundtracks (To Have and to Hold, The World Is Not Enough, Pola X) and assisted with recordings by Ute Lemper and Pulp. He didn’t release another album until 2006. That year, Walker also contributed the track “Darkness” to Plague Songs for the Margate Exodus project, curated by the British arts organization Artangel. The concept centered around the retelling of the ten plagues of Egypt as recorded in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. In early 2007, the documentary film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, premiered. Later that year, Walker released the limited-edition EP And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball? Commissioned as a work for ballet by the Candoco Dance Company, it was comprised of a single piece of instrumental music, 24 minutes in length, performed by the London Sinfonietta and cellist Philip Sheppard.
In November of 2008, the musical theater work Drifting and Tilting: The Songs of Scott Walker was staged at London’s Barbican over three evenings. It was comprised of songs from Tilt and The Drift. Walker did not perform, but directed the work from conception to execution including staging, lighting, and orchestra. The vocals were performed by various singers, including Damon Albarn, Dot Allison, and Jarvis Cocker. In 2009, the album Music Inspired by Scott Walker: 30 Century Man appeared, featuring songs inspired by the film sung by Laurie Anderson and other female Walker devotees. Also in 2009, Walker dueted with British singer Natasha Khan on her Bat for Lashes album Two Suns. In 2012, he released Bish Bosch. He regarded it as the third and final part of the trilogy that began with Tilt and continued on The Drift andthen surprised many fans with Soused, a collaboration with doom-metal droners Sunn O))), in 2014. The last recording released during his lifetime was the 2018 score to the Brady Corbet-directed film Vox Lux.
Scott Walker died from cancer at age 76 on March 22, 2019. He influenced everyone from Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) to Thom Yorke (Radiohead), and even newer artists like Bat for Lashes.
March 16, 2019 – Dick Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937 1937; his father was Lebanese, his mother Polish. As a child, he was exposed to folk music from both cultures, which had an impact on his sense of melody and the ways string instruments could be picked. He also heard lots of big band swing, and found his first musical hero in drummer Gene Krupa, who later wound up influencing a percussive approach to guitar so intense that Dale regularly broke the heaviest-gauge strings available and ground his picks down to nothing several times in the same song.
He taught himself to play country songs on the ukulele, and soon graduated to guitar, where he was also self-taught. His father encouraged him and offered career guidance, and in 1954, the family moved to Southern California. At the suggestion of a country DJ, Monsour adopted the stage name Dick Dale, and he began performing in local talent shows, where his budding interest in rockabilly made him a popular act. He recorded a demo song, “Ooh-Whee Marie,” for the local Del-Fi label, which was later released as a single on his father’s new Deltone imprint and distributed locally. During the late ’50s, Dale also became an avid surfer, and soon set about finding ways to mimic the surging sounds and feelings of the sport and the ocean on his guitar. He quickly developed a highly distinctive instrumental sound and found an enthusiastic, ready-made audience in his surfer friends. Dale began playing regular gigs at the Rendezvous Ballroom, a once-defunct concert venue near Newport Beach, with his backing band the Del-Tones; as word spread and gigs at other local halls followed, Dale became a wildly popular attraction, drawing thousands of fans to every performance. In September 1961, Deltone released Dale’s single “Let’s Go Trippin’,” which is generally acknowledged to be the very first recorded surf instrumental.
In the space of a few short years, the Boston-born, Southern California transplant had merged the laid-back, sun-blasted lifestyle of the surf scene with a blistering rhythm of rockabilly and early rock-and-roll. As the mad scientist behind what was dubbed surf rock, Dale was, in the words of a 1963 Life magazine profile, a thumping teenage idol who is part evangelist, part Pied Piper and all success. The music Dale and his band the Del-Tones made poured out of radios, sound-tracked popular beach movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, and lit inspirational fires in other musicians like the Beach Boys. Fans crowned him The King of the Surf Guitar. Dick Dale wasn’t nicknamed “King of the Surf Guitar” for nothing: he pretty much invented the style single-handedly, and no matter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remained the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre ever produced. Dale’s pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familial heritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such “exotic” scales in guitar-shredder academies by two decades. The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique was unrivaled until it entered the repertoires of metal virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen, and his wild showmanship made an enormous impression on the young Jimi Hendrix. But those aren’t the only reasons Dale was once called the father of heavy metal. Working closely with the Fender company, Dale continually pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing the thick, clearly defined tones he heard in his head, at the previously undreamed-of volumes he demanded. He also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects, creating a signature sonic texture for surf instrumentals. And, if all that weren’t enough, Dale managed to redefine his instrument while essentially playing it upside-down and backwards — he switched sides in order to play left-handed, but without re-stringing it (as Hendrix later did). “I once made a million dollars a year with my career,” Dale reminisced to the Los Angeles Times magazine in 2001. “I made $10,000 for three minutes work on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1963.”
Dale’s signature guitar style was the result of a happy accident. Most guitars are strung for a right-handed player. Dale, a lefty, originally picked up the guitar upside down so he could play naturally without restringing the instrument, leaving the thicker strings on the bottom of the fret board. “Nobody told me I was holding it wrong,” Dale explained to the Orange County Register in 2009. “I just taught myself to play it like that. It was hard at first.”
“Let’s Go Trippin'” was a huge local hit, and even charted nationally. Dale released a few more local singles, including “Jungle Fever,” “Miserlou,” and “Surf Beat,” and in 1962 issued his (and surf music’s) first album, the groundbreaking Surfer’s Choice, on Deltone. Surfer’s Choice sold like hotcakes around Southern California, which earned Dale a contract with Capitol Records and national distribution for the album. Dale was featured in Life magazine in 1963, which led to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and the Frankie/Annette film Beach Party. Surf music became a national fad, with groups like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean offering a vocal variant to complement the wave of instrumental groups, all of which were indebted in some way to Dale, who released the follow-up LP King of the Surf Guitar and went on to issue three more albums on Capitol through 1965. But the British Invasion began to steal much of surf’s thunder, and soon Dale was dropped by Capitol in 1965. He remained a wildly popular local act, but in that same year he was diagnosed with rectal cancer, which forced him to temporarily retire from music.
Doctors told the guitarist that without aggressive surgery, he could be dead in a matter of months. He survived, but the cancer bout whittled Dale from 158 pounds to 98 pounds, and also drained his bank account of his pop star proceeds. He moved to Hawaii and stayed away from music for a number of years. He beat the disease, however, and soon began pursuing other interests: owning and caring for a variety of endangered animals, studying martial arts, designing his parents’ dream house, and learning to pilot planes. In 1979, a puncture wound suffered while surfing off Newport Beach led to a pollution-related infection that nearly cost him his leg; Dick Dale soon added environmental activist to his resume. In addition to all of that, he performed occasionally around Southern California throughout the ’70s and ’80s. In 1986, Dale attempted to mount a comeback. He first recorded a benefit single for the UC-Irvine Medical Center’s burn unit (which had helped him recuperate from potentially serious injuries), and the following year appeared in the beach movie Back to the Beach. The soundtrack featured a duet between Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan on, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. In 1991, Dale did a guest spot on an album by the San Francisco-based Psychefunkapus, and a successful Bay Area gig got him signed with Hightone Records.
The album Tribal Thunder was released in 1993, but Dale’s comeback didn’t get into full swing until “Miserlou” was chosen as the opening theme to Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster 1994 film ‘Pulp Fiction’. “Miserlou” became synonymous with Pulp Fiction’s ultra-hip sense of style, and was soon licensed in countless commercials (as were several other Daletracks). As a result, Tribal Thunder and its 1994 follow-up, Unknown Territory, attracted lots of attention, earning positive reviews and surprisingly strong sales. In 1996, he supported the Beggars Banquet album Calling Up Spirits by joining the normally punk- and ska-oriented Warped Tour. Adding his wife and young drum-playing son to his band, Dale refocused on touring over the next few years. He finally returned with a new CD in 2001,’ Spacial Disorientation’, issued on the small Sin-Drome label. Dale stepped away from his recording career after that release, but he continued to play out frequently, even as he struggled with myriad health problems, including diabetes, rectal cancer, and heart and kidney disease. Dale still had a busy schedule of concert dates on his schedule when he died on March 16, 2019, at the age of 81.
Tributes have begun popping up online, with many celebrating his distinctive sound. But the musician’s life story was also a constant struggle against health problems — and to pay medical bills. After his first cancer diagnosis in 1965, Dale continued to battle the disease. Up until the end of his life, Dale was explicit that he toured to fund his treatment.
“I can’t stop touring because I will die. Physically and literally, I will die,” he told the Pittsburgh City Paper in 2015. “Sure, I’d love to stay home and build ships in a bottle and spend time with my wife in Hawaii, but I have to perform to save my life.”
Peter Tork (The Monkees) was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson on February 13, 1942 in Washington DC. His father John taught economics at the University of Connecticut. He began studying piano at the age of nine, showing an aptitude for music by learning to play several different instruments, including the banjo, French horn and both acoustic bass and guitars. Tork attended Windham High School in Willimantic, Connecticut, and was a member of the first graduating class at E. O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut. He attended Carleton College in Minnesota but, after flunking out, moved to New York City, where he became part of the folk music scene in Greenwich Village and with his guitar and five-string banjo he began playing small folk clubs. He billed himself as Tork, a nickname handed down by his father, and reportedly played with members of the soon-to-be formed band Lovin’ Spoonful (Summer in the City). While there, he befriended other up-and-coming musicians such as Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills Nash and Young).When Tork “failed to break open the folk circuit,” as he later phrased it, he moved to Long Beach, California in mid-1965. Later that summer, he fielded two calls from his friend Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), who had auditioned with more than 400 others for the Monkees. Stills urged Tork to try out. “They told Steve, ‘Your hair and teeth aren’t photogenic, but do you know anyone who looks like you that can sing?’ And Steve told them about me,” Tork told the Washington Post in 1983.