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Moon Martin 5/20

May 11, 2020 – John David “Moon” Martin was born on October 31, 1945 (some report 1950 but not true) in Altus, Oklahoma.

If you go to Moon’s Wikipedia page, it says he was born in 1950. But if you read some of the obits, he was born in 1945. Which makes complete sense. If for no other reason than his hair was prematurely gray nearly instantly. And there’s no way he could have played with Hendrix and Joplin if he was only 20, they died in 1970. But Martin did.

His first band, The Disciples, later renamed Southwind, formed in Norman while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma and then relocated to Los Angeles where they attained some success and even toured with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix before calling it quits in 1972. After a brief stint playing with Linda Rondstadt, John focused on session work and songwriting, penning the hit track “Cadillac Walk” which was recorded by Mink DeVille on his debut album.

And then came “Bad Case of Loving You.”

By this time we’d already moved on to the second album, “Escape From Domination,” “Rolene” was heard on KROQ, back when that was a free form station, before the ROQ of the 80s, before the death of rock and the decimation of the station this year. But at this point, Moon Martin was not famous for the Robert Palmer cover, but the Willy DeVille covers.

By 1978 he was recording under the moniker “Moon” Martin due to his multiple song lyrics referring to the moon. He began his solo career with his Victim of Romance EP that included his most successful song “Bad Case of Loving You.” Robert Palmer – Singer would later cover the song, making it a Top 20 hit a year later. Moon’s first solo album, Shots From a Cold Nightmare, remains a Power Pop classic.

Moon Martin sold his soul to rock and roll. He followed the music to the very last note. He died with his guitar strap on, coming out of the studio after a full day’s work on a new album. It wasn’t a fling, something Moon did before law school. He had no desire to work at the bank. (Although let’s not forget Harry Nilsson was a teller!) It was all music, all the time.

It is said they he had lived comfortably off his song royalties, until the day he died. A true exception i rock-n-roll.

He was 74 years old, and he had become a little frail over the last few years…He went to sleep in a big easy chair in his living room with a book in his hand, a blanket in his lap, and a little glass of Coke on the nightstand next to him. He left this world as peacefully as anybody could ever hope to

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Little Richard 5/20

Little Richard in performance at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York in 2007. “He was crucial,” one historian said, “in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”

Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, delved deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, and screaming as if for his very life, he created something new, thrilling and dangerous, called rock and roll. Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records.

Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September 1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been making records for a year.

But Little Richard, delving deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his very life, raised the energy level several notches and created something not quite like any music that had been heard before — something new, thrilling and more than a little dangerous. As the rock historian Richie Unterberger put it, “He was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”

Art Rupe of Specialty Records, the label for which he recorded his biggest hits, called Little Richard “dynamic, completely uninhibited, unpredictable, wild.”

“Tutti Frutti” rocketed up the charts and was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” and other records now acknowledged as classics. His live performances were electrifying.

“He’d just burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience,” the record producer and arranger H.B. Barnum, who played saxophone with Little Richard early in his career, recalled in “The Life and Times of Little Richard” (1984), an authorized biography by Charles White. “He’d be on the stage, he’d be off the stage, he’d be jumping and yelling, screaming, whipping the audience on.”

An Immeasurable Influence

Rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, but Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage: gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup. He was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen. Offstage, he characterized himself variously as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual.”

His influence as a performer was immeasurable. It could be seen and heard in the flamboyant showmanship of James Brown, who idolized him (and used some of his musicians when Little Richard began a long hiatus from performing in 1957), and of Prince, whose ambisexual image owed a major debt to his.

Presley recorded his songs. The Beatles adopted his trademark sound, an octave-leaping exultation: “Woooo!” (Paul McCartney said that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” which he later recorded with the Beatles.) Bob Dylan wrote in his high school yearbook that his ambition was “to join Little Richard.”

Little Richard’s impact was social as well.

Little Richard in the mid-1950s, around the time his first hit record, “Tutti Frutti,” was released.
Little Richard in the mid-1950s, around the time his first hit record, “Tutti Frutti,” was released.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“I’ve always thought that rock ’n’ roll brought the races together,” Mr. White quoted him as saying. “Especially being from the South, where you see the barriers, having all these people who we thought hated us showing all this love.”

Mr. Barnum told Mr. White that “they still had the audiences segregated” at concerts in the South in those days, but that when Little Richard performed, “most times, before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”

If uniting black and white audiences was a point of pride for Little Richard, it was a cause of concern for others, especially in the South. The White Citizens Council of North Alabama issued a denunciation of rock ’n’ roll largely because it brought “people of both races together.” And with many radio stations under pressure to keep black music off the air, Pat Boone’s cleaned-up, toned-down version of “Tutti Frutti” was a bigger hit than Little Richard’s original. (He also had a hit with “Long Tall Sally.”)

Still, it seemed that nothing could stop Little Richard’s drive to the top — until he stopped it himself.

He was at the height of his fame when he left the United States in late September 1957 to begin a tour in Australia. As he told the story, he was exhausted, under intense pressure from the Internal Revenue Service and furious at the low royalty rate he was receiving from Specialty. Without anyone to advise him, he had signed a contract that gave him half a cent for every record he sold. “Tutti Frutti” had sold half a million copies but had netted him only $25,000.

One night in early October, before 40,000 fans at an outdoor arena in Sydney, he had an epiphany.

“That night Russia sent off that very first Sputnik,” he told Mr. White, referring to the first satellite sent into space. “It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads. It shook my mind. It really shook my mind. I got up from the piano and said, ‘This is it. I am through. I am leaving show business to go back to God.’”

He had one last Top 10 hit: “Good Golly Miss Molly,” recorded in 1956 but not released until early 1958. By then, he had left rock ’n’ roll behind.

He became a traveling evangelist. He entered Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Ala., a Seventh-day Adventist school, to study for the ministry. He cut his hair, got married and began recording gospel music.

For the rest of his life, he would be torn between the gravity of the pulpit and the pull of the stage.

“Although I sing rock ’n’ roll, God still loves me,” he said in 2009. “I’m a rock ’n’ roll singer, but I’m still a Christian.”

He was lured back to the stage in 1962, and over the next two years he played to wild acclaim in England, Germany and France. Among his opening acts were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, then at the start of their careers.

He went on to tour relentlessly in the United States, with a band that at one time included Jimi Hendrix on guitar. By the end of the 1960s, sold-out performances in Las Vegas and triumphant appearances at rock festivals in Atlantic City and Toronto were sending a clear message: Little Richard was back to stay. But he wasn’t.

‘I Lost My Reasoning’

By his own account, alcohol and cocaine began to sap his soul (“I lost my reasoning,” he would later say), and in 1977, he once again turned from rock ’n’ roll to God. He became a Bible salesman, began recording religious songs again and, for the second time, disappeared from the spotlight.

He did not stay away forever. The publication of his biography in 1984 signaled his return to the public eye, and he began performing again.

By now, he was as much a personality as a musician. In 1986 he played a prominent role as a record producer in Paul Mazursky’s hit movie “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” On television, he appeared on talk, variety, comedy and awards shows. He officiated at celebrity weddings and preached at celebrity funerals.

He could still raise the roof in concert. In December 1992, he stole the show at a rock ’n’ roll revival concert at Wembley Arena in London. “I’m 60 years old today,” he told the audience, “and I still look remarkable.”

He continued to look remarkable — with the help of wigs and thick pancake makeup — as he toured intermittently into the 21st century. But age eventually took its toll.

By 2007, he was walking onstage with the aid of two canes. In 2012, he abruptly ended a performance at the Howard Theater in Washington, telling the crowd, “I can’t hardly breathe.” A year later, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he was retiring.

“I am done, in a sense,” he said. “I don’t feel like doing anything right now.”

Little Richard onstage at Wembley Stadium in London in 1972, on a bill that also included his fellow rock ’n’ roll pioneers Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry

Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga., on Dec. 5, 1932, the third of 12 children born to Charles and Leva Mae (Stewart) Penniman. His father was a brick mason who sold moonshine on the side. An uncle, a cousin and a grandfather were preachers, and as a boy he attended Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist and Holiness churches and aspired to be a singing evangelist. An early influence was the gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first performers to combine a religious message with the urgency of R&B.

By the time he was in his teens, Richard’s ambition had taken a detour. He left home and began performing with traveling medicine and minstrel shows, part of a 19th-century tradition that was dying out. By 1948, billed as Little Richard — the name was a reference to his youth and not his physical stature — he was a cross-dressing performer with a minstrel troupe called Sugarfoot Sam From Alabam, which had been touring for decades.

In 1951, while singing alongside strippers, comics and drag queens on the Decataur Street strip in Atlanta, he recorded his first songs. The records were generic R&B, with no distinct style, and attracted almost no attention.

Around this time, he met two performers whose look and sound would have a profound impact on his own: Billy Wright and S.Q. Reeder, who performed and recorded as Esquerita. They were both accomplished pianists, flashy dressers, flamboyant entertainers and as openly gay as it was possible to be in the South in the 1950s.

Little Richard acknowledged his debt to Esquerita, who he said gave him some piano-playing tips, and Mr. Wright, whom he once called “the most fantastic entertainer I had ever seen.” But however much he borrowed from either man, the music and persona that emerged were his own.

His break came in 1955, when Mr. Rupe signed him to Specialty and arranged for him to record with local musicians in New Orleans. During a break at that session, he began singing a raucous but obscene song that Mr. Rupe thought had the potential to capture the nascent teenage record-buying audience. Mr. Rupe enlisted a New Orleans songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, to clean up the lyrics; the song became “Tutti Frutti”; and a rock ’n’ roll star was born.

By the time he stopped performing, Little Richard was in both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (he was inducted in the Hall’s first year) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. “Tutti Frutti” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2010.

If Little Richard ever doubted that he deserved all the honors he received, he never admitted it. “A lot of people call me the architect of rock ’n’ roll,” he once said. “I don’t call myself that, but I believe it’s true.”

Little Richard died on Saturday morning May 9, 2020 in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He was 87. The cause was bone cancer. 

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Rock and Roll Heroes. I started this website sometime in 2013 as a legacy site to pay tribute to the many wonderful musicians, singer frontmen and songwriters that paved the soundtrack of my life with their music. As an amateur rocker, who did not only listen to the music, but also played in many coverbands, duos and trios over the decades since rock and roll exploded into our lives, I realized later on in life, as I’m reluctantly entering the supposedly quiet years, that rock music between the mid 1950s and the 1990s, drove our entire culture. More than ever before in history was a global generation defined by music, as Rock and Roll and Rock/Pop became the soundtrack of our lives. It changed and over time defined politics, commerce, industry, transportation, communication, social interaction and education.

For 40 years it guided our sense of values, what was waste, what was cool and what was not. The electric guitar was cool. Rock and Roll was driven by the advance of the electric guitar. It demanded attention, even if only because of the volume and reach. It guided the best educated, revolutionary generation in history into adult hood.

But when our generation and our rock and roll heroes became corporate,  too overly self important and self indulgent, Rock lost its driving cultural influence and handed it over to new genres like Hip Hop and Electronic Dance Music (EDM).

By the 1990s, as one generation handed the musical torch to a new generation, rock had been bent and bullied into new music genres, promoted by different music distribution platforms and rapidly advancing entertainment technology outlets, and we kind of turned away from rock as if it were a youthful indiscretion.

And then, as history usually goes, we turned old enough to remember the power of rock in our younger years and we created niche markets for rock to live in, at least for the remainder of our years. As we are entering the third decade of the 21st century, I am noticing that a lot of young females guitarists across the globe are picking up the rock and roll torch, aided by marketing online resources such as youTube, Patreon and Vimeo video channels. It gives me hope for the future of rock and roll. But for now it’s still a derivative of what we did fifty years ago. Give it time and they will make it their own and select new directions for rock and roll.

This website serves most as a tribute to our rock and roll heroes, and a little bit as a reminder to all of us baby boomers and rock music lovers, who picked up a guitar or kicked a drum in our formative years, and gained an understanding of how music transformed us and was our global language.

Johan Ramakers

Rock and Roll Heroes We Said Goodbye to in 2021:

• Gerry Marsden – guitarist/singer with Gerry and the Pacemakers (September 24, 1942 – January 3, 2021) – blood infection – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerry_Marsden

• Tim Bogert – Bassist/singer for Vanilla Fudge a.o. (August 27, 1944 – January 13, 2021) – Cancer –

• Sylvain Sylvain – born Sylvain Mizrahi, guitarist for the New York Dolls (February 14, 1951 – January 13, 2021) – cancer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvain_Sylvain

For all the heroes we lost in rock’s history, dating back to the early origins in the late 1930, all the way to the present day, click HERE

Rock and Roll Heroes We Said Goodbye to in 2020:

Marty Grebb – Guitarist with Bonnie Raitt/Rick Danko and the Buckinghams (Sept. 2, 1946 – January 1, 2020) – as yet unknown • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marty_Grebb

• Bo Winberg – lead guitarist fo the Spotnicks (Mach 27, 1939 – January 3, 2020) – as yet unknown • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spotnicks

• Neil Peart – drummer/lyricist for Rush (September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020) – cancer • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Peart

• Steve Martin Caro – lead singer for the Left Banke (October 12, 1948 – January 14, 2020) – heart disease •

• Mike Sommerville –guitarist/song writer for Head East (August 15, 1952 – February 28, 2020) – undisclosed •

• Kenny Rogerscountry rock star ( August 21, 1938 – March 20, 2020) – natural causes •

• Jerry Slick – drummer for the Great Society – husband of Grace Slick ( August 8, 1939 – March 20, 2020 • undisclosed

• Eric Weissberg – session banjo player – Deliverance (August 16, 1939 – March 22, 2020) – Alzheimers •

• Alan Merrill – singer/songer and co-author of I love rock and roll (February 19, 1951 – March 29, 2020) Covid-19 •

• Bill Witherssinger/songwriter “Ain’t no sunshine” etc. ( July 4, 1938 – March 30, 2020) – heart failure •

• Adam Schlesinger – singer/songwriter for Fountain of Wayne ( October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020) – Covid-19 •

• John PrineSinger/Songer “Angel from Montgomery” etc. (October 10, 1946 – April 7, 2020) – Covid-19 •

• Steve Farmer – Guitarist/songwriter for Amboy Dukes, Ted Nugent etc. ( December 31, 1948 –  April 7, 2020) – Covid-19 •

• Florian Schneider – founder/keyboards for Kraftwerk ( April 7, 1947 – April 9, 2020) – cancer •

• Dave Greenfield – founder/keys/songwriter for the Stranglers ( March 29, 1949 – May 3, 2020) – Covid-19 •

• Millie Small – Popsinger of “My Boy Lollipop” ( October 5, 1946 – May 5, 2020) – stroke •

• Brian Howe – singer for Ted Nugent, Bad Company ( July 22, 1953 – May 6, 2020) – cardiac arrest •

• Little Richard – Singer / songwriter / piano player (rock and roll / rhythm and blues) ( December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020) – natural causes • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Richard

• John David ‘Moon’ Martin – singer/songwriter “bad Case of Loving You (October 31, 1945 – May 11, 2020) – natural causes –

• Phil May – singer/frontman with the Pretty Things (November 9, 1944 – May 15, 2020) – surgery complications –

• Steve Priest – Bassist/vocalist for The Sweet (February 23, 1948 – June 4, 2020) – general ailments

• Bonnie Pointer – The Pointer Sisters (July 11, 1950 – June 8, 2020) – cardiac arrest –

• Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman – Guitarist for UFO/Skid Row (June 9, 2020 – June 9, 1954) – cardiac arrest –

• Charlie Daniels – Singer/fiddler in Charlie Daniels Band (October 28, 1936 – July 6, 2020) – hemorrhagic stroke –

• Judy Dyble – British singer-songwriter for Fairport Convention (February 13, 1949 – July 12, 2020)  lung cancer

• Peter Green (Peter Allen Greenbaum) – Co-founder guitarist/singer/songwriter for Fleetwood Mac (October 29, 1946 – July 25, 2020) – natural causes –

• Steve Holland – Founding Guitarist for southern rock band Molly Hatchett (Feb. 22, 1954 – August 2, 2020) – cardiac arrest –

• Wayne Fontana – frontman/singer for Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders (October 28, 1945 – August 6, 2020) – undisclosed

• Patrick Fairley – founding bassist for the Marmalade (1944 – August 11, 2020) – age related –

•  Pete Way – founding bassist for UFO (August 7, 1951 – August 14, 2020) – complications fro car accident injuries –

• Todd Nance – founding drummer of Widespread Panic – (November 20, 1962 – August 19, 2020) – chronic illness –

• Frankie Banali – drummer for Quiet Riot (November 14, 1951 – August 20, 2020) – pancreatic cancer –

• Toots Hibbert – singer/frontman for Toots and the Maytals (December 8, 1942 – September 11, 2020) – Covid-19 –

• Lee Kerslake – drummer for Ozzy Osbourne and Uriah Heep (April 16, 1947 – September 19, 2020) – cancer –

• Tommy DeVito – founding member of the Four Seasons (June 19, 1928 – September 21, 2020) – Covid-19 –

• Eddie Van Halen – monster guitarist/songwriter for Van Halen (January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020) – throat cancer –

• Dave Munden – Bassist/vocalist with the Tremoloes (Dec. 2, 1943 – October 15, 2020) – respiratory complications –

• Spencer Davis – Founding guitarist for the Spencer Davis Group (July 17, 1939 – October 19, 2020) – pneumonia –

• Jerry Jeff Walker – folk rock troubadour “Mr. Bojangles” (March 16, 1942 – October 23, 2020) – throat cancer –

• Ken Hensley – singer/songwriter for Uriah Heep (August 24, 1945 – November 4, 2020) – undisclosed –

• Bones Hillman – bassist for Midnight Oil (May 6, 1958 – November 7, 2020) – Cancer –

• Jim Tucker – guitarist for The Turtles (October 17, 1946 – November 12, 2020) – undisclosed as of yet –

Kenny Jeremiah – Lead singer with the Soul Survivors (November 22, 1943 – December 4, 2020) – Covid-19 –

• Pelle Alsing – drummer with Roxette (June 6, 1960 – December 19, 2020) – undisclosed – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roxette

• Leslie West – Guitarist and vocalist with Mountain (Mississippi Queen)(October 22, 1945 – December 23, 2020) – cardiac arrest –

• Alto Reed – Longterm saxophone with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (May 16, 1948 – December 30, 2020) – Colon Cancer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alto_Reed

• Alexi Laiho – Monster shredder for Finnish band Children of Bodom (April 8, 1979 – December 31, 2020) – various illnesses –